Platform – The Issues

Farmland and Open Space Preservation
Smart Growth
Police Protection
Walkability and Safety

Farmland and Open Space Preservation

“Farmland preservation remains a crucial issue in our township. Now more than ever since there are so few large parcels left” – Ron Beitler

Lower Macungie if serious about preserving open space, needs to explore creating a program to buy or transfer development rights. Buying or transferring development rights, is the only effective way to preserve land and the fairest mechanism for landowners.

There are certain necessary assumptions about preserving land.

1. Open space and farmland serves the greater good and is a benefit to society.

2. Survey after survey shows that communities value open space and farmland. Unfortunately, the marketplace assigns little value to open space.

3. Because of this, open space will eventually be developed in an area where economic development demand is strong.

4. Open space and agricultural zoning is temporary and some argue unfair to property owners who must bear the burden of preservation for the sake of the community. Open space also gives a false sense of security.

5. A community must be willing to enter the marketplace to preserve open space and farmland. Failure to do so will result in all developable land eventually being developed.

I support:
The reforming of a permanent township Farmland and Open Space Preservation board. Creating a Transferable Development Right program.

This committee would be responsible for the following:

  • Exploring and advocating for mechanisms the township can use to purchase development rights or create a transferable development rights land bank.
  • Making Recommendations to the Board of Commissioners
  • Setting priorities for open space acquisitions.

 

Smart Growth

“It’s never too late for smart growth, in fact as we approach infill stage it’s more important than ever” – Ron Beitler

The principles of smart growth should be the foundation of township policy and decision making.

  • Mixed land uses
  • Walkable neighborhoods
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
  • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

I support, the following strategy for implementing smart growth:
1. Setting smart growth priorities and adopting the recommendations of the URDC Smart growth implementation plan after an adequate opportunity for public comment as a guiding document for township policy.
2. Amend our core planning documents and ordinances to reflect smart growth principle in a meaningful way.

Other smart growth policy notes:

    • Take pride in what we build! Requiring developers submit architectural renderings such as those submitted by the developer of Hamilton Crossings. This should be a baseline requirement of all large scale commercial projects over 10,000 sq ft. (largebox retail)
    • Reducing the recently passed “Administrative Review” amendment to only apply to additional 5,000 sq ft impervious or building coverage. (Reduction from 10,000)
    • Aggressive Traditional Neighborhood Development ordinances, where appropriate.
    • Performance based tradeoffs – i.e. Impervious increases ONLY with LEED certification or enhanced stormwater mechanisms
    • Emphasize the recommendations of the Environmental Advisory Council and inviting neighboring communities to sit on our EAC
    • Repairing our relationship with neighboring communities
    • Explore mechanisms for requiring lifecycle cost benefit analysis of all largescale greenfield projects over 20 acres to ensure the taxpayer receives a return on investment for infrastructure and ongoing maintenance and services.
    • Retrofitting underperforming existing stormwater mechanisms
    • Exploring the implementation of Transferable Development Right programs. (TDR) is a technique used to permanently protect open space by redirecting development that would otherwise occur on these resource lands to areas planned to accommodate growth and development.

There are many reasons why folks gravitate towards the message of Smart Growth. It’s a very nebulous concept. For me, I am drawn to the financial sustainability of places. In other words, how do we define the true costs of various land uses and types of growth?

For me, no one explains this better then blogger Jim Bacon. Another resource that I lean on is Strongtowns.org.

Police Protection

“I will not move the township towards any unnecessary tax increase, if mishandled the police issue could represent the largest single tax increase in township history. We must proceed with caution. Unfortunately the mishandling of the Jaindl development may push us past a point of no return” – Ron Beitler

A major issue in our township in the coming years. I have no doubt that our growth issues are undoubtedly tied hand in hand with police protection. Secondly I have no doubt that once we head down this path, there is no turning back and that heading down this road will lead to an local tax and long term liabilities.

Therefore I support:

1. Moving forward if and when we’re triggered to do so by the statistical needs. That being crime data supporting a need for exploring a change to our current situation. The taxpayer should not be asked to fund a luxury.

Note the following:
In 12 months (6/1/10-6/1/11), LMT had the following criminal activity (major categories only): 34 burglaries, 325 thefts, 456 crashes, 133 DUI and 1,702 citations. According to Pennsylvania state police this is inline with a community of our size and population. Source Pennsylvania State Police – For more, see the state police report for LMT.

2. Should we cross the “data bridge” and statistics show a need to evaluate our current service we must then present the public with the options in terms of effectiveness, administration and expense. Next we should hold a series of town hall meetings and conduct a survey of preferred options.

Note: I  believe a problem throughout the commonwealth is redundancy in local services. Should LMT go ahead with a stand-alone police force we would have 3 police departments within a close radius of each other. Public money has become ever-scarcer, local-government leadership has to be focused on cutting budgets through service sharing to avoid cuts to service levels.

 

Walkability and Pedestrian Safety

“I am very committed to building a walkable community. Should the School district decide to make Willow a ‘walking school’ we must go above and beyond to ensure the corridor is safe for both pedestrians and cars” – Ron Beitler

 

“Smart Growth is walkable communities. People drive and will continue to do so, but it’s important to me they have the option to also bike and ride. Our roads are for everyone” – Ron Beitler

Walkable communities that are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play are a key component of smart growth. Through the years our township has relied on developers to install sidewalks. This has led to a disjointed sidewalk network along our connector corridors. Key stretches are dangerous. Since we’ve grown via subdivisions over the last 2 decades we have isolated neighborhoods. Through policy we need to make an effort to link neighborhoods to each other, commercial areas and community centers such as the library, pool and parks.

Secondly the school district has recently enforced a policy of a ‘walking’ Willow Lane Elementary. The township has no say on whether Willow should be walkable or not. Regardless, even if it were to continue as a bussing school it’s shocking our current commissioners allowed Willow Lane to open without 15 mph school zone designation and signage.

I support the following strategies and policies to encourage walkability and interconnectivity:

  • Our connector streets and arterials must be complete streets. Complete Streets are streets for everyone not just automobiles. They are designed enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. We should initiate a checklist ranking system of our connector streets to show how the connector roads address the needs of pedestrians, to determine constraints and prioritize corridors for addressing issues.
  • The creation of a bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee to advise the board and ensure that pedestrian needs are met on our streets and explore funding mechanisms for enhancements.
  • Our streets must be interconnected in an effective grid. The greenway is only a part of the equation. We need to expand greenway master planning to include our connector streets and corridors.
  • Immediately addressing Willow Lane Elementary corridor with not just bare minimum safety features but enhanced features such as Lighted LED crosswalks, radar speed limit signage and raised pedestrian crosswalks.