Lower Macungie Agenda Preview – 4/16

Board of Commissioner Meeting Agendas & Previews:   FYI – With these previews while I may indicate a voting inclination, it in no way means my mind is made up on any issue.

Presentations: Tonight we will honor 90 year old Veteran, Bertram S. Winzer. Mr. Winzer a WW2 veteran served in the famed Devils Brigade received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during the war, but never received the latter medal. When Senator Pat Toomey learned of the oversight he met the veteran in May at a National Military Appreciation Month event. Toomeys office then contacted the Army and arranged for Mr. Winzer to get his award. Albeit 68 years later. Learn more here.

Hearings: Conditional Use Hearing – Jimmy Johns – This development is on the sleepy’s/Dickeys side of the Wal-Mart shopping center. Note: The way our ordinances are written new restaurants are always conditional uses since they can have major parking impacts. The only planning issue here is the fact that the planning commission has some concerns about available parking spaces on that side of Millcreek. Not sure if I agree that parking is an issue, however the simple solution is improving the walkability between the strip and Wal-Mart by adding another crosswalk on Millcreek Rd. This way employees can be required to park across the street and allow more parking for customers on the Dickeys side of Millcreek. I will say that Millcreek Rd. through the shopping center from Lower Mac Rd to the Boulevard is a particularly STROADY, fast, abrasive and dangerous Rd/driveway. It’s exactly what we are trying to get away from in terms of making access roads more Boulevards in tone and character. Anything we can do to address it by a road diet should be considered.

What: Conditional use hearing for new restaurant
Where: Wal Mart (Dickies BBQ side)
Concerns: Parking

Liberty at Millcreek – Another 2 massive warehouses. These ones are primarily in Upper Macungie, but there is a excellent change Lower Mac will get alot of the traffic. Unfortunately, since the project is primarily in UMT we have little sway. There are some major concerns about traffic generation on Grange Rd. It’s likely it will be used as a cut through when traffic jams up on Millcreek. Uline is reported to be the user of the warehouses.

What: 2 warehouses and office buildings.
Where: Millcreek and bypass. (former Air products property)
Concerns: TRAFFIC

“Grandview” Crossings (Allen Organ) – This project has a long history. As a resident I opposed the rezoning that allowed for it to happen. All kinds of backgrounders here. That being said and the new ordinance being the “law of the land” and what we have to work with the focus here was quality. Township planners and staff did do a pretty decent job (with the confines of what I consider to be a weak ordinance) at ensuring the project is high quality.

What: 75k Weis supermarket + gas station, 200+ apartments and 2 pad sites for future restaurants or banks.
Where: Gehman and Rt. 100
Issues: Limited to what I consider a poor/weak ordinance that was enacted before I took office, the focus was on traffic, quality and walkability.

32 more residents sent letters in support of Rt. 222 “bypass” upgrades.
The grand total is over 180 written. The township however is only putting township residents in the agendas. There have been over 100 township residents who submitted letters over the last few weeks. More information on the campaign here.

Sen Browne letter of support: Related to above the township rec’d official correspondence from Sen. Pat Browne in support of Rt. 222 upgrades.

Resident Pete Pavlovich writes in support of roundabout, in support of a verizon cell phone tower and in opposition of 10M capital projects/open space bond. Always looking for more resident feedback on all these issues. 

Letter from Julie McDonell Parks and Recreation Board liason to the Dog Park group.
Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.01.34 PMWe will have an update on Hamilton Blvd bike lanes:
Background info here.
And nice LTE in support this past week.


Development Watch: Allen Organ Tract/Mixed Use update


 Tuesday night at the bi-monthly Planning Commission meeting, Remington properties presented an updated version of the ordinance they are proposing to accommodate a mixed use development on the Allen Organ property.

Progress was made toward submitting an ordinance that can be applied at other locations that would be township serving. I appreciated Maury Roberts asking the developer “Why is this project good for Lower Macungie?” This is the fundamental question that should be asked of all proposals submitted to the township.

While progress was made, I was disappointed that much of the meeting was spent on items such as the size and number of parking spaces. While these items are important, my major concern with the original proposal was that it was simply an apartment complex and grocery store ‘smushed’ together on a commercial parcel. I’m still unsure if the ordinance goes far enough to aggressively promote the positive outcomes of mixed use, but progress was certainly made. Some of these outcomes are:

  • Pedestrian scale on the residential side – And if not truly centered on the commercial side then far more pedestrian friendly then any shopping center currently in the township.
  • Attractive design – Including significant architectural quality and site design amenities
  • Connectivity – Integration in a meaningful & functional way of the commercial and residential portions

PC member Tom Beil asked an important question about compatible uses. If the ordinance allows for auto-centric uses such as gas stations, drive-throughs and garages ect., then it completely defeats the purpose and undermines the goals and represents more of the same.

The target market for this project is the 20-35 year old professional. That was made clear. Ok goodand very important considering the current enrollment in EPSD.  You have to go all-in to attract this demographic when competing against trendy projects closer to urban cores. (Riverport for ex.) If this is truly targeting the 20-35 market then the priorities are markedly different and the thinking has to reflect that. There are subtle differences in thinking for say an over 55 or mass market community that are different then this particular niche.

I think trade offs over number of parking spaces in exchange for design standards, open space and surface parking lots  that are shielded or behind residential buildings are worthwhile. I was also happy to see the commission stick to it’s guns regarding density. 6-8 units per acre is appropriate for our suburban township. Also a common sense proposal was made to allow for future parking considerations on an ‘as needed basis’ instead of requiring more up-front impermeable surface lots. Once land is paved, it’s paved. This was a good compromise.

I mentioned in my last blogpost about this site… Lip service is no longer good enough. If we’re going the smart growth route we need a complete buy-in. Anything less is just more of the same and won’t generate the outcomes we need.

Other news:

The board voted to move forward with reviewing the comprehensive plan. This will include possible inclusion of smart growth concepts across the board as outlined in the townships 20/20 visioning document. This is great news! They made a point to encourage public participation in this review.