LVPC Jaindl nomination

The nomination of David Jaindl by the County administration for a seat on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is a bad idea. The benefits of developers serving on the LVPC make sense, but with all due respect to Mr Jaindl he is not the right choice. Lots of others would be better suited.

County Commissioner Percy Dougherty who represents Lower Macungie outlines some good arguments why the nomination isn’t a good idea. Some I agree with more than others but we come to the same conclusion.

For me the biggest problem with Mr. Jaindl is too often his projects directly and substantially conflict with the regional comprehensive plan. Here in Lower Mac we understand this better than most. Residents have and will continue to pay the price for maneuvers he made over the years that circumvented both the regional comprehensive plan and local comprehensive plans.

When appointing someone for the LVPC we have the opportunity to find a developer who consistently builds projects within the framework of the plan as opposed to someone who for years has quite literally run rough-shod over it.

Nominees should at minimum consistently demonstrate a belief in regional comprehensive planning. For developers that means their body of work should reflect key development concepts of the plan. Jaindl’s greenfield projects too often represent quintessential sprawl. Lots of responsible land developers out there. Once a year I get to spend time in DC with members of LOCUS. LOCUS is a smart growth oriented national coalition of conscientious land developers. Business people who recognize pent-up demand for a market shift toward high quality, sustainable, walkable smart growth oriented development.

Check out LOCUS here on twitter.

If Commissioners proceed with consideration of this nomination at minimum Mr. Jaindl should have to publicly defend why his projects so frequently clash with the comprehensive plan. Basically, Commissioners can and should request a public interview. I would have a number of questions I would ask.

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David Jaindl’s 700 Spring Creek properties development directly conflicts with both the LVPC comprehensive plan, the southwest regional comprehensive plan (Alburtis, Macungie, Upper / Lower Milford and LMT) and also Lower Mac local plans. The project is the result of a 2010 rezoning of previously protected farmland. This project represents a blatant disregard for growth boundaries. Aside from the loss of farmland that was protected for 23 years, this will also negatively impact township residents both financially and in terms of quality of life.

Read Mr. Jaindl in 2010 got 700 acres of preserved farmland (over 1 square mile) rezoned.

Disclosure: In the past starting 3 years ago I expressed interest in the LVPC including a formal statement of interest most recently in February. I don’t see this as relating to critique of this nomination. Mainly because for this cycle I do agree seeking a developer and someone from Northwestern Lehigh makes sense for 2 open slots. I just don’t think we have the right developer. Personally, I’ve waited 3 years for consideration. I can wait another. Applying just made sense for me since regional planning issues are an interest of mine. I also think Lower Mac should have an elected official on the board since we are the 3rd largest municipality in the region and so many of our projects are of regional significance.

LMT’s Wiki photograph soon to be extinct

I never noticed this before. I’ve been to the township wiki page many times. But check out the photograph. Take a good look because it may soon be gone. The picture I believe is of the Jaindl tract. The caption states is was taken off Hilltop Rd. It’s either a small part of the tract or directly adjacent. And yes, the photo would represent only a tiny portion of the immense warehouse project. Looks to be about 20 acres. Just a small speck of the 700 acres. That’s how immense this development could be.


Interestingly enough this bucolic countryside scene will be plowed over and replaced with a giant warehouse, maybe a parking lot for tractor trailers or perhaps a storm water retention basin. Hilltop Rd. connects with Mertztown Rd near the Butz-Leister farm.

Maybe it’s time someone submits a new photo for our wiki entry? Since this is the last part of the township that looks this the photograph does it really make sense anymore?

This scene may disappear and become extinct in the township. And it’s solely because of a choice made by our commissioners in 2010 including Roger Reis and Ron Eichenberg who are up for re-election on May 21st. I’m hoping folks remember this when they vote and consider replacing them.

Jaindl verdict could come soon

Jaindl verdict could come soon

The commonwealth court could rule on the Jaindl zoning soon. Or it could be another month. There is no way to tell.

The court will either uphold Judge Varrichio’s decision that invalidated the re-zoning or it will overturn the decision. Varrichio’s ruling concluded the advertisement of the zoning by the township was “misleading” because, among other things, the location of the lands being re-zoned was omitted.

Before adopting this ordinance in 2010, our newly elected officials Ryan Conrad, Ron Eichenberg, Roger Reis and Doug Brownentered into a confidential written agreement with Jaindl, agreeing to change our zoning and abandon an agricultural protection ordinance that had been in place for 23 years. The appellants also argued this represented contract zoning, but the Judge only ruled on the technical aspect last summer. Depending on the outcome contract zoning could come back into play.

This new zoning will allow Jaindl to develop potentially hundreds of new homes, 4 million square foot of massive warehouses and typical strip/big box commercial. All on land that for 2 decades was preserved through zoning as agricultural and according to the Lehigh Valley comprehensive plan was to remain designated as such. The tract is located in the extreme western portion of the township.

Possible outcomes:
Appellants and community win: Jaindl and the township would have to persuade the Pa. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Appellants and community lose: The court will remand the case back to Judge Varricchio to deal with contract zoning.

A taxpayer take: Dollars and Sense – Why Jaindl development makes no sense


Let’s take quality of life, environmental, smart growth and loss of farmland out of the equation. Important points, but here lets just talk dollars. All five township commissioners (BOC) ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, a good thing.

On May 3 the BOC will “take up” the Spring Creek Subdivision, aka the Jaindl development.  Included is 4 million sq. ft. of warehouse space, 700 or more homes and some strip malls.

It’s my take the Jaindl Development is an unfunded liability. A tipping point that will lead to major tax increases in the township. In simple terms this development creates new liabilities it will not produce the revenue to pay for. This is math and accounting. I have two questions I would like to see answered before the BOC votes on this.

Question 1 – When does this end? What is the game plan for sustainable growth? That is,development that pays for itself without the need to raise taxes or to constantly “expand the tax base” with costly greenfield development. Is there a plan?

Greenfield (farmland) development relies on constant new development to avoid a large tax increase. What happens when we have no more fields to develop? “Expanding the tax base by greenfield growth” simply isn’t sustainable. The problem is that raw land development doesn’t create enough tax revenue to pay for the long-term costs of providing bran new public services to the development on the publics dime. We are subsidizing this development, we should know what our return on investment (ROI) is.

Question 2 – Where is the long term accounting to show the taxpayers ROI? Has it been presented to the public to show this development will generate enough tax revenue to cover the public liability? Provide the community with a full accounting of obligations the taxpayer is assuming for building and then maintaining the infrastructure required by the MOU. (outlined below) How much will this cost us in the long run? This MUST be addressed before preliminary/final is granted.

Below is a overview of the potential costs to the taxpayer that need to be accounted for before the board takes action:

Short Term
Cost of the specially waived traffic impact fees that Jaindl or any other developer will not have to pay until after the MOU agreement expires on Dec. 30, 2030.

Potential Long Term
Traffic & Streets
Includes: Road Widening, Intersection improvements, Traffic lights, Railroad crossings. Specifically widening of Rt. 100 to 4 lanes and multiple major intersection upgrades including Spring Creek, Alburtis Rd. and Mill Creek Rd.

Includes: Infrastructure ongoing maintenance, Future capital improvements including those needed if flooding worsens and downstream residents are flooded. Specifically  the possible enlargement of Spring Creek Road bridge over the Little Lehigh to prevent worse flooding at Brookdale. We know the wooden bridge at church lane costs millions. Whose gonna pay for a major reconstruction of the spring creek bridge?

Emergency Services
Includes: EMS, Fire, Police. 2nd Fire Station – Building costs, training, land acquisition. (Recent for comparison – Fire Protection – 2.5 Million for Willow Lane Fire House)

Includes: New school buildings, maybe even a new high school, because the 700 or more new households may tip the school district into finally needing another new school building somewhere. See recent article about the already strained EPSD budget.


Greenfield development NEVER balances out in terms of cost vs. benefit. It simply doesn’t. We have to be shown the accounting where this works out and the taxpayer doesnt pay the price. I’m all for land owners doing what they want with their land within the parameters of zoning. But NOT when it relies on unfair subsidies from you and I. We shouldnt have to pay for new infrustructure that doesnt offer us a return on our investment as a community.