Leonard Pools Legacy

Good article in the Morning Call over the weekend. Lehigh Valley Hospital charitable giving questioned. In light of this I wanted to write again about the Farr Tract. Here were my initial thoughts

In the article LVHN CEO Brian Nester talks about the legacy of Leonard Pool. Pool of course was the founder of Air Products and provided the initial funding for LVHN’s flagship LVH-Cedar Crest campus.

Of Pools many legacies one is that of environmental stewardship. At the center of which is the 77.5-acre Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. Pool, bequeathed the sanctuary to Wildlands Conservancy in 1975.

Today, Mr. Pool’s ideals live on. You would think in light of his legacy of giving back to the community that he would be concerned with the manner LVHN is seemingly ignoring a very fair offer from the Wildlands Conservancy. One can only guess that LVHN’s submittal of a very impactful “shoe horn” development plan on such a constrained piece of land is an effort to drive up price.

I hope that at some point our community-oriented hospital network decides to get out of the land development business, hear township concerns and reconsider the offer to preserve this land.

This would still allow substantial benefit to be recognized by the network, do no harm to it’s neighbors and honor Mr. Pools legacy in his vision for the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. 

 

Farr Tract

Lehigh Valley Hospital, a property trustee, submitted a by right preliminary plan for 94 single homes on a 54 acre property at 2660 S. Cedar Crest Blvd. & Lower Macungie Rd.

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What this means: A by-right plan means the submittal is conceptually allowed under the current zoning ordinance. It may however, still need waivers or variances. Variances are granted through the Zoning Hearing Board. Waivers through the Board of Commissioners. Only after a thorough review from staff will we know what would be required.

The plan had a first public vetting at the planning commission on Tuesday. The township engineer presented a 20 page review letter of concerns and comments.

My primary concern with the project is unit count. While there are appropriate locations for Urban density in the township, I don’t believe this is one. The access problems are obvious and present safety issues. Further, Cedar Crest Blvd is an identified PennDOT congested corridor. It’s compounded since the corridor is a freight route. I realize the LVPC regional comprehensive plan identifies this area as U. Problem is our township has (unfortunately) changed significantly and deviated from the plan since it’s adoption. Planning only works if you stick to it. In 2010 our township deviated so significantly that the plans are no longer valid relating to us. The township is currently working with partners to address this problem by updating our local Southwest Regional Comprehensive Plan.

At the meeting there were some astute comments by township resident and former Commissioner Deana Zosky representing a group of concerned residents that I wanted to react to. Responding to residents is our first priority.

  • Preservation option? First, it’s been discussed that there is a group interested in buying the property at market value for preservation. Obviously and for a number of reasons that’s an outcome the township would prefer. I base that off adopted visioning documents that state the townships desire for preservation of open space and farmland.

 

  • Downzoning? There has also been a request to downzone the property. Generally speaking for myself that is not an ideal strategy. I have fundamental issues with “takings”. A downzone is a taking. I believe in market preservation. Preservation by zoning is also flawed in that it is not permanent. A conservation easement (market preservation, compensating landowners) is.

 

  • Large lot option? It’s was also suggested at the public meeting (Though the twp. hasn’t been formally engaged) that alternative development plans would be preferred by neighbors. Perhaps a large estate lot plan that would would significantly reduce the unit count and impacts and maintain large amounts of open space. Personally, I’d love to learn more if this is a viable option. It would also be preferable to a shoe horn build out. Again for a number of obvious reasons. It would also be preferred to a maxed out by right plan.

These thoughts are a combination of resident concerns and sentiments reflected in both adopted and draft township strategies. The township has prioritized open space preservation. A strong dollars and cents case can be made here for up front investment to preserve if the opportunity was raised. I would entertain all ideas for the township to participate in preservation or work together to outline a more desirable estate plan with significant open space.

I hope the stakeholders here would consider engaging the township on alternate and more community friendly options that might be on or off the table. I understand they may want to cash out. But if there are market offers I would hope the stakeholders consider community impact. As it stands this project has many issues as documented by the townships extensive review letter. 

 

Lower Macungie Agenda Preview – 2/19

FYI –  In these previews I may indicate thoughts on an issue, but it in no way means my mind is set. During a critical hearing for the Jaindl issue, a Commissioner spoke before public comment outlining he was voting to move forward the project regardless of what people said during public comment. That was wrong. Public debate was circumvented when the Commissioner indicated his mind was made up.

My hope is by blogging I open the door for conversations before issues are settled. One of my biggest issues with the Jaindl debacle was folks didn’t truly understand what was happening until it was “too late”. This is one mechanism to avoid that. I hope people find it useful. 

Hearings:
Farr Tract Rezoning Request:
This property located at Lower Macungie Rd. and Cedar Crest Rd. is currently zoned S Suburban. The applicant is seeking a text amendment to allow restricted over 55 as a condition. The developers have submitted a sketch plan that calls for 142 homes on 54 acres at the northwest corner of Cedar Crest and Lower Macungie Road.

Both the Planning and Zoning Committee (PZ) and Planning Commission (see letter below) have recommended rejecting this request. I sit on the PZ. My views reflect that of the planning commission on this issue. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 1.47.01 PMCommunication
Resident Donald Richards writes asking for an ordinance to control distribution of free newspapers like the merchandiser. This is something we’ve talked about recently. The problem is when people are away these papers stack up as a tell-tale sign the house is empty. Also in the winter the papers often get buried under snow… then when you go through with a blower it jams up the intake. These are just a couple of examples on why we should take a look at this issue see what we can do. Maybe evaluate what other communities do.

Dept. Matters
Approving the Southwestern Lehigh County Plan Inter-municipal agreement. I support this. 
The plan is a non-binding document created 7 years ago in a joint effort by Emmaus, Alburtis, Macungie, Upper Milford & Lower Macungie.

This original Plan was funded by grants. The Comprehensive Plan is intended to establish overall policies for the development and conservation of the Southwestern Lehigh County Region over the next 15 years. This Plan is not by itself a regulation, but is intended to provide the policy direction for changes to the municipalities’ development regulations.

Recently there has been consensus to update the plan. This was largely necessitated because Lower Macungie has significantly deviated from the plan.  The biggest example of course was the Jaindl development debacle and rezoning of 700 acres of ag protected land to Industrial, Strip Commercial and Residential.

Manager Report:
The manager will be requesting moving forward Quarry Park Synthetic Field Turf Project and NPDES permitting. I voted against inserting this project into the budget and have been vocal in opposition. More information here. I think it’s important to to invest in our parks but I don’t believe this is the most cost effective way to do it.

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