I wanted to dig a little deeper into the Verizon cell phone tower proposal. For those who might not know the township has been approached to lease land on the Kratzer farm for a 120 ft cell phone tower which would enhance service for Verizon customers. There is a possibility that more carriers could also piggy back off the tower in the future as well. This would result in monthly payments to the township. We’ve been initially offered 1800/mo with 2.5% increases year on a 20 year term leases re-negotiated every 5 years. I am currently looking into the market rates for other poles on public property across the Valley. Very interested to see how this offer stacks up.
Nuts & bolts.
1. It’s actually not Verizon who we’re dealing with rather a third party leasing agent who negotiates on behalf of the carrier. These firms are typically paid in performance bonuses for bringing in leases at lower rates and favorable terms.
2. There is a definite service issue for Verizon customers in and around the East Texas area. This includes the neighborhoods around WLES and into Shepherd Hills. This pole will solve these issues for 1000’s of residents. The issue is both capacity and also bandwidth as more and more folks use “heavy data” with smart phones.
When we were approached, first at the planning and zoning committee level neither Commissioner Lancsek or I had a problem with kicking up the conversation to the full board level. (I also don’t believe issues should stall or be killed in committees at the local level)
While I have not made up my mind I am genuinely interested in learning more about the proposal and of course intrigued by the potential for a stable monthly income. As I stated last night, I would insist the money be earmarked for the park system since the location would be our largest passive park. I would likely take this a step further and insist that the money at first be earmarked for a Kratzer farm comprehensive planning effort.
I also stated last night my main concern is that the 120 ft pole doesn’t adversely affect the “skyline” of the park. Having done a little research today’s modern evergreen or elm “stealth” monopoles are much better than the ones of a few years ago which frankly looked silly.
Here are some pictures:
This represents a 2 branch per ft. pole with no “antenna socks”. The difference between 2 and 3 is pretty clear. IMO this wouldn’t be acceptable.
Here is a “3 branch per ft. pole” with antenna socks. Much better looking then the less dense pole. The added branch density makes for a more camouflaged pole.
Here is a how a 120ft pole towers above a wooded lot in the winter. These trees are roughly 80 ft in height vs. the 120 ft. pole. This is close to what the pole would look like on the Kratzer farm until the tree grove matures fully. Some of the species in the woods will eventually reach about 100 ft.
So now curious. What do you think? I am especially interested in hearing from those who live near the proposed tower.
At Monday’s re-organization meeting during old business I asked for an update on the Kratzer Farm sale. The Township Manager informed the Board that the subdivision was yet to be filed. After hearing the update I motioned to stop the subdivision process therefore stopping the sale of the house. This is consistent with my position as a candidate and resident over the last year plus.
Kratzer Farm Information
The original vote to sell the house was far from unanimous passing narrowly 3-2. Two of the primary drivers of the sale Ron Eichenberg and Roger Reis were defeated in the Nov. election. On Monday the motion to stop the sale passed 4-1.
I look forward to putting the fate of the house, barn and driveway back into the hands of our Parks Board, Planning Commission and EAC. All 3 volunteer boards opposed the sale at this time. The 1.5 acres is located in the heart of the park.
My hope is that the house and barn are examined as part of a full comprehensive plan for the 88 acre farm and park. If and when it’s determined that the house should be sold then those funds should be used solely for park improvements. That money should be reinvested into the Kratzer farm/park. It should not be rolled into the general or capital budget. I do not support balancing budgets with the sale of assets. This is not good financial planning as there are no guarantees that certain properties will sell at an appraised value. Counting on money before you have it is bad policy when it can be controlled.
Last night the BOC voted 3-1 (Brown against, Conrad absent) to subdivide the Kratzer Farm. If you are new to this issue here is an overview.
1. There is no reason to rush to sell any portion of the farm. Working one time potential revenue into a budget calculation then seemingly counting on it…. is just wildly irresponsible. There is no guarantee it sells at all yet alone a reasonable price close to the estimate. I think a high school personal financial management student would recognize that. This practice is amplified during a time when a property tax is on the table. How on Earth could anyone think relying on the one selling of assets is good long term financial planning? It’s akin to burying your head in the sand. Does nothing to address long term issues.
*Note right now, the property is generating revenue. The Parks board investigated this at their last meeting. The property is not costing us a dime. In fact you can say renting the house pays for a portion of maintenance on the rest of the property.
2. Solicitor Somach brought up an alternative option to advertise the house for sale before spending even more money on engineering. This way we can see if there even is a market for the house before we spend more money. We’ve already spent over 13,000 on engineering costs, appraisals ect. I thought this made sense. Why spend more money until we see if there is even a market?
3. Brian Higgins and I are both on record supporting waiting until the results of the parks plan before moving forward. This was the near unanimous recommendation from membership of not only the parks board but also the EAC and planning commission. Doug Brown is supportive of that. Ryan Conrad has been warm to the idea. So basically we have two lame ducks who are driving an unpopular decision. That is not right and is a blatant waste of money for no reason. They should understand that in a transition period you need to acknowledge a new board might go in a new direction.
Lastly, there was an agreement to wait which now seems to have just been tossed aside. This was the understanding of the Parks Board, planning commission and EAC. In fact the Parks board devoted a significant amount just one week ago working on studying the house. If they had known the board was going to plow ahead they wouldn’t have wasted their time or staff’s time.
Here is the letter the PR board sent. It contains an overview of some of the information they gathered about the house. They have done more public investigation of the pro’s and con’s of selling then I’ve seen in over a year from the BOC. That’s a problem. I attended budget workshops last year when this was discussed. I can sum it up in one sentence: “Shall we sell Kratzer? Yes, it’s a continuation of our policy.” . . . . .
My letter to planning commission (CC: Board of Commissioners & Staff) sent 7/5/13
A few items for consideration at your July 9th meeting.
1. The Kratzer house, barn and driveway should not be subdivided until results of the Parks and Recreation comprehensive plan are presented. Since we are already engaged in this comprehensive planning process (that was unanimously supported by the BOC), committee feedback will be valuable to determine whether the house, barn and/or driveway present any value in regards to the overall goals of a permanently protected centralized passive park and/or the Greenway system. Potential uses for the house, barn and driveway should be an agenda item at a future Parks and Recreation Comprehensive plan meeting.
2. If the parks and recreation comprehensive planning committee recommend that the house, barn and/or driveway should be sold, then funds from the sale should be used or earmarked for future improvements to the Kratzer Farm Park only.
Some potential items include:
- Park access
- Creation of a major central trailhead to the Greenway
- A trail section
- Master planning
2. A master plan for the 88 acre park should be considered. One question that should be examined is whether the approx 50 acres of active farmland (currently leased to farmers) should be permanently preserved. If 50 acres can be preserved the remaining 38 acres can continue to be dedicated to greenway, naturalized forest and community gardens.To accomplish this goal:
A. The township could apply to sell agricultural conservation easements to Lehigh County. According to a representative from the program the parcel would likely be valued a high priority since it contains fertile limestone soil. Further the agricultural conservation easement area may be drawn in such a way as to allow Greenway trail along the Creek and perimeter of the property. This should be explored in terms of feasibility so it can be considered as one potential option.
Proceeds from a potential sale of the agricultural conservation easement on the Kratzer farm could be used for protection of other farmland or open space in the township or construction of a section of greenway.
B. The township could explore placing deed restrictions on the property.
CC: BOC & Staff
My position statement from March (I first spoke in front of the board on this matter in March 2013). Note in original board comments I urged the township to consider applying the farm to the county program for this budget cycle. I rec’d a garbled response from Mr. Eichenberg.
The Kratzer Farm is centrally located in Lower Macungie Township. It’s strategic centralized location makes it immediately accessible to thousands of township residents easily and safely within walking distance. The park was purchased by a previous Board of Supervisors 15 years ago for the intent of land preservation in a rapidly growing township. The scenic landscape and fertile limestone soil make this a community treasure. The adopted greenway plan will further improve walking access and functionality of the park making it a potential township “Central Park”. The Kratzer Farm should be a destination, centerpiece and focal point of the greenway system. READ ENTIRE POSITION HERE
“The EAC urges the Board of Commissioners to initiate a formal study of all options for future use and/or disposal of the Kratzer Farm property. The recommended study should evaluate all potential future options for this tract, including subdividing and selling portions of the Kratzer Farm, selling development rights for the property, and all potential recreational uses and the access needs for those potential recreational uses.
“Accordingly, the EAC recommends that no further efforts to subdivide and sell the house, barn, and driveway at the Kratzer Farm should proceed until the recommended study is completed and then only if that study finds that it is clearly in the best interest of Lower Macungie residents to sell any portions of the subject property.”
Greenway plan maps
Map of 88 acre Kratzer Farm. The 1.5 acre proposed subdivision is directly in the center off the best existing driveway.
I commented on a proposal to preserve the Kratzer Farm property at the last BOC meeting. I’m going to capture video and post later on this week.
Read my full position here.
The board was asked if they would consider applying the 86 acre Kratzter Farm to a county conservation program that would permanently protect the open space. To sweeten the pot, the program actually pays the township to do it. $5000 /acre. So say 50 acres of farmland on the property gets accepted into the program thats 250,000 dollars directly to the township coffers. I can think of alot of ways this money could be used.
Friends LMT requested a free preliminary review of the property and it ranked very high indicating it is likely funding would be granted.
The response by Commissioners made no sense. Of the two that spoke up, Ron Eichenberg stated “We don’t have time to hold a hearing”. This demonstrates 1. He didnt understand the request, 2. He is clueless or 3. This just happened to the straw he grasped at to make the request go away. First, we only asked for the application to be filled out. It’s no different then any grant application. Second, the board doesn’t ever hold hearings before authorizing staff to apply for a grant.
Another Commissioner went on about the house, driveway and barn. They are earmarked to be sold off. My position is that the house and barn and specifically the driveway should not be sold until the Parks and Rec comprehensive planning committee has a chance to review the big picture. This issue of subdividing this 1.5 acre portion is completely unrelated to applying for permanent preservation mechanisms for the remaining 84.5 or so acres. Again, two separate issues.
Yes, perhaps it would be appropriate for a hearing once it comes time to actually take action. But for now the request was just to keep the door open for further deliberation by applying. To me it’s a no brainer that represents another failure to attempt to protect our remaining open space and farmland.
Importance/overview: The Kratzer Farm is centrally located in Lower Macungie Township. It’s strategic centralized location makes it immediately accessible to thousands of township residents easily and safely within walking distance. The park was purchased by a previous Board of Supervisors 15 years ago for the intent of land preservation in a rapidly growing township. The scenic landscape and fertile limestone soil make this a community treasure. The adopted greenway plan will further improve walking access and functionality of the park making it a potential township “Central Park”. The Kratzer Farm should be a destination, centerpiece and focal point of the greenway system preserved permanently as a nature preserve, passive park, community garden and working farm.
The Kratzer Farm – Township Owned Open Space strategically located in the center of the township
1. The house, barn and driveway should not be sold until the results of the Parks and Recreation comprehensive plan is complete. The farm specifically should be the focus of an agenda item at a future parks and recreation comprehensive plan meeting. The committee should be the body that determines whether the house, barn or driveway presents any value in regards to the overall goal of a permanent centralized large passive park.
2. The farm should be permanently preserved as soon as possible. To accomplish this goal:
A. The township should apply to sell agricultural conservation easements to the Lehigh County. The annual deadline for submitting an application is March 31st. According to a representative from the program the parcel would likely be valued a high priority since it contains fertile limestone soil. Currently the program is paying up to 5000/acre for preservation. I am estimating proceeds of selling the rights (the township still owns the property) could net up to 250,000 dollars.
3. Proceeds from sale. If the house/barn and driveway are sold after a comprehensive evaluation of all potential uses of the property and specifically the driveways role in future greenway as either a trail section or entrance to a trailhead, then the proceeds should be earmarked for park improvements on the Kratzer farm.