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Dear Neighbor,

This is my blog for news and information on my hometown Lower Macungie Township! In January 2014 I was sworn in for a 4 year term as township Commissioner. I am humbled and grateful for the support of Lower Macungie Residents. Brian Higgins and I prevailed in the 2013 election running a grassroots campaign that focused on quality of life and fiscal sustainability through smart growth. The election was another referendum on the unpopular development decisions and “dumb growth” policies of 2009-2013.

As a lifelong resident of Lower Macungie and a local business owner I am proud to serve as Lower Macungie Township Commissioner. This is my blog. It serves as a record of 2 years of advocating for A Better Way to Grow. Here you can find information on local concerns, letters and op-eds I’ve written outlining my thoughts on various issues that affect our community.

Please browse the site. Use the search bar to find my thoughts on the issues facing Lower Macungie and the surrounding community. I welcome questions and comments always. Dialogue is so important and what I hope to bring to the table as a Commissioner.

Ron Beitler
Lower Macungie Commissioner serving a 4 year term

Want to keep taxes low? Preserve Open Space.

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Large contiguous tract of farmland in Lower Macungie Township

(Submitted as LTE to LMT Patch and an abbreviated version to EPP)

By preserving open space via a well thought out smart growth plan we reduce costs for infrastructure and services, thereby reducing the need for tax increases. Farmland and open space generate no traffic, create no crime, needs little fire protection and places no new students into our school system.

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Smart Growth is about long term financial strength

Over on www.smartgrowthforconservatives.com the conversation continues about how to build stronger communities that remain fiscally solvent over the long term. This conversation has been spearheaded by folks such as Joe Minicozzi and Charles Marohn of urban3 and Strongtowns.

I’ve said often that if you want to address smart growth issues in your community you have to first be willing to STOP what you are currently doing. Then you have to proactively evaluate your status quo. It begins with asking the right questions:

These questions center around simple accounting concepts.

1. What are your communities total assets. What is the value of the tax base. How does a community pay it’s bills? An accounting of the money coming (revenue) in vs. the money going out. (liabilities)

2. What are the long term obligations for infrastructure maintenance associated with sustaining those assets? What’s the money going out.

Next, communities need to ask the more complex questions. These should be used to frame a smart growth strategy.

1. In terms of geography, what parts and land uses of your community have a positive Net Present Value. (Positive ROI – Cash from long term assets minus the cost of long term liabilities) and which have a negative Net Present Value? This is largely determined by the types of land uses present. This process looks something like this: Here is a look at the efficiency of some Lower Macungie projects. 

2. How does the tax base change in response to certain policy decisions? Is your community considering a rezoning? If so what are the LONG TERM fiscal impacts? It’s critical to look beyond the windfall which often skews the longterm picture. Is a project greenfield or infill? Will it require new infrastructure? What are the jobs/acre being generated vs. land lost? Have you quantified this? How much will it cost down the line to “improve” roads to handle new traffic if traffic forecasts are incorrect? (As they often are) What’s the cost to pay for new students in the classroom? To provide increased services? Police, Fire, amenities?

Positive vs. negative ROI is one of the main factors differentiating smart growth and dumb growth. 

2. What types of land use patterns create the most wealth for the community? Are decisions creating high value land uses that create wealth or low value land uses that suck up more resources than revenue it generates? Remember, elected officials have a responsibility to taxpayers to show that zoning changes make financial sense.

3. With a goal being a stable predictable income stream, what types of land use patterns experience the greatest degree of volatility?

4. How do items that increase property value such as parks impact net present value? How far from the park does that effect extend?

5. How do items that hurt property values such as STROADS impact Net Present Value? How far from the STROAD does that effect extend?

Lastly and most importantly where can you best deploy limited resources to have the greatest overall impact? 

East Penn switches to propane School Bus fleet

I was happy to see that this past spring the East Penn School District (EPSD) contracted with Student Transportation, inc. (STA) STA will be replacing longtime provider First Student. to provide bus service to the district. Replacing the diesel fleet STA will use 77 propane-fueled buses which are more environmentally friendly.

Here is a link to STA’s Facebook page.

Propane is cheaper and cleaner burning than diesel.  It's also produced locally here in PA.

Propane is cheaper and cleaner burning than diesel. It’s also produced locally here in PA.

An alternative to diesel, propane comes from natural gas and petroleum wells. Approximately half of the propane used in the_US comes from raw natural gas. Propane has many environmental benefits primarily due its cleaner burning nature. Propane busses also run much quieter. 

While propane busses get slightly less MPG, propane is just over 2x cheaper with the additional benefit of being produced domestically including a good amount right here in PA. 

When considering school transportation building smart growth walkable neighborhood schools is always best in terms of cost to taxpayers, student safety and fostering a sense of community. But when students must be transported by expensive busses we should strive to be as friendly to our environment as we can be. Today’s local production of natural gas here in PA + the well documented environmental benefits takes an already good decision and makes it a no-brainer.

Propane facts:

  • 24% reduction in Greenhouse Gas
  • 60% Reduction in Co2
  • 90% of propane domestically produced with a large amount right here in PA. (another 7% from our neighbors up north)
  • 40% reduction in cost
  • Positive ROI even without gov’t incentives

 

 

Learning from our mistakes…

A couple weeks ago Commissioners considered the Jaindl Spring Creek Properties. This, the final vote was really just a formality since the agreement which is now law was concocted in 2010 by the prior BOC. (Including 3 Presidents – Ryan Conrad, Ron Eichenberg, & Roger Reis) When I came into office in Jan 2014 after two of these Commissioners were defeated in election I was then legally bound to their decision as terrible as I believe it was.

That being said there are still things that up to the very end leave me speechless. Here are 2 examples:

  • 1. Never at any point was freight traffic parsed out from regular traffic during engineering studies. (That being 18 wheelers vs. regular autos). To my knowledge not once.
    Baffles me. How can you expect to do everything in your power to proactively address the unique nature of freight traffic if you never once asked for the truck specific data. Surely you can’t think that truck traffic and regular commuter traffic should be treated in the same way? This in my opinion is egregious since every hearing I attended over nearly 3 years, every step of the way freight traffic was the number 1 concern voiced by residents. Yet up until the very last vote there was never freight specific analysis completed. No focus on projections of how trucks were coming and going and what routes they were likely to take.
  • 2. When asked by a resident how much in new revenue the warehouses would generate for Lower Macungie not one Commissioner from the 2010 board had any idea. 
    In 2010 Commissioners in favor of this project often gave generic answers as to why they stubbornly supported the rezoning including eluding to economic development. My question is how can you state “economic development” as a positive when up til the very last minute not one seems to have any idea what that economic benefit is? At least not in any measurable term. I never once heard a single job count and definitely not a per/acre job creation efficiency figure. In other words job creation is a great goal, but are we paving over farmland for maximum job creation? There was no work whatsoever done to calculate lifecycle ROI. Even though it was requested of the board by a resident very early on in the process during a hearing on the MOU. This resident who is a CPA even gave the board a template to use. There was no response by the board. No followup. No effort whatsoever to use tools that were physically handed to them.

Lower Macungie now has to deal with this decision moving forward. It is what it is… for us.

I re-state all this because across the valley it’s likely another community will be dealing with a similar issue somewhere. End of the day in our example the most basic questions were not asked. Please learn from our mistakes. If your community is considering zoning changes insist on the following:

1. Conduct lifecycle cost & benefit analysis. If your considering a zoning change because you seek ratables or “economic development” in your community be prepared to support that statement with ya know…. actual numbers. Don’t just build for the sake of building. Insist on positive ROI. And please, take it to the next level beyond the windfall and initial oftentimes rosy forecasting by developers. This is often misleading when your considering the long term solvency and ROI of a land development.

We have to insist that development produces a measurable financial return over the long term. Sprawl in many of it’s forms costs communities more in the long-run than it returns leading to ever increasing taxes. Insist on seeing an analysis of the math. Have the nuts and bolts conversation with the publics input. Remember arguing for more efficient job creation doesn’t mean your against job creation. Arguing in favor of smart growth doesn’t mean your anti growth. It means your against costly dumb growth. The higher the return on the public’s investments the greater its financial solvency. This leads to more capital capacity to take on other endeavors. Smart growth leads to more and better growth.

INSIST on REAL return of Investment.

2. It’s time to start thinking in terms of the next level/generation of traffic analysis. I am not an engineer, but when I see a traffic analysis for a warehouse project 6 miles away from a highway interchange I would think analysis of freight traffic would be a no brainer. Ask the “dumb” questions. Most appointed officials aren’t engineers. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to use a little common sense.

 

The Taco John’s of Lower Macungie – Distribution warehouses.

One of the rally cries for fiscal conservatives seeking to look at growth using “smart math” via ROI analysis has been Strongtowns “Taco John” case study.

Recently bloggers from around the country who have been inspired by Strongtowns have been conducting their own “taco john” analyses.

These analyses demonstrate in measurable terms that we have two types of land uses. On one hand land uses that generate positive cash flow and on the other hand ones that gobble up land and fiscal resources at rates that outpace revenue generated. The worse types of land uses do this at alarming clips. When you have too much of the latter as I think Lower Macungie now does leaders will inevitably only have one recourse. Raise taxes…. That is unless we stop and re-think the way we are building out.

An increasing body of evidence very clearly demonstrates sprawl is bankrupting communities that can’t keep up with new liabilities. (The 5 stages of municipal distress)

It boils down to this: There are always two items to consider. 1. New Revenue and 2. New Liabilities. It’s a very basic exercise that is unfortunately rarely conducted on the planning level and one that should be done over multiple life cycles. Well beyond the initial build cycle where rosy forecasting and one time windfalls often paint a misleading picture.

Land owners have property rights. But so do neighbors. Communities are should NOT be obligated to re-zone for uses that will inevitably lead to tax increases. This is the smart math of smart growth. And it MUST be be taken into account when considering zoning.

Below are some Lower Mac cost and benefit examples. I’m preparing a followup post with more local examples and also others from different places including mixed use. Since at this point we really don’t have much mixed use at all. This way we can take a look at some alternatives to status quo we can proactively encourage to better “balance the books”. Years ago Lower Mac once had a commercial problem in that we didn’t have any at all. Problem was and remains that the commercial we’ve built mainly consisting of warehouses and strip malls are some of the lowest ROI land uses. And unfortunately that’s about all we’ve built. And we’ve built it entirely on our most precious resource. Our last few parcels of open space and farmland.

All examples show revenue/acre at Lower Macungie’s .33 millage rate. The same ratios in terms of ROI apply across the taxing spectrum. School, County & Local. School District activists often support “chasing ratables” at all costs. But the flaw of that is the municipal gov’t is left carrying the bag paying the price of sprawl. We can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. The district also need to be a partner focusing efforts on higher value ROI uses. Land is inevitably a finite resource and given we’ve wasted so much on low value uses as we approach build out this becomes more critical.

The Good – Smart Growth PAYS

Commercial land use in the traditional format generates the highest returns, jobs per acre and has the least impacts.

Commercial land use in the village of East Texas. Converted office building reuse of old home stock. Set in the traditional context this land use generates the highest returns in dollars, the highest jobs per acre and has the least negative impacts and was funded with 0 public dollars. It’s located on shared infrastructure with the rest of the village.

In traditional neighborhood commercial car trips are drastically reduced. Infrastructure is shared and costs therefore drastically reduced. Not only is this the best “bang for our buck” but the investment by the community is relatively small comparable to other less productive land uses. If the township would spend a fraction of what it spends to support less financially productive land uses on our village and neighborhood commercial zones the return in dollars and cents for the township, school and county would be doubled or more.

The Bad

Hamilton Crossings a strip mall consumes 60 acres of land will produce about 14 jobs per acre. (based on TIF narrative.) With the TIF in place for 20 years, the development per acre generates half the revenue as Traditional Neighborhood development. As usually is the case with strip developments Hamilton Crossings will be highly subsidized with state funds.

Hamilton Crossings is a strip mall that consumes 60 acres of land. It will produce about 14 jobs per acre upon buildout. (based on TIF narrative.) With the TIF in place for 20 years, the development per acre generates half the revenue as  neighborhood Commercial development on a much smaller footprint. As usually is the case with strip developments Hamilton Crossings is also very highly subsidized with state funds to the tune of millions of dollars.

Hamilton Crossings is interesting. Since it’s more dense (due to many dozens of intensity variances granted by Lower Mac) than a typical strip center it’s ROI numbers in terms of dollars aren’t terrible (compared to warehouses which are the worse) except for the fact we granted the project a TIF for 20 years.

So we’re only capturing half that value for a very long time. (I voted in the minority against it) But buyer beware, that density is very much a double edge sword. That density equals supersized traffic. Since it’s not at all walkable most all workers and shoppers will drive. Let’s not kid ourselves about the “sidewalks through parking lots.” This is no promenade. It’s not a walkable destination. Since this project is entirely auto dependent it needs mega-sized infrastructure. To the tune of 13 million dollars.

Supersized traffic + Supersized infrastructure = Supersized bill for taxpayers.

This completely negates the value it creates and the TIF doubles down on that mistake. On top of that it’s a terrible use of land in terms of 14 jobs created per acre. Yes, “900 jobs” sounds wonderful in a projected (likely inflated) TIF narrative. But at what cost?

The Downright UGLY

Distribution warehouses. The absolute lowest ROI in all measurable forms. Paired with the highest amount of public resources to maintain. (police, fire, roads ect.) This is the the worse type of land use to commit 1000's of acres to in Lower Macungie.

Distribution warehouses built on former farmland. The absolute lowest ROI in all measurable forms. When paired with the highest amount of public resources to maintain (police, fire, supersized infrastructure ect.) this is the the worse type of land use in terms of community benefit. These structures gobble up open space at alarming clips and generate very little benefit per acre. Unless we figure out a way to *assess their impacts, this type of development will cost the township money in the long term.

There is simply no way to around it. Warehouses are our “mega-sized” Taco Johns. They gobble up valuable open space at alarming clips. They produce or make nothing. They employ very few people at very low wages. (and those numbers will continue to dip with new automation techniques until these 50 acre facilities are run by skeleton crews. A dozen people on a shift maybe?) They contribute very little back financially apples to apples compared to what they cost to maintain. They require services such as police and fire. I could go on and on.

Now in our new reality we have to realize we have market forces at work. That yes, we’re strategically located in a place warehouses want to be. And that’s fine. And our zoning ordinance in the 80′s allowed for a limited number of warehouses. But what happened over the years is we’ve overturned our growth boundaries. We’ve doubled and tripled down on warehouses. What was planned to be a limited liability as the township fulfilled it’s legal obligation to provide for it as a land use (A municipality must allow every use somewhere in it’s borders..) now has the potential to cripple us financially.

*Homestead Exclusion one possible way to right size revenue to mitigate the impacts of distribution warehouses.

The only argument

Community notification – Share with neighbors

Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) through our municipal liaison Trooper Kirk Vanim distributed a crime alert today regarding the activity of transient criminal in the East Penn area. Read the alert here.

Let’s stop this in it’s tracks:

From PSP – “Please let your family members and friends—(especially the elderly) know of this plague. They are here and they will steal from you if given the opportunity.”

Awareness is the best weapon. These transient criminals are extremely hard to catch. But once awareness is raised they pick up and leave a community.

There is no reason in today’s age of mass email alerts, social media and text alerts that every LMT resident shouldn’t be aware this is happening.

Let’s spread the word! Share this post with others. Pick up the phone and call any elderly family or neighbors that may not have access to the mass alerts!

First 3 Jaindl Warehouses are approved.

Tonight was a sad and disappointing night for me.

This past January as a new Commissioner I inherited the awful agreement negotiated by the 2010 Township Board of Commissioners. This now dictates and binds the township to the rezoning and criteria allowing a mammoth warehouse development. The 2010 rezoning leading to warehouses obliterated two decades of agriculture protection that defined the western portion of the township. This greatly contributed to what made us such a great place to live and why so many moved here. It represented years of smart growth and planning successes of the past. The agreement erased that.

For 3 years I and others fought this rezoning as residents in every way we could. We walked petitions, donated money, distributed flyers, helped plan fundraisers, attended meetings. But in the end the efforts of these dedicated residents including over 1000 who signed a petition were frustratingly moot.

Tonight, because the prior boards series of decisions from 2010-2013 (including opportunities to correct mistakes) the township is legally bound to adhere to what amounts to as a contract.  Because of this I was in my opinion ethically bound to review the submitted plans by the terms of those agreements. Agreements which are now the law. I do not believe in casting votes to grandstand. And I think to have done so with no real way to overturn the MOU would have been just that. It wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

If there were anyway to overturn the rezoning or any possibility of success I would have pursued it. Legally there was no course.

Those who followed this closely understand the impacts coming. Many even still today who are just learning are shocked. This is now reality. I sincerely believe we’re still a great place to live. The affects of a warehouse development over a mile in size on previously protected farmland in the worse possible location can’t be overstated enough. But this is my hometown. It’s where I’m getting married in a month. Where she and I will raise kids. I guess that’s why I cared so much about this. But now time to move forward. We have got to figure out how. Can’t rest til we do.

The tip of the iceberg, the basic problems are this:

  • We now have a large amount of warehouses where they don’t make sense never made sense and with no clear path to the turnpike.
  • We have to provide services to those warehouses. We have significantly increased our need for costly local police force which will no doubt lead to tax increases. Fire safety obligations increase. For now we have a volunteer force. But each new development strains that.
  • We have tractor trailers through no fault of there own but rather the poor decisions of the past bleeding onto our local roads. This causes safety and quality of life concerns.
  • We have lost farmland that was preserved for decades.
  • People I know purchased homes, the biggest investment of there lives with an understanding that certain zoning was permanent. Their neighborhood will now forever change in the blink of an eye.

These are some of the problems that need proactive solutions. It is what it is. Tonight I’ll let myself be bummed. But tomorrow eyes forward roll up the sleeves.

Lower Macungie Township Agenda Preview 7/17

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. One of my biggest issues with the Jaindl debacle was folks didn’t truly understand what was happening until it was “too late”. I plan on doing everything I can to make sure residents have background information on issues. This is one mechanism to do that. I hope people find it useful. Please contact me at ronbeitler@gmail.com if you have any questions or concerns about any issues.

Hearings:

Plan Approval Life Church: This is the reuse project of Rt. 100 Roller Rink. Sad to see the Rink go, but happy it’s a Church moving in. This plan has been reviewed by the planning commission and planning committee and recommended for approval. The project uses the same building with major changes mostly on the inside. Although it was neat to hear the church is utilizing the old rink floor. The major difference you will see outside is a much expanded parking lot.

Plan Approval Spring Creek Properties: This is the first 3 of possibly 7 warehouses associated with the Jaindl Spring Creek development. Here is a link to all the history leading up to tonight…..

Communication/Letters

Traffic issues:
We have another letter regarding speeding in subdivisions. This and truck traffic are probably 1 and 1a most frequently rec’d correspondence. I’ll be blogging about this issue next couple weeks.

Another letter deals with East Texas and Brookside intersection. Another frequent topic of resident letters. This is a tough problem. Anyone who drives through this intersection can see there simply isn’t much space for adding turning lanes. That makes it an extremely expensive fix and there lies the problem.

Suggestion for additional school zone. This comes from one of our new crossing guards. Unfortunately, state law dictates where the zones can and cannot be placed. However, Sauerkraut lane issues have to be addressed. This will be tied into a post I make about general speeding issues in the township. Sauerkraut is especially important given it’s now a walking corridor for students attending WLES. I think we have to get creative here.

Unfortunately, the next letter deals with a negative response to a request to enact a truck brake retarder ban on Brookside. I’ve requested a copy of the study. My question is: Are there any parts of Brookside that may qualify? The study request focused on the length of Brookside. There may be portions where the grades are flat enough for a ban. If there are I suspect it’s near the residential portions where the ban is most needed.

Fire Chief David Nosal writes a letter thanking the the township for help with a dumpster fire. LMFD was responding to a fire off Hamilton Blvd and had trouble extinguishing due to extreme hear and the fact the fire was deep inside the very large dumpster. LMFD requested use of township backhoe to overturn the dumpster. The letter praises our public works staff for there quick off hours response and aid. EXCELLENT JOB LMFD and LMT PUBLIC WORKS CREW!

Dept. Matters
Planning
Adoption of Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan. You can view the plan here! Many thanks to the consultant, steering committee, Parks Board and staff for working nearly a year (more then a year?) on this plan. Having a comprehensive plan is critical as it helps us to improve our park system on a township wide scale identifying strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and priorities. 

Solicitor
The solicitor will be updating the public on the pending Hamilton Crossings Litigation.

Committee
Not many action items on committees. Things will pick up next month.

One item is conceptual approval of a new municipal complex sign that will include a digital display. This has been a request of the community center a library for awhile now.

Gen Ad committee will be reporting on progress towards initiating the Homestead Act. I am very excited to report progress having attended the meeting. This was a proposal I made in January. Here is a review of the program which will potentially reduce property taxes for all owner occupied primary residences in the township.

A way to reduce primary residence taxes. Homestead exception. 

Afternoon in Allentown

Spent the afternoon Downtown. Catalyst a trip to the Social Security office.  Need replacement card so I can get married :) Unfortunately, (and also inexplicably) the office closes (the only day a week it does..) on Wednesdays at noon. But hey, my fault for not checking.

So not having ate yet, I decided I wasn’t going to let the trip go to waste. Belly growling I parked the car and walked up Hamilton.

No secret I’m a cheerleader for the Cities revitalization efforts. Even for a suburbanite like myself I recognize the importance of the city regionally. Healthy Allentown is good for Lower Mac.

I’ve come around to the NIZ. Generally skeptical of “ABC” tax gimmicks I recognize some are better than others. We got the good (CRIZ = keeping money local) and the bad (TIF diverting local money away for future maintenance obligations). And then we have our unique NIZ courtesy of Sen. Browne. Even for the biggest of naysayers it’s now becoming hard not to acknowledge what’s happening. From 7th St. to Hamilton to the Waterfront, NIZ has been a positive catalyst.

Downtown was bursting with action all over. Success can only be measured by walking through the city and feeling it organically in terms of one critical criteria which is people. It’s not measured in millions of dollars spent or brick and mortar laid. It’s people living, working & playing. That’s the measure of success for a downtown. Today it definitely felt like Allentown is well on it’s way.

Here are just a few of the photos I got. The measure of success. People living, working and playing.

Live-work-play: Dining

On my walk from 4th street to Billy's I passed 3 restaurants with packed fill with al fresco dining.

On my walk from 4th street to Billy’s I passed 3 restaurants with packed full with al fresco dining. Pictured here is Billy’s downtown diner.

Live-work-play: Recreation

At least a dozen kids playing in the PPL plaza spray park.

At least a dozen kids with parents playing in the PPL plaza spray park. Others stop and watch.

Live work play: Work

Folks on lunch break enjoying the sunny day taking advantage of the great pedestrian facilities all over Hamilton. Fantastic urban design.

Folks on lunch break enjoying the sunny day taking advantage of the great pedestrian facilities all over Hamilton. Fantastic urban design.

Live-work-play: Shopping downtown!

Shopping once again on Hamilton? Yup. I bet many thought window shopping would never return.

Shopping once again on Hamilton? Yup. I bet many thought window shopping would never return.

Live-work-play working: Small businesses investment to go with the big business investment

And of course a shout out to my friend Josh Macgown and his Mobile Genius store front. Josh, a Lower Mac resident chose to locate one of his storefronts downtown. Mainly because of clutzes like me he is always very busy repairing iphone screens!

And of course a shout out to my friend Josh Macgown and his Mobile Genius store front. Josh, a Lower Mac resident chose to locate one of his storefronts downtown. Mainly because of clutzes like me he is always very busy repairing iphone screens!

Live-work-play: Here come the Phantoms!

The Phantoms are coming! New storefront selling all your phantom gear.

The Phantoms are coming! New storefront selling all your phantom gear.

Live-work-play: Tradition!

Ended my afternoon downtown with an Allentown original Yoccos dog. (make that 3 everything with pickles)

Ended my afternoon downtown with an Allentown original Yoccos dog. (make that 3 everything with pickles)

I wish I had more time to take more pictures today. Speaking of living, working and playing I should have got a pic of my friend Tara who I ran into. Originally from the burbs she’s now literally Miss Allentown. Any demographer will tell you “young professionals” now prefer more walkable urban environments. She represents that. She’s just one of many friends who feel that way, but she’s the poster child. Homeowner in Allentown (West End), works downtown, raising her kid with her b/f there. Committed to downtown.

 

Wehr Dam – South Whitehall Township

I’ve been following this issue with interest over the last couple months. Primarily through “Molovinsky on Allentown“. The blog’s author Mike Molovinsky is a state house candidate running as an independent in the 183rd. Mr. Molovinsky has long been a champion of preserving Allentown Parkways historic WPA structures. Here his focus turns west to South Whitehall Township.

The Dam and Bridge are visually linked as the centerpiece of South Whitehalls flagship park.

The Dam and Bridge are visually linked as the centerpiece of South Whitehalls flagship park.

First, generally I support Dam removals. There are numerous environmental reasons and rationales. I also think historic preservation is important. So here, in this unique case we have competing historic and environmental arguments. Both things I’m concerned with. In this case I think the dam’s aesthetic and historic significance trumps the environmental concerns.

Like covered bridges, Mill dams are a part of our history. As Mike points out, we don’t build em anymore. Our area once had many. Some have been removed and more are likely to be. If there is one case for a single century old dam to be preserved I think that case can and should be made at Wehr.

I spend a good amount of time in this park since it has one of the areas best novice disc golf courses. I play it a couple times a year. So I’m familiar with it. I for one would definitely miss the dam since it’s clearly visually linked to the covered bridge as the centerpiece of this beautiful park.

Wildlands has stated the dam is neither historic nor aesthetic. As a general supporter of the wildlands and the work they do, I feel compelled to call them out on that statement. Seems a little insincere. Wildlands does important work. But I’m sorry, No one goes to that park without focusing their eyes on that Dam and Bridge. 

I do acknowledge the scientific arguments. But believe use of a little common sense in this unique case dictates recognizing that this dam/bridge combo is unique. Basically, there are lots more dams for the Wildlands to remove. Let’s keep at least one in the name of historic preservation.

 

How do we safely move freight in Lower Macungie/Greater Lehigh Valley?

For better or worse we’re now in the business of moving freight in Lower Macungie Twp. Much of our former agriculture land (which was at one time very high ROI, low impact and great for property values) is now or about to become warehouses. (very low ROI and extremely high impact terrible neighbors)

Moving freight is now a huge part of our local and regional economy. Because of that, local governments have to address the issue.

How do we achieve balance between the needs to move freight and safety/quality of life?

How do we achieve balance between the needs to move freight and safety/quality of life?

In Upper Macungie distribution warehouses probably always made sense due to a location directly adjacent to I-78 with direct highway access to all points N, S, E & W. In Upper Macungie they have the ability to separate the trucks from residential portion of the township. Here in Lower Macungie we are much further from interchanges. Therefore, trucks coming in and out of the township to and from the warehouses are frequently ending up on local residential roads. Day and night trucks rumble through Macungie and Alburtis intermingling with pedestrians and residential neighborhoods. In Lower Macungie we see them on local roads such as East Texas Rd, Spring Creek Rd, Sauerkraut Ln, Willow Ln ect.

In the next 10 years the amount of warehouses will double. The biggest of these mega warehouses are forecasted to generate up to 40 trucks an hour 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. The problem will only get worse.

We need answers. Moving forward how do we balance the needs of a safe, livable community with the need to efficiently move freight? I’m not sure there is a blueprint. Are there any other examples of areas that have gone this far overboard with distribution warehouses? 

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