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New Year, Same Old Story

It's brand new year but it appears that the same old politics are at play involving David Jaindl and Upper Macungie Township.

Upper Macungie Township officials held a public hearing prior to Christmas on a zoning change being sought by David Jaindl and the Jaindl Land Company.  In simple terms Jaindl wants to sell a plot of land at Schantz Rd and Rte. 100 for what he now calls "Project Pilgrim", but which he previously referred to as an Ocean Spray beverage plant.  The land that Ocean Spray wants is part of a 60 acre parcel that is zoned Highway Commercial.  A beverage plant is a permitted use in the HC zoning area, so there is nothing stopping Jaindl from selling the land to Ocean Spray and there's really nothing township officials can do to stop it from being built.  So why is Jaindl looking for a zoning change?

As is usually the case, it all comes down to money.  Jaindl also owns a parcel of land further south at Route 100 and Industrial Blvd that is zoned Light Industrial.  The Ocean Spray plant could also be built in Light Industrial zoning but this parcel is too small for the proposed plant.  Here's where the money comes in: HC land is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 per acre more than land zoned LI.  Naturally Ocean Spray doesn't want to pay the higher price for HC land when it doesn't need that zoning classification, leading Jaindl to try to swap the zoning on the parcels to keep his buyer happy and his ledger balanced.

Jaindl and his team of attorneys and engineers admitted that the zoning change wasn't needed to build the Ocean Spray plant but that the factory wouldn't be built without it.  Engineer Scott Pidcock wouldn't answer when asked why that was the case but I'd say there are about three million of them.  And as Supervisor Sam Ashmar said at a prior meeting, "The township is being asked to make a zoning change to benefit a developer."  Ashmar has come out strongly against the zoning change, citing the additional traffic it could bring to an already crowded traffic corrider. 

Public comments at last weeks meeting were also strongly against the change, but where do the other two Supervisors sit on the issue?  I believe Kathy Rader will vote to approve it.  At a workshop meeting I attended this past summer Representative Doug Reichley very forcefully stated the case that the township should approve the change and that Governor Tom Corbett had a special interest in the project.  Why is the governor taking such a special interest?  Again, you just have to follow the money.  The Jaindl family generously supported Corbett's bid for governor and David even served on his transition team.  So the governor sends Reichley to the meeting to pass on his support.  We already know that Mrs. Rader is Reichley's campaign treasurer so it's not hard to guess how she's going to vote. 

That leaves board chairman Dr. Edward Earley as the deciding voice.  It's obvious that Dr. Earley hates getting between Mr. Ashmar and Mrs. Rader on these votes but he's going to have to make the call and it looks like that vote is going to come quickly.  After moving to table the issue in the face of heavy opposition at the public hearing Mrs. Rader has placed the issue on the agenda for this weeks reorganization meeting.  By state law the reorganization meeting is being held on Tuesday night, which is a change from the township's normal Thursday night meeting.  Maybe Mrs. Rader is hoping that public attendance will be down at the meeting and she can sneak this one through without anyone noticing. 

The public opposition at the last meeting made a difference; I'm hoping a good turnout will help us to defeat this zoning change for the good of Upper Macungie residents. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Alfed Anthony January 03, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Couldnt of put it any better Mr. Corcoran. The other 2 Supervisors need to start working for Upper Macungie Township residents and put there own agenda to the side for change!
Abbie January 03, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Seems business as usual in Upper Macungie. Anyone follow Bill White's columns in The Morning Call? He brings some interesting light to Reichley's interests as well. starts at the local level and goes way up to the top. We desperately need new officials...starting with the township level.
Amy January 04, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Abbie - I couldn't agree more. The local levels of government are as swayed by the "rich" supporters of their campaigns rather than the voters. I would love to see a total overhaul of the township and introducing limited terms for all positions. Local government (or any level of government) should not be a career that is overpaid. It should be a place that someone goes to make a difference for those around them for the time that they serve doing what they actually say they will do...
Friends for Protection LMT January 04, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Don't get discouraged. There is a very real grassroots movement in this country now to take back gov't on a federal and local scale. Regardless of political affiliation (EXP in local elections, where gov't is more hands on with public participation then representative as it is on the federal level) whether you are tea party or occupy or as the VAST majority in this country the unheard moderates, (somewhere in between), people are waking up. Citizen participation in gov't! Officials represent the people who elect them. Don't get discouraged but instead educate your neighbors! Help them get involved, invite them to meetings, talk to them about the issues, volunteer for a committee! www.facebook.com/friendslmt
Scott Bieber January 04, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I believe Ocean Spray is committed to building in the Lehigh Valley. They have agreements for water and sewer service form Lehigh County Authority. I think they will build on the land they want no matter what it is zoned and they will negotiate a price with Jaindl. Upper Macungie should not change the zoning unless it believes it will improve the overall long-term development of that large tract of land along Route 100.

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