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.