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No negative LVPC recommendation on Hamilton Crossings project

Rather than voting against the proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center in Lower Macungie Township Thursday night, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission agreed to delay action until it can further review the project with the developers.

The possible negative vote would have been based on traffic improvements proposed for the 63-acre project, which will be on both sides of Krocks Road between Hamilton Boulevard and Route 222.

The action was tabled so the developers can sit down with LVPC staff to discuss the plan in more detail, explained Percy Dougherty, a Lehigh County commissioner and Lower Macungie resident who serves on the LVPC board.

"The LVPC would benefit from getting a more detailed briefing on the project so they can make a more informed decision," confirmed Hamilton Crossings developer Jeremy Fogel. He indicated that review will include traffic issues "that appear to give them pause."

At Wednesday night's county commissioners meeting, Dougherty announced that LVPC might vote against approving the Hamilton Crossings plan Thursday night.

Fogel and Tim Harrison, his fellow Hamilton Crossings developer, were caught off guard by Dougherty's announcement. They were at the commissioners meeting to explain the project.

Dougherty said the developers also will be working with the State Department of Transportation about traffic improvement changes that LVPC staff would like to see in the plan. He said they include a full interchange at Route 222 and Krocks Road, where developers hope to begin construction of the $140 million shopping center later this year. He said LVPC staff is concerned that the Route 222 bypass was not designed to handle extra traffic that will be generated by Hamilton Crossings.

LVPC staffers familiar with the Hamilton Crossings review could not be reached for elaboration late Friday afternoon.

Fogel said the developers have been working with PennDOT for a couple of years.

Dougherty said he supports the project and felt the developers should know that LVPC's comprehensive planning committee had just made a recommendation against approving the plan to the full LVPC board. He serves on that committee, but abstained from voting because he also was on the Tax Increment Financing committee that reviewed the Hamilton Crossings project.

Fogel said the LVPC does not have "anywhere close to the full file of information related to transportation issues that has been created during the two plus years we have been working with PennDOT to evaluate the project.

He added: "Further, the LVPC has not had the benefit of even meeting with our development team to discuss efforts we have made to address many of the issues that appear to give them pause. We suggested to LVPC that it would make sense to meet and review the full breadth of information before they finalize their review and make a recommendation. The LVPC tabled the matter to accommodate our request." 

Fogel said plans for Hamilton Crossings were submitted to the township and LVPC on April 15. He explained LVPC has 30 days to review those plans and make a recommendation to the township, so the Lower Macungie Planning Commission has the LVPC's input before it makes a recommendation on the plan to the township commissioners, who must give the project final approval.

That 30-day deadline has now been extended by LVPC and the developers. "Our project is rather large and complicated and 30 days is not a reasonable amount of time for anyone to make a full review," said Fogel.

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