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Lehigh Valley

Commissioners voting on Jaindl subdivision Thursday

LOWER MACUNGIE TOWNSHIP, Pa. - Jaindl Land Company's Spring Creek Properties Subdivision No. 1 literally will pave the way for development of yet another huge chunk of rural agricultural land in Lower Macungie Township.

But township engineer William Erdman said actual development of the subdivision's 14 properties could take as long as 20 years to complete, depending on the state of the economy.

Erdman said a subdivision is just property lines drawn on a map.

After this subdivision is approved, Jaindl can sell lots. But before owners of those lots can build anything they will have to go through the land development process to get approval from the township, a process that can take more than a year.

The long and hotly debated subdivision project will be up for a vote of preliminary and final approval by Lower Macungie commissioners at their Thursday meeting.

At their last meeting on April 19, commissioners announced they had taken the unusual step of posting the entire 19-page resolution document on the township's Web site. Such resolutions normally are not posted on the Web site until the week of the commissioners meeting.

"Given the complexity of the project and its long history, the feeling was the public should have the opportunity to digest this resolution, which probably is the longest I've seen in 30 some years with the township," said Erdman.

Residents also are invited to review the actual subdivision plans in the township office.

The 597-acre subdivision is just north of Alburtis. Spring Creek Road runs through it. Little Lehigh Creek flows through the northern end of the property along Mertztown Road.

Often overlooked in the debate is that some open space will be preserved in the subdivision. More than 25 percent of the land --166 of the 597 acres – will be dedicated to the township as open space.

Two of the subdivision's 14 lots are being set aside, one for a possible113-acre future park along Smith Lane south of Mertztown Road, and the other as a 53-acre greenway along the Little Lehigh's 500-year-flood plain.

In addition to the loss of open space, the Jaindl project has been controversial both because of its size and the amount of traffic it ultimately will generate.

"It's one of the largest subdivision projects to come before the township, in terms of total acreage to be considered at one time," said Sara Pandl, Lower Macungie's director of planning and community development.

To provide access to the site, a new section of Sauerkraut Lane will be built west of Route 100, merge with existing Quarry Road, go over the Norfolk Southern tracks just south of Quarry Park, intersect Spring Creek Road and then continue west, where it will meet existing Smith Lane and swing north to intersect with Mertztown Road.

Pandl said that will give people living north of Mertztown Road access to the new park land. But trucks will not be allowed to access Mertztown Road from Sauerkraut Lane.

A cul-de-sac will be installed next to the future park and the road will narrow before crossing the creek to intersect with Mertztown Road. She said that part of the road, whether named Sauerkraut or Smith, will be for local traffic only.

Pandl said the new section of Sauerkraut Lane will have a walkway on one side of the street and a bikeway on the other.

Erdman said the extension of Sauerkraut Lane, as well as several intersection upgrades, will be paid mostly by Jaindl. "The township will not be paying for any of these improvements," said the engineer.

He said a major misconception has sprung from the fact that the township is not requiring Jaindl to pay traffic impact fees. Some critics assume that means Jaindl "is off the hook." Erdman said the reality is developer David Jaindl is supporting the project by installing the road, upgrading intersections and making other improvements that will cost up to $8 million.

Pandl said seven large lots – the largest is 68 acres – can be used for warehouses, light manufacturing or some commercial office buildings.

Erdman expects the majority of those lots will have "big box" warehouses or distribution centers built on them. He said the new section of Sauerkraut Lane will be built with extremely thick paving to handle truck traffic.

Traffic is the biggest concern with the project, said Erdman. Pandl said caps are being imposed on traffic to limit the intensity of development within the subdivision.

Erdman said one challenge in preparing the resolution was trying to conceptualize what will happen 20 years from now: "The expectation is that the actual development of this could take two decades. What will be going on in the township 17 years from now?"

The subdivision includes four smaller commercial lots clustered around the future intersection of Spring Creek Road and Sauerkraut Lane.

Pandl said one of the subdivision's 14 lots is an existing home on just over two acres.

It's often been reported that a large development of nearly 700 homes will be part of this subdivision. But Pandl said it is not part of part one now before the commissioners nor would township zoning allow that type of residential development in that area.

She said that housing project would be north of Mertztown Road.

Other future phases of Jaindl's subdivision not yet before the township could include 74 acres for a shopping center and 370 acres for a 4-million-square-foot warehouse.

The township planning commission recommended approval of the subdivision's phase one in April 2011.

Township Solicitor Richard Somach said discussions about the project have been going on at planning commission and commissioners meetings for many months.

He said the resolution is the first time those who have followed the project will see it "finalized, compiled and all put into one place."

"The developer has looked at it and is reasonably satisfied with it," Erdman told commissioners on April 19.

Jaindl at one time threatened to put a quarry on most of the site.

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