Lehigh Valley

LVPC Planners discuss regional development 'weaknesses'

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Members of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's comprehensive planning committee Tuesday focused on the Lehigh Valley's weaknesses regarding development as opposed to the discussion they had last month on development strengths in the area.

Member Percy Dougherty also a Lehigh County commissioner claims a lack of density in development results in suburban sprawl which places more of a strain on infrastructure resulting in traffic backups and increased congestion among other things.

"Too little density in development and planning even in the suburbs spreads everything out and gobbles up land," said Dougherty. He said the result is higher infrastructure and utility costs in addition to transportation providers such as the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) experiencing greater challenges in servicing suburban neighborhoods. 

"The Lehigh Valley is a prime example of Euclidean zoning (single use development), he commented. Dougherty said area development is not being supported by infrastructure improvements such as new and improved roadways funded by the state. "The state is reticent in leading the way in highway improvements," he remarked. He explained in states such as Florida the highways are built prior to development, but in Pennsylvania the situation is reversed.                                       

Northampton County Director Tim Herringer and Bethlehem Planning Director Darlene Heller both committee members said Lehigh Valley development lacks a coordinated effort on a regional level. They also pointed out area development needs a single resource for analyzing gaps in planning focused on housing, forecasting, and municipalities' needs.

Member Steve Heratko of Lehigh County said the brownfields in the Lehigh Valley's cities need to be cleaned up prior to their redevelopment. 

Finally, the committee agreed there is a lack of affordable older downtown housing stock in the valley's three cities. 

Heller said Bethlehem has been trying to achieve a housing mix in its downtowns and it's efforts have been successful in increasing the number of residential availabilities. However, she said with regard to Allentown, "It's pretty complex and there are a lot of challenges." 

Herringer commented on the lack of creativity in development in the Lehigh Valley, however, he said of all the development weaknesses the committee discussed, they fail to outnumber the strengths previously discusse

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