Court clears way for controversial plan to develop 700 acres of farmland in Lower Macungie

Author: , Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 14 2012 05:58:45 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 05 2013 05:37:17 AM EST
LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. -

A state appeals court has cleared the way for a huge and controversial development in Lower Macungie Twp., Lehigh County. Opponents now admit, they are nearly out of legal options.

Right now, it's just 700 acres of farmland along Smith Lane, just outside Alburtis. Just the way neighbor John Armich likes it.

"Snow geese land here," he said. "It's completely natural."

But opponents fear it could be full of warehouses and truck traffic -- if developer David Jaindl's plans for the site go through.

"Everywhere you look now, this will be over a million square foot of warehouses, hundred thousand square foot of strip mall, commercial center, and urban density tract housing," said Ron Beitler, spokesman for Friends for the Preservation of Lower Macungie Township, which has raised money for a legal challenge.

Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court upheld the plans in a ruling released Friday.

The appeals court rejected a local court's ruling that residents were not properly notified or informed about the project.

"The residents of the township only had a few weeks to review what's essentially the largest, potentially most destructive zoning change in township history," said Beitler.

Jaindl's attorney said Friday that residents had numerous chances to speak out.

"There were many public meetings," said attorney Joseph Zator. "In fact, the number of public meetings with the zoning amendments far exceeded the legal requirements."

The appeals court also rejected the idea that township leaders reached a "backroom deal" with Jaindl.

"There were no secret negotiations," insisted Jaindl.

In a statement, township commissioners said, "We understand and appreciate that certain residents of the township disagreed with these amendments. However, it is clear that all residents received the required notices and opportunity to comment at public meetings."

Project opponents have 30 days to ask the state Supreme Court to intervene. So far, the township alone has spent $130,000 in legal bills.