Two Lower Macungie commissioners are concerned about the impact the long-proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center will have on a small township park.
One concern involves a stormwater detention basin - called a rain garden - that is planned by the developers in Wescosville Park, which is along Hamilton Boulevard next to the 63-acre site of the shopping center.
Another is that an entrance road to that shopping center will be right next to an old log house that faces Hamilton Boulevard in the front of the park.
Both issues were raised at Thursday night's township meeting, where progress was announced on another controversial development project.
In March, plans for three huge warehouses and an office building, the first projects in developer David Jaindl's Spring Creek Properties subdivision, will be presented to the township's planning commission.
Commissioner Douglas Brown raised the rain garden issue.
Brown said the rain garden has not been discussed by the commissioners and asked if the developers are offering compensation to the township for the park land.
"It just kind of showed up in our park," said Brown. "We're losing a little corner of our park. Do we just give it to them? Or do we sell it to them? It's still park property. It's for the good of the community. And this is necessitated by private development."
The 6.7-acre park has two baseball fields, the log house and a large picnic pavilion.
Township planning director Sara Pandl said the proposed rain garden will take less than a quarter acre of the park and will have no impact on the softball fields.
Commissioner James Lancsek said that basin will be part of the full Hamilton Crossings land development plan that eventually will come before the commissioners for approval -- assuming the developers proceed with the project, which they say they can't build unless Lehigh County commissioners approve a tax increment financing plan.
Brown was disappointed that township commissioners won't have a formal discussion about the rain garden in Wescosville Park before it becomes just one small part of the shopping center's overall development plan.
Lancsek suggested the rain garden issue could be brought before the commissioners separately, with a presentation by the developers and/or township staff before the rest of the land development plan is considered for approval. None of the other commissioners objected to that idea.
Pandl said the rain garden will include extensive landscaping and overlooks, as well as interpretative signs and exhibits explaining how a rain garden absorbs storm water.
"It's meant to be an educational experience, to show the aquatic plant life that thrives in that environment," explained Alan Fornwalt, assistant township engineer.
Lancsek said all maintenance of the rain garden will be the responsibility of the developers. And he said it will improve drainage across Wescosville Park, including on the ball fields. "There's going to be some benefit to the township. It's not that we're just giving them this property. There is coordinated cooperation between the township and the landowner for the good of both."
Commissioner Ron Beitler is more concerned that a Hamilton Crossings entrance road off Hamilton Boulevard will be only a couple of feet west of the small log house, which was moved to the park from another location many years ago.
"We're giving away land so they can build their driveway," said Beitler. "It is going to have an adverse impact on the log home, which is used very heavily by the historical society. They are losing a significant amount of space."
Beitler acknowledged: "Hamilton Crossings has committed to building a street wall there and some enhanced landscaping to protect the log home. They are doing their best to curb that impact. But we are giving away land that is needed by a private developer."
From the very beginning of the project, said Lancsek, the township requested that Hamilton Crossings developers install that entrance way off Hamilton Boulevard, so people can leave both the park and the shopping center at traffic lights.
Beitler agreed that makes sense, but said anything that involves a giveaway of township park property "needs to bubble up" to the board of commissioners much sooner.
As for the rain garden, Beitler said it is going to be an amenity.
Pandl said it is being required by the state.
"I look at it as an enhancement to our park, not giving away land," said Commissioner Brian Higgins. "It will make it more useable for more people."
Higgins said Hamilton Crossings will provide more parking for Wescosville Park, with walkways from the shopping center's parking lots to the ball fields. He said now those fields often can't be used on weekends because "when you rent Wescosville Rec Center, those fields come with it."