There was a brief skirmish between Muller and Atty. Jonathan Hugg, who represents Cedar Realty, during the question-and-answer period near the end of the meeting.
Hugg challenged the appropriateness of the county executive holding such a meeting. Muller said he would have held the meeting for county residents even if he did not support Hamilton Crossings.
Muller said he called the meeting because of two questions. He said county residents often ask him what’s happened to Hamilton Crossings. And some have questioned whether the project has changed and it’s now just another shopping center, which is “not what everybody expected.”
“This is informational,” said the county executive at the beginning of the meeting, but not “a pep rally for Hamilton Crossings.”
“I am in favor of the TIF and moving forward with Hamilton Crossings,” said Muller. “To me, this is about jobs. We still need jobs. We’re talking about 495 construction jobs and then 930 ongoing retail jobs-- something like 619 of them full-time.”
“The biggest criticism we’ve heard is that retail jobs aren’t great jobs,” said Fogel. “Costco’s average hourly raise is over $20 an hour. And Whole Foods’ average hourly wage is $15 an hour.” He said a full-time employee at either store will earn more than the median per capita wage in Lehigh County.
Three members of the East Penn School Board, which approved the TIF last year, attended the meeting in Muhlenberg's Moyer Hall.
In response to a resident’s question, Muller said there is no legal requirement that the entire TIF approval process must start over, beginning with the school board again approving it.
Three Lower Macungie commissioners, as well as township manager Bruce Fosselman, also attended.
Lower Macungie will get to vote on the TIF only if Lehigh County commissioners approve it. Three of the five township commissioners already formally are on the record in support of the project.
Also in the audience were former county Executive Matt Croslis and developer David Jaindl.