Commissioners approved deferring until June 26 by a 5-4 vote.
Voting no were Scheller, Vic Mazziotti, Scott Ott and Michael Schware.
Commissioner Thomas Creighton, the last to vote, surprised many at the meeting when he voted yes, because he often votes with Scheller, Mazziotti, Ott and Schware.
“I’m independent,” said Creighton later.
Voting with Creighton and Dougherty for deferral were Commissioners David Jones, Dan McCarthy and Brad Osborne.
Scheller said she personally was disappointed by the 11:13 p.m. vote, but only because it ended “discussion of the bill for this evening.” She said she wanted to continue the discussion among the commissioners and potentially defer it later in the evening.
Humor and frayed tempers
Ott got one of the few laughs of the night when he suggested the state’s TIF program “was designed to help people in beleaguered areas -- to generate economic development to help lift them out of that condition -- and here we are using this kind of an incentive to bring latte to the troubled upper-middle-class people of Lower Macungie.”
Ron Eichenberg, chairman of Lower Macungie commissioners, also got a laugh when he noted he has not been re-elected to another term: “I’m up here promoting a community from which I’ve been fired.”
Eichenberg said residents of both Upper and Lower Macungie townships are looking forward to Hamilton Crossings as a great benefit.
He indicated people in other communities are incredulous that the Lehigh Valley might reject a Costco or Whole Foods Market, two of the anchor stores in Hamilton Crossings. He said many other communities would do anything to get those two retailers.
Eichenberg asked commissioners to approve the TIF subject to Hamilton Crossings getting a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT.
Tempers frayed as the night wore on. When Scheller struck the gavel as Jones was speaking, because other people were waiting to speak, he told her: “Don’t disrespect me by banging that.”
Mazziotti and Atty. John Lushis of the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority got into an angry argument when Mazziotti, who served on a TIF committee, accused Lushis of being an advocate for the Hamilton Crossings TIF “from day one.”
Lushis “respectfully but aggressively” disagreed.
The TIF discussion began with a presentation by David Berryman and Joseph Gurinko of LVPC, who had been invited by the commissioners to explain why LVPC opposes Hamilton Crossing and a TIF for Hamilton Crossings.
LVPC did an advisory review of the project for Lower Macungie Township, as it routinely does on proposed developments. But Schware, who served on Allentown’s planning commission for six years, said he doesn’t recall ever seeing another LVPC review letter “as strongly worded as this one.”
“LVPC does not have an issue with development of this property,” said Berryman, its chief planner. “It’s the scale and size of this project the planning commission has concerns over. It creates impacts, not only on the road, but on residential properties.You’re not looking at a neighborhood shopping center; you’re looking at a massive, regional shopping center. It’s almost 600,000 square feet.”
Berryman said the Route 222 bypass was built six years ago to relieve traffic congestion on Hamilton Boulevard. And the state purchased access rights along Route 222 from property owners along it, to control access, protect the flow of traffic “and not recreate Hamilton Boulevard.”
Berryman said Hamilton Crossings is only “the tip of a large iceberg of development,” explaining it is the first of 28 projects that could affect the Route 222 bypass.
He said if Route 222 is “cracked open” to allow access for Hamilton Crossings, that will affect all future development along that highway. He said PennDOT is reviewing the impact of all those developments.
Berryman explained LVPC opposes a TIF for Hamilton Crossings because the TIF will be “aiding a project that has not demonstrated it can mitigate its impacts.”
Hamilton Crossings developer Tim Harrison told commissioners his most recent traffic studies show there will be even fewer traffic delays on Route 222 if his development is built than if it is not built, because of improvements he plans to make.
While project supporters said Hamilton Crossings is not taking away farmland, others mentioned they have seen photos of corn growing on that site.