The proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center was blasted as a hodge-podge of stores that lacks a consistent design theme by George Doughty of the Lower Macungie Planning Commission Tuesday night.
Doughty made his remarks in front of two Hamilton Crossings developers, along with their lawyer and engineer, during the planning commission meeting in the Wescosville Community Center along Hamilton Boulevard, literally right next door where the shopping center is planned in the township.
“As I look at your plan, it is like a hundred other places, where you are accommodating three or four big box stores, based on their demand, and then squeezing other stuff around it,” said Doughty.
“When you do that, you end up with what we have here, which is sort of a hodge-podge kind of approach. There really isn’t a theme design at all here and there really isn’t anything that even approaches pedestrian friendly, or streetscape, or creating an attractive area that people would want to go to.”
Doughty said if people want to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods store, which apparently is planned in the shopping center, they will park in front of Dick’s, buy what they want and leave.
He predicted Hamilton Crossings is not going to be a center of activity where people will want to stroll around and shop. “I think we need to understand that’s what we’re buying here, as far as the township’s concerned.”
Doughty also said: “If I had my way, it would stay farm fields forever, but it’s not going to be.”
The developers did not respond to Doughty’s criticisms.
Sara Pandl, the township’s planning and economic development director, later reminded planning commission members that Hamilton Crossing stores will be located in places that avoid building them over huge deposits of mine wash.
Said to have the consistency of pancake batter, mine wash is material left from open pit mining done on the site in the 19th century. The developers plan to remove and remediate that mine wash, then put it back into the old mine holes. But they will only build parking lots over it.
Doughty’s criticism of Hamilton Crossings was unusual because it was came from a planning official in a township where the top leaders have embraced the shopping center project.
Doughty prefaced his comments by saying “I’m late to this game.” He later explained he has been on the planning commission since January.
Hamilton Crossings has been in the planning stages for years.
While Doughty was the most vocal, he wasn’t the only planning commission member expressing some disillusion with the 63-acre project during the meeting.
“One concern that we hear tonight is we’ve offered some fairly significant concessions with variances and waivers,” said Irvin Keister, chairman of the planning commission. “Part of the reason for that were the amenities we were anticipating getting. But it seems like each step that we go here, there is some backing off.
“I’m sensitive to the trend. I would like to see us get more things back in, as opposed to finding things are disappearing.”
Doughty indicated the developers have shown a continued pattern of disregard for comments from the township.
An unexpected detention pond
Commission vice chairman Maury Robert wasn’t happy to learn the Hamilton Crossings developers now want to put a detention pond near a softball field in Wescosville Park.
‘This is the first I became aware that they are actually taking township land,” said Robert. “They want to cram all sorts of stuff on their land and then say ‘we need some township land for another detention pond’. Seems a little excessive. I wasn’t thrilled to see that. It sure as hell hasn’t been talked about at the planning commission.”
The proposed detention pond would cover about a half acre, estimated Bud Newton, the project’s engineer. He described it as a landscaped rain garden.
“That park is relatively small to start with,” said Robert. “I’m not very happy about that.”
Developer Jeremy Fogel apologized, saying the detention pond has been discussed for months, but obviously not in front of the planning commission.
Fogel said the pond is being designed so it will not impact play on the park’s ball fields.
Pandl suggested a fountain might be added to the detention pond so it looks more like it belongs in a park.