Hamilton Crossings developer Jeremy Fogel said his own tally showed the input received seemed balanced between positive and negative comments. Fogel counted 11 people supporting the TIF, 11 opposing it and eight opposing the project, mostly because of traffic issues.
Fosselman said he counted 12 for the TIF, six against and eight neutral.
Conrad laid out the ground rules at the beginning. People were given three minutes to speak. He discouraged “cheering, applauding and outbursts.”
“This is your opportunity to share your comments and your opinions,” he told the audience. “We want to hear what you have to say.”
He said the hearing was not a debate or a Q&A session and that the commissioners were under no obligation to respond to comments.
Some issues raised during the hearing have been addressed in previous public meetings –such as other projects the developers have done -- but no one seated on the dais responded to them Thursday.
Other issues were explained in presentations at the start of the hearing – such as what is a TIF, why Hamilton Crossings is eligible for a TIF and why TIF money will not be used for iron ore mine wash remediation on the site – but some apparently did not hear them.
“The promise of future tax revenues is a little like Judas Iscariot taking 30 piece of silver,” maintained Charles Rhoads, the first resident to speak. “It will come with future costs to the township and the township’s citizens.”
Rhoads predicted one of those costs will be more crime. “Fifty percent of our crime apparently occurs at the Wal-Mart, which is the other big store in our area.”
Hamilton Crossings will include a Costco, Target and Whole Foods as its anchor stores.
Others spoke in support of the shopping center, especially because it will produce jobs.
They included Jim Reilly, president of Lehigh Valley Buildings Trades.
Harrison said building the shopping center will require 425 construction jobs and generate 923 permanent jobs when completed.
“I’m here tonight in support of the TIF,” said resident Kevin Lewis, a carpenter who hopes to land one of those construction jobs. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Some residents were skeptical that local people will be hired to build the shopping center, saying major retailers bring in their own crews.
Increased traffic was a major concern expressed by numerous residents.
Two warned Hamilton Boulevard will become like MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township north of Allentown.
At the end of the hearing, Conrad complimented the well-mannered audience for the level of respect they showed to commissioners and each other.
After the public spoke, Commissioner Douglas Brown indicated he isn’t giving up on the idea of the Hamilton Crossings developers paying a traffic impact fee, which could be used to improve roads not immediately adjacent to the shopping center.
In April, Atty. Richard Somach, the township solicitor, told commissioners a traffic impact fee of at least $2.5 million cannot be collected from the Hamilton Crossings developers because initial plans for the project were submitted to the township before an ordinance creating that fee was even advertised, back in 2009.
But at the end of Thursday’s hearing, Beitler maintained the traffic impact fee is an outstanding issue he hopes the commissioners will address. He said those fees would address many of the traffic concerns that had been raised by residents.
The most dramatic moment of the evening did not directly involve the TIF or the development.
Atty. Jonathan Hugg, who represents two nearby shopping centers whose owners oppose a Hamilton Crossings TIF, stood to say Somach, the township’s solicitor, works for the same law firm as the solicitor for the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority –LCIDA -- which developed and would administer the TIF.