Gurinko said even if that access road is built, the developers still anticipate traffic back-ups on Route 222.

Kaiser said the section of Route 222 that bypasses Wescosville and Trexlertown was built in 2007 for $140 million –the same price being put on Hamilton Crossings. He said it was built to relieve growing congestion caused by excessive development along Hamilton Boulevard. “That road was designed to move traffic.”

The LVPC director said when PennDOT built that section of Route 222, it paid compensation to property owners along the highway in exchange for them giving up access with new intersections or entrance roads.

“The public already paid property owners to restrict access to it, so what are we doing here?” asked Kaiser. “If we do this once, others along Route 222 will want the same thing.”

Second time before LVPC

LVPC was prepared to make a recommendation on Hamilton Crossings in late April, only days after its comprehensive planning committee recommended a negative vote.

But rather than voting against the shopping center on April 25, LVPC’s board agreed to delay action until it could further review the project with developers Tim Harrison and Jeremy Fogel. 

“We haven’t changed our position on it,” said Kaiser Wednesday.

Harrison declined comment on the hurdles facing his project and Fogel could not be reached Wednesday night.

County commissioner Percy Dougherty, who serves on LVPC’s board, has predicted LVPC probably will make a recommendation against Hamilton Crossings, because the Route 222 bypass was not designed by PennDOT to handle additional traffic created by future development. 

 “LVPC is not going to approve this project,” predicted Lushis. “But LVPC is really only an advisory organization.”

Lower Macungie and the commissioners

While the county commissioners intend to give weight to LVPC’s opinion, LVPC is reviewing the Hamilton Crossings plan primarily so it can make a recommendation to Lower Macungie Township. The Lower Macungie Planning Commission will consider LVPC’s review before it makes a recommendation on the plan to the township commissioners, who must give the project final approval. Lushis predicted Lower Macungie will not follow LVPC’s recommendations.

Lushis said if a county commissioner is looking for a pretext or an excuse to vote against Hamilton Crossings, LVPC’s recommendation will provide that excuse. “They can say: ‘Gee, I was in favor of this project until I saw the negative recommendation from the planning commission’. But they may have intended to vote against it all along.”

The upscale Hamilton Crossings will have the Lehigh Valley’s first and only Costco, a Target, an unidentified “major national high-end food store” and other stores and restaurants. Its more than 590,000 square feet of retail space will be surrounded by parking lots for 2,500 vehicles.

Developers hope construction of Hamilton Crossings will begin by September and be completed by the fall of 2014.