About 250 Upper Saucon Township residents filled the Southern Lehigh Middle School auditorium Wednesday night to hear further details about, and voice their concerns over, a proposed "residential promenade" on Route 309.
The promenade would be near Center Valley Parkway, feature nearly 900 living units and 190,000 square feet of retail space, including a centrally located supermarket.
The most common cries heard from residents addressed traffic, the burden on the local school district and stormwater runoff issues resulting from the development.
The site in question is a 120-acre tract located next to Pitt Ohio trucking bordered on the east by East Valley Road and adjacent to the former Center Valley Golf Course. Currently it is owned by Lehigh University and under an agreement of sale with Kay Builders of Allentown, a notable area residential developer.
Township solicitor Tom Dinkelacker began the evening with a historical review of the parcel, which was eyed by DeLuca Homes back in 2007 until plans for its Fox Run development were abandoned due to the economic recession the nation was about to enter at the time.
During the meeting, several residents loudly interjected that instead of selling to Kay, Lehigh should donate the land to Upper Saucon to preserve it as open space. The university also currently has several of its other Upper Saucon properties up for sale.
Dinkelacker explained to the crowd that as the new property owner Kay would have the right to build an active adult age 55-plus community, light industrial site, offices, retail shops, or a showroom among its "by right" options.
However, with a mixed-use endeavor of homes and apartments surrounding commercial development, the township would be required to rezone the parcel via an amendment which residents urged the board not to do.
"Without a doubt this property will be developed in some fashion," Supervisor Chairman Dennis Benner said.
Disappointed and Angry
Benner said the current sketch plan presented by Kay was sorely lacking aesthetic appeal, which he said he considered more important currently than density numbers at the development.
"I want to see something that addresses aesthetics here, and therefore I'm not supporting this plan which has been in the works for the past two years," he remarked. "I'm disappointed and actually quite angry."
Supervisors Kim Stehlik and Brian Farrell expressed their concerns over how the construction of an additional 900 mixed dwellings would affect the local school district.
"We just closed and sold a school," Farrell said referring to the former Lower Milford Elementary School. "Does this mean we're going to have to build another one?"
"My street is like a raceway and now it starts at 4 a.m. in the morning," township resident Donna Martonik said. "I'd rather have warehouse."
However, fellow resident Kyle Romanick who's worked in the trucking and warehousing industry for years cautioned his neighbors about increased truck traffic. He said current infrastructure cannot support it. He also warned of the severe dangers associated with increased truck traffic.
Resident after resident pointed out huge traffic backups outside of their homes and the roads leading to them. They also said the current Kay plan offers "virtually no support" for the community.
Both township officials and representatives for Kay Builders said the purpose of Wednesday's open forum meeting was to hear directly from the public, which they said would influence what would finally be built on the property in question.