Lower Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co., officials faced a tense moment Thursday night when a member of the public refused to yield the floor after his allotted time to speak was up.
The confrontation involved the long-debated Jaindl subdivision in the western part of the township.
Rather than standing to make a statement during his allotted three minutes, subdivision opponent Scott Bieber immediately began questioning township officials about it.
He first asked commissioners individually if they had read all the notes about the proposed subdivision. He then got into an exchange with township engineer William Erdman about who pays if nearby Smith Lane must be upgraded.
After township manager Bruce Fosselman warned Bieber he had only one more minute, Bieber said he wasn’t the only one talking.
When Fosselman told Bieber he had the floor for five minutes, Bieber said he had only one more question. He then began grilling the four commissioners about their knowledge of the difference between a preliminary and final subdivision plan. When Erdman tried to answer, Bieber cut him off, saying he wanted answers from the commissioners.
Ron Eichenberg, president of the commissioners, had enough.
"I honestly don't see the point to this," he told Bieber. "You’ve become argumentative. You’ve had more than your three minutes. This will be back before us April 5, and you’re welcome to come to the planning and zoning committee meeting and have as many minutes as you want. Is there anyone else who would like to make a comment?"
Said Bieber: "I'm not stepping down."
Eichenberg seemed stunned, saying: "I beg your pardon? I beg your padon?"
[ Video: Exchange between Bieber, officials ]
Said Bieber: "I have one question to ask yet."
"Your time is up," said Eichenberg. "I don't mean to be rude. You’ve had your time. According to our rules and regulations, when the chair asks you to step down you step down."
"Suppose I would not step down?" asked Bieber. "Can you call the police, have me removed?"
"Do we have to do that?"
"You might," said Bieber. But then he said: "No, I’m going to take it that far, but this is an important matter and I can’t believe we're restricted to three minutes."
"This board has been more than flexible with you," said Eichenberg. "This type of behavior is totally unacceptable."
Bieber finally said "thank you" and returned to his seat.
Eichenberg said: "I apologize to residents for that behavior."
Said Bieber, who lives in Upper Milford Township but grew up in Lower Macungie: "I apologize myself."
Bieber was one of only two people in the audience who spoke about the subdivision.
Before he spoke, Eichenberg explained no action would be taken on the subdivision at that meeting: "This is an information session only."
The project could be approved at the April 5 commissioners meeting.
Jaindl's Spring Creek Properties No. 1 is a non-residential subdivision covering nearly 600 acres in 14 huge lots, in an area south of Mertztown Road that is zoned for commercial and industrial uses. Two lots are being set aside as open space or park land.
Flanked by his lawyer and engineers, developer David Jaindl attended the meeting but did not speak.
Commissioners were briefed on the subdivision by Erdman and township planning director Sara Pandl.
"This is a subdivision, not a land development," stressed Erdman, who explained future land development proposed on each lot will have to go through the township review and approval process.