There’s a saying in pop culture and non-binding comprehensive plans: What’s old is all new again.
Officials from six southwestern Lehigh County municipalities grappled with a time-honored problem of how to give teeth to any updates to the Southwestern Lehigh County Comprehensive Plan they would draft, during a meeting Wednesday night at the Upper Milford Township Municipal Building. The plan, which was adopted in 2005, addressed ways to control development and preserve open space. Officials said the plan was intended to serve as the basis for future zoning and implement smart growth. In reality, it hasn’t been that way.
The boroughs of Alburtis, Emmaus and Macungie and the townships of Upper Milford, Lower Milford and Lower Macungie were represented during the two-hour meeting and after much discussion agreed to do some homework.
“I think what we need to do at this stage is each go back to our planning commissions and get their input,” said Upper Milford Township Supervisor Rob Sentner.
Planning commissioners could then forward their recommendations on the plan on to commissioners, supervisors or borough council members for their input.
Officials said the top regional effects of zoning changes had been on traffic, rainwater and increased law enforcement.
“There just is not enough infrastructure,” said Sentner “…For example (Routes) 29 and 100 need to be a four-lane road. The amount of traffic has changed dramatically in the last four or five years.”
When reviewing what aspects of the plan needed to be updated, the consensus was that new zoning maps had to be drafted, and 2010 census information had to be included to reflect the increase in population.
The group also discussed survey results from the group’s planning commission members.
For example more than 82 percent of the 17 respondents said they would favor updating the SWLC Comprehensive Plan, although the consensus was that it “would be a waste of time if the members of the plan do not comply with it.”
And more than 88 percent of the members favored remaining as a participant in the SWLC Comprehensive Plan.
“Withdrawing will not solve anything, but the plan is useless if the members do not comply,” was the consensus of the responses, according to Upper Milford Township officials.
Without question, the number one issue among all respondents was traffic and road improvements.
“Increasing development means more traffic, it cannot be helped,” noted one respondent. “But it can be planned for.”
“Whether they are state roads or municipal roads the taxpayers will be footing the bill for the long-term maintenance costs,” wrote another. “Smarter planning can focus on getting the most out of existing infrastructure.”
And 94 percent of the respondents noted that the protection of natural features was a concern about current or future development.
The group agreed to meet again on Wednesday, May 29th.