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Lower Macungie Commissioners consider truck safety, new park and hiking trails

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 07 2014 04:35:57 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 01:12:30 PM CST
Lower Macungie Twp. commissioners 3-6-14
LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. -

Lower Macungie commissioners took action to improve tractor trailer safety and to seek grants to create a new township park and trail segment at their Thursday night meeting.

They also had a big debate about one of two relatively small changes at David Jaindl's Hills at Lock Ridge residential subdivision, which lies between Macungie and Alburtis.

The four commissioners at the meeting unanimously agreed to send "strongly worded" letters to owners of all existing and planned warehouses in the township, encouraging them to install on-site truck scraping mechanisms as a public safety measure.

The goal is to have ice and snow scraped from the tops of tractor-trailers before they leave warehouses, because sheets of the white stuff can fly off and slam into vehicles driving behind them, causing accidents.

The recommendation to send the letters came from Commissioners Ron Beitler and Douglas Brown, who comprise the commissioners' public safety committee.

Beitler said warehouses should want to have ice and snow removed from trucks "because this is a liability issue for them."

Commissioners also voted to prevent trucks more than 40 feet long from trying to turn onto Mountain Road from Gehman, Orchard or Schoeneck roads.

Such trucks will be allowed to travel no farther south on Gehman, Orchard and Schoeneck than Scenic View Drive in the Hills at Lock Ridge.

The township's engineer determined the roads are too narrow for trucks longer than 40 feet to make turns onto Mountain Road without leaving paved surfaces.

The engineer also determined that such large trucks block all lanes when attempting to turn, creating a safety hazard for other drivers.

One truck turning onto Mountain Road damaged a barn.

Signs will be posted to advise drivers of the new restrictions. Violators will be fined $75.

Beitler said the ordinance is needed to address a safety concern on Mountain Road, "but my word of caution is we need to monitor the situation on Scenic View to make sure trucks aren't trucking down there to get to Schoeneck and back to Route 100."

In previous meetings, Beitler has said he understands Scenic View is a connector road built to handle truck traffic, "but it also is a residential road. There are houses in Hills at Lock Ridge that front onto Scenic View."

Beitler said the township should do all it can to deter trucks from going south toward Scenic View Drive.

Another tractor-trailer problem on Schoeneck

Commissioners were read a letter from resident Peter Pavlovic, who is concerned about a different tractor-trailer issue at the north end of Schoeneck Road, where it intersects Route 100.

Pavlovic said hundreds of tractor-trailers use Schoeneck Road between Alburtis Road and Route 100 every week. He said Schoeneck was not designed for that kind of "extremely heavy" truck usage and all those trucks are creating an unsafe situation.

He said the road is not wide enough for tractor-trailers to turn onto it from Route 100 and asked the township to improve the intersection.

Township officials have been aware of that hazardous intersection, and anticipating a solution, for more than two years.

In 2012, commissioners learned the Route 100/Schoeneck Road intersection will be relocated, with a new section of Schoeneck meeting Route 100 farther to the north.

Route 100 will be widened at that new intersection, with a right lane for southbound traffic to turn onto Schoeneck.

Traffic coming north on Schoeneck will have dual left turn lanes to turn onto northbound Route 100.

Building the redesigned intersection will cost more than $2.5 million and be paid by two developers: Jaindl Land Company and Panattoni.

The township initially hoped that project would be completed in 2013, but that didn't happen.

Township engineer William Erdman said it has been delayed by an environmental issue - stormwater infiltrating through mine wash and reaching groundwater at the site of the new intersection.

But Erdman said construction of the "brand new intersection" should begin by summer. He predicted when completed, trucks will use that intersection rather than finding other roads to take, as many do now.

Elaborating later, he said: "The expectation is they should be able to start it sometime this summer, but they won't finish it. They'll probably finish it sometime in 2015."

Spring Ridge Crossings Park and Trail

Commissioners approved applying for two grants from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop a Spring Ridge Crossings Park and greenway trail.

They hope to get $100,000 to create the park and another $100,000 for the trail. If approved, the township will have to match both grants, but it will have four years to pay for its total $200,000 match.

Sara Pandl, the township's planning and economic development director, said the township has received more than 22 acres of land along Little Lehigh Creek as part of the Spring Ridge Estates development.

She said the park, which would be off Spring Ridge Drive W., would have parking lots and at least two athletic fields.

She said lacrosse fields could go in the new park to end an unsafe situation with existing fields near Lower Macungie Middle School. She said people don't have any place to park there, so they're parking where parking was not intended and walking in roads.

Higgins indicated the proposed park also could have a baseball field, "which we're desperately in need of and always will be, because there just aren't nearly enough of them."

Pandl later confirmed the proposed park is large enough to have two soccer/lacrosse fields in its upper section and a softball field in its lower section.

Another part of the project is to install the trail along the creek between Brookside Road and Wild Cherry Lane, which Pandl said is a distance of about one mile. She indicated that trail will give anglers more access to the creek.

She put the total cost for the park and trail segment at $438,000.

Pandl said last year the township tried to land a similar grant through the state Department of Community and Economic Development, but was not successful.

Hills at Lock Ridge

The 700-home Hills at Lock Ridge subdivision was first approved by Lower Macungie in 1999, said Erdman, with more recently approved revisions.

The entire subdivision plan came back before township commissioners for re-approval again Thursday night because developer David Jaindl wanted two changes -- to modify the design of a stormwater detention basin and to build a twin home rather than a single family home on one property in the subdivision.

Jaindl said he voluntarily is adding recreational facilities near what was referred to as detention pond - including a tot lot, a pavilion, a parking area and a 200-foot-long walking path.

Jaindl also has agreed to increase money for long-term maintenance of the detention pond from $17,000 to $20,500.

Erdman later explained the intent is interest from that $20,500 should be enough for the township to maintain the pond for 20 years.

Commissioner Brown was concerned that the modified detention pond will require more inspections and maintenance when it is turned over to the township. He suggested plans for the pond should be reviewed by the township's public works department, which will be responsible for that maintenance, before commissioners approve it.

Commissioner James Lancsek objected, saying subdivision plans are not sent to the public works department for review. He called Brown's suggestion "a needless delay."

"Procedure is not being followed," said Lancsek. "Why are we picking this developer to change that procedure?"

Jaindl, who was at the meeting, agreed with Lancsek, saying: "A delay does not make any sense at this point." He pressed commissioners for immediate approval, saying the twin home site has been sold and "we want to pick up building permits and get it started. We have a contractor that wants to break ground as soon as the snow and the frost lift."

Trying to reach a compromise, Commissioner Brian Higgins suggested a one-month delay - then a two-week delay -- in approving the plan, so the township's public works staff could have a chance to review the pond modifications.

Jaindl offered his own compromise, asking commissioners to approve the plan Thursday night but then still having the public works staff review it for any "glaring" problems.

"If there are, you know where I live," he told commissioners. "If you come back to me with something that makes sense, I'll certainly listen to it. I will consider it. But let's move it forward."

Brown would not be swayed. He said the public works department "knows the most about these basins, because they maintain them. I want them to look at it and know what they're getting into."

"If you table it tonight, I will not agree to any more contribution," warned Jaindl. "I'll agree to the improvements, but not a penny more dollar contribution. So you're not going to get anywhere by tabling it."

But Jaindl repeated he will consider any suggestions for the detention pond that might come from the public works staff after that approval.

In 2006, said Erdman, the township approved Jaindl using the detention pond to handle stormwater from a section of the subdivision that is within the borough of Alburtis.

"There is not a lot of increased maintenance for the additional water," said Jaindl.

Erdman suggested the modified pond design may require even less maintenance.

Outside the meeting, Jaindl said 670 of the 700 homes planned in Hills at Lock Ridge have been built. "Some of them have been occupied for 10 years already."

Erdman said the last phase of the subdivision to be developed is completely built out. "The only major outstanding item to complete is the topping of the roadways. The expectation is that will be completed this year."

Brown also was concerned abut the design of the proposed parking lot near the detention pond. Lancsek said that parking lot plan was approved by township supervisors years ago.

The debate ended with a 3-1 vote to approve the plan revisions. Only Brown voted no.

Other business

Commissioners received a letter from Liza Gantert, president of the township's park and recreation board, informing them her board believes Lower Macungie should be compensated if developers of the proposed Hamilton Crossings shopping center put a rain garden in Wescosville Park along Hamilton Boulevard.

Her board's position is that the township should receive adequate compensation for the lost use of recreational property or that the developers should enhance recreation in the township in some other way.

Commissioners did not discuss Gantert's letter during their meeting.

Pandl has said the proposed rain garden, which would capture stormwater run-off, will take up less than a quarter acre of the 6.7-acre park and not impact its two baseball fields.

Wescosville Park is next to the 63-acre site of the long-delayed shopping center.

The commissioners appointed James Dontonville to the township public safety commission. He will serve until the end of next year.

They also appointed Scott Alderfer chairman of the township's environmental advisory council.

It was announced during the meeting that in spring the Little Lehigh chapter of Trout Unlimited will plant 76 shade trees along Little Lehigh Creek in the township, to enhance the stream for trout habitat.

Most of the trees will go on township open space bordering the creek. Others will be planted on private properties whose owners allow access to the creek for fishing.

Ryan Conrad, president of the five commissioners, was absent. The meeting was run by Higgins, who is vice president.