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Neighbors unhappy with proposed development of Strawberry Acres orchard

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 09 2013 04:05:55 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 09 2013 05:29:56 PM CDT

The Beatles sang about "Strawberry Fields Forever," but the days appeared to be numbered for the old Strawberry Acres farm in Lehigh County.

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

The Beatles sang about "Strawberry Fields Forever," but the days appeared to be numbered for the old Strawberry Acres farm in Lehigh County. Some neighbors don't like what could replace it.

It's autumn, which means you can almost taste the juicy goodness of the apples -- rows and rows of them at the site.

Views like that attracted Dani Mondschein out to the remote corner of North Whitehall Township 12 years ago.

"You never know what you're going to see in the back yard, whether you see deer or we had a pheasant we kept track of," she said.

Strawberry Acres' new owner wants to tear down the orchard, making way for a high-density development.

"It's a 55 and older community," said North Whiteall Township Manager Jeff Bartlett.

Neighbors originally balked at the size -- up to 120 units, several stories high.

"It's not in keeping with the neighborhood," said Mondschein.

After neighbors complained, developers proposed scaled-down versions with only two or three floors. The latest offer involves 84 individual town homes.

But neighbors are still raising a "stink" about a possible sewer treatment facility for the site.

"The runoff, also the smell," said Mondschein.

Barlett insisted a sewage facility would be barely noticeable and not as close to neighbors as many believe.

"It would be a small plant, probably in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 12,000 gallons a day," he said.

According to Bartlett, developers have already done preliminary tests, and any sewage facility would need state environmental approval.

"Some of us are hooked up to water, some of us have wells," said Mondschein.

Bartlett noted the land is already zoned both agricultural and residential, so some sort of larger residential development is likely there.

"Some people are saying, 'I came out here and I expected to live in the country,'" he said.  "Well, the same could be said for the farmer who lives right next to them when they moved into these houses 25 years ago."

Township supervisors expect a big crowd next Tuesday when they discuss the issue.  That meeting is at the Schnecksville Fire Company to accommodate the large crowd.