Jul 30, 2014

PA Court Rules in Favor of Lower Mac, Jaindl

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reverses Lehigh County decision.

PA Court Rules in Favor of Lower Mac, Jaindl

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Friday reversed a decision Lehigh County Judge Michelle Varricchio made more than a year ago that invalidated the zoning ordinance that would allow David Jaindl to build a mix of warehouses, commercial buildings and hundreds of homes on 700 acres of prime Lower Macungie farmland.

In other words, the Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners appealed Varricchio's September 2011 decision and won, according to a story in The Morning Call.

The zoning ordinance stands as written.

Ron Eichenberg, president of the township commissioners, said the commissioners are pleased with the decision.

"Lower Macungie Township is pleased that the Commonwealth Court recognized that we acted appropriately and in compliance  with applicable law in providing notice to the public of the July 2010 amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. We understand and appreciate that certain residents of the township disagreed with these amendments.

"However, it is clear that all residents received the required notices and had an
opportunity to comment at public meetings prior to enactment of the amendments. ...

"With this ruling, it is our hope that we can move forward in a positive direction with respect to tha future of the township," Eichenberg said.

Others were clearly not happy.

"Friends for the Protection of Lower Macungie Township is very disappointed in the commonwealth decision," said spokesman Ron Beitler.

"Funding for this lawsuit was an overwhelming community effort by nearly 1,000 residents who signed a petition. Neighboring communities spoke out against it and smart growth advocates have condemned this zoning change as the antithesis of smart growth.

"The details of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were negotiated confidentially and once decided unilaterally by elected officials only a few weeks were available for the public to review what could be the single largest and most destructive land development decision in the history of the township. 

"The commonwealth decision is 22 pages and complex. The appellants will consider their options after the holidays," Beitler said.

The 700-acre parcel bounded Smith Lane and Mertztown, Spring Creek and Ruth roads in the southwest corner of the township is, some say, some of the best farmland not only in the state, but in the country.

Jaindl Land Co.'s plan to develop it with more than 700 units of high-density housing, warehouses and commercial establishments has been a hotly debated issue in the township since the change to the zoning ordinance was signed in July 2010.

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