Lehigh Valley Planners Duke It Out
Okay, I have never actually seen planners go to fisticuffs. Frankly, I cannot even imagine it. Thoughtful, intelligent, educated people, most of the planners I know are some of the least confrontational people I have met. And yet, they sometimes deeply disagree about really important issues…like land use and zoning — the DNA of our communities.
Because their disagreements are about land use and zoning (which I find fascinating, but I hear from my friends can put many people to sleep), and because their disagreements happen long before a shovel goes in the ground, their issues often don’t get the attention they deserve.
Nothing is more important to the quality of life in our region than the land use planning decisions our local government councils make.
Here in Pennsylvania, the power is local. Decisions ultimate rest with the municipal councils that vote to approve the recommendations of our local planning commissions. Those councils are often motivated by short term desires to increase their tax base — and we see farmland disappear because of it.
There was some excitement on May 29th in planning circles. In one corner you had the Lynn Township planning commission. In the other, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Lynn Township planning commissioners want to change the zoning of some farmland in their municipality to commercial. LVPC disagreed with the Lynn Township planning commission, believing that it should stay zoned for agricultural preservation.
What happened? Lynn Township Planning Commission said, “yes” to rezoning from preserved agricultural to commercial. The LVPC said, “no.”
The details, according to WFMZ: “Lynn Township’s plans to rezone a strip of properties along Route 309 across from Northwestern Lehigh High School were opposed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Thursday night. LVPC unanimously authorized its staff to send a letter to the rural northwestern Lehigh County township, urging Lynn’s supervisors to not adopt the proposed zoning change. The issue involves five properties located between Route 309 and Weiss Road at the eastern edge of the township, near the boundary with Heidelberg Township.”
There are profound, irreversable trade-offs every time local councils rezone farmland to commercial or residential use, and they effect us all.
Here in the Lehigh Valley, the iconic image of rolling hills is central to our collective identity. Practically speaking, when we lose farmland, we also lose our ability to feed ourselves. We become dependent on other regions of the country because food cannot be supplied locally. Development also effects us collectively as our water and air quality deteriorate, storm water becomes more difficult to manage and traffic becomes more congested.
If you are one of the many Lehigh Valley residents that support open space preservation, this proposed zoning change is the line in the sand, the battle ground, per se, between preservation and development.
With 62 municipalities in the region, these decisions come up repeatedly to local councils throughout the region. Farmland preservation efforts die a death by a thousand cuts.
If you happen to live in Lynn Township or know someone who does, though, you can make a difference. Now would be a good time to reach out to the local Lynn council people and tell them how you feel about the proposed zoning changes.
Farmland preservation or commercial development? Weigh in. Call your local council people. Write letters. Show up at council meetings. Get informed. Speak out. Make your voice heard.