Category: Blog

Join RenewLV at “Save It or Pave It” Lunch/Discussion on 2/26



“Save It or Pave It” Lunch/Discussion on 2/26 at NCC’s Fowler Center on Bethlehem’s Southside

Is the loss of farmland in the Lehigh Valley and the development and the traffic it brings of deep concern to you?
If you answer, “yes!” then we hope that you’ll attend RenewLV’s “Save It or Pave It,” Lunch/Discussion on Friday, 2/26 from noon to 2:30 p.m. on the 6th floor of NCC’s Fowler Center on Bethlehem’s Southside.

What will happen there?

1. We will review the regional goal for farmland preservation:
The 2005 Lehigh Valley Comprehensive Plan states the regional goal for farmland preservation as “To preserve approximately 25 percent of the land in Lehigh and Northampton counties for agriculture.”
2. We will ask: “Are we on track to meet this goal?”
3. We will explore strategies to preserve farmland, asking: “What are the steps that citizens, local municipalities and county leadership can take to preserve the agricultural character and economy of our region before it is lost to development?”

With the arrival of the LVPC’s projected 146,000 more people to the Lehigh Valley over the next 20 years, it is RenewLV’s position that we must do more to be proactive in preserving our farmland. As we see development outpacing farmland preservation, we believe that efforts to preserve farmland at all levels of government need to be supported and increased.

According to Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy, “the biggest challenge facing the Lehigh Valley local food economy is the loss of farmland (page 1).” Furthermore, “The local food economy generates $17 million in economic activity for the Lehigh Valley annually and has the potential to contribute much more.”

There are many benefits to farmland preservation:

• Farmland is the foundation of our local food and agricultural economy, preserving farmland is economic development
• The Lehigh Valley’s farms and farmland provide much of the beauty, character and identity of our region
• Protecting farmland helps to keep our property taxes down. Cows don’t go to school.
• Protected farmland and open space increases property values. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s report, Return on the Environment came to that conclusion.
• Protected farmland has numerous environmental benefits. Water filtration, ground water recharge, air purification, flood control, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration.
• There is strong landowner interest in farmland preservation.

Polls repeatedly show that the people of the Lehigh Valley overwhelmingly want their farmland and open space protected, yet why isn’t more being done?

Come to our event and find out.

There is no cost to attend this event, but seating is limited, so it is necessary that you register. The lunch will be locally sourced.

We especially hope to see elected and appointed officials from the region’s rural municipalities…and farmers. Register now and reserve your seat.

Questions? Email us at or call 484-893-1060.

Planners Duke it Out


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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.

Read more from at:

EnvisionLV Encourages Public Input - How Do YOU Envision Home?

Traditional Neighborhood Developments such as the Kentlands in Gaithersburg, MD encourage walking and a  sense of place
Traditional Neighborhood Developments such as the Kentlands in Gaithersburg, MD encourage walking and a sense of place

What is our vision of the Lehigh Valley?

I spoke with a group of citizens last Sunday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethlehem.  In that relatively small forum (40 people) folks expressed clearly to me that they are not happy with the growth the valley has seen in in the last 20 years. On Monday, I met with a business leader, a government leader and a citizen who wanted to make the point that “Open space is economic development,” that people move to the Lehigh Valley for quality of life.  They asked how we could be smarter about assembling all of the tools that elected and appointed officials and land owners need in order to do a better job of preserving and protecting open space from the type of development that deteriorates our environment and our quality of life.

But what is that?  I have personally been intrigued by the principles of New Urbanism.  I know that development will take place, but wish that we could see new neighborhoods being built as mixed use, beautiful, walkable, functional places with a strong sense of place.  Why can they do it in Gaithersburg, MD in the Kentlands, and we cannot do it in the Lehigh Valley?  What New Urbanist developers tell me is that they make more money with TND (traditional neighborhood development) than CSD (conventional suburban development).

So why have we not seen it here?  Zoning codes that don’t permit it.  We need more people who understand what it is (check out the checklist at the end of the book Suburban Nation).  We need township planning commissions and township councils who support TND and will hire the appropriate planners to help them put the zoning in place for TND to be built.  And, we need citizens who cry out for it.

Which gets me to the host of meetings the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has scheduled as a part of the Envision Lehigh Valley process to develop its new housing plan.  The next one is next Monday, Jan. 27th in Old Zionsville, but there are another seven more scheduled for all over the Lehigh Valley through the middle of February.  For other dates and locations, go to   The Kentlands proves that “density” can be a gracious, civilized way to live — and an efficient use of our land.

New Regional Housing Plan Discussion: How Do You Envision Home?
Monday, January 27, 2014 at 7:00pm
Upper Milford Municipal Building, 5671 Chestnut St., Old Zionsville, PA


Can the Boston Revival Serve as a “How-to Guide” for the Lehigh Valley Revival


The link below will take you to and article from the New York times, that examines the revival Boston has experienced within the last two decades. The different methodology Boston implemented in its revival may be applicable to what can be done to revive and grow the Lehigh Valley.

Are there opportunites from Boston’s revival experience that are relevant to the Lehigh Valley?





Boston Waterfront Lesson


RenewLV Boardmember, Michael Drabenstott, recommended the following article be posted here on our blog regarding the Boston Waterfront revitalization and environmental renewal.

Read the article and comment.  Are there lessons to be learned and inspiration in Boston’s efforts for those of us in the Lehigh Valley?

Contact Us!

How can you support farmland preservation?

Like urban planning books? Join the Smart Growth Discussion Book Club

Come talk about cool books with us on Saturday, June 18 at 2:00 pm at the Coffee House Without Limits in Allentown!

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Make friends, discuss civic activism, new urbanism, smart growth, making a difference, and anything on your mind about your neighborhood or regional growth.

For June's discussion, we will be reading "The End of the Suburbs" by Leigh Gallagher. Pick up your copy at a local bookstore or swing by the Coffee House without Limits to browse a copy.

The chat will start at 2:00 pm at The Coffee House Without Limits in Allentown!

Hope to see you there!

Moving Ideas to Action

3rd Annual Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities "Our Towns, Our Farms, Our Future"

On 12/4/15, almost 200 community leaders and concerned citizens gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in Allentown for RenewLV's third annual Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities to discuss strategies for land preservation, community revitalization and municipal cooperation.

At the Summit, we asked the questions:

•How can we preserve open space while supporting job creation and economic development?

•How does a municipality strike a balance between paying its bills, preserving its individual appeal and supporting the local economy?

•Given the increasing market demand for locally grown and organic food, how can the region better grow a vibrant local food economy?

•How do we capitalize on our central location through an interconnected mass transit system rather than continuing to focus on widening our highways?

A big thank-you to all of the Summit for Smart Growth sponsors who contributed! You made this event possible.

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Report Highlights Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Renew Lehigh Valley has often noted the benefits of smart growth development for municipalities, including cost savings. A new report by Smart Growth America details the benefits for municipalities realized through smart growth development. Read the full report here.

Watch the Envision Lehigh Valley Virtual Meeting

RenewLV and our partners at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, the City of Allentown, the City of Bethlehem, and the City of Easton held a one-of-a-kind virtual public meeting for Envision Lehigh Valley. 100 participants logged in through a live video feed, Facebook, Twitter, and live chat. Missed the meeting? View the full recording on YouTube here