East Penn Press

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LCA, Lower Mac under fire in Upper Milford

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by JULIA F. SWAN Special to The Press in Local News

Lower Macungie Township and the Lehigh County Authority came under fire from both residents and supervisors at the Dec. 6 Upper Milford Township supervisors meeting.

The LCA was blasted for referring to the recent sewer leak on Main Road East as a "small" leak, and for not responding quickly enough to a township request to stop the leak.

Lower Macungie was sharply criticized for a provision in a proposed update of its Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (which reportedly was adopted that same night) which would exempt small land developments from Planning Commission review.

Resident Phil Casey first brought up the Nov. 25 sewer leak, referring to it as the "sewer fiasco." He contended the leak was much worse than the five gallons per minute claimed by LCA, saying sewage was running across Main Road East.

Supervisor George DeVault, who also lives on Main Road East agreed, saying a letter from LCA trying to explain the situation to residents in the vicinity of the leak "stinks worse than the sewage."

He said the sewage from the leak was running onto the road, through a culvert and into Leibert Creek, and contended the personnel LCA finally sent out the night of the leak "had no idea how to handle this."

Public Works Coordinator Steve Ackerman said he called LCA the night the leak was reported to him, and at first they weren't going to send anyone out until the next morning.

Township Manager Daniel DeLong said he has had several conversations with LCA since the leak occurred and "I'm fairly certain that none of their 24/7 operators are going to say they'll be out a day later."

The leak, which was reported the evening of Nov. 25, was caused by a large rock which landed on a lateral pipe during backfilling when the line, part of the Vera Cruz sewer project, was installed. Both supervisors and residents in the audience said any experienced contractor should know better than to allow a rock to land on a pipe during backfilling, and DeLong said this would have happened after township personnel inspected the work.

The criticism of Lower Macungie came as supervisors were reviewing a letter sent to that township by Planning Coordinator Brian Miller in response to a request from Lower Macungie for comments on proposed amendments to their ordinance.

Miller's letter expressed concerns of the Upper Milford Planning Commission about one of the amendments, which would exempt minor non-residential land development plans that create less than 10,000 square feet of impervious development from review by the Lower Macungie Planning Commission.

"A large number of poorly planned minor subdivisions/land developments could have at least as great if not a greater negative impact on the community than one major subdivision/land development," the letter said.

Miller also noted Upper Milford had received Lower Macungie's request for comment less than 30 days prior to the public hearing scheduled on the amendments. (The hearing was going on while Upper Milford supervisors were meeting.) Supervisor Robert Sentner sharply criticized Lower Macungie not only on this particular issue, but for permitting widespread development which impacts Upper Milford and other adjacent communities.

"They're not in compliance with the Southwestern Comprehensive Plan," he charged, and suggested the other municipalities who took part in creating the Southwestern Lehigh County Comprehensive Plan should get together and discuss how to handle issues raised by Lower Macungie's policies.

Lower Macungie, Upper Milford, Lower Milford, Emmaus, Macungie and Alburtis developed the comprehensive plan.

Sentner talked about increased traffic in Upper Milford as a result of development in Lower Macungie and said his personal opinion is "Lower Macungie is devaluing our standard of living."

Supervisors Chairman Daniel Mohr said the comprehensive plan was supposed to be reviewed after 10 years, and when representatives from the six municipalities met last year, "basically Lower Macungie wanted to rewrite the plan." Supervisors agreed to call a meeting of the six municipalities, and to write to Lower Macungie reiterating the concerns in Miller's letter.

In other action, supervisors appointed Joyce K. Moore to fill a vacancy on the Emmaus/Upper Milford Joint Environmental Advisory Council and Linda Feiertag to fill a vacancy on the Zoning Hearing Board.

Moore will fill an unexpired term which ends in January 2014, and Feiertag, who is now an alternate on the Zoning Hearing Board, will become a full voting member with a term to expire Dec. 31, 2013.

The board also discussed ways to improve visibility at the intersection of Buckeye and Tank Farm roads, the site of a fatal accident last month. Resident Richard Lobach said trucks coming off Tank Farm Road are difficult to see and asked about a traffic light there.

DeLong said there was no way a traffic study would show enough traffic there to warrant a light and said the problem with another alternative, a flashing yellow light, is that it would have to be right in front of someone's house.

Lobach then suggested a street light to improve visibility at that intersection, and Sentner said perhaps Buckeye Pipe would pay for such a light.

Supervisors have canceled the regular meeting scheduled Dec. 20, and instead will hold a year-end meeting Dec. 27. The reorganization meeting is scheduled for Jan. 2, 2013.