Over 470 housing units are proposed for Upper Macungie Township from a single developer, and residents aren’t exactly jazzed about it.
“It is insanity for a wide variety of reasons. It will get built, approved and overcrowd an already declining area and school district,” resident Jeffrey Kaplan said.
Kaplan and two dozen other township residents expressed their opinions of the growth in response to a Morning Call Facebook post in the public Upper Macungie Residents for Smart Growth group, asking for input on the potential influx of housing.
While some comments expressed an acceptance of township growth, others included concerns of traffic and a decrease in the municipality’s visual aesthetic.
“Thirty years ago when we moved to Upper Mac in a wooded area, it was a truly beautiful township,” Susan Kuntz said. “It’s ugly now with ugly warehouses, ugly trucks, ugly high density housing, ugly retention ponds. Can’t wait to retire and move away to a better area!”
Developer D.R. Horton is behind the three separate proposals, which would bring a mixture of apartments, townhouses and single family homes to the township, which has seen an almost 90% population growth over the past 10 years, according to census figures. More than 26,000 people call Upper Macungie home.
Township officials acknowledged the difficulties balancing the growing demand from people eager to move into the popular area with the concerns of residents worried about the impact on traffic and open space.
Jeff Fleischaker, vice chair of the township zoning hearing board, said Upper Macungie will hold a public outreach session April 20 at the township building to solicit comments on issues such as housing and zoning revisions.
He said he realized the township hasn’t been growing in a way many residents are pleased with, and that the session would be an opportunity for residents to influence what developments look like before a project ends up before the Board of Supervisors, at which point it’s often too late to address concerns.
“The opportunities we have to conserve, the opportunities we have to limit are quickly going by the wayside,” Fleischaker said.
What housing projects are proposed for Upper Macungie Township?
The first project from D.R. Horton is Trexler Pointe, which would feature 128 townhomes near the intersection of Route 100 and Weilers and Schafer Run roads in Breinigsville. The intersection is mostly clear of development, with open fields on all four corners.
The planning commission unanimously gave final approval March 15, and the project is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors next month. The plan hasn’t changed significantly since receiving preliminary approval, with the only notable differences including the plan showing the specific buildings that will be built instead of generic lots.
An amenity for Trexler Pointe residents would be a walking path that goes along Schafer Run.
The second project, Sunset Orchards, would consist of 211 housing units at Schantz and Ruppsville Road. In the past, residents have voiced their concerns regarding the proposal, including overwhelming traffic and safety risks for local students.
The project was also before the planning board March 15, with a sketch plan resubmitted in order to address previous concerns about the layout. The commission didn’t take any official action.
While some residents said they were thankful for the developers taking their feedback into account, the community brought up concerns such as the risks of other properties taking on water from the development, the decrease in surrounding property value that would result from that, and how the local deer and fox population would be affected by construction.
Resident Andy Snyder expressed worry about some of the units potentially becoming rentals, adding that the community doesn’t want “transient” residents.
“These are single-family homes where we’re trying to raise our families,” he said.
It is unknown when the project will return before the township.
Lastly comes the Twin Ponds proposal, which would see 132 apartment units across 22 buildings constructed at 8739 Hamilton Blvd., which is undeveloped with dense shrubbery.
The last time residents heard about the project was in October, when the planning commission reviewed it as a sketch plan without taking action; commissioners then expressed concerns over safety due to the proposal’s density, especially if people need to cross Hamilton.
It is scheduled to appear before the township again at the commission’s April meeting.
Why are people moving to Upper Macungie?
Anthony Cortijo said on Facebook he moved to Upper Macungie from New York about 13 years ago, “with the thought of never moving again.”
“Place was a great find for me,” he said. Yet now, being close to his family keeps him here, despite his concerns over the explosive growth.
“I’m all for growth but it appears Upper Mac is open to accepting all development regardless of the impact it has on the area traffic,” he said.
Upper Macungie Planning and Zoning Specialist John Toner said there are multiple reasons the township is “a prime area” for housing projects like these, including access to a good school district, a good tax rate and the fact that the U.S. is suffering from a housing shortage.
“People want to be here,” he said. “It’s not a shock, it’s just a lot at once.”
He encouraged residents who are concerned about development to continue asking questions and making their voice heard, saying the Sunset Orchards project may very well have changed in response to community criticism.
D.R. Horton did not respond to requests for comment. The developer is behind other local projects such as the Wrenfield housing in Upper Macungie.
Toner added the township has not yet received any indication regarding how much it costs to live in the developments.
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