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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chrin's Plans For V-7 Get "Holy Crap!" Rating

Roger Mellin should ask Chrin for combat pay
It was a tough night to be a developer in Bethlehem Township. Right after Traditions of America's David Biddison had run the gauntlet, it was Roger Mellin's turn before the Planning Commission at their July 28 meeting. He's the Director of Business for Charles Chrin Companies, and presented a sketch plan for the redevelopment of the old V-7 driving range and miniature golf course, next to Route 33. The driving range itself is owned by the Township, with plans on paper for soccer fields some time in the future. Chrin has proposed to develop the remaining 17-acres with an 11-screen movie theatre, four-story hotel, convenience store gas station, bank and restaurant. He also wants to relocate Hope Road while he's at it. He'll also need about ten variances.

"I guess my first comment will be, 'Holy Crap!" announced Planner Les Walker. That sentiment was echoed and repeated by other planners as well as about 20 speakers opposed to the plans in a still-packed house of about 80 residents.

From there, it got worse. "Total nightmare!", "Horrendous!", "This is crap", are just some of the comments expressed by a public that made clear they are tired of the increasing traffic in Township.

Pat Woods, who lives on Hope Ridge Road, was livid that Commissioner Marty Zawarski has already been quoted in a local daily as calling this a good plan. "He has no right to do that," she declared. "He really should abstain from voting."

At this point, Chair Lee Snover observed that all Commissioners were present for the Green Pond proposal, but she was "quite disappointed" that they all left for this plan. In her opinion, this one is worse.

She also noted that the Township owns the land between the former driving range and a PennDOT facility, and questioned what will become of it. The implication that Snover made, without stating it directly, is that Commissioners might be tempted to sell to Chrin.

"What Charlie wants, Charlie gets," shouted someone in the audience, who clearly understood what she was saying, without her saying it.

Of the numerous speakers who made their points about traffic and the diminution of their quality of life, perhaps the most compelling speaker was the youngest.

Emily Krauss is a Freedom High School sophomore. She lives about 2 miles away. but her daily bus trip now lasts 40 minutes as a result of all the increased traffic that has plagued Bethlehem Township.

This was just a sketch plan, so no official action was taken.

"I listened well," Mellin said as he ran for his car.

Updated 10:33 am, to correct a factual error.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when a Township looses its senior staff leadership and experience over time. Two debacle presentations with no one coordinating the type and quantity of development from the Township side. I was at the meeting and was stunned by the lack of quality staff participation. Usually the staff has a response to the issues raised and at least provides the residents with confidence that someone has eyes on these things from a day to day workings and balance.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you hire a manager from a tiny borough, with no development experience. A mistake of generational proportions.

Anonymous said...

7:52,
This really gas nothing to do with the Manager. The Manager is merely a hired administrator, who has no say in approval or denial of development.

Anonymous said...

In a continuously growing township the net sum of staff for better or worse has the ability to drive conversations.

For better staff can be a critical bridge between the elected PT officials and developers. For worse they can drive agendas and takeover processes.

Engineers and Solicitors are especially influential since they work in a well defined networks of other solicitors and engineers.

Some firms represent many developers and neighboring communities. Again, beware.. this can be both good and bad and sometimes very hard for elected officials to navigate. If they don't stay on top of issues and removed from back room wheeling and dealing they can wake up and realize that an outcome is pretty much pre-determined and sometimes the public part of the process is really just a show.

Look at Hamilton Crossings in Western LV. One law firm represented Lower Macungie Township, LCIDA and aspects of the county. Was there ever a question the TIF would happen? There was so much institutional inertia for it.

Anonymous said...

These were the best comments of the night

I just moved here from NY
I just moved here from the Poconos
I just moved here from NJ

Interpretation: Oh but now that we're here put a fence around this twp and lock it up before anyone else get here.

Anonymous said...

If Commissioners vote to send this forwards, residents should hire an attorney to fight the variances.

There is absolutely no hardship here. The only thing they could argue is that the property can't be sold for another use, and they have had it on the market for several years (economic hardship). The Planning Commission member who said "I see no hardships here" was right on target.

10 variances is absurd, but Bethlehem Township residents be warned - a company XXX was granted about 10 variances in a nearby town, with no hardship at all. The Zoning members said "we want a XXX in our town, but they have no hardship." Then they voted unanimously to grant the variances.

You can't grant use variances without hardship - bring a lawyer to make them do what they have to, not what they want, if commissioners are foolish enough to approve this idea.

Anonymous said...

@9:09 Your beef is not with perceived "outsiders", but with zoning that "natives" approved decades ago.

This project can't be allowed by the zoning. Don't put blame in the wrong place. If you want to let in anything you want, you have to get rid of the zoning, not immigrants from elsewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is what happens when you hire a manager from a tiny borough, with no development experience. A mistake of generational proportions."

That's completely unfair. She is a Manager, not a planner.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:09, That is absolutely ridiculous. This was not some collection of NIMBYs. It is pretty clear that the residents of BT, new and old, are tired of the diminution in their quality of life brought about by over-development, which has brought cascading stormwaters and traffic nightmares east and west. When the Chiar of the Planning Comm's hints around that the Board is ready to sell out to Chrin, the Tp has a problem.

Also I am getting sick and tired of the parochialism in township government. Nonresidents do have rights. You also don't have to live there 50 years in order to have property rights. That only applies in Nazareth, where I have 25 years to go.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If Commissioners vote to send this forwards, residents should hire an attorney to fight the variances."

I can't speak for these Boards, but the ZHB is the most stingy I have ever seen when it comes to use variances. I doubt it will get through.

Lighthouse said...

Bernie, without putting words in her mouth, I'd like to make a correction to what I believe Chairwoman Snover was alluding too in a comment you note. The Township does not own the driving range, Chrin does as part of this former V-7 tract and is part of his proposed intensive use (PS, I liked Edinger's history reminder of how he acquired it). What Ms. Snover was alluding to was the land between this tract and the PennDOT facility. When she said this it was a grave disappointment that it would even be considered.

The Township could have had the opportunity in the past to buy open space for future use in 90's but lacking vision passed, thinking it was too expensive (e.g., what is now Highland Park development could have been part of a large central park relatively cheap in the long run). By 2000-01 much of the available land was being gobbled up, and with so many developments in the pipeline, the Twp began the process of pursuing the excess PennDOT Hope Rd. land once 33 would open up. Several years later-- and with help of a $200,000 grant from Northampton County, I might add-- the Twp entered into an agreement of sale. Part of that agreement, included that the land could only be used for open space or recreation. A year later, 2008, the bottom fell out of the economy so it has remained open space for future use.

Look at places like Moore Twp that has a large recreation tract that has been able to be developed over time. Someone at one point had vision. It takes a long view not to say--"it's not used now, sell it". There is no more remaining land reasonable for the township to acquire. If the Twp seriously entertains selling Hope Road they violate the spirit of the agreement; they should pay back the taxpayers of Norco; and they may even have to owe PennDOT. Boy, can you just imagine what Chrin (or someone else) could propose if they owned the whole road?

A large crowd was there last night? Did they vote? I hope this idea is not being seriously considered. However, it is not the first time I've heard it. It is true, however, that you get and deserve the government you elect. The will of the people, is only the will of those who actually vote.

zoid said...

well stated lighthouse

Anonymous said...

I live in that area and the traffic concerns are overblown. Sure, it's a bit congested at times but nothing that lasts more than a few minutes.

Question: Is the commissioner not allowed to voice his opinion of the project before it's voted on? I'm not sure where the resident claimed he "had no right" to comment. I think it's a good plan but I'm more interested in developing the Township and making it a more convenient place to live.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you hire a manager from a tiny borough, with no development experience. A mistake of generational proportions.

Hyperbole alert! Seriously, it's a movie theater next to a major highway. If you can't develop next to a major highway, where can you develop?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse,

Thanks for pointing out my factual error, which i corrected. I will say it was very refreshing to see so many people present for both meetings. It was telling to see so few Comm'rs present for the Chrin meeting.

As you know, most people aren't registered, and fewer still vote. If the people who have the residual power actually exercised it, the Township would take a much more aggressive role on development. There would be more conservation zoning and fewer mixed overlays. There would be a concerted effort to deal with traffic, regardless whether it is or is not on a PennDOT road.

Last night should serve as a wake-up call to members of the Board.

Nothing would delight me more than to see the public actually start voting. last night was a reflection of disgust for the growth regime that comes from developers and elected officials who co-opt each other.

Some townships have been very aggressive when it comes to open space. You mention Moore.But Bushkill Tp is actually getting awards for what it has done in linking up trails.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Hyperbole alert! Seriously, it's a movie theater next to a major highway. If you can't develop next to a major highway, where can you develop?"

This has only become a major highway because of all the development. As recently as 20 years ago, it was not. Owners of homes in that area say, "Enough is enough." I can't imagine anyone who would welcome a 24 hour gas station across the street from his home as welcome news, or who would be happy about seeing half his property disappear for road widening.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty clear that the residents of BT, new and old, are tired of the diminution in their quality of life brought about by over-development

A sampling of residents who have an anti-development agenda. I'd venture to guess that there are more of us "natives" that want places to go and places to shop. You are not going to get people at meetings to support the building of a shopping center but that does not equate to those residents not desiring it.

Anonymous said...

Good comment lighthouse. It's perfectly fair to ask the question you ask.

When people come in front of local gov't to complain I always want to ask. . .Did you vote?

While not voting doesn't disqualify them from speaking out it's important to remind them to remain involved. Not just show up when a hot button issue directly affects them. i.e. a development right next store. The danger of over-development or unchecked sprawl is the cumulative effect.

And please never just vote party lines locally. Party affiliation matters the least at local levels of gov't. Engage candidates, encourage debates, ask the right questions! With local races you can meet the candidates since they are your neighbors. Talk to them. Have conversations. Tell them what you think.

Lastly, Bernie is right about parochialism. In BT and other similar communities over 20 years the majority of residents are "new" residents. But communities can't just pull up a drawbridge. Once here, we're all in this together. Even if you "just" moved here you still have the right to protect your new community. People move to LV suburbs for a reason. Once they make the investment they have a right to make sure the place doesn't turn into what they moved here to get away from. Once here there shouldn't be a litmus test based on "how long you've been here".

Property rights are a two way street. It's a balance between landowners and neighbors who have every right to reasonable expectations through a zoning code to protect their neighborhoods and investments. For many a home is the single biggest investment you make in a lifetime. What happens around that investment matters.

Excessive variances mean the zoning code is flawed. When boards grant them they infringe on neighbors reasonable expectations regarding quality of life and property values. Good to hear BT's board is stingy with variances.

Too often ZHB's allow developers to abuse "hardship" arguments.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:43, I believe the resident was upset that Zaworski was waving pom poms about this project before it was even presented to the public or planning commission.

As for your traffic concerns are "overblown" remark, this has been an issue on people's minds at nearly every meeting. I have heard numerous complaints about that and stormwater. These are both the result of poor planning or rampant over-development. I believe the initial mistake was made by the LVPC, which designated most of the Township for development, changing a once rural area into another Whitehall. It is probably too late to stop it now.

But yours is clearly a minority voice. last night there was not one supporter of either project, and the place was packed. I have yet to see that many people at a Township meeting.

Anonymous said...

This has only become a major highway because of all the development. As recently as 20 years ago, it was not. Owners of homes in that area say, "Enough is enough." I can't imagine anyone who would welcome a 24 hour gas station across the street from his home as welcome news, or who would be happy about seeing half his property disappear for road widening.

Route 33 is a major highway. I'm not addressing William Penn Highway. It has a large industrial park, a very large Park and Ride, and now development should continue on the other side of the highway. Across the street are a few hours who already have Route 33 at their doorstop. Across from Hope Road is a housing development but that to abuts the Best Buy shopping center. I'm not sure what idyllic life these people are looking for but they are obviously in the wrong place.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I guess they'll have to move to Green Pond. The Chrin development is not designed to lure people from Rte 33, but from William Penn.

Anonymous said...

@10:45 It's my understanding elected officials have to be careful. . If a land development project comes before a board as say a conditional use that hearing is then a legal proceeding. And a participant could claim bias based on statements made. . .

I've always had a problem with this because elected officials on the local level should be able to freely run on platforms where they talk about local development issues.

It's come up where I'm from years ago when a supervisor candidate circulated a petition regarding a development. Then as a seated supervisor he had to recuse himself because he was "biased."

Anonymous said...

But yours is clearly a minority voice. last night there was not one supporter of either project, and the place was packed. I have yet to see that many people at a Township meeting.

Obviously it's a minority vote at meetings where people turn out to oppose development. It's NIMBY whether you agree with that assessment or not. I drive William Penn Highway past that tract EVERY single day on my way home. There are plenty of alternative routes if you can't take a 10 minute del pay at rush hour. You can take Country Club Road past Green Pond CC. You could take Green Pond Road past NCCC. This is squeaky wheel stuff.

Anonymous said...

The Chrin development is not designed to lure people from Rte 33, but from William Penn.

Obviously, you have to get to Wm Penn to get to this tract. But my point is that there is already heavy residential and commercial traffic in that intersection and most of the residents of the area, at one point or another, use 33 to get to 78 or 22 to go to work (or to go to the movies).

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:50,

You are correct that you won't get people to come to a meeting in support of Charlie Chrin or TOA. But I believe you misread the public mood. As someone who goes to their meetings regularly, I have picked up on real and very legitimate concerns about traffic and stormwaters. These are the result of over-development. It is time for the BOC to start listening to people with these concerns. Those are the people they represent, not Charlie Chrin or J.B. Reilly.

I am unaware of any demand for yet another 11-screen movie theatre, or a bank in an area that had a vacant bank just 1/4 mile away for almost two years. Another restaurant? A gas station every 100'?

Anonymous said...

And for the record, I am opposed to the Green Pond project. That actually IS in an area that should be preserved for many reasons. (No, I do not live adjacent to that area.)

Bernie O'Hare said...

" It's NIMBY whether you agree with that assessment or not."

You want to see NIMBY? Go to a Bethlehem ZHB meeting some time,and you'll see NIMBY.

But as i have mentioned several times now, there is a growing resentment against the traffic congestion and stormwaters that have resulted from either overdevelopment or poor planning. Those are very real concerns. In the case of stormwaters, it is a matter of public safety. It is in BT that a young girl was swept to her death some years ago as a result of stormwaters caused by poor planning.

At nearly every meeting, I hear Chetwin Terrace residents raising those concerns now. I hear old-timers like Martin Comer, himself a former Board member, worry about the water. I hear local watchdogs like Barry Roth complain about the gridlock. This is not an objection to any specific development. It is a real concern, and hence transcends the NIMBY classification you make.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"And for the record, I am opposed to the Green Pond project. That actually IS in an area that should be preserved for many reasons. (No, I do not live adjacent to that area.)"

And this you would not be allowed to speak, at last not right away, if you're in Lower Naz. This kills me. Non-residents speak last, but the residents who voice concerns are derided as NIMBYs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And incidentally, I'm fairly pro-development, much more so than I would have guessed. I buy into Chrin's Rte 33 TIF, but not this.

Anonymous said...

But we actually live there and would MUCH rather have a nice movie theater (and a gas station, there are none in the area) than an industrial park up yonder where no one lives. We drive Wm Penn every single day of our lives. We do not have enough of a problem to kill development which in my opinion ADDS to quality of life. I'm not seeing the storm water issues or the massive congestion. I'm not - that doesn't mean they don't exist. Experts should weigh in and give the Commissioners the true story and not rely on unsubstantiated sob stories by residents of a bygone era.

And I am a resident. I just don't live next to the Green Pond site. (I'm also not from NY or NJ.)

Bernie O'Hare said...

There is going to be a Scheetz gas station no more than a mile away, directly across the street from an elementary school. A movie theatre already exists just three miles away on Rte 33. This is just nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Bernie @11:39,
I wouldn't hold my breath for the Sheetz and associated retail development of that site. It's so tied up in litigation with Abe, and the infighting with the developing partners, that there is currently no light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

There is going to be a Scheetz gas station no more than a mile away, directly across the street from an elementary school. A movie theatre already exists just three miles away on Rte 33. This is just nonsense.

Construction stopped on the Scheetz almost a year ago. The movie theater in Lower Nazareth is (1) antiquated and (2) it's revenues go to another municipality. That area is in need of amenities - we were supposed to have The Summit mall and that fell through. There is a demand for some local shopping and nightlife. This isn't Coplay. I could give a rats ass about who the developer is, by the way.

(And if anything should have been opposed, it would be the Scheetz across the street from the school.)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Funny how you started out sounding like a resident but now are sounding like a developer.

Anonymous said...

"Experts should weigh in and give the Commissioners the true story..."

Experts need to advise the commissioners that they will have to change the zoning to allow this project, which risks a spot zoning claim. The project can't go forward as proposed, because the variances can't be justified.

Don't know what else "experts" has to do with this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Wow! You really must be a developer.

Anonymous said...

Why are you blaming the manager. The residential idiots voted the Bozo's Commissioners in and now you will reap what you sew. Nolan, Zawarski, Breslin ...... you have to kidding me.

Anonymous said...

"This has only become a major highway because of all the development"

Yet you waved the pom poms in your miniskirt for the unneeded Stoffa palace of waste in an industrial park in that area, instead of in Easton where it belonged. Hypocrisy much?

Peter J.Cochran said...

Anon 6;15 Lack of Institutional Memory - Your point is correct. Lay Down Ye Citizens of Bethlehem Twp -and CHOKE YOURSELFS with too much --Ask Why !!JUST SAY NO. Northampton Country Club will get problems as result for one thing . The influential better get their ear horns on and stop this sprawl.This will be the end.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mr Chrin , Buy out about two blocks in Easton Westward move here and develope.

PETER j.COCHRAN said...

6;03 What open space,did you read this article?THIS IS NOT OPEN SPACE if it has 11 movie theaters on it.

Peter J.Cochran said...

With 47% of the public now not paying any taxes, why are they able to drive cars and clog the production of what commerce we do have locally. The masses of the unproductive have G-phones and are always on them for example .Just observe the knuckleheads crossing in front of your car ,pushing a baby carriage -she's on the phone! How does this fit into this issue of development ? This is what you will all get in the township if you ask for the wrong type of development.Crime goes up New Jersey deadbeats move in with their GRANDMOTHER don't pay taxes , and cost the TAX PAYERS too much as the result of idle entertainment development. .

Anonymous said...

Awesome caption on the photo, and story title.

Anonymous said...

47% ?
Peter your smarter than that, man

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, 7:58

Anonymous said...

Funny how you started out sounding like a resident but now are sounding like a developer.

I'm definitely not a developer. Residents CAN actually be pro-development you know. Not everyone has a strong desire to live in Green Acres.

Anonymous said...

Wow! You really must be a developer.

That comment was not by me. Dude, seriously, you need to chill on the paranoia and skepticism,

John Moran said...

This is standard developer practice - bring in an obviously overblown plan, let people complain, then cut it back to what you really intended in the first place.

Then you get to watch the Boards say, "Ooooo, that's MUCH better" and give their approvals, ignoring the fact that it's STILL a lousy plan for the area.

I watched it happen in Palmer Twp. when we were forced to sell our home (under threat of eminent domain) on 25th St. to make room for the Home Depot project, and clearly the only way to mitigate the traffic for a project like this would be to take a number of residential properties to widen Wm. Penn. I won't be a bit surprised to see that happen here.

Anonymous said...

That's not true at all. The part of Wm Penn Huighway immediately in front of that plot has an enormous hatch-painted area in the middle of the road. Police often sit in this splice. The road is already wide enough to make an entrance. The business that sits next to the driving range building could go, though.

And thanks for selling your house. I go to that Giant and Home Depot regularly.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:25, Years of experience. I caught AT&T years ago blogging on net neutrality unbder a bogus name, exposed them, and it hit PBS. It is by no means paronia to question whether you are a developer or a shill for a developer.

John Moran said...

An "entrance" is far from what is needed to resolve the existing traffic issues, much less those which would be created by the many hundreds of daily trips this project would generate. Plus, if I heard correctly at the meeting, they would not be allowed to put an entrance on Wm. Penn and the entrance(s) would be on the realigned Hope Rd.

And yes, thanks to selling my previous home, I get to watch this happen a few hundred feet from where I now live. Perhaps we could put a 24 hour gas station and convenience store in YOUR backyard instead, Anonymous@9:50.

Anonymous said...

+1 John Moran @9:22am that is ABSOLUTELY the game that gets played. Later public officials claim "victory" that they fought for a "better project".

Anonymous said...

lilJust to add to what lighthouse left out. It is a matter of record that the commissioners intentionally changed the zoning on the remaining penndot land in order to drive the value down. It was originally zoned for commercial development. So if anyone deserves to get their pee pee smacked it was that board who abused their authority in order to pick up a couple more soccer fields cheap. Oh and I bet we were planning on giving them to the sports group for free as well.

Anonymous said...

And yes, thanks to selling my previous home, I get to watch this happen a few hundred feet from where I now live. Perhaps we could put a 24 hour gas station and convenience store in YOUR backyard instead, Anonymous@9:50.

I think before I buy, chief.