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Supervisors give Sheetz conditional approval Rader supports in-person meetings, chastises those who second guess board on Facebook


Special to The Press

During their June 3 in-person meeting, Upper Macungie supervisors voted to grant conditional use approval to a proposed 6,070-square-foot Sheetz auto-service station - convenience store with gas pumps - at 951 Trexlertown Road.

Community Development Director Daren Martocci said the conditional use application was reviewed and recommended for approval by the township planning commission May 19, with public comment received at that time.

Additionally, he said supervisors held a public hearing June 2 on the proposed Sheetz to received applicant testimony and public comments related to the application, “specifically associated to the proposed use.”

Martocci said no public comment was received at the time.

Solicitor Andrew Schantz said the applicant had presented testimony and evidence in support of the application at the public hearing. He reiterated there had been no public comment in opposition of the proposal.

Explaining the conditional use process, Schantz said courts have interpreted conditional use applications as a permitted use, but with additional criteria that needs to be met, and once an applicant meets the burden, the use must be approved.

He said as there was no objection to rebut the applicant’s testimony and evidence and, if the board agreed the applicant had met its burden of proof and satisfied ordinance criteria, supervisors could grant conditional approval.

Supervisors unanimously voted to grant approval, with one condition.

That being the applicant needed to provide additional landscape screenings along existing residences to the northeast portion of the property, and the screenings needed to be satisfactory to the planning commission at the land development review.

No public comments or objections were made on the topic either before the conditional use was voted on or during the later public comment portion of the meeting.

In other matters, supervisors approved a request to waive permit fees, estimated to be no more than $5,000, for improvements at Good Will Fire Company No. 1, Trexlertown.

Township Manager Bob Ibach said the fire company wants to add a pole barn for extra storage, and to perform minor site work.

Finance Director Bruce Koller asked the board for a motion to approve a memorandum of understanding between the township and Whitetail Disposal to have a hazardous waste collection at Grange Road Park, likely 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 21.

Koller said Whitetail would serve as program administration and will hire and pay qualified contractors.

He also said a preregistration process would likely be implemented, and $60,000 was budgeted for the event.

The board approved the motion to let Ibach enter into an agreement with Whitetail.

In the police report, Patrol Lt. Cory Reader announced National Night Out will be held 5-8 p.m. Aug. 3 at Lone Lane Park.

Lastly, during public comment, resident Sunny Ghai asked whether the township would continue livestreaming board meetings, as had been done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a June 2 posting on the township’s Facebook page, as Pennsylvania’s capacity restrictions were lifted effective May 31, the township would return to full in-person gatherings, and meetings would cease being streamed live on Facebook.

Ghai said continuing the live streams would provide residents with a safe and convenient way of participating in meetings, particularly for people with mobility issues or those still uncomfortable about attending in person.

He also said it would improve engagement and offer improved access for residents who might not otherwise be able to attend.

“Lots of people work second shift, third shift. They have soccer practice. They might not be able to make it to these meetings,” Ghai said.

Supervisor Kathy Rader said she was against the idea of continuing to livestream meetings, noting she had not been a fan of the idea during the COVID-19 pandemic and she was unsure if it would even be legal to continue livestreaming.

Rader said she wanted to see people attend meetings in-person, not have viewers “second-guess the board’s decision on Facebook a day later.

She also mentioned concerns she had about nonresidents viewing and commenting.

Rader said if people have questions, concerns or issues with township business, they should bring it to the monthly meeting for in-person discussions.

“I think local government should be face-to-face,” she said. “I believe people should be here for the meeting.

“We have a lot of armchair quarterbacks out there ready to second-guess everything we do, but are they willing to come to a meeting?”

Rader pointed to the previous evening’s conditional use hearing on Sheetz as an example.

She noted no members of the public had shown up to the hearing to comment or raise objections.

Ghai reiterated the benefits of livestreaming in providing increased opportunities for access, but Rader responded people need to set their priorities if they want to attend in-person meetings.

The supervisors’ meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 1 in person at the township building.