Category Archives: Events

Smart Growth Book Club 5:30 this evening

Come tonight to the Veteran’s Sanctuary, 24 S. 5th Street, Allentown, to share your ideas about how we can make the Lehigh Valley more liveable and walkable for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. No need to read! Click here for more info and to register (optional).
Smart Growth is the best framework to contain almost every area of life:  housing, food, community, families, work, the economy, entertainment, transportation, conservation, education, art, public safety, social equity, worship, health care, fitness, even time management. During the last 69 years, we have forgotten a fact that mankind knew for millennia – that our built environment deeply affects our psyche in many ways.

Why Should We Have a Smart Growth Book Club?

1. Some people have never heard of smart growth. What a pity it is to be unaware that we’ve been sold an inefficient way of life, and that there’s a beautiful, simpler, less expensive way to live. This book club is a vehicle to raise awareness and do our part to build a critical mass in society that will effect change that will improve air quality, our health and create stronger communities.
2. It’s a forum for smart growth devotees to network and share information. Meeting together is an enjoyable and easy way to learn. We blog face-to-face, if you will, and get to know who else is out there striving for common sense in our communities. Smart growth is about community, right?
3. Together, we may brainstorm ways to practically make the Lehigh Valley a better place to live, work, play, and worship.
4. We can make ourselves available to help one another recalibrate our own communities. For example, we may share ordinances and codes which have worked, or even attend each others’ township meetings.
5. It is hoped that this will lead to local, bi-partisan community support, and commonsense behavior. Smart growth is a broad-based cause that I believe is supported by everyone who understands it. Conservatives ought to be behind it because it aids families and the economy and saves money. Liberals should back it since it is a framework for better social parity and environmental sustainability. The need for it reaches every person’s life.
6. And of course, the book club is an excuse to better educate ourselves and thus make better choices.

To date we have held two meetings, and the conversation has been enjoyable, enlightening, and encouraging. We’re still working through James Howard Kunstler’s Home from Nowhere, an engaging book that will draw in the novice as well as give talking points to the experienced. Our December meeting “covered” only the book’s first half, so in order to do it justice, let’s discuss the second half in January. As always, if you can’t read the book, you won’t be left out in the cold; your presence is important. We hope to see you at The Allentown Brew Works at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 21! Please spread the word.
If possible, sign up on Facebook, or email Joanne Guth at joguth@live.com to let me know you’re going.

Smart Growth Book Discussion Club tomorrow – You’re invited!

We look forward to seeing more of you at our second meeting at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, December 17 in the mezzanine at the Allentown Brew Works, 812 Hamilton St. You can use the parking garage behind the Holiday Inn where the Smart Growth Summit was held, or there is a lot behind the building across Hamilton St. from the Brew Works for no charge.

The discussion between the four of us at the first meeting was lively and promising. This time the plan is to actually discuss Kunstler’s ideas in Home from Nowhere. Click here for his article (excerpted from the book) in The Atlantic Monthly.

Again, if you can’t read the book, come anyway with your ideas, or to network, listen, or learn. We need you!

If possible, sign up on Facebook, or email Joanne Guth at joguth@live.com to let me know you’re going.

Spread the word!

Save King George Inn

The King George Inn has been a South Whitehall historical institution since 1756, but it may soon be a modern hotel and drug store.

Cliff McDermott owned the King George Inn for 42 years before a decline in business pushed him to close the restaurant that is designated as a National Historic Site by the National Park Service. He is now working with a development company to destroy the building and build a hotel or other commercial property.

Below is a letter to the editor of the Morning Call from Renew Lehigh Valley board member and State Representative Robert Freeman.

I was dismayed to read in The Morning Call that the owner of the King George Inn and Hotel Hamilton LLC plan on tearing down the 257-year-old historic structure to make way for a new hotel, bank and possible drug store.

While some might consider this progress, it is not. We lose a significant historic structure in return for more ubiquitous suburban-sprawl commercial structures. Instead of tearing down the King George Inn, the developers, architects and planners involved in this project should incorporate the original stone structure into the plans for the hotel. Incorporating the Inn into the hotel complex would offer restaurant and bar patrons something unique and historic. The developer could even qualify for historic tax credits.

The communities of the Lehigh Valley have lost a number of significant historic structures over the years as the result of misguided urban renewal initiatives and the ever-expanding pattern of suburban sprawl that consumes our landscape. It would be a travesty to see this National Register of Historic Places building torn down when a creative plan to incorporate it into the development could save it and offer something special.

The sale of the building depends on several zoning variances and the next meeting to review those is in two weeks. In the meantime, a MoveOn.org petition has been started to send to legislators when it reaches 2,000 signatures. Right now, it has 1,760. By providing your information on the MoveOn.org page, you can add your name.

In addition to the redundancy of adding another hotel and drug store to an area that is rife with commercial amenities, given its proximity to Dorney Park, the destruction of the King George Inn would be detrimental to South Whitehall’s sense of place. Smart growth and sustainability are not concepts that we should apply only to new construction. Historic buildings have a place in creating the distinct character of a community. Some of the most notable features of the Lehigh Valley are the historic ones; the maintenance of the blast furnaces at the old Bethlehem Steel site amid new construction is one example. Revitalizing our core communities does not require demolition, but rather the careful planning of necessary commodities with respect for the heart and soul of the area.

Consolidation in Action: Princeton, NJ

For a long time, there was Princeton, NJ the borough and Princeton, NJ the township – not anymore. In 2011, residents voted to consolidate the neighboring municipalities and their merger took effect on January 1, 2013.

To coordinate the process, the new municipality created a task force. The Transition Task Force is comprised of twelve members: Five voting members each from the Borough and Township, and one alternate each. The Task Force also includes both the Borough and Township administrators. The Task Force is being assisted by the State Department of Community Affairs and other outside experts. This consolidation represents the joining of a relatively developed and economically stable borough, and a much more rural township. Despite their cultural differences, the merge was seen as having huge potential in cost-saving for both municipalities.

The two municipalities are in the process of overcoming budgeting differences, as they had previously allocated funds through different channels and were not able to merely combine their revenues and cut out the redundant departments. In order to make sure that the service and fiscal planning would aptly serve the new municipality, subcommittees were formed from the Transition Task Force and included Facilities, Finance, Infrastructure, Personnel and Public Safety. The state of New Jersey was also helpful in the transitional phases, offering 20 percent of cost reimbursement and funding an upgrade in the police information system. Special consideration went into ensuring that consolidation would not yield a decline in the services provided by either municipality. These services consist of trash collection, financial reporting, police staffing and relocating public facilities, among others.

In Pennsylvania, it’s been difficult to undertake such huge projects, but Renew Lehigh Valley has been advocating for consolidation since its inception and there has been some success. Right here in the Lehigh Valley, we have seen consolidation of police departments with the Colonial Regional Police Department that provides law enforcement services to Bath Borough, Hanover Township, and Lower Nazareth Township all in Northampton County.

Courage to Connect in New Jersey is holding a public meeting on June 5 to examine the case of Princeton, below is their information on the event:

This has been a remarkable year in NJ with the implementation of the Princeton Consolidation.
You are invited to:
Be Inspired by the success of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough becoming ONE town.
Learn from elected officials from around the state about their experience with school, police, fire and municipal consolidation.
Connect with innovative leaders in NJ, making a difference!
When: Wednesday June 5, 2013 from 8:00 AM to 12:30PM
Where: Princeton University
Robertson Hall, Dodds Auditorium
Prospect Ave at Washington Rd
Princeton, NJ

Seminar Schedule
8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:45 a.m. Welcome and Introduction
Gina Genovese, Executive Director, Courage to Connect NJ
8:50 – 10:00 a.m. Princeton: A Road Map to Follow
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert
Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard
Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi
CGR President and CEO Joseph Stefko
10:00 – 10:15 a.m. A Path to Success
Former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner
10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Elected Officials Discuss their Experiences with Consolidation
Senator Bob Gordon – NJ District 38
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli – NJ District 16
Freeholder Rob Walton – Hunterdon County
Mayor Paul Fernicola – Loch Arbour
11:30am – 12:30pm Benefits of Police and Fire Consolidation
President and CEO of Public Safety Solutions, Les Adams
Princeton Police Captain Nicholas Sutter
Princeton Police Lieutenant Christopher Morgan

Envision Lehigh Valley’s Public Meeting Results Are In!

Through their website, Envision Lehigh Valley received a total of 1,118 completed surveys as well as feedback from 47 public meetings that were held through the fall. The breakdown of the participants represented an  accurate cross section of our regional population on the   characteristics of race, age,   income and location.

In the 47 focus groups that were held during the public meetings, Lehigh Valley residents appeared to be most interested in discussing economic development, which they saw as a positive thing for the region.

They mentioned large projects currently being undertaken across the Lehigh Valley. Participants discussed projects such as the hockey arena, casino, and ArtsQuest. Projects involving specific companies, including Ocean Spray, and the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion, were mentioned as well as more   generic business expansions like the Allentown waterfront      project, the P&P Mill, and new hotels and retail space in various locations.

Focus group participants were generally dissatisfied with the types of jobs available to Lehigh Valley workers and didn’t believe the job market matched the qualifications most workers have.

The groups also examined other topics; citizens talked 652 times about housing, 549 times about fresh food access, and 378 times about climate and energy.

One of the most interesting findings to come out of the focus group analysis is that the overall interests and topics of discussion varied very little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held.  These  commonalities suggest that quality of life factors in the Lehigh Valley are important across the valley, not just in one or two communities.

Read the full report, including  survey results and focus group discussions, right here!

Envision Lehigh Valley Kick-Off Scores Big

Last night’s kick-off event for Envision Lehigh Valley, the three year grant-funded visioning project for the Lehigh Valley, was a great success!  If you were there, you know what I’m talking about.  If you weren’t able to join us, I’m sorry you missed a great conversation among neighbors discussing their views on the future of the Lehigh Valley.  But don’t worry, there will be many more public meetings for you to attend and share your ideas.

Two sessions were held to accommodate attendees’ schedules– one at 4:00pm  and another at 6:30pm with over 200 people total.  The Lehigh Valley Tweet Up joined us for the 6:30pm session with lots of tweets, socializing, and networking!

The audience heard from Holly Edinger, Director of Sustainable Development at LVEDC, Pam Colton, Executive Director of Renew Lehigh Valley, and representatives from the regional HUD office, who granted this three year project to the Lehigh Valley Sustainability Consortium.  Attendees heard the purpose and goals of Envision Lehigh Valley over the next three years.  They then sorted themselves into five different groups based on interests to discuss five key areas of the project: Economic Development, Fresh Food Access, Housing Choices, Transportation Choices, and Energy Efficiency.  Attendees discussed their opinions and perspectives on their topics, followed by a larger community discussion once the entire group came together at the close of the event.  A short survey was also distributed.

If you were not able to join us last night, visit our website www.envisionlehighvalley.com to take the same short survey and to join our membership list.  While you’re there, check out our next events coming up on July 24th and 25th!  Stay up to date on the Envision Lehigh Valley project over the next three years.  Let your voice be heard!  Let’s determine the future of the region by choice, not by chance.

What Is Your Vision for the Valley?

What will the Lehigh Valley be like in 5, 10, or 20 years?  Whether your live or work in the Lehigh Valley, the answer will directly affect you.  Join Envision Lehigh Valley, a three year visioning project, and help us plan the future for the Valley!

Envision Lehigh Valley is a public outreach effort designed to engage the residents of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley.  More than ever, the residents of the Lehigh Valley need to work together to create a shared vision for our community.  This three year project was made possible by a Sustainable Communities Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) .

The Lehigh Valley is comprised of 62 municipalities, each with its own governmental authority. However, if you ask anyone who lives in the Lehigh Valley you will quickly learn that we live “regionally.” Many of us live in one town, work in another town, and have dinner in yet a third. The municipal boundaries that are crossed to reach a desired destination are usually invisible. In order to be a sustainable community, the Lehigh Valley should consider the value of all our communities, how we can enhance our economic competitiveness, and perhaps most importantly how we can coordinate policy and leverage investment within our community.

Over the course of the next three years, Envision Lehigh Valley will be gathering input from ALL residents of the Lehigh Valley in order to create a vision for the future of the region.  The project will focus on the main areas of economic development, fresh food access, transportation choices, housing choices, jobs/housing balance, and climate and energy.  All the input from social media, public meetings, surveys, and individual conversations will be used in the “Comprehensive Plan the Lehigh Valley…2030.”

Please join us to kick off this effort at our first meeting on Wednesday, July 11th at ArtsQuest at SteelStacks.  Two sessions are being offered– 4:00 to 6:00pm and 6:30 to 8:00pm.  The next three years promise to be exciting and innovative.  Join us as we work together– as a region– to create a shared vision for our community.

Visit www.envisionlehighvalley.com for more information! Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook too!

Good Stewards of Our Resources on Earth Day

Earth Day first started on April 22, 1970 through the efforts of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.  Since that day over 30 years ago, the Earth Day movement has grown to become an international effort to protect the planet and appreciate the resources it provides.  In other words, we are being called to be good stewards of our resources in order to have a sustainable future.  Good stewardship doesn’t just mean celebrating the Earth once every year.  It requires action every day of the year to appreciate the resources we have and protect them for future generations.

So what does this mean to you, the average citizen?  Consider how much waste you throw out every day at lunch.  That’s what Broughal Middle School students in Bethlehem did on March 21 with the help of Community Fellow, Christina DeSalva.  As the students finished their lunches, they brought their trays to Christina and other volunteers to weigh their waste.  The total amount of food waste weighed approximately 120 pounds!  Imagine the impact we could have if we reduced the amount of waste we produced!

Good stewardship also means preserving the open space and farmland we have.  Did you know that since 1950 Pennsylvania has lost farmland equal to the combined size of Connecticut and Rhode Island?  The sprawling nature of development rapidly eats away at the farmland and open space we have.  It is our responsibility to preserve these areas for sustainable food production and for our future generations.  According to Greater Lehigh Valley Buy Fresh, Buy Local, “Lehigh Valley consumers spend $1.6 billion on food annually. If 10% of this were spent on locally-grown food, this would generate $160 million in income for our farmers and an extra $72 million to circulate in our community and create new jobs.”  If we keep sprawling outward, what green spaces will be left and what resources will be around for our children and grandchildren?

Earth Day is a chance to educate our communities about our environment and what we can do to protect it.  But these efforts should go far beyond April 22.  Smart growth development sustains our natural resources while allowing for growth and revitalization in the core communities that already have the infrastructure in place.  We need to protect our green spaces and preserve the resources we have for a more sustainable future.

For more information about Earth Day activities in the Lehigh Valley, go to the Lehigh Valley Events Calendar at http://www.discoverlehighvalley.com/events/.  Want to learn more about smart growth initiatives?  Visit our website or contact us directly to get involved!

State of the Lehigh Valley

Thank you to everyone who attended the “State of the Lehigh Valley” lunch event on February 15th, and a special thanks again to our sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible:  Highmark Blue Shield, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Capital Blue Cross, PPL, Air Products, Susquehanna Bank, Lehigh University’s Social Science Research Center, Just Born, Inc., Spillman Farmer Architects, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley!

With President Obama recently delivering his State of the Union address and Governor Corbett giving us the state of the commonwealth budget, it is an appropriate time to consider the “State of the LehighValley.” (To read the report: State of the Lehigh Valley 2011.) Last year the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC) partnered with Renew LehighValley (RenewLV) to present “State of the Lehigh Valley 2010: Community Trends at a Glance” to an audience of 250 concerned LehighValley residents.

 This year’s presentation of the 2011 data focused on the livability of the LehighValley as measured by indicators like health, economics, education, environment, and quality of life standards. This year’s results suggest that the LehighValley “is in a better position economically and socially than in the recent past” even though most will agree that there are still many challenges to overcome before we can boast of regional prosperity.  The luncheon was very participatory, with audience members providing their perspectives about the LehighValley’s competitiveness, public schools, disparities in access to health care, air quality, jobs, housing, and quality of life using a hand-held electronic response system, thus allowing for real time results. There were community experts in attendance to facilitate discussion based on these results.

The LehighValley is a very diverse collection of 62 municipalities and 17 public school districts within two of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, all acting independently to govern and lead in the best interest of each area’s residents. While it is the uniqueness of each area that makes it pleasing to its inhabitants, the similarities from one municipality to the other and how they assimilate to form the Lehigh Valley is a natural progression of governance and decision-making, unnoticed by most who live here.

 In looking at just one section of data from the report, one sees that the Lehigh Valley’s current unemployment rate is higher than the Pennsylvania average, but lower than New Jersey and the national average, and our job growth is also below the rate of growth of Pennsylvania as a whole. On the other hand, average weekly wages in the LehighValley are higher than the state average but lower than New Jersey and the national average, and LehighValley residents as a group had higher median household incomes than the state and the nation. The report highlights how educational attainment is tied to this data. Perhaps a surprising statistic, graduation rates are not very different when economically disadvantaged student rates are compared to overall graduation rates, and in some districts the rate of graduation is higher among the economically disadvantaged students.

What does this mean?  Well, 90 percent of all residents surveyed rated the LehighValley as either good or excellent with regard to living in this area.  In light of the dissatisfaction with the economic situation, this is a significant statistic. It is indicative of the many great things the LehighValley offers its residents that are above and beyond dollars and cents: a relatively low crime rate, good public schools, easy access to goods and services, and a great network of hospitals and health care professionals. All of these are highlighted in the report.

I’m going to borrow a thought from this Sunday’s sermon (hope you don’t mind Father Steve) and if you have ever played sports, you will appreciate this. Were you ever a bench warmer?  Did you like sitting on the bench?  Or for that matter, if you were a starter, did you like coming out and watching from the sidelines?  I bet the answer is no. You wanted to be involved, to make your mark, to influence the outcome of the contest, to be heard and noticed.

Well now is your chance to do that for your community, our community, the community we all call home. Whether you live in the northern-most point of the Slate Belt or the west end of Allentown, you are a LehighValley resident and the health and well-being of our residents and our cities and boroughs is your business and your voice should be heard.  Time to get off the bench. Time to get involved. This is your opportunity to be in the starting five.  Take it and join the discussion.

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