Thursday, March 08, 2007

Open space takes a hit in Macungie, but there is still hope

The Wildlands Conservancy still hopes to buy most of a 10-acre parcel of land along Cedar Crest Boulevard to expand the 72-acre Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, even though Lower Macungie supervisors have approved plans to build nine homes on the property.

After listening to more than an hour of discussion about the development, including objections from neighbors and environmentalists, supervisors voted 2-1 last Thursday to approve the project.

Despite getting that approval, developers Christifer Portner and David Serfass say they still are willing to sell to the Lower Macungie based conservancy.

But the conservancy does not yet have enough money to buy it. ''They still can't meet our price,'' Serfass told supervisors. If a deal can't be negotiated soon, Serfass expects they will sell the development to a home builder by summer.

''We have to move quickly if we want to purchase the property, and we need additional support from the community to do that,'' conservancy President Chris Kocher said. ''I remain optimistic.''

Kocher said the land will increase the sanctuary's open space and passive recreation. ''We have very limited opportunities to expand the sanctuary. This is one way we can do it.''

Serfass said they've offered the conservancy about 7 acres for around $825,000. He said the land is now appraised at more than $1 million. He said they also offered to finance $250,000 of the money owed for five years.

The conservancy is seeking a $300,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a $100,000 grant from Lehigh County and has $200,000 pledged by local residents. Kocher hopes Lower Macungie also will contribute.

The project was opposed by the executive committee of the Lehigh Valley Sierra Club and also Clean Water Action, which claims more than 500 members in Lower Macungie. The Sierra Club maintains the project directly threatens the quality of nearby Little Lehigh Creek and will destroy an agricultural area and diminish open space in the township.

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