After threatening to revoke the conditional approval behind a project that would bring major traffic improvements to Lehigh County’s Cherryville intersection, as well as a Turkey Hill and a Dollar General, township supervisors decided to give developers one more chance at their Oct. 24 meeting.
The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to give Cherryville Development Partners a six-month extension on their expired conditional approval.
The approval requires Cherryville Development Partners to clean and better maintain the property, as it asks them to remove trash, replace sediment barriers, and remove brush, stumps and any other fire hazards.
The move comes after the board authorized Township Solicitor David Backenstoe at their Oct. 10 meeting to send a letter to all parties behind the project threatening to revoke conditional of the project if certain conditions weren’t met by Oct. 24.
The project, slated for the intersection of Route 248 and Blue Mountain Drive, has been a source of frustration among township residents and supervisors alike for the slow pace at which it’s been progressing. Many residents, including the supervisors, have been favorable toward the ideas at the crux of the project, but the extended delay has drawn the ire many in the township.
The board sought a signed roadway improvements agreement, a letter of credit, and clarification about Turkey Hill’s obtainment of a liquor license in the conditions agreed upon on Oct. 10.
Instead, the board got Jim Preston, legal counsel for Cherryville Development Partners, and Joe Posh, a partner behind the project.
Preston urged the board to reconsider, citing the scope of the roadway improvements alone as a primary reason why the township should stay on board with the project.
“This has really been a project about that intersection, and how to develop and improve that intersection,” he said.
“We have other participants, those are our tenants, those would be Turkey Hill and that would be Dollar General,” Preston said. “We’re at the point now where the tenants have to participate somewhat in the resolution to this problem because the scope of the improvements, not just the site development, the scope of the improvements is staggering.”
Preston said that Cherryville Development Partners is currently looking to iron out economic and financial issues with the proposed tenants, which is causing the delay in moving the project forward.
“Turkey Hill has an agreement with us; they have a deal with us. We’re trying to restructure the economics of that particular deal to move the thing forward. That’s really where we are,” Preston said.
“We believe that post-improvements, the site will be worth the additional investment to the tenants. This is not a bad place to be; this is where we are right now. We can’t conduct these negotiations in public,” Preston said. “That’s where we are in terms of the quiet that you’re hearing.”
Regarding Turkey Hill’s liquor license and the confusion surrounding it, Preston stressed that while he does not represent Turkey Hill or Dollar General, he learned that Turkey Hill has applied for multiple liquor licenses across the state, with hopes that some will be approved.
“You know, throw it against the wall and see what sticks,” he said of Turkey Hill’s strategy.
However, there’s little chance that Turkey Hill’s attempt will stick in Lehigh Township. According to both Preston and the board of supervisors, Turkey Hill can not move forward with plans for a liquor license without submitting a new land development plan to the township.
Preston maintained that the project is worth extending conditional approval for, as it will prove to be an asset to Lehigh Township.
“Really, it’s a project that everybody wants to see done, a project that’s going to benefit the entire township,” he said.
Preston also lauded Posh for his involvement in the project, describing him as someone who could prove essential for getting the project to move forward.
“It’s probably a good thing at this point, given where we are, that he is involved in this,” Preston said. “If anybody can get this over the finish line, it’s Mr. Posh.”
Supervisor Keith Hantz said he didn’t see any harm in extending the conditional approval for Cherryville Development Partners.
“I don’t see any harm in it,” Hantz said. “They own the dirt. So for us to say we don’t want to do an extension of time—I’m not understanding why you wouldn’t, when they own the dirt. They want something done there. Cherryville Developers wants something done there so why wouldn’t we give them six months and see what happens?”
The majority of the board ultimately agreed with Hantz, as they went on to vote in favor of a six-month extension for Cherryville Development Partners.
Supervisor Cynthia Miller cast the dissenting vote, holding firm to her position from the board’s Oct. 10 meeting where she expressed her regret in approving it.
“I don’t feel comfortable with it. I hear what you’re saying, but I’ve been hearing this for two to three years now and I just am hearing the same thing over and over and over again. I just don’t see it moving forward,” Miller said.
The next Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors meeting is on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.