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Friday, October 9, 2015

A Trick to Get More Halloween Treats

I started thinking about this post several weeks ago, around the time that all of the drug store chains and supermarkets started stocking their shelves with Halloween candy and decorations.  I was initially thinking ahead to how I can startle trick or treaters walking up to my front door on Halloween night.  Then I realized I probably won't get the opportunity to do that, because I expect I'll be accompanying my daughter as she trick or treats.

My daughter is old enough to trick or treat in our neighborhood, unsupervised, with a friend, and there are ample well-lit sidewalks to get her around the development.  But she prefers to trick or treat with friends in a different neighborhood.  And it's all about efficiency.

She can hit up three times as many houses per hour in her friend's neighborhood of townhouses than she can in her own neighborhood of homes on 0.4-acre lots. At the townhouses, with front-loading garages lining the streets, the average distance between the front doors is about 25 feet. Back home, trick or treaters have to walk anywhere from 90 to 130 feet from front door to front door (side-loading garages require much wider lots). And that's assuming the kids cut through the grass from house to house instead of walking back out the driveways to the street (anywhere from 30 to 70 feet) and then up the next driveway and sidewalk to the next front door.
My neighborhood. Very circuitous trick or treating because of large lots.

Of course this comparison is apples (hopefully candied, without razor blades) to oranges. These two neighborhoods are two different types of homes and two different price ranges. An average of 1,800 square feet of living space to an average of 2,500. And a difference of 0.15-acre lots to 0.41-acre lots.   But my point here is the usefulness of the extra 0.26-acres per lot in my neighborhood. If someone wants to have a swimming pool in their yard, they would need that extra quarter of an acre. But as you can see on the aerial photo above, fewer than 10% of the homes in my neighborhood have pools. And sure, it's extra room for kids to play. And that's important. But for the adults, it seems to me that the more distance between homes, the less likely it is that neighbors will get to know each other. Fewer opportunities to converse. Relegated to waving to the guy two houses away (200 feet away) while at the mailboxes. Bigger homes on bigger lots, with less sense of community.
My daughter's friend's neighborhood.
Much more efficient for trick or treating
in a development of townhouses. 

When I accompany my daughter trick or treating in her friend's neighborhood of townhouses, with front doors just two dozen feet apart, there is a totally different vibe. Many of the neighbors are on their doorsteps or on lawn chairs in their driveways chatting with their neighbors in between groups of ghouls grabbing Mr. Goodbars.

The differences between these two neighborhoods are based on land use decisions that the township made 20-30 years ago when they instituted the current zoning districts with different minimum lot sizes. But regardless of lot sizes, this sort of intense development eats up wildlife habitat. And lawns are a very poor excuse for wildlife habitat. It is crucial to preserve ample green spaces and natural areas in between developments to avoid full-scale sprawl like you see in these two aerial photos. We humans tend to forget that we need trees and natural areas around us to improve our quality of life. My township was primarily agricultural 50 years ago. But as farmers wanted to retire, farms were gradually sold to developers. And some of the best agricultural soil in Pennsylvania has been essentially lost forever. We now have relatively few active farms remaining and have become just another suburb of Allentown, the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania. My township's population is now about 31,000. Our population has increased more than 60% since 2000 thanks to a feeding frenzy of developers fed by a clueless Board of Supervisors.

But at least my neighborhood and my daughter's friend's neighborhood have sidewalks. None of the earliest developments in this township, built from the 1960s up to the early 1990s, were required to have sidewalks. Kids in those neighborhoods have to walk in the street when trick or treating. That's the kind of dumb growth you get when municipal leaders fail to lead and simply cave in to pressure from developers to cut corners.

And back home, I guess my daughter will be trick or treating in the neighborhood where she'll have to do less walking to get more candy. Smart girl.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Unhealthy American Fascination with Trophy Lawns

Over the past few years we've starting hearing more about how the fashion industry and Hollywood have created unhealthy idealized body types for American women. But this unrealistic ideal is not limited to the beauty and fashion industries.

This Spring I must have gotten two or three pieces of junk mail each week from various lawn care companies that wanted to regularly dispense herbicides and fertilizer on my lawn from now through the Fall. No thanks. I'm happy with my imperfect lawn. In fact, if I could talk my wife into it, I would plant my front yard as a meadow with native grasses and wildflowers and convert my backyard to a wood lot too shady for grass to thrive.  I'm just not willing to pay for unhealthy chemical treatments for my lawn the way some people are willing to pay for plastic surgery, liposuction, tanning salons, and breast implants.

For those who really want a fake-tan sort of lawn, there are even companies that will spray paint your lawn green (http://lawnpaintpros.com) or companies that will sell you paint for either your lawn or your mulch if you are a DIY-er (http://www.lawnlift.com).  Why not?  Golf courses sometimes paint their fairways before big tournaments, and outdoor, "natural" turf football stadiums certainly do it for games later in the season.

Photo:  Good Nature Organic Lawn Care (www.whygoodnature.com)
I suspect that the majority of lawn-obsessed homeowners who are not living under drought-imposed water restrictions simply go through the weekly cycle of mowing low and watering without giving it much thought.  In my observation, most homeowners and most professional lawn mowing services mow their lawns entirely too short for the health of their grass.  Most turf grass experts warn that cutting too much off the length of the grass blades at once and consistently cutting the grass shorter than 2.5 to 3 inches unnecessarily stresses the grass. Stressed grass has shorter roots, so its roots are unable to reach moisture deeper in the soil column. So it requires more frequent watering to prevent browning.

Photo: www-mda-state-mn-us
Lawns may need supplemental watering if they don't get enough rain each week. That can be accomplished on an as-needed basis with a garden hose and a sprinkler attachment. Or, for people who have invested a lot of money in their lawns, an automatic lawn sprinkler system will certainly help you protect your investment. I think automatic sprinklers can also cause a lot of extra work if it's not used with common sense. I have a neighbor whose sprinkler apparently is set to water twice a day, regardless of precipitation. We live in Pennsylvania, not Arizona. So the result of my neighbor's overwatering, and frequent fertilization, is that he has to mow his lawn with his expensive zero-turn radius mower (with a grass vacuum attachment) twice a week. I don't water my lawn, and I mow with my Craftsman mulching push-mower once a week. And I mow to a 3-inch height. My lawn looks lush more often than it looks scorched.  It is far from perfect. But I'm happy with the appearance of my lawn and the level of effort required for that look. I'm not participating in a lawn competition. If my neighbors chose to do so, that's their business. I just hope they are putting that level of effort and money into their lawns because it's their passion and not because they feel like they need to compete with their neighbors for some unrealistic ideal lawn. I wonder whether some of them wouldn't rather be spending their time and money on their families rather than doing battle with Nature over their lawn's appearance. I hope they realize they have a choice.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Power of Trees to Unite a Community

This is a post about the power of trees. The power of trees to unite a community. The power of trees to provide hope for the future. The hope that trees will unite a community going forward into the future.

This post is actually coming a month late, but I thought it is still worth talking about. Most states celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April every year. Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 as a way to encourage communities in the fledgling state to plant trees in the towns that had been treeless prairies only a few decades before. My own community, Lower Macungie Township, PA, was primarily rural through much of the 20th century and focused on agriculture. Since 1971, however, Lower Macungie has gone from 10,521 acres of farmland to less than 3,000 currently. And from 8,814 residents in 1970 to over 31,000 in 2010. That is a 250% increase in 40 years, compared to the U.S. population, which increased just 51% in that same 40-year period. In the first decade of the 21st century, we had the dubious designation of fastest growing municipality in Pennsylvania.

One of the results of the rapid and poorly planned development of Lower Macungie over the past 30 years has been fragmentation. As large farms were gradually sold off to developers, we saw increasing fragmentation of wildlife habitat as well as fragmentation of human habitat. Nearly every large residential development built during the growth years was not connected to the rest of the community by any means other than automobile.  If a development was required to have sidewalks (which did not happen until the late 1990s), the sidewalks tended to dead-end at the limits of the project. No forethought was given to requiring connecting sidewalks to get to adjacent developments or even just to get outside of the development without having to walk the circuitous sidewalks though along the streets that were laid out in patterns reminiscent of a medieval labyrinths.

Photo credit: Sharon Schrantz, East Penn Press
This year the township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), which I chair, initiated our first annual Arbor Day event. I felt that beginning an Arbor Day tradition in the township could be a way to address two concerns I have:  it would add back a small bit of the nature we’ve lost through the past decades of development, and it would be an opportunity for residents from different developments to join together to celebrate planting a new tree in a township-owned open space.

The EAC selected a location for our Arbor Day tree that is near the only elementary school in the township that has sidewalks leading to it and which is safely by foot from at least six different developments.  Had it not been for the school being built five years ago, this area would still not have any sidewalks connecting the surrounding developments.  The location we chose for our Arbor Day tree is an underutilized parcel that the builder of an adjacent development had to donate to the township as ”recreational open space,” primarily because a floodplain separates it from the rest of the development. The parcel is about 6.5 acres if you don’t count a stormwater channel bordering it on one side.  Because the parcel is categorized as recreational open space, the Public Works Department mows it regularly all summer long, whether it needs it or not. In the 10 years I’ve lived here, however, I’ve never seen anyone use the parcel for recreation.

Photo credit: Sharon Schrantz, East Penn Press
Our Arbor Day celebration on April 24 this year opened with a soloist from the local high school chorus (who happens to be my niece) singing the National Anthem, and with local Boy Scout Troop 131 presenting the American flag for the pledge of allegiance. The centerpiece of our celebration was our Arbor Day tree for 2015:  a northern red oak (Quercus rubra) that was placed in a pre-dug hole.  Following a few words from local dignitaries, we asked all in attendance to take a turn with a shovel and toss in some dirt to help backfill the tree. By adding even a handful of soil to the tree’s root ball, everyone present had taken place in planting the tree. And by doing so, they are part of the legacy of hope for future generations of residents who will enjoy the tree’s beauty and shade.

Our plan is to select different locations in coming years to plant the township’s future Arbor Day trees – locations that can be accessed by at least two surrounding neighborhoods so that people from different developments can be drawn to the beauty the trees will offer and enjoy the birds that will also share the trees with the community. H   opefully, the 30 or so residents who attended our first annual celebration this year will seek out future celebrations and will bring their friends and neighbors.
Photo credit: Addison George, Morning Call (www.mcall.com) 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Grass Roots Science Denial Blocks Dam Removal

Science denial is not the exclusive realm of global climate change.  A recent proposal pitched to a neighboring township by a local conservation organization to remove a 111-year old concrete dam was met with a very vocal outcry from locals who want things to remain just as they are.

Here is the link to the newspaper story about the township's decision last month. And here is my perspective:
Wehr's dam and Wehr's Covered Bridge, South Whitehall Township, PA
(photo credit: mcall.com)

Last year, the Wildlands Conservancy, a local non-profit group proposed to South Whitehall Township’s Board of Commissioners conducting a feasibility study on removing Wehr’s dam on the Jordan Creek in South Whitehall.  Wehr’s dam was built at the beginning of the 20th century to power Wehr’s grist mill, which had stood nearby but was demolished decades ago.  A covered bridge, which also bears the Wehr name, is still in use 150 feet downstream from the dam. The township created a park centered on the aesthetics of the dam and covered bridge.  The Jordan Creek is a popular trout stream which is stocked by the state. But there is really no chance for a native population of trout to subsist in this spring-fed creek, because the dam causes the water in the Jordan to back up, stagnate, and warm up to summer water temperatures that trout cannot tolerate. The South Whitehall commissioners approved letting Wildlands carry out the feasibility study. But even at that preliminary step, a local blogger who thinks he has an axe to grind with Wildlands Conservancy began crying foul and riling up the opposition with accusations that Wildlands practices junk science. Interesting how people who cannot, or refuse to, understand science often resort to claims of junk science or academic dishonesty. In addition to the blogger, some descendants of the Mr .Wehr who built the dam began a petition drive seeking to prevent the dam’s removal.

I heard only one rational voice opposing the dam removal. My friend Mike Siegel questioned whether the Jordan Creek, in the absence of the dam, would carry enough water during summer low flows to sustain a population of fish. That’s because, depending on local groundwater conditions, it’s not unheard of for steams flowing over limestone bedrock to sometimes disappear into a sink hole and re-emerge further downstream out of another sinkhole.  When that happens to a steam, the fish usually just hunker down in deep pools in segments of the creek that have water in the summer months. I didn’t take the time to drive to the South Whitehall municipal building to read the feasibility report put together by Wildlands Conservancy and their engineering consultant. So I’m not sure whether the bedrock hydrology was even considered in the report.  But I don’t think trout would be likely to get stuck high & dry by a temporarily disappearing stream. That’s because trout will always seek out the coldest water, which, in an area underlain by limestone, would be wherever the nearest spring is feeding the creek. Based on the emotional outcry of people opposing the dam’s removal, it doesn’t sound like the stream’s hydrology even figured into the decision by the township Commissioners to turn down Wildlands’ offer to remove the dam at no cost to the township.

While it's refreshing to see commissioners consider residents' wishes in a decision, I think four of these five commissioners voted based on sentiment rather than facts. In this case, a non-profit organization with proven experience in removing low-head dams was offering to remove this mass of crumbling concrete at no cost to the township. Turning away "free" money to remove a financial liability like this deteriorating dam was an irresponsible vote that will cost the South Whitehall taxpayers plenty when they are facing with removing the failing structure in the future.  With this vote, the commissioners chose to blatantly disregard science in favor of a nostalgic alternative reality that the most outspoken people attending the meeting that night wanted to believe.  In doing so, they voted to commit their taxpayers to fight a losing battle against the natural deterioration of pile of rocks and concrete blocking a good trout stream that could be a better trout stream.

The Wildlands Conservancy's study included an underwater survey of the dam, which is not part of the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s routine dam inspection program. So with new data that proved their dam is in poor repair, particularly below the waterline where it is more difficult to monitor, it seems that the majority of residents who weighed in still sided with their emotions rather than science. It seems very much like the climate change stalemate in the U.S. If some people cannot see something, particularly something abstract, they won't believe it. Not even if scientists and engineers have verified the risks.  Here is my favorite line from the Morning Call story:

"The rest of the board sided with Commissioner Glenn Block, who said he wasn’t convinced by the findings that removing the dam wouldn’t increase flood risk."

Wehr's Dam, with sign warning, "Danger Dam - No Boating, No Swimming, No Wading." (photo credit: Wildlands Conservancy, as published on LehighValleyLive.com)
I don't know Mr. Block's professional background, but he appears to be neither a scientist nor an engineer. And he clearly doesn't want to allow science to interfere with his political popularity. So actually, South Whitehall's commissioners had the opportunity to do the right thing, although the right thing (IMO) in this case would have been unpopular with the standing room only crowd. So their commissioners voted 4-1 to keep their heads in the sand despite having been shown the risks and having been given an opportunity to avoid the financial burden of maintaining a deteriorating dam indefinitely into the future.  I live in neighboring Lower Macungie, so at least my tax dollars won't have to pay for the extensive maintenance. Or the potential law suit when someone is injured as a result of the dam. I wonder if the Wehr family would be so insistent about no removing the dam if they still owned it and were responsible for the dam’s maintenance costs and liability.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

PA's Marcellus Drillers Show Half-hearted Commitment to U.S. Piping Industry

I think the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does a good job of covering the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, and I often find articles on their website that catch my attention. A couple weeks ago I saw a story on their website about the source of the steel pipe (casing) that drillers use to construct both the vertical and horizontal portions of their hydraulic fracturing natural gas wells here in Pennsylvania.

Prior to being elected to the state senate in 2010, Jim Brewster was mayor of McKeesport, a struggling post-industrial borough on the Monongahela River less than 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Brewster learned last summer that the U.S. Steel plant in McKeesport, which produced pipe used in the natural gas industry, was about to shut down. U.S. Steel officials later told Brewster that a big part of their decision to close the plant, putting 175-200 workers in his district in the unemployment line, was that the oil & gas industry was buying a lot of foreign-produced pipe.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group representing the natural gas industry in PA, released a report last summer indicating that 90 percent of the casing used by their members was manufactured in North America. But they acknowledged that not all casing diameters are readily manufactured in the U.S. or even in North America (North America is doublespeak for Canada, and Russian interests own several piping mills in Canada). So Sen. Brewster had his staff do some further research.

The senator’s staff looked at well completion records on file with PADEP going back to 2012 when drillers were first required to identify the country of origin for the steel casing they used in their gas wells.  I know from my own experience with the crews who drill environmental test wells that drillers are not necessarily very detail oriented. Many of them would be quick to tell you that their job is to make a hole in the ground, not to document how they did it. So I was not surprised to read that Brewster’s staff found well records for only 1,196 of 4,473 gas wells (26.7%) drilled between October 2012 and October 2014. And in those well records, only 709 records (15.9% of the total wells) were complete with the country of origin for their casings. Prior to passage of Act 13 in 2012, the country of origin of the casing used to construct gas wells was considered a business secret.  From the 709 complete well records, Brewster’s staff found:
  • 348 wells used exclusively American-made steel (49.1%); 
  • 133 wells used foreign-made steel (18.8%); and 
  • 228 used a combination of U.S. and foreign-made steel (32.1%). 

Source:  MIT Research Study, Natural Gas, Chapter 2, cited on
In fairness, sourcing the steel casing for gas wells is not as simple as backing a truck up to the local Home Depot.  It takes hundreds to thousands of feet of several diameters of casing to build just one horizontal well.  And under the duress of demand, the limited supply of some diameters of steel casing could drive some drilling companies to seek out foreign supplies. These wells might typically begin with a 20-inch diameter casing cemented into the ground down to about 100 feet.  Then a nominal 16-inch borehole is drilled through the 20-inch casing to about 1,000 feet, and a 16-inch diameter steel casing is cemented into place to that depth. Then as the well is extended deeper, the borehole is telescoped progressively smaller such that casings of 10 3/4 inch and 7 5/8 inch diameters are used.  By the time the well nears the depth at which it will begin to deflect from vertical to horizontal, a 5 ½ inch casing is used.  The horizontal runs, of which there are typically two extending from one initial vertical well bore, can run out 5,000 to 6,000 feet laterally. In Pennsylvania, the horizontal well bores are usually at depths ranging from 6,000 to 9,000 feet below ground. So each well pad uses tens of thousands of feet of steel casing to construct the wells below them.

source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (www.eia.gov)
With the miles of steel casing needed for just one fracking well, a commitment from drilling companies to U.S. piping manufacturers can translate into hundreds of U.S. jobs saved. It seems like a commitment to the U.S. economy should be important to an industry that promised us that developing the Marcellus Shale gas play in Pennsylvania would be the state’s pathway to energy independence. But with pipelines being planned in PA to transport our Marcellus gas to export terminals for overseas markets, it seems like PA is missing out on some of the jobs and some of the long-term supply of gas we were promised when this drilling boom began in earnest seven years ago.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Big Step Forward for Preserving Some of Lower Macungie's Open Space

I really wasn't expecting to update last night's blog so soon. But at tonight's Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Jim Lancsek, who had previously spoken against efforts to preserve open space, presented a proposal to move open space preservation efforts forward.

Lancsek's proposal, which will have to go to the Board of Commissioners' Budget & Finance Committee for review and then a recommendation back to the board, suggested taking advantage of historically low interest rates for a bond issue or other financing options and possibly using surplus funds to preserve three key properties in the township. Lancsek said he doesn't support preserving open space without a functional purpose.  But he would support buying development rights for farms that, if fully developed with three or four single family homes per acre, would create excessive traffic problems for the township. He also said that he thinks it would be appropriate for the township to purchase in fee simple parcels adjacent to existing township parks so that those parks could be expanded.

The township's Environmental Advisory Council, which I chair, sent the commissioners a recommendation in spring of 2013 to allow a voter referendum to ask the residents whether they would support a fractional increase in our Earned Income Tax for a 5-year period to fund open space preservation. That recommendation was stuck in the Budget & Finance Committee until tonight when the Budget & Finance Committee recommended to the full board that no action be taken on the EAC's 2013 recommendation. Likewise, another potential open space funding recommendation that the EAC sent to the commissioners last year, which involved earmarking all real estate transfer taxes from a 700-acre commercial and residential subdivision that was previously zoned for Agricultural Preservation, was finally rejected by the commissioners. And I couldn't be happier.

I'm happy because the commissioners themselves looked for and found a viable means of funding preservation of some key properties in the township.  The EAC had discussed recommending a bond issue to get all of the needed funding up front to preserve several properties at once, but we thought that incurring debt would be frowned upon by more people than would take issue with a minor Earned Income Tax bump. And when I say minor, I'm talking about the price of one large two-topping pizza per month for someone earning the median income in our community. But that route would not have accumulated enough money to move forward with acquisitions for a few years. Mr. Lancsek's proposal could potentially get the money needed to preserve two properties borrowed and in the budget for next year.

This new proposal isn't a slam dunk by any means, but it is a very encouraging sign that one of our Board of Commissioners' biggest critics of open space preservation over the past three years has finally acknowledged the residents' wishes and stepped forward with an aggressive proposal that could make a real difference in what Lower Macungie will look like when we are fully built out in 20-30 years.  In three decades we might just have a few green patches remaining to separate the warehouses and cookie cutter houses from each other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why are Some Politicians Afraid of Voter Referendums?

I've blogged previously about my efforts with Lower Macungie Township's Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), which I chair, to try to get a formal open space preservation program up and running in our township.  We sent a recommendation to our township's Board of Commissioners back in April 2013, urging the commissioners to authorize a voter referendum about whether we should initiate a modest increase in our earned income tax (EIT) for a five-year period to fund open space preservation in our community.  That proposal has been hamstrung in the commissioners' Budget & Finance Committee ever since.
An endangered way of life in Lower Macungie Township
(photo credit: Morning Call).

Specifically, what the EAC wants to do is have the township partner with the county's Bureau of Agricultural Land Preservation to be able to make offers to township farmers to purchase the development rights for their land. The county's farmland preservation program has a cap on how much they can offer per acre for development rights. In some of the more rural northern townships in Lehigh County, they might be able to offer enough to get a couple of farmers interested. But here in Lower Macungie, our undeveloped land is some of the most expensive in the county.  The county program cannot compete here in Lower Macungie, so the township needs to ante up if we want to buy development rights for any of our remaining farms. When a farmer sells their development rights, they would still own the land and may use it in any manner than want. They just cannot subdivide it for a housing development. So when they eventually sell the farm, it would be sold as a farm rather than as building lots. We think it's the ideal free market solution to preserving some of our remaining farms. It is totally voluntary on the land owners' part. If they don't want to see their family farm bulldozed and built on but they need money to fund their retirement, selling their development rights and keeping their farm is a great option.

But Lower Macungie needs a source of revenue to be able to work with the county to make offers to our farmers for their development rights. We have proposed a temporary, 0.25 percent increase in our EIT for a period of 5 years, which could preserve a few of our farms. This exact funding mechanism has been approved in voter referendums in seven of 10 Lehigh Valley townships that have put it on the ballot. And the only way the EIT increase could continue after 5 years is by another voter referendum authorizing a finite extension. But before anything else, we need to get the question on the ballot to ask the Lower Macungie voters. I'm very disappointed that some of our commissioners are refusing to let the residents have a voice at the polls on a matter than most of the commissioners really don't seem to care about.

The two commissioners on the Budget & Finance Committee are unashamedly pro-development, so I don't think there is any interest in that committee in preserving farmland. In fact, one of those commissioners has publicly said that we already have enough open space. That statement is either incredibly naaive or incredibly arrogant. Because most of the farmland that we see when we drive around Lower Macungie has been zoned for several decades to allow either 12,000-square-foot or 18,000-square-foot residential lots. All it would take is the farmer holding up the white flag and saying, "I've had enough. I'm ready to cash in."

Three of our commissioners have also said that they oppose voter referendums for any reason at all. One of them has famously said that they are elected to make the tough decisions, and that not enough voters turn out at the polls for a referendum to mean anything. But using his logic, we could just as easily argue that the voters who turned out to elect each of them are not sufficient to constitute a mandate for them to make this sort of decision.

The question of whether to fund a farmland preservation program is actually much bigger than whether the township should buy a new dump truck, install a new traffic light, or even install an expensive artificial turf athletic field. Because whether or not we decide to fund preservation of our remaining farmland is a decision that will mold, one way or the other, what the township looks like in 20 years when there are no more buildable parcels of land bigger than 10 acres. In 20 years, will we still have a few open farm fields here and there? Or will we have nearly continuous expanses of vinyl boxes clustered around cul-de-sacs spitting out more cars to clog our already inadequate roads? The residents have a lot at stake here, because a fully built out township, and the traffic nightmares and crowded schools that accompany that scenario, will certainly devalue our properties. Isn't that something that the Lower Macungie voters have a right to decide for themselves?  Or maybe this will be the year that our elected officials surprise me and step up with their own plan to preserve open space in Lower Macungie. I'll keep you posted.