Business Community Family Government

400+ Sign Petition to Reverse Controversial Rezoning Decision


A rezoning decision made by Hellertown Borough Council at its meeting Tuesday is being panned by many Saucon Valley residents, including some who have signed a petition requesting that it be reconsidered and reversed, if possible.

Est. Read Time: 5 mins



A 90-minute public hearing held during Hellertown Borough Council’s meeting Tuesday ended with a 5-1 decision to approve the rezoning to R-2 of 1527 Easton Road; a decision that has many residents upset. Speaking, above, is land development attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick, who represented property owners Michael and Sarah Chaffier at the hearing.

Note: This story has been updated with new numbers for the petition against the rezoning decision.

A controversial 5-1 rezoning decision made by Hellertown Borough Council at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21 is being panned by many Saucon Valley residents, including more than 400 who as of Sunday had signed a petition requesting that it be reconsidered.

Rebecca O’Brien started the petition titled “Stop the R2 Rezoning & Protect Our Hellertown Community” on Thursday, and as of 2 p.m. Sunday it had received more than 400 signatures.

The petition predicts that “increased traffic, noise, less privacy, crowded classrooms and decreased home values” will be consequences of the decision if high-density housing is ultimately built on the property, as neighbors fear. “This decision was made regardless of its negative impact on neighbors, residents and the beautiful surrounding area,” it says.

O’Brien and her husband live on Morning Star Lane, on a property that abuts the nearly 7-acre parcel at 1527 Easton Road that was the subject of a tense 90-minute public hearing about the rezoning during Tuesday’s council meeting.


A legal notice posted on the property at 1527 Easton Road advertises the Jan. 21 public hearing at which Hellertown Borough Council approved rezoning it from R-1 to R-2. The R-2 zoning means that higher density housing than is permitted in the R-1 district could potentially be built on it. However, representatives for current owners Michael and Sarah Chaffier said they currently have no plans to develop the property.

Council was briefed on the rezoning application by its solicitor, Michael Corriere, who noted that while the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission recommended approving it, the Hellertown Borough Planning Commission in November voted 4-3 against approval of it.

James O’Brien argued unsuccessfully that the neighborhood in which he has lived for nearly five years and is raising a family will be irreparably changed by the rezoning of the Hellertown portion of the property–which totals nearly five acres–from an R-1 zoning classification to an R-2. Less than two acres are located in Lower Saucon Township, which hasn’t yet received a request to rezone the portion of the land in its jurisdiction.

The rezoning of the Hellertown portion of the property to R-2 means that duplexes, townhomes, multifamily dwellings and even a mobile home park could potentially be built on it if engineering studies deem it developable and other requirements are met.

The current owners of the property, Michael and Sarah Chaffier, were represented at the meeting by land development attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick and attorney Jason Banonis, who in addition to being a Lower Saucon Township councilman is also their son-in-law.


Attorney Jason Banonis, who is Michael and Sarah Chaffier’s son-in-law as well as Lower Saucon Township Council vice president, told the members of Hellertown Borough Council Tuesday that they should vote in favor of his in-laws’ rezoning request because they have “a duty to the borough as a whole.”

Both attorneys said there are no current plans to develop the land, however both also argued before council that the potential economic benefit to the borough from possible future land development should outweigh the concerns shared by residents who both spoke at the meeting and submitted letters of opposition to the rezoning request.

Their arguments held sway with several council members, who said they felt obligated to vote in favor of the rezoning because the tax revenue from additional housing units could benefit the borough’s bottom line in the future. Although it has two houses on it, the Chaffier parcel is the largest undeveloped lot remaining in the borough, Fitzpatrick said.

The attorneys’ arguments have not swayed public opinion, however, which from comments on Saucon Source’s Facebook page and comments on the petition appears largely unified against the rezoning decision.

“I grew up in Hellertown and my father still lives in Hellertown,” wrote Judith Meier on the petition page. “Increased traffic in this area is not needed and presents an increased danger of accidents in this area. Leave the beauty of this neighborhood as is.”

On Facebook, Joe Laughead’s comment was typical of those critical of the elected officials who made the decision.

“Local governments do not give a damn what residents opinions are,” he wrote. “It’s all about the almighty dollar. Let’s pack every square inch of the borough with buildings.”

“Vote them out and put in people who care about the area we live in and not how to make developers rich,” commented Jim Long.

An opposing, minority point of view on the subject of the rezoning was shared by Jennifer Jo Hsu, who echoed remarks made by borough councilman Michael McKenna Tuesday when he stated why he would be supporting the decision to rezone the property.

“There are also many who support a private property owner’s right and desire to develop their own property to the best of their ability,” Hsu wrote. “Good local governance is best served allowing private property owners to receive variances and rezones provided they comply with all lawful ordinances and codes and they do not substantially harm the surrounding neighbors. Receiving the re-zoning does not harm any of the neighbors or the community.”

Local Democratic organizer and former Hellertown Borough Council candidate Bill Broun said in a Facebook comment that the topic of the rezoning will be discussed at a monthly meeting of the Saucon Democrats, which will be held upstairs at Braveheart Highland Pub at 430 Main Street in Hellertown this Sunday, Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m.

Kevin Branco, a Democrat who is currently a candidate for state representative for the 131st legislative district, is scheduled to address the group, which was formed last year as “a diverse group of residents with an interest in advancing the Democratic agenda in Hellertown Borough and Lower Saucon Township.” The group has a Facebook page.

The 131st legislative district includes part of Lower Saucon Township, however the Chaffier parcel is located in the 136th legislative district, which is represented by Robert Freeman (D).


Subscribe to receive our newsletter in your inbox every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Please wait...

Thank you for subscribing!

About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

Leave a Comment