Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TOA Proposes 20.35-Acre Conservation Area at Green Pond Marsh

David Biddison
In late July, when Traditions of America (TOA) Partner David Biddison presented sketch plans for a senior living community to Bethlehem Township's Planning Commission, he probably could have used a flak jacket. Over 100 people were there to complain about traffic, stormwaters and a Audubon-designated Important Bird Area throughout much of the tract. Last night, Biddison made a revised presentation to Township Commissioners, after listening to concerns. But because President Marty Zawarski insisted that the public speak before TOA made its presentation, it's unclear whether he has answered their concerns. It also resulted in speeches from 22 people, most of them residents, who were being forced to react to a sketch plan before it was explained. It was unfair to residents and to Biddison, who had to go through the gauntlet again.

Scott Burnett with American Coot
(not to be confused with American Kook)
Sunshine Act

The house was packed with just as many people who came in late July. At least 100 people. Standing room only. Zawarski requested citizens to keep their comments under five minutes, which drew an objection from yours truly. The Sunshine Act does enable a Board to impose reasonable time limits on public comment, but they can't be invoked whimsically by the Chair. That requires a vote by a majority of the Commissioners. "I'll support it," stated Commissioner Michael Hudak, who has previously stated that "[o]pen debate is counterproductive."

Solicitor Jim Broughal pointed out that Zawarski had only requested people to limit their remarks, not commanded it. And in fairness, he did allow everyone to have their say. But they were still being forced to comment on a plan before it was presented. Amazingly, Zawarski later told citizens that he would accept no comments from the public after the sketch plan was introduced, even though the whole point of introducing a sketch plan is to get feedback from both Commissioners and the public.

One township resident, Santa Wright, expresses a similar criticism of Township transparency. She noted that agenda items are so cryptic it's impossible to be informed and speak to it. "I don't know how everybody is going to know what you're going to talk about if you don't tell us," she complained.

Tom Nolan very pleased with American Eagle
Public Speaks Before Plan Presented

Public speakers included Steve Kunz, an ecologist and certified wetlands scientist retained by "Save Green Pond", a grassroots group opposed to the development organized by Jack Glagola. Kunz told Commissioners that the wetlands are well in excess of the 27,000 sq ft. shown in previous plans, and could be between five and seven acres. Glagola requested a meeting with Township staff to determine the extent of the wetlands, before formal plans are drawn.

Farmer Dennis Koehler, a dying breed in Bethlehem Township, told Commissioners that his family loses about 200 acres every year to development "on the most productive soils in Pennsylvania." He talked about increased traffic and said there are huge stormwater problems."I hope you consider what's downstream before you work on more upstream stuff," he implored them.

Bill Berry, a former Commissioner, reminded Commissioners that they have an obligation to listen to township residents, not just developers. he also directed them to a section of the zoning ordinance requiring that natural areas be respected.

Ecologist Steve Kunz
Two artists also requested Commissioners not to disturb the marsh. "I go there to pray," said one. "It's my sanctuary." Another artist, Gwendolyn Evans Caldwell, told Commissioners she intends to present them with water color drawings of each of the 162 different species of birds at Green Pond Marsh, including eight species identified by the State Game Commission as threatened or endangered. She started last night, with a watercolor of five different birds for each commissioner. Tom Nolan was presented with the bald eagle, while Phil Barnard got the snow goose. I think Solicitor Jim Broughal was awarded Big Bird. Michael Hudak refused to even look at the watercolor provided to him, in what certainly appeared to be an act of rudeness.

Green Pond Road resident Paul Jordan called the wetlands an "incredible sight. That's a spectacle over there. There's nothing like it on the East coast." Another nearby resident, Manuel, asked, "Why should we be destroying something that is breathtaking?" Elizabeth van Syckle had much the same question. "I just can't think of why you'd want to get rid of that," she observed. "What is going to be left in this area?"

By far, the largest number of speakers were for the birds.They'd be the first to admit it, too.  The Lehigh Valley Audubon's Scott Burnett brought a stuffed American Coot to display, known to baseball players as a mudhen.

When he said American Coot, everyone started looking at me. They thought he said American Kook.

Hudak Rebuked

Michael Adams, another ardent environmentalist who grew up in Butztown, was furious at Hudak. Although I missed it, The Express Times claims he was reading a book while the public spoke. Something set him off.

"Mr. Hudak, I find your studied indifference contemptible, sir, and rude."

"That's your right," replied Hudak.

"I don't need you to affirm that right,"

Adams left shortly after he spoke, so I was unable to determine exactly what set him off.

Zawarski Expects More Meat From Public

After forcing the public to weigh in on a sketch plan before it was formally presented, Marty Zawarski incredibly admonished the crowd for not having more detailed objections to a plan they had yet to hear.

"Next time you come back, bring something with a little more meat to it," the ex-developer lectured as the audience groaned.

Then Zawarski inexplicably called a recess.

TOA's Revised Plan 

TOA specializes in building "active senior" or 55 plus communities, and has developed two popular projects in Hanover Township alone. Units are selling despite a slow real estate market.

As he did in July, Biddison told Commissioners and the public that the active senior gated community will consist of 265 single family detached dwellings linked by a 2-mile walking path and include amenities like a clubhouse and pool.

The chief attraction, aside from the nearby Green Pond Country Club, is the Green Pond Marsh.

Biddison insisted that only 27,000 sq ft directly across Farmersville Road from the pond has actually been delineated as a "wetland". But after listening to planners and public concerns, TOA is increasing the proposed conservation area from 18 to 20.35 acres along the northern side of the development. In addition to the current wetlands, TOA is proposing an additional 153,000 sq ft of wetlands in three ponds to the east of the delineated wetlands. These will consisting of ponds of varying depths.This is over twice the 73,000 sq ft initially proposed. All told, approximately four acres will be set aside as a wetland. These ponds will not be lined, as I reported erroneously in July. There will also be a large infiltration basin, which will be lined, and will be planted with native grasses. Biddison is proposing a walking path around the conservation area, along with a place to park and raised viewing platforms.

All stormwaters generated at the site will stay there. In addition to the large infiltration basin in the 18-acre conservation area, there will be a pond at the southern end of the development.

The conservation area makes up nearly all of the portion of the Important Bird Area designated by Audubon at that tract.

TOA has also agreed to widen the main drags in its development from 24' to 28', but is reducing the size of driveways to give it more space for conservation. TOA also created several off-street parking sited for visitors.

Heron on a roof
Comm'r Reactions

Though the whole point of presenting a sketch plan is to get feedback from Commissioners and public, Pat Breslin said nothing.

Zawarski, who previously stated that birds have not always been in that area, was complimentary. He claimed that changes made by Biddison "shows good will on your part."

Hudak, after listening to 22 people say they opposed the project, noted there are 24,000 Township residents who did not come to the meeting, and illogically posited from that observation that they must therefore support the plan. "There is a great deal of support for something just like this senior community," he concluded.

He also denied that a 265-home development will scare these birds away, noting that blue herons land on his roof. "I'm not about to be so arrogant as to think they [the birds] need our help to survive."

Telling Biddison that "I think you have a major hurdle," Tom Nolan was skeptical. He said he is motivated by "what is good for the Township and the residents as opposed to what is good for the developer."

Phil Barnard echoed Nolan. "I don't really know if you felt their pain," he told Biddison, referring to resident concerns. "You have to really feel for the people."

TOA and Save Green Pond Sitdown?

Before the meeting, Save Green Pond's Jack Glogola and TOA's David Biddison exchanged some pleasantries. Glagola's expert has stated the wetlands extend from five to seven acres. Biddison has already proposed setting aside four acres of wetlands in a 20-acre conservation area. Glagola, who himself is a real estate expert, knows the land will be developed eventually by someone. There might be room for agreement between these two, instead of division.

Updated 9:25 am: In response to some comments expressing incredulity at a blue heron sitting on Comm'r Michael Hudak's roof, Marty Zawarski sent me the above pic of a blue heron sitting on the roof top of a neighbor's home. I told him it was a scout.getting ready to dive bomb himm=, and suggested he watch The Birds. 

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Twp, Commissioners are sincerely interested in the citizens response to the plans....before those plans have been submitteded.
No.
Really, they are.

" I'm not so arrogant as to suggest those birds need our help to survive."
Mike Hudak is a legitimate authority on arrogance, on ignorance too.

Anonymous said...

Michael Hudak,the Township Official who talked about a Blue Heron on his roof?
The man is a liar, plane and simple.
He appears to be a disinterested public official, and as a liar, even less effective.
Blue Herons on his roof ?
Where did this dumbo come from?

Anonymous said...

Santa Wright has nailed this one. Where is the transparency?? This Board has gotten worse over the past year or so. It lacks real leadership. The removal of Mr. Nolan as Board President by Zawarski and Bresylin and Hudak was the watershed moment. The people who spoke last night were treated like infants by this Board. Reading books, snarky comments back to the speakers, not letting the public speak without hearing the presentation are just indicators of the disdain for the public. By the way, I did not hear one word from the staff as their review and the Planning Commission recommendations on the proposal. Why not? The Planning Commission reviewed this and certainly the professional planner. Where was the reporting of their comments?

zoid said...

problem across the board now in BT is that there is no leadership at all. Not at the board level and not at the staff level.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, when will the Nazareth Sticker Gang come to Bethlehem Township to start their campaign to impeach Commissioner Hudak? His public display of disdain and contempt for the very residents he is elected to serve and protect is at an all time high. I would suggest his reading selection at township meeting to include manners, tactfulness and include soul searching on how to be compassionate. This man is completely out of touch with not only the enormous issues at hand but life in general

Anonymous said...

Zawarski's right. This whole bird thing is way overblown.
Development is progress. Don't let a few birds stand in the way of progress. I'm pleased that BTwp. has leadership that has the backbone to stick up for the interests of developers. They are the people that make this country great.

Anonymous said...

If you were paying attention hudak was not reading a "book" Bernie but referencing the 1st class township code. I believe he even showed this to the public. Further, sketch plans are for the commissioners to review and comment NOT the public. If your going to go to these meetings and engage in a public forum you better be prepared for the fact that people will not believe or agree with everything you say. If that pisses you off then stay home. All in all good meeting. Thought the board did a good job focusing on the zoning and not getting into a confrontational dialog with the public on wetlands which has already been addressed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:56, It's pretty obvious you're Hudak, as your condescending tone suggests. First,I don't know what the hell you were doing. i was not there to watch you, but the entire meeting. The ET points out you were reading a book. I note that and add I did not see that myself.

Second, it's obvious that whether it was a book or the First Class Township Code, as you've now conceded, you were ignoring the public. Under the Sunshine Act, they have a right to speak, and you have an obligation to listen to what they say, not ignore them.

Third, the presentation of a sketch plan by a developer is both for the commissioners and the public. It is idiotic to suggest that commissioners are the only one who can comment on its merits, ans this gives the developer no way to determine whether his proposal has allayed public concerns. Taking public comment after the plan is presented gives the public an opportunity to present some of the meat that Zawarski claims was missing. It's how it is done with planners. It's how it has been done with other plans.

Fourth, it was a terrible meeting in which the public was disrespected, TOA was denied the feedback it sought and leadership was completely missing. You know you have three years left, but barely won your last election. Marty has to run next year, and based on his performance last night, I say he loses. The people are your bosses, something both of you seem to have forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody has sought assistance from The PA Audubon Society, or The Sierra Club. These and other organizations if unable to help directly, might know of free legal assistance that could stop developers in their tracks.
It would only require finding a single item of wildlife, in the proposed building area, on the endangered species list to hold them up for years. Possibly permanently.
One other thing..... Hudak sounds like a pompous ass.

Unknown said...

I was paying close attention.
Mr. Hudak displayed a variety of rude and dismissive behaviors unbecoming of his office and insulting to his constituents and guests.
Mr. Hudak's antics throughout Courtesy of the Floor mirrored that of a petulant Jr. High School boy in immediate need of a remedial course in manners.
In a perfect world, that would be followed by an introductory course in civics.
Let us not, however, be distracted by Mr. Hudak's behavior and lose focus on the critical importance of preserving this extraordinary natural resource, for now, and for generations to come.
M.J. Adams

Anonymous said...

A Blue heron landing on a roof? I am so intrigued that I would like to be invited to see this event happen at Mr. Hudaks home. Perhaps he has photographs. I live right on a creek with an active blue heron community and have never seen one of these magnificent birds land on a house.
I was not able to attend the meeting last night because I was working.
It sounds like Mr. Hudak was irreverent to his constituents. But he deserves far less attention and we should be focusing on saving this area which is important for 160 species of birds. Making the decision to save Green Pond is the one of the most critical issues that Bethlehem Township is facing. Developers trying to assuage the public by making any changes to the pond could be potentially catastrophic to the wildlife population.

Anonymous said...

8:32 The Sierra Club and Audubon Society are actively involved and made significant contributions to last nights meeting and will continue to work on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Bernie does have the photo of the bird on the roof. Please post it! I do not know how to add a picture to this commentary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I did post it.

Anonymous said...

Zoid, what are you referring to with your comment about leadership at the staff level?

Anonymous said...

Sorry bernie,I'm not hudak but I do know him and Question him about comments on your blog. I can tell you positively that he never reads your blog or anyone else's for that matter. I will be telling him about your reply however and I can only imagine what he'll say. Always entertaining reading your blog but I'm a little upset that you think I'm condescending. Oh well. I'll still read you right after my morning paper.

Bernie O'Hare said...

When you start out a comment by suggesting that I was not paying attention, you are condescending. That is classic Hudak. Another Hudak giveaway is the claim you don't read blogs. In truth, you have sent emails to other Comm 'ed complaining about things I've written. You're not as smart as you think you are.

Anonymous said...

It's clear Mike H is a horses ass.
Lets move on.
This project has got major problems that the developer has not come close to addressing. This natural resource deserves to be saved. The leadership in the township is subpar to be kind. These are the issues we should address.

Anonymous said...

The "heron on the roof" comment really shows the ignorance of Hudak. Most of his other comments also show his ignorance, but lets clarify this one. It would not be surprising at all to see a photo of a heron on the roof of a building. Taken from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site (www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/great_blue_heron/lifehistory) - "Great Blue Herons nest mainly in trees, but will also nest on the ground, on bushes, in mangroves, and on structures such as duck blinds, channel markers, or artificial nest platforms." A building would easily classify as an "artificial nest platform", or at least a temporary landing site, to a heron and it would not be surprising to see a photo of a heron on a building. If we see photos of the other 160 plus species that use Green Pond Marsh (or even a fraction of the 160 species) on the roof of a building, then that would be something!

Anonymous said...

I like Hudak's logic here: Since only 100 people showed up against the project and the other 24,000 Township residents didn't, there's more support for it than against it. Yet, the seniors that he personally spoke of where "there's a lot of support" didn't show up at all to comment.

Anonymous said...

Look, Hudak is transparent,lets move on.
Zawarski was elected to show some leadership. It's pretty clear he couldn't run a bingo game at the Parrish Hall,
on top of the obvious fact that he is a total lacky for the development interests. He is the focal point of that
sorry excuse for a municipal government.
The best staff people over there are overwhelmed and embarrassed by the three ring circus swirling around them.

Anonymous said...

The developers bought the place fair and square.
Done deal.

Anonymous said...

If I were a blue heron, I'd rather float around Green Pond, fuck that water runoff shit that comes and goes on the other side of the road, especially with all that geese shit, yuk. Would you eat out there?

Anonymous said...

The property is NOT purchased until TOA makes all of the hurdles thru the development process. Nothing here is a done deal. Does anyone know who the owners of Green Pond Country Club really are?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I intended to check that today. Will do tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Guy by the name of Ed Kluemper, he's a real good golfer too. Lives in Bethlehem Twp.

Anonymous said...

"Pat Breslin said nothing" may be a bit of an understatement for his tenure thus far if you attend meetings or read the minutes...

I do not recall birds coming up in earlier plans over the past decade; I believe traffic and storm water costs did those in. But hey, if the birds can thwart this, power to them. My only concern would be at the end of the day if Zoning isn't changed, could somebody push the envelope and develop something crappy that meets the letter of the law, but will make everything worse for all three issues (off-site traffic, storm water, and nature)?? Change Zoning though, and does that bring on a lawsuit from the property owner for sterilizing/lowering their value? May not be as much that some hope can be done.

Yet, if the Township keeps the bar high on what it can control under current law, either the Township gets the best development it can, or the developer decides the cost-benefit isn't worth it.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
'Pat Breslin said nothing' may be a bit of an understatement for his tenure thus far if you attend meetings or read the minutes..."

That's probably because he still doesn't believe he won the election.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I noticed that someone inquired as to the ownership of Green Pond Country Club. I began wondering about that. What strikes me as unusual is the country club's determination to sell Green Pond Marsh despite two previous failed attempts by developers to build on the site. Is the country club in financial distress? Does it need money from the marsh tract to stay in business? A lot has been said about the merits and demerits of the TOA development plan. But throughout all of this, the country club has been silent.

Anonymous said...

That project will end up collapsing under its own weight. It has for the past 15 years. Toll Brothers, Petrucci have tried. These are experienced developers that understand proforma. With the traffic, Green Pond Road flooding issue, drainage, birds, wetlands, Nancy Run residents, Blue flooding this project will wither on the vine like the others. No amount of units can conquer the issues of this site. As one poster mentioned, the only way this should be developed is if all these issues are superiorly addressed. IMHO

Anonymous said...

The bird people have some high-powered attorneys on their side. This will get real interesting.

Larry Briody said...

Every time I see this showboat of arrogance and small mindedness by the name of Hudak I am perplexed as to how the residents of Bethlehem Township could elect such a weasel to represent their interests. He is a predictable , pompous ass who has shown on numerous occasions zero regard for the environment which includes living creatures of great beauty and value that have been depending and descending on Green Pond for their lives for as long as anyone can remember.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, thank you for attending and exposing the jackasses that pose as town leaders, in the name of Hudak (read a book for significant portion of resident comments), and Zawarski (I don't care how good your complaints and objections are, come better prepared next time, and gee isn't this a swell plan).

If only they would act like they care about what is best for the township, before blindly voting development in. Just to give a modicum of professionalism.

Larry Briody said...

Does Mr . Zawarski want more meat because his knowledge base is comprised of gristle?He says he doesn't remember all those birds being around when he was growing up and I would suggest it was because he probably had his head buried in the sand like an ostrich so he wasn't aware of all the birds stopping over at Green Pond.
Vicky Bastidas pointed out that those migrating birds won't be simply altering their flight plans by coming over to Housenick Park to rest and feed when the enviroonment they have been coming to for sustenance/shelter for ages has been altered or destroyed . The conditions and sources of food are different and rare so it will probably be akin to a death sentence for many of those migratory fowl.
Should the township make the egregious mistake of developing that precious sanctuary ,the effects of their blunder will be felt around the world.It is one thing not to care about the art,history and the beauty of a wonderful place like Housenick Park because that is only an issue with significant value to Pennslvanians but this potential tragedy waiting in the wings will seriously contribute to global environmental and wildlife mismanagement and destruction.Is that the type of notoriety the township is looking for?

Anonymous said...

@ 8:57
You are so arrogant that you think those birds need you.

Anonymous said...

@9:26
It is because of the huge human footprint on wildlife that wildlife needs 8:57 and others to prevent the destruction of wildlife.
Humans are responsible for decimating, if not total extinctions, of species.
You should take a few minutes to read about the history of Hawk Mountain in PA.

Anonymous said...

you people are all nuts. Get a social life. Nature will be just fine without us. Stopping developmentis like trying to hold back the sea. Besides those homes help keep my taxes down. I don't want my taxes going up every year just so some birds can rest for two weeks out of the year.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie,
I just read your disclaimer. "I will delete personal attacks...."
Sounds like a lot of personal attacks on Hudak no? Or is it personal attacks on just people you like?
Know the guy just to say hi, seems ok to me. What did he do to you that you let this go on ?
does he hate you too ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I tend to allow some personal attacks that are directed at public officials like Hudak.

Anonymous said...

@4:30 PM
I'm not so sure the comments are personal attacks on Hudak; rather a response to his continued need for constant attention. I'm not sure if he is just a media whore or really that much of an ass. Maybe he has a mental illness and just needs medication and I am not trying to be nasty. His behavior is definitely a little off. The board needs to remember that just because they don't agree with people, they do not have the right to disrespect someone. They are, after all, ELECTED officials.

Anonymous said...

From very good sources, the Green Pond March property is owned by "Tom Daub"....yes, as in Brown and Daub, who is "fat and happy" in Colorado in his million dollar home. Mr. Daub benefits the millions, whether this project goes through or fails...Look at his property on this site. A "ONCE" very nice home that is now registered with the PA historical society" (I'm told), which was built the early 1800's, but is now, a "grossly" mismanaged and falling apart, one brick at a time. Look at the chimney! It will collapse sometime soon! And a barn, which once, a beautiful structure! At one time, was the a home to a very nice basketball court and a knotty pine planked interior. Now, its nothing but a over grown, roof leaking mess. The slate's on the roof are falling off, one buy one and is surrounded by over grown pine trees that completely hide it from view.
Tom Daub cares about "NOTHING", including BT!!!! If I could afford it, these plans would be toilet paper!

Anonymous said...

BTW...Tom Daub also owners the Green Pond Golf Course!!! Need I say more?????

Anonymous said...

@4:25,
If you live in BT, your Township real estate taxes haven't been raised since 2009. They are roughly 1/3 of what they are in the City of Bethlehem, and 1/5 of what Easton gets.

Anonymous said...

A little birdie told me that next spring's Primary election will be a daisy!

Anonymous said...

4:25
You are correct but that is only temporary. That is the goal of the BOC for many years so they can keep getting elected based off that principal. Guess what? they just borrowed 10 million dollars and last year they refinanced most of their debt. It's kicking the can down the alley mentality which sooner or later will catch up!