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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Traditions Plan at Green Pond Marsh Inches Forward

Democracy in action
You know you're in trouble when a little girl comes and speaks against what you would like to do. That's what happened last night, when Traditions of America presented its latest sketch plans for a 261-home gated community for rich old farts at Green Pond Marsh, despite its recent designation as a wetland by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Brooke Kuronya, with her mother Nicole standing right behind her, told Bethlehem Township planners about the beauty of thousands of snow geese who visit the marsh at this time every year. "It was so pretty," she said. Her mother spoke of seeing eight great blue herons at a time. Noting all the building going on, she had one question.

"Why there?"

"Because they can," was Planning Commissioner Kenn Edinger's blunt response.

Before the night was over, six of the seven planners approved two waivers (road width and speed limits) and two deferrals (sidewalks and curbing). Planning Commission Chair Lee Snover abstained because she knows Traditions principal Biddison and had previously voted to approve two more dense projects at this site.

"We count on you guys to be our guardian," complained Patti Barry. Melissa Davis echoed those concerns. "[T]heir [Traditions'] job is to make as much money as they can. Your job is to protect us."

Planner Les Walters responded that they are bound by the Subdivision and land Development Ordinance. He and other planners added that the Traditions proposal is not as dense as previous plans, is age restricted and would have less impact on traffic.

Kathy Glagola asked how Traditions will protect the wetlands when it is digging just ten feet away. She asked how Traditions planned on keeping geese our of the development. Her husband Jack noted that four detention ponds surrounding the wetlands would actually prevent the marsh from being replenished  "We have a 20' deep swimming pool around the wetland and no way for water to get in there," he complained.

Though planners voted to grant waivers and deferrals,they were still skeptical. Noting that Traditions stands to make $108 million from this project Edinger minced no words. ""You're trying to get away with building this as cheaply as possible," he charged.

Despite the Planning Commission's recommendation, this development has a long way to go. Planning Director Nathan Jones stated that the Township has yet to hire its own consultant to determine the environmental impact of a residential development immediately next to a 7-acre wetland with 182 different migratory bird species. There may need to be an archeological study to assess evidence of a Native American settlement at the site.  In the mean time, storm water and traffic concerns need to be addressed.

As the evening wore on, Planning Director Nathan Jones discussed an update to the parks plan, This brought Barry Roth, a member of the Rec Board, to the podium. He derided spending any money for toilets at the playing fields used by the athletic association, stating the money would be better spent on playground equipment.

I swear I have never seen anyone as opposed to a shitter as Barry, who went on to call Bethlehem Township's park system the "lousiest" he ever saw.

"I'll ask Traditions of America to do the bathroom,' joked Snover. "I'll bet they want their name on the toilets."

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love folks who want OTHER people's land preserved.

You want to preserve land? buy it. don't develop it. pretty simple.

Pipeline Guy said...

This is what I'm curious about, and it is mainly speculation as I don't have hard facts. What will happen to all of these "55+" communities once the large baby-boomer generation ages out of them in 10-25 years, by death, moving on to assisted living, etc? Will there be enough people in the following generations to fill these houses? The townships seem to love them because they pay taxes but don't add children. Nobody seems to be looking at the long term picture though. It's fine if they want to build a community of this style house and layout, but I think the 55+ restrictions are silly. Most families with kids are't going to want this style of house anyway, age restriction or not. If demand falls 20+ years from now, will the values decline, HOAs go broke, homes sit vacant due to the age restriction?

Lower Macungie is on the verge of having the Farr tract on Cedar Crest Blvd. developed for one of these Geezertowns. Good luck for Aunt Ethel trying to make a left turn out of there.

I joked with my dad maybe 10 years ago, "So, you and mom have any interest in moving to a community where you are 20 feet from your neighbor, the house is half as big and 50% more expensive than others in the Township, there is an HOA that has you by the balls, and you're surrounded by a bunch of NJ/NY pensioners with too much time on their hands?" The answer was a simple "F**k no."

Anonymous said...

"The commission on Monday also granted Traditions a deferral to building a full network of internal sidewalks or any external sidewalks or curbs."

More suburban sprawl auto oriented high density development slammed up against a beautiful golf course and marsh. This is actually funny and shows how that Township is at the whim of the development community. Trash the wetlands, create runoff volumes that will have a negative impact on the Blue and the Nancy Run Creek Watershed and those who suffered during Hurricane Ivan and congest the roads even more. What are the traffic plans for this? What improvements are being done to William Penn Highway? Where is the reporting on that? Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Fuck up the entire Twp.
Because you can.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is what I'm curious about, and it is mainly speculation as I don't have hard facts. What will happen to all of these "55+" communities once the large baby-boomer generation ages out of them in 10-25 years, by death, moving on to assisted living, etc"

I know that some states are repealing their age-restricted housing laws for that reason.

Anonymous said...

How can we build a community that is not handicap accessible? What ever happened to the law stating that you need sidewalks and drop curving etc for people to get around? I think they should be sued for not complying with the ADA (americans with disability act) and that will kill this project

Rich Fegley said...

Simple. All of the men and women involved with these greedy plans should be ashamed of themselves. Their children will be very ashamed in the future.

Stop building on farms and conservation land. Build this housing in downtown Allentown. Build high rises to house all of the old people. The infrastructure these people need already exists in the City.

Here they are building a housing development with no sidewalks required?

The citizens of Boulder Colorado purchased all of the open land around the city of Boulder. We can't do that here because we don't know how to budget our taxes properly.

Ron Beitler said...

Exactly pipeline guy.. next generation of retirees do not want to live in segregated senior silos. My parents are same way. That's anectdotal but study after study say the same thing.

Next generation of retirees want multi gen and walkable mixed use. They want to live in neighborhoods not silos.

Yet we keep building the silos. And yes no kids and private roads. But that is very short sighted.

What happens when the HOAS struggle when the market goes away? Will they come to the township to take back the roads? We have one over 55 asking us to do just that right now…. Their costs have been increasing year to year and they are struggling to maintain their obligations.

Developers only care about the first sale. Then they wipe their hands clean. And that works for now as boomers peak.

We need to concern ourself with long term viability of these developments. The second sale. The 2nd and 3rd life cycles of the maintenance of roads and infrastructure.

Ron Beitler said...

Not saying never build another over 55… but think hard about the inventory we have now. In LMT we have 7 age restricted subdivisions with more planned. I personally think we're at saturation levels.

With everything it's about balance.

Anonymous said...

"The commission on Monday also granted Traditions a deferral to building a full network of internal sidewalks or any external sidewalks or curbs."

Every legitimate study done points to people wanting walkable neighborhoods. Here we have the planners saying you don't have to have sidewalks. A 55+ community with no sidewalks, that makes sense. It makes sense to the developer who only wants to make money. the Planners screwed the pooch.

As a 55+ person I agree that not only are there too many of these communities already but the price points are ridiculous. So not only will they age out but they only cater to about 25% of the 55+ community.

Chris Casey said...

There is no long range planning. It is all about lining their pockets now. It is that way all over Lehigh Valley. I wish someone would ask Lancsek in Lower Mac if he has any business connections with the builders. Conrad is head of the Realtors association. You know where he sits.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 5:43 Members of Save Green Pond and other conservation groups have approached the owner of Green Pond Country Club Mr. Daub (yes Brown Daub car dealerships) to purchase the entire track of land and he is simply not interested.
Any other ideas? Perhaps the 110 Million that TOA will make is going to make it back into the pockets of Mr. Daub. I certainly think so. You also have Petrucci Developers in their with their greed hands because they want to unload 9 acres of land into the sale so they are free of the property that they could not get developed.

Anonymous said...

The deferring of sidewalks in this development needs to be closely examined. As others mentioned, sidewalks in a 55 plus community are actually needed and a safety issue. What about ADA compliance? I guess if no sidewalks, then no compliance?? Something stinks with this development. Someone needs to investigate the backroom discussions and do a Right to Know of all emails between Commissioners and the Developer and the Staff. Also.. the BASD's student population is dropping at a staggering rate. Since when is it a plus to not have school age children in the District. The Planning for this project is horrible. The past plans were much better. What is going on in that Township? What has changed where crap plans are now being railroaded through? In the past the staff and Planning Commission fought for premium development.

Pipeline Guy said...

I haven't been to the meetings on this development. But, I'll bet if someone tried to argue against the lack of sidewalks and the narrow roads, the Township will cry "too much impervious surface!" Impervious surface is apparently the new radon or something. That area's environment is going to be further ruined regardless of whether the new streets are 20' wide or 24' wide, regardless of how much sidewalk there is.

@ Ron Beitler: I agree, and in 20-30 years these HOAs will be broke and begging the Townships for help with road and infrastructure repairs. Developers, don't give me this BS about HOA "reserves", there is no way they will be able to afford the cost of re-paving or pipe replacement 25+ years from now. Especially if nobody is buying these homes in the future and people aren't continuing to pay ever-rising HOA dues.

Anonymous said...

"Members of Save Green Pond and other conservation groups have approached the owner of Green Pond Country Club Mr. Daub (yes Brown Daub car dealerships) to purchase the entire track of land and he is simply not interested. "


so again, sounds like they're trying to reserve land...with other people's money.

amazing how spendrift some people are...with other people's money

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's not what the comment says. Sounds like the group has its own money.

Ron Beitler said...

@5:44 - Landowners have rights. But so do neighbors. That is how zoning ordinances have worked in the United States for over a century.

If neighbors are upset BT is granting waivers they have every right to be. This catch-all nonsense "have residents offered to buy the land" is just a stupid thing to say.

This isn't about a taking. Or circumventing private property rights. That's a red herring argument.

I'm not familiar enough with BT's ordinances to really comment specifically.... But general thoughts:

This type of tract Residential development is not a winner for local government losing $1.15-1.30 in liabilities for every $1.00 of revenue. That's a fact. You can make it better with private roads, escrow accounts for maintenance and over 55 restrictions to help schools ect. but make damn sure those items are permanent. That's the big question we're tackling in LMT now. The problem is you can't guarantee and as we build more of these senior silos the market slowly but surely shifts away from them. I question long term validity as some communities approach saturation of restricted units.

Landowners have rights defined by zoning but they do not have the right to these indirect taxpayer subsidies. The goal should be revenue neutral or positive projects. Unfortunately, zoning ordinances don't require these ROI calculations. They should.

Has BT done an independent life lifecycle cost analysis? Probably not. Most communities don't. Problem is our MPC doesn't exactly make it easy.

This reads as though BT's pcom is resigned to the fact this is happening. That's likely, but many ways the project can be better. Number one don't waive or defer township requirements meant to make the project better like walkways. I'm pretty environmentally conscientious but impermeable of walkways can be captures back elsewhere. BMP stormwater management, landscaped islands in cul-de-sacs. Entrance medians. Rain Gardens.

Does BT have a rec fee? What's the plan there. If so don't just accept the in lieu of as the default. Upper Milford is considering this on a particularly ugly looking shoe horn project and the result might be 7 more acres of open space and 20 less homes in a project. Seems like a great value to me... 7 acres of open space and 20 less homes to provide services to for 195,000 dollars in rec fees. In this alternate scenario the benefits are long term. 195,000 dollars would be gobbled up in a muni budget blink of an eye. Why not take the long term value instead of the one time cash infusion. One time cash infusions won't fix local budget issue. The answer as it is for most issues is reform an re-thinking assumptions.

How about road improvements. Developers might be paying for up front band-aids to satisfy Penndot but what about long term maintenance and subsequent improvements? We all know traffic forecasts are notoriously inaccurate. In alot of ways traffic engineering is a science.. but in alot ways similar to meteorology. When this developer has moved on to the next greenfield who will pay for the subsequent maintenance and improvements? This particular development will likely generate a net deficiency. The state? Good luck. The federal gov is divesting in transportation. (not necessarily a bad thing.. will force us to think about the way we grow and do it in a more sustainable way)

Individual projects are limited to study areas. How about cumulative impacts? Clearly we're left holding the bag. This evidenced by the millions of dollars in long range requests made to LVTS this year by munis.

RB

Anonymous said...

"If neighbors are upset BT is granting waivers they have every right to be. This catch-all nonsense "have residents offered to buy the land" is just a stupid thing to say.

This isn't about a taking. Or circumventing private property rights. That's a red herring argument."

No, it's not.

This project is going through zoning. Is the property being rezoned. If they have an issue, it lies with the Township, not the developer.