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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Perrucci Pulls Plug on Luxury Apartments in Conservation Area

Can just one person ever make a difference, especially when it comes to government?

Vicky Bastidas has made a difference, and against all odds. Developer Michael Perrucci has shelved plans for a high-density apartment complex in one of Bethlehem Township's few remaining rural areas. His decision is primarily the result of her efforts.

"You're a formidable adversary," he reportedly told her.

Nestled between Bethlehem Township's 55-acre Housenick Park and Northampton County's 36-acre Archibald Johnston Conservation Area, Perrucci originally had hoped to build 420 apartments, as well as a strip mall, on lands owned by Moravian Central Church. Located in a zoned conservation area, Perrucci would eventually need a zoning change from Commissioners.

Tom Nolan has been adamantly opposed to any zoning changes, but the remaining Commissioners were at least open to the idea. They clearly resented Bastidas, primarily because she is an outsider who lives in the City and not the Township. Earlier this month, President Paul Weiss chided her for "baseless" comments when she stated that Northampton County is interested in preserving the land. Mike Hudak disputed her claim that  the County had any interest at all in preserving the area.

But unknown to President Weiss and Hudak, Bastidas had already spoken to Northampton County Executive John Stoffa. After meeting with him on several occasions, Stoffa himself has become an enthusiastic advocate for preserving the area with the County's open space funding for environmentally sensitive land. He looks on the area as a possible "Central Park of the Lehigh Valley,"

In addition to Stoffa, Bastidas also appeared before Northampton County Council. Although there was no formal commitment or even a vote, several members expressed interest in preserving the site, if only to alleviate the increased flooding in Bethlehem downstream.  Bastidas also worked with the Nature Conservancy, Wildlands Conservancy and Monocacy Creek Watershed Association.

Development was being planned at a recharge point for the Monocacy Creek, where hundreds of small springs combine to replenish a Class A trout stream.

On a frigid February weekend, Bastidas somehow convinced Commissioners Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard to meet with her at nearby Housenick Park. After spending five hours with her, walking through the area and fighting off frostbite, they finally agreed the entire area should be preserved if possible.

That effectively ended Perrucci's development dream.

Instead of being developed with high-density apartments, two newcomers have moved in, according to Bastidas. They have no Deed or even a lease, but a pair of bald eagles has just finished building a nest.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good for her, and I wish we had a few more with the energy to stop this unnesesary development in flood plains

Anonymous said...

Excellent!!

Anonymous said...

One person can make a difference. What are you doing to make this world a better place?

Anonymous said...

Hudak is clueless

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael Hudak is just as passionate about Housenick as Vicky.

zoid said...

Preserving the land is a good thing but it will do nothing to mitigate the flooding in downtown Bethlehem. It would stay status quo and have no impact on the stream than it does now. On the other hand if the property was developed in some way by someone like Perucci, he had proposed over detaining the storm water, double what was required thereby reducing the impact that the property currently has on the stream and lessening the flooding downstream. Sometimes there is more to it than just being a tree hugger.

Ron Beitler said...

700 acres... Surrounding the Lil Lehigh (major water source for allentown) Floodplain. 4 million Sq foot of warehousing. 600+ High Density Houses and hundreds of thousands sq ft of strip malls on virgin farmland which for 2 decades was agriculture preserved zoning.

For more information:
www.facebook.com/friendslmt

The catalyst of this was typical David Jaindl bullying. Threaten an locally unpopular land use (in this case quarry) to bully a community into giving you what you really want (warehouses and commercial).

noël jones said...

Great post, Bernie.

Hats off to Bastidas--I love seeing people take matters into their own hands and DO something.

Urban sprawl is rampant in the Valley and so much beautiful land has been lost...this is the most optimistic and inspiring local article I've read in a while--thanks for posting it!

gfen said...

good for her. its a really special area, and its sad to see harmed for the short term.

hopefully steps are continued to be taken to preserve it, it may end up one of the last green corners of the lv.

fwiw, the whole monocacy drainage needs help. the more the upper sections are raped, the harder it hits people in the bottom. let this be a first step in restoring what could be a jewel.

zoid said...

gfen

you really don't get it. preserving this land as status quo will do nothing for the downstream, it will be business as usual for the creek when the heavy prolonged storms hit and Musikfest will continue to get bombed. This will not help one bit.

Vicky Bastidas said...

I agree that stormwater management and the solution to the flooding of downtown Bethlehem are both complex issues as are their solutions. I also agree that leaving the land in its present condition will not decrease the flooding, but it will also not increase the flooding.

The easiest and most cost effective way to decrease flooding and manage the current stormwater is to naturalize the land back to its original state of mixed deciduous forest. This forest will naturally; decrease and clean the existing stormwater run-off, provide habitat, purify the air, sequester Carbon Dioxide, provide a buffer area to the park and add more parkland for the community to enjoy. The rehabilitation of this land does not have to be costly and can be accomplished with caring students and community volunteers.

We are currently cleaning and preparing the Archibald Johnston Conservation Area for restoration from the flood damage. We are also actively working to assist in any way with the conservation of the Central Moravian Church Property. If you wish to be part of this effort to make a legacy for your community please contact me.

Thank you,

Vicky

Remember: "Many hands make light work!"

"Hard work is painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love.”
(Steve Pavlina)

PS. The students are starting a Face Book page for information on our progress on the restoration of the Archibald Johnston Conservation Area.
ArchibaldJohnstonConservationProject.com

River Mud said...

Zoid, your complaint is basically, "Saving the rhinos won't save the elephants." Well, no duh.

FAILING to preserve this part of the floodplain would make matters WORSE downstream.

Fixing an already damaged system is an entirely different thing than not making it worse. But the first step is to "not make it worse," which, yes, means "not making it better" for the moment.

Anonymous said...

Bald Eagles are really fussy where they want to build a nest that will last for years. They rebuild the same nest for years. Wildlife knows good land way better then we do. Nice to bring this up Bernie.........BP

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree with you Bernie, Mike Hudak doesn't give a rats ass about preservation or he and the other previous commissioners would not have voted down continuing the Housenick Park committee. Instead of encouraging citizen involvement Mike Hudak wants less citizen involvement. He doesn't want the Vicky Bastidas' of the world getting involved. He knows everything about everything, just ask him.

Shame on the Moravian Church as well, Elizabeth Prime probably rolled over in her grave when they proposed selling the property she willed to them to a developer. It was left to the Church so they could do something meaningful with it, like build a church or a school, not just make a quick buck off it.

Anonymous said...

Vicky deserves some type of environmental steward award. If no one else is issuing one in the Lehigh Vally (where is RenewLV when you need them?) maybe you should do it, Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Great job Vicky.Now maybe Mikey can move on and fight with someone else. And yes, I agree that he is absolutely clueless and an egomaniac as well.