|Charlie Trapani caught this Great Blue Heron |
looking for lunch at the marsh on Saturday
Traditions of America is one of several successful development companies started by J.B. Reilly and Timothy McCarthy. It 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.
Traditions is now focused on Bethlehem Township, even though construction has begun on an 837-unit mini-city that is strangely called Madison Farms.
But if John Glagola has his way, Traditions' plans will be downscaled. Glagola can tell you all about the floods and accidents along Green Pond Road. He lives there. One side of his home faces Green Pond. Another faces a wetland. At least once a month, someone slams into the guard rail along the windy road. Once someone drove her SUV right into Green Pond.
Glagola is more than a next door neighbor. A Harvard grad, he's also an architect and planner with a prestigious real estate investment firm based in Manhattan. In his opinion, the plans submitted by Traditions will only exacerbate very real traffic and flooding concerns. But his chief concern are his neighbors. They're squawking, too. They're birds.
History of Green Pond, An Important Bird Area
|Always good to look one's best. After lunch, Charlie Trapani|
caught this juvenile preening.
Northampton County recently had to halt bridge repairs in Plainfield Township after learning the area might be a bog turtle habitat. This area actually is a habitat for rare birds like the Osprey and Great Egret.
The Green Pond marsh has existed a long time, long before the arrival of European settlers from England and Germany. Sitting at his kitchen table, Glagola pulled out an old plat from Lettie Asbury, daughter of William Penn. It shows her 1735 conveyances to William Allen. The pond, which was much larger then, is clearly delineated. "This is not something we just dreamed up yesterday," noted Glagola, emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between birds and wetlands.
Victoria Bastidas, an environmentalist who is the spearhead of a movement to preserve Camel's Hump Farm in Bethlehem, agrees. "We are only a mile away as the crow flies and we have wetlands and a stream, but there is something about that site that attracts far more types of birds," she observes.
On any day of the week, a short trip to the marsh reveals an abundance of aviary delights that go unnoticed by many. Great blue herons are there all the time, along with sandpipers and the glossy ibis. In winter, snow geese descend and use it as one of their landing stops. It is one of the largest staging areas of lesser black-backed gulls in North America, with counts of 200 plus birds.
The Audobon Society has recently designated the Green Pond Marsh as an "important bird area", one of just 10,000 such sites world wide. The area is considered "vital to birds and other biodiversity."
In an attempt to curb the frequent washouts along Green Pond and Farmersville Road, PennDOT in 2011 decided to raise the road levels on Farmersville Road. This slows the flow of water from Green Pond into the marsh, but has also resulted in much more water along the road. Thus, in addition to depriving wildlife of water, driving conditions are now even worse than they wore before. The solution, according to Glagola and the Save Green Pond site, is an underground drainage pipe from the pond to the marsh.
|PennDOT has dried up some of the wetland|
Green Pond Country Club, the owner of the 68-acre site in question, has met with the Wildlands Conservancy, but has resisted efforts to conserve this wetland. Traditions of America is the third developer to submit plans for this property. Toll Brothers and J.P. Petrucci have walked away from designs that would have resulted in more homes than those proposed by Traditions. They were defeated by traffic and stormwater mitigation concerns.
Glagola recognizes that, though the area is a low-lying basin, it will eventually be developed. He believes it's a $60 million project. "But let's be serious and recognize there are other issues here than human greed," he states, predicting that Traditions engineers will deny there are wetlands next to Green Pond. He calls the current plans an "eco disaster."
The birds will continue squawking, but won't be at tonight's planning meeting. Bird watchers and environmentalists plan to do the squawking for them.