|This Bethlehem Tp park beingconverted to detention pond|
The Spillway Project
In 2013 and again in 2014, I wrote about a Monocacy Creek friendly spillway being designed by Greg Duncan, who is associated with engineering firm T and M Associates. It was a green solution to a stormwater drainage problem from the Bethlehem Square Shopping Center and into Monocacy Creek. Stormwater collects and ultimately passes under Route 191 and into what's left of a concrete lined swale, which has fallen into serious disrepair. From there, the waters, sometimes mixed with road salt and gravel, cascade into a Class A wild trout stream.
Armed with a $300,000 Watershed and Protection Grant, Duncan proposed replacing the broken-up concrete liner with articulated concrete blocks connected by steel cable. This will promote proper drainage, provide erosion control and even allow for natural vegetative growth. Articulated concrete blocks will also handle heavy velocities.
I wrote both of these stories before Bethlehem Township began to post back-up documents on their webpage, providing much greater detail about projects. Melissa Shafer would begin doing that a few months later. Still, I did correspond with Duncan, who was more than helpful in describing the project to me. At the time, I had no idea that the project also included the construction of a new detention basin on Township-owned land. Had I known, I doubt it would have mattered to me. I was focused on this innovative new spillway. Besides, who could possibly complain about a detention basin in a Township plagued by stormwater issues?
Residents Feel Ambushed by Detention Basin
Dennis Brennan, who reads this blog is one such person. When excavators came last week and began peeling away the topsoil, he felt ambushed. He had received no prior notice. A 2.26-acre township park, dedicated to the township for open space and recreation, was being desecrated. An area where he could hit golf balls or just watch nature, which includes a family of foxes, was going away. And no one had told him. Not the Township. Not me. Not anyone.
The Deed conveying this tract contained language indicating that, for zoning purposes, it should still be considered land of the developer. Thus, more notice may have been required than what was provided.
The Township claimed it did notify adjacent landowners, but even that is disputed by Jane Cassidy, who lives next to what will soon be a detention pond. "We have always been notified of other events like Giant applying for gas pumps, the hotel changing their signage, etc.," she said in an email to Township officials. "Why is the company responsible to do that and not the township?"
Another detention pond is located nearby, a point that Brennan has made. "Having two basins within yards of each other is not the solution," he states. "Do we really need to destroy that last piece of open space?" he asks. "Do families bring their kids to the area to play? Are there any wildlife concerns? I'm not a tree hugger by any means but have common sense to see what has been taken."
|One fox is sticking her head above green liner.|
A second red fox is to her right.
Miscommunication by Commissioners
Tom Nolan did visit with the Cassidys after hearing their concerns. He was sporting a T and M Engineering hat. Probably the worst way to tell them he cares.
Commissioner Mike Hudak has responded to Brennan's concerns as well, but with what appears to be outright misinformation. "I never supported this project and still feel it is unneeded and a waste of resources," he told Brennan. "The blame belongs solely on Tom Nolan who's [sic] ego is bigger then the damage that's being done. Next public Commissioners meeting is the 1st Monday in June."
By then the excavation will be done. Hudak is using this occasion to carry on his private war with Tom Nolan, and is actually doing so with disinformation.
In an earlier email to Brennan, Hudak states, "I disagree completely with the whole spillway and detention pond. Your commissioner Tom Nolan was the one who instigated this and kept pushing for it. Why I don't know. I would strongly suggest you have everyone contact Tom Nolan and express their displeasure with him and his whole project. [His] emails and phone numbers are available from the Township manager. He managed to get two other votes from commissioners that more or less just deferred to him and have no skin in the game. New commissioner Malissa Davis and Pat Breslin. Myself and Kim Jenkins voted against it. Unfortunately the vote was 3-2 and Tom's project went forward."
The reality is that Duncan's proposal was initially approved by a 4-0 vote, including Hudak, on July 1, 2013 Commissioner Tom Nolan, the supposed instigator, was absent at that meeting. Duncan's contract was approved unanimously, on March 17, 2014, during Melissa Shafer's first meeting as Township Manager. Hudak was a supporter. There were no votes on this project this year.
From poor communication to miscommunication, Township residents have been let down by everyone, myself included.