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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Retirement Community at Green Pond Closer to Reality

Green Pond marsh
Controversial plans to build a retirement community adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands, smack dab in the middle of an Audubon-designated "Important Bird Area," have come closer to reality. Bethlehem Township's Planning Commission decided  to recommend approval of a "tentative" plan at a meeting last night that was far less crowded than during some earlier presentations. Recommending approval were Kenn R. Edinger, Mark Grandinetti, Harry Powell, Leslie Walker and James Daley. "It's time to move this down the road," said Edinger. Don Wright was the sole No vote. Lee Snover abstained, but chaired the meeting.

Developer Traditions of America (TOA) has reduced the density of the development while increasing the amount of open space as well as buffering the wetlands area. The number of homes will decrease from the original 261 to 229. Open space has been increased from 22 to 29 acres, with 18 of those acres as true open space, independent of any storm water management. Buffering of at least 50' will surround the wetlands. The closest any home will be to the wetlands in 309.'

Attorney Gregg Adelman, who represents TOA, explained that all storm water will be managed on site or at the adjacent golf course. There will be no discharge onto other properties. Their studies indicate there will be no sinkholes, and ponds will have liners to prevent mishaps.

He told Les Walker that the homeowners' association will be required to hire a third-party expert to manage the wetlands. Prominent Easton attorney Tom Elliott, a resident and former Township Solicitor, scoffed that environmentally sensitive wetlands will be the last thing on the minds of homeowners concerned about snow plowing and streets.

"We've demonstrated the feasibility we need for recommendation of a tentative plan," he said.

Adelman told Don Wright that if the development is approved, deed restrictions will be imposed on the adjacent golf course, preventing its use as anything but a golf course or open space.

Solicitor Wendy Nicolosi explained that approval of a "tentative plan" for a planned residential development like Green Pond Marsh is less stringent than what is required for a preliminary plan, although there are pages of requirements that must be approved by the Commissioners. No building permits may be issued, nor can development proceed without final plan approval.

Part of the tentative plan calls for scraping 150 sq ft of the wetlands to widen Farmersville Road and then adding to the wetlands elsewhere.

"How do you replicate a wetland that has been there 200-300 years?" asked a dubious Kathy Glagola. "You think you're just going to dredge and make it the same?"

"I'm going to follow the DEP regulations," answered Adelman.

Commissioners will now have to review the tentative plan. Two of them, Tom Nolan and Malissa Davis, were at last night's meeting.


Anonymous said...

Ooo Bernie,
That beautiful picture again that developmentalistZ are hell bent on the exSTINKtion of any and all FOWL? The pure Amazement upon a childs face when gazing upon such a creature is worth more than any amount of American dollars that this particular sect could reep in there urban decay blight process by design!
REpublican redd
humanist by design

Anonymous said...

If residents feel strong enough about protecting the wetlands in a meaningful fashion the township should purchase the property themselves. Yes, this would be a very large amount of money. Probably would require a bond. But this is one of the only fair ways to stop undesired development. You enter the market place with taxpayer dollars and compensate the landowner. That puts the township int eh drivers seat.

The township could then severely self restrict the property via the deed and sell it to recoup some of the money by allowing some development of the property. For example very limited large lot (say 2-3 acre) estate homes surrounding significant permanently protected open space. The proximity to open space would increase the estate properties value. Probably wouldn't recoup all the money, but the remaining balance would be an investment in public open space.

Anonymous said...

Adelman told Don Wright that if the development is approved, deed restrictions will be imposed on the adjacent golf course, preventing its use as anything but a golf course or open space.

What classifies as open space?

Anonymous said...

No vertical development. No buildings or intrusive infrastructure.

JoAnnKennedy said...

they are going to follow the DEP regulations ha ha ha -- the DEP doesn't even follow it's own regulations until something goes terribly wrong-- what an empty statement -- yep that made me feel all warm and fuzzy

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

“If residents feel strong enough about protecting the wetlands in a meaningful fashion the township should purchase the property themselves…. You enter the market place with taxpayer dollars”

Key word is “if”. Let me preface by saying that I too wish it could all just stay as its current golf course. But realistically…

In Feb. of this year it was reported in the Express (LVL) that 17 of the 24 shareholders voted to sell the whole golf course for development if the TOA project fell through. If TOA does proceed, then the remaining 128-ish acre golf course (similar to earlier Toll Bros proposal) would become deed restricted as open space. This is open space currently accessible to the public. The article also mentioned that $1.9 million in school property taxes would come in (without adding any kids to the schools while it remains age restricted). Now I realize that “we’ll just sell and let them build” has been a threat of theirs for years. However, as this generation of Green Pond stockholders gets older and/or gives way to the next, holding on to the course may lose its appeal. Ultimately stock is an investment for profit, not do-good land preservation. Somebody is eventually going to develop, cooperatively with the twp, or adversarially.

Additionally, in April LVR posted a letter that said back in the 60s/70s the course (if developed) appraised at $20 million, which would be approx. $120 million today adjusted for inflation. That letter also referenced the current stockholders were considering proposals of $7 million.

“If.” If taxpayers want to spend millions to preserve land most don’t really appreciate beyond a “that’s nice” attitude is a big “if.” "Enter the market place with taxpayer dollars" ? Our township has a structural deficit per LVR (11/22), and sewage rates are going up. School taxes always go up. Politically speaking—whether one likes it or not—environmentalism usually gives way to pocketbook economics.

Re the suggestion of the public somehow recouping costs by rezoning it into super-huge lots; that works in theory. However, you would never recoup even a fraction of those taxpayer costs. Development costs of that tract have thus far been prohibitively high, with storm water management and traffic. That is what has always kept the number of units so high to pay for it and still turn a profit. Without development, the public would recoup nothing. Besides, the market value of such large lots in a prime location would likely have no affordable demand to sell to. Additionally, instead of preserving 128 acres in perpetuity as open space currently accessible to the public, such a plan would result in no publicly accessible open space, as it would all be private yards and inaccessible wetlands.

In an ideal world, I agree that it would indeed be wonderful if everything could just be kept “as is.” But from the time Europeans landed in N. America and introduced private property, “as is” has always given way to someone’s view of “progress.”

Anonymous said...

This site for development is what Russia was to invading foreign armies.

Many developers have tried their hand here in a less regulatory environment and far superior housing market. All sooner or later walked away.

Anonymous said...

The green pond golf course has been under development consideration for close to 20 years. As 4:26 mentions, others have walked away once they realized that the environmental and traffic issues are too much to bear in terms of improvements to offset the impacts. Tentative approvals were granted in the past and led to no fruition.

Anonymous said...

Is the golf course already sold to new owners?