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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Save Green Pond" Lawyers Claim Absent Comm'r Biased

Breslin told Penn Farms' Anthony Orefice
that TOA Plan is"done deal" months before
Planning Commission Review
Last night was the first of what will likely be several public hearings seeking tentative plan approval for a retirement community adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands known as Green Pond Marsh. Things got a little more tentative last night. Testimony revealed that Commissioner Pat Breslin had told a neighboring homeowners' association that the matter was a "done deal."  Though over 50 people attended last night's three-hour hearing, Breslin himself was absent. Earlier in the week, he had drawn the ire of residents and Commissioners alike for a recent radio interview replete with what Commissioner Mike Hudak suggested were "alternative facts."

Green Pond Marsh is the home of 182 different bird species. They first caught the attention of businessman and environmentalist Jeff Acopian many years ago. He was driving in the area and noticed what he thought were numerous ribbons of white plastic. As he got closer, he realized they were actually snow geese, and they took off and surrounded his car briefly in a sea of white. "I've never seen anything like it," said a man whose interest in the environment has taken him as far away as Kenya.  He and Jack Glagola, a planner and architect who lives next to the marsh, co-founded Save Green Pond after becoming aware of plans to develop the site. Their group boasts about 200 members, including 38 township residents. The entire area around Green Pond Marsh has been Audubon-designated as an "Important Bird Area."

Brooke Kuronya passed out watercolors
of birds documented at Green Pond Marsh
at previous meeting..   
The marsh is owned by Green Pond Country Club. Most of their stockholders have no local ties and want a return on their investment. If unable to develop a golf course community, they have threatened to sell everything, including the golf course, for residential development. But if Traditions of America (TOA) can develop an age-restricted golf course community next to the marsh, the remaining land can never be developed, even if the golf course itself is eventually abandoned.

Reacting to concerns raised at numerous meetings, 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 went down 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.'

In November, the Planning Commission recommended "tentative" approval of the plan, although the Commissioners have the final say. In accordance with the Municipalities Planning Code, they must first conduct a public hearing and make specific findings leading to the general conclusion that tentative approval is "in the public interest." Even then, no plan may be recorded and no building permits may be issued until final approval is granted.

Bird watchers at Green Pond Marsh
TOA was ready to start their case last night. They had numerous bound copies of exhibits for each Commissioner, along with reams of rolled up maps. They also brought in well-regarded zoning attorney Marc Kaplin from Blue Bell, although his abrasive style seemed out of place in a township setting. He objected to nearly everything, including the identification of "affected parties" who are able to cross-examine and call witnesses. An increasingly exasperated Township Solicitor Jim Broughal  finally told Kaplin, "Unless you live in Alaska or Florida, you're probably an affected party."

Eight affected parties were identified. These include Jack Glagola and Jeff Acopian, the co-founders of Save Green Pond, as well as Save Green Pond itself      

Randi Jordan testified that Breslin laughed at
watercolor drawings of "fake birds."
After that, Save Green Pond attorneys Tom and Charles Elliott, who themselves are noted environmental lawyers, filed a motion to disqualify Commissioner Pat Breslin from participating because he is biased. Kaplin strenuously objected, claiming he had no advance notice. But Broughal responded that it was only moments before that Save Green Pond had been identified as an "affected party."

The Elliotts called three witnesses to support the claim of bias. Two of these included Anthony Orefice, Property Manager at Penn Farms Condominiums, and Board President Bill Walczak, Penn Farms Board President. They had were opposed to the use of their detention basin to handle some of the stormwaters from the TOA,and had written to Planning Director Nathan Jones about it on August 16, 2016. Not long after that, Orefice got a call from Breslin, who identified himself as the president of the Board of Commissioners. Breslin told Orefice that the TOA plan was a "done deal," even though it did not even have a Planning Commission recommendation at that stage. He also offered to accept a dedication of the detention basin, and said the Township was "financially strapped."

Green Pond Promo Appears on
Breslin's Township Observer webpage 
A third witness, Randi Jordan,was even more troubling. She testified that just a week ago, when she went to work at a local jewelry outlet, Breslin was there with a brochure for a publication called The Township Observer, in which the word Bethlehem was misspelled. This brochure identifies Breslin as the publisher and he was selling ads. The brochure represented that the publication has a circulation of 8,000. While there, Breslin belittled citizens, including a little girl, who came to previous hearings with paintings of each of the 182 bird species at Green Pond Marsh. He called the drawings "fake birds." Breslin told Jordan that the Township had to approve the plans or face a lawsuit, and complained that it was "ridiculous" that TOA opponents "had actually hired attorneys to represent them. When Jordan expressed concern about increased traffic, Breslin told her that residents there "tend not to drive."

In addition to Jordan's testimony, the Township Observer website appears to include an ad for Green Pond Country Club and banquet Facility and the brochure contains this notation: "In the News, Green Pond Country Club to Expand, p. 5."

Breslin was absent and therefore it is unknown whether he has received a financial consideration from Green Pond Country Club for what appears to be promotion of that business on his website. Under the state Ethics Act, elected officials must recuse themselves from matters in which they have a pecuniary interest.

Broughal indicated he would make no ruling on the disqualification motion without first affording the absent Breslin an opportunity to respond to these concerns.

In three hours, no substantive testimony was heard. Laura Eberle, P.E., did qualify as an expert for TOA,and when testimony resumes in a week, she's on deck.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Northampton County went for Donald Trump in 2016, electing the real estate developer who favors economic growth at the cost of environmental safeguards. Why are we wasting time and taxpayer money arguing whether birds, plants, soggy earth and the view from someone's back yard are more important than jobs and return on investment?

Anonymous said...

Slimy Breslin at it again!

Anonymous said...

3:32 you obviously do not have children or grandchildren whom you care to leave a recognizable community and planet to. And while you're at it, lets also pollute every stream, river and lake, pollute the air and wipe out all biodiversity while the orange man is in office. Environmental safeguards are paramount to saving our planet. Toxicity not only comes in the form of pollution but also rheteric.

Anonymous said...

Breslin should have also included that legal services are gouging and bankrupting local govt's budgets as well as engineering services!

Anonymous said...

Pat Breslin is not Donald Trump and his backroom negotiations will bankrupt Bethlehem Township and he's not even a legitimate resident.

Anonymous said...

TOA must feel like the Germans at Stalingrad at this point. There's a reason this piece of Earth is a golf course. There is a reason that despite many developers taking a crack at developing it over the decades and spending a lot of money doing it, it's still a golf course.

Anonymous said...

Breslin's website shows how much of a lowlife he is as all of the photo's are scraped (stolen) from several local websites including the Twp's very own. Copy right legal issue?

Anonymous said...

Taking a look at the "townshipobserver", I wonder if the photos that are being used are copyrighted by their respective owners. They were obviously lifted from the Township's, St. Luke's, and Green Pond Country Club's web sites.

Anonymous said...

Breslin lists the address of 4501 Easton Ave as the mailing list for his site and wondering if that's the same place he claims to live? It's the ugly yellow abandoned looking house at the corner of Farmersville Rd & Easton Ave.

Anonymous said...

^^^
@9:01, lol.
We must have been typing the same thing at the same time.
Anonymous @9:04

Anonymous said...

@9:11,
Yes, that's the address he used on his petition to be on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Elliott & Elliott and Abbott & Costello are in pursuit of declaring this guy a non resident by proving once and for all that Pat Breslin does not reside in Bethlehem Twp.

Anonymous said...

@9:36,
Sad that it took almost 4 years to attempt to prove. By the time all is said and done, his term will be up.

John said...

You did a post awhile ago where an unnamed commissioner was sitting in the audience clapping loudly for the TOA presentation. Based on this column would it be wrong to assume this also was Pat Breslin?

Anonymous said...

10:25
That was Hudak, the TOA cheerleader.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John, Breslin was not at that meeting.

Anonymous said...

Is that carpetbagger $$$$ in JB Reilly involved with TOA? Ugly homes by the way... Bird's choose not to shit on them they're that ugly!

Anonymous said...

"I'm confused. Northampton County went for Donald Trump in 2016, electing the real estate developer who favors economic growth at the cost of environmental safeguards. Why are we wasting time and taxpayer money arguing whether birds, plants, soggy earth and the view from someone's back yard are more important than jobs and return on investment?"

Good question: Because even the most die hard right wing conservative turns into a big government, pro-regulation liberal when a local issue affects his own property.

Anonymous said...

I can see first hand the rats scrambling over there in all departments of Bethlehem Twp, not a good vibe to say the least!

Anonymous said...

So so many questions and speculation to be addressed here. Any other exposure to this local govt corruption in the media? District Attorneys office?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The ET covered this hearing. Kurt Bresswein had a good story.

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2017/02/green_pond_development_hearing.html#incart_river_home

Anonymous said...

That development has been in discussion and some form of meaningless approval for nearly 20 years! What does the Township think has changed over the past few decades to warrant another hollow approval? Too many contributing factors will cause the project to suffocate under its own weight as it happened in the past. Lots of luck to all those who are participating in this go no where process and wasting time better spent doing other more important things. LOL.

Anonymous said...

SAVE GREEN POND
Stay tuned for the announcement of a major concert to support this important cause.

Anonymous said...

Breslin is a liar, pure and simple.
Nothing screams integrity as much as having a liar support your position.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the shareholders of Green Pond CC should sell their interests to those who will keep the golf course open space, regardless of what TOA does or doesn't do.
But, you won't see that happening any time soon. The golf course and banquet facility make good money, and the shareholders won't walk away from income for which they do nothing to receive.

Save GreenPond said...

10:56

That's news to the real SaveGreenPond. We know nothing about this.

Anonymous said...

@5:35
Let's face it.
Good communication has never been SaveGreenPonds long suit.

Save GreenPond said...

Say what?