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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Independent Hearing Officer Will Decide Green Pond Retirement Community

Malissa Davis, Tom Nolan and  Jim Broughal
Last week, when Solicitor Jim Broughal recommended that Bethlehem Township Commissioners allow an independent hearing officer to decide whether to grant tentative plan approval for a Green Pond retirement community, it was thought that person would be Josele Cleary, a Lancaster-based attorney whose practice areas include municipal law and land use. She has been the Editor of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Municipal Law Newsletter since 1990. She has also been a Course Planner, Author and Lecturer for the Municipal Law Colloquium of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. But as I told you at the time, developer Traditions of America (TOA) would have to agree to be bound by her decision. TOA was opposed to this choice, so Broughal selected Attorney David Brooman, a Norristown-based attorney with three decades of experience in municipal law, land use planning and environmental law. This brought objections from Save Green Pond attorney Charles and Tom Elliot, but only the applicant must agree to be bound by the ruling. Commissioners unanimously approved Broomal's selection, but not without withering criticism from the Elliots.

The Elliots also objected to allowing Breslin to vote on the motion appointing Broomal. They previously filed a motion seeking his it is inappropriate for a "person with a conflict to appoint someone else to make the decision."

Commissioners were asked to table the appointment, but Broughal warned that the clock is ticking. They have only 60 days in which to grant or deny tentative plan approval or it will be deemed approved. He said that attempting to negotiate to find someone else would put the hearing officer that us ultimately selected under incredible pressure.

Charles Elliot said he had negative personal experience with Brooman, who represents landfills, incinerator developers and waste management facilities. He found no instance in which Brooman ever represented a municipality. Elliot stated that on two occasions, Brooman confronted him over adverse decisions concerning an incinerator and a composting facility.

"There must be 100 attorneys in eastern Pennsylvania that do zoning and land use planning," observed Elliot. He said any decision made by Brooman would be "suspect." He also claimed that Broughal is "way too invested in this choice."

Broughal responded, "I did my research." He said Brooman has experience in all areas of the law at issue and would be unbiased. He also objected to that attack on Brooman's demeanor. "He's not here tonight to defend that," he observed. He spoke with Brooman, who told him his interactions with the Elliots have sometimes been unpleasant, but he has also sparred with TOA lawyers. "It seems to be that this is a pretty good compromise because [Brooman] didn't seem to get along with anyone," said Broughal.

Though TOA's David Biddison was present, he offered no comment or rebuttal to the Elliots. There was no need. Even TOA opponents like Tom Nolan said, "I have always listened to the Solicitor." Malissa Davis said that she at first thought that Commissioners should decide this matter, but on further reflection, she thought that an independent hearing officer would be the best way to protct the Township

When the hearing convenes again on Wednesday, it will only be for the purpose of arriving at a schedule to get the case heard.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the fix is in and any semblance of democracy is pushed aside in the name of expediency.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why they picked a Golf Course for this project with all the open space the township has they could of Easley put it some where else. This project seems to be causing a lot of aggravation for people. I feel bad for the birds too where are they going to go but it just goes to say the builders don't care about that

Anonymous said...

Game over.
Democracy and Birds 0
Development $$$ 21

John said...

I hope the fee to pay for this lawyer is paid from the commissioner's and solicitor's salary.Since nobody wants to do their job. I guess it's all over. What a shame the township used to be a nice place to live.

Anonymous said...

The decision and approval vote will cost the taxpayers upwards of $50k. Un-budgeted I might add!

DO YOUR JOBS... isn't that what you were elected to do?

Anonymous said...

Never saw it coming.
Brilliant end around by developer money and brain power.
Money doesn't talk, it swears.
Damn the Pond, full speed ahead.
It's a farce in tune with our times.

Anonymous said...

Very very slick.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ wins again.