David Brooman, a Norristown-based attorney, is an independent hearing officer unanimously appointed by Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners to take testimony and render a decision on a tentative plan submitted by developer Traditions of America (TOA) for an active senior community at Green Pond Country Club. What makes this development controversial is its location adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands, smack dab in the middle of an Audubon-designated "Important Bird Area," called Green Pond Marsh. Bethlehem Township's Planning Commission decided in late November to recommend approval, but Broomal must make an independent decision. He has conducted several hearings with technical testimony offered by Traditions of America and "Save Green Pond." But his April 11,2017 hearing was different. It was an opportunity for the people to speak, and they did. He heard from 29 of the 80 people who packed into the municipal building on an unusually warm April night.
Of the 29 people who spoke, 13 were opposed to the development.The remainder were either supportive or neutral.
- Green Pond Country Club hosts high school and college golf. "It would be a shame to let this course go," said Stephen Malitzki, a former Township employee and head golf coach at Northampton Community College. He said that many local high schools and colleges use the course.
- The migratory birds will find another place. This argument was made by Tom Lusto, a golfer who used to teach biology at Moravian Academy. "I am certain that, over time, the biology will work itself out," he said. Tom Stitt, a local attorney and golfer, also made that argument, noting there are far more snow geese by his Lower Nazareth office than will be found at Green Pond Marsh. But this was disputed by the Audubon's Barbara Malt, who told Broomal that the shore birds who frequent the wetlands need that environment.
|Sen. Lisa Boscola|
- An active senior community is needed. Don Appleton would like to move into TOA at Green Pond, saying that the developer has a reputation for "high quality homes." State Senator Lisa Boscola called the project a "no brainer," but said she could "promise" the residents that the wetlands will be protected and enhanced. "I want to be part of the solution," she said.
- Greed is the motivating factor. John Gallagher, a retired architect, stated that "Ultimately, it's all about the money." He noted that 229 homes are being sold at an average price of $459,000, making it a $105 million project. he said the cureent design only considers the need of one stakeholder, the owner.
After everyone had spoken, Broomal said he would keep the record open while the hearing noted are being transcribed.He expects briefs from TOA and Save Green Pond by the end of June,and will issue his decision about two months later. Both sides agreed to give him an extension of he thinks he needs it. So a decision on this senior community will wait until Summer's end.
At least three Commissioners were present for the final hearing, along with Manager Melissa Shafer and Planning Director Nathan Jones.