After years of debate, lengthy meetings and several plan revisions, Bethlehem Tp Commissioners voted over a year ago to approve an active senior community at Green Pond Country Club. But if you drive by, you'll see no homes being built. The environmentally sensitive wetlands next door, located in the middle of an Audubon-designated “Important Bird Area” called Green Pond Marsh, are still there. Migratory birds still visit. But no seniors. You might think developer Traditions of America is having trouble getting a highway occupancy permit or environmental approvals, but it has them. So what gives? Believe it or not, it's the Township's engineer, The Pidcock Company.
Late last week, Traditions took the rare step of filing a mandamus action in Northampton County Court. It is asking that the Court order Bethlehem Tp to replace Pidcock with its backup engineers, Arro Consulting. Since the developer already has all of its approvals, it essentially is accusing Pidcock of a shake down. In one instance, it billed for 35 hours to prepare a one-page email with eight comments. In another, multiple individuals charged to prepare for meetings they never attended. Pidcock billed 30 hours to review stormwater plans even though DEP had already issued a permit.
When Traditions complained, Pidcock stopped working on the project, effectively shutting it down. Though the Township convinced the engineering firm to return, Traditions asserts Pidcock is now throwing up roadblocks to prevent development. It is insisting on using an outdated procedure for utility line construction, which will add another two months of delay.
I am in the process of seeking a public comment from Pidcock.
Back in 2012, former Comm'r Marty Zaarski complained about Pidcock's billing. He also groused about the mileage being charged, noting that Pidcock is located near Route 309, a forty mile round trip from the Township. "There are very, very good engineering firms within ten minutes of here," he observed.