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This was not the topic I expected to cover in this issue of Saucon Shenanigans, but that topic can wait.  There is a township council meeting on Wednesday, August 30, at 9 AM, deliberately scheduled to make it difficult for the maximum number of township residents to attend.  Originally it was stated that the purpose was to hold a hearing on the rezoning of the Bethlehem Landfill (aka Dump) properties from Rural Agricultural to Light Industrial in order to permit the expansion of the Dump.  But a whole bunch of other Christmas ornaments have been hung on that tree for Wednesday’s agenda and it is REALLY important that you make your voice heard.

Now just to be clear, the Council itself has exactly zero interest in listening to you or seriously considering anything you have to say.  Nothing has changed on that front in the 3 ½ years I’ve been attending council meetings.  But the press covers the meetings now and it’s important that we make it clear that these council shmucks – with the exception always of Mrs. DeLeon – don’t represent the people of Lower Saucon Township.  It’s also important for the hearing portion to get all our objections on the legal record in the event of future litigation.

So what’s on the agenda?

  • Rezoning 275+ Acres

As previously mentioned, a hearing on the rezoning of the same 275+ acres owned by the Dump from Rural Agriculture to Light Industrial followed by what will undoubtedly be adoption of a resolution to make the zoning change.  All the things that were wrong with this action on December 22 are still wrong today plus one giant additional repulsive revision.

The ability to build a dump on the property will be permitted now “by right.”  That means that there is no requirement for either the granting of a special exception to create a dump or the application of conditional uses before a dump can be built or expanded.  In other words, if this is approved and you want to build a dump?  You got it, baby.  

The township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) has voted against making these changes. They have major objections to the clear environmental damage it will inflict.  

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) also has communicated its serious objections to these changes as not being in alignment with the goals of FutureLV: The Regional Plan.  They also point out that it does not align with the township’s own goals outlined in its most recently updated comprehensive plan, Our Resources, Our Valley Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Planning in Pennsylvania’s Saucon Valley.  LVPC also points out that the area proposed to be rezoned does not align with the Township’s Future Land Use and Housing Plan map. But hey, who cares that we spent all that money on those plans?  They were just for show anyway.

The one that would give you the biggest laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic is the township’s Planning Commission which voted 4-1 with 2 absent in favor of the changes and stated that “it meets the objectives of the Lower Saucon Township/Multi-municipal Comprehensive Plan.”  Apparently four of these commission members can’t read their own documents or just choose to lie.  I’m guessing it’s Door #2.  And based on the reporting of residents who attended the Planning Commission meeting last Thursday, they spent about two minutes total voting on that recommendation.  Wouldn’t want to take up too much of your time there considering the future of 275+ acres of pristine forest and natural habitat and resources.  Fools.  I think it’s time to require that to be on the Planning Commission you need to demonstrate that you’ve attended at least one training by PSAT on what it is that a planning commission does.

  • Revising Conservation Easements

Hold your nose for this one.  The Dump sent a letter to the township reporting that golly-gee-whiz they had reviewed their plans and now they really don’t need to use ALL that land for a dump.  They can reduce it from approximately 117 acres to approximately 86 acres, moving it further away from the Lehigh River and Bull Run.  And they’re gonna be really good guys and offer to put that extra acreage into conservation easements.

They have SO many reasons why this is SO much better than what they proposed before although at no point do they point out that they still want to create 86 MORE ACRES of dump with a lifespan of another 20 or so years.  You see, it doesn’t matter how much tinsel you put on a pile of shit, it’s still a pile of shit.  There will still be acres and acres of trees destroyed and animals driven from their homes and odors created and methane pumped into the air and leachate into the river when we have huge rain storms.  

And I suppose it would be considered impolite of me to point out that this is the same Dump management that seemed to be hoping we’d completely forget that there were conservation easements on those properties already when the rezoning was originally proposed back in October.  Unfortunately for them, we have smart lawyers too who CAN read.  Plus I wonder what happens the next time they decide they want to expand and develop amnesia about conservation easements.

I also find it interesting that Carocci keeps blabbering about there not being a “third party” involved in the original agreements from 1998 and he loves to harass Mrs. DeLeon about it.  But I don’t see anything in these proposed conservation easements about any third party interest that would guarantee enforcement. So where are they, Carocci, if they’re so damn important?

  • Revision of Host Community Agreement

Here’s the true elephant in the room – an attempt to revise the Host Community Agreement.  A document that was only put out to the public on Friday, no time to research, no time to review and an indication they might actually adopt this on Wednesday morning.  This is a complete revamp of the Host Community Agreement that was put into place in 1998 when Bethlehem sold the dump to the precursor of Waste Connections and got out from under the problems it presented.  Lower Saucon is a signatory to this agreement.

Now apparently this entire host agreement has to be completely reworked.  There are all kinds of goodies buried in this document which really should be considered in significant depth before being approved but I’m certain we’re not going to see that kind of review in public.  In fact, I’ll bet the excuse will be that the Solicitor reviewed it and he thinks it’s fine.  Wow, does that make me sleep better at night, especially based on all the other great advice he’s provided these past couple of years that has so far cost us over $290,000 (you read that right) in legal fees.

I expect a bunch of these treats will be trotted out come election time to tell you how great the current council is.  If I read it correctly, the Dump is offering a Spring and Fall Clean-up Day, and offering trash collection to the township, if they could ever get their act together to police the haulers in the township, at their “lowest price,” and the offer to lease land in the dump area to the township at $10/year (you might ask what exactly you’d want to do on that land). Of course, it doesn’t say that they have to do this, just that they can.  Then there’s a Property Value Protection Program that has more hoops to jump through than Ringling Brothers’ Circus before you see any reimbursement for your loss of value.  My guess is, there will be very few people who manage to qualify.

There are promises about protecting your well water quality. How has that worked out in the past?  And then a list of rates to pay to the township for host fees that increment until they get their “final, unappealable Phase V Major Permit Modification” at which point the fees freeze and there’s no further escalation.  I guess after whatever year that is, there isn’t going to be any inflation any more. Won’t that be wonderful?

And all this needs to be read, understood and ready for a vote on Wednesday morning.  Wouldn’t you think that with such an important document there should be a first and second reading before a vote?  If you were true leaders who cared about your residents and how this might impact them, you’d expect that.  Wrong township.  Here they just cram it down your throats and you’ll like it.

Discussion of a Library Committee

And here’s the big surprise.  Someone remembered that we still don’t have complete library services so after over a year and a half of residents seeking resolution of the issue, the Council is going to discuss and take possible action on “creating a committee to review a Library for the Township.”  No details, no wording of a possible resolution that might be passed, no idea what this entails.  One thing for certain – it’s at least 18 months overdue.

Whatever this latest horror is, you’ll want to be there to hear it.

There you have it.  We need as many residents as possible to show up and speak up.  If you can’t be there, then you can send an email to the township manager, Mark Hudson, manager@lowersaucontownship.org, and ask that your email be read into the record and especially if it deals with the hearing on the rezoning of the 275+ acres, that it be included in the hearing testimony.  You might want to copy Mrs. DeLeon (pdeleon@lowersaucontownship.org) just so your email doesn’t get “lost”. 

See you bright and early Wednesday!

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