Bethylehem Township: Traditions suffers a minor setback in Green Pond plans
Traditions of America, one of the most successful developers of active senior communities, have plans for one in Bethlehem Township. It has an agreement with Green Pond Country Club to build a 256-home gated community right next to the Green Pond Marsh, which has been designated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a wetland.
This marsh has also been designated by the Audubon as an Important Bird Area. It is home to over 180 species of migratory fowl. Rather than saying it's "for the birds," Traditions Principal David Biddison has been fairly aggressive about pushing his plan through both the Planning Commission and Commissioners for deferrals that somehow became outright waivers. But he's suffered a minor setback. When the Planning Commission refused to send the plans into administrative review. The reason for this can be summed up in two words - Tom Elliott.
Green Pond Marsh supporters have retained Tom Elliott, a township resident who has served off and on as township solicitor over the years. He also served for 14 years as a Planning Commissioner.
The first thing he did was ask Biddison to waive his copyright to the plans so Elliott could copy and inspect them.
"I'm not prepared to have a negotiation on copyright law at a Planning Commission meeting," Biddison bristled, as Chairman Lee Snover explained that developer plans are generally not copied for members of the public, although they can inspect them at municipal offices.
Having insinuated a lack of transparency, Elliott went in to claim that the 86-sheet plan is itself pretty disappointing. He called it both unimaginative and way too dense. He scoffed at the notion of a project for senior citizens located next to a golf course, noting that many of them will be unable to ambulate in just a few years. "You're building a project that by its very nature is ill-proposed for a golf course community," he argued.
But his biggest argument was that planners have seen no storm water management plan. "You do not have a storm water study and are going into administrative review," he observed. "I'm led to wonder what's in that report. ... I think you would at least have a passing interest." Elliott pointed out that just one week before, the township was hit with a downpour that resulted in many closed roads.
Planner Les Walker, who last month derided opponents of this development as NIMBYs, told Elliott that he happens to be a professional engineer and that the downpour that closed roads in Bethlehem Township only happens once very 500 years.
"I don't know how many times I've heard in the last 5-10 years, 'That was a 500-year storm,'" responded Elliott.
In addition to the absence of a storm water study, Elliott questioned whether there's been any study of the water quality going from the pond and golf course and into the wetlands. He said the golf course refuses to use that water to irrigate its fairways.
Agreeing that water quality is something that should be looked at, Kenn Edinger moved to table the proposal to send the development into administrative review. He was joined by Planning Commission members Don Wright, Harry Powell and James Daley.
Chairman Snover, who has a personal relationship with Biddison, abstained. Walker and Mark Grandinetti were the sole planners willing to move the plans into administrative review without even examining a storm water study.
Earlier that evening, Walker asked that the minutes be corrected to reflect that he never said he supported the Traditions plan. He did say again that he is opposed to "some of the antics" displayed by Green Pond Marsh supporters.
Citizens also spoke out against the proposed development. Mary Claire Diamond told planners that she grew up on the golf course, and as a little girl, would count the deer and watch baby owls hatching. She called it a "terrible shame that you considering letting this plan go forward." She still lives on Church Road, near this development, and said that traffic in the morning is horrendous. She finally called on planners to address the flooding issue.
Malissa Davis provided a historical perspective. She said planners turned down Tuskes plans to develop Green Pond Marsh in 1999. She reported that Leonard Hudak, when he was a commissioner, complained about increased traffic and storm waters. A Toll Brothers plan in 2003 was unpopular enough with residents that 50 of them showed for a DEP meeting. A Petrucci plan proposed in 2010 was given a "Yuck!" by Planning Chair Lee Snover, and at that time, Commissioner Michale Hudak, like his father Leonard, was concerned about traffic.
After the meeting, township residents Barry and Roy Roth reported that the flooding from last Monday's storm was so bad that Hope Road is completely washed way at the Bethlehem Boat Club. They believe all these storm waters cascaded down from St. Luke's Anderson campus, which is again expanding.