A group of residents concerned about proposed rezoning that would allow the Bethlehem Landfill in Lower Saucon Township to undertake a significant expansion will hold a public meeting this Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Steel City Mennonite Church in Steel City.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the church, which is located at 2137 Mixsell Ave., Bethlehem, Pa.
According to a flyer advertising the meeting, the concerned citizens believe the rezoning would change the character of “275 acres of beautiful, rural, agricultural land” by doubling the size of the landfill and “doubling the negative impacts.”
The rezoning request will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Lower Saucon Town Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem, Pa. Residents who oppose the proposal are being encouraged by the grassroots group to “attend and get your concerns on the record.”
The group has also created a Facebook group called Fighting Landfill Expansion in Lower Saucon Township to share information, including updates about the meetings.
Additional information can be found at LSTLandfillExpansion.org or by emailing LS******************@gm***.com, according to the flyer.
The landfill contributes a substantial amount of money to the township each year in the form of hosting and other fees. In 2022, landfill host fees made up approximately 22 percent of the township’s primary sources of revenue, according to a budget overview.
However, some residents who live near the facility–including some Steel City residents–have expressed quality of life concerns about it for decades. Among the concerns that have been shared and in some cases addressed over the years have been odors emanating from the property, the impact of truck traffic on local roads and the risk of subsidence.
The facility was developed by the City of Bethlehem as a municipal dump in the 1940s, in what was then a relatively remote area. In the 1990s, the landfill was sold to corporate interests, and the property has changed hands a number of times since, most recently in 2016. Over the past 30 years a number of warehouses and industrial facilities have also opened along or near the Applebutter Road corridor, further altering the area’s character.
Bethlehem Landfill is currently owned by Texas-based Waste Connections.
In October 2021, WLVR reported that a Waste Connections executive had founded a political action committee (PAC) which then “spent tens of thousands in an effort to get a Republican slate of candidates elected” to Lower Saucon Township Council.
The public media outlet cited campaign finance reports in reporting that $75,000 was spent by the PAC on support for the candidacies of Jason Banonis, Tom Carocci and Jennifer Zavacky, all of whom were elected to township council in November 2021.
WFMZ reported Nov. 17 that Lehigh Valley Planning Commission members had shared concerns about the proposed 275-acre rezoning that would allow for the expansion. The landfill’s expansion plan doesn’t conform with the LVPC’s regional plan and commission staff “found fault” with it, however the LVPC has no authority to prevent the land in question from being rezoned or to stop the landfill from expanding, the report said.