At an upcoming meeting, Lower Saucon Township Council is expected to vote on whether to advertise several proposed zoning map amendments, including one that could result in a zoning change that could help pave the way for a controversial proposed Bethlehem Landill expansion.
The proposed change is separate from a landfill rezoning amendment adopted by council last December, which was challenged in court by a group of residents who oppose the proposed expansion.
In May, a Northampton County judge sided with the residents by finding that the rezoning was invalid due to procedural errors. Representatives for the landfill have since appealed that decision.
The zoning amendment council is expected to discuss Tuesday would change the zoning for the area north of Applebutter Road, east of Steel City, south of the Lehigh River and west of where Rt. 33 intersects with I-78–an area within which the landfill’s proposed expansion is located–from Rural Agricultural (RA) to Light Industrial (LI).
According to a draft agenda, “the potential text amendments may include allowing landfills and waste disposal facilities as a permitted, conditional or special exception use; site plan requirements for uses that require land development approval, and a natural resource mitigation alternative. Council will need to determine the specific parcels numbers to be included in the re-zoning proposal.”
The draft agenda available online includes attachments with maps labeled Option 1 and Option 2.
On June 26, a number of township residents said they oppose this latest proposal to change zoning in the area of the proposed landfill expansion. Council then voted 3-2 to have staff prepare an ordinance for the proposed amendment. Councilmen Jason Banonis, Tom Carocci and Mark Inglis voted in favor of that, while councilwomen Priscilla deLeon and Sandra Yerger voted against it.
“You’re supposed to protect us. You’re not protecting us,” resident Jackie Palumbo told council at the meeting. “People came out and we told you we don’t want this.”
DeLeon, in casting her “no” vote, called the proposed zoning map amendment “a sacrilege, or a mortal sin if you’re Catholic.”
If council votes to advertise the proposed amendment, a public hearing for it will be scheduled, after which council could vote to adopt it.
Council is also scheduled to consider advertising other proposed zoning amendments at its July 11 meeting, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. at the Se-Wy-Co fire station on Rt. 378 (address: 3621 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem). Township council meetings are streamed live on YouTube, but in order to comment on an agenda or non-agenda item residents must attend in person.
One of them would change the zoning for nearly 9 acres spread across four properties in between Rt. 378 and Colesville Road from Rural Suburban Residential (R40) to General Business (GB).
After asking whether a meeting about the rezoning proposal could have been held for nearby residents, deLeon voted against a motion for staff to prepare an ordinance for possible advertising.
The other four council members voted in favor of it.
Another zoning amendment that could be advertised for a hearing and possible adoption with council’s approval Tuesday would allow for underground storage tanks to be buried in carbonate geology areas within the township as long as there is compliance with state and federal regulations in installing them.
Council solicitor Linc Treadwell said township staff “have worked with the Sheetz people on this” in reference to a proposal to build a Sheetz convenience store and gas station on Rt. 378.
The fourth and final ordinance council is set to discuss July 11 could give township voters the opportunity to decide whether elected council members should be term-limited in the future.
The referendum would ask voters if the township should amend its code to limit elected council members to serving two terms, or a total of eight consecutive years, on council.
If term limits are enacted via a voter referendum, the requirement would not be in place for this election, but council members elected in 2025 and thereafter would be bound by it.
“It’s a good idea,” said Carocci of the proposed referendum. “Let the voters decide on term limits.”
DeLeon said voters already have the opportunity to decide which council members they want to run for office during each primary election.
She voted against the proposed referendum and was the only council member to do so.
Township resident and council candidate Laura Ray, speaking earlier during the meeting, said a referendum “seems very unnecessary” since voters already have the opportunity to limit officials to two or fewer terms during each election cycle.
In addition to Tuesday’s meeting, council has scheduled three other meetings in July and August:
- Wednesday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Aug. 30 at 9 a.m.
“Can I ask why a day meeting?” deLeon queried during council’s June 26 discussion about the meeting dates and times.
“The plan is for a daytime meeting,” responded Carocci. “(The) U.S. Supreme Court meets in the daytime, and so does Congress. I guess we can, too.”
For agendas, meeting minutes and other information relevant to Lower Saucon Township Council, visit the township website.