A motion made at Wednesday night’s Lower Saucon Township Council meeting to instruct solicitor Linc Treadwell to prepare a resolution authorizing use of eminent domain to acquire a nearly 37-acre parcel was largely overshadowed by business conducted later at the meeting, perhaps because the property in question was identified only by an obscure Parcel ID number: R7-12-3-0719E.
What few, if any, meeting attendees seemed to know at the time the motion was made is that the property is owned by the Borough of Hellertown and is the site of the borough’s compost center; a facility that was previously jointly operated by the borough and the township, before relations betweeen the two municipalities soured in the wake of a January 2022 decision by township council to reject a new five-year agreement with the Hellertown Area Library. Borough council voted to sever the joint agreement for the center’s operation last summer, and later sued the township for compost center funds it claims it is owed. Since then, the township has reportedly attempted to shut down operations at the facility, which is located at 2011 Springtown Hill Road.
Council president Jason Banonis made Wednesday’s motion to have Treadwell prepare a resolution authorizing the use of eminent domain after he and the rest of council emerged from meeting in executive session, just prior to the start of the meeting.
Banonis’s motion failed by a vote of 3-2 and there was no further discussion regarding the matter during the meeting. Along with Banonis, councilman Tom Carocci voted in favor of the eminent domain motion, while councilwomen Priscilla deLeon and Sandra Yerger and council vice president Mark Inglis voted against it.
“Eminent domain (is) the method by which a municipality claims a piece of property for its own ‘public’ use with only minimal compensation to the owner…(and) it’s often difficult to fight a taking by eminent domain,” Wittchen wrote. “The piece of property which was only identified by parcel number–no address, no other designation–was the Compost Center which sits on property owned by Hellertown Borough in the Township and which is currently still operated as a compost center by the Borough.”
After township residents were no longer able to use the Saucon Valley Compost Center due to the dissolution of the borough-township agreement, the township opened its own yard waste drop-off facility on Polk Valley Road, near Saucon Valley High School. Additional information about the facility is available on the township’s website, LowerSauconTownship.org.
A recording of the full council meeting is available to watch via the township’s YouTube channel.
Council’s Republican majority will be replaced by a 3-2 Democratic majority that includes deLeon if the results of the Nov. 7 election are certified by Northampton County next Tuesday, Nov. 21.