Community Elections Government

LST Council to Consider Preliminary Approval of Landfill Expansion Plan

Bethlehem Landfill Lower Saucon

Although the year is winding down and Lower Saucon Township Council’s last scheduled meeting of 2023 is Wednesday, Dec. 5, the draft agenda for the meeting indicates that council still has much business to consider, including the potential preliminary approval of Bethlehem Landfill’s proposed Phase V Land Development & Lot Consolidation expansion plan Wednesday.

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Although the year is winding down and Lower Saucon Township Council’s last scheduled meeting of 2023 is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 5, the draft agenda for the meeting indicates that council still has much business to consider, including business that potentially won’t even be addressed until sometime later this month.

Looming large on the list of items is Wednesday’s potential preliminary approval of Bethlehem Landfill’s proposed Phase V Land Development & Lot Consolidation expansion plan.

Council is likely to take action on the landfill’s latest expansion plan less than a month before a new council majority–recently elected after running on an anti-landfill expansion platform–is sworn in, and as various legal challenges to the proposed expansion remain unresolved.

Landfill Dump Sign Lower Saucon

Above, a “Dump the Dump” yard sign is staked next to Friedensville Road in Lower Saucon Township in January 2023. Opponents of a proposal to expand Bethlehem Landfill have used the signs to campaign against it. (FILE PHOTO)

According to the landfill motion council is expected to consider, “the proposed waste disposal expansion area will be located beyond the current PaDEP Permit Boundary and consists of 86 acres of new disposal footprint and 27.28 acres of disposal footprint atop previously permitted lined disposal area.”

“The proposed landfill expansion will have a total disturbance of 171 acres, with approximately 27 acres of disturbance proposed within the existing approved landfill disposal footprint,” it notes.

“The waste stream anticipated for the proposed facility will be similar to those currently accepted,” it adds, noting that “the landfill is served with both public water and sanitary sewer services.”

The motion further notes that “all proposed landfill activities are within the Light Industrial (LI) District,” and that DEP approval will be needed for the expansion to occur.

Over resident protests, a council majority approved rezoning the area in which the landfill plans to expand to Light Industrial earlier this year.

Wednesday’s draft motion also includes a number of conditions and recommendations by township staff, including that “any granted waivers, deferrals and variances, with any conditions, shall be denoted on the Plan in a manner satisfactory to the Township Solicitor” and that “the Applicant shall comply with the regulations of all municipal and governmental agencies having jurisdiction.”

The motion includes a loophole to allow approval of the plans to remain in place in the event that “obtaining other permits for the proposed Phase V Expansion, including but not limited to a Major Permit Modification of the facility’s Solid Waste Permit from PADEP…may result in changes/revisions to the site layout and/or site development details depicted on the Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan approved herein.”

It states that:

“In the event such changes/revisions are necessary, a new Preliminary Land Development application and approval shall not be required, provided that:

  • The plan submitted for Final Land Development Plan approval does not propose any of the following: a disposal footprint that is any larger that the disposal footprint depicted in the Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan dated Sept. 11, 2023; a peak elevation higher than 725 feet; points of access to the site from public roadways that are new or different from those depicted in the Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan dated Sept. 11, 2023; changes to the days or hours of operation or the volume or type of waste permitted to be accepted under the facility’s current PADEP Solid Waste Permit; or other changes that represent an entirely new planning concept that significantly changes the nature of the proposed facility as depicted on the Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan dated Sept. 11, 2023.

  • The Plan submitted for Final Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan approval meets all applicable Lower Saucon Township ordinance provisions in effect as of the date of this Preliminary Land Development and Lot Consolidation Plan approval.”

A number of other documents related to the landfill’s expansion plans are included with the meeting agenda, including an Oct. 13 letter from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to township manager Mark Hudson, which notes that “the proposal conflicts with FutureLV because most of the area proposed for expansion of the landfill to the northeast is within a Character-Defining area of the General Land Use Plan, representing the natural and scenic character of the Lehigh Valley.”

Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at Se-Wy-Co Fire Station, which can seat more people than the meeting room in Lower Saucon Town Hall can hold.

Other items on the agenda include final plan approval for Phase III of a 122-unit townhome development at Steel Club, which received preliminary approval from council in October, and final adoption of the township’s 2024 budget.

Item J. under Township Business Items, “Discussion and Possible Action on Additional December Council Meeting(s),” raises the possibility of additional meetings being held in December.

Last year, just before Christmas, council voted 3-2 to approve a larger expansion plan presented by Bethlehem Landfill to them at an hours-long hearing held on Dec. 22, 2022.

To view the full township council Dec. 5 meeting agenda with supporting documents, click here.

Council meetings are livestreamed on YouTube, however comments by members of the public can only be made in-person at the meetings, where public comment is limited to residents/taxpayers.

Bethlehem Landfill Lower Saucon

Bethlehem Landfill, which is located at 2335 Applebutter Road in Lower Saucon Township, was first opened by the City of Bethlehem in the early 1940s. A proposed expansion on forested land to the northeast of the current landfill’s boundaries has proven controversial and was likely a decisive issue in this year’s heavily-contested township council election, in which anti-expansion candidates Priscilla deLeon (incumbent), Victoria Opthof-Cordaro and Laura Ray won three open seats, despite a landfill-affiliated PAC spending tens of thousands of dollars to promote their opponents. With the newly-elected council majority scheduled to be sworn in to office on Jan. 2, 2024, Lower Saucon Township Council’s current members are set to consider preliminary approval of Bethlehem Landfill’s current expansion plan on Dec. 5. (FILE PHOTO)

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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