Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Twp supervisors decry unfunded mandate

Pollution reduction may require tax or fee hike

WALNUTPORT, Pa. - The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors aired its dissatisfaction over government requirements to institute a new five-year pollution reduction plan at its Tuesday meeting.

The PRP’s aim is to limit the amount of salt and sediment that goes into the Lehigh River. Street sweeping, infiltration practices and stream restoration are a few projects that would help with that goal, township solicitor David Backenstoe said. 

The current five-year plan runs out on March 2018. 

The township would need to employ outside agencies to aid in such projects. 

The federal government and state government’s requirements are “unfunded mandates” so the township would need to find a way to raise funds, Backenstoe said.          

One way would be to raise property taxes over the next five years. 

Another way would be to institute a stormwater fee similar to that recently passed in Allentown.

Property owners would pay a fee based on the amount of impervious surface they own, which is the area covered by buildings, concrete or pavement that prevents rainwater from sinking into the ground. 

For example, in Allentown property owners are charged $20 per 500 square feet of impervious surface.

This might be the fairest way to raise funds, since property owners with the highest amount of impervious surfaces would pay a higher fee, Backenstoe said. 

This would not be instituted immediately, but might be something to consider toward the end of the five-year period, Backenstoe said.  

The board expressed dissatisfaction with needing to implement the plan without any state financial aid.

Supervisor Cynthia Miller said the state indirectly raises taxes on local municipalities by causing them to seek funds to pay for the required pollution plans.

Other business

The board discussed a proposed ordinance that would impose weight restrictions on trucks on township roads.

The Hanover Township engineer had recommended a ban on trucks on the roads. 
Board members agree that posting weight restrictions on roads would be better than an overall truck ban.

Imposing restrictions would be a “small price to pay” to ensure safety on township roads, Supervisor Phil Gogel said.

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