In a move applauded repeatedly by conservationists, Northampton County Council Thursday night changed the guidelines for acquiring Open Space, removing the former $300,000 cap to an open-ended figure to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Council, after approving the change, quickly approved the acquisition of 26 acres owned by Central Moravian Church at 3816 Christian Springs Road and another 18 acres at 1311 Santee Mill Road, owned by the estate of Leckonby Estate.
Both properties are near Housenick Memorial Park in Bethlehem Township. The park is owned by the township.
Taken together, the three properties represent 135 acres of Open Space, and the roomful of Open Space advocates hailed council’s decision.
Without council’s action, the land probably would have become a strip mall or an apartment complex or both, said Donald W. Miles, chairman of the Lehigh Valley Group of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club. Over the years, several developers had discussed plans to build projects there.
With the land now out of the reach of developers, the integrity of the springs and wetlands is secure, he said.
“This is a good project,” said Councilman John Cusick. “We’re preserving history.”
Miles said the county’s Open Space Committee Advisory Board had thought early on in the process the properties could be purchased for $520,000 but as negotiations evolved the agreed on price reached $657,500.
The county had been setting money aside over the last decade or so, about a half-mill of real estate tax, for just such a purpose, he said.
But for the deal to take place, the county had to change the old $300,000 cap, so it amended its Open Space Initiative guidelines at its Thursday night meeting.