Lower Saucon council members approved the $1.78 million purchase of a 146-acre property Wednesday that will be used to create the township’s biggest park.
Officials said at the council meeting that the Woodland Hills Country Club property, located at 4166 Lower Saucon Road, formerly a golf course, fits the criteria needed to carry out two past public referendums where township residents voted to designate tax funds toward open space acquisitions.
“We had an open referendum and a majority of the residents voted for open space. It’s an important purchase,” said council member Tom Maxfield. “What we’re eying is a piece of wild space that people can enjoy the outside in. This will make an excellent park for the people of the township.”
Lower Saucon is more than two years into a five year referendum after-period during which they have to spend the allotted taxpayer money.
By meeting certain purchase criteria the purchase will be tax-exempt, reducing the burden on the municipality.
Township officials said the property may feature walking trails and park space used for “passive recreation.”
Council had yet to determine concrete plans for the property, though, which drew sharp criticism from several residents in attendance.
Community members demanded a more detailed plan for the site, but council members said even in a worst case scenario it still provided the open space voted for by residents.
“We have to spend this money on open space. The budget has already been passed,” said council member Priscilla deLeon. “We can only use it for certain things to be tax exempt. If it doesn’t meet their criteria for recreation we have to pay taxes on that property. The referendum passed by a majority of voters.”
Vice President Tom Maxfield added that maintenance of the property would come at a minimal cost to the township, and by not increasing the number of residents in the township would actually lessen the possibility of a millage increase.
“Whatever it is, it’s going to save [the residents] money because it’s not going to have 40 or 50 homes on it” said council president Ronald Horiszny.
The acquisition vote passed 4 to 0, with council member Glenn Kern absent.
At Wednesday’s meeting council also discussed a proposed rezoning ordinance for the IESI Bethlehem Landfill, including a proposed six acre expansion in disposal area.
Landfill officials stressed that the plan was still in the conceptual phase and that they were only seeking responses to inquiries they had sent the township in letters.
Residents again used the opportunity to voice concerns over odor concerns in neighborhoods near the landfill such as Steel City.
Council member Priscilla deLeon urged Lower Saucon residents to continue to call authorities about any perceived malodors.