Twenty distinct individuals --most of whom are township residents living near Green Pond Country Club -- addressed the Bethlehem Township's board of commissioners Monday evening in an effort to halt the building of 265 town homes at the site.
The township's spacious municipal hall meeting room was packed offering standing- room-only to residents who voiced their concerns over the building of an active adult housing community by developer Traditions of America.
Those who voiced their concerns cited increased traffic to already extremely over congested township roads, storm water drainage and flooding problems and most importantly, the near obliteration of an already rare bird and wildlife habitat living and feeding at the pond's wetlands.
Farmersville Road resident Jack Glagola, a leader in opposing the age 55-plus development, introduced senior ecologist Stephen Kunz of Schmid & Co. of Media, PA. Glagola touted signs that read, "savegreenpond.org."
Kunz, a professional wetlands scientist who represents the concerned residents, informed the commissioners Green Pond contains five to seven acres of wetlands, not the 27,000 square feet of delineated wetlands that developer claims.
He said the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would require a full presentation before lending its approval.
Township resident John Marks said the National Audubon Society has designated Green Pond an "important bird area" (IBA) one of 2,596 in the entire U.S.
Society member Scott Brunet questioned whether Bethlehem Township will be the first to get rid of such an important bird feeding area and suggested the township purchase the land from the country club and leave it as an IBA.
The residents noted this is the sixth time in recent years Green Pond has been considered for development.
Local farmer Dennis Koehler of Dale Koehler and Sons Farms said he works most of the land surrounding Green Pond.
However, he admits he loses 200 to 300 acres a year of valuable farmland to developers even though Green Pond has some of the richest and most productive soil in the area.
Commissioner Martin Zawarski asked, "When did Green Pond become a wetland and a bird refuge?" He asked wildlife and bird experts to, "Bring me back something with a little more meat in it," referring to further proof on the wetlands classification.
Traditions partner David Biddison outlined the changes made to the first draft of his preliminary sketch that included more overflow parking, wider roadways, 20.35 acres for a bird sanctuary, and shortened driveways for each home which doubles the size of the conservation area.
Biddison said his plan would require a complete area traffic study in addition to a review by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Commissioner Mike Hudak remarked, "My main concerns are the traffic and stormwater issues, not the birds. They have been here long before us and will survive without us."