EASTON, Pa. – Northampton County is preparing to purchase 112 acres in East Allen Township, saving enough land to prevent the construction of four or five warehouses, County Executive Lamont McClure said.
The tract known as Spengler Farm would cost $2.69 million, about $24,000 per acre. County council has the final say on spending, and will hold a public hearing on the deal at its Oct. 7 meeting. A vote to buy the land off Route 329 may also be held that night.
The land would be preserved as open space, part of McClure's plans to save green space and fight what he calls "warehouse proliferation." There is a warehouse on the east side of the intersection of Route 329 and Airport Road, currently empty, and a plan to build another on the west side.
The county's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board recommended the purchase, according to the ordinance introduced at council's meeting Thursday.
McClure also said the county is "completely out of options" for preserving the Dutch Springs quarry, confirming earlier comments that developer Trammell Crow rejected his proposed swap: the county would take over the liability of the quarry in return for Trammell Crow building one, not two, warehouses on the land in Lower Nazareth and Bethlehem townships.
Trammell Crow has offered to give up the quarry, a gift that would come with lots of liability. McClure said getting insurance for the county to continue using Dutch Springs as a scuba facility could be impossible. Talks with the developer have ended.
"Unless something miraculous unfolds, you will not hear from me about this again," he said.
The land is zoned for warehouses, and the developer has immense resources. Northampton County's 2021 budget is $445 million. Trammell Crow's parent company, CBRE Group Inc., had 2020 revenue that averaged $457 million per week.
McClure said several scuba groups are trying to keep the quarry open. Dutch Springs is one of the top diving training sites on the East Coast and draws visitors from hundreds of miles.
Councilmen William McGee and Kevin Lott expressed hope that something might yet save the tourist attraction and emergency-services training site.
"The county can't do it, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen," Lott said.
Council also discussed the Gracedale county nursing home in Upper Nazareth Township and approved pandemic-relief grants for small businesses.