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Northampton County Committee Considers Resolutions for Upper Mount Bethel, New Jersey Issues | Lehigh Valley Regional News

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EASTON, Pa. – Northampton County Council on Thursday heard residents’ complaints about the development and a possible freeway project in the Garden State without taking any action.

Commissioner Tara Zrinski’s Energy, Environment and Land Use Committee heard a presentation by Charles Cole, a frequent critic of developer Lou Pektor’s Riverpointe Commerce Park in the Upper Mount Bethel community.

Addressing issues about pollution, steep land, traffic and more, Cole urged the county to request that Pennsylvania’s environmental protection and transportation agencies hold public hearings on Riverpointe.

Upper Mount Bethel has already approved the development after several lengthy public hearings. The 725 hectare site is designated for industrial use, including warehouses.

Community leader Ed Nelson also addressed the committee, saying requests for hearings are a “delaying tactic.” He said the approval process was public and that going forward “everything will take place in an open session”.

Lou Pektor and his daughter Lisa Pektor attended the meeting but did not speak to the committee. Her attorney, Erv McClain, was present and said that the proposed order to request hearings wrongly singled out a developer and that the county council does not have the authority to request such hearings.

The Council has no authority over planning and zoning issues. A statement from Riverpointe said a public meeting with the state Department of Environmental Protection is already scheduled for a building planned for Demi Road and RiverPointe.

Many Upper Mount Bethel residents claim the project will threaten their rural way of life and put a strain on local roads. Advocates, including members of the community board of directors, say RiverPointe will bring jobs and tax revenue, noting that the land has been available for development for many years.

The board negotiated with Pektor’s team a plan for about a dozen industrial buildings on the site in place of the more than 20 warehouses that could have been built there.

The request for hearings was not voted on Thursday.

The committee also heard testimony from county and New Jersey residents who have objected to a “rockfall mitigation project” on Interstate 80 in Warren County, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Upper Mount Bethel. The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s plan is to erect large fences along the base of Mount Tammany to prevent rocks from falling onto the highway.

The I80DWG coalition opposes the plan, claiming that the real safety issue is the “S-curve” I-80 south of the Delaware Water Gap Bridge and that the rockfall plan goes beyond what is necessary.

Coalition co-founder Tara Mezzanotte and others including Knowlton Township, NJ Mayor Adele Starrs and Warren County Commissioner Lori Ciesla attended the committee meeting to ask the council to send a resolution to the New Jersey Department of Transportation requesting further studies before proceeding.

Northampton County has no authority over New Jersey issues, although some Pennsylvania municipalities and elected officials have supported the coalition’s call for more study of the I-80 project. The rockfall projects threaten the beauty of the Delaware Water Gap, according to the coalition.

When I-80 reverses, some traffic goes to the Portland-Columbia Toll Bridge, which enters the north end of Northampton County.

Zrinski said any vote in the council would serve to support Warren County’s request for additional studies.

“Voting on this is kind of just a signal,” Commissioner John Goffredo said. “It’s not really our jurisdiction.”

President Lori Vargo Heffner also warned against “virtue signaling” by voting on an issue over which the council has no authority, though she said she supports Warren County’s goals and would consider a resolution put forward by that county without hold lengthy hearings for testimonies already given, several times in other places.

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