County Reverses Itself on Open Space, Again
Third time's the charm as county council reapproves a measure it voted down two weeks ago.
The past few weeks have been sort of a rollercoaster for local conservationists who were looking to preserve wooded area of Upper Mount Bethel.
Northampton County Council in mid-June voted to spend $260,000 for conservation easements for the two pieces of land. It's part of a larger funding package that includes state and local grant money.
Then, two weeks ago, council reversed that vote, saying it wanted to get independent appraisals of the property.
On Thursday night, after nearly 90 minutes of comments from supporters of the plan, council changed its mind again, agreeing to the original proposal.
Most of the speakers were affiliated with Upper Mount Bethel or various conservation/outdoors groups. Dennis DeMara, of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, told council it would be leaving more than $330,000 "on the table" if it held up this project. He also said the DCNR wouldn't consider appraisals from the property owners.
"We won’t even look at it. It would be a waste of time and money," DeMara said.
In other business:
- Council passed an ordinance that redraws the council district maps, based on new Census figures. The redrawn districts move Williams Township from District 2 -- which includes the Easton area -- into District 3, which includes mainly communities from the center of the county. Meanwhile, Bath moves from District Three into District Four, and Freemansburg from District Three to District One.
- Council voted 7-2 to give $10,000 to a foreclosure mitigation program run by the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley. Councilman Ron Angle was one of the "no" votes. He told the CACLV's Alan Jennings that he supported the group's work with "human suffering," and thought "people who made a mistake" didn't qualify. Councilwoman Peg Ferraro argued that people worried about losing their homes were probably suffering on some level.
- Council voted down a proposal by Councilman Lamont McClure to take $13 million from the county's contingency fund to pay for capital projects at Gracedale.