The June 12 Lehigh Township Supervisors meeting opened with the usual business of checks and minutes being approved and a short planning discussion regarding the Soaked Winery on the corner of Chestnut Drive and Blue Mountain Drive in the township. The parking situation at the location was discussed after a resident was concerned that the overflow parking lot has space for 35 cars and the winery is only approved to have 25 people at any event, per zoning. It was clarified by the board that the capacity of the overflow lot does not supersede the recommendations of the zoning board. They also noted that it would be easy to enforce because there would only be a few events held at the winery every month.
Lehigh Township Engineer, Phillip Malitsch, of Hanover Engineering, then gave a lengthy report to the board and a small group of residents who are impacted about the water runoff problem on and near Butternut Drive. He first addressed the theory that some neighbors have posited about rainwater being diverted from the nearby Heritage Village development. Malitsch says the findings do not support the idea that Heritage Village is causing these runoff issues. He said that the small amount of water from a portion of the development that flows east into a marshy area on resident Donald Ryan’s land is far too light to cause the kind of problems they have been seeing on the road and adjacent properties. A suspect head wall in Heritage Village was also ruled out by the engineers as the cause of the problem. While the engineer was on site there was a small rainstorm – Lehigh Valley International Airport reported a trace amount – and the basins in Heritage Village were already collecting water, indicating that they are working as intended
Malitsch said that a big contributor to the problem is the flow of the water through the “wetlands” on the Ryan property into the Heffelfinger farm fields that then directs the water to continue onto Butternut Drive. The farm fields are covered in hydric soil, which is soil that is water-logged and unable to suck up any additional moisture. The nature of the soil facilitates even more water flow through the property. “This is a biblical amount of water that is coming down here,” Malitsch said.
When considering options about solving the problem, one of the major issues was the fact that much of what is causing it is located on private property and the township typically does not do work on non-public land. Malitsch said that fixing the flow of water onto the roadway,a major safety concern when it freezes in the winter, is actually a fairly simple proposition that would require some grading. But, while “solving the road problem is easy, fixing the impact on the residents is not,” he said. He explained that it could be improved, but you will never completely remove the problem without extensive work on private property. Township Solicitor David Backenstoe mentioned getting possible easements “for the public benefit” but this wasn’t discussed any further. “Public enemy number one is water on the Heffelfinger farm,” Malitsch concluded.
The council, sans Chairman Daryl Snover, who was absent, unanimously passed a motion to investigate options for the Butternut Drive water runoff with the Public Works Department and Engineering.
Near the end of the meeting Supervisor Phil Gogel noted that the head of the public works department, Franklin Zamadics was not present at the meeting and was being represented by an hourly employee who was earning overtime pay to be there. Gogel made a motion to specifically demand Frank to attend the meetings that was seconded by Supervisor Cindy Miller. Supervisors Keith Hantz and Michael Jones defeated the motion. Later on, referencing the minutes from a prior meeting, Gogel pointed out that they had already passed a motion mandating the director to be present at the first meeting of each month.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be on June 26 at 7 p.m. at the Lehigh Township Municipal Building, 1069 Municipal Road in Walnutport.