During the July 20 Northampton Borough Council meeting, council heard from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, including Senior Community Planner Jillian Seitz, on the benefits of the proposed River Central Comprehensive Plan. Council is expected to vote on the plan next month.

Since 2021, Northampton Borough has worked alongside Catasauqua Borough, North Catasauqua Borough, East Allen Township and Hanover Township (Lehigh County) to create the multi-municipal comprehensive plan. The plan will allow for municipalities to share land uses. In addition, it will help municipalities better discuss how zoning and development choices in one area may impact their neighbors. The LVPC has served as a consultant during the project.

The plan, said Seitz, will give municipalities the chance to “understand the impacts land use decisions have on their neighbors…and then give those municipalities the opportunity to comment and say ‘our Route 329 cannot accommodate what your Route 329 can.’”

The plan also outlines goals for land use, preservation, transportation management, farming economy, quality of life, housing, recreation opportunities, EMS, economic development, and more.

For some council members, like Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr., there was worry about the borough losing autonomy.

“To me, this just looks like another governmental agency…telling municipalities what they can and cannot do,” Councilman Lopsonzski, Sr. said.

However, the LVPC confirmed that each municipality will still maintain autonomy on zoning and planning. This plan opens up the door for more communication.

“I would like to see it succeed,” Mayor Anthony Pristash said of the plan, citing the impact warehousing in neighboring townships has had on the borough.

Councilwoman Judy Haldeman agreed, adding that warehouses are not going anywhere, “So how do we work with this side of it now?”

Victor Rodite, community planner, also spoke in favor of the plan, adding that he was pleased to see several of his recommendations considered. He also presented before council several other plans he hoped they would consider. Among them a corridor study for 21st Street, an Economic Development and Main Street Management Program, and improved parks and recreation activities.

“The borough has excellent recreation facilities but not many programs,” he said.

In other news, Chad Gerstenberg also appeared before council on behalf of the local softball leagues playing at Canal Park. There have been concerns that home run balls are damaging nearby properties.

“I know this is a lot of misunderstanding…about what is actually an issue down there and what equipment we are using,” he said. He brought with him ASA-certified balls and bats to show council.

“People are not hitting home runs just to solely hit home runs,” he said, elaborating that only three home runs per game per team are allowed. Anything after is an automatic out. “It is not like Aaron Judge from the Yankees comes up and hits a home run every time.”

Due to ASA and insurance regulations, the co-ed teams must use the same equipment for both men and women.

“We are just normal people out there playing softball, being physically active, and out in the community in a park that allows us to play, which is, by all honesty, few and far between,” he continued.

A lack of interest in softball has prompted many Lehigh Valley municipalities to turn former softball fields into soccer or lacrosse fields.

He proposed several solutions for remediating the issue. Swapping the baseball and softball fields at the park would switch the direction of home runs for left-handed hitters, who make up most of the team.

Another solution would be to move the home run plate. Home runs would go into the adjacent baseball field for left-handed hitters or the trail for right-handed batters. A net would be placed in front of the trail for safety.

Whatever solution the borough would accept, Gerstenberg, a borough resident, had one hope: “One thing I do not want to see die in the borough is sports, one thing our community actually rallies around.”

Council also discussed the over 300 Hometown Heroes banners that have been hung around the borough. Orders are still coming in, with a deadline of Friday, August 18 to order.

“As I drive around town, I am filled with very strong pride in this community,” said Lopsonzski, Sr. “I never really knew so many of the people that I was in contact with were servicemen…it makes me proud to see that they are being honored.”

Another source of pride for council was the Northampton Fire Department’s first-ever Junior Cadet program, held the week of July 10.

The program allowed 17 children and young adults to see the inner workings of the fire department. Activities were held every day, including a flag-raising ceremony and the opportunity for children to get up close to the department’s equipment. Councilman Kenneth Hall described one activity that allowed participants to use the Jaws of Life to move an egg from one spot to another. Participants could see the sheer power and also precision of the tool. Plans to host the program again next summer are already in the works.

“Kudos to the fire company because they put together one beautiful plan,” said Mayor Pristash.

Councilman Lopsonzski, Sr. agreed. He even asked the borough to consider donating to the fire department to ensure more materials are available next year. His granddaughter participated in the program and learned how to fold the American flag, a practice he said she has continued at home with her blankets and throws.

“She learned something and took it to heart,” he said.

Lopsonzski, Sr. also said State Rep. Zach Mako told him he plans to bring the program to the attention of his congressional committee to see whether similar programs can be enacted statewide.

Finally, council addressed missed pick-ups by Republic Services, the borough’s trash hauler.

The borough will be charging Republic $25 for every miss since July 4; however, Councilman Ronald Glassic asked residents to use common sense. A recent incident paused pick-up for the day because a resident threw animal feces in a trash bag. After all the rain, the trash bag exploded onto the workers hauling the trash. They needed to stop work for the day to clean themselves.

“There’s some common sense to be had…be respectful….so that we don’t have a delay for hundreds of people,” he said.

“They have a lot of opportunities to improve…but again [have] common sense on what we do throw out there as residents,” he continued.

The next borough council meeting will be August 3 at 7 p.m.


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