The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors held their final meeting of 2023 on Tuesday, December 12. They began by reviewing planning related items, the first of which was the release of escrow for the Northwoods development. Township Engineer Michael Muffley reported that major improvements are nearly finished. The requested escrow release for $2.56 million was approved.

John Mahoney, representative of the owner of the Top of the Mountain Estates, appeared before the board to request an extension of time for plan recording. Mahoney stated the current owners are looking for a buyer and requested an extra six months to find someone who will complete the project and build the homes. Board vice-chairman Cynthia Miller pointed out that the project has been ongoing for nearly a decade, and that the last time an extension was granted, the board said they would not grant another. The board voted 4-1 to deny the request, with Philip Gogel casting the only negative vote. Township Solicitor David Backenstoe explained the family will receive a letter about the denial, and they will have until the end of the year to get things done or else they must begin the process anew.

Muffley then presented his report to the board, stating that the owners of an auto sales lot on Mountain View Drive also own some landlocked ground near the back of their property and would like to combine that with their existing lot and construct a new building. They have applied for a special exception so they can retain their grandfathered status. Riverview Storage is working with the Army Corp of Engineers to complete their project on Route 145.

Sandra Hopkins, representing the recreation board, said the annual tree lighting event was a success and that many people said they enjoyed themselves. It is estimated that between 250 and 300 people attended. The board is already planning for next year’s event, which will include improved lighting for the candy cane hunt.

Frank Zamadics of the Public Works Department stated that leaf season is almost over, and shared the details of his crew rescuing a kitten from a storm drain. There was a brief discussion of the recent vandalism at Indian Trail Park, where someone broke some benches and started small fires at the pavilion. Members of the public are asked to contact the police department immediately if they see such activity.

Zoning officer Elizabeth Amato announced the next zoning hearing board meeting will be held on January 18. Board chairman Michael Jones sent a letter to the owner of the proposed solar farm, and a conditional use hearing has been scheduled for January 23 at 6 p.m., prior to the board of supervisors meeting.

In other news, the new township police officers are settling in with the department, and the approved candidates will enter the police academy on July 2, 2024. Meanwhile, the fire company’s Santa deliveries and breakfast with Santa were, like the tree lighting, very successful and well received. Fire Commissioner Richard Hildebrand and a few other firefighters will go to New York to inspect the progress on their new truck, which is expected to be delivered in January. 

The board then discussed whether to adopt the ordinance establishing a fire protection service tax. The tax, at 1.3 mills, will fund fire company services to all properties within Lehigh Township and will be issued to property owners alongside all other tax bills. This tax will go toward providing and maintaining vehicles, as well as funding worker’s compensation for firefighters and other related expenses. Commissioner Hildebrand reminded everyone that the tax will not replace the regular need for public donations, which is how the company pays for things such as maintenance of their building and apparatus. Miller added that every community is currently dealing with the same problem, and the board is doing everything possible to avoid the regionalization of fire services. The ordinance was unanimously adopted, and the proposed 2024 budget was also approved.

The Blue Mountain Midget Association removed trees along the embankment overlooking their structures; the woodcutter also removed a number of healthy trees. A representative of the association was present to apologize for the error and assure the board that the trees will be replaced.

As a final note, Miller commented that many people tend to go directly to Township Solicitor David Backenstoe with various concerns. She urged everyone to instead contact members of the board first with their concerns, and allow board members to add the topics to the agenda for further discussion. They will contact the solicitor if necessary. 

The next regular board of supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 9 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building, located at 1069 Municipal Rd., Walnutport. 


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