Lower Saucon tries grabbing controversial Saucon Valley Compost Center parcel through eminent domain
LOWER SAUCON, TWP., Pa. — Lower Saucon Township Council has tried to use eminent domain to take a parcel of land that contains the Saucon Valley Compost Center.
The center has been a point of controversy between the township and Hellertown Borough, since the parcel is located within the township but the borough owns the property.
The borough and township at one point both used and operated the compost center within a joint agreement signed in 2007, which included sharing operation costs.
But at the turn of the year, Hellertown sued Lower Saucon over unpaid invoices for Saucon Valley Compost Center operations.
Lower Saucon Council on Wednesday took a vote to use eminent domain — the right of a government to take private property within its limits, even if the owner doesn’t wish to sell, for public use — for the land at 2011 Springtown Hill Road.
Council came out of an executive session and took the vote, offering no address, landowner name or any other information besides the parcel number: R7-12-3-0719E.
Eminent domain requires “just compensation” to the parcel owner. The General Assembly defines “just compensation” as the difference between fair market value of the property interest before it’s acquired and the fair market value of the property interest after it’s acquired and as it ends up affected by the move in ownership.General provisions from the General Assembly
Council President Jason Banonis made a motion for the township solicitor to prepare a resolution authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire the 36.68-acre parcel, which was seconded by Councilman Thomas Carocci.
But the motion failed.
The vote was 3-2, with council members Mark Inglis, Sandra Yerger and Priscilla deLeon voting in opposition.
There was no further discussion on the vote, council members' reasoning or means of the eminent domain ruling — such as what would’ve maybe been paid out to Hellertown for the parcel had the vote passed.
LehighValleyNews.com reached out to both Lower Saucon and Hellertown councils, as well as Hellertown Mayor David Heintzelman for comment, but hasn't gotten a response.
According to general provisions from the General Assembly, eminent domain requires “just compensation” to the parcel owner.
The General Assembly defines “just compensation” as the difference between fair market value of the property interest before it’s acquired and the fair market value of the property interest after it’s acquired and as it ends up affected by the move in ownership.
Hellertown's lawsuit against Lower Saucon over unpaid invoices said the township owed about $30,000 in mutual operations funds and $12,500 for grinding services.
The township refused to pay that amount and continues to hold 100% of the compost center money, according to the borough lawsuit.
Hellertown sent a letter to Lower Saucon in July 2022, saying it didn’t wish to continue the joint agreement. The borough lawsuit states the township had acknowledged it refused to pay that money since it’s no longer an operating partner.
This past summer, the township sent the borough a cease-and-desist letter, citing zoning violations and requesting compost center operations to end.
Hellertown currently holds a state Department of Environmental Protection permit to legally operate the compost center.
Lower Saucon has opened its own yard waste collection facility at 2150 Polk Valley Road, which is a Hellertown address.
The township also recently made an offer to the borough highlighting Hellertown Area Library funding, buying the compost center property outright and allowing Hellertown residents to use it for the next decade, as well as capital contributions for the borough pool so the township could use at the resident rate.
Hellertown Borough Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20.