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Residents oppose River Pointe development in Upper Mount Bethel

UMBT Aerial (with property outl
The proposed River Point Commerce Park in Upper Mount Bethel Township, outlined in red, has encountered opposition from local residents.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Residents on Tuesday expressed major concerns and mounting frustration over unanswered questions regarding the River Pointe Logistics industrial park development planned for Upper Mount Bethel Township.

  • Residents voiced concerns over the River Pointe Logistics industrial park planned for Upper Mount Bethel Township
  • Increased traffic, water and sewer issues and environmental impact are among the worries
  • Plans for three lots were approved and forwarded for further review at a Lehigh Valley Planning Commission meeting Tuesday

Comments were made during a virtual meeting of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Comprehensive Planning Committee.
Lots 1, 2 and 6 of the 12-lot project were discussed, approved and submitted to the full committee for review.

Chief concerns are increased truck and pedestrian-vehicle traffic in and around the site, public wastewater treatment, water and sewage service, emergency services and environmental impact.

Plans for the project submitted to the LVPC consist of 12 industrial buildings totaling 5,873,000 square feet on 804 acres.''

'Time to push the pause button'

Judy Henkel, an Upper Mount Bethel Township resident, wondered how the project could proceed and be approved given that the developer, Lou Pektor, of Bethlehem, hasn’t disclosed the identity of the occupants of the proposed park.

“I’d like to narrow it down to sustainability and natural features,” Henkel said. “At this point, I don’t know what will be left after the project is completed."

"We have two rivers there, the Liberty Water Gap Trail, other trails, Lake Minsi. We’re trying to draw people in to take advantage of our natural resources."

This whole plan has been a shell game.
Judy Henkel, Upper Mount Bethel Township resident

“Yet I can’t imagine people visiting wanting to walk through a concrete jungle, with all that truck traffic and noise to go there. This whole plan has been a shell game.”

The site of the industrial park is 600 feet southwest of the township border with Portland, bounded by River Road to the northeast, Pine Tree Lane to the southeast and Potomac Street to the southwest.

If approved, the River Pointe development project would take several years to complete.

Another Upper Mount Bethel Township resident, Charles Arlington Cole, called River Pointe one of “great expectations not backed by facts.”

“The developers’ answers to our inquiries are, ‘We don’t know at this time,’ and ‘We don’t know our customers yet,’” Cole, an environmental engineer, said. “Maybe it’s time to hit the pause button on this project.”

Largely warehouses expected

A Master Plan Transportation Impact Study, or TIS, was reviewed for the project, dated January 2022. Upon completion of the project, an estimated 15,475 passenger car trips and 3,015 truck trips would be generated each day.

“PennDOT first needs to solve our current traffic problems in the Route 611 and 512 corridor and connecting roads between 611 South and the Tamany interchange,” Cole said.

But here we are, putting 15,000 cars and 3,000 trucks a day more. That’s insanity!
Upper Mount Bethel Resident Charles Arlington Cole, an environmental engineer

“But here we are, putting 15,000 cars and 3,000 trucks a day more. That’s insanity!”

The TIS anticipates that 75% of the development will be filled by industrial park uses (a mix of manufacturing, services and warehousing) and 25% to be high cube fulfillment center warehousing.

However, many township residents are convinced the project will be largely warehouses, because of the size of the proposed buildings, and to which they are opposed.

Proponents of the River Pointe project note it will single-handedly double the tax base of Upper Mount Bethel Township using only 2% of its total land area by increasing real estate tax and earned income tax revenues.

'Heavily impact our way of life and health'

River Pointe, which is along River and Demi roads, about one and a half miles south of Interstate 80, would total 5.8 million square feet.

Pektor bought 725 acres in 2019 for $17 million, adding much of the balance of the 800 acres by acquiring a former coal-fired electric utility plant near the main industrial park.

The land, which is near the Delaware River, has been zoned industrial since the 1970s and is in a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance zone.

There’s just been a very steady process of chaos and misdirection. Every time a question is asked [of the developer], it gets redirected and never gets answered. We’re very concerned.
Portland Mayor Heather Fischer

That gives property owners a break on real estate taxes associated with improvements or new construction. The taxes are phased in at 10% a year over a decade.

“There appears to be an understanding that Portland is just OK with this" project, Portland Mayor Heather Fischer said. “This will heavily impact our way of life and health."

“There’s just been a very steady process of chaos and misdirection. Every time a question is asked [of the developer], it gets redirected and never gets answered. We’re very concerned.”