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Five Rivers deal withdrawn

After months of debate and review by the Bethlehem Planning Board, and little in the way of compromise from either side, Carol Richards has withdrawn her subdivision application that could have ultimately added 25 acres forever-wild land to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.

Richards proposed deed restricting nearly 25 acres of land against development and selling it to the Open Space Institute for $50,000, who would in turn transfer it to the state's DEC and then bring Five Rivers into the Town of Bethlehem.

We got a letter from her attorney withdrawing the application, said Michael Morelli, the assistant director of economic development and planning.

The town Planning Board voted 5-to-1 on its version of the subdivision that included a 20-foot access along a proposed lot off of Fisher Boulevard instead of Richards' proposed New Scotland Road access.

Richards' attorneys said she would withdraw her application after the vote because of frustration over the matter.

The subdivision and land deal turned into a stalemate between Richards' attorneys and town officials until it came to a head at the Tuesday, Nov. 18, planning board vote.

Board Chairman Howard Engel said at the time, "Neither side is willing to compromise."

Some Bethlehem residents say they lost out on an opportunity to gain nearly 25 acres of recreational open space " land that wouldn't cost the town any money during a time of economic woe.

John Mariconti said he thinks the town wasn't keeping people's best interest in mind.

"If the planning board thinks they're working for the greater good, they're sadly mistaken," said Mariconti. "I think if the majority of people in town knew was going on, they would have more to say."

Planning board member Katherine McCarthy was the only member to vote against the board's recommendation because of fears that Richards would withdraw her application, which she eventually did.

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