Five Rivers deal pulled

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by the Bethlehem Planning Board, and little in the way of compromise from either side, landowner Carol Richards has withdrawn a subdivision application that could have ultimately added 25 acres of forever-wild land to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.

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

We got a letter from her attorney withdrawing the application, said Michael Morelli, assistant director of economic development and planning, referring to Richards' decision to withdraw her proposal.

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 meeting. The town voted 5-to-1 in favor of its version of the subdivision, which included a 20-foot access along a proposed lot off 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.

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

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

A neighbor to the proposed site, John Mariconti, said he thinks the town wasn't keeping people's best interests 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."

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