SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOC
Some east side Salisbury Township residents say work on a building lot site stinks and it isn’t only because of the presence of skunk cabbage.
Three residents who live along Bobalew Trail, off Church Road, south of East Emmaus Avenue on a slope of South Mountain, claim a house was prohibited from being built on the vacant tract some 31 years ago.
Edward Hare and his wife, Carol Snyder-Hare, as well as another resident, Geoffrey Correll, who live in houses along Bobalew Trail, brought their concerns to the April 25 township board of commissioners meeting.
Salisbury Township officials, including the township solicitor, say an agreement concerning the lot was between two private parties, including an organization no longer in existence.
The Salisbury Township consulting engineer said he would have a wetlands specialist visit the site and would report back to commissioners at the next township meeting, 7 p.m. May 9, in the township municipal building, 2900 S. Pike Ave.
The Salisbury Township assistant manager said the residents should address their concerns to the Lehigh County Conservation District.
As of the April 25 meeting, Salisbury Township Assistant Township Manager-Code Enforcement Director Sandy Nicolo said a building permit had not been applied for nor issued for the lot.
A piece of construction equipment and excavation work was in evidence during an April 26 visit to the site by a reporter for Salisbury Press.
“Last Saturday [April 20] the water was just horrendous,” Snyder-Hare said. “We have videos. We have photos of the flooding. It was ankle-deep.”
Hare said a deed restriction prevented building on the site.
“Here we are. They’re building again,” Hare said.
“We’re building on a lot that has been portrayed as unbuildable. We want to know what has changed,” Hare, a member of the Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board, said.
Hare said a grading permit was issued for the site.
“Last fall, the developer contacted us for a grading permit,” Salisbury Township Consulting Engineer David J. Tettemer of Keystone Consulting Engineers, Inc., said.
“They met all township requirements,” Tettemer said of the site developers.
“Their development plan for the house meets requirements,” Tettemer said.
“This property was previously sold at a sheriff’s sale and deed restrictions weren’t shown,” Tettemer said.
“The developer is private,” Salisbury Township Solicitor Atty. John W. Ashley said concerning deed restrictions. “The township didn’t impose it. It’s a private matter.”
During the April 25 meeting’s approximate 30-minute courtesy of the floor discussion about the site, Correll displayed a copy of a 1988 newspaper article with the headline “Skunk-cabbage find leads Salisbury official to stop home project.” A photo accompanying the article depicted a “Stop Work Order” sign posted at the lot, 1551 Bowalew Trail.
According to the newspaper article, township officials issued the Stop Work Order in 1988 after a Lehigh County Conservation District official visited the site and found skunk cabbage, which propagates in wetlands. The official visited the site after a complaint from the Lehigh-South Mountain Woodlands Association, Inc.
Correll told officials at the April 25 township meeting skunk cabbage is still in evidence on the lot.
“That skunk cabbage is right up to where the excavation is,” Correll claimed. “They extended excavation. There’s a lot of mud.”
Correll alleged the ground disturbance is within the prohibited area of the 50-foot setback from wetlands requirement.
“It has a 50-foot setback to the wetlands,” Tettemer said of the building site,
“If you see the skunk cabbage there, you would see it’s wetlands,” Correll said.
Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) grows in wetlands and moist hill slopes of eastern North America. Bruised leaves release an odor that smells like a skunk.
Tettemer said the presence of skunk cabbage is only one qualification in identifying wetlands.
Three identifiers for wetlands are vegetation, high water and wetlands soil, Tettemer said.
“The [Lehigh County] Conservation District does not approve wetlands,” Tettemer said.
The Lehigh County Conservation District approves erosion control, Tettemer said.
Tettemer said a Bucks County firm did a wetlands study of the site on behalf of the developer.
“The firm did a study and I reviewed the study,” Tettemer said.
Tettemer said he had visited the site.
“Based on site conditions, it appears to be a correct location,” Tettemer said of the building site.
“There are maybe a couple of skunk cabbages popping up outside of there,” Tettemer said.
“I will send our [Keystone Consulting Engineers] wetlands specialist out there. If there’s a discrepancy that significantly affects anything, I will recommend another study.” Tettemer said he would update commissioners at the May 9 meeting.
“You can follow up with the [Lehigh County] Conservation District and ask them to make a site visit,” Nicolo told the Hares and Correll.