Residents continued to oppose a proposed Jim Thorpe County zoning change Thursday night that would allow sewage treatment plants on the property on larger tracts of land near Mauch Chunk Lake.
The district remains in the review phase of the potential change as it continues to seek comments from its own planning commission as well as that of the county.
A subdivision planned by Lentz Trail property owner Ed Kanick prompted a look at the zoning change. Currently, Kanick would need to hook up to public sewers to build the homes, but the proposed change would allow on-property septic systems for lots of 5 acres or more that are at least 1,000 feet but less than half a mile. from the lake.
“One of the things we love about Carbon County is Mauch Chunk Lake,” Save Carbon County President Linda Christman said during a council meeting Thursday. “Our Jim Thorpe members and residents who are here tonight are concerned that your council has agreed to change the zoning of the special borough. The developer knew about the restrictive development when he bought the property. I don’t know why the council agreed to consider a zoning change.”
Kanick said his subdivision plan was an attempt to keep his family living closer together. In October, he said the maximum number of homes he plans to build is about nine, spread across 60 acres.
Council President Greg Strubinger said the governing body has a lot to do with the decision-making process, including the possibility that Kanick could pay to extend the public sewer line up to the property. That, Strubinger said, could result in a much larger number of apartments.
“If he extends the city line out there,” Strubinger said, “you might see about 60 houses instead of maybe 10-12. When that happens, there is potential for a huge drain from building driveways and things like that. Mr. Kanick has agreed to implement safeguards and instrumental restrictions, including a secondary absorption area and annual inspections of the system.”
In addition, Councilor Mike Yeastedt said Kanick provided evidence that the property passed a leaching test, which is a requirement for a community sewage system on the property.
However, opposition to the change has been persistent and members of Jim Thorpe’s Planning Commission and the Carbon County Commissioners have publicly opposed it.
North Avenue resident Sharon Lo Pinto joined the call Thursday night to protect the land bordering the lake.
“What we have in the lake and the water that flows out of it, which provides us with our drinking water and a beautiful trout stream, these are jewels and gifts from the earth to share and enjoy,” said Lo Pinto. “You get lost so easily with myopia. The earth is changing because of our human behavior. This is a tiny little corner that we can encourage in the future.”
There was no evidence, Strubinger said during the meeting, that there had been any leakage from any septic systems on the Summit Hill side of the lake.
Lo Pinto’s husband Ciro said his work in soil conservation showed him differently.
“Wastewater treatment plants have always been what failed in my career and nobody knew it failed,” said Ciro. “You flush the toilet and cross your fingers and hope it’s all gone. The people farther from the lake are much less dangerous than the people close by. In my line of work, if there were three people next to the lake with a leaking system, the lake never got cleaner. A person wants the rules to be changed and that opens the door for many other unanticipated changes.”
Kanick said he will comply with all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the surrounding area.
“The system will have an alarm,” Kanick said. “We will have annual inspections, which fall under the deed restrictions, and mandatory system pumps every three years.
Jim Thorpe’s sanitation officer, Kanick said, performed 14 septic tests on the property and passed them all “with flying colors.”
“The sewer officer said it was one of the nicest floors he’s ever seen with a septic tank,” Kanick said. “The deed restrictions state that only one house is allowed per lot and they are irreversible. The lots will be between 5 and 10 acres, so it’s not like we’re overbuilding like some say.”
There are questions about the origin of the 0.8 km long septic buffer on the Mauch Chunk Lake property, Strubinger said. Councilwoman Jessica Crowley, however, recalled a conversation with Lou Hall, chairman of Jim Thorpe’s planning commission, in which he said it was done based on the county’s evaluation of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
“I’m shocked to hear anyone suggesting that there is no evidence that septic tanks leak into water bodies,” Crowley said. “I didn’t think I’d have to bring any here tonight, but there’s a lot of evidence.”
Christman urged the district to hold a “well-announced public hearing” and quickly close the matter.
“The developer was heard, but we don’t feel like the public really heard at this point,” Christman said.
A public hearing is required before the Parish Council can amend ordinances or issue new ones.
“We don’t have a schedule at the moment,” Strubinger said. “We will continue to conduct our due diligence on this matter.”