Council holds first meeting at new site
Catasauqua Borough Council opened its first meeting in the new municipal building at 90 Bridge St. Aug. 7. Visitors who attended were greeted with comfortable chairs, a spacious seating area, nice lighting and a comfortable environment.
The sound system was still in boxes, waiting for an installer.
At the meeting, Chad Helmer of Taggert Associates presented a proposal for the sale of the Iron Works property adjacent to the municipal building lot.
Borough Solicitor Thomas Dinkelacker explained how the borough carved out a parcel for the municipal building.
“Essentially, all the land outside the curb around the municipal building is a separate parcel,” he said. “We want to sell the parcel to a developer who can then subdivide it as he sees fit.”
Under the state rules for municipalities, the borough must advertise the property for sale for a set price at least twice. After the public bid offering, the borough is free to negotiate with any developer.
“We put together an RFP, and it requires potential developers to supply detailed information and financial wherewithal to make the project a success,” Helmer said.
As he explained after the meeting, during the prior bidding process, anyone with the required cash ($675,000) could have purchased the property and owned it even if unable to develop it.
The new process gives the borough much more flexibility. Council is set on developing the project to its vision.
“We can wait as long as we need to, until we get the right developer,” Councilman Vincent Smith said.
His comments resurrected comments by those originally opposed to the borough’s purchase of the Iron Works property that the project will never get built out.
The cost of building the municipal building, with administrative, police and fire facilities under one roof, had been promoted by supporters on the basis of the revenue that would be generated from developing the rest of the project, bringing in additional tax dollars. Although Taggert is tasked with and paid to market the property, Smith wants to bring in NAI Summit to broker the property. Smith has a working relationship with Jay Haines of NAI Summit and has brought him in on the sale of other borough properties.
Helmer said he did not think it was necessary to bring another player into the mix.
Council will look at the details of the RFP process developed by Taggert and move to get the RFP on the street. The authorization for the RFP was approved by council.
Helmer estimated the process would take until at least 2019.
The long delay waiting for development spurred a question from the audience on why there was an immediate need to convert Front Street to two-way traffic. The conversion is scheduled for Aug. 17. The need to make Front Street two way was promoted as necessary to attract a developer.
Catasauqua Firefighters Association asked council for permission to erect a firefighter’s memorial. The memorial would be built with private funds. The memorial would consist of a central statue and a brick walkway, celebrating firefighters. The measure passed, but Councilwoman Debra Mellish voted no because she was opposed to the walkway.
The meeting was preceded by a public hearing to amend the borough’s zoning ordinance on cell towers. According to Dinkelacker, the new restrictions should not create any problems for existing towers but do limit where new cell towers can be erected. After the hearing, council passed the ordinance unanimously.