Lehighton Borough Council on Monday authorized solicitor James R. Nanovic to contact an attorney representing Carbon County to negotiate an agreement on revisions to a planned industrial park at the former Packerton Yards. The matter is currently in county court.
Council would consider signing the agreement at an upcoming public meeting.
Council has refused to grant the county the waivers and approvals it is seeking for subdivision plans for development of the Packerton Yards Industrial Park. Lehighton's permission is needed because a small portion of the park, mostly in Mahoning Township, overlaps the borough boundary.
The borough's planning commission had recommended approval, but council on June 28 rejected the plans. The county hired Hughes, Kalkbrenner and Ozorowski, LLC of Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, to contest council's decision.
Monday's authorization allows Nanovic to contact attorney Edward J. Hughes to reach an agreement. Nanovic favors reaching an agreement.
"There are a whole lot fewer conditions than there were when we started," he said.
The agreement would itemize the half-dozen or so conditions the county would have to meet to be granted the permissions.
"I do not anticipate a lengthy agreement," Nanovic said.
Commissioners Chairman William O'Gurek said commissioners "thought they had no reason to reject our subdivision plans, but at very least, they should have at least given it conditional approval. The things they are concerned about are controlled or regulated by agencies other than us."
One of those concerns is the lack of a highway occupancy permit, issued by the state Department of Transportation, so the county can begin working on the new access to the park at Packerton Dam Road. Others included state Department of Environmental Protection planning approval for sewage treatment and a erosion and sedimentation control plan.
"I know they are concerned about those things, but we're in the process of getting them," O'Gurek said.
In fact, the county has just gotten the erosion and sedimentation plan from the county Conservation District and exemption from the sewage facilities plan, he said. The county has given that information to the borough, he said.
"I think we've moved a lot of those issues along," O'Gurek said.
Even so, according to Hughes, those matters should not factor into the borough's consideration of the plan.
In a Feb. 15 letter he wrote to Nanovic, Hughes said, "The law is clear that a municipality lacks the authority to deny plan approval based on the applicant not having its outside agency approvals; on the contrary, conditional approval is mandated under those circumstances."
Because the project involves both Lehighton and Mahoning Township, the county needs the approval of both municipalities. Recently, Mahoning Township supervisors voted 3-2 to extend the time to make a final decision on the plan until July 31. Supervisors Linda Benner and Frank Ruch opposed the extension, while John Wieczorek, Travis Steigerwalt and George Stawnyczyj favored it.
The county began working toward development of the 59-acre parcel, which it bought for $350,000 in 2005, along Route 209 in 2002. County officials have been working since then to obtain government grant money and permits.