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County against Thorpe zoning

Carbon County Commissioners are speaking out against a proposed Jim Thorpe Borough zoning amendment that would allow on-lot septic systems for properties 5 acres or larger that are at least 1,000 feet, but less than a half-mile, from Mauch Chunk Lake.

The zoning amendment under consideration would directly impact a subdivision submission by Jim Thorpe property owner Ed Kanick, who said he hopes to add a maximum of nine homes on land he owns along Lentz Trail.

“The Carbon County Board of Commissioners regards any proposed modifications to the existing zoning regulations to allow the installation of on-lot sewage systems in closer proximity to Mauch Chunk Lake Park and Mauch Chunk Creek, than is currently allowed, as not only a significant and unnecessary increased threat to the high-quality, water-centric outdoor experience that tens of thousands of residents and visitors experience annually, but as contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the current Middle Carbon County Comprehensive Plan guiding planning and development in Jim Thorpe Borough,” the three-member commissioner board including Wayne Nothstein, Chris Lukasevich and Rocky Ahner wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to the borough.

Jim Thorpe currently requires all properties within a half-mile of the lake to connect to public sewer.

The borough, in October, authorized its solicitor to send the latest draft of the zoning ordinance amendment to its planning commission and the Carbon County Planning Commission.

Kanick said his subdivision plan is an effort to have his family living closer together.

“We want to do whatever is required to make sure that there are no problems,” Kanick said in October. “We’re not trying to pull anything over on anyone.”

Kanick said he has worked with his engineering firm, Keystone Consulting, to design backup drain fields and add multiple other precautionary measures in case something should fail.

“The system will have an alarm on it,” Kanick said. “We are going to have yearly inspections included under deed restrictions and mandatory system pump outs every three years.”

Jim Thorpe’s sewage enforcement officer, Kanick said, did 14 septic tests on the property, passing all of them “with flying colors.”

“The sewage officer stated it was some of the nicest soil he’s seen to handle septic,” Kanick said. “The deed restrictions will have that only one house per lot will be allowed and they are irreversible. The lots are going to range from 5 to 10 acres so it’s not like we’re overdeveloping it like some are claiming we are.”

Commissioners, in their letter, referred to sections of the Middle Carbon County Comprehensive Plan that dub Mauch Chunk Lake as the predominate planning area water body west of the Lehigh River and Mauch Chunk Creek as the source of supply for the Jim Thorpe water system serving the area of the borough west of the Lehigh River.

“The pursuit of a temporary economic benefit from the development and spoliation of valuable natural resources that the taxpayers of this county have invested in and enjoyed for nearly 50 years would be both short-sighted and contrary to your duties as elected representatives of the people,” commissioners wrote to council. “For the foregoing reasons, on behalf of our constituents, the Carbon County Board of Commissioners hereby calls upon Jim Thorpe Borough Council to reject any such proposed zoning changes which would otherwise permit on-lot sewage in closer proximity to MCLP and Mauch Chunk Creek.”

Two members of Jim Thorpe’s planning commission, Louis Hall and John McGuire, have repeatedly spoken out against the proposed amendment, urging council to keep the buffer and protect its water source.

“I think council would be making a very bad decision by allowing the amendment,” Hall said earlier this year. “There is enough acreage up there that this could turn into a 45-50 home subdivision. People much rather go to a lake in Pocono Mountains and not a 40- or 50-house subdivision.”

The closest lot to Mauch Chunk Lake, Kanick said, would be about 1,000 feet away.

Council President Greg Strubinger said he sees the amendment as a way to limit the number of homes in the Mauch Chunk Lake area.

“Mr. Kanick is agreeing to put deed restrictions on which only allow him to build homes on lots of 5 acres or more,” Strubinger said. “He has the right to extend the municipal sewer system up there and that could really increase the amount of homes he puts on there. We’d also be requiring pumping and inspections of the system every three years.”

The Kanick subdivision plan itself is up for a time extension vote at next week’s borough council meeting.