Friday, March 11, 2016

Over a century ago, the site Nestle is planning to use was developed by millionaires, resulting in property condemnation, bankruptcy and some positive outcomes

In 1898, a group of millionaires including J.P. Morgan got the bright idea to develop the Chestnut Ridge.  They formed Chestnut Ridge Development Corporation, and their plans included constructing a brick factory on the site that Nestle plans to extract water from.  To support the brick factory, a railroad would be constructed along the creek between Palmerton and Kunkletown.  Another part of the plan was to create a resort on the Blue Ridge near the Monroe/Carbon county line.
Kunkletown Station at terminus of Chestnut Ridge Railway
Property today owned by Gower Estates, LLC

The last part of the plan might be considered "visionary" from the viewpoint of 1970, considering the development that was about to commence.  But alas, the resort never came to fruition, and that the tourist trade has passed Kunkletown by may be a good thing.  However, a 35-room lodge with luxury appointments overlooking the brick factory was constructed along Chestnut Ridge Drive to host corporation executives when they were in town - first things first.

Chestnut Ridge Lodge, Chestnut Ridge Dr Kunkletown
Property owned today by Gower Estates, LLC

The Chestnut Ridge Railroad was built within two years, and the New York and Philadelphia Brick Tile and Terra Cotta Company opened in 1900.  In only two or three years, the brick company failed, and the railroad sold and renamed Chestnut Ridge Railway.  The brick company was replaced by the Chestnut Ridge White Brick Company, and this company also went bankrupt within a few years.  The railroad was sold in 1907 to The New Jersey Zinc Company.  By 1929, the brick company was defunct.  To this day, the Chestnut Ridge Railway name survives.

Twin 90' tall kiln stacks of brick factory at center; Chestnut Ridge Lodge top right
Site of factory and lodge owned today by Gower Estates, LLC

A side benefit was that Kunkletown residents could use the railroad to commute to the zinc company and other jobs in and near Palmerton, which they did until passenger service ceased in 1935.  The Kunkletown railway station became a hub for the bulk shipment of products to and from the area, with freight service continuing into the 1960's.

Chestnut Ridge Railway
Today mostly converted to a recreational rail trail

Passenger service fit for commoners - C.R.R. Railbus #51 ca. about 1930
Restored by and in possession of the Phillipsburg RR Historians

C.R.R. Railbus #51, converted to a maintenance vehicle ca. about 1960

The site of the Chestnut Ridge Lodge now has an unfoliated patch where the foundation once was.  Most of the railroad has been torn up today - leaving a 35' wide ribbon as a right of way for a recreational rail trail.  It leads one to consider the future and ponder, could there be any potential fringe benefits for the residents of Kunkletown of Nestle's development of the same site 5 or 15 years down the road, after the $750,000 payoff has been expended?  Continuous diesel exhaust, road degradation, truck noise, slowed traffic stuck behind 40-ton trucks going 10mph up hills, reduced property values.  Not a single job, no benefit to the tax base.  These are the only  "benefits".

Click the image to see the location of the Chestnut Ridge Corporation's improvements
and Nestle's planned operation on the Gower Estates LLC lot

Here is an article from a publication titled "Poconos Today", which recounts from Kunkletown resident Levi Smith's perspective the manner in which Kunkletown and its residents responded to and were affected by development associated with the Chestnut Ridge Corporation that commenced in 1898.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Landowner's attorney conspires with Eldred Planning Commission secretary and mother of landowner's bff to alter meeting minutes

You just could not make this up.  On the day following landowner Gower attorney James Wimmer's unannounced visit to the March 20, 2014 Eldred Township Planning Commission meeting, Mr. Wimmer via email directed planning commission secretary Darcy Gannon to alter her draft minutes.

Evidently Ms. Gannon sent her draft minutes to Mr. Wimmer for his "review" in the paneled offices back at Philip & Wimmer.  Instead of clearing up any misunderstandings in person with the planners and/or solicitor... you know... the evening before at the meeting itself.  Since when are draft meeting minutes sent to people outside the town for review?

Below, an excerpt of the official March 20, 2014 minutes adopted in April is shown on the right, and an excerpt of Mr. Wimmer's helpful email to "fill in the blanks" is shown on the left.
Note the following:
  • The official minutes are identical to the "modified" version that Mr. Wimmer crafted on behalf of his client, Ricky Gower - Ms. Gannon was most receptive to Mr. Wimmer's powers of suggestion.
  • Mr.Wimmer signed his email "Jimmy" - Mr. Wimmer has known Ms. Gannon for years.
  • Mr. Wimmer suggests that he and Ms. Gannon get together for a "date" to celebrate their work together.
  • Ricky Gower's significant other, Gretchen Gannon-Pettit, is an Eldred supervisor and more importantly the daughter of secretary Gannon.
  • Update 4/6 Note the email address - this message was passed through Gretchen Gannon-Pettit's township email account.
  • Mr. Wimmer has made a few most strategic changes - he warms up with the false and misleading statement that the use "would then no longer be permitted on Gower's property," (it never was) and tops things off with the critical (and misleading) phrase "the planners concurred with this request."
  • The misrepresentation that this use only consists of "piping and storage tanks."   No mention of 40-ton trucks roaring up the hills of Kunkletown every 10 minutes all day and until 11pm, which is the aspect that makes it an industrial use.
Mr. Wimmer must have been downright giddy when he learned that Ms. Gannon was able to comply with all his requests, out of the sight and earshot of the planning commission members and their solicitor - the people Ms. Gannon should have consulted if she had a question about what happened at the meeting.

No wonder Ms. Gannon is no longer employed at Eldred Twp.  Hopefully "Jimmy" bought her surf and turf.

Jimmy has the moves to get the job done

Objectors to Nestle's planned operation have cars vandalized - again

This past weekend, it is reported that at least two cars of residents who have petitioned to nullify the corrupt ordinance change that permitted Nestle to file its application, were vandalized.  This is second time these citizens have been targeted.  There have also been other cars vandalized, and an improvised explosive device that was launched over another objector's property, causing the destruction of tree limbs over an area at least a 60' x 30'.

The problem for the adult-aged juvenile delinquents perpetrating these senseless acts of violence is that they are fighting a losing battle against a small army.  The appeal in the Monroe Court of Common Pleas is a solid case.  The township has already admitted this, leaving Ricky Gower and his law firm (which is the same one that Eldred Twp taxpayers pay for to represent regional planning body CJERP) to attempt to intervene and defend rights Gower believes he is entitled to.  The only problem is, the ordinance change in question was the result of a corrupt process, with Elded Twp, CJERP, and the county planning commission bearing responsibility.  Furthermore, there are multiple issues with Nestle's current application, and the Eldred Twp Supervisors are in the process of overturning the amendment that was illegally passed.  Thus, the rights Mr. Gower believes he has are as good as a concrete foundation built on quick sand.

Whoever is vandalizing property is desperate, and realizes that their carefully-crafted diabolical plan to place an industrial operation in a commercial zoning district is about to go up in smoke.  And they have over 120 people to act out against.  Better get some more cans of paint...

An analysis of a recent court filing will be posted in the next few days, revealing just how weak the landowner's argument is that the ordinance was legally passed.  Incredibly (or not?), CJERP is maintaining the same position as the landowner, according to its Solicitor, whose law firm also represents the landowner.  CJERP may want to spend 5 minutes looking into the matter, admit the obvious, and stand alongside CJERP member Eldred Twp.  At CJERP's February meeting, its Solicitor announced his opinion that the ordinance was legally passed, but CJERP didn't debate or vote on this.  The Solicitor recommended CJERP not discuss the 2014 amendment.  Eldred Twp's representatives should make a motion at the next CJERP meeting that CJERP determine its position.  Conduct a frigging executive session if you must, then get a towel to wipe the cartons of eggs off your faces.  The sooner the better.

When Sharon Solt heard that candy was tossed back at people who were opposed to Nestle handing it out in a Halloween Parade in 2015, she said on Facebook "if that happened, it is wrong."  What does she have to say now that residents of Eldred Twp are having their cars vandalized, and an explosive launched at someone's property?  People who are doing nothing more than protecting their health, safety and welfare?  After all, she and Gretchen Gannon Pettit are the ones responsible for not overturning the amendment in Spring 2015, when it was discovered and recommended by the planning commission to be overturned, before Nestle went ahead and commenced expensive testing.  Supervisor Solt, what do you have to say to your residents?  This happened on your watch and is a result of your actions, and subsequent inaction.