Home One community Back to the drawing board: Catasauqua discusses options for Iron Works ownership after deal collapses | Lehigh Valley Regional News

Back to the drawing board: Catasauqua discusses options for Iron Works ownership after deal collapses | Lehigh Valley Regional News

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CATASAUQUA, Pa. — Officials in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, are starting from scratch as they determine what to do with the former Iron Works property.

At Monday night’s meeting, Catasauqua City Council voted to create a special committee to explore the borough’s direction with the former Crane Iron Works property after a failed plan 12-year-old being worked on last month.

Council members Brian Bartholomew, Howard Cunningham and Cameron Smith are now tasked with leading efforts to determine, with public input, what to do with the 12-acre brownfield.

The borough is back to the drawing board, after a deal to turn the property into a mixed-use development came to a halt. In early June, the borough was in the process of selling the property along Front Street to Bethlehem-based developer Dunn Twiggar Co. LLC.

Dunn Twiggar planned to redevelop the property into a center for working life with residential, office and retail space. However, on June 3, the borough received a letter from the promoter terminating the sale contract.

This development did not sit well with borough residents, and a number of them showed up on Monday ready to express their displeasure with the council.

However, after hearing a presentation from Borough attorney Thomas Dinkelacker on the legal options available to the Borough to move forward with the Iron Works property, objections were voiced in a civil manner that made default at the June 6 board meeting.

Dinkelacker said that, by law, the borough has two options for selling the property. The first is to publicly announce bids using either an RFP or the auction process. In this option, the highest bid must be accepted.

The second option, Dinkelacker said, “is to negotiate directly with another institution, usually a nonprofit organization.”

The exception to both options is to sell to a redevelopment authority such as the Lehigh County Redevelopment Authority. A downside to this approach, Dinkelacker noted, is that the borough would lose control of the property.

If Catasauqua chooses to go through the RFP process, the sale must be completed within 60 days of bid approval. To help ease this tight closing window, the attorney said many municipalities attach a sales agreement to the RFP and give respondents up to 120 days or more to respond.

What if no one bids? In this case, Dinkelacker said the “law of no offer” applies. The borough would advertise the property for offers a second time. If none is received a second time, the Borough may negotiate a private sale with a buyer of its choice as long as the sale price is not less than fair market value.

Dinkelacker recommended that the board establish a special Iron Works committee and hold four public meetings in August and September.

Among the issues he recommended addressing: public discussion of the agenda, identification of interested parties, creation of an electronic clearinghouse for existing documents, preparation to deal with outside agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection and determining if adjustments are needed to the waterfront. zoning order.

“Things haven’t changed since 2017, when I last did,” Dinkelacker observed. “Only the ‘law of no-offer’ has changed slightly.”

Most of the residents’ concerns voiced on Monday night centered on maintaining the mixed-use zoning of the Dunn Twiggar approach, which council said it also favors.

Some residents also took issue with the selection of the three council members for the special committee.

“I question the committee of three,” said a community member on the podium during public comments. “Brian, it was kind of hard seeing that you were shutting down the project and ending it, and not really being open with the community.”

Brian Bartholomew, chairman of the borough council, said that with changing times, the same stores planned 12 years ago may not be what the borough needs now.

“It seems to me that brick and mortar is really going, you know,” he said. “Really, for me, what more do you have…pizzerias and beauty salons?”

“I’m a little angry about it, actually I’m very angry about it,” said Virginia Schlegel, who has lived in Catasauqua for nearly 38 years. “It’s something that would be good for the borough of Catasauqua, which would benefit the borough.”

“I’m a little angry about it, actually I’m very angry about it,” said Virginia Schlegel, who has lived in Catasauqua for nearly 38 years. “It’s something that would be good for the borough of Catasauqua, which would benefit the borough.”

Former borough council president Vincent Smith said in June that he had been working on the deal for more than a decade and didn’t know what was wrong.

The developer also previously said the company had to back out of the deal when it learned the borough council president was not going to approve an extension of due diligence.

This extension was to be discussed at a special board meeting in early June. It was canceled at the last minute, but some community members say they don’t know why.

Other news

In other matters, council voted to appoint Mayor Barbara Schlegel as the temporary Open Files Officer. Additionally, the two-hour parking signs on Second Street between Bridge and Strawberry streets have been approved for removal.

Additionally, Councilor Cunningham reported on the status of the search for a new Borough Manager to replace Steve Travers. He said there were currently five applicants and the first round of interviews was scheduled for August 26. Finalist candidates will be interviewed by the board on September 6.