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Opponents of Slate Belt industrial park lose legal challenge but remain optimistic

A citizen’s group has lost a legal challenge to a zoning change that will allow for a major industrial park development in the Slate Belt.

Northampton County Judge Anthony Beltrami dismissed a challenge to a zoning text amendment Upper Mount Bethel Township supervisors passed in September.

Charles Cole and Richard Wilford-Hunt, who are members of Concerned Citizens of Upper Mount Bethel Township, filed the lawsuit in October.

The ruling to dismiss the lawsuit came Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleged supervisors did not consider criticisms and suggested changes to the text amendment that came from the township’s planning commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, thus making the amendment invalid.

The zoning amendment came at the request of development company River Pointe Logistics, which has proposed building up to 6 million square feet of buildings on 725 acres in the township’s industrial zoning district.

River Pointe’s property borders Route 611, Potomac Street, River Road and Pine Tree Lane.

The approved zoning changes increase the allowable height of a building in the township’s industrial zoning districts from 50 feet to 100 feet and increase the allowable building footprint from 300,000 square feet to 800,000 square feet or up to 1 million square feet by conditional use.

The supervisors who voted for the amendment said the changes will allow River Pointe to solicit manufacturing businesses, as opposed to warehouse businesses, which would bring more traffic and create less tax revenue for the township.

Objectors said the development group bought the property knowing what the existing zoning laws were and the township should not be making it easier to build bigger buildings in the largely rural area.

Cole said he is unsure if the group will appeal the judge’s decision.

”I am disappointed in the judge’s decision but in the long haul I remain optimistic,” Cole said. “There is a lot of community support for the Concerned Citizens.”

River Pointe’s first phase of the development -- construction of a 420,000-sqaure-foot building -- are under review by the township.

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