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Slate Belt communities join forces in new regional development plan

Ten Slate Belt municipalities are joining forces to better steer development, preserve open space and expand their tax bases, community leaders said at a news conference Wednesday in Pen Argyl.Over the next 18 months, the Slate Belt Multi-Municipal Plan Steering Committee will be taking input from the communities through outreach, surveys, and monthly meetings. The goal is to draft by the fall of 2020 a comprehensive plan including Bangor, East Bangor, Pen Argyl, Roseto, Portland and Wind Gap boroughs, as well as Plainfield, Washington, Lower Mount Bethel and Upper Mount Bethel townships.The $190,300 project is being funded by the communities, along with Northampton County, the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Lafayette Ambassador Bank through a state Community and Economic Development program.The project will allow for more regional planning. For example, an individual municipality will no longer be responsible for allotting land for a landfill, said Becky Bradley, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission executive director. That responsibility will be shared by the 10 communities as a whole.“It helps not only our region, but it helps the individual communities and how they can work and grow together,” Bradley said. “The other thing it does is enforce the very high quality of life you have in the Slate Belt.”The focus of economic development in the Lehigh Valley over the next 10 years will be on the Slate Belt, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said.“It is extremely important that you are coming together now to control your future,” he told the group.By joining together, the municipalities say they can more efficiently share and preserve farmland and natural resources. McClure added they also can create better-paying jobs. Each municipality, organizers stressed, will maintain local autonomy and control.“We think this project is going to have immense and lasting benefits for the Slate Belt,” said Joe Feilmeier, Lafayette Ambassador Bank president and CEO.Slate Belt Rising, a neighborhood partnership involving Bangor, Pen Argyl, Portland and Wind Gap, along with its director, Steve Reider, also will be working with the steering committee on the multi-municipal plan.The committee is expected to host events to keep the public informed and soon will launch a website.Morning Call reporter Ashley Stalnecker can be reached at 610-820-6647 or astalnecker@mcall.com
Source: Morningcall

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