O little town of Bethelehem, how sprawled we see thee lie. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered one of the major ‘big box’ developers in New York state to pay a $70,000 civil penalty, and to buy an advertisement in The Business Review publicizing the need to comply with state wastewater regulations. The settlement, which was announced in the December 5th. issue of the Albany, N.Y. Times Union, was in response to the charge that the Nigro Companies had polluted water near its huge Wal-Mart/Lowe’s project in Glenmont called “Bethlehem Town Center”. If Nigro follows the settlement, the company’s fine will be reduced to $25,000, which is a minor penalty to the multi-billion dollar developer. It was alleged by the local bricklayers union that Nigro was risking mudslides into the wetlands, and adding muddy water to the local sewer system. Nigro was using a non-union general contractor, so the unions monitored progress on the site, and threatened to sue the developer over environmental violations. The Nigro company attributed the violations to changes in federal storm water management regulations that were passed last year.
Our local contacts in Bethlehem say the Nigro project is nearing completion. All 5 buildings (Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Applebee’s, Wendy’s and a bank) are nearly done. “The vast size of the whole project is unbelieveable,” my correspondent wrote. “If folks had been given some real indication of how much of the town this behemoth was going to consume, I suspect there would have been a lot more opposition.” But maybe they were watching, because last November, the Republicans who pushed this kind of project were defeated at the polls, against Democrats who ran on a platform of a “Blueprint for Bethlehem” that included a construction moratorium and a master plan. For the sprawling town of Bethlehem, it’s better late than never.