Breaking RenewLV News: Board Members Now on LVPC and Lehigh County Farmland Preservation Board
Two RenewLV Board Members Appointed to Planning Positions in the Lehigh Valley
Bethlehem, PA (Sept. 1, 2015) – RenewLV is pleased to announce that recently board members Julie Thomases and Ron Beitler were appointed to two important planning boards. Thomases, an Allentown native, was appointed to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and Beitler, a Lower Macungie Township commissioner, was appointed to Lehigh County’s Sterling Raber Farmland Preservation Board.
Lehigh County Commissioners recently voted unanimously to appoint both board members. Thomases joins about 30 planners from Lehigh and Northampton counties on the LVPC and Beitler is one of nine members of the preservation board.
Referencing Thomases’ appointment, Lehigh Valley Commissioner Dr. Percy Dougherty said, “I think she’s a really great addition to the LVPC. We need someone to represent the interests of the city. She’s been very active in several different organizations, not only in terms of benefiting the city but also as a major advocate of farmland preservation.
Thomases represents the fourth district, which includes the western part of Allentown.
Beitler will work with the Bureau of Agricultural Land Preservation to preserve farmland within Lehigh County as a member of the Sterling Raber Farmland Preservation Board. Permanent preservation of farmland is accomplished through the purchase of conservation easements on eligible county farm properties. As of January 2015, the county has protected 257 farms covering 21,240 acres with perpetual agricultural easements.
Thomases retired in 2014 from her fourteen-year position as executive director of Embrace Your Dreams, a local youth development organization that served more than 10,000 Lehigh Valley children.
“I now have more time to dedicate to community service. I can think of no better way to ensure that our future generations experience a high quality of life than by participating in the regional planning process,” said Thomases.
Thomases currently serves on the newly formed Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council (LVFPC) that was a recommendation of the EnvisionLV process. Part of her interest in serving on the LVPC is related to her desire to implement the ideas put forth in the EnvisionLV Assessment Report: The Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy. These include growing our local food economy and reducing food insecurity.
“These goals are critically important now, as currently more than 10 percent of the region’s citizens are relying monthly on the region’s food banks to meet their food needs,” said Thomases. In addition, 50 percent of the region’s food comes from California, underscoring the need for the area to be more food self-sufficient.
Joyce Marin, executive director of RenewLV said, “I’ve known Julie Thomases for many years and she cares deeply about the quality of life of Lehigh Valley residents. She is knowledgeable about many issues that are important to residents, RenewLV and LVPC – from transportation and air quality to creating a more self-sufficient economy, and ensuring that the region’s natural resources are protected. Julie is committed to understanding the complexities of the issues and doing the research needed to make an informed decision.
Beitler is a Lower Macungie Commissioner and farmland preservation advocate. According to Beitler’s Facebook pages, he said, “While the (Lehigh County farmland preservation) program remains funded currently at some level, a few years ago it was slashed substantially. We believe if a community truly values preservation the only way to do so permanently is to step up and purchase development rights. This is also the only fair way to treat landowners. Preservation by zoning is both political (therefore not permanent) and unfair.”
He went on to say in his Facebook post that he plans to push for a fully funded farmland preservation program by encouraging Lehigh County Commissioners to cash in on matching funds from the state. He added, “Along with our friends at RenewLV we hope to follow this issue closely in the upcoming Lehigh County Commissioner Election. They are the decision makers in terms of restoring funding to the program through the County budget process.”
Joyce Marin stated, “Ron has done a great job of understanding farmland preservation issues as they relate to local zoning and the county program. He is knowledgeable about the issues, and understands how to move the process forward to create change. He is committed to improving preserving the quality of life in this region. He will be an asset to the farmland preservation board.”
Renew Lehigh Valley is a non-profit organization committed to promoting smart growth and smart governance in order to revitalize our core communities, preserve open space, and establish an economically and environmentally sustainable foundation for our region’s future growth.