A family member representing the estate of Matthew Tumminello, whose 2.2 acre former property at 30 Main Street in Hellertown has been the subject of recent discussions by Borough Council, told council members Monday that the Tumminello estate will oppose any of use of the property which would prevent the public from having access to it and limit the recreational use of it.Edward Tumminello, of Middletown, New Jersey, told councilors that he is Matthew Tumminello's nephew as well as the executor of his late uncle's estate.
He said he came to the meeting after hearing reports concerning a proposed "land swap" between the borough, now the owner of the Tumminello property, and a neighboring business owner, Andrew Panick.
Panick, the owner of Neighbors Home and Garden Center, earlier this summer proposed trading a portion of his property to the borough in exchange for the Tumminello property, which he says he would use as a tree nursery.
Panick suggested the trade, in part, he said, because the property he is offering the borough could help alleviate overcrowding at Borough Hall, because it includes a five-bay structure which could house the Hellertown Police Department.
Matthew Tumminello, who died in 2006, originally purchased the property in the 1960s, when he used it for his mineral wool manufacturing business, his nephew said. At that time, Matthew Tumminello also planned to build a house on the creekside property, he added.
In 1974, Edward Tumminello continued, the borough attempted to purchase his uncle's property for $37,000.
After the borough's offer was rejected, the property was condemned for recreational use, he said.
At that point, and "under considerable duress, he (Matthew Tumminello) negotiated an agreement with the borough" whereby the property was deeded to the municipality of Hellertown for one dollar in exchange for a lifetime lease, Edward Tumminello said.
In a July 21 letter prepared by Coopersburg attorney John E. Roberts on behalf of Edward Tumminello, addressed to Hellertown Borough Manager Charles Luthar, Roberts also stated that Matthew Tumminello had few options after the borough condemned the tract.
"I think it is a fair characterization of Mr. Tumminello's feelings about the matter that he felt that the Borough condemned his property and offered him about one-third of what it was worth and that since his attorney advised him that it would be futile to resist the condemnation proceedings and that the only issue was the price to be paid, he then reluctantly, and under considerable duress, gave in to the Borough and negotiated a life estate which allowed him to keep his business there," Roberts wrote.
The agreement between Matthew Tumminello and the borough was finalized and signed on July 12, 1976, and Roberts maintains a copy of that agreement, he further stated in the letter.
Despite the signed agreement, however, Matthew Tumminello remained uneasy about the future fate of his property in Hellertown, Edward Tumminello asserted to council Monday.
"He repeatedly reminded family members that, after his death, we were to ensure that the property would be used for park purposes," Edward Tumminello added.
Roberts also verified Tumminello's stance on the issue in his July 21 letter to Luthar.
"Mr. Tumminello was adamant during his lifetime that the agreement between him and the borough be honored," he wrote.
Responding to the presentation, Borough Council President Gail Nolf told Tumminello that "this is an open discussion currently and at the next meeting Mr. Panick will come forward with a presentation of his own."
Nolf also invited Tumminello to attend that meeting, which will be held at Hellertown Borough Hall on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.
Prior to leaving the lectern, Edward Tumminello told councilors that a legal battle concerning the use of the property could be "costly, both for our family, and for the residents of Hellertown."
In other business, councilors approved the request of the 2009 Saucon Valley Relay for Life planning committee to once again hold the event in the borough's Dimmick Park.
This year's relay, which was held in the park in June, was a success, Relay for Life organizer Christopher Reilly told councilors.
"We feel like it was a big success. People were very happy with the venue of the park," he said.
Councilor Jane Balum agreed.
"It was just a nice place for it-before it rained, again," she noted.
Historically, the Saucon Valley Relay for Life event has been plagued by challenging weather conditions.
Until 2007, the event was held annually at Saucon Valley School District Stadium in Lower Saucon Township.
The move to Dimmick Park was made in an attempt to increase participation and fundraising levels, both of which happened this year, Reilly noted.
Reilly also took time to thank Hellertown Public Works Department Director Tom Henshaw, who helped coordinate the large-scale 24-hour walk-a-thon.
"He was tremendous in helping us out there. He went above and beyond," Reilly said.
Josh Popichak is the editor of The Saucon News. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com