Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Stan Kocher (7/30/1917-3/28/2005)

Gone but not forgotten, we salute Stan Kocher for his years of dedicated service to Forks Township and his unwavering concern for its future. May God bless him and comfort his family during this sad time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tables and Chairs

The date is confirmed for the new Municipal Building furniture presentations. Three vendors vying for your tax dollars will present their wares. This "show and tell" is open to the public on Monday, April 4th from 5-8 PM in the OLD Municipal Building. Everyone who wants to see where their money will go should attend.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

BoS Meeting 3/17/2005

This well attended Board of Supervisors meeting was a long one. It began early (at 7:00 PM) with a Conditional Use Hearing (really a presentation) of Strausser Enterprises proposed (Riverview Estates private) Recreation Center and ended with an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. In between there were other important agenda items, including the problem facing Forks residents living near an abandoned rail line that Palmer Township wants for its rails-to-trails program. Joe Nixon's (MCall 3/18/05) report focused on the Strausser project and Chris Pollock's (Express Times 3/18/05) on the Palmer vs. Forks residents' bikepath mess. Both articles give excellent accounts and should be read. (We apologize for the filesize of the Express Times article.) We will try once again to fill in the blanks.

CONDITIONAL USE HEARING - STRAUSSER ENT/RECREATIONAL CENTER FOR RIVERVIEW ESTATES:

Solicitor Kline explained that Strausser Enterprises is proposing to construct a recreation center in the CR district. Its size has changed from 4.5 acres to 3.9.

Sal Panto, Strausser's representative stated that they were presenting "new urbanism" and advised the Board that if they didn't want it then it could be developed as a "cookie cutter" subdivision. (An idea of the layout can be found in this
sketch done from memory by a meeting attendee.) Some of the points covered during Panto's part of the presentation included:

  • Strausser Enterprises wants to redefine SUBURBIA
  • There will be no "at night" golf on the practice range
  • Over the winter, they constructed bluebird cages and bluebird houses on the golf course
  • They have "encouraged the deer to stay"
  • The Falk (sic) house has been restored
  • They have employed "adaptive re-use" by using the stones from the 25th St. abutment as a retaining wall
  • Strausser has paid $11 million in capital fees to the Township
  • There will be an 8000 sf (square feet) limit on commercial space with 2000 sf on average
  • The buildings will be 2-3 stories (although they prefer 4)
  • The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission was positive about this project
  • All the requirements for the CR district are met except for commercial

Strausser's professional land planner, Phil (sorry, we did not get the last name), added the following:

  • There will be 2000 to 3000 homes within a 10 minute (1/2 mile radius) walk
  • Forks' current Town Center is not suitable for pedestrian use
  • There will be 22000 sf of offices with live/work condos above them
  • There will be 59000 sf for commercial use
  • There will be 29 townhomes and 17 village homes
  • The townhomes will have 24' x 40' yards
  • The senior living facility will be 3 stories high
  • The office spaces will have loft/condos over them
  • The village green will be 150' x 300'
  • There will be a "transparent fence" (wrought iron) along Winchester Drive
  • There will be wide sidewalks around the village green
  • There will be 120 Senior "units" (apartments)

Mr. Panto went on to explain that the old Board and the old Township Manager (Gemmel) wanted this. And, that Strausser Enterprises wants the pool open by May 2006.

The regular meeting.................
REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR

  • Supervisor Nicholas stated that the Sterling Hills detention ponds will NOT be dedicated to the Township (a correction to the previous meeting's minutes).
  • Supervisor Hoff reported that there was an Emergency Services meeting last Monday.
  • Nicholas reported that the new Dell 6000 PC for the Sewer Department will cost $1100.
  • Supervisor Miller reported that basketball is winding down and that baseball has already started and that "spring is around the corner."
  • Chairman Ackerman reported that he met with Pete Gheller and Chief Dorney about changing the location of the police firing range to a safer one (up one level).
  • Township Manager Kichline reported that the Township got a performance grant for 2003 and that the monies will go the Sanitary Fund. She thanked Sharon Fisher for "keeping track."
  • Engineer Hay reported that the Newlins Road bridge is now open and that the Frost Hollow pumping station is moving along.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS)

  1. Resident Terry McClane (sic) stated (in reference to the Strausser presentation) that she was glad to see what was happening and that she is disturbed by the plan since she already has a water problem created by the (Segal & Morel - Riverview Estates West) construction around her home. She said that the backfill is 5 feet higher than her level. Nicholas suggested that Fred Hay check the plans.
  2. Fritz Weide addressed the Board commending it for holding the tax rate at 4.6 mil for the last 3 years. He said that there should be something in the Township bylaws dealing with nepotism. And, he told the Board that they should not meet with developers individually. He said that this is "bad government. Good government is open government." He thinks this should be in writing.
  3. Vito Tamborino (resident and Chairman of the Planning Commission) said that northbound drivers on Sullivan Trail are making left turns into Dunkin Donuts and that it is very dangerous. The sign says ENTER on both sides. He suggested having the sign removed and adding a NO LEFT TURN sign. Chief Dorney and Tim Weis will contact PennDot.

We learned in the STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX that the site contractor will be back on the site in the next 1-1/2 weeks and that the paving should be done by the end of April. After that they will work on the Giant pond. He hopes that the Police Department building can be occupied by May 1st. The contractor will be checking the Municipal Building footers for heaving (from the winter) and will replace any that need it. Met-Ed received the right-of-way agreement from Giant. He commended Ed for doing a nice job on the electrical work in the new park building. As to the plaque, Ackerman stated that the Board would hold off on a decision until next meeting.

AWARD BIDS: (A) CCTV - to I.C.U. for $12,100 - for the PD building - Approved 5:0. Holmgaard stated that there is no Federal requirement that the rest of the complex have a CCTV system and he thinks that one should be installed while the walls are open. The BoS will take it up later. (B) FUELING TANKS - three bidders backed out and one was too high. It will be put out for bids again. Nicholas suggested that in the future all bids be opened in public perhaps at a workshop before a regular meeting. Hoff noted that this takes time. The opening of bids in public was approved 5:0.

The CONDITIONAL USE/RIVERVIEW RECREATIONAL CENTER discussion began with Ackerman asking if the land was subdivided. Panto replied that it was not and that Strausser Enterprises wants the opinion of the BoS on the Village Center. He doesn't care (he said.) He stated that 3.6 acres is for the recreation village and that it will go on the bike path. "That's what the bike path system is for."

Vito Tamborino (PC and in the audience) stated that the letter from the Planning Commission is not complete. It should be added that the PC is in favor of going to the next step. He noted that there was no NOTICE to the public for the "whole" thing only for the Conditional Use. He also pointed out that 250 units of housing is like 50 extra if there was no Village. Tamborino recommended a JOINT MEETING of the PC & BoS.

Hoff stated that it was an excellent presentation but did NOT address the Conditional Use and he can't approve it. Nicholas said to "get rid of the housing." She would like the commercial to be like Peddlers' Village. Holmgaard commented that it was better than "cookie cutter" and that they can deal with the density. Miller stated that he agrees with Vito and that it should be denied and sent back to the PC. Panto said he would be happy to sit down with Urban Research & Development. (Aside: UR&D is working on the Township's zoning revamp.)

A resident thought it should be put near the old Laneco and that there should be NO 3 or 4 story buildings. Another resident, Marge Pearsall, pointed out that the EASD could not handle 4000 new students and she wondered where the new (soon to be needed) school would go. Panto replied that 120 of the units are "active adult dwellings" (over 55) and they would add no school kids. Only the 46 townhouses would have school kids.

Yet another resident asked Mr. Panto to please stop raising his voice (at the audience.) Panto explained that he had been a school teacher. He also stated that only "complainers come to meetings", that "only the negative people speak," and that the "positive people don't come to meetings." He went on to say the he has talked to many in the community who think this is a worthwhile project. The Board denied the Conditional Use for reasons set forth in the Planning Commission letter (voting 0:5.)

The COLLEGE PARK/PRELIMINARY FINAL SUBDIVISION was approved 5:0 as was the waiver from SALDO that the developer (Signature Homes) needed. It was noted that the flag lots had been eliminated as were the drives on Zucksville. Nicholas asked who will take care of the detention pond and was told that it would be the lot owner.

GREENLEAF ESTATES, PHASE 2/ACCEPTANCE OF DEED OF DEDICATION FOR STREETS was approved 5:0. Fred Hay said that this dedication was missed last summer. Solicitor Kline said this project is now known as Shawnee Ridge and that everything was in order.

PHEASANT RIDGE, PHASE 4/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS was approved 5:0. Kline stated that everything is in order and that a condition is that the developer receive only 3 building permits until the issues in the other phases are resolved.

The PENN JERSEY PIPELINE CO/SALE OF PIPELINE ASSETS brought more comment from Mr. Tamborino. The pipeline crosses through a corner of HIS yard and he was concerned that it may be moved without notification. Hay said that the pipeline in question has road crossings dating from the 1950s (before permits were required). Kline noted that the Township is notified now of pipeline movement and that any new owners must continue to do so. The Board approved the signing of the letter by Ackerman.

The MET-ED/STREET LIGHT RESOLUTION/BUSHKILL RIDGE DEVELOPMENT was approved 5:0 after Kline stated that everything was in order.

The FORKS RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY PALMER TWP. PROPOSED BIKE PATH was presented by the attorney for the residents, William Coffin, Esq. Kline gave background for this issue as:

  • Palmer Township acquired rights to the railroad bed of which part is in Forks Township
  • Palmer is seeking grants for Rails-to-Trails
  • The railroad gave them a quitclaim deed which states "We are giving (whatever) ownership rights to the property but we don't know if we have any."
  • The grant agency stated that wasn't good enough
  • Palmer tried to condemn land in Forks

Kichline stated that she has had no calls from Palmer Township but she has had some from citizens. Coffin explained that he is representing the residents and that a complaint has been filed against Palmer Township seeking a permanent injunction and seeking a reversionary deed. He described serious problems with the bike path and the neighbors. He said that speeding motorized vehicles (4 wheel/motorcycles/snowmobiles) are using the railbed now. A resident found a shovel in his pool. And, there can be crime in the woods. The case is now before the Northampton Court of Common Pleas. He presented the Board with color photos of some of the problems. He asked that Forks Township does not become involved. He stated that it would be more expensive and that "eminent domain costs" (money) and it would bring Forks into the lawsuit. Ackerman asked who owns the railroad bed now. Coffin said that the believes the landowners listed in the complaint do since it has been abandoned. Kline said that back in 1910 the railroad got its land 2 ways, one by outright deed and the other with "right of reverter." He did not know until now about the litigation and he said that his office has had no contact from Palmer Township.

Tom Gillen (sic) said that he teaches fishing and archery on his property and won't be able to do that anymore if the bikepath goes in. Guy Christopher (sic) stated that according to the Township Plan that land is not zoned for recreation and that people are coming through his property all the time. The owners are liable. He also said that there were rapes and vandalism on the trail in Palmer Township. Vito Tamborino said that this will stop what Palmer Township has been working on for 25 years. He said that rails-to-trails work although some trails require police presence. He said that this is "Forks land" and he would hate to see Palmer come in.

Coffin closed by mentioning that a city in Indiana approved removing rails and giving the land back. He stated that Forks will be liable for actions that occur on the bikepath (rape/kidnapping) and that "Forks can help its citizens by doing nothing." The Board complied.

The Board agreed to SET DATE & ADVERTISE MEETING/FURNITURE PRESENTATION for April 4th or 5th depending on the vendors' availability. It will take 3 hours (one hour for each vendor) and may run from 5 PM to 8 PM.

There was no CURRENT BUDGET REVIEW.

Added to the agenda (by Holmgaard at the beginning of the meeting) were:

  • APPROVAL OF NEW POLICE PATCH. Dorney said that the officers designed it. It was approved 5:0.
  • DISPOSAL OF OUT-OF-SERVICE POLICE CRUISERS. The Township has 2 new vehicles and therefore they can dispose of 2. One is going to the Fire Department and will be green striped. Weis said that they will retire their old car and it can go to a Township auction. The other car will be kept for Township use.

Holmgaard announced that the Township's new website will be up on Monday. The Board went into executive session to consider a personnel issue. They took no action and the meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake,
tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Strausser idea better than sliced bread,yessirree

Strausser's "Village Center" debuted unexpectedly at the PC meeting along with their reason for coming, to obtain a conditional use approval for a recreational facility. Gosh, the ex-mayor was in his full glory, slide show and everything. He certainly did a resounding job in Easton during his tenure. Why shouldn't we go with him now? Golly, he's going to move people with DISPOSABLE INCOME into " new urbanism" apartments (overtop quaint shoppes). Something us locals know nothing about. I sure am glad he came up the hill to educate us. Gee Whiz, there's just a couple a changes the PC/BoS would hafta make to the Cr district; like allowing skyscrapers(max 2 1/2 story residences now), allowing retail shoppes and apartments (a no-no now), allowing just a little bit HIGHER DENSITY (would rival Easton). Also, do parking lots qualify as open space (35% open space in CR performance)? I'm glad they came with an open mind.

I went to the Animal Fair... the birds and the beasts were...

When is a public meeting not a public meeting? When the agenda is changed at the 11th hour of course. An agenda with a list of items to be TABLED (save one - College Park) was published. It included (Conditional Use) Strausser Enterprises' Recreation Center.

More interesting than having this on the agenda though, was that the presentation was NOT exclusively for the Recreation Center Conditional Use. It was the WHOLE darned shooting match. All 25 +/- acres. Yessiree. There it was. Apartments, townhouses, village houses, a senior apartment building, offices, apartments, retail space, apartments, parking, apartments... you get the picture. (The apartments may morph to condominiums we were told.) Between the parking (780 spaces) and buildings (2-4 stories high) the only open (as in porous) space belonged to the private Recreation Center and the Village Square (football field size) and strips of land between the town/village houses and their detached garages. Did I mention apartments? They go above the retail and office space. In an ideal world the people operating the small retail spaces would live above them.

Because of the enormity of this project and the fact that Strausser Enterprises failed to submit a subdivision plan (for the Recreation Center portion), the PC suggested that the Conditional Use Request be withdrawn from consideration at the meeting. If granted, it would restrict the entire 25 acre parcel to the recreation center (in the southeast corner) only. (What a kick it would have been had it been granted.) Apparently the Strausser people have PROMISED (via CONTRACT) the Recreation Center to the new Riverview Estates residents by May 2006. Strausser's attorney refused to withdraw the request. The Forks Planning Commission voted it down. The Township is now the "bad guy" to all new Riverview residents.

In the discussion a resident compared this project to what should be happening in downtown Easton, a place that already has the shell for everything proposed. Although "adaptive reuse" was touted by Strausser Enterprises representative Sal Panto, there was no interest in applying that principle to existing buildings. Instead it will be applied to farm fields. Yessiree again... take that farm field and adaptively reuse it as parking lots and 2-4 story buildings. Panto mentioned a Park & Ride on Winchester Drive too. When questioned by a resident, he said that he was just talking and there would be NO park & ride. The resident remarked how it would help the traffic problems if there was one.

While listing the contributions by Strausser Enterprises to Forks Township, a definite misstatement was made. Panto said that they chose a practice range for their 30 acre parcel over 120 homes. Excuse me. That 30 acres in the FP district could only hold 15 homes at a maximum. We should all be a bit fearful of statements made by someone who offers good concepts like park & ride (and then dismisses them later as just "talking") and false statistics like 120 homes NOT built in the FP. Panto also said that the practice range would be used "primarily" in the day time. Well... what does that mean?

Last thing... the title of this post. Yes, we learned that deer love to frolic in the golf course's sand traps and that many bluebird houses have been put up around the course. Someone should tell the deer not to frolic on the soon-to-be practice range though since it seems to be a prime (employee perq) hunting area.

Joe Nixon (Morning Call 3/11/05) reported on the meeting. He's good. He remained cool and impartial.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

BoS Meeting 3/3/2005

The Express Times' Chris Pollock reported on the 3/3/05 meeting. The Morning Call's Joe Nixon did not. Instead he chose to present an obviously well researched article on one of the major issues of the evening, the request to lower the speed limit on Bushkill Drive. This piece is worth a second read. We are guessing that Nixon will write up the rest of the meeting shortly and when he does, we will link it here. (Update: Joe Nixon's piece on the meeting appeared in the 3/8/05 Morning Call. Click here to read it.)

This was a first for us, being at a BoS meeting that was immediately (after the Pledge of Allegiance) paused for an executive session. When the four Supervisors (David Hoff was not present) emerged from the backroom 10 minutes later, they said nothing except that it was to discuss a personnel issue and that no action was taken during the session. There were no COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) and no CORRESPONDENCE
.

On the printed agenda, in the section above the line, is a list of DEBITS/TRANSFERS. This meeting's agenda listed a new item under that, Total Debt: $9,445,822. We are pleased that this is now on the agenda. It was requested some meetings ago by resident Fritz Wiede (see BoS Meeting 1/21/05). We were told on 1/21/05 that the figure only changes twice a year (when payments are made.)

MANAGER'S & DEPARTMENT REPORTS:

Township Manager Kichline reported that the Township's new website should go online at the end of next week. She reminded all that the Kiwanis Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for March 26, 2005 at 1:00 PM at the Community Center. She also informed the Board that Senator Wonderling wants the Township to submit a list of 3 projects. Supervisor Nicholas said to send the top 5 from the Traffic Study list. She thought that if 5 are submitted the Township may get 3 of them funded.

Tim Weis, Zoning Officer, commended the Public Works Department on the good job they did cleaning up from the last snow storm.

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX prompted a question from Nicholas about the extra work on the detention pond. Gale responded that the contractor is resubmitting designs for the entire stormwater management plan and that any costs to correct the problems will be paid by the contractor. In Gale's general update he said that there has been no action on the site because of the weather. He said that there should be a furniture presentation in early April or before. The bids for the CCTV system for the PD are to be opened 3/4/05. Supervisor Holmgaard is checking to see if a CCTV system is mandatory for the entire site because of 911.

Gale also reported that the new owners of the Giant are giving Met-Ed a tough time about crossing from their right-of-way (Met-Ed's) to the township property. They have involved lawyers. And, regarding the plaques, Chairman Ackerman said that because Supervisor Hoff was not at the meeting they will wait until the next meeting before deciding on the text.

E.I.T. & E.M.S.T. COLLECTION was tabled.

TOWNES AT SULLIVAN TRAIL - RESIDENTIAL/COMMERCIAL was tabled.

Solicitor Kline said that the FORKS SELF STORAGE/INDEMNIFICATION AGREEMENT was all in order. It was approved 4:0.

The STERLING HILL ESTATES/PRELIMINARY SUBDIVISION discussion was lengthy. This development is planned for 68 acres south of Arndt Road and is bordered by Mitman Road on its eastern side. As presented by Seitz, it will have 135 building lots. We were reminded that there was an older plan that had 175 lots. An abutting property owner, Stacy Kocher addressed the Board with his concerns for stormwater runoff onto his yard. The developer said that they were sensitive to his problem and will work with him. Ackerman asked about a homeowners association and was told that there would be none. Nicholas said that the Township does not want to take ownership of the detention/retention ponds and that the plans showed that they would be turned over to the Township. Ackerman suggested that maybe the homeowner on the lot could take care of it. A homeowners association was suggested.

There will be an 8' wide concrete recreation trail all the way on Mitman and Arndt roads. Nicholas suggested a playground for the kids. Don Miller seconded that idea. The developer said that they will work with the Township for a recreation area. The Township does not want ownership of it. Miller suggested that they work it out with the Planning Commission. We learned that the Recreation Fee is $1000 per lot and according to Weis open space is not required in the CR (higher density) district.

There will be side entry lots for the homes with common driveways. There will be 11 homes on Mitman Road with 4 common drives. There are to be no driveways on Arndt Road. Stacy Kocher stated that he was concerned about the stop signs and guard rail. Former Supervisor Stan Kocher said that part of his son's (Stacy Kocher) property was a former quarry and wondered if the Supervisors would be responsible if a kid falls off? Kline said that there is no liability for the Township.

And, a Boy Scout in the audience addressed the Board stating, "I go to school at Shawnee and I want to know how you are going to control the traffic." Ackerman answered, "The best we can." The vote to accept the preliminary subdivision was 4:0 in favor.

In discussion of the C.I.T./LAND DEVELOPMENT we learned that there will be a total of 18,000 sq. ft. of additions and additional parking as well as emergency access roads to accommodate 800 half-time students. All conditions listed in Engineer Hay's letter were agreed to and the project was approved 4:0.

Steven Goffredo represented a Palmer Township developer and requested a BUSHKILL DRIVE/SPEED LIMIT reduction (to 35 mph) recommendation by the Board to PennDot. He related that PennDot would not issue a CO to open the new Newlins Road bridge because of a sight distance problem. He said that PennDot would open the bridge if the speed limit was reduced to compensate. We were told that Bushkill Drive has been widened to its widest to enable a left turn lane on Bushkill but PennDot has eliminated it. He said a Forks homeowner (opposite the bridge) has large pine trees in the way of good sight distance and that homeowner has refused to cut his trees. The trees are NOT in the right-of-way. Kline said that PennDot can condemn the trees and that the problem was created entirely by PennDot on a PennDot road. Holmgaard stated that PennDot should buy the property in question. A resident added that even with lower speed limits, EMS vehicles will go as fast as they can to get to emergencies. The Board rejected the request in a 4:0 vote.

It was noted that Police Chief Dorney gave the Board a very complete plan for the new K-9 Policy. It was approved 4:0.

Chief Dorney reported that there were 3 finalists for the new K-9 Officer position. He submitted the name of Officer William Mills as his choice. The Board voted 4:0 to APPOINT K-9 OFFICER Mills. Congratulations to Officer Mills.

The Board went into the second executive session of the night and emerged to make several motions:

  1. Holmgaard made a motion to hire Berkheimer & Associates. The motion died for lack of a SECOND.
  2. Ackerman made a motion to NOT hire Berkheimer. It was approved 3:1.
  3. Nicholas made a motion to have Mary Ann Kessler come back on Monday. It was approved 4:0.
  4. Miller made a motion to hire a part-time person to help Mary Ann Kessler with the E.I.T. at a rate of $13.00/hr. It was approved 4:0.

The meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Forewarned Is Forearmed

Let's see now, there are how many ways for people living in Forks (and north of Forks and on College Hill) to get to downtown Easton and/or New Jersey? Did you say THREE? Right! Well, this is going to be the Summer and Fall from hell fellow drivers, for according to Edward Sieger's article in today's Express Times, Cattell Street will be undergoing major repairs by the City of Easton and then by PennDot for a long time, from before July (for the City work) to November. The work must be done. We should all begin taking our extra doses of B-complex and St. John's Wort as soon as the snow melts. Oh, and don't forget to allow yourself an extra 1/2 hour or so for sitting in traffic. Bring a book.