Sunday, February 12, 2006

PC - First Line of Defense - 2/9/06

The Planning Commision on February 9th held its regular meeting, the highlight of which was an exchange between the PC, a developer's rep, and the audience. (See FAC Newspage for other project updates.)

The heated exchange began when Kings Mill LLC's (now-named) Kings Farm presented their Preliminary Plan for 187 two-acre lots on 436 acres in the FP district. Please read Sarah Mausolf's Express Times account of the meeting for an idea of its contentious flavor.

PC Chairman Tamborrino began the meeting with a statement - that he "never meant" to approve 800 plus homes in the FP. He said that he liked the mixed use of the (August) original plan and that this night's plan was "bad planning and bad design." He called it "sprawl" and used the term "McMansions." Planner Erik Chuss said that he respectfully disagreed and added that this at least comes more in line with achieving lower density. Planner Jim Wideman said that there are people in the Township who are more comfortable with two acre lots. Planner John Castrovinci said that they must remember that they serve the public and that the public was overwhelmingly against the August proposal. Planner Dean Turner asked Solicitor Karl Kline about the Pending Ordinance Doctrine. Kline replied that it doesn't apply to subdivisions.

Using the often successful political tactic of "labeling," Atty. Benner (you may remember him from the August 2005 meeting) referred to residents who go to meetings, as "the vocal minority that attends meetings." (After the PC Zoning Ordinance Hearing a few weeks ago, he labeled the attendees "zealots." )

Benner, referring to the new Zoning Ordinance, said that "at the end of the day, bad law makes bad results." He noted too, "that law books are full of these kinds of events and it's just regrettable that you have to utilize whatever rights you have, to get to whatever you have a right to."

Wideman asked Benner if he was implying that the plan before them was not the plan they intend to build? Benner said that what they see is what the law requires. Wideman then asked why he was making "implied threats." Chuss noted that he thought that what Forks has seen over the last years has been "bad results," that the densities and impact to the Township have been "incredible." Planner Carl Dicker asked Benner for an answer to Wideman's question about whether they intend to build the plan before them. Benner answered that the plan shown is what they submitted for approval purposes.

Benner and the PC members' exchanges prompted Turner to remark that he didn't understand the "adversarial nature..." Supervisor David Howell addressed Tamborrino saying that he cannot reconcile Tamborrino's comments with the fact that he (Tamborrino) sat in a zoning review process for over two years and now seemed to be changing his mind on what FP (Farmland Preservation District) should be. Howell said that Tamborrino seemed to really mean that the Township should reconsider sewer and water in the FP. Tamborrino said that he (Howell) was putting words in his mouth.

Benner began to tell Tamborrino that he has a "forward looking mentality in terms... " Tamborrino stopped him saying that he appreciated what he was about to say but asked that he hold his comments since "this Township wants to wring my neck as it is... I do not need it (support) from a developer." Benner said "At the end of the day it's all about politics anyway."

Chuss made a motion to table further discussion and Wideman asked "why" since it is a "by right" plan. Tamborrino said that they need the engineer's letter since it's such a big plan. BoS Acting Chairman John Ackerman joined the foray and said that the PC should decide whether they want to sit down and talk to the man (Benner) about alternatives or if he should go forward with the plan presented... "one or the other." Benner said, "We are not asking for approval."

The vote was 6:1 to table further discussion on this until after they have received the engineer's letter. Wideman cast the "nay" vote. It will be on the March 9, 2006 agenda - after the Township Engineer has reviewed it and made his recommendations.

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.

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