Sunday, May 07, 2006

BoS Meeting 5/4/2006

The Board of Supervisors once again considered the request by SamCar to change zoning to allow a grocery store in the EC (Economic Development) district. The discussion was covered by Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Fred Walter (Morning Call). Please read their articles. We will attempt to fill in the blanks.

Supervisor Comments

  • Supervisor Howell said that he has received inquiries from residents about the status of proposed dog parks and that Engineer Fred Hay will comment on it during his report. Howell also mentioned anecdotal evidence about the lack of deer sightings in the 611 corridor north of Frost Hollow. He said that in one instance deer were found "deceased and not as the normal result of hunting." He advised any residents who find dead (not from hunting or car accidents) deer to call the Northampton County Game Commissioner, Brad Kreider, to report it. He said that they will pick up the deer and test it.

Treasurer’s Report - Howell reported the Township’s cash outlays since the last BoS meeting.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - Reported that they met Wednesday and are continuing work on the (PD) 5 year plan.

Nicholas also reported that she attended the PSATS meeting on Sunday and Monday and that it was very informative. She said that her son attended the PD DUI Awareness program and that it was very good. She said that a lot of people also told her that it was very good. On Tuesday she attended the Young Professionals of the Lehigh Valley program where Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Thomas Hylton (Save Our Lands, Save Our Towns) spoke. She said that (Rep) Bob Freeman from Harrisburg was there and has given her some tips on Forks zoning (that need to be changed.)

Police Chief Greg Dorney announced that the Municipal Building custodian found a car key in the meeting room (two meetings ago). He said that it is at the PD.

Dorney said that 21 persons attended the PD DUI Awareness Program. He said that he was a little disappointed in the turnout. He addressed the HS students in the audience (government class requirement attendees) and asked that they carry the message back to the school how serious teenage drinking is and that every weekend their peers are being arrested for it (in Forks.) He told them that Forks has a "zero tolerance" policy and that they will "never be cut a break" if they are caught.

Dorney said too that the PD received a $4K grant from the "Click It Or Ticket Program" for Memorial week traffic enforcement. There is zero tolerance for any moving violations and if not wearing a seatbelt, another citation will be issued.

In the past two days the PD did 12 hours of commercial vehicle enforcement. Five tractor trailers were placed out of service for major violations and "found far too many trucks on the Township’s roadways with relatively serious problems."

And, Dorney said that they have picked up the two new police vehicles. They should be on the roads early next week.

Zoning Officer Tim Weis reported that the 1989 Chevy replacement truck order has been placed with Brown Daub and it should be in at the end of June.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - Said that the report from the Public Works Director is available to anyone who wants to see it after the meeting.
Director of Public Works Gary Sandt reported that street sweeping is almost done and that the crews are busy doing miscellaneous things including painting lines on roads.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: This committee has yet to meet.) The park has "eight fields going" for (girls) softball and baseball. Fall football and soccer sign-ups are in progress (through May 31). There is a doll show on Sunday in the Community Center.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - Reported that Hometown Press has provided a mock-up of the cover page for the new Forks quarterly. He explained that the mock-up article (which may not be the lead article) captures the missions and goals of the quarterly and that the first edition will contain a centerfold Township map (which will be periodically updated as new roads are added.) It will also contain pubic opinion surveys and will be mailed to the approximately 4500 Forks households with additional copies available at other locations in the Township. It (publication and mailing) will be paid for by advertising revenue from businesses throughout the region. It will be on glossy paper and the first edition may have as many as 16 pages.

Members of the CR Committee (Howell, Supervisor John Ackerman, and Township Manager Cathy Kichline) will be meeting shortly to discuss the content and expect that every department in the Township will contribute to it. Howell said that Hometown Press will take their factual information and turn it into very readable articles.

Howell also said that the CR committee is also talking to the webmaster about making the Township website "responsive, easy to navigate, and fun." He asked that anyone with suggestions for website improvement contact Kichline.

Nicholas asked if the advertising will cover the postage since she recalled that it cost around $2K to mail 8 pages. Howell said that the postage estimate is $400 to $600 per issue and that Hometown Press will sell the ads. Howell said that Ackerman has some interesting suggestions for "calling card" ad placement so that they will not interfere with the visual impact of the content.

  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - Reported that the Board has copies of all the job descriptions and requested that a workshop session to review them be held on May 18 at 7 PM (before the regular meeting.) Nicholas added that the PD job descriptions are completed and were already approved.

  • Manager’s Report & Correspondence - Cathy Kichline - Reported that there is an informational meeting of the EAJSA on Tuesday that she, Solicitor Karl Kline, Chairman David Hoff, and delegate Henning Holmgaard will attend.

Kichline reported too that the speed bumps in the park roads have been milled down and are now speed "humps." She added that the Athletic Association has purchased a new scoreboard and that the intent is to get it in place before the upcoming July 4 tournament.

Kichline asked permission of the Board to make 10:00 AM Wednesdays (before a meeting) the policy deadline for posting the Thursday night meeting agenda on the website. Ackerman said that the Supervisors should see it before the public does and that Wednesday at 10:00 AM is "time enough for the public to see it." Nicholas agreed. She said she doesn’t like people calling her up to discuss agenda items before she’s seen it. Supervisors’ copies are delivered to their homes on Tuesday evenings. Kline offered that this is an internal decision by the Board to (put it on the website) but there is no requirement to do so. Howell asked that that 10:00 AM Wednesday be the absolute latest time. It was agreed, no more Tuesday posting of the agenda online.

Comments about the outdoor drop/mailbox that Kichline proposed included Ackerman saying that it didn’t look as secure as a regular postal box. Nicholas said that there is one that looks like a postal box and has an attachment that wouldn’t allow a shoebox (reference to 911) to be inserted. Miller suggested that a measurement be taken to be sure that people can drive up to it to make their deposit (reference to elderly and handicapped people). Hoff suggested that they select one that fits in with the new complex and doesn’t "stick out like a sore thumb." This will be continued on the next agenda.

  • Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - Reported on the "dog run." He said that he’s contacted the airport authority, knows what the transition zone is, and that the survey is completed. Howell asked if it will be finished by mid-summer or fall and Hay said he thinks that it’s realistic for "summer" since as soon as they figure out where it will go and how big it will be, it will simply entail installing a 5 foot chainlink fence with some gates. They will get prices for the fencing and anything else required. He added that Modern Concrete sells modular restrooms and he thinks that one can go in near the wrestling building and be made part of the project. There is water and sewer there already.

Howell asked Kline how the Township will handle a "passive park" like this - liabilities and issues concerning aggressive dogs in particular. (Hoff said it was under the K-9 unit.) Kline said that appropriate signage will be needed and that it should say that the park is available for your use - use at your own risk - dog owners are responsible for keeping their dogs under control at all times. Kichline said that a lot of dog park owners advise keeping small dogs separated from large dogs. Hay said that that is simply another piece of fence.

Hoff asked Hay to report on the meeting held with PennDot and Towns I (Ace Hardware). Hay said that Ace Hardware is open for business (grand opening is tomorrow) and that originally PennDot said that Ace could not open until the new traffic signal was up. Because there were some problems for the contractor getting the light mast arms, PennDot has allowed Mr. Posh to utilize the right/in - right/out driveway for Ace Hardware only until the signal lights are installed. Ackerman wondered if the Board should take action since they went on record as saying that Ace could not open until the signal was in place. Hay said that the Board was on record as saying they couldn’t open until they had the highway occupancy permit. They now have the permit even though the lights are not installed. Hay added that in all fairness to Ace, this was not of their doing. Kline said that people going there can only get in only if they are heading north and that when they leave they can still only head north. The PD will monitor the area and Kline speculated that Ace will put pressure on the developer to finish the intersection.

  • Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - Reported on Gollub Park stating that Hay and Kichline met with the Mattesons and that he, Hay, Weis, and Kichline met with Mr. Arcury to discuss the agreement concerning Gollub Park. Kline requested that this be the subject of the Executive Session.

Comments from the Public - Ruthie Eichlin from Chestnut Commons Condo Association addressed the Board to advise them that the swale problems are getting worse. She said that the swirling water is making huge holes and that power lines have been washed out. Hay said that the wires belonged to RCN and that the big rocks will be removed to stabilize the conditions. Ms. Eichlin said that the residents can use the big rocks elsewhere so the Township needn’t take them away.

Ms. Eichlin also asked about their unlighted street lights and was told by Weis that Oeini wants to turn them over to the association, that the inspection has not yet been done, and that they have not yet been energized.


RESOLUTION #060504-1/DEVELOPER IMPACT FEES TO AID SCHOOL DISTRICTS - Kline prepared the resolution and the Board accepted it. Hoff said that it will now go to the County Association of Supervisors with the recommendation that they too pass such a resolution in support of fees on developers. Howell suggested that copies of this resolution be sent along with a letter to the two State Representatives who are sponsoring impact fee legislation so that they know that Forks is in support of their efforts. It passed in a 5:0 vote.

PROPOSAL FOR ZONING CHANGE TO PERMIT A GROCERY STORY IN THE EMPLOYMENT CENTER DISTRICT - Hoff said that this subject was discussed at the last Supervisors’ meeting and at the Joint Meeting with the Planning Commission. He added that Kline was directed to prepare something for the Board’s review. Kline said that there is no commitment at this time. However, If the Board agrees to a zoning change, it must be sent to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission for their input and then a public hearing must be held. Kline said that the fastest this process could take is 35 days.

Kline presented the Board with an outline of what the changes would be and explained to them what the ordinance would do. He said that in order not to "open the door too wide" he prepared (and Charlie Schmehl of URDC reviewed) a proposed new use for the EC district that would allow a grocery store as a conditional use.

Part I of his document defines grocery store and has a provision for drive-through services only for a pharmacy or financial institution. A gas station would be allowed on the same lot. The lot must be adjacent to both a collector road and an arterial road. The minimum lot size will be 5 acres and a parking space must be provided for every 220 square feet of gross floor area. Loading docks abutting a street must have a berm. The lot landscaping and parking must provide for safe pedestrian areas. Part II of Kline’s outline simply says that a grocery store is a new conditional use for the EC district.

Nicholas asked if this would allow 2 drive-throughs. Howell said he didn’t want any or people would be picking up their developed film at the pharmacy drive-through. Kline added that the big issue that must be satisfied is "traffic." Howell asked if the Board went ahead with this now, would the next opportunity for public input be at the formal hearing? Kline explained that this is not a zoning challenge and that there is "no clock running here." The Board is free to refer this back to the Planning Commission.

Hoff asked Howell if he is concerned that they are going to see a "land development" without the PC having input. Howell said that he is concerned that once the process starts, it is very difficult to stop. He said that most people in the Township would love to see another food store but this is not a regular food store, it is an "upscale" one. He added, "The only time we will see what we are getting is farther down the line after we’ve passed an ordinance." He said that the developer represented "upscale" as having organics and a bakery. And, he noted that Giant has organics, a bakery and an in-house café - and Giant is not an upscale store.

Howell said that farther down the road the grocer could be unveiled as a Weis or a Redners or a Shop-Rite - and they will have been given the "right" to build there. Howell said that this is going too fast because of the lure that it is an "upscale" supermarket and he felt that if that is the case, there should be some disclosure. He said that usually planners know what is coming in before a statute is changed. Howell stated that he would like it sent back to the planners so that they can ask more serious questions, bring their findings/recommendation back to the Board, and then the Board can decide whether or not to change the ordinance.

Hoff asked Kline how far the Board can go to tailor the ordinance to a "specific, agreeable store." Kline replied that they cannot make an ordinance to only allow a Wegman’s. They can make one that will regulate a particular use but not a particular store. Howell again said that they should know who the players are since this could become the busiest intersection in the Township approaching what Rt 248 is like near Wegman’s/Sam’s Club. Kline said that the developer can tell the Board who the players are right now but there is nothing to prevent them (the player) from changing their mind. Kline used the upscale malls in Bethlehem Township and Upper Saucon where the zoning changes were approved and no leases were signed. Howell said that Kline made a good argument for voting against it.

Ackerman said that they must decide if they want a grocery store no matter who it is. Howell said that they already made that decision in the original zoning. Pete Rossi (resident and Zoning Hearing Board) said that what the people of the Township want is a "choice." He said he didn’t care what grocery store goes in there. He added that when he worked on the Township Comprehensive Plan years ago, they screwed up Town Center (where grocery stores are supposed to go) when they lost valuable space to Zawarski’s town homes and the Giant put a deed restriction on the Laneco property. Rossi said that this is more a "corrective amendment" to allow a grocery store in the EC district. He said that this is best place for it.

Rose Randazzo, speaking for her company, SamCar, said that she had some data for the 5 mile radius study but it is not complete. She said that there are another 600 new units (1600 people) added to the 5 mile demographic but she doesn’t yet have the 5 mile demographic. Ackerman noted that this represents only what is on record and not what could come down the road. Randazzo said that that is right since there’s a lot of farmland there and residnetial developers are trying to procure it for residential development. She added... "and that’s a good thing."

Nicholas said that if people are going to be told that it will be an upscale supermarket that an upscale supermarket better be delivered. Randazzo said that the type of grocers coming to them are coming because of the $55K median income demographic and that to her "anyplace that she can have fresh baked goods, fresh seafood, a sit-down café, a pharmacy option and fresh produce every day" is upscale. She added that she loves Wegman’s but they are not interested in Forks (since it’s too close to their nearest store and wouldn’t fit on this site.) Nicholas said that the word "upscale" should be dropped. Howell said that he agrees with Nicholas.

Randazzo said again that they cannot procede with negotiations with any of the interested parties without a zoning change. She then said that all of the grocers she is speaking with are looking at a site in Nazareth. They prefer the Forks site.

The developer offered to go back before the Planning Commission to re-address the traffic and agreed to drop the word "upscale." Planner Jim Wideman said that all the planners would like to see the plan again since there were traffic issues as well as architectural design issues that should be addressed. He added that the planners do not want to see something that looks like the old Laneco.

It was decided in a 5:0 vote to direct Kline to draft an ordinance without "drive-throughs" to be sent to the Planning Commission for their review an comment (at their next meeting on May 11). The Board will consider this again with PC comments at their next meeting on May 18.


FORT JAMES LOTS 21-SC LOT LINE ADJUSTMENT/FINAL PLAN - Hay explained that this is a minor subdivision to square off the lots. It passed 5:0.

PANOVEC LOT 2 MINOR SUBDIVISION/FINAL PLAN - Hay said that this minor subdivision is across from the Pheasant Ridge pond. It was approved 5:0.

ORDINANCE 297/LOCK BOX-2003 INTERNATIONAL FIRE CODE - Kline said that this ordinance is in two parts, one to adopt the lock box system and one to adopt the 2003 International Fire Code. The lock box system allows emergency personal (police and fire departments) to have access to all buildings (in the event of an emergency). The keys to the lock box would be locked inside the emergency vehicles and could only be opened by a call to 911 (911 would send out a signal to unlock the box). That key could then be used to gain access to the locked box(es) on the outside of individual buildings. There would be a record kept by 911 of who called and when they called. This would be mandatory for all Forks buildings in excess of 5000 square feet.

Weis said that this system is endorsed by fire and police departments nationwide. This system allows for quick entry and minimal property damage. He said that the key(s) would only work in buildings in Forks Township.

Ackerman expressed reservations about the mandatory requirement. Weis said that most businesses are for this. Kline said that education is very important so that business owners understand what it does. Weis explained further that with this system, a business is re-locked when the emergency crews leave so the business is still secured, unlike if a bolt cutter is used or if they must break in some other way.

Businesses will be alerted by letter after the ordinance is adopted and they will have six months to comply and to ask questions. Kline said that the ordinance will be posted on the website and that this was a request for advertising the ordinance for adoption.

Nicholas said that she is concerned that two things are under one ordinance. She said that she would have no trouble voting to adopt the International Fire Code but the lock box is more controversial. Ackerman said that he would have no problem with this if it were voluntary. Weis said that many insurers are making lock boxes mandatory. Nicholas said that she doesn’t like the idea that the government is telling people what to do with their own businesses.

Authorization to advertise the ordinance was passed in a 3:2 vote (Nicholas and Ackerman were the "nay" votes.)

MUNICIPAL COMPLEX DEDICATION/OPEN HOUSE - Alex Gale said that the important punch list items will be done by June 10th. Many of the Supervisors are not available that day due to prior commitments. They will all consult their calendars and come up with another date at the next meeting.

RESOLUTION TO REMOVE TWO STREET LIGHTS/MET-ED - Kline explained that there are two street lights no longer needed in the driveway since the new park will be "turned the other way." It passed 5:0.

RIVERVIEW ESTATES WEST PHASE 2 DEVELOPERS AGREEMENTS - Kline added this and said that everything is in order. It passed 5:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The session was held to discuss a real estate matter and a personnel issue. There was no action taken during the Executive Session but there was a vote taken after it. The Board voted 3:2 to build an emergency access road to Gollub Park. (Miller and Howell cast the nay votes.) It also voted 5:0 to advertise a 28 hour per week position for a cleaning person for the Municipal Building and the Police Department. 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.

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