Sunday, July 23, 2006

BoS Meeting 7/20/06

On 7/20/06 Board of Supervisors met to consider several important issues. The one that brought the crowd was the zoning change to allow a grocery as a conditional use in the Employment Center (EC) district. Both Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) were there and reported the meeting in multi-part articles. We will link to their pieces as they apply to the meeting segments.

Supervisor Comments:

Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas asked if the Township has done anything about the basketball nets in the roads. Zoning Officer Tim Weis said that he, Kichline, and Police Chief Greg Dorney had begun reviewing ordinances. He said too that he met with Engineer Fred Hay and they looked at Penn’s Ridge to see about installing a court there. Nicholas said that people are complaining about them (the nets in the roads) in other developments as well. Weis said that the police are responding to complaints.

Nicholas also reported the "people are still dumping their grass clippings over on Wagonwheel Drive..." She added that there are "huge heaps of dead grass rotting away over there." Weis said that he wasn’t aware of the problem and will contact the property owner.

Nicholas said that she attended the Community Days meeting and that the Bennetts had some questions for the Board. Susan and Harry Bennett, we were told, are doing a wonderful job. The Bennetts asked the Board:

  1. - In view of each vendor providing their own tents, must the non-profits provide their own insurance? Solicitor Kline said that the Township must inform its carrier about the event and should provide insurance for the Community Days organization but as far as individual non-profits are concerned, they are on their own and should notify their insurance carriers to get liability coverage for the one-day event.
  2. - Moyer Flying Field has been asked to participate and agreed. They will provide, at a cost, airplane rides. Benner asked about insurance on the shuttle to Braden as well as certificates of airworthiness on the planes. Kline said that the airfield events should be covered by the airfield insurer. As to the airport van, Kline offered that it must already have liability insurance or it couldn’t be operating on the roads.
  3. - Bennett asked about insurance for the balloon that will be tethered in the park and was told by Kline that the balloon will need to be insured and that there should be an airworthiness certificate.

Community Days are scheduled for September 16-17 in the Community Park. Nicholas said that anyone who wants to help out with Community Days is welcome to attend the 7:00 PM meeting Monday at the Community Center.

Nicholas thanked the "staff for stepping in the last couple weeks and doing a really great job in the office."

Nicholas concluded by saying that the next time someone wants to use her phone number, the one they should use is her that of her Township issued cellphone, 484-239-0866.

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer David Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. His motion to accept was approved 4:0. (Supervisor John Ackerman was not present.)

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas asked Mr. Carver of Forks EMS and Mr. Albertson of Suburban EMS to fill the Board in what coverage was in effect now that Forks EMS has discontinued operation. Carver said that Forks EMS is not "capable" of providing service at this time and that Palmer’s Suburban EMS has been asked to fill in. They have an ambulance stationed in Forks and are providing 24/7 coverage as well as extending to Forks residents the courtesy of their subscriptions. Forks subscriptions run out September 1.

Howell asked how they were dealing with navigation around the Township’s roads and was told that the Fire Department was dispatched for the first few days of calls and the Police Department was also notified. They also use a GPS unit in the ambulance and as of the 20th, they are using some of Forks EMS EMTs.

Weis noted that this arrangement needs official action by the Board. A motion was made to use Suburban EMS temporarily. it was approved 4:0. Weis will write a letter notifying the 911 center. Chairman David Hoff said that 6 or 7 years ago he was an advocate for the merger of Forks EMS and Medic 9 because he felt that Forks wasn’t large enough to support a single unit. Hoff asked that the committee look at all possible ways, including regional solutions, to resolve the EMS problem.

Emergency Management Co-ordinator Tim Weis reported on the status of the Emergency Command Center. He said that the cabinet materials are ordered and that the radios are in and waiting for the cabinetry to arrive. Weis asked to be allowed to attend the County 911 Center meeting on Monday and was given permission by the Board. Weis said that the meeting will be on municipality reimbursements for PEMA.

Nicholas reported that the 2006 Fork Police Summer Academy for youths ages 11-15 starts on Monday.

Nicholas also opened bids from employees for obsolete equipment, a Chevy Blazer and a John Deere mower. There were two bids for the Blazer and the winning bid was $375 from John Lebeduik. There was only one bid for the mower. It went to Ron Phillips for $750.

  • Public Works - (Supervisor Ackerman was absent) Supervisor Nicholas said that the municipal garage needs some electrical work and taking care of that will be in the plan.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: Miller reported on events in the parks and not on a meeting of the committee.) Miller reported on park activities. He said that baseball is finished and that there are 157 teams in the summer basketball league - which ends on August 13. Fall sports (football and soccer) will begin around that time.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - reported that he and Ackerman attended the Twin Rivers COG meeting on July 19. Members include Easton, Wilson, Glendon, Palmer, and Bethlehem (Township). Howell said that the COG considers organic waste a critical issue and is working with other regional COGs (Nazareth and Slatebelt) to prepare a "persuasive agenda" of petitions and resolutions to make Mr. Stoffa (Northampton County Executive) address the problem. The COG will begin attending County Council meetings in September. Howell added that Freemansburg would like to join the Twin Rivers COG and that a resolution stating that Forks assents to their joining will be needed.
Nicholas asked when the deadline for article submission for the quarterly will be. Howell said that Hometown Press is selling ads for the entire year and that it will take into September to finish. The 1st issue will likely be the fall/winter issue and will be available the first of October. Howell thought that submissions should be made by the end of August or early September and will confirm that to all department heads.
  • Finance & Administration - (Supervisor Hoff was on vacation) Supervisor Howell - said that the committee met with Farley and Weis to finalize a number of issues including computer system security. Content filtering has already been put in place. The committee also prepared an operational and functional flow chart for the Township and when it is finished it will go on the wall so that not only employees but the public, can see the functional line of authority and how large Forks municipal government is.
Nicholas thought that a block should be added to the chart for outside information flowing to a committee. She said that neither she nor Don Miller were notified about the EMS issue. Instead the information went to another Supervisor. Hoff, the recipient of that news, said that he notified her. Howell said that since they are operating under a committee structure and have no Township Manager, he will prepare a chart indicating who should be contacted.

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - Reported that due to the recent rains a number of sinkholes opened up on Sycamore, College Park, Shawnee and the Community Park. Hay said that the developer, J.T. Maloney (Signature Homes) has offered to fill the sinkholes with concrete at no cost to the Township.

Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - Said that he was involved in the first collective bargaining session with the non-uniformed employees and asked to report on that in Executive Session.

Comments from the Public

  1. Resident Gretchen Gerstel asked about the "table" purchase. She wanted to know who signed the purchase order and was told by Hoff that it was signed by both Cathy Kichline and himself and that 2 signatures are required for purchases over $1000. Hoff added that the purchase was approved by the Board. Gerstel asked who signed the check to pay for it and was told by Howell, that as Secretary/Treasurer he was one of the signers. She wanted to know who the other one was and since no one knew, she was advised by Kline to submit a request to Farley under the "right to know law" and he will get the information for her. She then asked if the date of the price quote for the table was received by the Township Manager before or after the table was ordered. Nicholas said that the quote was received March 3, before the approval by the Board.
  2. Resident Fritz Weide asked if the Board was voting tonight on the zoning change. He was told that it was the first item on the agenda. Weide asked for a show of hands of those who were in the audience to object to the zoning change. He decided that 70% of the audience raised their hands. Weide said too that since Ackerman wasn’t there he felt that there should be no vote taken. He felt that one vote could change the outcome. Hoff told him that it takes three votes to pass anything and that there are 4 Supervisors present. He was further informed that if the vote is a tie, the issue would be held over to the next meeting.


Ordinance #298 - Amendment to Zoning Ordinance / Consideration for Adoption - For the grocery zoning amendment discussion/comments Hoff asked that groups use a representative. He added that comments will be limited to 5 minutes. Please read Mausolf (ET) and Nixon (MCall) for more information.

Kline explained that the Zoning Ordinance controls zoning and that currently a grocery store is not an allowed use in the Employment Center (EC) district. Ordinance #298 - E27 has been prepared to allow a grocery as a new conditional use. The amendment restricts groceries to intersections (in the EC) with either two arterial roads or one arterial and one collector road. In the EC the only intersection that qualifies is Uhler Road and Sullivan Trail.

Kline further explained that if the ordinance amendment is approved the developer cannot simply start building but must go through the complete process, submission of a preliminary land development plan which goes to engineering, to the Planning Commission (PC), to the Board, then submission of a final plan (taking the same route). Traffic concerns must be addressed as must stormwater concerns. PennDot, too, must be satisfied.

Howell said that he received a lot of phone calls as a result of his unlisted telephone number being included on a recently mailed flyer and that 66% of the callers wanted the grocery store. He also received a petition from 28 Lockwood Congress residents (who live 2 blocks from the Giant) in support of the grocery amendment.

Howell said that all the Supervisors have exercised due diligence and explored other sites in Town Center (where groceries are allowed). Zawarski, who owns two suitable sites there, one in Townes I and also one behind Met-Ed (Townes II) was contacted and he wants to build his planned residential projects.

Howell said that some people suggested the old Laneco property but it is owned by a developer who has plans submitted. He added that the Giant, when it sold that property to the developer placed deed restrictions on the land stating that it cannot be a grocery store. Howell said he didn’t think that the community would be happy if imminent domain was used to take the land from the developer.

The only other suitable spot in the TC district is the farm owned by Virginia Jackson. Howell said that Mrs. Jackson has vowed not to sell and he applauds her for that decision.


1. Amy Richard from Stockertown Borough came to present the consensus of their General Council. She said that they are in favor of the grocery as long as it has egress and ingress from Uhler Road. She said that it would help alleviate some of the traffic in Stockertown.

2. Atty. Timothy Pendergast (sic) spoke for the group, Residents Who Care. He said that in the future his group will call the Township telephone numbers and apologized for the group’s recent flyer with private/unlisted phone numbers on them. He said too, that the rumors that the group is sponsored by Giant is untrue. He explained that the group (who recently retained him) is not opposed to another grocery store but believes it should be in TC. He referred to the zoning amendment as a "slippery slope" and added that his group is concerned about traffic. Pendergast said that he had a petition signed by 90 residents against the zoning change.

Pendergast confirmed to Hoff that the group spent $12-$15K on its mailed flyer campaign and that they are currently seeking 501(c)(3) status.

Nicholas said that she received lots of calls at home from people who were opposed to the loss of open space and when she told them there was going to be industry there no matter what, they changed their minds and said that they wanted a grocery store. She said that after her conversations, 80% of those who called, wanted the grocery.

3. Sherry Stanfell (sic) said that she is in favor of the grocery and asked about the roadway changes. Kline explained that because of the zoning question, there are no plans and that the PC expressed concerns over the traffic. He assured her that it will be closely examined by the Township and by PennDot. He said that the numerous PC and BoS meetings that will be involved are open to the public. Kline added that the BoS must ask themselves, "What is in the best interest of the Township?" He said that this is a difficult choice. And, that the Township is already being sued by a developer because the BoS felt that a proposed development for 4000 houses in the FP district is not in the best interests of the Township. Stanfell said that she wants freedom of choice.

4. Debbie Mayer (sic) of Appian Way said that she moved to Forks because of the open space and that she is not a lover of the Giant. She said that she doesn’t mind driving a little way to go to a grocery store. She added that her husband loves cutting grass.

5. Eric Chuss, Vice Chaiman of the Planning Commission, told of working on the Comprehensive Plan the last time it was redone, and with the selection of the Town Center concept. He said that some of the allowed EC uses include limited retail and food service for the convenience of the employees working there. Chuss said that he felt a grocery would change the focus of the EC as well as put more pressure on Sullivan Trail. He thought that being open to change is a good thing and he expressed concern over the NE corner of the intersection. Chuss said that the Comprehensive Plan process is due to begin again in September and that citizen involvement is wanted.

6. Robert Leiser, Leiser’s Rental, said that he lives in Plainfield and that the Giant is the closest store for him. When he goes there the shelves are empty. Leiser also said that he was on the TC committee when the concept was adopted but that now TC rents are too expensive for small retailers. He told those who don’t want another grocery to stop shopping at his Giant!

7. Stephen Lammers, Lafayette College, said that he moved here 4 years ago. He said that he’s heard (tonight) about traffic and about choice but that no one is talking about infrastructure. He said that when he moved to Forks, friends told him that Forks has a long history of changing ordinances to suit developers. He added that if he were Mr. Zawarski he would have someone in the audience taking notes on how to beat Forks.

8. Mike Goffredo, Sullivan Trail Business Park developer, said that in 2001 the Board approved development of 7 commercial lots. As of now, one is to be a bank and two to be an ambulatory facility (outpatient) for Warren Hospital. Other uses permitted there include retail, offices, and commercial. Most of the inquiries he’s received are for retail
uses. He said that open space is not an option. All the utilities are in place. He suggested that the Township will get "to police (this project) it well, to study it accurately, and at the end of the day... it will have something that is an addition to the Township."

9. Gary Delsara (sic) of Broadway Road said that traffic already backs up on Sullivan Trail from Uhler Road to Routes 33. He asked if there were going to be traffic studies. Hoff said that there will be lots of traffic studies. He added that that both roads involve PennDot and will require PennDot approvals.

10. Charlotte Salkin (sic) from Dogwood Terrace said that she has a hard time understanding the mentality of the people in this area because she’s never lived anywhere with so many choices for supermarkets. She cannot see the need for another supermarket. Almost everyone she knows drives.

Miller said that he received phone calls at home and that they were running 2:1 in favor of the store. The people he spoke with at the Community Center were also in favor of choice.

Hoff said that he did not speak to many people since the telephone number that was distributed for him didn’t work. He said that the ones he did speak with were split, no one was completely for or completely against it. Of the LVPC letter, Hoff said that the short letter said that if the Township is going to do the project, it must deal with the traffic. It did not state that it was opposed to the project.

Howell said that the LVPC has written letters to Forks, Stockertown, and Tatamy that "we are in the path of growth... lie down... increase your densities" so that other Townships, boroughs, and communities to the west can be saved from becoming overcrowded.

Howell described the EC district as the "economic engine of the Township. He said that the Giant’s mercantile tax payments of the last few years have been stagnant indicating that it has reached saturation. Howell said too, that the revenue stream from developer fees will end when the current projects are completed. He gave estimated figures of the traffic and school impact when the already approved projects are completed. Howell said that it is important to encourage businesses since we will need their tax monies to replace the developers’ payments when they stop. - "It’s a matter of money."

The vote was 3:1 with Nicholas voting "nay."


Forks Village - Phase 2 & 3 / Final Plan - This project is located between Sullivan Trail and Kesslersville Road. Preliminary approval was granted in 2004. There are 150 total units in all phases. Phase one has 38 and phases 2 & 3 have 112. The entire project is mixed use development of townhomes, twins, and apartment units. Nicholas confirmed that the open space is being taken care of by the homeowners association and Kline noted that there will be a deed restriction mandating that there be no fencing around the open space. The final plan was approved 4:0 based on the June 1 Keystone letter and the amendment regarding "no fencing" around the open space.

Resolution / Application for permit to install & operate traffic signals - Hay explained that PennDot is requiring the developer of the Chrin Commerce Center (in Palmer and Tatamy) to put up a traffic signal (in Forks) at the Uhler/Bushkill intersection. Hays’ office requested a left turn lane on Bushkill (to turn left onto Uhler) and the developer complied. This was approved 4:0.

Resolution #60720-1 - Riverview Estates Phase I / Dedication of Streets - Hay stated that the developer has finished all the improvements required on Ramblewood Drive, Fringe Lane and Fairway Drive). This was approved 4:0.

Kings Farm / Preliminary Plan / Time Extension - Hay recommended that the Board approve the 90 day time extension of this "by right" plan. This plan is the one submitted last winter before the new Zoning Ordinance was adopted. It calls for approximately 185 single family homes on 2 acre lots in the Farmland Preservation district. It fills approximately 400 acres.

(This acreage overlaps the new sketch plan - now 545 acres - that the new expanded partnership is using to challenge Forks’ Zoning Ordinance. The first of the two public hearings is scheduled for August 7 at 7:30 PM in the Community Center. The second is set for August 21 at 7:30 also in the Community Center.)

Kline said that the Township has to try to treat everybody in the same way and that ordinarily extensions are accepted. He added that it will be the "obligation of the developer to move forward in good faith" with the plans. Nicholas asked if they are accepting the time extension because the Board is "taking it in good faith" that they will go forward with this plan? Kline noted that "good faith" runs two ways.

Atty. Dennis Benner representing the Kings Farm partnership stated (twice) that the developer will "prosecute" this plan. He added that they will be moving both plans forward at the same time. The time extension was accepted in a 4:0 vote. It will begin 90 days from August 10. Kline will calculate the exact date for his letter to the developer. Also, Kline asked if there were two letters and was told that there were. The first one, offering the time extension was received July 13 and the second - from Mr. Piperato (Benner lawfirm partner) - was received July 20.

Please read Mausolf (ET) and Nixon (MCall) for more.

Parks Department / Milling Head Quote - Nicholas said that the Public Works Department’s recently purchased "skid steer" machine, in order to do some road projects, needs a milling head. Ackerman and DPW Director Sandt recommend a 24" head. Nicholas added that it is a "piggy back" purchase and is in the budget. Farley said that there is a $6000 surplus in the major equipment purchase account. The balance will come from the accrued capital equipment reserve account. The head will cost $12K. It was approved 4:0.

Cathy Kichline / Severance Package Agreement & Release - Held for Executive Session.

Riverview Estates West - Phase III / Developers Agreements - Kline explained that this is the both the indemnification agreement and the sewer agreement for Phase III. He said that this will allow the developer to proceed with the infrastructure work. No houses can be built until sufficient security is posted. Kline added that everything is in order. It passed 4:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The Executive Session was for discussion of a personnel matters, notably the Kichline severance package and the non-uniformed collective bargaining unit contract negotiations. No action was taken by the Board during the Executive Session. Please read Mausolf (ET) and Nixon (MCall) for more.

After the session though, Resolution #060720-2 was proposed and adopted in a 3:1 vote with Nicholas dissenting, to offer the following severance package to Ms. Kichline:

  1. 4 bi-weekly checks amounting to her normal salary figure of $2536 per pay period
  2. Health insurance for herself and her daughter through 9/30/06 including dental and prescription drugs but excluding disability insurance
  3. All unused vacation and personal days amounting to $3391.90 - Kline noted that this is similar to what is provided in the collective bargaining agreement for non-uniformed employees.
  4. All of her deferred compensation deposited into her 457 plan (no money was contributed by the Township)
  5. $40K of term life insurance until 9/30/06
  6. Her Township issued cellphone but she must immediately change the number and billing address to her personal one

Additionally neither party will discuss the matter.

In exchange, Ms. Kichline must accept the terms of the resolution and sign a general release which will release the Township and the Board of Supervisors from any claims relating to her employment or to her termination. The Township Solicitor will serve as the sole repository of her personnel records.

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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