Sunday, March 19, 2006

BoS Meeting 3/16/06

The BoS meeting on the 16th was lightly attended. The only reporter (we don’t know which paper) left after getting a phone call. We will attempt to report it all for you! Please note too that the Supervisors Reports, because of the new Committee structure, have taken on new importance as a vital part of the "business" of the Board. Acting Chairman John Ackerman was absent.


  • Supervisor David Hoff - Administration & Finance Committee: The committee is currently working on job descriptions for all office employees. Some do more than one job and each job is being described individually. Hoff said too that the six month probationary period is over for the new Finance Manager and moved that Jim Farley be retained at a salary of $54K. It is in the budget. Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas remarked that Farley is doing a great job - his experience and software knowledge are assets. Howell noted that his corporate world background brings an additional dimension to the Township’s financial well being. The motion to retain at the new pay rate were passed 4:0.

  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas - Emergency Services Committee: Nicholas reported that she presented certificates from the Board to 6 boys in Cub Pack 21 at their annual Blue & Gold. She also reported that there were two Road and Parks meetings and that the selling of the milling machine to Lower Nazareth was discussed.
Nicholas said that she was asked by (absent) Acting Chairman Ackerman to discuss keeping the existing garage in the parking lot of the old Municipal Building because the Township needs the storage space. Project Manager Alex Gale said that if it was kept, 10 parking spaces will be lost since the building is 3/4 into the parking lot. He said that the building floor is on a different grade level than the surrounding land, that it has no power, no sewer, no water, needs guard rails around it to keep people from blocking it in, and needs a new roof. Gale said that he must know before two weeks are up since they will be working there soon. The estimated cost to repair is $50K-$75K. Howell asked how long the project has been planned (without the garage) and Gale told him two years. Hoff suggested finding a better location and putting up a new building. He also said that the parks building had doubled in size and should be able to accommodate parking for the new truck. Miller offered space behind the Community Center. He thought that for the amount of money needed to fix the old garage, the vo-tech could put up a new building.

Nicholas also introduced Dorney’s idea of baseball-type cards of the police officers. A sample was passed around. Nicholas said that the cards would be a community service and that kids like them. She added that the money is in the budget for them.

Nicholas noted that the Township has been giving $300 a year to the Chester County Conservancy. She thought that since we have a local group, the Bushkill Conservancy, that the Township should instead give money to it. It will be added to next year’s budget.

The Safety Committee meets next week. Howell asked if there was concern over EMS’ financial condition. Nicholas said that the committee will be getting their financials at the meeting. Kline noted that the Township has not co-signed or guaranteed any loans for them. Hoff said that this is the second time they got a letter about them. The other was last year. He added that they last made a vehicle payment in September.

  • Supervisor Donald Miller - Parks & Recreation Committee: "Winter sports are winding down." Forks has 8 teams in the playoffs and the finals will be on March 25th & 26th. Soccer, baseball, cheerleading and softball will be starting up right after basketball ends. There are 800 kids signed up already. The sign-ups were done over a one month period at the Community Center and most parents were pleased since they could come in at any time. Miller reported too, that the new, new sign will be up in about two weeks. The old, new sign was the wrong size and had to be returned. Also, Miller noted that the vo-tech is back working on the storage building and they should finish it this school year. In April after basketball is over, the 5-year Recreation Committee will begin their review of what they planned five years ago.

  • Vice Chairman David Howell - Community Relations Committee: He attended the recent (3/15/06) Twin River COG (Council of Governments). The members include Forks, Palmer, Easton, Wilson, Glendon, Bethlehem Township, West Easton and maybe Freemansburg (soon). The COG is working on changes in its bylaws to get elected officials to take a more active role at meetings. Kichline attends for Forks as do Ackerman and Howell. The group is beginning a "visioning" process to determine the priorities of members and so far came up with: 1. Public Safety, 2. Comprehensive planning, and 3. Organic waste recycling (ever municipality is running out of space - the cornfields are going away).

Howell said too, that one of the important issues facing our neighbors (and us) is avian (bird) flu. He reported that a recent newspaper article said that it is not question of whether it will come here, it is a question of when. Howell reported that the hospitals in the LV are not equipped to handle the number of people expected to arrive seeking treatment. He said too, that the Township must be part of the solution and as "first responders" Forks must review its resources to serve the community. Stockertown just had an

emergency preparedness test and failed. Stockertown has now gone to its COG for help.

Howell added that the Community Relations Committee exists to create an informational bridge to the community. To do that, they hope to upgrade and expand the website and to re-establish the newsletter. They (Howell, Ackerman, & Kichline) will be meeting next week to explore what the newsletter will look like and what it will cost. Kichline is amassing the data.

Township Manager: Cathy Kichline - The fuel system is up and vehicle keys and PINs have been given to the employees. Various reports have been given to the managers to help monitor fuel consumption. She noted too that in a conversation with one of the Township’s local developers she was asked what might be needed that has been forgotten from the budget - a "wish list." As a result, Tom Maloney of Signature Homes gave her two checks, one for $5K for Forks Community Day and one for $13K for use by the police department (at their discretion).

Kichline also reported that she has submitted grant proposals to Rep. Grucela for the Forks Historical Society’s project to restore a "merchant’s wagon" and to Sen. Dent for discretionary funds. She noted too, that the jointly owned (with Lower Nazareth Township) milling machine is no longer needed by Forks DPW. Lower Nazareth wants to buy Forks share. She has sent a proposal to Lower Nazareth and waiting to hear back from them.

Kichline briefly noted that COGS is an important resource among municipalities - a way to work together for common goals. Her "pet project," yard waste, is on their list. Waste Management is limiting grass clippings and Sandt is having trouble getting rid of leaves. Regarding the Township newsletter, she said that she’s had some discussions with a company named Hometown Press. They do them completely - they compile the newsletter, write the articles, get the advertising, and build the newsletter around what the customer wants.

Police Chief: Greg Dorney - PennDot wants to remove the warning signs on Bushkill Drive at the Arndt Road intersection, the location of the new 4-way stop. Dorney said that until last week, officers were only giving warnings to drivers who went through the stop signs. Last week (on March 8th) they began enforcement. The results are not good. In one week they gave citations to 33 drivers for going THROUGH the stop signs without stopping. One of the vehicles was a school bus. They also arrested two for drunk driving, two for drug violations, removed firearms from one, and one of his officers was nearly run down by someone going through the stop sign at 60 mph. Also there were two crashes with injuries. He asked the Board to ask PennDot to put down stop bars and/or reflective markings or to at least give the Township authority to do that. Dorney is concerned that when the flashing signs come down, someone will get seriously hurt.

Kichline said that she asked Dorney to report on this to the Board so that it will be "memorialized" in the Minutes. Kichline said, "Stop sign were nice but it’s not enough." Nicholas (who lives near the intersection) said that she hears the sirens all the time. Hoff asked if there is an increase in traffic since the stops were put up. Dorney did not know. Howell asked Kline what the exposure of the Township is if nothing is done? Kline said that it’s a State road and that the Township has asked PennDot for years for help with that intersection. Kichline said that the cost of the stop bars and reflective markings would be approximately $1000. Nicholas wondered if the placement of the 40 mph speed limit signs so close to the stop signs is part of the problem. Kline said that the Township should write a letter to PennDot to urge them to do something. Nicholas asked that Dorney detail the police stops in a letter to PennDot and that Kichline write one too.

Dorney reported too that the recent program they presented at the Community Center on how to protect yourself from identity theft had 18 attendees and that they got lots of positive feedback. The next program they are presenting will be on April 24th and it will be a teenage drinking and driving course. Participants include the Fire Department, EMS, and the District Attorney’s office. The school district is also cooperating and will market it through the schools. It will be open to newly licensed drivers as well as those who will be driving a year or two from now.

Finance Manager: Jim Farley - The auditors are nearly done and final numbers should be ready in a couple of weeks.

Department of Public Works Director: Gary Sandt - His crews are busy cleaning up from the winter. He noted that "Ed’s out back putting some fences up - trying to keep people off the grass."

Zoning Officer: Tim Weis - A letter was sent to Al Jenks to remind him to remove the billboard near Lockwood Congress. The billboard is coming down. The agreement deadline is March 31st and apparently they will beat the deadline. Weis reported too, that there was joint training last Monday night with the Palmer Township FD (at the house on Newlins & Richmond.) It went very well. The FD also hosted Cub Pack 21 for a tour.

Engineer: Fred Hay - Only agenda items.

Solicitor: Karl Kline - Both he and Kichline received a letter from RCN reminding the Township that their franchise is up on 4/28/2008 (not a typo). They want to renew and this will require a public hearing.


Nicholas said that she spoke with Kichline about employees going to seminars. She suggested that they, along with employees who have reached certain lengths of service, be "recognized" at the Christmas party by the Supervisors. Everyone agreed and Nicholas will work with Kichline on it.


MILFORD LAND CO. MINOR SUBDIVISION/FINAL PLAN - Hay said that this was simply creating a lot in Jacobs Farm 2 in order to convey the land to Old Castle - a paper conveyance. It will be used for storage and as a buffer and will be deed restricted to allow no development. It was approved 4:0 subject to Hay’s letter.

RANDY DEWALT MINOR SUBDIVISION/FINAL PLAN - This subdivision is on the corner of Mitman and Dewalt. Howell asked Hay about the stand of young trees behind the principal home and was told that they are on lot five and it is not being developed. The Board agreed with the PC recommendation to flip the driveways on lots 3 and 4 to the other side to get them as far from the intersection as possible. The treeline on lot #1 will be preserved by covenant on the plan. The subdivision was approved in a 4:0 vote subject to Hay’s letter and the treeline covenant.

FORT JAMES III - UPDATE BY DEVELOPER - In his project update for the commercial development planned for the northern end of the township between Uhler Road and Kesslersville Road and behind the existing commercial buildings, J. G. Petrucci representative Tom Shaughnessy described Norfolk Southern RR as being "contentious" regarding Braden Boulevard and an at-grade crossing. Norfolk Southern is going to require a run-around track parallel to their line. This would make two at-grade crossings necessary. It was Shaughnessy’s opinion that getting one crossing is possible but getting two is unlikely. Petrucci has proposed a Y to allow locomotives to pull in and reverse and back in cars.

Steve Pany (for Petrucci) said that they are planning to "phase" the development. They are proposing a high volume drive at Uhler and Braden. They anticipate 4000 "trips" per day. There will be a left turn lane from Uhler into Braden. There won’t be enough sustained traffic throughout the day to warrant a signal. There will be a right in, a left out, and a through - to any potential development on the Ackerman farm to the north. They are proposing at Braden and Kesslersville, the same type of intersection as will be at Braden and Sullivan Trail. They are also proposing to curb the property on Kesslersville Road. They propose too to put three culverts under the road to take the stormwater across under the road. The culverts would be in Phase 1 and the rail crossings and intersection improvements in Phase 2.

Nicholas asked what happens if they don’t get the rail crossing. Pany answered that Braden would have to "dead-end" and there would be no access (except emergency access) from Kesslersville. There would still be a rail-served industrial park. Braden will still connect to Glover Road.

They are requesting that the PC and BoS review their plan in phases so that they can continue to develop the industrial park. There will be a meeting with PennDot next week that Hay and Kichline will also attend. Nicholas asked what if the Township wants traffic signals. Pany replied that if the Township wants a signal part way through the project, they can ask for it. Arrangements would have to worked out with PennDot. Nicholas said that she felt that a provision has to be in there somewhere in case it is needed.

LAFAYETTE MEADOWS/DEDICATION OF ROADWAYS IN PHASES 1, 2, & 3 - Kline said that all the paperwork was in order and that Hay’s office has inspected the roads there. Weis said that there are still some emergency access issues. Kline said that this was the first he heard about this and noted that the Township still has the security deposit. Approved in a 4:0 vote.

ZACHARY ZAZO - CIT LAND DEVELOPMENT /REQUEST TO ALTER WORKING HOURS - This is a request to allow asbestos removal work on 2 roofs (with saws) to be done from 10:00 PM to 6 AM. Howell asked that the residents be notified that this is before the BoS and requested that it be tabled until they are notified. Kline said that the Board can ask that CIT send letters. The BoS was told that the noise would be much like a "lawnmower." They plan to begin work in May and it will take 4 months. The Board said that the nearby residents must be notified about the next meeting on April 6th. The Township will do that. This was tabled 4:0. The contractor will meet with the Board and interested project neighbors at 6:30 PM prior to the April 6th regular meeting to answer questions. The request to change working hours will be on that night’s meeting agenda.

REVISIT COMPREHENSIVE PLAN - The PC sent a letter to the Board requesting that the Comprehensive Plan be "revisited" (Kichline said they meant "update") and that Charlie Schmehl from Urban Research & Development be hired to help. The current Comprehensive Plan was written in 1997. Hoff suggested that URDC give a proposal so that they can get an idea of the cost involved. Hoff said that this is a big project and could take 4 years. Kichline said that there is $13K in the budget for "fine tuning" the Zoning Ordinance. Hoff also confirmed with Kline that the Comprehensive Plan work would not have to go out for bid since it was a professional service. Nicholas suggested that they go over this request with the PC. Kichline suggested that Schmehl attend also since he has notes from all the hearings/meetings. A joint workshop with the PC was scheduled for 3/28/06 at 7:00 PM. They will also go over the fine tuning of the Zoning Ordinance.

There was no EXECUTIVE SESSION 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.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Be careful how wide you open the door." - Atty. Karl Kline to the PC 3/9/06

The Planning Commission has made a change! It will no longer begin its regular meetings at 7:30 PM with a pre-meeting at 7:00 PM. The meetings will henceforth (unless they change their minds) begin at 7:00 PM. Because of changes in the way the agenda is developed and composed, all open projects will no longer be listed and thus need to be "tabled." Only projects that are really going to be discussed at the meetings will be listed on the agenda(s).

This is possible now because Zoning Officer Tim Weis has put up a project status list on the official Forks website.
Check it out. Following the Zoning link at will get you to a list of general project descriptions too. And, as you all know, there is our unofficial current project list on the F.A.C. website News page.

The F.A.C. project list has been updated with the PC March 9th actions. That is where we usually keep our PC notes since that is what they mostly deal with - projects. This latest meeting was a bit different since several new projects were presented as introductions to the plans - before the review letter completion. It was very interesting to know in advance what will be coming up later after the engineers finish exchanging technical notes.

And, for those of you reading the 3/10/06 Express Times, you learned that a concept plan was also presented.
Sarah Mausolf came to the meeting. She wrote about it. Yes, an upscale grocer wants to come to Forks! Trouble is, they want to locate on the corner of Uhler Road and Sullivan Trail and that land is zoned EC (Employment Center) and does not allow for "big box" retail. In addition, it is one busy intersection. The developer will come back again with a traffic study so that the PC can make an informed recommendation to them. Please see the F.A.C. homepage for many interesting "facts" from the developer’s trend analysis.

The Planners were all very interested in the concept as well as very concerned about the traffic there. Ways to accommodate the zoning problem were discussed too. The one that is likely the easiest to do will be to amend the brand new Zoning Ordinance to allow this use under certain conditions. It was this issue that prompted Solicitor Karl Kline’s caveat to "be careful how wide you open the door." He is right of course. If the zoning amendment is not written perfectly, the loopholes will be found and the EC district will become the new Town Center - talk about unintended consequences!

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.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

BoS Meeting 3/2/06

The Board was not stopped by the ice storm. The meeting was held. Our regular note-takers were unable to attend. Fortunately both newspapers sent their reporters and both wrote about different aspects of the meeting. We have been assured that if you read both articles, you will have a good idea of the whole meeting. We thank both Fred Walter (Morning Call) and Daniel Hausmann (Express Times) for being there and writing about it!

Spring is just around the corner...

PC - The Process And More - 2/28/06

The Planning Commission (PC) Workshop on 2/28/06 was all about "how the process works." It was an excellent session an offered much insight into how projects move through the Township system.

Solicitor Karl Kline began the meeting with a presentation on the legal requirements of the Municipal Planning Code (MPC). He summarized the guidelines of what Township officials can and cannot do. Of zoning, he said that it is the right of a municipality to control what people do with their property.

The Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) plays an important role too. Developers must comply with it as well as with the Zoning Ordinance. In the area of land development, a municipality only has such power as is given it by the State legislature. The Township PC and BoS are required to follow the MCP as well as the Township’s Zoning Ordinance. If a particular plan follows the Ordinance, it must be approved, like it or not. It cannot be rejected. However, the ordinance can be amended (for the future.)

Planner Chuss said that he thought that if a plan was not good for the health, safety, and welfare of the community that it can be rejected. Kline said the decision would be rejected by the courts especially if the plan meets the ordinance in all ways.

Some of the rules that guide the process include:
  • All applications must be acted on within 90 days. Forks "clock" is watched by Zoning Officer Tim Weis. It begins ticking on the date of the first PC meeting after plan submission.
  • The Township cannot grant time extensions. The developer grants them. The Township can only accept or reject them.
  • If a project is being denied, specific defects must be described in writing. Ordinance sections must be cited. If this does not happen, then the project is "deemed approved."
  • During the Preliminary Plan stage, if conditions are set and the developer meets the conditions, the developer then has vested rights. The Township cannot impose additional conditions at the Final Plan stage.
  • The Township must follow the MPC and the Zoning Ordinance. If the Township’s ruling is disputed in court and the Township has followed the proper procedure and treated the developer in a fair manner, it will likely win (in court). Kline said, "The Township wins the ties."
  • The Township engineer does a full review of all plans and as a result, gives ammunition to the Township. Bias is shown if there is no review.
  • If the Township does not follow the law, the courts can "deem" approval and reverse a rejection.
  • Normally a municipality has immunity and members of the BoS and the PC have "official" immunity if they have tried to apply the law (even if in the end, they were wrong.) However, if they acted willfully in violation of the law, they are on their own and subject to suit.
  • The PC makes recommendations to the BoS. Ultimately decisions are made by the BoS.
  • Plans will now be signed before meetings.

Supervisor David Howell remarked that the Township has no "planning department" and that there has been no aesthetic planning. He noted that there is no continuity of styles.

Chuss asked why Williams Township is not having the rapid development issues that Forks is having. Sewers! He was told that it’s because of sewers. Forks has them. In Forks the last undeveloped land is in the FP (Farmland Preservation) district. It does not have sewer lines. It is the new battleground.

According to Kline, Forks hodgepodge of developments is due to the fact that thirty years ago the Township did not have a fully developed road plan. Developers have come in and said, "Where do you want the roads?"

Planner Jim Wideman asked when the review would be completed for the Kings Mill plan. Hay replied that it’s so big it will take months and that he is going to ask the developer to grant an extension. Hay said that normally letters go back and forth between his office and the developers’ engineers. Wideman asked to be given copies of technical review letters. Hay said that he would provide them to him. They will not be discussed at meetings. Hay did want to know why Wideman wanted them. Wideman replied that he can make more intelligent decisions when he has more information. Tamborrino said that technically the things going back and forth between Hays’ office and developers are not part of public records. Weis said that it’s not something his office has to retain records for. Howell disagreed. He said that he thought they were public records. It was resolved that copies will be kept in the Municipal Building and that anyone can come and see them at any time.

Kline referred to a memo that he sent to the PC members reminding them that all deliberations must be made at public meetings or they risk violating the Sunshine Law. Tamborrino said that he asked Kline to "research" that. The memo cautioned against email use in such a way that it would involve a quorum. Email to less than a quorum is okay. It’s also okay for the PC to have a "committee" of less than a quorum to look at a project and to come up with recommendations.

Howell noted that the PC pre-meetings approach the appearance of a violation (Sunshine Law) because they are held in an interior room in the building that the public can not easily attend. He said that the BoS does not do that and that the PC should not either. Kline said that he has always been uncomfortable with it and that it is open to the public. He then said that it’s just as well, and that the meetings should simply start at 7:00 PM in the main room.

There are Monday staff meetings with Engineer Hay, Township Manager Kichline, Zoning Officer Weis, and PC Chairman Tamborrino. Tamborrino said that he writes the PC agendas. Planner Erik Chuss asked that workshop agendas be available online (like regular meeting agendas are.)

Weis gave his summary of the process and added some changes going forward:

  • Submission deadlines are 15 days before a PC meeting.
  • The submission dates for the entire year are now (or soon will be) posted on
  • If the plan submission meets the deadline it is added to the PC agenda as new business.
  • "New business" in the past has been automatically tabled. It was accepted for "review." This bought the Township an extra 30 days. Today, if the new business section is small, one item or so, Hay may be able to review it in the 15 days before the meeting.
  • New submissions (without review letters) are in the PC meeting packets.
  • It was suggested that developers appear at meetings right after plan submissions to explain their plans in 10 or 15 minute presentations. In order to mandate that though, the SALDO must be revised. The submission requirements are in the SALDO. In fact, Hay recommended that the PC do the SALDO next.

    Wideman said that he would like a list of all projects that are tabled and not on the agenda. Weis said that he is working on a spreadsheet (for the website) of all the current projects and their status - when they were submitted, if they are under review, if they were approved, and when they went to the BoS.

    It was also suggested that the Comprehensive Plan be redone. This rewrite will probably start in the fall. It was recommended that Charlie Schmehl be re-hired to work with the PC. Chuss discussed how many Forks residents came forward to work on the Comprehensive Plan the last time it was redone. Howell added that the Community Relations Committee can be helpful in marshaling surveys, public awareness, and public comment. He added that if the PC wants his committee to help though, the plans have to be spelled out as he doesn’t want to "rent a hall and have no one show up." Howell suggested that the soon-to-be rejuvenated newsletter may be a good way to get the word out to the public. A motion was made to recommend to the BoS that the PC update the Comp Plan and another to hire Schmehl to help. Both motions passed.

    Tamborrino said that the EASD has asked that they be given copies of plans as they come in so that they can make comments. They want to be part of the process. Kline noted that the State Legislature has given no authority to school districts in the planning process. It was decided that copies of plans will be sent as they come in.

    Howell said that something stuck with him that Chuss said some time ago about conduct for the Planners. Howell asked if any of them get calls from developers during the "normal course" and if so, do they discuss them amongst themselves? He wondered if they have some code of conduct for it. Howell said that he has gotten calls and he tells Kline. Chuss said he’s never been contacted and raised the issue a while back because of "meetings." He added that the only meetings he knows about are the PC ones. He then said that he was laughed at by a neighbor who asked him about the Kings Mill project last summer after it appeared in the paper and he knew nothing about it. Hay said it was a "staff" meeting. Chuss said the some PC members were invited. He said that his phone rang for another three days with calls from people wanting to know what was going on.

    Tamborrino said that in NJ (he said that he put on his architect’s hat for this) PC members will meet with him when he wants to discuss a concept for a plan. Wideman said that he thinks it’s inappropriate. Kline said that it’s dangerous if someone from the PC or the Board meets one-on-one with a developer. He added that with the staff, the "staff don’t vote." Kline said that as long as there is less than quorum it’s not illegal. Chuss suggested that whoever goes to a developer’s meeting should at least let the rest of the PC know.

    Howell asked if there should be a "planning" committee created - staff members, a PC member, a Supervisor, an outside citizen - to seek out the types of development the Township wants. Chuss told of Harvel Plastics looking for a location for a second plant and how he was told that Forks actually discourages businesses from coming here - that other communities court them.

    The next PC workshop will continue where this one left off. It was a valuable session for everyone. The next should be also.

    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.