Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Signs Are There - Are You Ready?

Yes, this is a sign advertising the Zoning Hearing challenge by Kings Mill & partners. The first of two hearings will be held on Monday, August 7 at 7:30 PM.

Everyone is invited! Bring your families, bring your friends and neighbors. The meeting is being held in the Community Center. There will be plenty of room.

For those of you unfamiliar with this first challenge to Forks' brand new Zoning Ordinance, it is a big deal. It is a new twist on last August's attempt by the then Kings Mill partnership (Zawarski & Maloney) to get a plan for high density development in the Farmland Preservation approved by the Planning Commission. It called for 800 plus homes on 400 acres.

This time the expanded Kings Mill partnership (Zawarski, Maloney, & now Benner), armed with more acreage (545 acres are either owned or under contract) wants to construct 3,042 homes in the Farmland Preservation district. For a map of the area in contention, click here. To read what an Express Times editorial writer had to say, click here. To read more of what happened last year, click here (There are two posts about that August meeting so scroll down).

It is not up to our Planners or our Supervisors this time. Our Zoning Hearing Board is on the front line. The Board is quasi-judicial by design. Testimony will be taken in two planned hearing sessions, Aug 7 and Aug 21.

If either party (the Township or Kings Mill et al) is unhappy with the outcome, it can be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. This court does not take new testimony and rules solely on what has been presented to the Zoning Hearing Board. You can understand now, just how important these hearings are. They are it. There is no more.

Many links to what has been written can be found in this blog post about the June 8 PC meeting. Also, there is a good synopsis of the process In the Solicitor's Report section of the June 15 Board of Supervisors meeting notes.

Now that you are armed with all the background, are you ready?

Don't miss the August 7 Zoning Hearing Challenge.
It's about your quality of life!

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.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

PC - Again With The Firsts! - 7/13/06

The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 to reject the Kings Farm development plan - first presented in February - before the new zoning ordinance was adopted. Their rejection will go to the Board of Supervisors as a recommendation by the PC.

Kings Farm’s plan conformed to the (old) Farmland Preservation (FP) district rules. It called for approximately 185 single family homes on 2 acre lots. Planner Jim Wideman spoke in favor of the plan noting that most of the people in his neighborhood preferred this plan. He abstained from voting because his property abuts some of the 500 (plus) acres in the Kings’ proposal.

Kings Farm sent no representative to the meeting. The partnership did offer a 90 day time extension to the Township. The PC rejected that time extension. Engineer Fred Hay noted that "these guys give time extensions all the time" and that he spent two hours redoing the engineering letter. The letter is three pages long and lists (38 or so) "issues" with the project. Hay said too that there have been no soil tests done (among other undone requirements.)

Planner Dean Turner asked acting Solicitor Steven Goudsouzian if rejecting the plan as well as rejecting the time extension would strengthen Kings’ future court case. Turner wondered if perhaps they could add this to evidence that they are being unfairly targeted and are being forced to comply with current zoning. Goudsouzian replied that anything goes when it comes to litigation, that anything can be used. He added that if they (Kings) haven’t met the requirements, it is appropriate under the PC guidelines for the plan to be rejected and forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for the ultimate decision.

Planner Carl Decker said, "The developers are sending mixed signals. On the one hand they have submitted a plan that they have no intention of building and on the other hand they are going to file a lawsuit against the Township for zoning issues that are completely bogus as far as I’m concerned." Decker added that the "developers are not working with the Township in this particular case."

Chairman Vito Tamborrino said that to him it was obvious that "they have no intention of building this plan" and that they are letting it sit there as "back-up" or something to "play a little game with." Tamborrino said that the plan they are "going with and the plan they are fighting with" is the new one, not this one.

Both Joe Nixon (Morning Call) and Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) reported on this portion of the meeting. Please read their articles.

Engineer David Lear and Strausser representative, Sal Panto, spoke to the Riverview Estates Phase IIC agenda item, a temporary parking lot for the Riverview golf course pavilion. They said that the pavilion is nearly complete and that there are events booked for it. Panto added that the pavilion will be a year round facility - it has glass walls so it can be open-air or closed.

Wideman asked about the drainage on Winchester Drive and Panto said that the Soil Conservation District said that some of the silt sacks (and "eyebrows") can be removed from the stormwater grates because there is enough grass now. The water will flow into the Frost Hollow swale until the Route 611/Frost Hollow improvements are completed next summer. After that, there will be no water drained from Riverview/Winchester into the Frost Hollow swale.

Panto also said that the Route 611/Frost Hollow Road test borings have been done and he expects to have PennDot permits by March for the intersection improvements. The improvements include expanding a bridge (?) by 12 feet and adding left hand turning lanes in "both directions." After the improvements to the intersection are completed, including the new stormwater pipe under Route 611, they will "top coat" Winchester Drive.

Of the Riverview clubhouse, Panto said that it will be 35,000 square feet and take two years to construct. They hope to begin construction next year. Panto said too, that the lease on the trailers (the temporary clubhouse) is just about up and they are contemplating removing the trailers and putting in a permanent two story building with cart storage on the lower level. None of this is decided and they may continue to rent the trailers for the near term. The temporary parking lot was conditionally approved in a 7:0 vote.

No representative from the Courts At Newlins Road (the project around the 100 year flood plain on the corner of Newlins and Sullivan) was present. Hay said that the plan they have is the same one that was presented for preliminary approval. It was tabled 7:0.

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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BoS Special Meeting 7/10/2006

Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) reported on the night's meeting and their interviews with Solicitor Karl Kline, Attorney Lawrence Fox (representing Kichline), and Board Chairman David Hoff after the meeting.

The Board met in an Executive Session for nearly 3 hours. When they came out, Kline stated that "the purpose of the Executive Session was to discuss a personnel matter and that no action was taken by the Board during the Executive Session." Kline the said that the person who was the subject of the session was Township Manager Cathy Kichline adding that under the 2nd Class Township Code, the Township Manager "serves at the pleasure of the Board" and can be removed from that position "for any reason or for no reason" at any time.

Kline went on to state that "at this time the Board has decided to move forward in another direction and to terminate the employment of Township Manager Cathy Kichline effective immediately." Chairman David Hoff moved to do that. The motion was seconded by Supervisor John Ackerman. Kline asked if it was clear that the Board was acting under the 2nd Class Township Code to terminate at the pleasure of the Board and that there was not a question of termination for willful misconduct. The motion was amended to include that "purpose." The vote was 5:0.

On 7/12/06 Mausolf followed up with a second Express Times article of interviews of some Township residents and Supervisors. Please read the all of the newspaper articles for more information.

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, July 09, 2006

Announcement: BoS Special Meeting - 7/10/06

Special Board of Supervisors Meeting - Monday, July 10th - 7:00 PM!

The July 9 edition of the Express Times contains a legal notice announcing a "special meeting" of the Board. From the notice - "The purposes of the meeting are to consider restructuring management responsibilities within the Township government and to transact any other business which may come before the Board."

Although this meeting is not billed as an emergency meeting, it has been scheduled after the marathon 2-1/2+ hour Executive Session last Thursday. We assume that since it is an advertised meeting, that it is a "public" meeting. Hope to see you there!

BoS Meeting 7/6/2006

On 7/6/06 the Board of Supervisors met at 7:00 PM to interview two candidates for the single Recreation Board opening. This was followed at 7:30 PM by the regular meeting which lasted less than 1-1/2 hours. The closing Executive Session ran in excess of 2-1/2 hours!

Both Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) wrote their accounts in multi-parts. Both Mausolf and Nixon separated the lively discussion of the pricy custom made lobby table from their accounts of the regular agenda items. We will once again attempt to fill in the blanks.

Supervisor Comments - Secretary/Treasurer David Howell said that he received a letter from Michael and Michelle Fleck (Forks residents) in support of the Supervisors against the upcoming King’s Mill (& partners) challenge to the Zoning Ordinance. The Flecks told the Board that they would prefer to pay higher taxes in order to fight the reckless development that threatens the Township’s quality of life.

Treasurer’s Report - Howell reported the Township’s cash outlays since the last BoS meeting. Nicholas questioned the label "printing of newsletter." Township Manager Cathy Kichline explained that it was really for website updates to the website and that the label will be changed.

Nicholas then questioned the "Corporate environment" expense of $3K for the table in the lobby. Kichline said that it was part of the original proposal and was approved by the Board in December. (The furniture presentations were held in April 2004 and approval was sometime after that.)

Nicholas said too that there wasn’t supposed to be anything in the "line of egress." When Kichline said again that it was on the original proposal, Nicholas asked to "see" the proposal as she didn’t remember seeing a $3K table.

Nicholas asked Zoning Officer/Fire Chief Tim Weis to confirm that there was to be nothing in the way in case of fire and he said he wasn’t aware of that.

Resident Gretchen Gerstel called the table purchase "outrageous" and was joined in that sentiment by Supervisor John Ackerman. Read Mausolf and Nixon for more details.

The Treasurer’s motion to approve the expenses was passed 5:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas said that the Public Safety Committee did not meet because of the flood. She asked Weis to report on how the Command Center is going.

Emergency Management Co-ordinator Tim Weis said that the radio and antenna are ordered and both will be installed in the next two weeks. He said they also contacted a local supplier for the desk and drawers. He added that everything is within the budgeted amounts.

Weis reported on the Township’s flood response. He thought that they did a much better job than they did for the last flood. He said that they are learning from each flood.

Portable toilets and potable water were supplied to the residents in the flooded areas along the Delaware. Weis said that since this was a localized emergency and not a Township-wide one, the full emergency plan was not implemented. He said that the police department spent the night in foot patrols along the flooded areas and that DPW did an excellent job keeping the roads clear - there were some mud slides.

The fire department went door-to-door before the flood handing out flyers to individual residents. Weis said that on Sunday he went door-to-door himself and spoke with residents who responded much more favorably than they did for the prior floods.

Weis thanked the Public Works Director (Gary Sandt who was not in attendance) as well as the entire Public Works Department and Police Chief Greg Dorney and the entire police force as well as the Deputy Fire Chief and the entire Fire Department for all the work they did.

Weis added that as soon as he hears what FEMA/PEMA’s position is regarding setting up shop in Forks he will let the Board know.

Nicholas also thanked the Fire Department, the Police Departmant and Public Works for "doing a great job."

Police Chief - Greg Dorney added that he agreed with everything that Weis said but wanted to add one thing. He requested that the Township Manager contact PennDot regarding the timely closing (and reopening) of Route 611 in emergencies. Dorney said that he would like to meet with PennDot (and Weis and Kichline) to clarify a few issues that he has.

Supervisor Howell remarked that the Township acted on its own initiative and closed Route 611. He seconded Dorney’s PennDot concerns and thanked him for closing the road. Howell added that he visited the flooded area (611) several times and he suggested that the Safety Committee consider purchasing a "Zodiac" boat so that the Fire and Police Departments can travel along flooded 611.

Howell added that he received many compliments from residents along the river about the participation of the Township’s emergency crews.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that he, too, was down on 611 "with the Public Works" and talked to people and that the police did a great job. He said the firemen were down there before he was but he knows that they did an excellent job. He added that, "When the guys are asked to go, they go."
  • 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 this over the 4th weekend they had their 13th annual baseball tournament and that there are big crowds in the park. Basketball is still going on at the Community Center until the second week of August. Volleyball is still going on and will end in August. Miller said too that a new program, Country Line Dancing, will be starting next week.

(Note to residents who have seen the sinkholes in the park: There was no mention of them at this meeting.)

Supervisor/Chairman David Hoff said that the Parks & Recreation Committee did meet last week and did a final review of the "newsletter" survey insert. Hoff said that the committee also went over a list of recreation projects that they would like to see completed in the near future.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell had nothing new to report.

  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff reported that the committee is meeting once a month during the summer because of vacations. He said that Howell, he, and Kichline met with Hodges (Technologies) to review the email system and a risk assessment that Hodges prepared. The next full committee meeting will be July 12 and the risk assessment will be its

Manager’s Report & Correspondence - Cathy Kichline reported that the Community Days preparations are going well. She thanked the Benners and Dick Couch (who were all in the audience.)

Kichline commended Senator Wonderling’s office for offering assistance during the flood. She added that he has obtained a supply of bleach from local grocers and it will be distributed to the 611 residents tomorrow (Friday).

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - Just agenda items.

Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - Agenda items only.


LOVENE HELLER PROPERTY/ARNDT ROAD - Engineer Fred Hay reported that after looking at this situation further, he recommends that the Township perform a lot line adjustment. He explained that the Township would take 10 or 11 feet along the curb/right-of-way. Hay said that he will check to see if the pole is in the way. A recreational path of concrete (wider than a sidewalk) will be installed. Ackerman remarked that this seemed "fair enough." The balance of the land will be conveyed to Mr. & Mrs. Heller. Mr. Heller was not in attendance. This passed 5:0.


APPOINTMENT TO RECREATION BOARD - Hoff explained that 2 candidates, Georgian Wambold and John O’Neill were interviewed. Miller said that there is an opening coming up at year end as well and then he made a motion nominating O’Neill. This passed in a 3:2 (Hoff & Howell) vote.

JACOBS FARM II/LAND DEVELOPMENT PLAN - Hay said that the developer is asking for some waivers - the carbon/geology test, the recreation path, and sidewalks. These waivers were recommended by the PC. Sidewalks will extend on both sides of Braden Boulevard and (on one side) into the development to the first cross street from the Braden intersection. One sidewalk will extend all the way to the development’s recreation building.

Nicholas asked why there will not be sidewalks on both sides of all the streets since the older people go "flying through there." Ackerman said that the residents in Jacob’s Farm I are happy without sidewalks. The speed limit on Braden will be 35 mph but the speed limit on Jacob’s Farms private road system will be 15 mph.

Nicholas also went on record as objecting to the grass in Braden Boulevard (center island) since it will require maintenance and mowing by Township crews. Kichline said that the green area was so that people could cross half way and stop until it’s safe to continue on. Howell said that for the Planning Commission aesthetics was an issue. Nicholas wondered if the Township would have to buy another trailer to get the lawnmower up there every week. Ackerman said that the small mower will do a better job.

Howell asked how people on the streets parallel to Braden will get to Braden. It was decided that since all yards are common areas and not private yards, that a couple of sidewalks will be built between some of the units so that people can walk through to get to Braden - where they can then walk to Warren Hospital or the grocery/CVS or the bank.

The waivers were granted in a 5:0 vote. The land development plan was conditionally approved in a 5:0 vote.

NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY/STRYKER BRIGADE/LAND DVELOPMENT - Hay said that most of the concerns have been addressed and the developer requested only one waiver and he has no objection.

The developer’s representative (Paul Erfel?) summarized the plan for the Board. There will be two buildings on a 21 acre site. They will be developing 14 acres of the 21. A gravity sewer line will be brought down through a stream bed and the water line will be extended to the site.

There are discussions underway with the neighboring company for a driveway easement since this site borders on the part of Uhler where there is no good sight distance. Approvals from PennDot and the DEP and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission are in process as well.

There will be 26 people employed there during the week. There will be approximately 170 soldiers parking their cars there during the weekends. They will be bussed to Fort Indiantown Gap for their main training. Nicholas asked if the vehicles that will use the roads will have rubber tires and she was told yes and that there will be no "tracked" vehicles there as they are being phased out.

The Board was told that the treelines on the south, east, and west will be preserved (unless needed for the sewer line.) There will be no ammunition (ordnance) stored on the site.

The land development plan was conditionally approved in a 5:0 vote.

G & G DEVELOPERS LLC/INDEMNIFICATION AGREEEMENT - Kline said that all was in order. The agreement was approved in a 5:0 vote.

OLD MILL ROAD PEDESTRIAN BIKE PATH - Hay said that the idea to put a bike path along the road will not work since pedestrians and bicycles are not allowed to travel in the same direction. Dorney said that by law pedestrians must walk against traffic and bicycles must travel with traffic.

Hay suggested 3 foot wide paths on both sides of Old Mill Road. Howell said that people are not obeying the "no parking" signs and that either more signs are needed or the vehicles must be ticketed.

Nicholas asked again why the Township does not simply add a sidewalk and Hay said that one of the homes has extensive landscaping and that it is not entirely in the right of way and that it is on a very different grade level. He added that the people there have lived there for years and years.

Ackerman thought this proposal "dangerous" but said he was willing to try it. Nicholas thought a letter should be sent to the people who own the land to ask if they’d mind having a sidewalk there.

The Board agreed to "try" the paths on both sides of the street in a 5:0 vote.

HIRING OF MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL - Kichline said that the janitor position for the Police station and Municipal Building was advertised and that 20 candidates applied. Ten were interviewed. A background check was done on one. Placido Simonetti (sic) was hired in a 5:0 vote for this part time custodial position. (The title of the position was changed at Ackerman’s suggestion from "maintenance" to "custodial.")

MET-ED RESOLUTION/STREET LIGHTS SHAWNEE RIDGE II DEVELOPMENT - Kichline said that the lights were inspected. The resolution was approved 5:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The Executive Session for discussion of a personnel matter and a litigation matter ran in excess of 2-1/2 hours. No action was taken 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, July 02, 2006

Grocery Zoning Amendment Public Hearing 6/29/06

On June 29, approximately 150 Forks residents along with reporters Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) crowded into in the Municipal Building meeting room for the S.R.O. Public Hearing on the Grocery Zoning Amendment.

Board Chairman David Hoff began by explaining that public input would be restricted to that topic only and that although folks came out to speak on Kings Mill & partners newest proposal for 545 acres in the Farmland Preservation (FP) district, they would have to wait for that (Zoning Hearing Board) hearing in August.

Solicitor Karl Kline defined the issue and its history as well as the proposed amendment. It is to establish an additional conditional use for the Employment Center (EC) district that would allow a big box grocery store of up to 100,000 square feet to be built on any EC intersection that has both a collector road and an arterial road or two arterial roads. Sullivan Trail is an arterial road. Uhler Road is a collector road. Giving "conditional use" status means that the Board can impose "conditions," such as traffic mitigation, on any project the fits the criteria for the new use.

The applicant, SamCar of Pittston, PA came before the Zoning Hearing Board in January 2005 seeking relief from 3 zoning restrictions on their 9.2 acre site. Please see FAC Newspage for a complete history of the project to date. At that time they proposed a CVS (permitted use) for the site as well as a fast food/drive through restaurant (not permitted) and a gas station (permitted). They withdrew that application and came back with an "upscale" grocery store proposal (PC, March 9). Traffic has been the focus of most discussion about the project.

The developer has maintained (since the grocery plan was introduced) that if the zoning is not changed to allow a grocery, the permitted CVS store will be built instead (on one of the lots). The developer has several interested grocers (and none of them are Wegmans.)

The ordinance was sent to the Forks Planning Commission (endorsed by them) and to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission for comment. Ordinance changes require public hearings and this night satisfied that. Lastly, the Board will vote at its regular meeting on July 20 to accept or not accept the ordinance amendment.

Kline added that if the Board approves the amendment, the developer must still do two things:
  1. He must submit a full-blown land development plan which will be subject to review by the Planning Commission and by the Board of Supervisors.
  2. He must submit an application for conditional use to the Board of Supervisors. There will be a public hearing for that too but it will be different because the residents will have a plan to see when they come to the meeting.

Kline also said that that area is going to be developed in the future whether it is a grocery, a drugstore or something else. Development is approved. The Sullivan Trail Business Park is already under construction. Kline said that this is a rare opportunity for the Board to have some input on what is to be constructed in that area.

Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas wanted it known that the developer at no time threatened a lawsuit and that people who were there because they thought they had were misled. The applicant’s attorney, Jim Preston, confirmed that there are no plans for a lawsuit and that if the zoning change is not approved, the developer will proceed with the CVS on one of the lots.

Supervisor David Howell explained the importance of the EC district. He said that these are parcels that do no have homes on them and that they do not have 2.7 children per unit, nor 2 cars per unit. He added that these parcels are designated for commercial development and that it is "vital to our community that we have good businesses there." These businesses will provide jobs and (in the form of income, mercantile, and revalued property) tax revenues. Howell thanked everyone for coming and apologized that there were not enough chairs for all.

Hoff said that he received a signed petition at the start of the meeting and that copies will be made for each Supervisor.


  • Elwood Smith, an ex-Supervisor spoke in favor of the grocery store but not in favor of all the houses being built in the Township. He said that in 1961 he was responsible for the industrial park and that he doesn’t understand why all the houses are going in around the industrial park. He doesn’t understand how it got out of hand.

  • Ken Nagy said when the attorney for the developer says that if the grocery amendment isn’t approved that a CVS will be built on one lot, he fears that Forks will get a pizza parlor and a bank on the other two. Nagy said that Forks has enough banks and pizza parlors. Nagy also said that it is an economic center and it should be used as such. He added that economic centers do not bring kids. He took issue with the literature floating around that said something about a loss of open space since that doesn’t enter into development in the EC. Nagy said that both Uhler and Sullivan are PennDot truck routes and that whatever is built in surrounding communities is going to add to the traffic so Forks should get something that will benefit the community. He said he would welcome competition for the Giant and that at 25th Street prices are lower because there is competition.
  • Fritz Weide pointed out to the Board that Forks was rezoned 7 or 8 years ago and that the new zoning cost money. He said that he hoped that the plans made were the best plans and that he is appalled that a builder will come into the Township (and every other place) and try to force a change to zoning to suit them. He said he didn’t care if it was a grocery store or a CVS or a restaurant. He asked how many people will be employed there and was told approximately 150 people. Weide added that the Township has a traffic problem as well as a "continuous building" problem and that both should be addressed before any rezoning is approved.

Hoff commented that this developer has not threatened the Township and that traffic is the big issue for the Board and if it is not addressed the project will not be approved.

  • Stan Price asked if there was any other land in the Township that would be suitable for a grocery store. Kline answered that there is a parcel in Town Center but that the landowner said that as long as she is alive, it will not be developed. Supervisor John Ackerman added that there is a 10 acre parcel next to Met-Ed on Meco Road. Price said that this is not a question of "who" is coming here but it is a question of modifying the current zoning ordinance. He asked that the Board consider this very carefully as when it is changed it "opens the door" for the next applicant.

Kline explained that the Township has no legal obligation to make this change and that there is no basis for contesting the current zoning since there is an area in the Township where grocery stores are allowed. Kline added that it is up to the Board to decide if it is in the best interest of the Township to make this change.

  • Louis Moyer (Zoning Hearing Board member) said that to him, this is a quality of life issue. He said that it takes him 18 minutes to get to routes 33 and 191 from his home at American General Drive. If he leaves later in the morning (8 AM) he runs into all the commuter traffic and it takes an additional 18 minutes. He said that the traffic is backed up 1-1/4 miles. He noted that the block company’s tractor trailers loaded with tons of cement block make the wide turn to go down Sullivan Trail and that the intersection is a nightmare. He said that at 3:30 PM Victaulic, Binney & Smith, and Dixie employees are all exiting there at the same time and that traffic is backed up a mile in every direction. Moyer said that he would love a grocery store since he shops in Philipsburg now because Giant’s prices are too high. He concluded by saying that he felt that a grocery store would really degrade the quality of life in that area.
  • Attorney Charles Smith said that years ago there was a bad sewer problem in Forks and the Easton area sewer plant had to be expanded. He said that all building was shut down until that was finished. Smith said that he thinks the traffic problem Forks has now is of the same magnitude and that no zoning changes should be accepted until a traffic plan is developed and implemented.
  • Cecilio Cordo (sic) stated that he came to one meeting 9 or 10 years ago because of a panic about bringing MacDonalds to Forks. He said that at that time he suggested to the Board that they have a plan that is not "reactive in nature." He said he told the Board then that they should be looking for the kinds of businesses that they want to have here and that they should not wait for developers to come in with proposals. Cordo added that he hasn’t been to another meeting until now. He said that one of the things that needs to be addressed is the atrocious traffic. He said that it appears that there hasn’t been enough thought put into building and into infrastructure. He concluded by saying that he came hoping to stimulate the Board "to think outside of the box... in order to make the this Township what it deserves to be."

Howell responded that Forks Township is a unique community with lots of disadvantages as far as traffic is concerned. Howell said that the Township has State highways, Route 611, Bushkill Drive, Frost Hollow Road, and Route 115 (down its center). He said that he’s attended 2 years worth of PC meetings and seen that they plan for access to the three main roads from each development. Sullivan Trail goes to a dead end at Knox Avenue where it becomes a residential street and houses cannot be torn down along Cattell Street for a 4 lane highway. Howell added that there is not a lot of PennDot cooperation when dealing with these routes.

Howell said that there is development coming up in LMBT and in Plainfield Township and that Chrin is soon to begin development of commercial lots in the Palmer/Tatamy area. These pressures will affect Forks because Forks is part of an "unfortunate" funnel. Howell added that Forks has caused pressure too because it has double in population in a short period of time.

Howell labeled traffic as a "regional issue" and said that members of the Board attend regional meetings in order to draw attention for Forks’ problems. He said that we are not the source of all of our traffic problems and that there will be more commuters coming through since the only way they can get to where they are going is to come through Forks. He said that in time another interchange on Route 33 will be built but until then Stockertown and Forks will suffer.

Howell said that the Board thinks of traffic all the time. He said that Forks roads were never designed for the volume of traffic that is there today and that an extra lane on Sullivan Trail will allow you to go through town a little quicker but it won’t get you to Route 22 any faster.

Howell assured the audience that if the grocery is approved, the intersection will be too and that traffic will flow through it better. However, when Stockertown and LMBT residents come here to shop, they will bring more traffic. He added that the Township has talked to Panera Bread about coming here and they won’t because we don’t have enough traffic!

Kline said that Ordinance #298 will be on the Board of Supervisor’s agenda for the July 20th meeting.

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.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Spirit & Tenacity - Flood 2006

Talk about SPIRIT!

Talk about TENACITY!

Forks residents have suffered through yet another flood. Our hats are off to you. Our hearts go out to you. Most of us can only imagine what it's like. You lived it.

We sincerely hope that you find a way to celebrate the holiday.

Happy July 4th to you.