Sunday, February 25, 2007

Announcing the FAC Candidates' Webpage & Blog!

Each of the declared Forks Supervisor candidates in the upcoming May 15th Primary has been through our qualifying process. Each has passed with flying colors. We have launched a candidates' page so that you can learn more about your four outstanding friends and neighbors. Each is willing to give their time and energy to serving you. Please give them your full consideration in making your selection.

We have also initiated a group "candidates' blog" so that they can get their thoughts, ideas, and hopes for Forks Township's future to you. You are invited to give your feedback, ask questions and join in the dialogue. The blog is just starting and we have some kinks to iron out so please bear with us.

F.A.C. has posed a question (on the blog) to get the ball rolling. It is: "If you could wave a magic wand and change five things in the Township right now, what would they be?" This is one tough question! It may take a little time before each has answered it.

Please visit their
new webpage and learn more about David Billings, Erik Chuss, Robert Egolf, and James Wideman. You'll find contact information there as well as links to their blog.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

BoS Meeting 2/15/07 - Highlights Only

Due to technical difficulties, the detailed meeting notes from this very important meeting will be delayed until at least mid-week. We are sorry for the inconvenience. The following are the highlights as posted on the F.A.C. website.

The February 15th Board of Supervisors meeting had a small agenda, with BIG items! The Kings Farm time extension offer, the Weis Market Conditional Use Vote, and the Weis preliminary land development plan presentation were all there. These are the projects that are giving Forks so much press lately. For more on the Kings Farm decision, read Courtney Lomax (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call). For more on the Weis Market vote, read (second articles) by Nixon and Lomax.

Meeting highlights include:
  • Chief Dorney presented the Police Department 5 Year Plan in a workshop at 6:30 PM.
  • A meeting was held on Tuesday with Stockertown Borough Council to discuss continuing Forks Fire Department coverage there beyond the March 16 deadline. Another meeting will be held soon.
  • Forks EMS was asked during a Public Safety Committee meeting to return again with a budget and additional figures.
  • The FTYSO youth dances will begin again on Friday, February 23rd in the Community Center.
  • There were no - as in zero - vehicle accidents in Forks during the past week's winter storm!
  • The plan for Kings Farm - the nearly 190 homes on two acre lots covering approximately 450 acres in the FP district was rejected with a unanimous vote. The plan was called incomplete because the planning module, soil tests, and traffic study were not submitted. Later, Kings Farm attorney, John VanLuvanee told reporters that the developers will appeal the decision.
  • The Weis Market conditional use was approved in a 3:2 vote with Nicholas and Ackerman voting nay. The Weis preliminary land development plan was also approved, 3:2. Ackerman apologized to the developers saying that he really likes the plan and only voted against it because he does not like the "right-out" on Sullivan Trail. He has no issue with the right-in.
  • Solicitor Kline was asked by the Board to write a letter to the SPCA and ask them to stop referring Forks residents to the Forks Police Department to pick up stray cats. The PD is authorized under State statute to collect stray/problem dogs and not other domestic animals.
  • Developer Robert Ciccone was allowed by former Township Manager Kichline to post a bond instead of an irrevocable letter of credit for the Briarwood development. Kline said that documentation to that effect was found in the Ciccone file. It verified that Ms. Kichline returned Ciccone's letter of credit. Neither the Board nor Kline were involved in that decision. The Board decided to let it stand since the development is in its "maintenance" phase. Kline explained the difference between the 2 vehicles: With a letter of credit, if there's a problem, the Township can go to the bank and get its money within 5 days and with a bond, it's like buying a "lawsuit." Bond providers are like insurance companies that accept premium payments but are reluctant to pay out for claims.

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, February 17, 2007

Kings Mill Zoning Hearing - Round 9 Reminder

Round 9 is coming this Monday for the Forks zoning challenge hearing by Kings Mill & partners!

When again? - Monday, February 19th at 7:30 PM

Where? - Forks Municipal Building

The Kings Mill partnership (Zawarski, Maloney, & Benner) alleges that the Farmland Protection District zoning is too restrictive. Their vision proposes 3,042 dwelling units -- apartments, townhomes, and a mobile home park. To us, that looks like:

  • 6,000 more cars on town roads everyday
  • 8,000 more students in the schools
  • 25% of open farm fields covered with roofs and asphalt

This can't be a good thing for Forks. We urge you to attend these zoning challenge hearings. The developers do! And, your presence makes a difference. It reminds them that Forks residents do indeed care about their quality of life and about what they (KMRD, LP) want to do to it! Bring family, bring friends, bring neighbors... let's not leave an empty seat in the room on Monday, February 19th!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

PC - Out In Front Again! - 2/8/07

The Forks Planning Commission made the headlines! The planners voted once again to recommend that the Board of Supervisors both reject the time extension offered by the developers as well as reject the entire Kings Farm plan. Please read Joe Nixon (Morning Call) and Courtney Lomax (Express Times) for more on the PC 2/8/07 meeting.

The developers were not able to complete the required perc tests by the January 31st deadline imposed on them by the Board of Supervisors. And, because the tests were not completed, the Township’s engineer, Fred Hay, could not finish the plan review. Without the plan review, there was in fact, no plan before the PC to consider. Having no plan, the PC had no choice but to recommend rejection of it.

The planners first voted to reject the offered time extension (until July 31st). This would have given the developers another 5 months to complete perc tests on the acreage. The plan was filed in December 2005 and the PC expressed the collective opinion that 12 months was more than enough time to do the tests. Both Solicitor Karl Kline and Hay remarked that normally perculation tests are completed before plan submission. In this instance they were not.

Planning Commission Chairman Erik Chuss said, "(To me) it’s lot of wasted time and what’s been done so far... has been too little, too late." Planner Dean Turner asked (attorney for the developers) John VanLuvanee what proof there was that the time line imposed by the Board was not reasonable. Planner Carl Dicker wondered why there was an 8 month gap and why the tests were not begun until winter.

Of the packet of information before the planners, Kline said, "Whenever you have a situation where there’s more paperwork from attorneys than there is from engineers in a case, you know you’ve got problems..."

Kline also noted that in reviewing the papers, among other things, he saw no records of stormwater calculations or of sewer planning modules. According to VanLuvanee, the delay is "on the developer" and not on their engineering firm (Hanover) because the developer was waiting for a response from the Township on whether or not it would amend its Act 537 plan, the official plan that designates sewers/disposal in Forks.

The offered (by the developers) time extension will be before the Board of Supervisors at their February 15th meeting.

Please note that the Kings Farm plan is not the same as the Kings Mill plan. Kings Farm is the plan filed by the developers at the end of 2005 under the old zoning ordinance. That ordinance allowed 2 acre minimum lots in the FP. Kings Farm was the second plan introduced before the PC at the big public meeting in August 2005. That was the night the developers proposed 800 plus dwelling units on the same acreage. The planners voted then to NOT recommend the high density plan to the Board. Please see the FAC August 2005 Archive for more on the original proposals.

The current Kings Mill plan calls for even higher density on even greater acreage. It is the subject of the zoning challenge currently in process before the Zoning Hearing Board. The developers contend that Forks Zoning Ordinance is too restrictive.

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, February 04, 2007

BoS Meeting 2/1/07

On February 1st at 7:15 PM, the Board of Supervisors interviewed Forks resident Georgeann Wambold for the open seat on the Planning Commission. The regular meeting started at 7:30 PM and ended after an Executive Session. Both Joe Nixon (Morning Call) and Courtney Lomax (Express Times) were there. Please read their articles. We will try to fill in the blanks.

Supervisor Comments:

  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas said that Police Chief Greg Dorney made her aware that residents are bringing animals to the police department to avoid paying fees at the SPCA. The SPCA contract was recently changed because residents in Forks, as well as in other contracted municipalities, were allowed to bring stray animals to the SPCA with the municipalities picking up the tabs. The system was abused. Now, under the new contract, only the animal control officer or police officers may bring animals to the SPCA (in order for the Township to pay the bill). Anyone else may bring animals and if they do, they will be expected to pay. According to Dorney," 90% of the time, Tommy (Forks animal control officer) takes care of it."

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer David Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. Acceptance of the debits and transfers was approved 5:0.

Standing Committee Reports

Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - announced that their next meeting is Tuesday, February 6th at 5 PM.

Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - was absent and Supervisor Miller noted that the committee will meet next week.

Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: Miller continues to report on events in the parks as his committee report. The following comments rightly belong in the Supervisors’ Comments section. It would appear that the Parks & Recreation committee seldom, if ever, meets since if it did, he would give a committee report.) Miller said that he and Howell met with the "athletic association to discuss the dances at the Community Center" and that the dances are on the regular agenda (item 2 under Unfinished Business).

Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - reported that the migration of the Township’s website to the new host was problem free. The committee will now begin addressing website upgrades to insure that it is informative and interesting. Howell also said that the new edition of the Forks Quarterly is anticipated at the end of March. He added that insuring that the Forks Quarterly is produced in a timely manner (as well as meets the policy standards) will be a principal responsibility of the new (not yet hired) Township Manager. The committee is now collecting articles for it and the Board will see a list of advertisers at the next meeting.

Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - reported that the committee met last week with a T-Mobile representative. The representative was asked to come back with a plan of where T-Mobile wants to place the tower. Miller will meet with him next. The committee will meet with the representative again in March. Hoff said too that the committee set and prioritized its objectives and agenda for the year. The next meeting is scheduled for February 14th.

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - reported that PennDot presented its plan for a flashing light at Arndt Road and Bushkill Drive. Hay explained that there are 4 corners, 3 of which are electrified. PennDot picked the corner that has no electricity for one of the 2 standards. Hay will go back to PennDot to see if another corner can be selected.

Hay also reported that Mr. Art Panzini’s water issue on Zucksville Road should be corrected. PennDot donated pipe and 2 inlets were installed by the Forks DPW. The new house (across Zucksville from Panzini) will not have its water problem corrected until spring.

Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - reported State mediator met in a second session with the non-uniformed employees bargaining unit and that a counter proposal was received. He said that discuss this with the Board in Executive Session.

Kline also reported that a revised proposal has been received from General Code. This one is based on the electronic document that URDC provided. The price drop is somewhere around $1100. This will be on the next meeting’s agenda.

Comments from the Public

  • Gretchen Gerstel - addressed her comment to Howell and asked when he was going to keep his campaign "assurances" to hold town meetings. She asked that he set a date. Howell replied that under the committee structure (that replaced the liaison structure), a new committee, the Community Relations Committee, was formed and that its meetings are open to the public. He and Nicholas are on the committee and it meets twice a month, the 2nd Wednesday at 9:00 AM and the 4th Wednesday at 4:45 AM. Gerstel said that although she attends some of the meetings, many in Forks cannot because they work. Nicholas noted that she cannot attend the 9:00 AM meetings. Howell said that if evening meetings are needed in the future because of major issues such as the upcoming Comprehensive Plan, meetings may be held in the evening and residents will be encouraged to attend those meetings. Howell said too, that residents can email him as well as contact him by phone. He added that the liaison structure has allowed the Township to function without a Township Manager and without a DPW Director for the last several months without problems. Howell said that the committee structure is a "great achievement by this Board and one of my promises... a deliverable" and that "it is a shining example of progress for this Township."
  • Sandy Hanks - mentioned a piece that she received in email recently from the Express Times about an upcoming Agricultural Land Use Workshop scheduled for the Hotel Bethlehem on March 15th from 1-4 PM. Topics included in the program are laws about agricultural land protected from development (farmland protection), the Right to Farm Act, and municipalities planning codes. Hanks suggested that at $25/per attendee, the Board should send representatives from the Board, from planning, and from zoning.


VACANCY/ELECTED BOARD OF AUDITORS - Forks resident Sandy Hanks volunteered (from the audience) for the position. She was appointed in a 4:0 vote to fulfill the term ending 12/31/07 (vacated by Wayne Docker). Hoff noted that the position is up for re-election in November and that Hanks consider running for the upcoming 4 year term.

ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION/YOUTH DANCES - Dan Martyak, vice chairman of the Forks Township Youth Sports Organization spoke to the procedural and rules changes that will be implemented should the Board allow the dances to continue. In short they include:
An appointed commissioner of dances - to finish out this season’s (4 dance) schedule there will be 2 commissioners, Kevin Wall and Butch Scerbo.

  • Chaperones will all wear color (neon) armbands. The commissioner(s) band will be a different color.
  • Dance rules violations will have consequences. Lights will go on and the music will stop. If it happens a second time, the lights will go on, the music will be stopped, and the offenders will be escorted to a room away from the dance. There will be a chaperone in the room.
  • The rules will be read aloud before the dance.
  • The DJ will not play any inappropriate music.
  • Kids will be carded and those without ID cards will not be allowed in the dance unless their parents sign them in - this covers the Catholic school students who do not have school issued ID cards. If their rides have left and cannot sign them in, they will be escorted to a room where they will remain until the dance is over. There will be a chaperone in the room.
  • The drivers of cars dropping off dance attendees will be given a copy of the rules.

Martyak said too, that if parents do not show up on time, a chaperone will stay with the children until they do show up.

Hoff asked that someone from the FTYSO update the Board after the next dance. The tentative date of the next dance is February 23rd. The Board voted 4:0 to allow the dances to resume.

PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENT - After discussion of Georgeann Wambold’s meeting attendance and her experience as a previous applicant for both Recreation Board and Planning Commission vacancies, the BoS voted 4:0 to appoint her. Wambold was the only applicant for this re-advertised opening.


KINGS MILL FARM - This item was stricken from the agenda. It will be on the February 8th Planning Commission (PC) agenda and on the February 15th BoS agenda. (Note: It is for the plan filed before the new zoning ordinance took effect last year. In February 2006, 187 two acre lots were proposed on 436 acres in the Farmland Preservation District. This is referred to as the "by-right" plan.)

Howell asked if it was simply a procedural error (that it was placed on the agenda) and asked too, if there is ever a time that the BoS could "exempt" the PC from dealing with an issue and take it on themselves? Kline explained that the SALDO and the Zoning Ordinance specify that plans go before the PC and the PC makes recommendations to the Board. He said that he thinks its "appropriate" that it go back to the PC for another recommendation since the developer is offering "yet another extension." Kline said that if there was an emergency situation in which there was a time deadline that would be missed and result in a "deemed" approval, that direct Board action would be warranted.

JORGE PEREIRA MINOR SUBDIVISION - The 2.4 acre property is on Old River Road and is bordered by North Delaware Drive. There is an existing home on the lot. The subdivision was approved in a 4:0 vote.

There was an EXECUTIVE SESSION to discuss a personnel matter, a matter of potential litigation (???), and the collective bargaining negotiations. No action was taken by the Supervisors during the 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.