Thursday, May 31, 2007

KMRD - Defense Began 5/21/07

KMRD Update: The Township began its defense in Round 12 on May 21st with two witnesses, Margaret Dissinger, VP of Land Development for Omega Homes (Penn's Ridge) and Jeffrey Bader, EASD Business Manager. Dissinger testified that although Omega intended to build apartments, market conditions changed and the money to be made was in townhouses. Bader testified that the annual per student cost, exclusive of buildings, is approximately $12,000. School tax money realized from a typical townhouse is $2,500 - a net deficit of approximately $9,500! If the townhouse has two students, that deficit becomes $21,500 - $9,500 for the first student + $12,000 for each additional one. Bader also that a development of this size could double our school taxes! Not kidding - he said DOUBLE! Please read Christina Georgiou's thorough coverage of the testimony in the May 24, 2007 edition of The Easton News.

The Township will present more witnesses at the next
session on June 18.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

BoS Meeting 5/17/2007

The May 17, 2007 Board of Supervisors meeting once again ended with an Executive Session to discuss "litigation" as well as the non-uniformed employees' wage negotiations. Both Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) and Courtney Lomax (Express Times) covered the most controversial meeting discussion - the proposed T-Mobile cell tower in the park. (Joe Nixon (Morning Call) also covered the proposal in articles on both January 23, 2007 and January 25, 2007!)

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Nicholas announced that the Forks Days committee is still looking for a secretary to take minutes at their remaining 6 meetings. Harry Bennett, Chairman said that the pay is the same as last year but could be "increased by one more zero." The next meeting is Monday night at 7:00 PM in the Community Center.

Nicholas also asked about the status of the cell tower. Chairman Hoff said that it will be in the Finance and Administration report later in the meeting. Nicholas asked about the status of a projector for the meeting room (ans. - Chairman Hoff said that it's in committee), about voting in the schools (ans. Hoff said that the County wants to keep voting in schools and Supervisor Howell said that the County declined the Township's offer to use the Municipal Building), and about why so much of June Vail's tax report was handwritten (ans. - Finance Manager Jim Farley said that she "chooses" to do it that way.)

Supervisor Miller said that he has been meeting with DPW director, Mark Roberts for tours of the parks and recreation facilities in order to prepare a list of future projects. He further announced that there are 140 teams in the summer basketball program.

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer 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 reported that the next meeting will be Tuesday at 5:00 PM and that the committee will be working on the EOP and Forks EMS. William Keifer, President of Forks EMS presented the Board with the first of the squad's monthly reports and briefed the Board on its contents:
    • The squad has been providing 24/7 BLS coverage since April 1st. They had 53 BLS call, assisted on 27 ALS calls, and did 2 medical transports.
    • Financing has been secured with First Star Bank - debts to KNBT, PA workman's comp, and PA unemployment were paid and there is a $50,000 line of credit in place.
    • The squad's new billing company, First States Financial (sic), is already providing revenues - payroll is being met with the money in the bank.
    • There were unexpected vehicle repairs necessary as a result of the (diesel) fleet being idle for so long.
    • The theft loss was paid by the insurance company.
    • Stockertown Council has okayed using Forks EMS for BLS service.
    • The monthly EMS reports will be in the Supervisors' packets going forward. Hoff noted that questions about the "IRS situation" and shared money with Suburban EMS will be discussed at the Tuesday meeting.
  • Nicholas asked Schnaedter about the camera for the parking lot and was advised that the vendor hopes to have it installed the first week of June. She also expressed thanks to all the firemen for their work in the last month and extended thanks to their employers who let them leave their jobs to fight fires. She suggested that the Township send a letter of thanks to these companies.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that he would provide DPW Director Mark Roberts' report to anyone who wanted to see it. He said that Roberts prepared a good report.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - Miller gave no committee report. His announcements have been moved to Supervisors' Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell said that the committee's next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23 at 4:45 PM. Howell said that he met with Schnaedter to discuss the webcam and that Schnaedter will report on the progress to date in his report.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff said that the committee met on May 9 to discuss the purchasing policy as well as bidding procedures - for budgeted items - and that both are on the agenda. He also said that he received a "disaster recovery proposal" from Hodges Technologies - for the computer system - and that it will be reviewed further. Barb Bartek has taken the lead on the Township drop box and there will be new on soon. It will be twice the size of the existing one, be more secure, and, unless it's raining sideways, will keep the contents dry. Hoff next said that the committee wanted an expression of interest/disinterest from the Board on the cell tower. He said that they had the requested updated agreement from T-Mobile and had lots of research from other communities that have towers. The committee will stop discussions with T-Mobile if the Board is not interested in having the tower in the park or continue if the Board wants it.
    • Nicholas said that she had no information in order to base an opinion.
    • Ackerman said that T-Mobile should come and make a presentation to the Board at a public meeting and that the Board should hold a workshop to visit the site.
    • Howell said that he is on record as being opposed to the cell tower in Forks' public park. He said that T-Mobile only approached the Township and no one else. The "hot spot" is near the Community Center - between the new parks garage and the old Laneco. Howell said that it would be a detriment to developing the old Laneco property and that a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board is required. He said that the footprint would straddle the parkland and the Laneco and would be visible from Sullivan Trail, everywhere in the park, and from the Municipal Building. He shared photos that he took of cell towers along Route 78 with the Board. Howell said too, that it should be on private land and not the "people's park." He felt that a workshop is unnecessary and that there should be a public meeting to discuss it. He said he "wouldn't mind an up and down vote right now."
    • Miller thought that the Board should visit the site. He remarked that the Supervisors used to tour the Township with the public works director and township manager to look at all the roads and parks see what problems were there. Miller said that T-Mobile could approach a private landowner 10 feet from the edge of the park and then the Township would not see any money from it. He said losing two trees was no big deal because the $10,000 or $20,000 would buy a lot of trees.
    • Howell said that the site would be more than just a tower since it would need a road as well as a truck turn-around.
    • Jim Wideman (resident, former PC member, and current Supervisor candidate) said that the Township is trying to resurrect the Laneco site and the cell tower would be a "150 foot visual detractor" and that the Township "may as well get used to the property being empty." He said too, that a 150 foot tower will be a problem for (airport) air space and that it should go in the industrial park or near an existing tower.
    • Schnaedter will have the site staked out and the Supervisors will tour it before the June 7th meeting.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the Township received a letter from the LVPC stating that it is holding a public meeting on May 24 to discuss the final draft of the Lehigh Valley Greenway Plan. (Nicholas asked for a copy of the 120 page document.) Schnaedter also said that he attended a Met-Ed rate meeting where they proposed a 5-1/2% rate increase on municipal street lighting. It's not finalized yet and the Township currently has $40,000 in the budget for lighting. There will be a meeting with a representative later this month for more details. Schnaedter also said that the Community Relations committee met with representatives from Virtual Systems, the company that designed the webcam/operating system for Emmaus. The cost is more than originally thought. And, because they want to modify the website as well, the current website designer has been invited to also give a proposal. ... As to the "milling machine," Schnaedter is waiting to hear from Lower Nazareth.

Engineer's Report - None

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Kline said that the low interest PEMA (fire truck) loan closing is set for May 24, 2007.

Comments from the floor - Resident Ken Nagy told the Board that the Laneco property has been empty far too long and that the Board should call the LVEDC and ask them "why?" Nicholas said that Schnaedter should make the call. Nagy was told that the property has an owner and an approved plan. Nagy said that it would make a great backup data center for NYC.

Nagy further said that there is plenty of money in the County for recreation and that Forks pays .5 mil to the County and gets nothing in return. The cities of Easton and Bethlehem are getting $1.7 million for recreation - both are really "economic development" according to Nagy. Five years ago, Forks got $200,000 and has been ineligible since then for more until other municipalities get money. Nagy told the Board that no more money should go to the County and that the .5 mill should be kept and used in Forks. He added that the open space program is creating estates and buffer zones around homes - the land is not open to the public. No County parks have been created. Nagy said that Phillipsburg, NJ successfully pulled out of the Warren County open space program.

Miller asked Kline to look into it. Nicholas asked Farley how much money is sent to the County and was told $300,000 to $400,000. Nagy said that both Bethlehem Township and Forks are cash cows (to the County.)

Ackerman said that he should have mention the hazardous condition of the house on Newlins and Richmond - the one that the fire company has been using for training - during the Public Works section. He said that there was a recent arrest there. He believes the house should come down. Police Chief Dorney confirmed that there have been sporadic issues there as well as an arrest. Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that the DPW has secured the site and that the fire company has classes scheduled there for June and that they are needed for their accreditation efforts. He asked if it could remain there until the end of June and was told that it can.


RIVERVIEW ESTATES/CONDITIONS OF TIME EXTENSION/RESOLUTION - Kline explained that Strausser Enterprises was to have submitted final plans for all phases of the Riverview Estates development by 4/20/06 and because Strausser failed to do that, he loses his right to the PRD that was initially approved. (Note: In the new Zoning Ordinance, there is no PRD). The developer has filed plans for phase 6 but not for 5 and 4A (the country inn). Keystone Engineering has a punch list of deficiencies for phases 2, 2A, 2C (clubhouse) as well as phases 3 & 4. This resolution gives Strausser an extension to November 30, 2007 to clean up all the deficiencies, to execute the agreement for phase 7 (100 townhouses along Frost Hollow), to provide the necessary security for phase 7, and to deed the one acre parcel on Frost Hollow for the pump station (for sewer on Route 611) to the Township. Additional conditions are that all the deficiencies in the construction review and escrow account be paid and that all letters of credit for outstanding "stages" be renewed. And, then he can submit final plans.

In discussion it was noted that some of the punch-list items had been completed but not the majority as Sal Panto said at a previous meeting. Attorney Asteak (for the developer) was not present. Kline said that that indicates Straussers' agreement to the conditions of the resolution. Kline also said that Strausser disagrees with the amount owed for escrow and that an arbiter per the MPC may become involved. Howell asked what the number was and Kline responded that Strausser had disputed every bill since 2000. The Strausser fire several years ago, makes comparing records difficult (they were destroyed). Hoff noted that Strausser has been "the most challenging developer." Kline also said that Strausser must withdraw the plan for Phase 6 or it will be deemed "untimely filed." The resolution passed in a 5:0 vote.


PENN'S RIDGE PRD/AGREEMENT AMENDING SEWER EASEMENTS - Kline said that moving the easement for phases 9 & 11 to line up better with a subsequent phase is okay with the Township engineer and that everything is in order. It passed 5:0.

PENN'S RIDGE/PHASES 13 & 14/SKETCH PLAN - The developer, Omega Homes, presented the final phases for the Penn's Ridge development. The development's plans were approved in 1997 and phases 13 & 14 (as well as 9 & 11) were intended to be apartments. Market conditions changed. In 2005, phases 9 & 11 were changed to townhouses/condominiums. Phases 13 & 14 were also changed. There will be 102 condominiums with 62 in 4/5/6 unit buildings with two car garages. In addition, the Board saw a concept sketch for four 3-story flats. They are condos with 1 story living, 10 units per building. They will have one car garages, 2 units on the first level, 4 on the second, and 4 on the third with access through a central core. The private roads are 25 feet wide with Belgian block curbing. Per the Planning Commission recommendations, parking will be restricted to one side. The condominiums are higher end than the rest of Penn's Ridge and will be located to take advantage of the "view corridor" provided by Bushkill Creek. There will be two areas of open space and one of commercial. Howell asked that the commercial convenience store be made to look natural in the setting. The PC also recommended that the street near the school bus stop be widened for parents to park (when waiting for the school buses.) Weis asked if the buildings will be sprinkler-ed - they will. The homeowners association is already in place.

JACOB'S FARM II/LAND DEVELOPMENT/PHASING PLAN - The developer's representative detailed the new phasing plan - phases 1 and 2. There will be 60 lots in phase 1 and 75 lots in phase 2. Two lots will be reserved for temporary overflow parking - until the start of phase 2. Braden Boulevard and the detention pond are included in phase 1. There was discussion about grass in the Braden medial strip. Nicholas and Ackerman don't want it. It will be a Township roadway and neither of them wants to send the manpower there to mow it. The original plan was approved with it. Nicholas asked the that the developer revisit the grass. The new phasing plan was approved 5:0.

POSSIBLE LEASE OF LAFAYETTE COLLEGE SPRING HOUSE ALONG BUSHKILL CREEK - Kline explained that Lafayette College owns the small stone building along the Bushkill and that member of the Forks Historical Society, the Township, and Lafayette have been in discussion about the Historical Society preserving it. It is over 200 years old. Lafayette is more comfortable entering into a lease with the Township. The Township would then sub-lease it to the Historical Society. The building has no running water, no electric, and is in the flood plain so no land development can be done there. Howell said that Senator Wonderling is facilitating a $5,000 grant to help. Members of the Forks Historical Society, Carl Miller, Morris Metz, and Carl Babp (sic), described their plans for the clean-up of the stone building. They said that the windows were slits perhaps for defense and in very good shape. The lease term is 10 years with automatic 5 year renewals. Nicholas wondered if exterior work on the site would be a good Eagle Scout project but was told that in the 100 year flood plane very little can be done. Nothing can be built there, not even flower walls. Bob Egolf (Zoning Hearing Board and Supervisor candidate) suggested that the Eagle Scouts could do some educational/historical interior work. Howell suggested that the Historical Society work on a plan for the building. Kline was instructed to draft a lease in a 5:0 vote.

PLANNING COMMISSION RESIGNATION - Les Ottenwalder's resignation was accepted in a 5:0 vote.

PURCHASING POLICY & BIDDING PROCESS - Farley began the discussion with a description of the packet prepared for the Board - a mission statement (old but good he said), the purchasing section, and the bidding process. There was a long discussion of who should sign what and when. The suggestions made by the Board are going back to the Finance and Administration Committee for further consideration.

BUDGET AMENDMENT - Farley explained that budget revisions were needed to cover the arrangement with Stockertown, salary/wage changes, and the Easton Joint Sewer Authority contribution. Miscellaneous unanticipated revenues, like the $5220 from the flood, Liquid Fuels money, etc. are also included. Nicholas asked about the destroyed patrol car and whether or not the camera, also destroyed and worth $5,000, was insured. It will be looked into. The amendment passed 5:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The session was held to discuss both litigation and the non-uniformed employees' contract negotiations. No action was taken by the Board 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.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Primary 2007 - Unofficial Results

* Chuss (R) 449

* Billings (R) 286

Fisher (R) 278

Ackerman (R) 243


* Egolf (D) 374

* Wideman (D) 320

Forks voters say NO to Act I - 951 to 405

Sunday, May 13, 2007

ACT I - Independents Can Vote In The Primary!

If you are confused about ACT I, read some of the linked articles on the FAC ACT I page. They may help you decide - they may not! It's not a simple referendum at all.

Registered Independent? Don't stay away from the polls on Tuesday. You can vote on ACT I. Don't let the few Democrats and Republicans who vote in the Primary make the decision for you.

Vote on ACT I! It's your money and its important.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Candidates On the Issues! - The League of Women Voters Forum

The Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters threw a party and no one came! Well, a few intrepid Forks voters were there and they did learn some things too. What follows is our attempt at a summary of the questions and answers from the April 22nd League of Women Voters Candidates Forum at the Faith Lutheran Church. The candidates - in alphabetical order - are John Ackerman (R), David Billings (R), Erik Chuss (R), Robert Egolf (D), Leon Fisher (R), and James Wideman (D).

Opening Statements (in brief):

  • Ackerman - Born in Forks - enjoyed his six years as Supervisor - sees role as that of a "watchdog" for the people - says he answers almost all residents' calls and helps solve their problems - involved with soil & water conservation and conservation director for 35 years.
  • Billings - Key issue facing Forks is "quality of life" - how to preserve open space - candidates must have strong ethical backgrounds -believes in open/transparent government, including online access to public documents - would like the Supervisors meetings broadcast - believes Forks needs fiscally responsible planning as well as sound traffic management - wants to maintain recreational opportunities and public services.
  • Chuss - Lived in Forks for 15 years - on the Planning Commission since 2000 and currently Chairman - served on economic development subcommittee for the Comprehensive Plan - served on Northampton County Planning Commission - learned about the history of Township issues and the options available to address them - asked that the candidates track records on issues be looked at and said that "we are on doorstep of the future of Forks Township."
  • Fisher - Lifetime Forks resident with an investment in the Township - former fire chief - lifetime member of the fire department - former police chief - remembers sewers first coming in - says that with rapid growth the fees from developers are enough for now but will stop and Forks needs a plan to pay for future repairs when all the developments need them (all at the same time) - wants to promote industrial park with industries "we want."
  • Egolf - Lifetime Lehigh Valley resident - on the Zoning Hearing Board since 2004 - recognizes the importance of being vigilant and doesn't want to see Sullivan Trail become another MacArthur Road - said Forks needs balance in its growth with infrastructure - believes in researching for better solutions and cooperation to get things accomplished.
  • Wideman - Former Planning Commission member and current business owner - does not want school tax burden increased - sees the needs for industrial growth (the promotion of the new Fort James III industrial park and redevelopment of the old Laneco site), infrastructure strength (support for PD, FD, DPW, and Parks & Recreation department) and integrity in government (public access) - all public documents should be available on the Township website - vowed to endorse sustainable and sensible development and to uphold Township policies and be guided by the Comprehensive Plan.

Creation of an Environmental Advisory (EAC) Committee in Forks - LoWV: Each of the candidates was for it.

  • Billings thought that partnering with Northampton County and the State on greenways and open space issues would bring positive results. He feels that the impact of development on Forks' greenways and open space should be monitored. He said that now we are "reacting" to things and not planning them.
  • Chuss noted that there are local organizations like the Northampton County Soil & Erosion Committee and the Bushkill Conservancy that the Township already works with but that he thinks Forks can do a lot more and that a focused EAC would be very beneficial.
  • Fisher said that there's a water run-off problem and that the growth has changed the Township. He felt that an EAC committee would help, as best as possible, to keep the Township the way it is.
  • Egolf noted that committees are often formed but given no clout and he thought that this one should have powers to suggest and recommend solutions.
  • Wideman said that "green is the new red, white, and blue in America" and added green technology could be introduced into the industrial parks and that the Township could begin to purchase hybrid vehicles. He said too, that the storm water maps/plans should be reviewed. He felt that the committee should be set up much like the Planning Commission in an advisory role to the Supervisors.
  • Ackerman thought the committee should be a watchdog committee because a lot of things go on in the Township that the Supervisors do not know about. He added that the COG (Two Rivers Council of Governments) has talked about it (an EAC) on a regional level as a way to keep townships under control.

Plans for managing growth - Coutney Lomax, Express Times:

  • Wideman noted that the Township has committees in place to handle each department and said that the Board must hold strong to its zoning laws and meet challengers head-on.
  • Egolf said that there is definitely growth - traffic, development, business - and that the Supervisors will need a fair and equitable method to manage it.
  • Ackerman stated that the Township must abide by the laws, the zoning and the SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) to manage growth and that good industries must be found to provide jobs for local people.
  • Billings offered a revenue stream from increased real estate transfer taxes to fund open space, working with the county and other municipalities to identify and purchase prime lands at fair prices, and creation of an open space policy. He suggested changing the FP zoning from 3 acre minimum lots to 5 acres per house.
  • Chuss noted that the the focus of growth issues is development and the pressures it brings on services, roads, schools, flood plains, and taxes. He suggests that the Board approach the pressures in a fiscally responsible manner and surround itself with good people (in the Township), let them do their jobs, and manage them appropriately.
  • Fisher noted that growth management is very difficult and that there must be compliance with the zoning and SALDO. He believes that the courts are stacked against the townships. He said too, that plans must be formed to deal with the issues the growth has already caused.

The vacant LANECO building and the roll of the Board of Supervisors to call a developer to task - Courtney Lomax, Express Times:

  • Egolf said that the Supervisors must stay on top of blight and do their utmost to hold people responsible.
  • Wideman noted that the building is slated to come down and reminded all that its a difficult site because the strip mall next to the LANECO has a different owner and that development will require a lot of cooperation between the two owners. He said too, that the Supervisors should get a professional survey done to get ideas for the property.
  • Chuss agreed that it is blight and that it is supposed to be knocked down. He said that the first proposal for the property was apartments and that he "went ballistic." The developers came back with another less disappointing plan. He added that the property's deed restrictions are a problem and that the Township needs to work with and encourage the developer.
  • Fisher said that it's been empty a long time. He said that the Supervisors should keep the developer's "feet to the fire" and work with the developer to get him to build other buildings there or to get other businesses in the existing building.
  • Ackerman thought that the property owner should be encouraged to get something done as soon as possible.
  • Billings stated that the Supervisors should be a responsible watchdog and be pro-active and work with the developers to get something done.

Raising the EIT to purchase open space - Robert Orenstein, Morning Call:

  • Billings said that he was in favor or raising the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT)to fund open space, not in favor of raising the Earned Income Tax (EIT) for it.
  • Chuss said that he thinks raising the RETT to fund open space is a great idea. He noted that pressures are there to raise the EIT and that there are a lot of other options that should be explored.
  • Fisher said that if farmland is to be preserved it must be purchased. And, that funds must be raised for open space either through the EIT or the RETT.
  • Egolf agreed as well and added that in order to preserve open space, money is needed. He thought that both ways (EIT and RETT) should be examined.
  • Wideman said that he favors using the RETT because it doesn't effect people until they sell property where it can and added into the selling price. This money would supplement the county open space money for open space.
  • Ackerman is not in favor of taxes on residents for farmland. He said that 60% of the FP is under contract to developers and "there's not that much farmland left anyway." He thought that the burden of providing open space should go to the developers so the Township doesn't have to buy it.

Police department expansion because of growth - Robert Orentstein, Morning Call:

  • Fisher said that as the population grows the police department (size) as well other departments must grow.
  • Egolf said that Forks has an "absolutely fantastic police department" and that he never want to stand in the way of public safety (by not expanding) - with personnel, equipment, and other things that the police chief feels necessary.
  • Wideman expressed support for the police department and noted that in the police department five-year plan "the force is supplemented over time as the population increases." He said that Supervisors should strive to maintain the population at a sensible rate and that they should not "densify" any current zoning. He added that 5-acre zoning in the FP would help to control growth.
  • Ackerman thought for 2007 that the level is adequate and that when the budget comes up again he'll see how much more the chief asks for.
  • Billings said that the force should be expanded as needed and that the Township should "think outside the box" and perhaps look to regionalization with Palmer and Easton. He thought although it's adequate for today, with the growth, it may not be for tomorrow.
  • Chuss said that the police department is excellent and doing a great job. He said too, that the pressures are on them as well as on the fire department, emergency squad, public works, etc. and that their plans for growth must be examined. He said that the all the emergency services must work together for the good of the Township.

Position on Kings Mill and its 3042 units - Audience Question:

  • Ackerman said that he did not agree 100% with the proposal presented.
  • Billings does not agree with the proposal and he said that the Supervisors should have the political will to fight it through the courts. He said his fear is that the developers will try to get a compromise.
  • Chuss said that not one more house than is allowed should be built and pressure must be put on the State and elected representatives to stop the imbalance in favor of developers. He added that the "3000 homes proposal is preposterous."
  • Fisher noted that the "zoning is the zoning." He added, "Unfortunately, the courts haven't been very favorable to the townships" and that before it's done "the Township will probably end up with some sort of negotiated plan."
  • Egolf was not able to comment because he is on the Zoning Hearing Board and the issue is in front of the board.
  • Wideman said that Forks does not need Supervisors who are not wiling to stand behind the zoning laws. The zoning laws in the FP allow three acre lots or 1 acre lots (in a cluster) with equal open space. He said too, that in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania farmland is "developed land" and this project would require "redeveloping" the land. He added that the Kings Mill proposal, per Superintendent Riker, will result in a minimum increase in school taxes of 21 mils.

Votes for grocery in the EC - Audience Question:

  • Egolf noted that the Zoning Hearing Board voted 4:1 and affirmed that it is not spot zoning. He said, " looks like a train that's on the track and it's going towards a Weis Market."
  • Wideman said that Ordinance 298 simply added a conditional use to the EC (Economic Center) and that the Board arrived at its decision after numerous public open meetings. He added that it conformed to the MPC (Municipal Planning Code), the Zoning Ordinance, and the SALDO. As a Planning Commission member, he supported the ordinance and feels that it will lead to substantial improvements to the intersection. He said that the uses contained in the grocery store were all allowed as stand alone uses in the EC district.
  • Ackerman said that although he is in favor of the grocery use in the EC, he is against the configuration of the right-in/right-out on Sullivan Trail.
  • Billings said as a Supervisor, he would have voted two ways, one FOR the Ordinance 298 adding a grocery use in the EC but against the Weis market in its intended location (Uhler/Sullivan) - because of the "unresolved traffic studies" and traffic safety. He said that going from a low F rating to a high F rating wasn't sufficient. He added that he would support a second supermarket in Forks and that he believes the Supervisors have the right to establish the zoning laws.
  • Chuss noted that residents who spoke with him were overwhelmingly in favor of the grocery. He added that by bringing in competition against the Giant, the cost of living for every Forks resident can be lowered by a few percentage points - food and gas prices will be lowered and it will be a big help to people on fixed incomes. "The traffic issue is huge." Eventually though, he sees the intersection improvements as sufficient.
  • Fisher said that a second supermarket is "definitely needed" in Forks, that residents are in favor of it, that the procedures to change the ordinance were proper, and that he has some concerns are the traffic. He hopes that as the intersection is developed some of the issues will be fixed.

Changing ACT 537 (the sewer plan) in the FP (Farmland Protection) to accommodate high density development (Kings Mill) - Audience Question:

  • Billings stated that it would not be good for Forks and that there should be no compromises - that the impact on the police department, roads, schools, etc., should not be discounted.
  • Chuss said that there is a line in the sand and that there should be no sewers north of Newlins Road. He said that there are pressures from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, from developers, and from landowners but Forks should stick by the "line in the sand" or else the entire northern end of the township will be opened up for dense development. Opening it to sewer will exacerbate the existing rapid growth problems because of the high density that will come with it.
  • Fisher expressed concern over prohibiting sewers in the FP because (he said) it will be developed and that the land has been purchased by developers. He thought that the developers should pay now for the sewers instead of the Township paying later after the DEP finds problems there.
  • Egolf recused himself because of the Kings Mill suit before the Zoning Hearing Board.
  • Wideman agreed with the line drawn by Act 537 at Newlins Road and added that the new industrial park will use almost all of Forks' remaining sewer capacity. The developers knew what the zoning was when they bought the property. He is against allowing developers to bully the township while they "line their pockets" and apply the "royal screw to us" with the school tax increases and the infrastructure costs that will follow. He feels that Forks needs to uphold the zoning laws and keep Act 537 as it is.
  • Ackerman said that although he is not in favor of putting sewer above Newlins at the present time but if, "through the courts," the developer goes ahead with the plan (and the Supervisors cannot stop it "for some reason") he would have to look at it again. He said that water is needed in the FP more than sewers right now and that his well, and other wells, are polluted because of septic systems. Water yes, sewers... he'll have "to look at when the time comes because it's a hairy situation."

Building in the flood plain - Audience Question:

  • Egolf said that as Supervisor, he would go back to the PC. He said that since he's not on the PC, he has no idea why they allowed it.
  • Wideman stated that as a PC member, he was very much against the Courts at Newlins even though the Township's engineer and solicitor told the PC that DEP permits allowed the project. He added that the PC is only an advisory committee to the Supervisors and cannot make final decisions on anything.
  • Ackerman said that the developer (Newlins & Sullivan) is not putting the houses in the 100 year flood plain and that it was approved by FEMA and the DEP.
  • Billings stated that the township must proceed cautiously with development near or around the flood plains.
  • Chuss said that this is the worst plan that ever came before him on the PC and that he totally agrees with Wideman. In the SALDO revision, structures will be moved out of the flood plains. He added that when it rains, the flood plains are a mess and that major arteries are shut down. He thinks that the township has been waiting for developer money but that without it, the township must do it on its own.
  • Fisher agreed that the PC is merely an advisory committee and that this should be resolved with the zoning laws.

Single most important Forks issue that has not yet been addressed - Audience Question:

  • Chuss answered that the underlying goal is to run the township as efficiently as possible and to keep tax burden down in the face of the growing pressures to increase services, improve roads, etc. - to be "fiscally responsible and legislate in an intelligent manner."
  • Fisher said that down the road, the expenses to maintain what is already here is one of his biggest concerns. He said that the township must look for industries that will create jobs, expand the tax base, and not be harmful to the community - offering incentives to get them.
  • Egolf said that everything talked about depends on the "education and the quality of if for our children." It's overlooked because of being "blindsided" by development, long range planning, etc.
  • Wideman said that he thinks a business advisory committee and green industries - "industries that we like and are friendly to our environment" - that will hire as many Forks citizens as possible - are important and that public transportation in the township should be addressed.
  • Ackerman said that many things to make it better in the township are already being addressed. He said that the DPW is headed in the right direction. He said that next year, he will really take a look at the financial situation of the township because the budget is "right on the line."
  • Billings said that open access and transparency in the local government is needed. He said that the meetings should be broadcast and that documents should be available on the township website. He felt too, that one or two meetings should be held on Saturdays - Supervisors and residents currently have little interaction.

Closing Statments:

  • Wideman said that his Planning Commission experience showed him that unchecked development will adversely affect infrastructures and taxes. As a Supervisor, he will strive to maintain and improve the infrastructure, find sustainable and sensible development that will not place a burden on the school system, and promote the integrity of open government via public access to public records.
  • Egolf said that if elected, he will do his best to insure that we are not satisfied with "adequate" - in the school system, the zoning laws, etc. He said, "Forks Township deserves a lot more than adequate."
  • Fisher described Forks as a very nice community that people are flocking to and he want to maintain the quality of services at the most reasonable cost possible. He added that Forks should get together with its neighbors for some solutions because problems, like traffic, do not stop at the border. He said too that the industrial parks should be promoted in order to provide the means for services in the future.
  • Chuss spoke of his years serving the Township - mostly with volunteer hours - and that he's learned about of lot of issues, particularly traffic, preservation of farmland, and controlling development in the FP. He agrees that economic development is needed. He stressed that the candidates' backgrounds and track records should be considered.
  • Billings said that this election is about hope - hope for a better quality of life, hope for a better quality of government... He said that he's walked the neighborhoods with his message that "we can do better" - we can manage growth better, manage traffic better... He pledged to openly and honestly represent the people of Forks and to "be an independent voice of reason on the Board of Supervisors." He added, "It's time for a change."
  • Ackerman thanked his supporters (of the last 5+ years) and said that he has a very good track record. He said that he bases his decisions on what "would the people want" and "what's best for the Township." He said, "That's the key to the whole thing."

We are not perfect and hope that we got it right! Please let us know if we did not and we will try to correct it. And, do visit the FAC Primary 2007 page and the Candidates' blog to learn even more about the candidates.

You have choices to make on May 15th!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

BoS Meeting 5/3/2007

A brevity record may have been set at the May 3rd Board of Supervisors meeting! The main part of the meeting lasted just under 13 minutes. It was preceded by a 6:30 PM workshop - we missed it - to review the (ESWA) Easton Suburban Water Authority Backflow Prevention Program.

Supervisor Comments
  • Chairman Hoff said that he received a letter from the American Legion inviting members of the Board to the Nazareth parade on May 28. RSVP requested.
  • Supervisor Miller announced that the annual doll show in the Community Center is on Sunday, May 6th from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. Acceptance of the debits and transfers was approved 4:0. (Nicholas was absent.)

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Chairman Hoff reported that the Tuesday meeting was cancelled and he will work with Nicholas to set up another one.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that Mark Roberts, new Director of Public Works started work on April 30. He was given a couple of days of orientation with Ackerman, Miller and staff.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - Miller gave no committee report. His announcemt of the annual doll show has been moved to Supervisors' Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell said that the committee's next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 at 9:30 AM. Ackerman asked if the "newsletter" had been mailed yet and was told that it had.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff said that the committee had a second meeting with the Principal Group and received the 2006 financial report on the police department pension fund. Hoff said too that the committee is looking into a replacement mailbox. The next meeting will be on May 9 at 3 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter provided the Board with a written report. He also told the Board that honor society students from C.I.T. spent three days helping with the landscaping and mulching around the (Municipal Complex) area. And, he thanked the staff for helping with Roberts' orientation.

Zoning Officer - Tim Weis told the Board that he has three applicants so far for the upcoming Planning Commission vacancy. It was decided that interviews as well as the apppointment will take place on the June 7. - Weis also announced that an open forum for candidates will be held at the fire department on Monday, May 14 at 8 PM. (At least ONE of the four candidates present was surprised to learn of the event. - seems this was the first he heard about it.)

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay said that he is preparing a "mini spec" for the Arndt/Bushkill blinking lights. The bids will be opened June 1st, reviewed by his office and Solicitor Kline, and presented to the Board at the June 7 meeting.

Solicitor's Report - Karl Kline - agenda items only.


ADOPTION OF ESWA BACKFLOW PREVENTION PROGRAM - This was tabled in a 4:0 vote pending Kline's review of the ordinance that will be provided by the Easton Suburban Water Authority.


RIVERVIEW RECREATION CENTER - DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS - The agreements were accepted by the Board after confirmation from Kline that a total of $24,000 of escrow money had been received and that all other documents, including an irrevocable letter of credit, were in order. The vote was 4:0.

RIVERVIEW ESTATES/CONDITIONS OF TIME EXTENSION/RESOLUTION #0705-03-1 - Kline said that he, Schnaedter, and Hay met with the developer (Strausser Enterprises), some of Strausser's staff, and Strausser's attorney at 5:30 PM before this night's BoS meeting to review the resolution for Riverview Estates (conditions of a time extension). A few minor changes were agreed to and the final document will be ready for the Board's May 17th meeting.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The session was held to discuss both a personnel matter and the non-uniformed employees' contract negotiations. No action was taken by the Board 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.