Sunday, June 24, 2007

BoS Meeting 6/21/2007

The 6/21/07 Board of Supervisors meeting was attended by four Supervisors (Supervisor Nicholas was unable to be there) and no press. At 7 PM the Board re-interviewed the four Planning Commission applicants. Chairman Hoff was not at the first interviews. Notes on the regular meeting follow.

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Howell said that he attended a City of Easton meeting in which the zoning ordinance was under review. Easton is beginning its work with the zoning ordinance (they got a substantial grant for the project) and will then do its comprehensive plan. Howell said that Easton is looking to its neighboring municipalities for input, particularly from Forks since Forks has three or four zoning districts contiguous with Easton. He said that he volunteered Planning Commission Chairman Erik Chuss and Township Manager Rick Schnaedter as informational references for questions from the zoning subcommittees.

Supervisor Miller reported that Baseball is winding down and that the (big) Annual 4th of July Baseball Tournament will be the weekend before the 4th. Basketball is in full swing and should end the 2nd week of August. Miller also said that the park workers are "beautifying the grounds" and it "looks nice out there in the park."

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.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Hoff said that there was no meeting in June and there will be one meeting on July 3rd.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman noted that the committee had a June meeting and will have another in July but because of the 4th holiday, the meeting date may be changed.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - Miller gave no committee report. His announcements have been moved to Supervisors' Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell reported that the committee met last Wednesday and discussed the summer edition of the Forks Quarterly. Howell said that the publication of Forks Quarterly will be handled exclusively by Township Manager Schnaedter.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff said that the committee met on the 13th and among the discussion items were:
    • Installation of the drop-off mailbox is near
    • Computer system and backup programs
    • Next year's budget items - including a project to replace the server and some of the software
    • A projector for the meeting room
    • The cell tower
      • Hoff took a poll of the Supervisors present for their feelings on whether or not discussions with T-Mobile and the cell tower should continue.
        • Ackerman said it is "worth proceeding" and that the Board should discuss what they want for rent. He saw no problem with recreation or residential area. He said that it (the rent income) was a "plus for us." He said too, that it could go on property next to the Township but he prefers that Forks sees the money rather than somebody else.
        • Miller said, "John said it all. I'm for it." He sees it as a lot of money coming in every year.
        • Howell said that he is the only Supervisor (he knows of) not for it - at the proposed park location. He said that a tower "only 235' from this room is inappropriate" and that the neighbors (of the municipal property) cannot have the tower as none of their lots is "a self-supported lot of 5 acres" - per the zoning ordinance - with the exception of the property of Virginia Jackson. Howell noted too, that to date, no data or research has been received from T-Mobile to justify why the park is the only place the tower can go. He feels that it is T-Mobile's habit to go directly to municipalities and not to private enterprise - probably because they know that municipalities need the income. Howell said that he is not against cell towers, just against the proposed location. He added that he wouldn't mind talking to T-Mobile about other locations.
        • Hoff voted to proceed. He said that the committee will get more information at its July 11th meeting. He also said that the Finance & Administration Committee is meeting once a month in June, July, and August.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that he and Zoning Officer Weis met with a representative from One UP, LLC, the company that owns the old Laneco property who indicated that there had been several potential buyers - one of which was the Easton Area School District, the other was a health club - both dropped out. As of now, they will likely renovate the building, making some improvements, to make it more attractive (to tenants/buyers.)

Schnaedter said too, that he met with Laurie Swinski (sic) of the Northampton County Economic Development Grant Department to discuss open space grants and procedures.

Also mentioned in his report were band shelters, the municipal sign, and the fact that a Monday lightening strike created havoc with the Township's computer system. The system is back online (mostly).

Schnaedter said that Forks will host the July 18 Two Rivers Council of Governments (COG) meeting. The meetings (going forward) will be quarterly instead of monthly. He gave the Board a copy of the proposed COG bylaws and a copy of the COG's mutual aide agreement - Public Works For Emergencies (participation results in FEMA reimbursement eligibility). Both will be reviewed by Solicitor Kline.

Engineer's Report - No report.

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Kline reported that the appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board ruling on (the appeal of) Ordinance 298 (the ordinance that added a grocery use to the EC) has been filed by Scott Gingold. Kline said that there are no other names on the appeal so it is "Scott Gingold vs. the Zoning Hearing Board." The appeal is at the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. Kline said that he is "optimistic that the ordinance will be upheld."

Kline also said that there is also an appeal of the Conditional Use (granted by the Board of Supervisor to Weis Market) and he thinks there also may be an appeal of the land development plan. The parties will likely file a motion to consolidate so that the appeals will be heard by one judge at one time. The process:

  1. The Zoning Hearing Board written decision, exhibits, and transcripts to the court
  2. Briefs to the court
  3. Oral arguments before the court
  4. Approximately 90 days after the arguments, a decision by the court

Howell asked about the expenses involved in the appeal and Kline said that Michael Shay, Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board, is responsible to assemble the documents and submit them to the court. Kline noted too, that the attorney for Weis market was granted a "petition to intervene." This means that Weis "can submit briefs and have the oral argument."

Comments from the floor

  1. Resident Sandy Hanks asked the status of the webcam (for meeting broadcasts) and was told that a meeting is to be set up between the Community Relations and the Finance & Administration Committees to discuss and review the information that has been received. In other words, the status is "ongoing."
  2. Resident Ken Nagy asked the Board "for the third time" in as many weeks, if they had taken any action on his suggestion to ask the County to return Forks' 1/2 mill open space tax. Nagy said that the Township Manager is going to go to the County and ask for Economic Development money but there isn't any. Bethlehem got all $17 million dollars. He said, too that the money is going to "create estates." He said that they bought easements in Bushkill at three times the assessment and that they even bought property in Bucks County! He added that the promised community parks do not exist. Nagy advised the Board to "think beyond Forks Township" and he warned that the County wants to control zoning as well as to "annex some of the townships to some of the cities." He suggested that the Board learn from the "Chiefs" as the "Chiefs" get grants (the reference was to the fire and police department grants). Nagy said too, that the Township should consider hiring a full-time grant writer and that that person would pay for his/her salary. He asked if the Board would authorize Kline to ask if the Township can get its 1/2 mill (collected for the County) from the County. He also asked the Board to authorize Kline to write a letter to the County an ask for Forks' money back. Ackerman asked Kline if it is possible and Kline replied that he needs more facts. He suggested that Schnaedter find out how much is collected and how it is allocated and why there is no money available to the Township - and then the Board should ask him to research the law.
  3. Resident Michelle Fleck reported on a June 16 incident in her neighborhood involving sound amplifiers at a private event. She said that the police were called and could do nothing because Forks has no Noise Ordinance for residential areas. She asked that the Township develop and adopt a noise ordinance with enforcement provisions. She gave the Board copies of Pen Argyl's, Easton's and Bethlehem's for reference. Hoff told Schnaedter and Zoning Officer Weis to review the document. Howell said that the Township is purchasing one - of a quality that can be used in hearings and other judicial proceedings.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENT - Ackerman nominated Dan Fazekas. Miller seconded the nomination. The vote was 4:0 in favor.

NEW BUSINESS

PLAQUE PRESENTATION - TOM SEIP - 25 YEARS - Ackerman presented Tom Seip with a plaque of appreciation for his 25 years of dedicated service to the Township. Seip is also the dog ("no cats") officer.

BUSHKILL CREEK/FRIENDLY TAVERN LANE - Tabled to the July 5 meeting in a 4:0 vote.

REAL ESTATE TAX CERTIFICATION FEE/JUNE VAIL - The Board received a letter from Elected Tax Collector June Vail requesting that the fee for tax certification be increased from $10 to $15 effective July 1. Tax certification is an extra job for the tax collector. He/she certifies (for a title company) that things like taxes, sewer bills, and garbage bills are up-to-date prior to a house being sold. Ackerman said that he had no problem with the raise. Howell asked if the revenue stays with the Township or is paid in full to the tax collector. Kline said that the Township sets the rate but it all goes to the tax collector. Kline said too, that from his research, Palmer charges $10, Bethlehem gets $20 plus $15 for school, Easton charges $25 plus $10 for school and Lower Nazareth gets $10 plus $10 for school. Howell asked about the volume and the timeliness. Finance Manager Farley said that currently this represents $10,000 to $11,000 of income to Vail and that there is an occasional "issue to expedite the process." Because this is not part of the function of regular collection of taxes, the rate can be changed at any time. There can be no portion shared with the Township. There was no motion made.

SHAWNEE RIDGE II - DEED OF DEDICATION - Kline said that the roads are inspected and that the Township has the deed. All is in order and that the next agenda item, the resolution, will acknowledge that the deed is accepted.

RESOLUTION #070621-1 LIQUID FUELS - Passed in a 4:0 vote.

NON-UNIFORM ASSOCIATION CONTRACT - Hoff remarked that the contract negotiations have been going on for some time. Kline said that the contract expired at the end of 2006 and that an agreement had been reached. By way of clarification, Kline noted that the Public Works employees work shoe annual allowance of $125 can be used at the Nazareth Army/Navy store where the Township has an account or with the approval of the DPW Director, shoes can be purchased at the store of the employee's choice (and reimbursed up to $125.) Wages for the "rank and file" will increase 4% per year for the five contract years (from 2007-2011.) The mechanic and crew chief's wages will be subject to a larger increase. Part time employees will also get the 4% increase. New hires will be hired at 80% of current rates for the fist year, 90% the second year, and then parity for subsequent years. The eleven page (signed by the association) contract was approved 4:0.

Sandy Hanks asked the Board if they considered asking Lafayette College for a student/intern to write grants. After some inaudible discussion due to the thunder storm and non-use of the microphones: - Nagy offered that the quality of the grant writer will determine success and that grant writing is a science. Hoff said that the Board "will continue to look into opportunities."

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The session was held to discuss the police contract and "a couple of items" regarding litigation. After an hour and a half of waiting, our note taker went home. We have no word on whether or not any votes were taken after the session. If you do, please comment to this post or send us an email and we will see that the information is added.

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.

Help Wanted - Comprehensive Plan

Forks Comprehensive Plan Update - Residents' Input Wanted

Planning Commission Chairman Erik Chuss is hopeful that Forks residents will participate in the Comprehensive Plan update. All interested residents/volunteers are welcome at the Tuesday, June 26th 7:00 pm Planning Commission workshop. The intent is to form four committees:
  • Transportation
  • Economic Development
  • Recreation
  • Agricultural/Open Space Preservation/Architectural Review.

If you have questions or need more information, please contact Township Manager, Rick Schnaedter.

The Comp Plan was last updated in 1997 and the goal is to have an updated Comp Plan enacted by March 2008. Time is short!

This is your opportunity to help shape and plan the future of Forks... to be part of the solution! Be at the Planning Commission Workshop on June 26th at 7:00 PM to volunteer!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kings Mill Zoning Hearing - Round 13 Reminder

The Kings Mill zoning challenge hearing is still underway. Little if anything has been written in the local press about the last half dozen meetings so it's easy to understand that it just slipped your mind.

At Round 12, on May 21st, the presentation sides shifted and the Township began its defense with two witnesses. Here╩╝s the FAC website account of the last session:


" 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 was in townhouses. Bader testified that the annual per student cost, exclusive of buildings, is $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 plus $12,000 for each additional one. Bader also said that a development of this size could double our school taxes! DOUBLE! Please read Christina Georgiou's thorough coverage of the testimony in the May 24, 2007 edition of The Easton News."
We won't know until Monday night who the Township's witnesses will be. However, we urge you to attend. Bring your friends. The winner of this battle is crucial to Forks' future -- whether or not your land abuts the Farmland Preservation acreage being contested. After all, who among us can afford a 100% increase in our steep school taxes?

Round 13 is convenes Monday night (June 18) at 7:30 PM in the air conditioned Municipal Building.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

BoS Meeting 6/7/2007

The first Board of Supervisors meeting in June had only a quorum (3) of Supervisors in attendance. Neither Supervisors Nicholas nor Hoff were there. The press was though. Please read Madeleine Mathias' (Morning Call) coverage of this very short meeting. At 6:15 PM, interviews of the four applicants for the open seat on the PC were conducted and at 7:00 PM the three Supervisors went on a walking tour of the proposed T-Mobile cell tower site (in the park.)

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Miller reported that baseball is winding down and that there will be a big 4th of July tournament with a lot of area teams. Summer basketball starts this Saturday at 9:00 and there are 157 teams in this year's summer basketball program. Miller said that this is the largest summer basketball league in Pennsylvania - and that's what is posted on the website and "no one has argued with us yet."

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 3:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas absent - no report. Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that there were no committee meetings last month and that time was running out on the bid the fire department received for a new utility truck body for the 1989 utility truck. The bid ($14,937) is from Reading Body Works and is under the Harrisburg PAC program. Also, Weis said that the body replacement is budget item. Reading Body will replace the rusted body (the cab is in good shape) and paint the entire truck. The Board approved it in a 3:0 vote.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that the committee met last week and that DPW Director Mark Roberts report was available to anyone who wanted to see it "after the meeting." Township Engineer Fred Hay updated the Board on:
    • Arndt Road & Bushkill Drive - blinking lights - the bid award is an agenda item.
    • A Township storm-water project - Newlins Road.
    • Meco signal - PennDot permit application received - work may be completed this year.
    • Mitman Road - repaving from Zucksville to Bushkill Drive.
  • 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 that Township Manager Rick Schnaedter would report on the committee's discussion items during his manager's report. He specifically asked that the webcam be discussed.

  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff absent - no report.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that the surveillance camera in the parking lot is "up and running" and that the $1900 amount listed in his written report to the Board for tree transplanting was incorrect and should be $1200 "for the two of them." He also said that he had some ballpark figures from the current website provider for a webcam to televise meetings. He requested a joint meeting of the Administration & Finance and the Community Relations Committees to discuss this further.

Engineer's Report - Hay said that he will not be at the next Board of Supervisors meeting and that his associate, Kevin Horvath will stand in for him.

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Kline reported that the PEMA fire truck loan closed on May 24th. It is at 2% for 15 years. He also said that Riverview Estates withdrew its final plans for Phase 6 and that he received the Zoning Hearing Board written decision to the appeal of Ordinance 298. Kline described the ZHB decision process as (1) vote, (2) decision, and (3) written decision. He added that it will likely be appealed (by the appellants) to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. Please read Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) for more.

Zoning Officer Tim Weis asked permission of the Board to post on township/employee bulletin boards the availability for sale of two police cars that no longer run and that are worth less than $1000 each. The Board granted the request in a 3:0 vote and Kline remarked that anyone in the Township can bid on the vehicles.

Planning Commission Vice Chairman Dean Turner announced that the Planning Commission will organize committees of volunteer residents for the public input part of Comprehensive Plan update at its June 26th workshop. The meeting begins at 7:00 PM. He asked that everyone in the audience tell five friends that volunteers are wanted/needed and to attend the workshop. (See Madeleine Mathias' June 7 Morning Call article for more workshop details.)

Comments from the floor

  1. Resident Ken Nagy - asked the Board if they had taken any action to bow out of the Northampton County open space program. They have not. He reminded them that the Township paid $300,000 to the County and got nothing back (from the recreation portion.) He said that the Township continues to pay and is eligible for nothing. Regarding farmland preservation, Nagy said that two Forks farms have been on the list for six years with no action and that others have been granted preservation rights right away. He said that the County considers Forks a "cash cow." He also warned against the County's regionalization efforts with new authorities and advisory boards - that will take away a lot of the Boards duties. He gave the Board of Health discussions behind closed doors as an example. Nagy further said that so far Forks has received only $200,000 from the County under the $100 million bond and that Bethlehem got $17 million and will get and additional $1 million for its pedestrian walkway. The City of Easton will get $600,000. Kline said that because Forks meetings are on the same night as the County meetings, the Township doesn't know enough of what is going on. He suggested that one or several persons talk with the County to gather more information about how much money is collected and how much Forks pays in and how much it gets back.
  2. Dale Reinert (Dale Reinert Custom Homes) - described problems he is having with the (loose) stone barrier across Old Mill Road. He said that vehicles are hitting it and that some kids are using it as a bike ramp. The result is that the stones are all over the place in front of his model home. He owns four lots in the Darwin Smith subdivision and that part of Old Mill is supposed to be open only for construction access to his lots. Kline said that the developer(s) of Shawnee II (the developer responsible by agreement for finishing the road and insuring no public access to Old Mill while the Reinert lots are under construction) was unhappy that Smith had given land to Shawnee II for infrastructure work and then did not sell the lots to him. Hay will talk to the developer (of Shawnee II) and try to get concrete pipes across the road as a barricade.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

PURCHASING POLICY & BIDDING PROCESS - Finance Manager Jim Farley reported that the Board's suggestions were incorporated into the new documents and that they were reviewed by the Finance Committee. He said that the only sheets missing were the instruction pages which are being prepared and will be added. The Board voted 3:0 to accept the revised policies/processes for purchasing and for bidding.

NEW BUSINESS

AWARD BID FOR ARNDT ROAD/BUSHKILL DRIVE TRAFFIC SIGNAL INSTALLATION - Hay reported that Miller Brothers of Norristown, PA submitted the low bid for traffic signal installation at Arndt & Bushkill. Their winning bid was $45,782. The only other bidder, Telco, Inc's bid was around $65,000. (Telco did the signals at Zucksville and Sullivan Trail.) The low bid was accepted in a 3:0 vote.

KAREN PRESBY SUBDIVISION/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS - Kline said that everything was in order and signed by the owner for this two lot subdivision. The vote to approve was 3:0.

VILLAGE AT FOX CROSSING, FORMERLY JACOB'S FARM 2/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS - Kline stated that the indemnification agreement, sewer agreement, certificate of insurance, and escrow funds are all in order. The Board approved the agreements in a 3:0 vote.

AUTHORIZE ADVERTISEMENT/ORDINANCE NO. 303 - The Board voted 3:0 to authorize this ordinance to amend the Business Privilege Tax and to raise the license fee from $15 per year to $30. Currently the fees can only be changed by Ordinance. Ordinance 303 will allow them to be changed in the future by Resolution.

APPOINT PLANNING COMMISSION MEMBER - None appointed this night.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - Acting Chairman Miller said that the session was to discuss the applicants for the Planning Commission opening. Kline said that the purpose was to discuss a personnel matter and the collective bargaining progress. Both Kline and Hay added that there is potential litigation to be discussed. There was no Board action taken during or after the session and the meeting was adjourned. No PC appointment was made.

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, June 03, 2007

Comprehensive Plan - Help Sought!

Help Wanted - Forks Comprehensive Planners Seek Residents' Input
FAC received the following from Planning Commission Chairman Erik Chuss:

"Wanted to let you know about the plans for the Comp Plan update. The initial draft of the updated plan is being developed. We are planning on establishing approximately four public committees: Transportation, Economic Development, Recreation, Agricultural/Open Space Preservation/Architectural Review. We strongly encourage any township residents who would like to participate in a committee to come to theTuesday, June 26th 7:00pm Planning Commission workshop. If anyone has any questions they should contact Township Manager, Rick Schnaedter for more information. The Comp Plan was last updated in 1997 and the goal is to have an updated Comp Plan enacted by March 2008. The Planning Commission agreed we need help in getting the word out to the residents of Forks and are hoping that we can get an announcement on the F.A.C. website ASAP."
So there you have it, an opportunity to help shape and plan the future of Forks... show up on June 26th at 7:00 PM... and volunteer!