Sunday, October 21, 2007

BoS Meeting 10/18/2007

Forks Township's Supervisors were prepared for a lengthy discussion of the Forks EMS squad's financial reports. They were not prepared for discussion of the new recreation path installed just last week by Strausser Enterprises - along Winchester Drive and apparently going nowhere! Read JD Malone's coverage of both the EMS and the Strausser bikepath issues (Express Times) and Tom De Martini's (Morning Call) coverage of the EMS discussion.


Supervisor Ackerman reported that he attended the Two Rivers Council of Governments (TRCOG) meeting on Wednesday night and that there were two big issues. The first was the "multi-comprehensive plan." Ackerman said that two of the member municipalities are definitely in favor of the plan, two (Bethlehem Township and Glendon) are definitely opposed to it. Easton is doesn't think it will sign on but is waiting for the November election and its new mayor to decide. Freemansburg is a maybe and West Easton has not started talking about it yet. He reported, too that representatives from the Nazareth COG were there to explain how they went about forming their plan. As to the plan, Ackerman said that it is voluntary. Each TRCOG member does not have to sign the agreement. However, if a municipality does sign then its zoning will operate under different rules - the rules of the new plan. Ackerman added that he's not happy with what he heard because a lot of the (nine) municipalities have not yet considered it and are holding off until the final plan is completed in April or May before making a decision. The next meeting is in January and a new representative from Forks will attend (Ackerman's term is over at the end of December). Ackerman added that Bethlehem Township's definite "no" is because it is pretty well "developed out" and sees no benefit from it.

The second big issue is the Mutual Aid Agreement. Ackerman said that two municipalities have signed it and that Solicitor Kline has reviewed it and is satisfied with it. He said that the TRCOG wants a letter from Forks by the end of this month. (It is on the agenda.)

TREASURER'S REPORT - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is scheduled for the first Tuesday of November at 5:00 pm. Nicholas reported that the Forks Fire Department, as of September 2007, has answered 360 calls in Forks, 42 in Stockertown, and 36 in other municipalities. Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that there is a township-wide burning ban in effect because of the drought - until further notice. Also, Weis presented the township with a $15,000 check from the Community Fire Company. It represents the payment due for year ten of their 10 year agreement with the Township.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - said that the TRCOG has requested $2,000 from Northampton County for a yard waste study - to try to figure out how to have a pick-up spot for yard waste. DPW Director Roberts reported that leaf pickup is just starting. Currently one truck is going out a day but in a few weeks, it will be "going strong." Nicholas asked if leaves for collection are to be left along the road edge or actually in the road. Roberts said that the leaves should be left near the curb edge (not in the road) and that leaves in the road cause drainage problems. Ackerman requested that this should be a notice on the township website. Nicholas said to add (to the website) that there are to be no basketball nets in the roads - winter is coming and the snow must be plowed. Roberts commended the Parks Department for the landscaping done around the new municipal sign. He said that they did a terrific job and that it looks great.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - no report.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - said that he has received many positive comments about the new municipal electronic sign as well as many suggestions for what should be placed on it. He expressed his thanks to the public works department and to Township Manager Schnaedter for getting it done as quickly as they did.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff - reported that the committee discussed the budget as it pertains to finance and administration and presented it at this week's budget hearing. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:00 pm.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - reported that he, Supervisor Miller, and Zoning Officer Tim Weis met with school administrators about a "number of issues" and in particular the school bus routes. The officials were unaware of the routes being used and thought it was because of the school construction. He and Weis then met with the transportation managers who assured them that 1/2 of the buses will come off the Mitman Road route. Nicholas said that the Board wanted all the buses off of Mitman Road because of the curves. Schnaedter said that they indicated that they are not able to do that.

Schnaedter reported, too, that bids are due October 22 for demolition of the house at the Richmond/Newlins intersection, and on November 13 for the interactive display system (smart board) for the meeting room and for the computer system (information support technologies). Nicholas asked that the smart board be tilt-able so that the meeting room audience can see it. Weis said that that can be looked at during installation but it was not in the original specs.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay - agenda items only.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline - reported on two decisions from the "Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County in the Weis Market cases." The first was in the matter of Scott Gingold's challenge to the zoning ordinance 298 (which allows a grocery use in the Economic Center - EC.) Judge McFadden upheld the Forks Zoning Hearing Board's decision and "denied and dismissed the appeal." The appellant has 30 days to decide whether or not to appeal. If there is an appeal (to the substantive challenge to the ordinance), the case will go to the Commonwealth Court.

The second case, the appeal (by Gingold and others) of the conditional use approval by the Board of Supervisors (BoS) was sent back to the BoS for "more detailed opinion" on the reasons for its decision. The court will then decide if there was sufficient evidence to support the Board's decision.

Kline also reported that KMRD's (Kings Mill) subdivision challenge (the by-right plan rejected by the Board as taking too long) is on the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas argument list for December 4. No judge has been assigned yet. A decision should come in the early months of 2008.

Howell thanked Kline very much and said that the Township was "represented quite well."

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Sue Kocsis of Broadway Road told the BoS of issues she has with the new bikepath on Winchester Drive - currently being put in by Strausser Enterprises. She asked if the bikepath had been approved by the Board and if so, she asked for copy of the plans for it. She asked why she was not informed by the Township that it was going to be installed. To find out what was going on, she had to stop a bulldozer and ask the operator what he was doing digging up the lawn. It cuts through her yard (in the right of way) and edges her farmland. She also questioned the width of it. Hay said it was to be 8 ft wide. Kocsis said that parts of it are 12' wide.

Kocsis said that she wants the work stopped until she sees the "approval" of the bikepath. She said that the bulldozers cut into the tree row along her farm. She showed photos to the Board of one of Strausser's bulldozers carrying off cut tree roots and as well as photos of other tree and root damage. Kocsis said, "It's ironic that we are suing a developer for cutting down trees and this same developer was allowed to do this destruction to this treeline." She wants the corner restored (since the new path connects to nothing) and stated that she has tried to "keep some of the country in Forks Township" and part of that is the tree line down Winchester Drive. Kocsis added that some of the trees will die because of this "destruction." She asked for a written report (by the Solicitor) detailing the Township plans for the corner.

Hay said that Strausser had BoS approval to do the path from Danser Road to the Township (old railroad bed) right-of-way. Hay said that he thought that continuing the path through to Broadway was a good idea since it would keep people from walking in the road. He said with it through to Broadway, there will only be a one block gap (from Iron Run to Broadway) where people have to walk in the road. Nicholas remarked that "it doesn't go anywhere." Hay said that it gets people up to Broadway, a less heavily traveled road than Winchester. Weis noted it was probably a safety issue.

Kocsis asked who will maintain the bikepath. She said that with the leaves and the walnuts falling it's already covered. She said, too, that because of the trees, the path should not have been put on that side of the road.

Hoff said that he wants to see a plan at the next meeting and that public works should hold off from doing the macadam on it (the part from the nature trail to Broadway.)

This will be on the November 1 agenda.


Forks EMS - Financial Reports - Hoff said that the EMS May-September financial statements were received (as requested by Solicitor Kline by letter). Forks EMS president, William Keifer, apologized to the Board. He said that he misunderstood and thought that the financial reports were due quarterly and not monthly. He said that due to illness he missed the last Public Safety Committee meeting and had wanted to "sit down to create a relationship with the township and the squad." Keifer said, too, that talk of finances is a "sore subject" for emergency squads. He said that the squad is dragging the old debt with them.

Keifer praised the work being done by the squad's new billing company and said that so far $253,000 has been billed. Of that, $135,000 has already been collected. However, he added, the billing company only pays them once a month. The squad, he said, is in a "critical time" of its year - the subscription drive which just started in September.

Keifer said that the subscription drive monies cannot be spent immediately as they are to be used 1/12 per month. The fundraisers, in particular the Forksopoly game, have been successful. All of the slots on the Forksopoly board were sold to township businesses within two weeks and some of the businesses have offered to hold fundraisers for the squad. Forksopoly will be available for sale in a few weeks.

"I feel we're doing a great job... and we haven't asked for or received anything from the Township," Keifer said. He added that as a non-profit agency, the squad does not have to end the year with a profit.

Keifer asked for a private meeting in the next couple of days to discuss and document the squad's financial statements. He said that the employees and the current bills are being paid. He added that on November 9, Cory Dailey will be sentenced.

Hoff said that the dedication of the squad was not in question but expressed doubt about its financial future. Hoff said that the Board must be sure that the residents are served and that it is important that Suburban (the Advanced Life Support - ALS - provider) be paid. Hoff said that it is his opinion that Forks cannot support a stand alone EMS squad.

Keifer said that a check was sent to Suburban for $3600 and that they are still owed $8,000. He explained that money from calls does not come in right away. Keifer said that last year the squad raised $90,000 to $95,000 from the subscription drive and so far this year, $52,000 has come in as well as another $10,000 in donations. The squad, the Board was told, has handled 750 calls since April and has one truck on duty around the clock every day.

Ackerman said that he heard that the directors are not informed of the squad's financial situation. Keifer said that that was not true and that a financial report submitted by Mr. Kuhn is submitted and approved by the board at every meeting. They are told that they may have details of any budget item if they want them.

Nicholas asked what happens to the balance of the subscription money (only 1/12 is used per month) if the squad closes. She was told that it will be refunded to the residents.

John Kuhn, CPA for the squad came to the lectern and asked how the newspaper got copies of the private financial statements. He said that they were private documents - each page has "for internal use only" on it. Howell said that he gave them to the reporters. Hoff said that documents given to the Board of Supervisors are public documents. Kline cited the right-to-know law - that the documents are available to the public on request - and said that there is a "fine line" when the documents are from a non-profit. He added that it is the Township's responsibility to see that top quality ALS and BLS service is available to the citizens of Forks. If due to finances, these services cannot be provided, it is a concern of both the BoS and of the general public.

Hoff told Keifer that a private meeting is impossible and if it were possible, the discussion would still have to come back to the BoS in a public meeting for a decision.

Kuhn said that he can't answer some questions because of meetings with the IRS - the final meeting was this morning - and he objected to using the figures in public discussion. Kuhn said that the statements should not have been handed out the the general public. Howell told Kuhn to address his comment to him and not to the Board.

Howell said that Forks EMS has an open seat at the Public Safety Committee meetings and that a Public Safety Committee representative (Nicholas) has attended several of the EMS board meetings. The Public Safety Committee meetings are advertised (public) meetings. He said that the Township "bends over backwards to do its business in the sunshine." Howell said that he expected the EMS to come prepared to discuss the financial reports and asked, "When can we ask pertinent questions?"

Kuhn asked Morning Call reporter, Tom De Martini, to give back the financial statement. De Martini refused. Hoff then requested that they take their discussion out of the meeting room. Kuhn and De Martini complied and left the room.

Hoff said that it's a major concern that the ALS provider be paid. Ackerman asked the BoS why it was not demanding financial statements from Suburban EMS and Barry Alberston volunteered Suburban's audited statement.

Miller said that both Mr. Kuhn and the Forks finance manager be at the Public Safety Committee meeting. It is set for November 6 (Election Day) at 5:00 pm. Keifer asked that the Supervisors write/email/phone their questions to him. Keifer was asked to bring along a list of officers and board members.

Brian Pearson, owner of Mobile Repair Service in Easton and a Forks resident, told the Board he bent over backwards to take care of the re-formed squad's ambulance. He said it was in "rough" shape. Pearson said that he needs to pay his bills in 30 days and in June, the EMS checks stopped coming. He finally called an attorney after getting no response from Mr. Keifer or the EMS squad. He took them to court and no one from the squad came. He was granted a judgement for $3,000. He asked Keifer, "Why?" - Keifer said that a check for $1,000 went out last week. Pearson has not yet received it.

Amy Richard of Stockertown Borough Council asked that the statements be provided to Stockertown and she asked why no subscriptions have been sent to Stockertown residents. She was told that the statements will be given to the Council and that subscriptions to Stockertown residents were sent in September and that money was coming in from Stockertown residents. Richard said that she knows no one who got one.

Ordinance 304/Amendment to Chapter 159 - Dumping & Littering - This passed in a 5:0 vote. There was no discussion.

COG / Mutual Aid Agreement – Emergency Public Service Agreement - Nicholas said that she did not want to put her name to a document that wasn't in its final form. Ackerman said that he had a copy of the final document and thought that it had been distributed to the entire Board. Kline said that the document he had and that he reviewed had mark-ups showing all of the changes in it and that it is legible. The fact that there was no duration or method of termination detailed in the agreement did not trouble Kline who said that without one, one simply does not show up because one is "undermanned." Ackerman said that with this document, the Township will be paid from PEMA when it helps other municipalities during emergencies. It was not paid for any of the work done (for other municipalities) during the flood cleanups. This passed 4:1. (Nicholas voted nay because the document was not in its final form.)


Non-Uniform Pension Plan - Excess Interest Designation - Farley explained that the Board needs to decide what to do with the surplus interest earned by the plan. The Board voted 5:0 to reinvest it in the municipal account.

Fort James III - Major Subdivision - Final Plan - Ackerman recused himself because some of the land involved in the project was his. Steve Pany, engineer for JG Petrucci, reviewed the project. He said that Fort James III encompasses 120 acres. The main entrance is to be Braden Boulevard at Uhler Road. Braden will terminate in a cul-de-sac at lot 17. Flooding on Kesslersville will be relieved.

Nicholas asked about residential areas next to the property. Pany said that the Ackerman property will have a 50' buffer around it. Howell asked if the name of Braden will be changed since it no longer goes through to Kesslersville Road. Weis suggested naming it Braden East and the road connecting Kesslersville to Sullivan Trail, Braden West.

Howell asked about the trees on the stub road, Brennan Way and was told that the trees will remain. He also asked if trucks will be restricted on Glover Road. Weis said that there will be a "no left turn for trucks" sign. It's expected that only employees (and only 10% of them) will use the stub road.

Kline said that the Planning Commission (PC) discussed several things including having Braden dedicated to the Township all the way to Kesslersville. The road for lot one will be paved to Township specifications so that if Norfolk Southern (railroad) allows the rail crossing, the road will be ready. Lots 1, 17, and 18 will have maintenance responsibility for the roadway. Kline said that that he thinks these should be added conditions of approval.

The plan passed in a 5:0 vote subject to the PC conditions and to Hay's letter. The Weyerhauser development project will come before the Board next month.

Public Safety Communications Repeater - Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that space on the tower will be provided by the tower's owner, Industrial Communications (and the owner of Industrial Communications is a forks resident) at no cost to the Township. At Nicholas' request, Bryan Weis will get that promise in writing. The repeater will cost $5495. It is "tower specific" in that no other equipment can be used there. The repeater will expand emergency communications coverage to problem (coverage) areas of the Township, in particular, Route 611. The purchase was approved in a 5:0 vote.

There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

BoS Meeting 10/4/2007 - Kings Mill Discussion And Vote

Notes of the Kings Mill discussion at the 10/4/2007 Board of Supervisors meeting follow:


Resolution # 071004-1 – KMRD, L.P. Litigation – Suspension of legal proceedings - Before starting discussion on this agenda item, Hoff clarified that the Township has not entered into any discussion or settlement with KMRD. He said, too, that the Board has no idea what KMRD "would like to propose other than a suspension of the hearing until they can make a presentation to the Board." The agreement on the agenda says that the Board "will suspend (the hearing) under certain conditions."

Howell questioned the statement "until they make a presentation to the Board?" Howell said that the thought that Kline had been asked simply to determine the ground rules for discussion. Howell said that he had no idea that a presentation had been discussed.

Kline explained the background: The KMRD partnership is composed of attorney Dennis Benner, his partner attorney Piperato, Zawarski builders, and Maloney builders. The developers have filed four different lawsuits.

KMRD has control over 545 acres in the Farmland Protection District (FP) and wanted to build a medium density residential development (a by-right plan because it conformed to 2001 zoning - in place at the time of filing - weeks before the 2006 zoning was adopted). The Township denied the by-right plan because the Township felt that the developer was "dragging its feet." KMRD appealed directly to the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County. Kline referred to this as Case #1.

Case #2 is the substantive challenge to the 2006 zoning ordinance currently in process before the Forks Zoning Hearing Board. KMRD alleges that the 2006 zoning ordinance contains provisions that are illegal and therefore not enforceable.

Case #3 is a procedural challenge to the zoning ordinances adopted in 1986, 1988, 2001, and 2006. This challenge is made possible by two recent PA Supreme Court decisions. This will go before the Forks Zoning Hearing Board.

Case #4 is for a conditional use permit under the 1983 zoning ordinance. It is for multi-family housing in the FP district. This hearing will be before the Board of Supervisors. In essence, KMRD says that since (see Case #3) the 1986, 1988, 2001, and 2006 ordinances are invalid, the conditional use permit should be reviewed under the 1983 ordinance, the one that allows them "to do what they want to do."

Kline said that a month or two ago, he was contacted by KMRD to inquire of the BoS if it would entertain any kind of proposals to resolve the litigation. Because it was litigation, Kline presented it to the Board in Executive Session. He said that the "sense of the Board" was that they were willing to listen to what KMRD had to say - without commitments.

Kline explained further that he communicated to the developer that a majority of the Board was willing to look at what KMRD had to offer as long as there was a "cease fire" - that is, a general cessation of all litigation while the parties talked. Attorney VanLuvanee wrote letters to the BoS and to the ZHB which arrived on 9/19/07. The BoS declined to vote on the request because it was not received in time for it to become an agenda item for public discussion at the 9/20/07 meeting. Thus, the ZHB, at its October 1st session of the KMRD zoning challenge, was the first to discuss and vote on the KMRD request.

KMRD was advised by Kline that a resolution would be on the 10/4/07 agenda. The resolution has several parts:

  1. The Township agrees to suspend all hearings and proceedings.
  2. No rights are waived.
  3. Either party has the right to restart the hearings/proceedings with proper notice.

By way of additional comment, Kline said that (to his knowledge) no proposals have been submitted to the Township by the developer. He added that this is very complex because it involves 545 acres and a very detailed SALDO and a very detailed Zoning Ordinance. It is not something that can be worked out in a week and would likely not be before the Board before January, when the new Board will be in place.

James Wideman (resident, Chairman of the Farmland and Historical Subcommittee for the Comprehensive Plan, former member of the PC, and candidate for Supervisor) asked if the Board normally asks the Solicitor to draft a resolution without a public vote? Kline said that the resolution to be discussed had to be very clear. Howell offered that the resolution was simply prepared as a guide for discussion.

.......... BREAK ..........

Miller began this session by making a statement that he never had a meeting or phone call from KMRD regarding anything. He said he had no idea why they are requesting a cessation and suggested that they may or may not be having financial problems - he didn't know. He thought the Township would save a lot of money since it wouldn't have to pay the attorney.

Nicholas said that she, too, has not talked with anyone from KMRD. She said she knows nothing of KMRD's plans and that she first heard about it from Kline in Executive Session. Ackerman, too, said that he has had no contact with them in any way, but that he's "an open minded person and willing to listen." Howell said that he has no reason to talk with KMRD and if the majority of the Board wants to suspend the litigation, Kline will be very busy as the communication link between the parties.


  1. Erik Chuss (resident, Chairman of the Planning Commission, and candidate for Supervisor) - began by getting on his "soapbox" about density. He felt that what happened at the ZHB was a very serious breach of protocol and that it leads to the implication that the BoS is willing to compromise. The Planning Commission has been hard at work on the new Zoning Ordinance, the SALDO, and Comprehensive Plan update and a settlement in this case will change everything since whatever is decided will apply to the entire FP district. Chuss said, "They started this. We need to finish it." He said, too, that agreeing to a compromise will have "severe and grave consequences." He cannot see any justification for one more house than the zoning allows in the FP. - applause
  2. Sharon Davis - said that she agreed with Erik Chuss' statement and added that she spent the summer as a volunteer working on a Planning Commission Comprehensive Plan Farmland and Historic Preservation Subcommittee. She did it because she cares about the community. She's spoken to many in the Township and they all have one voice on KMRD - "defend our zoning." She thought that with the real estate market in a slump the developer wants a break from having to spend money. - applause
  3. David Billings (resident, Chairman of the Recreation & Trails Subcommittee for the Comprehensive Plan, and candidate for Supervisor) - spoke as a parent of school children to the dramatic impact that Kings Mill would have on our community and the costs involved for the school district ($45 million), roads, and other infrastructure improvements that would be needed. He said that he believed the current zoning ordinance to be defensible and that Forks will prevail in court. He requested a roll call vote of the Supervisors. (Read the full text of Billings' comments here.) - applause
  4. Nicole Alexander - told the Board that if they settle now, they set a precedent. She said that this should be fully litigated because if it is not, a future Board will go through this again when some other developer comes before them with a plan for the FP. Setting a legal precedent now will define to future developers what they can and cannot do. She urged the Board "to continue the litigation and set this precedent because it's never been more important to save our farmland." - applause
  5. James Wideman (resident, Chairman of the Farmland and Historical Subcommittee for the Comprehensive Plan, and candidate for Supervisor) - said he spoken very strongly on this issue on many occasions. He said that Forks zoning is enforceable. He said, too, that there is no reason to doubt a decade of zoning work. Wideman urged the Board to maintain the zoning. He cited the costs of staying the course at around $20 per household (based on 5000 houses and $100,000 in costs). The future costs of a compromise will be much, much higher - possibly doubling school property taxes (per the EASD). Wideman urged the Board to "stay the course, make the hard decision, and defeat this resolution." - applause
  6. Robert Egolf (resident, Vice Chairman of Zoning Hearing Board, and candidate for Supervisor) - said that he was speaking only as a private citizen in asking "the Supervisors to uphold the unanimous decision of the Forks ZHB to reject KMRD's request for a continuance." He read from the the zoning ordinance's purpose - "to promote, protect, and facilitate public safety and general welfare by providing standards..." He said, too, that Forks attorneys have just started. He asked, "Have you ever heard of a game being suspended because one team is afraid it will lose?" Egolf said that the laws shouldn't be changed "to suit anyone who wants to overload our roads, overcrowd our schools, overrun our open space, and over-burden our tax base." - applause
  7. Louis Moyer (resident and member of the Zoning Hearing Board) - said that he was speaking as a private citizen and limited his comments to what was in the local newspapers. He said that as proposed, Kings Mill would add 17,000 cars per day to the roads, over 6000 students to the schools, and thousands of calls to EMS. He urged the Board not to bow down to these developers because if they do, a militia will be needed to stop more developers from hammering at the Township. - applause


Hoff said that the word "compromise" had not been used by the Supervisors. They are talking about an open dialogue and he too, firmly believes that the zoning is enforceable. He said that expensive litigation is not a reason to stop. Hoff also said that he was elected for a 6 year term, not a 5 year and 9 month term, and he's going to fulfill it.

Ackerman clarified that there is only one preserved farm in the FP and that FP means Farmland Protection not Farmland Preservation. He said that it was done by design to protect the farmers from the citizens. Ackerman said that he'd like to see what KMRD has and to tell them what "we want." He said that if the Planning Commission had spoken up early on when asked by Kings Mill what they (the PC) would accept, this wouldn't be going on now.

Chuss said that the Planning Commission did speak at the time. They told KMRD that the PC wanted what was allowed, a by-right plan. - applause - Wideman, a member of the PC when this first came before them, backed up what Chuss said, that the by-right plan would have been acceptable.

Howell noted that there is no motion on the floor. Wideman asked to take a poll of the Board as to how much the Board would be willing to go outside of the current zoning? Hoff said that there will be no polls and no decisions. Hoff said, "Why would we offer the developer any idea?" He added that the resolution is just to suspend the hearing in order to open a dialogue.

Miller said that they were not changing zoning and there there is no compromise before the Board.

By way of clarity, Howell said that if discussions are begun and the presented plan doesn't conform to the zoning, a curative amendment will be needed - that is an amendment to the zoning ordinance. The Act 537 plan would have to be changed also. Kline remarked that if the proposal is determined to be in the best interest of Forks, then the form of the settlement agreement may require changes to the zoning ordinance.

Nicholas said that she's been approached by many people from other townships, including those on school boards, about the increase to school taxes. She said that "if one person from every household in the EASD comes to the next meeting, there will be a gridlock of people trying to get to the building. It will be national news." Nicholas added that she feels the zoning ordinance can be defended in the courts. - applause

Ackerman made the motion to accept the resolution. Hoff seconded it.


Howell said that "this decision is a lay-up" and that he never thought it would come to this, that is, a discussion of what they want. He said that KMRD submitted a plan under the 2001 zoning and then "fumbled around" buying time so that they didn't have to pay the farmers (yet) for the lands under contract - all are subject to getting final zoning approval. Forks has created a Maginot Line along Newlins Road - above Newlins, no water and no sewer. And, because public sewer and water are the first items on the developers wish list, it is a regional issue. Howell said that he attends meetings in Plainfield, LMBT, and UMBT and they all wonder what Forks is going to do. He added that areas around cities in Colorado and around cities in England have kept their rural character by denying water and sewer. Howell said, "That's the formula, that's the ticket, and that's what we should do."

Howell also said that he's enjoyed working with David (Hoff) and John (Ackerman) over the last two years but he asked to let the decision be determined not by the current Board but by the future Board. There are only six meetings to go in this year, that is six possible Executive Sessions. Election Day is 33 days away. Howell asked that the Supervisors-elect be allowed to speak. Howell said, too, that he thinks Dennis Benner and his partners are "intimidators." Howell said that as a business man, he loved negotiating when he had leverage and that without the township's case being fully presented, the township has no leverage. "The timing is atrocious."

Hoff said that the Township is not losing anything by waiting six months. He said he will not abstain from voting. Ackerman said that he will not abstain either.

Howell said that a delay will lose momentum and in the law business, momentum means a lot. He added that he'd like to take his chances with the Forks ZHB and the appeal to the court. When the court gets it, there will be no witnesses, only the initial argument before the court. The cost of that is minimal.

Chuss reiterated that the Planning Commission needs direction. He said he was not speaking at a candidate but as a person who's put a lot of time into this. Hoff said that he agreed that all four of the candidates spoke as residents of the Township and not as candidates. He added that he can't guarantee what the papers will print.

William Wallace (candidate for Northampton County Council) asked if the litigation would impact the operation of KMRD should it be purchased by another entity? He wondered if the new, larger entity would be able to continue the suit. Kline said that it would likely be carried over to the new company. Howell said that this was an interesting point since, if changes in the ordinance are made for KMRD, it doesn't stop them from not developing the land and selling it instead.

Howell asked if the candidate for Mayor of Easton had anything to say. (R-Gary Bertsch was in the audience.)

Nicholas stated that the Sewer Authority should not have been abolished. She said that it wrote a letter to the Board against sewers in the FP.

Robert Kimmel, a 30 year resident of Forks, asked the obvious: "Why wouldn't we just allow the litigation to continue and talk to KMRD?" Howell said that Mr. Kimmel raised the perfectly obvious suggestion that has "eluded everyone except me and Mr. Kimmel." Kline said that there's nothing to prevent the Township from saying "no" that it will not cease the litigation and at the same time entertain a dialogue. - applause

Kimmel said that that would send a "strong and clear" signal that the Township will not be closed minded and that this is what "we" want. - applause

Alexander said that a strong signal is sent if the Township stands by its litigation. It says, "our zoning rocks." To back off, sends an indirect message that "maybe our zoning isn't as strong as it could be."

Hoff suggested that in view of recent court decisions, the courts cannot be trusted. Alexander countered that the courts are very prone to protecting farmland and open space at this time.

Kline said that he is disturbed by two recent court decisions, Glen Gery vs Dover and Luke vs Cataldi (sic). In the first, the Supreme Court changed the 30 day rule for challenge procedures to any time frame (thus the procedural challenge by Kings Mill). In the second case, the PA Supreme Court changed the look-back period for conditional use challenges from 30 days to as far as one wants. Kline said that he cannot predict how judges will vote down the road.

Wideman asked if Forks wasn't setting a dangerous precedent in negotiating with KMRD. Wideman added that in doing this, he (Kline) feels that there is some procedural mistake over the last decade. Wideman said that he agreed with Kimmel in that, if KMRD has a proposal, it can bring it to the Board at any time. Wideman said that they (KMRD) are asking the Township to compromise.

A roll call vote on the motion was taken:

  • Ackerman - Yay
  • Nicholas - Nay
  • Howell - Nay
  • Miller - ...on the fence ... NAY!!! - and the room broke into applause!

Hoff said that the motion was defeated 3:2. He also said that the Board did the right thing by not voting after the Executive session on September 20th. That, he said, threw the ZHB a little out of whack, but he felt it was the right decision.

Kline said that the Township will be at the 10/15/07 zoning hearing to continue its case. Applause!

BoS Meeting 10/4/2007

Forks Township's Board of Supervisors got to the business of the Kings Mill agenda item rather quickly. The meeting room was near capacity. The Board gave the people a chance to speak, a motion was made, discussion followed, and then the vote. The Board, by a margin of one vote, agreed to disagree with the motion put forth by Supervisor John Ackerman and seconded by David Hoff, to offer an indefinite continuance (a time out) of the Kings Mill zoning hearing while a settlement is discussed. Please read JD Malone (Express Times) and Tom De Martini (Morning Call) for more. More notes on the meeting follow.


Supervisor Howell was happy to report that the Rest In Peace (RIP) signs that had disappeared from the Strausser-cut maples on Old River Road have been found by the DPW. He said that he had a permit for the signs and that they will be returned to him tomorrow.

Supervisor Miller reported that they are half-way through the fall season for football and soccer - both will finish in the first week of November. Sign-ups for winter wrestling and basketball are in progress. He noted too that the Girls Varsity High School Basketball League with its ten teams, generates income for the Township.

TREASURER'S REPORT - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - stated that the committee needs the promised monthly financial reports from Forks EMS. None have been submitted since June. A representative from Forks EMS was a no-show at the Public Safety meeting. Solicitor Kline will send a letter to the EMS requesting a presence at the next BoS meeting (October 18) as well as a financial statement. The statement must arrive in time for inclusion in the Tuesday BoS packets.

Nicholas said that the fire department is going to purchase a "repeater." Fire Chief Bryan Weis described its function as allowing the fire, police, and EMS to communicate independently of the 911 system (if needed) during emergencies. It will be mounted on the Paxinosa tower and provide township-wide range. The cost is approximately $5,000. Weis also reminded everyone of the Fire Department Open House scheduled for Saturday, October 6th from 11-4. He said that there will be fire truck rides for the kids, demonstrations of vehicle rescues/fires, tours of the facility and the equipment, and more.

Nicholas said, too, that Police Chief Greg Dorney will purchase a computer that will allow victims of domestic crimes to be processed in Forks instead of being taken to the Northampton County Courthouse. It will keep the officers in Forks and be less stressful for the victims as well.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - said that there was no meeting this week and that the committee's next meeting is Tuesday. DPW Director Mark Roberts summarized the work on Glover Road (pipe installations in preparation for paving, grading, and roadside swales) and he said that leaf collection will begin in a few weeks.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - no committee report. See Supervisors Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - said that the upcoming edition of the Forks Quarterly is being done completely by Township Manager Rick Schnaedter. Schnaedter is to meet with the publisher/editor tomorrow. Howell said, too, that the committee met with the website consultant this week and that one of the significant website enhancements will be an interactive calendar. Other improvements to the site will include menu and navigation changes to make getting to content easier.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff - said that the committee discussed budget items as well as ongoing projects (the server and the employee manual.) At the meeting next Wednesday, they will discuss the 2008 budget for the office and for zoning.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - announced that the Two Rivers Council of Governments (TRCOG) will meet at the Wilson Borough Hall on October 17th. On the agenda is a "mutual aid agreement" and discussion of a "regional plan." He also said that the new municipal sign on Sullivan Trail is installed. It will be partially landscaped this fall. Schnaedter also said that in the winter there will be a new Community Guide (including a large map of the Township and contact information) mailed to each household.

Ackerman, Forks' primary representative to the TRCOG, asked the Board for instructions regarding the regional comprehensive plan. Howell, also a Township representative to the TRCOG, said that Lafayette College, Representative Bob Freeman, and others are asking for the Township's "leanings." Hoff said that the Board needs more information than what has been proposed. Both representatives will attend the meeting with "open minds" (per the Board.)

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay - agenda items only.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline - said that the agreement to purchase 150,000 gallons/day of sewer capacity from Wilson Borough has been signed and that the first payment (for 37,500 gallons) has been made. Kline also said that former employee Sean Shupe (sic), who was terminated for cause, has requested arbitration in accordance with the employee manual.


Ordinance # 305 – SALDO/Adoption - Kline reported that this was properly advertised, reviewed, and fine tuned by the Planning Commission. Hay requested that a line be added that states that plans must be also submitted in Autocad format. Kline said that "requiring a piece of information in an additional format" is not a material change to the ordinance and thus can be added without re-advertising and re-submission to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (for comment.) Howell asked if the Kings Mill partners can include this SALDO adoption in their procedural lawsuit and Kline said that, because of two recent court decisions, they can go back 50 years - and yes, they can include this. Howell then asked Kline if a resolution could be crafted that would include a broad range of submission requirements. Kline said that it needs to be in the SALDO. The SALDO was approved in a 5:0 vote.

COG / Mutual Aid Agreement – Emergency Public Service Agreement - The Board had only a crossed-out and scribbled-on version for consideration. Hoff said that it was his understanding that the agreement would allow the Township to be reimbursed from PEMA and FEMA. Ackerman said that there has to be a separate agreement with each municipality. Howell said that he thought this was to be a comprehensive agreement that all would sign. Nicholas said that she would not vote unless there was a final copy. This was tabled 5:0 pending receipt of a final copy of the agreement.

Ordinance 304/Amendment to Chapter 159 - Solid Waste of Township Code - Kline explained that the Township receives money from the State based on the amount of recycling that it does and that the State now mandates littering and dumping language in the ordinance. This amendment would add the necessary State approved language. Because this was just added to the agenda, the Board had no copies in their packets for review. It was tabled in a 5:0 vote.


Resolution # 071004-1 – KMRD, L.P. Litigation – Suspension of legal proceedings - The lengthy notes of this discussion are posted above. See Bos Meeting 10/4/07 - Kings Mill Discussion and Vote.

The Greens @ Two T’s – Application for Review of Sketch Plan - Lou Ferrone, PE for the project sent a letter to the Board asking that Supervisor Howell recuse himself from any projects involving Ferrone. Apparently Ferrone, as Chairman of the Easton Parking Authority is being sued by the Riverkeepers (a national organization) to which Howell belongs. Kline explained that it was not a conflict of interest as there is no financial interest (for Howell or his family) in the outcome of the Two T's project. It was decided that Howell could render a fair and impartial decision and that recusal was unnecessary. Howell said that he contributes to many national organizations and that he is not suing Ferrone.

The Board was shown a sketch plan for an age restricted (55+) mobile home park on the 16 acre site of the current Two T's driving range. The owner, Tom Detzler (sic), explained that he is saddened by this decision but cannot find a workable solution since neither Jacobs Farm nor the pipeline company will give him an easement to install higher nets (he already purchased). He further explained that the higher nets are not guaranteed to keep the hard hitting drivers from hitting the homes in Jacobs Farm with golf balls and the only solution he can see is to build what's allowed in the EC1 zoning district, mobile homes - 45 of them.

All existing trees and tree rows will stay or be transplanted to other portions of the property. There are 300-500 specimen trees. The miniature golf course, the club house, and the pro-shop will remain. Hay commented that this project should have access to Sullivan Trail and not be reliant on access to Kesslersville Road. A Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) will be necessary.

Kline said that the Planning Commission recommended that the BoS assist in any way it can to get the necessary easement to keep the business in the township. He felt that doing additional "jawboning" is about the only recourse the Township has since eminent domain is not appropriate for private use. One more attempt will be made to convince the parties that a driving range is preferable to more houses.

Met Ed Resolution – (6) new Street lights /The Preserve Development - Hay asked that this be tabled. He said that there are nine (9) lights out. The request to table passed 5:0.

Penn’s Ridge / Ph. 13 & 14 – Final Plan Approval - In discussion of this final plan, the Board learned that two school bus stops have been added to the interior of Penn's Ridge and that the recreation path behind phases 9 and 11 is complete. These phases represent the end of the Penn's Ridge project: 102 condominiums, 62 townhouses, and 40 flats will bring the total residential build out to 540. The final plan was approved in a 5:0 vote.

Police Collective Bargaining Agreement - This 18 page agreement was negotiated by Kline and Schnaedter with the police collective bargaining unit. Schnaedter reported that the agreement is for a five year contract beginning on January 1, 2008 and that the first three years contain rate adjustments to bring the officers' pay to parity with neighboring departments. It also contains clarification of over time for court appearances and supervisor pay rates for corporals and captains.

Kline said that the police department gathered comparative rates for other departments which showed that Forks full time officers are paid $5,000 to $8,000 less than their peers. Discussions began in April or May. Kline noted, too, that the bargaining unit handled the negotiations in a very professional manner and that the department sought accreditation on its own.

In summary, the contract provides for 4% increases in all five years as well as the additional increases in the first three years to make up for the shortfall. There are no changes to the shift differential, nor to the medical & benefits provisions. There are provisions for allowing the use of compensatory time instead of standard overtime. The Board approved the new contract in a 5:0 vote.

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Resident Sandy Hanks asked about the Township's agreement with RCN and why her neighbor was told that it will cost $1100 to bring the cable to her home when it's already across the street. Kline instructed Schnaedter to inquire into it.

There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Forks 1 - Kings Mill 0 = Thursday night's BoS Meeting results.

The 80 +/- attendees were elated. Residents' statements were passionate and convincing enough to sway Supervisor Don Miller from the fence. He picked the side of Forks. His was the deciding vote.

The vote for an "indefinite" continuance was 2:3. The two were Supervisors Ackerman and Hoff. The three were Supervisors Howell, Miller, and Nicholas. The audience appeared unanimous against the motion.

What's next? The Zoning Hearing Board reconvenes on Monday, October 15 and township continues its defense.

Read JD Malone (Express Times) and Tom De Martini (Morning Call) for more details.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

ZHB Says "No" - Next Decision Up To The BoS - Oct 4th!

On Monday, October 1st, the Forks Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) voted 5:0 to deny Kings Mill LLC an indefinite continuance on the current challenge hearing while the partnership and the Township attempt to work out a settlement.

The letter for the request was sent to the John Pappas, Chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board. In it, Kings Mill's attorney, John VanLuvanee, stated that the Township "joined in" the request. The trouble with that sentence was that it wasn't true. The Zoning Hearing Board didn't like that (among other things) and voted unanimously to deny the request.

The public was allowed to speak and not one of the speakers, all the candidates included (Wideman, Billings, Chuss, and Egolf - with his vote on the Zoning Hearing Board - blogs are linked) was in favor of it. Supervisor Howell spoke as well. He got applause. Supervisor Ackerman was there but did not speak. Read candidate James Wideman's testimony.

The Board of Supervisors will be discussing the Kings Mill request at its (public) meeting on October 4th. A letter will be sent to the ZHB with the Board's request, should there be one that is, for an indefinite (?) continuance. The ZHB will have to consider the matter one more time if that happens. Wonder how it will come out this time? Be there for Round 16 on October 15th!

Please read Tom De Martini (Morning Call) and JD Malone (Express Times) for more. Also, in today's Express Times, there is a letter from David Hoff, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors (and outgoing supervisor), refuting an earlier letter to the editor by candidate David Billings. Read candidate James Wideman's letter to the editor - Express Times.

This is the meeting you've been waiting for! Don't miss it. Bring the
family. Pack the house!
Thursday, October 4th at 7:30 PM.