Sunday, April 27, 2008

Comp Plan - In draft for one more month!

The Planning Commission (PC) workshop on April 22nd provided yet another opportunity for public input to be considered in the draft Comprehensive Plan.  The planners discussed the next steps in the process.  A motion was made by David Billings (seconded by Georgeann Wambold) to inject another 30 days into the process before sending it on to the Supervisors with the PC recommendation that it be forwarded to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), the Easton Area School District (EASD), and all adjacent municipalities. 

Comprehensive Plan Draft - coverpageThe additional 30 days is to give the PC time to vet and edit the draft - one more time.  Each of the seven planners is to re-read the draft and note any edits/corrections that they feel need to be made and send their suggestions to the Township Manager for distribution to the entire PC - by the May 8th PC meeting.  At the May 8th meeting, the PC will appoint a three person ad hoc committee that will be charged with compiling the suggestions from the individual planners (and any from the public) into the Comp Plan draft. 

Billings' motion was discussed extensively by the PC.  One resident and the four Supervisors (in the audience) commented in the discussion:

  • Supervisor Howell asked if public input would also be accepted by the PC up through the final draft.  He was told by Charlie Schmehl (the URDC consultant) that public comment can be accepted up to the point that the governing body (the Board of Supervisors) adopts the plan.
  • Supervisor Egolf thought it important that extra time be taken because, for example, the transportation section's goals as written are not measurable and therefore not goals in the real sense of the word.  Egolf said too, that the section's language could be describing any municipality in the Commonwealth and is not specific to Forks.
  • Supervisor Nicholas asked Solicitor Kline to clarify which body actually sends the plan to the LVPC.  She said that the reference to dog poop and Lafayette College is an embarrassment and with it in there, she will not recommend that it go forward.  Mr. Schmehl explained the reference as relevant to why Lafayette College is concerned about Forks residents' use of its trail system (clean-up is a problem.)  Nicholas also suggested that there is too much detail in the plan about the police and fire departments.  She felt that because each has its five year plan included, more detail in the plan is unnecessary.
  • Rachel Hoagland (resident) reminded the planners that "we are people" and that images can be conjured up of Moore Township, Saucon Township, Whitehall (etc.) but when it comes to Forks, the prevailing image is that it is another Palmer Township.  She said that Forks is losing its uniqueness and that "Forks" is not coming through in the Comprehensive Plan.  She advised the planners to hurry up (and fix it) before it's too late and Forks becomes just like all the other townships. 
  • Supervisor Chuss said that the PC has been at this for a year and a half and that a lot of time has been put into it.  He explained that it is simply a guide and will never be perfect.  He emphasized that in his opinion, "This process has to move forward."  Chuss also made reference to eleventh hour tactics that he thought unjust and uncalled for.

The PC vote was 4:3 in favor of taking a bit more time (30 days total) to vet and edit the plan.  The "aye" votes were cast by Georgeann Wambold, Vito Tamborrino, Carl Dicker, and David Billings.  The "nay" voters were Dan Fazekas, John Castrovinci, and Dean Turner. 

About 30 residents from the Ramblewood/Richmond/Blossom Hill/Clarendon area came to address the PC about the extension of Ramblewood (through to Sullivan Trail as listed in the Comp Plan) and its impact on their "community." 

Note:  Mr. Schmehl provided draft revisions at the beginning of the meeting containing new language for the Ramblewood section.  (See page 3, third section from the top for the new wording.) The changes came out of the PC Comprehensive Plan public hearing. 

The Ramblewood residents were represented by six spokespersons - Brian Cook, George Neff, Melinda Stano, Brian Pellegrino, Brian Shellmer, and Ralph Pester. (Apologies for misspellings.) Each was prepared to discuss different aspects of the plan and its (to them) shortcomings.  The traffic section and the 2003 Traffic Study were major concerns, as was the Ramblewood extension. 

Mr. Cook thought that the entire 2003 Traffic Study should be thrown out and that "traffic" should be re-evaluated.  He also felt that the extension of Ramblewood was in conflict with the mission statement in the Comp Plan as it stressed a "strong sense of community" and "safe neighborhoods."  He warned that the traffic study, if followed, would make Sullivan Trail another MacArthur Boulevard. 

The two alternate routes offered by the residents, unfortunately, did not take into account already approved plans for Town Center(s) I and II.  As Zoning Officer Tim Weis explained, the only land not yet approved for development is the Virginia Jackson farm.  Everything else in the Town Center District has an approved plan on the books.

The problem for the Township is a lack of east/west routes.  During discussion, we learned from Weis that the master road plan was done twenty years ago, before all the people moved here. 

Mr. Schmehl reminded the PC that the decision to extend Ramblewood is not a decision being made "tonight" nor even as part of the Comprehensive Plan, but it will be made whenever the Virginia Jackson farm is proposed for development. 

Mr. Pester described Richmond Road as a speedway (except when the police are at the school).  He voiced the concern of many, that the plan under discussion was not the latest all-inclusive draft, but one that was last offered in whole in February and since then revisions (pages not on the Township website) have been done but are not incorporated into the (draft) plan.

Nicholas said that the Supervisors would like a revised copy of the Comp Plan (without the maps as they already have them.)

And, the meeting was adjourned.

(Aside: Try to get your comments/edits to Rick Schnaedter sooner rather than later so that the ad hoc committee is working with all the input they can expect to get.)

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.

Round 21 - Kings Mill/KMRD - A Technicality Forces Do-Over!

Yes, that is correct.  A technicality forced the postponement of Round 21 of the King's Mill/KMRD zoning challenge hearing.  The court recorder, an essential participant, was a no-show.  Hearings cannot be held if there is no court recorder. 

The Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) and its solicitor, Michael Shay were there.  The Township attorneys, Stephen Goudsouzian and Karl Kline were there.  The witness, Charlie Schmehl of URDC was there.  The appellant's council, Kellie McGowan was there.  Even a few residents were there. 

Calls were made to the court recorder - voice mail answered - and, as a result, after one half hour of waiting, the meeting was convened (so it could be canceled), and a postponement was declared. 

The do-over of Round 21 (now Round 21.5) is planned for Wednesday, May 14th at 7:30 PM.

Monday, April 21, 2008

PC Workshop - To Review Comp Plan Public Input

URDC -  Forks Agricultural SoilsOn Tuesday (April 22nd - Primary Day) at 7:00 PM the Planning Commission will hold a public workshop (in the Municipal Building) to review your input and your ideas about its newest Comprehensive Plan (draft). See the FAC homepage for items of concern that are likely to be considered.

Many came and many spoke at the public hearing last month. Concerns were expressed. Ideas were presented. And, this workshop may be your last chance to participate in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. So... if you are unsure that this is the best Comp Plan to guide Forks' future, grab your hat and come to the workshop!

All are welcome! Bring your two cents.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

BoS 4/17/08

Regular Meeting (agenda)

On this night the Supervisors voted to sign the lease with Lafayette College for the springhouse on Bushkill Drive and to sublease it to the Forks Historical Society.  They also awarded the emergency services training facility (fire tower) contract to WHP Training Towers. - Read more about the training tower in JD Malone's 4/18/08 Express Times article

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Egolf reminded those present that on Tuesday, April 22nd, the Planning Commission will go over the new Comprehensive Plan - at its 7 PM workshop.  He said that it is important for all interested parties to be there.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 4:0 vote - Nicholas abstained because she had questions on some of the bills and was unable to ask about them before the meeting.  The current outstanding debt is $7,892.258.

Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the Township calendar for dates and times)

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the April 15 meeting was initially scheduled "to go over" the emergency services training tower plans.  They did that as well as address a full agenda including:
    • The Police Department modular furniture bid came in well below initial estimates at $18,396.  A motion was made by Chuss and seconded by Nicholas to purchase the furniture.  The vote was unanimous.
    • The communications issue was addressed with a repeater installed on Montana Mountain in NJ - to help cover some of the "dead spots" in Forks.  Chuss said that it has helped somewhat and is still being tested.  If the problems are not solved, other options will be explored.
    • Thermostats were installed in the police department building to address the HVAC issue there.
    • Chief Dorney is looking into the development of a Township anti-speeding program. There should be an update at the next committee meeting.
    • In an update on Forks EMS:  The directors met last week and discussed reverse billing (where Suburban would do all the billing and pay Forks EMS what they are owed).  They decided against it.  They have made a payment to Suburban $10,050 and are addressing the rest of the past debt (working out payments).  They are paying current  obligations to Suburban.  Also, Chuss reported that the squad's open house went well.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the topic of discussion at last week's meeting was a new public works garage.  They are starting to look for a site for it.  Also discussed was Maloney recreation land, Newlins/Sullivan drainage, Lieb Road drainage and Ben Jon Road.  
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee's extra monthly meeting was held last week.  They are reviewing the capital requirements for the community park.  Discussed were:
    • Replacement of the main apparatus with a new one chosen by the Recreation Board.
    • Addition of a toddler lot.
    • Neighborhood parks - the committee selected a number of neighborhood parks and a memo will be sent to Miller, the liaison to the Recreation Board, for the selection of apparatus compatible with the parks.
    • Cost estimates of all will be submitted to the Supervisors for consideration.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 6th.  The last meeting was canceled.  She reported, too, that she is pleased that two citizens have volunteered to assist the Community Relations Committee.  (Note:  She did not name the volunteers.)
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that there is only one committee meeting in April and that will be on April 23rd at 5 PM.  On the agenda is a review of the comprehensive financial report of the 2007 budget prepared by Finance Manager Farley.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that Lafayette College is holding a Master Plan Seminar on Monday, April 21st from 3-4 PM.  Because Lafayette has facilities in Forks, the members of the BoS have been invited.  And, because seating is limited, those wishing to attend, must advise Schnaedter.  Chairman Howell was the only one who said he would be there. 

Schnaedter also said that he and (Zoning Officer) Tim Weis were visited by a representative from the Hazard Mitigation/Disaster Recovery office (note:  Northampton County's Emergency Management Division).  They were advised of a "severe repetitive loss program."  There are seven eligible residents in Forks and letters have been sent to them.  Contact Tim Weis or Angel Gillette, Hazard Mitigation/Recovery Manager with any questions.

Palmer Township has asked for a letter of support from the Township for their Rails-to-Trails grant request for the one mile of unfinished recreation path through Forks Township.  Egolf made a motion to write the letter of support.  Miller seconded.  In discussion Chuss said that he recalled that about two years ago Forks residents (of the area adjacent to the path) came to a PC meeting and described the problems they were having with trail users intruding upon their privacy and their property.  They asked for help from the PC to get buffers or fencing between the path and their properties.  Chuss suggested adding a caveat (to the letter of support) for Palmer to set a buffer between the path and the residents who live there.

Nicholas said if that is added to the letter, Forks would be telling Palmer what to do with "their piece of property."  She also said that a split rail fence has been installed and that she has walked there and there's never been a problem.  Hay said that a buffer is not feasible there because the path is too narrow and it is in a flood plain. 

Howell suggested that a letter of concern be sent from Forks' Township Manager to Palmer's Township Manager.  The motion was amended.  Two letters will be sent.  One in support of the bikepath connection and one expressing the concerns of the Forks residents.  Schnaedter asked if he could copy the second letter to the residents of the Friendly Tavern area.  The vote was 5:0.  (For a brief history of this issue, see BoS Meeting 3/17/2005 and BoS Meeting 4/19/2007.)

Schnaedter announced, too, that the recent Workman's Comp insurance audit resulted in a $7,949 premium reduction and a premium reduction for health insurance netted the Township a check for $79,684.  Also, a DPW employee was hired to fill a vacancy - "after extensive review of over 100 candidates."

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - gave an update on the following recent litigations:

  1. Weis Market - the challengers have withdrawn their appeal.  Weis' attorney said that the company is looking forward to moving forward quickly.
  2. KMRD procedural challenge - was denied by the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) on March 24th.  The Township is waiting for the written ruling from the ZHB.
  3. KMRD substantive challenge - should be wrapping up in the next month or so.  The next session is scheduled for Monday, April 21st.
  4. Strausser billing dispute - is in arbitration.  On April 17, Schnaedter, Hay, Farley, and Kline "did battle with Mr. Strausser" -  before an arbitrator.  Kline expects one more hearing before the arbitrator's decision.  The Township records show that Strausser owes $93,000 (to the Township.)  Strausser's records are "quite, quite, quite different."  In fact, Strausser thought the Township owed him money. 

Kline explained that the monies owed are for services provided that would be unnecessary if a developer was not doing a project.  When a developer proceeds with a project, he needs certain legal documents drafted - the subdivision improvement agreements, the maintenance agreements, etc. - and the Township should not have to pay for them since, if there were no project, there would be no need for the agreements and no need for the Township engineer to inspect and verify that things are being properly done.  The project (Riverview) started in 2001 and over the years, bills were disputed over and over again.  The $93,000 is the amount owed per the Township's records.


Emergency Services Training Facility (Bryan Weis, Fire Chief) - Weis said that four bids were received for the facility.  Three were comparable in price and the fourth was much higher.  Three of the bids were from one bidder using different contractors.  Only one bid, the second lowest, offered the turnkey solution that was sought and met all the bid specifications.  That bidder is WHP Training Towers at $343,518.

In discussion, Howell asked how many Township emergency units will use the facility.  Weis said that although it will be optimized for fire training, the police can use it for tactical training and the emergency squad can use it for rescue training. 

Farley said that the bid price is close to expectations and that the Township will pay up front from the capital funds it has in place (for the fire department.)  He said that it is cheaper to do it this way since the money is there.  Interest payments will be avoided and all that will be lost is the small amount of interest that the Township would have earned on the funds. 

The Fire Company will make an initial payment of $21,759 and will replenish the fund for 1/2 the total cost over a ten year period with a donation of $15,000 per year.  The facility will be owned by the Township and half paid for by the Fire Company.  According to Chuss, the facility should last 20-35 years.

Nicholas said that when she asked to see a contract at the Public Safety meeting, she was told that there wasn't one submitted.  However, Kline said that a contract was included in the bid package. 

Nicholas noted that the BoS has never seen a financial report from the Fire Company.  She added that the Board asks for one from the Forks EMS squad. 

The motion to award the bid to WHP was made by Chuss and seconded by Egolf.  The vote was 4:1 with Nicholas voting nay because she had not had an opportunity to review the contract. 

Another motion was made, this time to authorize Kline to draft an agreement with the Fire Company for their "donations" back to the Township.  It passed 5:0.

For more details, please see JD Malone's 4/18/08 Express Times article


Penn's Ridge - Phases 13 & 14 - Developers Agreements (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline reported that the insurance is executed, the escrow is paid, and the letter of credit is funded.  In other words, all is in order.  This was approved unanimously by the Board.

Lafayette College Spring House Lease and Sublease (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline said that he was "delighted" to report that after a year of working with the college, an agreement for a lease and sublease was reached for the springhouse - the possibly more than 200 year old stone structure (along the Bushkill Creek near the Tatamy border) - and the land approximately 100 feet to the north of it and 100 feet to its south (and from the creek to the road).  The lease is for 10 years and will cost Forks $100 per year.  The Township is also required to provide liability insurance to the college.

In turn, the Township will lease it to the Forks Historical Society for $1 per year.  The Historical Society has received a grant from the State to work on it.  They hope to  open it for public tours when it is ready.

The Board had previously approved the lease from Lafayette and only had to vote on the sublease.  Miller made the motion and it was seconded by Nicholas.  It was approved unanimously.  Nicholas said that she knows some Eagle Scouts who need a project and that they could help the Historical Society to clean it up. 

Forks Historical Society member (and former Forks Supervisor) Morris Metz, said that he made the initial approach to Jim Dicker at the college - for a lease.  Mr. Metz thanked the Board for their "diligence and persistence in pursuing this to completion." He also expressed thanks to Lafayette College for "this partnering" and said that at first they wondered why the Historical Society would want to be involved in a building with no heat, no electric, no water... The exact reasons the group wanted it!  The building dates back to the 1700's and is a part of Forks' history.  Mr. Metz concluded with, "Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you for all you've done to consummate this deal.  Thank you."

Conventional Loan for Public Works Capital Equipment (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Howell explained that Forks has "undertaken a significant capital purchase of public works equipment."  Farley said that in the fall of 2007, during budget discussions, the BoS approved a tentative loan in the amount of $1 million with a term not to exceed 10 years.  This is for the replacement of capital equipment.  The equipment has a life span of 15-25 years. 

Financing ideas were discussed at the 3/17/2008 BoS meeting.  Farley now recommends a loan with a straight line even payment - which will "help keep taxes as a stable level." - High repair costs are a factor in the equipment replacement.

The steps to be followed are that the loan go out to bid, that the successful bidder be determined and the bid awarded, that an ordinance be written, and finally that State approval is solicited from the DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development). 

Nicholas asked how long the process will take and if the DPW will have to wait until next year to get the equipment?  Farley said that with Internet technology, the process will be quick and it's likely that there will be 75-100 bidders.  He will notify local banks as well.  The process could take 1-1 1/2 months.  The delivery time for the equipment is six months to one year.  The new paver will have the quickest lead time.

Kline explained that steps have to be followed and one step cannot be done until the prior step is complete.  He said that the Local Government Unit Debt Act was adopted to keep municipalities from getting into trouble.  The act requires State approval for loans.  It requires that an ordinance be adopted that includes the note and terms.  The Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) must give its seal of approval.  He thought that it will probably be five months until until the approval from the State is received.

Egolf motioned for approval to put the loan out to bid.  Nicholas seconded.  The vote was 5:0.

For more, please see JD Malone's 4/18/08 Express Times articleMalone has all the particulars about what is to be purchased. 

Resolution #080414-1 Acceptance of Streets in Shawnee Ridge II (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline said that this development is complete and that Keystone Engineering has inspected the roads.  Upon acceptance the Township will be responsible to maintain the roads - Iroquois Drive, Mohican Drive, Seneca Lane, and Old Mill Road (section C).  The roads will be submitted to the State to qualify for "liquid fuels" credit. 

There was discussion about which stop signs will stay and which will go.  Hay said that the stop sign on Indian Trail (at Old Mill) will remain.  Signs stating that "opposing traffic does not stop" are ready to install. 

The Parks & Recreation committee will address signage for the recreation trail there as well as other trails in the Township.

Egolf made the motion to accept the streets and it was seconded by Nicholas.  The vote was 5:0. 

Kline said that changes to Township signs should be included in the ordinances - to make violations enforceable.  Chief Dorney has a list which will be reviewed at the next Public Safety meeting.  Howell asked that the committee look at parking on Old Sullivan Trail near the YMCA daycare entrance through to the Richmond intersection.  The road narrows there and people are not using the available parking in the lot.

The list will be submitted to the Board after committee review and the ordinance will be authorized at that time.

Municipal Complex CCTV System Upgrades (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that the Board has a thick document for their review - of suggested wishes and improvements, of the police, fire, and parks departments, to the CCTV system.  It was 1-1/2 years in the making.  Schnaedter said that the document needs a bond and insurance requirements in order to go out for bids.  Nicholas motioned that the BoS have a workshop/walking tour before the next meeting.  The motion was seconded by Egolf.  The walking tour/workshop is scheduled for 6:30 PM on May 1st.

Executive Session - Personnel Matters - The session concluded with two actions by the Board: 

  1. A Senior Crew Chief position was created in the Department of Public Works.
  2. A pay adjustment was given to the animal control officer.

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, April 13, 2008

Planning Forks' Future - PC Style

At the Planning Commission (PC) meeting on April 10th, in addition to the projects on the agenda, several non-agenda items of interest were discussed:

  • Solicitor Karl Kline reported that the Township was advised today that the challengers (Scott Gingold and the Residents Who Care) have dropped their appeal of the Township's granting of Conditional Use for the Weis Market.  Kline said that he expects to see some Weis Market site "action" in the next 30 to 60 days.  Read more in both Madeleine Mathias' (Morning Call) and JD Malone's (Express Times) articles.
  • PC Chairman Dean Turner asked Kline for an update on the BoS discussed farmland preservation November ballot referendum.  Kline explained that the Supervisors will have to adopt an ordinance in order for the referendum to get on the November ballot.  He said, too, that there are two ways to fund it, one through incurring debt (borrowing outright to buy land/development rights) and the other via tax increase.   There are three types of tax increase that can be used:
    • Real Estate Transfer Tax - Kline said that this does not appear to be open to the Township because of the way the money (2%) is shared.  The State gets 1/2 and the Township and EASD each get 1/4.  In order for this to work, the Township would have to get the EASD to take less. 
    • Earned Income Tax
    • Real Estate Property Tax
  • The next steps for the Comprehensive Plan were discussed.  Planner David Billings presented the PC members with a proposal to fine tune and enhance the current Comp Plan draft before its submission to the BoS - "based on our needs and with a vision to the future."  He said that the courses he is taking (required of all new PC members), have afforded him the opportunity to meet planners from other communities as well as see other comp plans.  Billings also said that he took the public input from the PC hearing to heart when crafting his proposal. Planner Vito Tamborrino said of the proposal that it is "food for thought - for the workshop on the 22nd."  Turner said that moving the plan forward will be discussed at the workshop.  Read Madeleine Mathias' (Morning Call) for more details.
  • Larry Kitson, Forks resident, commented on the Comprehensive Plan as a policy direction for future changes.  He suggested that the draft be amended to include a baseline water table.  The quality of the ground water and creek waters should be documented.  The wording added should protect the water table.  Kitson said too, that the building slowdown is an opportunity.
  • Jim Wideman, resident and former PC member, suggested an idea for Town Center Boulevard.  He said that there is excess parking for the strip malls on both sides and that this excess parking could be scaled back to open up Town Center to more retail stores.  His vision would be to cut out the through street and reroute the traffic into and out of both strip malls (where the entrances/exits are now) and to use the closed roadway as a pedestrian friendly area with more shops and a village atmosphere.  He compared what it could look like to the improvements made to the Lehigh Valley Mall and to the Promenade Shops.  Wideman said that the new area would have nicer architecture and would be an incentive to Giant and Falk (the owners of the strips.)

Among other things, the PC intends to review the process (going forward) for the Comprehensive Plan at its April 22nd workshop - 7 PM, Municipal Building.  If you have concerns or issues with the plan, this is the meeting to attend.

The project agenda items have been updated on the FAC Projects page.  Please read Madeleine Mathias' (Morning Call) article for more on the Stryker Brigade agenda item.

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, April 06, 2008

BoS Meeting 4/3/08

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The Supervisors devoted over an hour to hearing the Forks EMS and Suburban EMS discussion of how much is owed to Suburban and the plan the two groups may work out to make it right.  Please read the EMS articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) and, for notes on the rest of the meeting, see below.

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Chuss gave an update on the Comprehensive Plan progress.  He said that the Planning Commission (PC) will review the input from the public hearing, including the Ramblewood extension, at their workshop on April 22.  After the PC review, the plan will be sent to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission for review and comment and that it will likely be before the Board of Supervisors (BoS) in May. 

Chuss noted that the Comp Plan mentions using the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) to fund farmland preservation.  He suggested that it be put on the ballot in November.  He said that if the BoS agrees, the PC can address the issue and Kline can be asked to develop the steps necessary to get it on the ballot.  Planner Georgeann Wambold said that it is important and that most of those at the PC hearing thought it (the RETT) a good idea.  Chuss offered that another alternative, a 1/4% addition to the Earned Income Tax (EIT), is not a good thing to do in view of the tax pressures on residents. 

Planner David Billings said that (increasing the RETT to fund open space) is not a PC issue.  He recommended that the BoS pass a resolution this night or at least have Kline advise them on what to do.  Supervisor Howell suggested that it be given to the Finance and Administration standing committee for review so that they can iron down the best way to do it, settle on a rate, get advice from Kline on matters that might be part of the enactment, and make a recommendation to the BoS. 

Supervisor Egolf said that the next committee meeting is set for April 23 and he wondered about the time constraints.  Billings said that the Board of Elections told him that the Township has until three weeks before the (November) election to get it on the ballot.  Billings also said that the maximums allowed by law are .25% for the RETT, .25% for the EIT, and 2 mils for the Real Estate Tax.

Chuss noted that he wants it to go back to the PC because it is in the overall plan.  Howell said that it is a tax and not a planning issue.  Howell added that the PC can be advised that it's in committee and that they can join in their discussion.  And, as a tax, the BoS can probably "fast-track" it. 

Solicitor Kline noted that there are several kinds of taxes that can be used, the RETT, millage, and the EIT and that each have different impacts.  He said that this is a policy issue and someone has to decide which is the appropriate tax.  Howell said that after the BoS decides, a public workshop can be held by the PC or the Finance & Administration committee.

Township Manager Schnaedter suggested that if it goes first to the Finance & Administration committee, staff will have time to do research and project revenues for each of the options. Supervisor Nicholas said that she would like (Finance Manager) Jim (Farley) to look into it. 

The motion "to have the Finance & Administration committee investigate and draft a referendum for the November election that would look into developing a farmland preservation fund using RETT (for an example)" was initiated by Chuss and seconded by Egolf.  It passed 5:0.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote. Current outstanding debt is $7,893,692.

Chuss asked about the Traffic Study expense item ($45,782) and was told by Schnaedter that this was an ongoing traffic study that is now completed.  Chuss asked if there would be a new report in the future and Schnaedter said that there would be one.

Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the Township calendar for dates and times)

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported:
    • The Police Department (PD) has received plans/prices for the modular furniture.  He said that the furniture will cost $18,000 and that there is $45,000 in the budget.  Schnaedter and the police department will prepare a report for the BoS.
    • The county installed repeater has offered some improvement for the communications issue but the issue may have to be revisited if the improvement is not sufficient.
    • Four bids were received for the  Fire Department training tower.  Three of the bids are under $350,000.  At the April 15 committee meeting (5 PM) the preferred bidder will be selected.
    • Richard Bassett (Forks' Emergency Management Coordinator) is reviewing Forks plan/procedures and will have a new draft in May.  He will keep them in sync with the new plan being drafted by Northampton County.
    • A RFP (Request for Purchase) - for analysis of cameras & CCTV for the entire complex to see which need to be moved/relocated and which need to be replaced - needs some language from Kline.  Resident Jim Wideman asked, "Who will pay for the new cameras?"  Howell explained that the analysis is of the entire municipal campus and it will suggest reallocation and/or additional equipment.  Nicholas suggested a BoS tour to see how the cameras work and what areas are covered.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the next meeting is next Tuesday.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee's agenda is getting significant and that one meeting per month is not enough.  A second meeting will be held on the second Thursday at 4 PM (in addition to the regular meeting on the fourth Thursday at 4 PM).  Among the significant items being discussed are:
    • The access road at Gollub Park - construction is underway despite the rain and mud delays.  The path has been "etched in the forest."  Park use has been prohibited until the major foundation of the road is in place.  The crews will work on it until it is finished and there will be additional landscaping (and amenities such as benches) at the entrance. 
    • Miller and (DPW Manager) Roberts are conducting a survey of all parks and parks equipment - including toddler lots.
    • Up for future discussion are:
      • Satellite neighborhood parks - two sites are under consideration, the baseball park near Vista Estates and Penn's Ridge - one of the most densely populated developments in the township has no recreational facility.
      • A dog park at Lafayette Park.
      • Restroom facilities where required.
      • Amphitheater - the most significant project this year.
    • There are two major repairs to be done - the tennis and basketball courts - both are cracked and both are expensive to repair.  The decision to be made is whether to replace, reallocate, or repair them.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is on April 14 at 6 PM.  Nicholas announced that the newest Forks Quarterly is in the mail to residents.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the next meeting is scheduled for April 23 at 5 PM.  It will continue until they are finished.  On the agenda is the newly added farmland preservation referendum and the financial review of the 2007 budget.
    • Demo of New Audio Visual Equipment by Zoning Officer Tim Weis - Weis put the new smart board through its paces.  Supervisors were able to see the plans and annotations on the monitors in front of them.  The  audience was able to see the what the Supervisors were seeing too, on the large white board.  Future plans presented to the Township will be displayed in this new digital format.  

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that two years ago, when Tim Weis was the Emergency Management Coordinator, he (Weis) submitted an application for a hazard mitigation grant.  Funding has been granted for flooding remediation to the 3000-3900 block of Kesslersville Road.  The project will involve elevating the roadway and adding a culvert.  It will cost $250,000 and the grant will fund 75% of it.

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported on three of the current litigations against the Township:

  1. Weis litigation - Kline said that last month Judge McFadden (of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas) upheld the Township's granting of Conditional Use for the Weis Market.  Scott Gingold and the Residents Who Care (RWC) group have filed a new appeal - to the Commonwealth Court.  This could hold up the project for up to a year.  Weis Market's attorney is considering filing a petition (to the lower court) to force the appellants to post a delay bond - for the delay and for the increased construction costs over the year.  The bond may be for several hundred thousand dollars.  If the court deems that there is no really good reason for the new appeal (to the Commonwealth Court), it can require the bond - which, if the appellants lose, will be paid to Weis Market. - (Note:  see JD Malone 4/7/08 Express Times for more)
  2. KMRD procedural challenge - On March 24th, in a unanimous decision, the Forks Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) rejected the KMRD procedural challenge.  A written decision is being prepared.  Originally KMRD alleged that there were 18 defects in the process for the 2006 Zoning Ordinance.  At the first hearing session, KMRD's attorney dropped 17 of them. 
  3. Kings Farm subdivision - This plan was filed under the 2001 zoning ordinance by Dennis Benner, Nic Zawarski & Sons, and JT Maloney/Signature Homes.  The developers didn't really do any work to establish that there could be viable on lot septic systems for their site and after many time extensions, the Township rejected the plan.  On April 1, Judge Beltrami upheld the Township decision (large file).

Kline said that the litigation with KMRD is now entering its third year.  Originally he predicted that the KMRD zoning challenge (the ongoing one) might last five years.  He said that at this point, he predicts that it will last at least five years, if not several years more than that. 

"These KMRD cases show that when greedy developers try to force Forks Township to change its zoning to accommodate several thousand more houses in the Farmland Protection District, the Township is going to fight them every step of the way."  (Karl Kline.)  From the audience, "Here here!" and applause!

Kline went on to say that so far, "The ZHB and the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County have supported and upheld all of Forks Township's decisions in all of the KMRD litigation and all of the Weis Market litigation."

Howell said that the Township is deeply indebted to Solicitor Kline and to attorney Steven N. Goudsouzian for the fine representation they have offered and continue to offer to the Township.

Comments from the floor:

  • David Billings - said that he had intended to ask the BoS to adopt a resolution for an additional .25% increase to the RETT to help pay for farmland preservation but it was discussed at the beginning of the meeting.  He thanked Chuss for introducing it and the BoS for acting on it. 
  • Gregory DiNardo - said that his business, a mixed use office, warehouse, and construction operation, at 1500 Uhler Road was included in the Heritage Corridor District when the Township re-zoned ten years ago.  He would like it to be in the EC (Economic Center) District.  Howell suggested that he put his ideas in writing and present them to the PC at their April 22nd workshop where the PC will be discussing the Comprehensive Plan and public input from the hearing.


Administrative Policy - Legal and Engineering Services (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that a draft from the (Finance & Administration) committee  was in the BoS packets for consideration.  He said that basically it sets guidelines for the engagement of engineering and legal services for the members of the BoS, staff, and various Township committees.  Howell asked what the goal was.  Schnaedter explained that the policy is driven by economics and efficiency and is an attempt to eliminate repetition of effort by the various members of boards and committees.  Miller motioned to adopt the policy and Nicholas seconded.  The new policy passed unanimously. 


Economic & Development Committee Proposal to Transfer to Finance & Administration Committee for Study (C. David Howell, Supervisor) - Howell reported that he asked Egolf at the last Finance & Administration committee meeting to distribute this proposal to the committee members.  Howell said that it has been on his shelf for a number of months.  The proposal is regarding the establishment of an Economic & Development Committee.  Egolf thought that the BoS should be advised that the proposal has been made and that the BoS should be asked to reassign it to the committee for further study. 

Howell read a one page summary of the proposal.  He said that it is time that the BoS take a leadership role in the development of Forks.  Forks is feeling the financial impact of the slowing of residential development (fees paid by residential developers have declined significantly).  Forks has a an inventory of prime commercial property and Howell said that commercial development is the most attractive tax base that a community can have.  Commercial development does not fill the schools with kids and does not require the infrastructure and service levels that residential development requires. 

The mission would be to develop policies and initiatives (approved by the BoS) to promote and maintain commercial investment within the Town Center (TC) and EC Districts.  The committee would strive for a friendly and mutually beneficial environment between local government and the business community.  The committee would be composed of representatives of/from the BoS, staff, and representatives of the business community.

The motion to reassign this to the Finance and Administration committee was made by Howell and seconded by Chuss.  In discussion, Chuss said that he's been involved with economic development in Forks since 1993.  He was a member of that year's Comp Plan subcommittee and was active on the economic subcommittee for the new Comp Plan.  Chuss said that he believes there will be more support from the business community than expected and that the business community will really appreciate "something like this."

The motion passed unanimously. 

Sullivan Trail Business Park - Daycare & Office Buildings (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - The presenter, Jeff Ott of Ott Consulting, Inc. was the first non-staff person to use the new audio/visual digital equipment. 

The project is a minor subdivision of lot 5 in the Sullivan Trail Business Park, west of the Merchants Bank.  The developer wants to make two lots from one - 5A and 5B.  Lot 5A will house a 10,000 sq. ft. office building and lot 5B is for a branch of Kiddie Academy.  In order to reduce property taxes (and other costs), the lot division will be asymmetrical with more land going to lot 5B (in a flag lot shape) - that land is behind 5A. 

For Kiddie Academy, 42 two parking spaces will be paved and 42 will be unpaved but reserved for future parking should it be needed.  The land for the reserved parking will belong to the newly created lot 5B.  Kline stated that the ordinance requires that additional space be reserved so that it can be built when needed.  He said too, that the issue also involves a cross easement for the full movement driveway. 

Nicholas asked the obvious question:  What will happen if the daycare is no longer there?  Kline replied that the easements must be permanent easements.  Kline also said that the there should be enough security to put in the (reserved) parking and if a new company comes in, it will be a new use.  There was much discussion about sidewalks, detention basins, plantings, etc.

Kline offered that the main issues before the BoS are that this is a minor subdivision and that currently, the municipal improvements to the Sullivan Trail Business Park are not completed.  He said that the project cannot proceed until the developer completes the improvements and that in consideration of the land development for the daycare, permanent easements for the driveway and the reserved parking area must be obtained.  No development can be permitted on the reserved parking area and the Township can require security for up to one year after issuing the certificate of occupancy (CO).  The development must be in compliance with Keystone Engineering's letter and all fees must be paid before any building permits can be issued.

The developer's attorney, Terry Faul, said that the developer, Michael Goffredo, prefers to extend the letter of credit (LC) until the road top coating is completed and that will be after the Weis Market is built. 

Goffredo began site work on the Sullivan Trail Business Park in 2001.  The detention pond is not completed.  Kline suggested that the developer pay the Township to put in the "wearing course" (road surface) and other necessary site improvements.  In response, the Faul said regarding the detention pond dispute, that it was installed according to plan and that settling occurred.  He acknowledged that the settling must be repaired.  Hay said that the there were no low flow channel dimensions on the plan.  Goffredo said that he will get in there as soon as possible to make improvements to the channel.  The weather has been a factor.  He added that the tree plantings should be in by the middle of May (except on the Weis Market site).  The absence of installed street lights is a PennDOT delay as PennDOT must erect the standards. 

Kline remarked that the developer has sold almost all of the lots and that the uncompleted work is disturbing.  The fact that it is a preliminary plan gives time for Hay to work with the developer to insure that things get done before final plan comes back before the PC and ultimately back to the BoS for final approvals. 

Four motions were made by the BoS and all were approved unanimously:

  1. To approve the waivers as set forth in the Keystone letter of 3/7/2008. 
  2. Recommending preliminary approval of the minor subdivision (of lot 5 into lots 5A and 5B) subject to the condition that the subdivision plan cannot be recorded until all improvements in the existing Sullivan Trail Business Park are complete as determined by the Township Engineer - with the exception of the "wearing course" for which the developer will pay the cost to the Township as determined by the Township Engineer.  
  3. Recommending conditional preliminary plan approval of the daycare land development plan subject to the following conditions: 
    1. The developer will have to obtain the permanent easements from the owner of lot 5A for the main driveway and the reserve parking area.  Proof will need to be provided to the Township Solicitor. 
    2. As to the reserved parking area at the southeast portion of lot 5a, this shall initially be a grassed area and development is not permitted on this area.  If the Township subsequently requires the reserved area for parking as part of lot 5B, then this would have to be constructed and plan note to this effect must be placed on final plan. 
    3. No building permit would be allowed to be issued for 5B until all of the subdivision improvements for Sullivan Trail Business Park have been completed as determined by the Township Engineer (except the wearing course paving).  
    4. Compliance with all the terms and conditions set forth in the review letter by Keystone Consulting Engineers.  That would also include the standard rates for the recreation fees, capital improvement fees, and the sewer tap-in fee for commercial land development. 
  4. Recommending conditional preliminary plan approval of lot 5B, office building development.  Conditions of approval (are similar to 5A):
    1. The developer will have to provide the cross easements to the owner of lot 5A for the driveway and reserved parking):
    2. (Reserved parking area will) Initially be a grassed area.  Development will not be permitted on that parking area (plan note to that effect).
    3. The developer is not entitled to be issued a building permit for the office until all the improvements for the Sullivan Trail Business Park have been completed as determined by the Forks Township Engineer - taking out the paving.
    4. Compliance with all the terms and conditions set forth in the review letter by Keystone Consulting Engineers including the standard capital improvement fee, the rec fee, and the tap-in fee.

Animal Control Officer - change in Compensation (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Tabled because DPW Director Mark Roberts was absent.

Forks EMS Billing Issue (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - One full hour was devoted to the Forks EMS and Suburban EMS billing issues discussion.  Before the Board, the two EMS groups to agreed to work out a plan where Forks EMS will pay Suburban $10,000 of the $27,000 it owes and where Suburban may then take over the billings for ambulance services. If agreed, Suburban would not withhold a portion of monies due Forks EMS (to collect on the outstanding debt), but would pay them what is due them for services.  Forks EMS would repay Suburban the outstanding debt over time but stay current on current billings.

Per Medicare rules, only one ambulance invoice is allowed, no matter whether the service needed is BLS (Forks EMS is the Township's basic life support service provider and Suburban is the advanced life support provider) or ALS or a combination of the two. To date, Forks EMS has done the billing and failed to pay Suburban for its provided ALS services.  For more details on the EMS discussion, read both JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call).

There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.

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