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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