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.

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