Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Class Act! - PC/BoS Joint Workshop - 7/10/08

The Forks Planning Commission (PC) showed that it's a "class act" at the joint meeting with the Supervisors on July 10th.  The meeting was set to review the latest draft Comprehensive Plan - a plan that has been in the PC's lap since the first discussions in October 2006.  Instead of being protective of the draft Plan they crafted and insisting that the latest draft is it, a finished Comprehensive Plan, the planners embraced the reasons for additional work. 

At the beginning of the joint workshop, Supervisor Howell explained that he was speaking only for himself and that he wants the new Comprehensive Plan to be the best plan it can be.  He said that the 1997 Comprehensive Plan did not serve the Township well.  And, he pointed out the 800 pound gorilla in the room - the lawsuits.  He said that the new draft is not yet the guide he was looking for.  In particular he didn't see that the Plan really preserved farmland and did not encourage agri-business.  He told the group that he wants to see a Plan that addresses the future and that clearly defines what Forks is and what "we want Forks to look like." 

Howell said that the Plan must give guidance to the Supervisors and Planners of the future.  He said that he and Supervisor Egolf looked at lots of other municipal comp plans and when they found the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's Comprehensive Plan, they knew they'd read a winner.  In terms of Forks' draft, Howell said that it needs reshaping and additional parts.  For example, there is no environmental program - it does not deal with solar panels or serve the "green" nature of Forks residents.  It has no provisions for an EAC, conservancies, or shade tree commissions.  Howell felt too, that the recreation section needs refinement and some corrections.  In all, he thought the draft Plan lacked "textural format and flow" and was, in essence, a narrative without substance. 

Planner Tamborrino asked Turner (PC Chair) how he thought the PC should (re)look at the Plan and what the procedure should be.  Tamborrino said that "it should be done deal when it's done." Turner said that the "macro" specifics need to become "micro" ones.


  • Planner Billings offered that the Plan needs a definite direction.  He recommended that the PC make the changes and then make the recommendations to the BoS.
  • Planner Castrovinci thought that the organization of the Plan was bad.
  • Supervisor Egolf said that the group should go back to URDC's original proposal.  He thought that the draft Plan could apply to any community in the country.  He said that the Plan's strength was its action plan and that instead of being at the end, it should be in the front and prioritized.  Egolf said that the Plan needs to be a usable and strong document much like the LVPC Plan. He felt that a smaller ad hoc committee should be formed.  The committee should use the LVPC Plan as a model.
  • Tamborrino offered that the shortcomings of the draft Plan may be a result of the committees because each committee wanted their work included and it brought in too much detail.  Solicitor Kline said that URDC had to deal with the committee's "pride of ownership."
  • Supervisor Nicholas said that the draft Plan contains too much detail and will be outdated in a year.  It should be a comprehensive plan and not a detailed document.  She felt that it is not yet "professional" and needs structure and format.  Nicholas added that the work done by the committees, although too detailed for the Comp Plan, belongs in five year plans and should be used.
  • Supervisor Miller said that he agreed with almost 100% of what has been said.  He added that the results from PC's bike path meeting a few weeks ago do not reflect what the Township has.  He thought too, that the new work should be done by smaller groups and that input from the Recreation Board and Athletic Association should be sought. 
  • Supervisor Chuss asked if he was "the only one who sees that the king is not wearing clothes?"  He said that "we need to put a stake in the ground and start the process."  And, he added that the Plan is what Zoning and SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) are based on.  Nicholas asked him why the BoS should throw another document out there that will be used against the Township in a suit.
  • Resident Jim Wideman said that the draft Plan is inconsistent with the KMRD lawsuit defense and that there are references in the draft Plan to farmland as "undeveloped" land.
  • Turner offered that 10 years is too long to wait for another re-do of the Plan and that it is a living document and should updated frequently.
  • Planner Dicker said that the PC should "put out a polished document."

The result of the night's workshop is that a committee consisting of two Planners and two Supervisors will be formed to re-work the draft Plan.  Both chairmen, Howell and Turner, will be on the committee.  An alternate from each body will also be chosen.  Of the PC members, both Billings and Tamborrino volunteered.  One will be primary and one will be the alternate.  The BoS will make their selections for the other member and alternate at its meeting on July 17th.

Public input can be sent via email to either Howell or Turner.  The meetings will be on the Township website calendar.

Aside:  This was a cordial and productive joint workshop.  The PC, and its chairman, Dean Turner, are to be commended for being open minded and understanding the importance of what they were charged to deliver when they undertook the Comprehensive Plan project.  The BoS is also to be commended for reading the draft document so thoroughly and for finding ways to make it better.  As Tamborrino said, "It should be a done deal when it's done."

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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