Sunday, March 08, 2009

BoS Meeting & Liquor License Hearing - notes - 3/5/2009

Liquor License Transfer Hearing - 6:30 PM

Attorney Joseph Piperato represented the applicant, the Colosi Company, LLC,  before the Board of Supervisors in the company's application for an inter-municipal liquor license transfer for its planned new restaurant in the former My Little Gypsy Rose restaurant/building on North Delaware Drive.

Solicitor Karl Kline explained that per PA law, receiving municipalities (of the transferring liquor license) must hold a public hearing

Brandon Colosi and his mother, June Colosi are the principals in the Colosi Group, the new owner of the 1600 North Delaware Drive property.  Brandon testified that the only liquor license available in Forks belongs to the former My Little Gypsy Rose and the price asked for it is far above market and paying for it would result in less money available for property improvements.  The license they are transferring (into Forks) from Bethlehem is priced at market.

The style of the restaurant will be family friendly fine dining.  The menu has not yet been set and a partner with restaurant experience is being sought.  The banquet facility and both bars will be retained.  The septic system is being replaced and the spring water has tested satisfactorily.  The building is being brought up to code.

Chairman Howell suggested that since the restaurant site is the only one in Forks Township with onsite septic and spring water, that it may be prudent to test the water frequently and post the results in the restaurant.

Brandon and June Colosi hope to open the restaurant for business in June.


Regular Meeting (agenda)

Supervisors voted this night to recommend the inter-municipal liquor license transfer for Colosi Company, LLC.  The public hearing was held at 6:30 PM. 

And, after much impassioned discussion, the Board voted to prepare specifications and seek bids for the first of Forks' neighborhood parks - destined for Penn's Ridge.  Please read Tony Nauroth's Express-Times article for more on the Penn's Ridge neighborhood park discussion.

Also, the Board learned that Judge Emil Giordano of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas "dismissed with prejudice," the KMRD appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board's (ZHB) procedural challenge decision.  Please read Christopher Baxter's Morning Call article for more on Judge Giordano's decision in favor of Forks Township.

Public Comments (non-agenda)  - none

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Miller - announced that the Community Center is donating two pieces of exercise equipment to the Fire Department.  The equipment is "ready to be taken and is in 100% top condition." 
  • Supervisor Nicholas - said that on Sunday, she attended Cub Pack 21's Arrow of Light honors ceremony.  She said that this is the highest honor a cub scout can earn and on behalf of the Township, she gave the five achievers recognition certificates.

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.  The Township's current outstanding debt is $8,364,787. 

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 17th at 8 AM.  He said that the committee meetings are open to the public and last 45 minutes to one hour.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee will meet next Tuesday at 7:30 AM.  The upcoming agenda will be the same as the last meeting's agenda, that is, reviewing the final draft of the five year plan, discussion on the feasibility of a new public works building, and discussion of upcoming projects. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that the next meeting will by on Monday, March 9th at 6 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - reported that there was no meeting since the last Supervisors meeting and therefore, there is no report.  Township Manager Schnaedter offered that the next meeting is Monday at 5 PM.  He reminded the Board that the website vendor will be present to address the comments received from the Supervisors and staff.  Howell added that if the public has any suggestions for website changes, they should be sent to Schnaedter.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said the committee will meet next Wednesday, March 11th at 5 PM.  The agenda includes looking at last month's finances and to begin work on a three year plan.  She said that if anyone would like an agenda (and/or minutes), to let her know via email and she will send one.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that his written report was before the Supervisors.  Howell inquired if he had heard from Senator Wonderling regarding his Forks office hours.  Schnaedter said that he believes the Senator will hold hours in the Community Center beginning on March 17th and every two weeks for at least two months to see what the response is like.  As soon as the specific times and dates are known, they will be posted on the Township website.

Engineer's Report - Hay - asked the Board for its "blessing" to do sewer work on Old Mill (to replace 4000 lineal feet and 5 manholes), on Meco (to replace 1800 lineal feet of force main) and on Red Barn (to replace 350 feet of gravity line.)  Howell asked how traffic will flow and Hay said that there will be flagging, particularly on Sullivan Trail because it involves a PennDOT permit.  Work will begin after the morning rush hour.  Hay added that Old Mill will be "a little dicier" because the sewer lines are "all over the place." 

Chuss said that an email was received from PennDOT yesterday regarding the Meco/Sullivan traffic light.  He asked Hay if he knows what will happen if Mr. Leiser does not sign the agreement and if there is a time limit on it.  Schnaedter noted that he and Zoning Officer Tim Weis met with Mr. Leiser today.  He said that Mr. Leiser has been on vacation and has opened and reviewed the letter he got from PennDOT.  Schnaedter said that Mr. Leiser appears to have no significant issues.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that he was pleased to bring good news to the Board in the KMRD procedural challenge case.  The oral arguments were before Judge Giordano several weeks ago.  KMRD argued that the processes followed in enacting all zoning ordinances since 1983 had procedural defects. 

Kline said that the ZHB found the 2006 Zoning Ordinance process to be valid and therefore there was no need to look back at others.  Today, the written decision of Northampton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Giordano affirming the ZHB decision was received.  The case was "dismissed with prejudice." 

Kline added that he does not think that it's the last step.  KMRD has 30 days to file yet another appeal, this time it would be with the Commonwealth Court.  That court sits in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh. 

Howell addressed Kline about another issue, a topic at the Planning Commission's (PC) last workshop.  He said he was contacted by a newspaper reporter about the old Laneco (final approval 7/21/05) lot development plan submitted by One Up, LLC which called for the development of the Laneco property with three component buildings and the removal of the old building - and reserved space behind it for additional Community Park parking (in lieu of recreation fees.)  Howell said that he doesn't know what the next step is for the PC nor what the sanctity is of the previous approval. 

Kline said that he was not at the PC workshop and has had no discussions with the developer since the plan approval several years ago.  He recalled that the plan called for carving out two lots along the front (of the parking lot) for a bank and a fast food restaurant.  The developer said that he could not find a company willing to take a large sized building (like the Laneco) and therefore was going to tear it down.  The Township has no One Up LLC developer's agreements and no security has been posted.  Kline said that he will have to look at his file to see where it went after the plan approval was given.  He will advise both the BoS and the PC as to what he learns.

Chuss suggested that the developer is looking to fix up the old Laneco and that perhaps all that will be needed is a building permit. 

Kline reminded the Board that he hasn't spoken to anyone (about this site) but if all the developer is seeking to do is upgrade the existing building, all that would normally be needed is a building permit.  Kline added that he knows that the developer got more than that (in the approved plan) including subdividing the parcel into two lots in the front.  He added, "They can't pick and chose the good things and ignore what they'd rather not pay for."  Kline said that if One Up has submitted an application, he (Kline) should look at it in light of the site's prior approval.

Chuss said, "Irregardless of what they do, I think it's fantastic that finally that old Laneco building is going to be addressed."

Howell said that if the developer goes the route of improving the existing building, ("advice to staff") it behooves the Township never to issue a building permit for that building without a hazmat review of it.  He said that he was in it because the Township had to take action to weld the side door shut.  One Up was unresponsive to correcting the vandalism that was occurring.  Howell said that he was sorry he was in it.  He was sorry he breathed the air in it.  Every fluorescent bulb in the building is broken.  Howell said, "The mercury particles in the bulbs are excited through electrical current to create light."  He added that workmen should not enter that building with the idea that they are just cleaning it up.  Its interior should be made safe before any work is done.


Crop farming lease for Remaly tract with Michael Rinaldi (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that this is a two year lease for 2009 and 2010 for the Township owned Remaly tract.  Michael J. Rinaldi is the farmer.  He will pay the Township $55/acre ($2915 per year).  The lease includes a provision that if the Township needs some of the land in the second year, the rent will be prorated accordingly.  My Rinaldi has already signed the lease and paid the rent for 2009.  The lease was approved in a 5:0 vote.


Liquor License Transfer (Karl Kline, Solicitor) -  Howell explained that there was public hearing at 6:30 where the facts and circumstances of Colosi Company's wish to transfer a liquor license into the Township from Bethlehem to its new restaurant at the former My Little Gypsy Rose.  There was extensive discussion at the hearing. 

The Board can only recommend or not recommend approval to the PA Liquor Control Board (LCB).  It cannot grant liquor licenses.  

The Board voted to recommend approval (to the PA LCB) and found no adverse effects on the "welfare, health, peace, and morals of the community."  The vote was 5:0.  Kline will prepare a written resolution for the next meeting.

Penn's Ridge Recreation Area (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay showed the Board several sketches of different configurations for the Penn's Ridge neighborhood park.  Presently it is a detention pond and open space.  The land was deeded to the Township by the developer, Omega Homes, in lieu of recreation fees.  According to Kline, the Township can use it for recreation.

Howell asked how many homes are in Penn's Ridge.  Hay said that it was built in 14 phases and that there are close to 500 homes.  He added that there are 120 homes in the built-out Upstream Farms age restricted development next door.

There was discussion about the location of the tot lots and of the basketball court.  Hay noted that the area is fairly level and the Board can configure the park any way it chooses.  Hay said that the sketches show fencing around the basketball court and not around the tot lot.  He recommends landscaping. 

Chuss said that the area was intended as a detention pond and questioned the flow of stormwater.  Hay assured him that it is not flowing across the proposed park area.

Howell asked if there was enough room for a family to set up a volley ball court.  Hay said that there is plenty of room.

Egolf offered that a cost of $34,161 was estimated by last year's Parks & Recreation standing committee preliminary research and included swing sets, picnic tables, a small basketball court, and more.  He said that he met with DPW Director Roberts, Hay, Schnaedter, and Miller at the site.  Roberts said that Public Works can do the earthwork and excavating in preparation for the basketball court, the non-critical work for the tot lot, and also the final installation of mulch and other things like that. 

Nicholas asked if anything was sent out to the neighbors?  She said that the Township does get complaints and would hate to have spent $34,000 only to find that the park was a disaster.  She also said that she heard some parents say that they didn't want basketball next to the tot lot.

Egolf said that he's heard from residents that they want a tot lot and also, he noted that there is a problem in the neighborhood with individual portable basketball units, some being set up in the roads and some set up next to each other.  Neighborhood reaction is that it would be nice to have a common place to play basketball.

Chuss said that two people appeared before the BoS stating that they did not want a basketball court.  He added that another was very adamant about it. 

Chuss said that it (a basketball court) is a negative environment for people who don't have kids and he wouldn't want it imposed on him.  The noise and the traffic...  Chuss said that he talked with almost everyone on the Recreation Board and they wanted to know why more basketball courts weren't being installed in "common areas" instead of in a neighborhood park.

Egolf suggested that they "get their story straight" because just two weeks ago at the last meeting of the Parks & Recreation committee, the Recreation Board spokesperson fully endorsed this plan.  Egolf reminded Nicholas that she was there.

Chuss said that he wouldn't want it (the basketball court) 50 feet from his home and that it is not fair to the people who live there.  He said that he can hear, in the summertime, the noise from the pick-up games in the Community Park.  He said he can also hear kids arguing, cheering, laughing...

Egolf said that he thought it was very positive for kids to stay in town and be just down the street from home.  He said, "That bouncing ball, those cheering kids...  I think that's a healthy environment."  There are 500 homes in Penn's Ridge and lots of kids and they need places to play.  Howell added that there is not an appropriate trail system to get kids to the central park and allowing street play in the volume being seen will become an issue.  He said, too, Forks, compared to national surveys on basketball courts, is totally under-served.

Howell said that a basketball court at Braden and one at Meco would be nice but they are not neighborhood parks, they are destination parks.  The Penn's Ridge park will allow people to recreate closer to home.

Howell said that people complaining about noise are selfish/self indulgent people and with the economy in shambles, people to want recreate near home.  Vacations are out of the question.  He added that the new court surfaces absorb noise.  Howell also said that the whole idea that it's going to attract an undesirable element is ridiculous.  He said that one Supervisor is balking at the expense and another at the noise.  In the pipeline are other neighborhood parks, restrooms - all more expensive than this park - and none of which involve taxpayer money.  He asked how the Board can deal with spending a lot more money building an amphitheater?

Nicholas said that she is not balking at the price, she simply does not think that people know the park is coming.  In her opinion, there will be more acceptance if the people know what they are going to get.  She  added that informed people make better decisions.

Howell reminded her that the Board had a workshop on the subject and it was well attended.

Chuss said that there are two outside courts in the Township.  The one in the park is full on summer evenings.  The other is at Forks Elementary School (and is being refurbished).  Chuss said that this one at Penn's Ridge will draw people from outside the development.

Egolf said that the Township got a petition from Vista Estates residents who would like to have a recreation area so that their kids don't have to cross Sullivan Trail and that they can get to on their own - and on their bikes.

Note:  This discussion went on for nearly another 30 minutes.  At times it was very emotional. 

Discussion ended with a vote of 4:1 (Chuss was the nay) to prepare bid specifications for the (not to be lighted) basketball court and to move forward with the purchase of the other items through the PA Co-stars program.

Before the vote, David Billings (PC) suggested that a final plan be developed, complete with rules.  He said that people will want to know how the park is to be used.  Howell said that the Parks & Recreation and Public Safety committees are working on park rules.

Dean Turner (PC) commented that he thinks that neighborhood parks are a great idea.  There are some densely populated Township developments.  He said, too, that he lives across from Forks Elementary and it's wonderful to hear kids laughing.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a personnel issue.  It was not attended by Solicitor Kline.  No action was taken and the meeting was adjourned.

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