Sunday, April 05, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 4/2/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Forks Supervisors learned that Waste Management has agreed to a one year contract extension (at the same price) and that KMRD has, as expected, filed an appeal of Judge Giordano's ruling on the Procedural Challenge.  The next stop for it will be the Commonwealth Court.

However, the lion's share of BoS time was spent in discussion of the playground equipment purchase for the first of Fork's neighborhood parks.  The discussion ran the gamut of the virtues and vices of neighborhood parks, teenagers, Easton's park problems, the as yet unfinished Comprehensive Plan, and even an implication that the standing committees are not working.  It lasted an hour.

Please read Lynn Olanoff's Express Times article for more on the Penn's Ridge Park discussion.

The meeting was attended by seven EAHS students who where there to fill a government course requirement.

Public Comments (non-agenda) 

Fernando Cabrera of Cara Court spoke on behalf of the 59 homeowner members of the Lafayette Park Green homeowners association.  He said that he brought two issues to the Board.  The first was a safety issue about the intersection of Meco Road/Thomas Drive/Jamie Court.  The association wants a stop sign there, east and west.  He said that the road is almost a drag strip and it is a school bus stop area used by 25-30 children

The second issue was a request for an ordinance to address the storage of abandoned vehicles (or vehicles in a state of disrepair) on private property.  Mr. Cabrera said that homeowners' properties were devaluing already because of the market and an abandoned vehicle in the neighborhood doesn't help.  The police department had already told him that there is no current ordinance and their hands are tied.  The vehicle, a pick-up truck with a cap, is registered, insured, and inspected - but its owner has deflated the tires and left it in the driveway at (he believes) 90 Thomas Drive.

The homeowners association has levied fines and the owner pays them when a lien is about to happen.

Mr. Cabrera is in property management in NJ and PA.  He said that his firm has helped municipalities craft such ordinances and he would be happy to assist in this process.  Howell asked for his business card.

Regarding the speeding issue, Chuss suggested that homeowners see Chief Dorney to get some of the SLOW DOWN signs.  Dorney said that they still have a few available.

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Miller - spoke to the success of the Downtown Easton Merchants' Initiative held (March 15th) at the Community Center.  The fair showcased Easton merchants' offerings and was busy all day. The merchants were very pleased. He reported, too, that the two day Egg Show (March 28-29) was very crowded and the exhibitors were pleased with the turnout and the facility.  They will be back again next year.  Miller said that it was a "win-win" for the Township and for all the exhibitors at the show.  He added that he was told that the money they made on Saturday alone was more than they made in a two day show last year.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf (after a side note that Miller was a "good egg") 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 $8,346,476. 

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 committee's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 8:00 AM.  The public is welcome to attend.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the Board has copies of the five year plan drafts for Public Works.  He said that the did a "kind of sanity check on them" and he thought overall they looked very good - outstanding.  He asked the Supervisors to look at the drafts and make comments or suggestions.  The committee will review the comments at its next meeting with the goal of getting the plans as close to final as possible before BoS discussion and adoption.  DPW Director, Mark Roberts, noted that the final draft of the sewers and facilities plan is ready but he did not like the format of the final draft and is fixing it.  He will have it for the next meeting.  Chuss said that the next committee meeting is on Tuesday, April 14th at 7:30 AM.  The committee will have the initial information for the potential new DPW garage.  The report will be sent to the BoS by the end of the month, or at least by the next BoS meeting.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that there have been no meetings since the last BoS meeting.  The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 13th at 6 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee's next meeting will be on Monday, April 13th at 5 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee's next meeting will be Wednesday, April 8th at 5 PM in the Municipal Building meeting room.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that he received notification from the Northampton County Department of Administration that the grant application drafted by (then) Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Weis has been "successful."  It is for mitigation of flooding on Kesslersville Road.  The project estimate is $250,000.  Forks' (match) portion is 25% or approximately $62,000.

Howell said that the project is for a stretch of Kesslersville north of Newlins that will be raised with drainage going under it - along the natural swale.  He added that it will be a great benefit to the community after heavy rainstorms.

Schnaedter said, too, that the newsletter is at the publishers and he hopes to have the proofs shortly.

Nicholas asked Schnaedter to comment on the Waste Management contract.  He said that Solicitor Kline has a copy and is putting an agreement together for the Board.  It will be a regular agenda item at the next meeting.

Egolf asked who will be attending the April 7th (free) Energy Forum?  Schnaedter said that he and Tim Weis will be attending - and any Supervisors who wish to go.  Schnaedter said that he knows Weis is excited about it.

Engineer's Report - Hay - no report.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that he has prepared a small agreement for a one year extension to the Waste Management contract.  Waste Management has agreed to hold the rate for one year, from September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2010 and the agreement allows the parties to extend the contract with two additional one year terms.  He has sent the agreement to Waste Management for signature.  When he gets it back, he will put it on the agenda for Board consideration.

Kline said, too, that he attended a pre-construction conference this week for the Kiddie Academy (going in at Sullivan Trail Business Park).  The project is finally going to start in the spring. 

And, Kline told the Board he is "not surprised" (but is disappointed) that KMRD has filed an appeal of Judge Giordano's ruling on the Procedural Challenge.  KMRD has lost it twice, once before the Zoning Hearing Board and once before the local courts.  It will now go to the Commonwealth Court. 

Kline said that his opinion is that this challenge as well as the substantive challenge are examples of greedy developers suing the Township to try to force zoning changes that would provide them with a "multimillion dollar windfall."  The cases have nothing to do with affordable housing since they had approval for affordable housing and they chose not to build it.  The developers allege that they are interested in preserving farmland but nothing can be "farther from the truth" since they are proposing 3,000 units in the Farmland Protection District.

In closing, Kline said, "I want to make it clear to everybody, that the Board and the Township intends to continue to vigorously defend against these challenges to the Forks Township Zoning Ordinance."

Chuss asked what reasons have been given for the appeal and Kline said that all that has been filed so far is a notice of appeal saying "We're appealing."   He guesses that they are using the old reasons "plus a few more indicating that Judge Giordano didn't know what he was doing - in more legal terms than that."

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Approval of Playground Equipment – Penn's Ridge (Bob Egolf, Supervisor) - Egolf briefed the Board on the history of the neighborhood parks concept, in particular, tot-lots.  The concept originated last year with the Parks & Click to enlarge Recreation Standing Committee under Howell.  The first to be solely a Township park is Penn's  Ridge.  (Egolf noted that the Township did contribute to the playground equipment at the Forks Elementary School last year.)

Egolf said that he and Nicholas have come up with the plan for Penn's Ridge and it has been widely distributed.  He said that the Upstream Farms neighbors "have been interested and concerned about the impact on their neighborhood."  And, he added, that both he and Schnaedter as well as others have spoken to them.  They understand the reason for the park and like the fact that the basketball court will be as far away from their homes as possible.

Egolf said that he is asking for Board approval for the tot-lot equipment purchase.  He described two pieces of playground apparatus, one for "really little folks" ages 2-5 and the other for ages 5-12.  The one for the older children will have climbing ladders and an overhead gym - plus a few other things.  There will be a seesaw and swing sets with infant seats and regular belt seats.  Weis showed slides of the type of equipment to be purchased.

Egolf said that he is also asking the Board for approval to get the play equipment installed by the manufacturer.  He said that it is a "long and arduous" process to get this all installed in a timely manner, and he feels that it would be best done by the manufacturer.

Howell asked what other peripheral items might be included at no charge.  Egolf said that the offer for this month only (from the supplier) is probably one jumping truck/car.  Last month there were other items offered.

Nicholas asked about bike racks.  Egolf said that he suggests that they don't invest in any since his experience is that the kids are right there and they don't use them.  They simply let their bikes lie in the grass.  Nicholas then asked about the sandbox and Egolf said that he has not yet been able to locate one that does not have removable corner seats.  The removable seats disappear overnight.

Sandy Hanks (resident) asked if the price was still $64,000?  Egolf said that it is a bit that under but he is only talking about the play lot equipment.  The basketball court must be put out for bid in order to get a price for it.  He noted that the money for the neighborhood parks is coming from developer paid impact fees.  Builders have given money or land or both, specifically for this type of expenditure.  And, that account has more than adequate funds to do neighborhood parks.

Howell asked the total cost of the play equipment.  Egolf answered that it costs $26,026 and that installation will be an additional $9,617. 

Howell then asked Finance Manager Farley if the installation money can come out of the impact fee account.  Farley was unsure about the prevailing wage rate requirement.  Kline said that if the equipment is in the (PA) COSTARS program, negotiations can be done.  The Township is not going out for bid.

Howell noted that the play lot (on the plan) seems larger than before.  Egolf said that it is.  It was 40 ft X 40 ft and now it is doubled to 40 ft X 80 ft on the vendor representative's recommendation - in order to accommodate the two pieces of equipment.

Howell asked about a barrier between the parking lot and the tot-lot - to keep cars from crossing through.  Roberts said that the DPW could do that and Hay said that there is curbing there.

Nicholas asked Chief Dorney for his opinion on trees all around the edge.  Dorney said that there seems to be plenty of space between the trees.  Hay offered that the trees in the plan are deciduous and not pine.  Egolf explained that the branches do not go all the way to the ground.

Howell said that he recalled that when Linda Hill talked to the Board about the play structure at Forks Elementary, interconnecting tubes were not to be permitted because a child inside is not visible.  Instead they used a walkway.  Egolf said that he would talk with the vendor's rep about that.

Next, Chuss voiced what he said were the concerns of residents with whom he has spoken.  He said he'd be "remiss" if he didn't bring their concerns to the Board.  He said that residents have expressed their concerns to him and that the majority are against "this" although many support it.  Chuss said that he doesn't think this has been communicated well to residents.  He bases this on what he termed the confusion and disinformation that he's encountered over the past few weeks regarding plans to put a park in Penn's Ridge.

He narrowed the concerns to four:

  • The land use is being changed from detention pond to recreation with structures on it.  Chuss said that developers are required by zoning to notify people who live within 300 feet of land use changes.  He thought it would have been "common sense courtesy" to follow the guidelines of the zoning ordinance and notify Penn's Ridge residents. Chuss thought that nearby residents should have been notified of this meeting so that they had the opportunity to come and raise any concerns that they  have or to get questions answered.  (He said that he knows residents can come to any meeting.)
  • Chuss said he felt that issues from the last meeting were not adequately addressed.  Specifically he mentioned talk of increased traffic, increased noise, and illicit or illegal behavior on "this property."  He said it's hard to identify who "these people" are since "they come from anywhere and anywhere."  They are "people who use abusive or offensive language in the playgrounds."  Vandalism... users of illegal drugs... and the potential that gangs could possibly meet.  He said that "maybe this won't happen... and probably won't happen, but there is a good chance."  Chuss said that the Community Park is facing vandalism of the soda machine and to the scoreboard and there was even an attempt to steal the goal posts when the price of metal was high last year.
  • Chuss said that for him, "This is a complete and total about face regarding the idea of neighborhood parks in general."  Developers are required to provide a percentage of their land for recreation or make a contribution to the recreation fund.  He said that over the years, "people in this room" have said that they did not want to take the land, they wanted money added to the recreation fund.  The money could then be spent at the Township's discretion and also, the Township did not want neighborhood parks scattered all over the Township.  He said that the reasons were maintenance concerns, management and upkeep, and policing.  He doesn't think this change has been given adequate consideration.  But the issue that bothers him the most is the using of the $1.9 million recreation fund money without an overall plan for it.  He said it is a finite fund.  He feels that it should be spent "for everyone in the Township and not just for particular neighborhoods... or what certain people in the Township want." 
  • Chuss then said that he never understood that the purpose of the Standing Committees was for the initiation and moving forward of ideas that Supervisors have.  He thought that the idea of the committees was to review items that came from department heads and various boards for initial feedback before communicating them to the Board.

Howell clarified the role of the Standing Committees.  He said it was his proposal to the Board two years ago and that he knows he sent a copy to Chuss.  Howell said that "part of the role of the subcommittee is in fact to overview and supervise indirectly on behalf of the Board a certain function of government...  It serves as a fact finding body to do and fact find on those matters directed by the Board... to make recommendations back to the Board." 

Howell said that he presented the neighborhood parks proposal to the Board and the Board referred it to Parks & Recreation.  It has now come back to the Board, as it should have.  To the issues of parks and the planning of parks, Howell deferred to Kline.

Kline said that under the MPC (Municipal Planning Code) the Township can require that developers set aside land for recreation.  It cannot force developers to pay fees but it can get fees in lieu of land.  The developers pay the fees because often the land is worth more than the money.  This give municipalities some control over where parks are to be located.  In the case of Forks, in most instances, the Township has taken the money, a per lot fee on both residential and commercial developments.  This way, the Township decides the appropriate place to locate the recreational facilities.

Howell addressed Chuss' comment about parks as a venue for crime and gangs.  Howell said that it sounds like every time the Board addresses a neighborhood park, Chuss will say that there will be crime, drug use, and gang activity.  He said that the developer for Vista Estates gave land and the Township put a ball field there.  He asked Chuss if he will object to a tot-lot there?  Chuss indicated that it's a ball field.  Howell asked if neighborhood kids could go there and fly kites, play pick-up games, smoke cigarettes... To each, Chuss answered, "Absolutely." 

Howell asked Chief Dorney if he will have trouble policing tot-lots.  Dorney said it will be just another area to patrol.  Police patrols already go through Penn's Ridge so this will just be a route arrangement to do an "eyeball."

Howell said that the parks are a venue for children and parents and that it is very selfish to object putting a recreation area in other than the Community Park because it might be a "venue for crime."  Howell said that one of the Penn's Ridge residents asked, when he learned that there was going to be a basketball court there, if it would be placed in such a way that he couldn't put up a volley ball net.  Howell said that it is obvious that the area has been adopted by the residents for recreation.

Egolf gave Chuss credit for thinking it (his concerns) through.  However, he said, the area is already a recreation area.  Chuss said that it is a designated detention pond on the plan.  Egolf said that there's a sign there that says it's a recreation area.

Egolf then asked Chuss how he voted on the $10,000 donation to the school for recreation equipment.  Chuss said that he voted yes because it was an upgrade to an existing park and because another group (not the Township) was doing it.  Egolf asked about the behavior there.  Chuss said there are adults there and there are security officers at the school.  Egolf said that it is open to the public during non-school hours - when there are no security officers nor adults present.  It is open to the public on weekends and all summer long.  He pointed out that it looks like a double standard.

Egolf said that in the planning of the Penn's Ridge park, the committee has had conversations with Chief Dorney about patrols, enforcement, and signs.  As to Chuss' "about face" reference, Egolf said that years ago, the Township had 5,000 residents and today it has 16,000 residents  Many young couples have young children and they deserve recreation.  The Recreation Board approves of this park as well. 

Lastly, Egolf said that the entire amount of money needed for the neighborhood parks program was outlined and brought before the Board last year. 

Nicholas said, "When our country comes to the time when we punish the good for the few that are bad, it's a sad day."  The economy is bad.  There are bad people out there.  As far as planning, the Township is planning an amphitheater for the Community Park and has talked about other things as well.  In addition, the committee has talked with the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association and has now brought this to the Board for a vote.  Kids need a place to play.

Chuss said that two of the Easton parks are having problems with irresponsible behavior and gang activity.  He said that he wants an overall plan for the $1.9 million and he wants the Comprehensive Plan in place.  He referred to this as "ready, set, spend."  He thinks it is fiscally irresponsible.

Howell said that "this is not a midnight construction of a park."  It is being done in daylight.  He suggested that Chuss' cadre and army of defenders come to the meeting when the basketball court is discussed. 

Miller said that he was put in charge of recreation 20 years ago - because no other Supervisor wanted it.  He said that back then Panuccio gave land in his developments to the Township.  That land is the swale and a detention pond, neither of which is suitable for recreation.  After that land gift, the recommendation was to collect money instead.  The developers were happy to pay it.  Some of that money paid for the current Community Park and Community Center.  Recently the Township did request (and receive) five acres of land adjacent to the Community park from Signature Homes.  As to the Penn's Ridge park, "nobody knows for sure what will happen."  The Recreation Board said "let's give this one a try and see how it works."  There are problems in the Community Park.

Nicholas said that when asked for a building lot for recreation, the developer Jim Seitz gave it... in addition to the fees.  Chuss said that Mr. Seitz even offered playground equipment.

Nicholas then asked the EAHS students who were present what they thought.  One of them said that the basketball court at the Community Park is always crowded and that the leagues take it over.  Also, the big kids kick the little kids off the court and when you are 10 years old, you don't argue.  He thinks the basketball court at Penn's Ridge is a good idea.  And, he guarantees that more kids do drugs in big open fields than in parks with parents around or checking on their kids.  He also said that he has many friends who are not from Forks and kids like to play with their friends.  They try to find places to play (basketball) somewhere in the middle.

Miller said that the Recreation Board is asking for another basketball court in the Community Park. 

Howell offered that "public parks are public parks."

Egolf made the motion to approve the expenditures for the tot-lot as laid out - and the installation - for a total of $35,643 with a cap on it not to exceed that amount.  Nicholas seconded the motion.  Howell noted that the interest on the developers' funds goes back into the general revenue fund and if it did not, this park could have been paid for with the interest (and not with the principal.)

The vote was 4:1 with Chuss casting the nay.

NEW BUSINESS

Resolution # 090402-1 Acceptance of roads in Frost Hollow Knolls, Phases 8 and 9 (Karl Kline, Solicitor) -  Kline reported that the Hay's office has inspected the roads and that they are okay to be accepted.  The approved resolution allows the roads to be qualified for Liquid Fuels Tax Credits from the State.  The resolution passed with a 5:0 vote.

Ordinance 312 – Vacation of portion of Glover Road (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that JG Petrucci, the developer of Fort James III, built a new section of Glover Road that now connects at a 90 degree angle to Braden Boulevard.  The northern section that formerly connected to Uhler Road no longer exists.  In these situations (when the Township vacates a road), the adjoining property owners get the land to the middle of the road.  The ordinance also calls for granting deeds to the adjoining landowners, John Ackerman and JG Petrucci.  In discussion Planner Larry Kitson asked when the cones would be removed.  He noted that there is a power pole in the middle of Braden at the Uhler intersection.  Hay said that the PennDOT work is not yet finished.  The vote to advertise the vacation of the former roadway was 5:0.  The ordinance will be considered for acceptance at the April 16th meeting.

NON-AGENDA ITEM

Grant Application Public Hearing Request (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter explained that at the last meeting he received authorization to submit a park planning grant to the PA Department of Natural Resources. One of the conditions of the application is that a public hearing must be held before the grant application can be submitted.  The application deadline is April 23rd.  The next BoS meeting is scheduled for April 16th.  The Board discussed the fact that a workshop for Planning Commission (PC) applicant interviews was already scheduled for that night at 6:30 PM. 

The conflict was resolved when, with a 5:0 vote, the Board agreed to move the PC interviews to a workshop before its meeting on May 7th.  Another 5:0 vote resulted in the scheduling of a public hearing for the park planning grant on April 16th at 6:30 PM.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a real estate land acquisition.  No action was taken by the Board during the executive session.

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.

2 comments:

Penn's Ridger said...

Penn's Ridger Again

What's wrong with you Mr. Chuss. You came up with all kinds of reasons to say no to a park and show your disdain of recreation for toddlers. My 4 year old child depends on me for his recreation. He can't ride his bike to the park at Sullivan Trail. I have to take him. Why don't you show up there any sunny day when all the mothers and stay at home dads and grandfathers are there with their kids. Tell them what you said at the meeting.

I voted for you but I can't take that vote back. You have lost support from Penn's Ridge families and I suspect from families all over the township. Maybe the old cranks out here who just don't like kids still support you. Do us a favor with our thanks, don't show up for meetings from now on.

Man of said...

"Kline said that his opinion is that this challenge as well as the substantive challenge are examples of greedy developers suing the Township to try to force zoning changes that would provide them with a "multimillion dollar windfall."

>>Hmm, I guess Mr. Kline has the final word on which developers are "greedy". Selective justice? Perhaps so.

"In closing, Kline said, "I want to make it clear to everybody, that the Board and the Township intends to continue to vigorously defend against these challenges to the Forks Township Zoning Ordinance."

>>OMG, I think that I just heard a cash register ring in Kline's office! Cha-Ching!!!! This will mean a ton of more billable hours to the taxpayers. So much for hiring a competent in-house attorney on a fixed salary basis. Guess that they would be hard to find in this great economy...NOT!

>>We get it; KMRD sucks, but why do we have to have our pockets picked (again) by those who are suppose to protect us?