Saturday, April 03, 2010

BoS Meeting Notes & Solar Ordinances Public Hearing - 3/18/2010

Public Hearing - Solar Ordinances 314 & 315 - 7:00 PM

Both Solar Ordinances were explained by Solicitor Kline.  He said that the impetus behind the preparation of them by the Planning Commission (PC) was the approved Crayola solar farm on 15 acres near its plant on Church Road.  The PC gathered language from solar ordinances of other municipalities and used that language to craft Forks' two new solar ordinances, 314 and 315. 

Ordinance 314 allows solar panels as a residential accessory use in any zoning district and applies to the Zoning OrdinanceOrdinance 315 applies to the SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) and controls roof and ground arrays for lawful non-residential use in any zoning district.  Ordinance 315 also provides for the decommissioning of solar installations that are no longer in use (or at the end of their useful lives) - after a period of six months.  In fact, if the sites are not decommissioned, the Township can step in after written notices have been sent, do the work, and charge the land owner. 

The reason that one ordinance applies to Zoning and one to SALDO is because when a resident wishes to add solar panels as an accessory use, a land development plan is not generally submitted.  However, non-residential solar installations do require land development plan submissions and therefore must be in compliance with all SALDO amendments.

The MPC (Municipalities Planning Code) requires specific actions in order to adopt ordinances.  There must be a PC public hearing (there was), the ordinances must be submitted to the local regional planning commission (LVPC - they were and the comments returned were basically favorable), and there must be a Board of Supervisors public hearing (in process now). 

In discussion, Supervisor Howell asked how long after approving the ordinances before they are in effect?  Kline replied that ordinances are generally in effect five days after being enacted. 

Howell said that he has been contacted by an individual inquiring if the Township has any plans for a wind generation ordinance.  Kline said that the PC had considered it and as he recalled, the consensus was that Forks was not a primary area for wind turbines.  PC Chairman Dean Turner added that wind tower rules are already in the Zoning Ordinance.  Vito Tamborrino (PC Vice Chairman) added that zoning requires fall zones and setbacks that are outside the range of most Forks residential properties. 

Howell said that he was thinking of roof top windmills attached to chimneys.  Turner said that the PC thought that there would not be enough power generated by them to make a difference.

Kline offered that if the power generated is just to be sold back to a public utility, it is regulated by the Pennsylvania PUC.

Ron Roth, Career Institute of Technology Director (and Forks resident), commended the Township on the new solar regulations and for encouraging solar power.  He said that CIT is in the early stages of investigating the installation of solar panels at the school.  At the moment, they are gathering preliminary information and have a two month agreement with an energy management company for a study.  The CIT building is totally electric and the estimate is that solar will give them an electricity cost reduction of 17%.  He said that lowering the peak demand on the grid, will lower the the cost of the balance of their electric use.

Mr. Roth said that the school intends to erect a combination of ground and roof mounted systems.  They will be almost invisible from the street.  He will be back before the BoS in a few month for approvals.  Roth added that there will be a kiosk in the school describing what is happening.  Everyone is pretty excited about it. 

CIT has read the ordinances and will have no trouble complying with them. 

When asked about the Crayola solar farm size and the CIT installation size, Roth replied that they can see the Crayola installation from their property.  The land being used by CIT is not a huge piece and is triangular in shape.  It is being combined with a roof top array and Roth does not know the size.  He added that the roof top mounts will be held there by ballasts and holes in the roof top will be unnecessary.  They will withstand 90 MPH winds.


Regular Meeting - Agenda

At this meeting, Supervisors:

  • Unanimously approved both new Solar Ordinances, one for the SALDO and one for the Zoning Ordinance.  Read Tony Nauroth, Express Times and see below for details.
  • Agreed to send a letter to Senator Mensch in support of the bill (currently in the PA Senate) to allow accredited police departments to use radar guns. 
  • Learned more about the progress of the Meco/Sullivan traffic light.  It might even be out for bids this summer.
  • Agreed to wait two more meetings before deciding on the bid award for the CMX designed amphitheater plan while cheaper options are investigated.  Read Tony Nauroth, Express Times and see below for more details. 
  • Appointed Supervisor Egolf to be the Township's Bushkill Creek Watershed representative.
  • Approved the purchase of a $16,500 replacement scanner for the Zoning and Sewer Departments. 

Approval of Minutes

The vote to approve the minutes from the March 4th meeting was 4:0 (with Supervisor Egolf abstaining) but only after the minutes were corrected as follows:

  • Supervisor Howell asked Supervisor Rogers if the wording regarding the Recreation Board discussion should state that the Recreation Ordinance was to be reviewed and rewritten by the Recreation Board and then to be forwarded directly to Solicitor Kline for review.  Rogers agreed that is what it should state. 
  • Chuss corrected the part mentioning Mrs. Hanks' agreement that she had received what she requested in her open records document request.
  • Solicitor Kline corrected the section of his Township report to read that the motion to dismiss was filed by all the defendants in the Strausser Federal law suit.

Public Comments (non-agenda)

  • Melody Talpas - resident and FTYSO (Forks Township Youth Sports Association a.k.a. Forks Township Athletic Association) Secretary - gave a brief report to the Board of the activities of the FTYSO (Forks Township Youth Sports Organization a.k.a. the Forks Athletic Association).  To date 763 Forks children are signed up for spring sports - 378 for baseball, 242 for softball, 61 for lacrosse, and 82 for cheerleading.  She said that the group is working with Mark Roberts and the grounds crews to be sure the fields are ready for spring sports.  Also, the FTYSO is coordinating a "walk" of the five acre parcel (between the Community Center and College Park Estates to the west) with Supervisor Billings, Township Manager Schnaedter and nearby resident Eric Konecke (who has voiced concerns over the possible uses for the land.)
  • Dean Turner - resident (and Chairman of the Planning Commission) - spoke to the Board regarding the traffic on Richmond Road.  He said that he moved to the Township 17 years ago and back then, he could tell when the shifts changed in the industrial park because that's when there was traffic on the road - at 7, 3, and 11.  Today he fears for the kids crossing the street to get to the playground.  He recently saw a car pass a school bus at a high rate of speed - while kids were getting ready to cross the road in order to board the bus.  Speeding is a problem.  The traffic light at Elizabeth and Sullivan is the only light where drivers can get from the eastern side of the Township to the western side.  Turner offered that the Township should focus on "opening other paths along Sullivan Trail so that people on the eastern end of the Township can get to the western end of the Township." 

Supervisors Comments 

  • Supervisor Chuss - in response to Turner's comment (above), asked Chief Dorney about "slow down" signs.  Dorney said there were two stop sign violations issued today at Elizabeth Avenue.  Traffic enforcement will increase now that the weather has improved.  Turner wondered if the Township could purchase a portion of the Jackson farm in order to allow Ramblewood to be continued through to Town Center.  He suggested that the residents who live there would know about the extended road and would use it. 

Dorney said that there is proposed legislation to expand the use of radar guns to allow accredited police departments to use them.  Currently PA is the only state in the country where municipal law enforcement is not allowed to use radar.  Dorney said the bill passed the House and is sitting in the Senate.  Supervisor Billings asked if it would help if the Board sent a resolution of support to Senator Mensch?  Supervisor Howell thought that a bigger voice would be created if all accredited police departments take a position in favor of the bill.  Dorney said that that is being done through the PA Chiefs Association.  Solicitor Kline noted that if PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) took a position in favor, it would carry some weight with the Legislature.

Billings made a motion to have Township Manager Schnaedter write a letter in support of the Senate bill for the use of radar guns in the Commonwealth of PA.  Supervisor Egolf seconded.  In discussion Howell said that the letter should stress public welfare and safety and should be personalized with Forks' density.  Egolf noted that Forks has had a rapid increase in population and the roads are not designed to handle it. 

The vote was 5:0.

Egolf added that Forks should not lose sight of the stipulations in the newly revised and rewritten Comprehensive Plan that strongly address the Township's problems with east/west and small roadways.  It is "pretty much a mandate for us to start working on this."

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 $7,722,913.

Chuss noted that the Board should do what it can to encourage Township residents to respond to the 2010 census.  It is very important when it comes to the allocation of monies from State and Federal governments.  He asked that something be put on the Township website to remind people to fill out their census forms.  Rogers said that the "census bureau" will be available at the Community Center from 5-8 PM M-F (March 19 through April 18) to answer census questions.

Standing Committee Reports:

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Egolf - said that the next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 14th at 7:15 PM.  He took a few moments to acknowledge, on behalf of the Board, the "absolutely superb work" by the fire, police, and public works departments in preparation for possible flooding.  He also commended the fire and police departments for their handling of the "Giant episode" and said that it is nice to know that Forks' "public service forces are prepared, well trained, stay calm, keep our friends and neighbors and citizens safe..." (Applause)

Police Chief Dorney reported on the committee's meeting.  He said that it was lengthy and items discussed included current grant funding and preliminary applications for items "coming down the road."  Also, discussed were a possible resolution that may come before the Board ("a matter of routine practice") as well as recent vandalism in the park and community policing initiatives to prevent it - including bicycle deployment. 

Fire Chief Chapman said that the fire department is working on revisions to their standard operating procedures to present to the Board in the spring or summer.  The new fire engine blueprints have been approved by the fire department and delivery is expected in late July.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee had a short meeting a week ago and reviewed the Township snow plowing policy for both dedicated and non-dedicated roads as well as the naturalizing condition of the recreation paths in the winter; they are left unplowed.  He said that the Braden lavatory is almost operational.  Its sewer and water hookup will be tested when weather permits.  Also discussed were "some of the needs" for the five acre parcel (between the Community Center and College Park Estates).  DPW Director Roberts plans to grade it when the weather permits.  It is expected that it will be seeded and re-seeded and ready for the fall.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Rogers - said that there had been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  The next meeting is set for April 7th at 6 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Chuss - said that the committee met on March 8th.  The next committee meeting is Monday, April 12th at 4:30 PM.  Chuss said that the newsletter proof was received with errors and was resubmitted back to the editor for "update."  He hopes that residents will have it at the end of the month.  Chuss asked that anyone who sees website content changes that should be addressed notify the committee.  They are planning to meet with the website provider this spring to discuss website updates.  Chuss said that there is no update yet on the new Community Days coordinator.  He said that there has been concern expressed that the normally scheduled weekend, the second one after Labor Day, falls on a religious holiday.  Chuss noted that the inaugural meeting of his arts society was held on March 16 and was attended by 15 enthusiastic people of diverse backgrounds.  The next meeting will be on April 14th at 7 PM in the Community Center - going forward they will meet on the second Wednesday of the month at 7 PM in the Community Center.  Some of the group is looking at sample bylaws and investigating the requirements for 501 (3)(c) status.  He asks that anyone with questions contact him
  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Billings - said that the next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 14th at 6 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the Lehigh Valley Insurance Cooperative has refunded $186,857 to Forks.  He attributes the refund to the follow up of claims and preventative measures taken.  Schnaedter said that this is the fourth year in a row that the refund is over $100,000.  Howell asked if the money goes back to the general revenue account?  Schnaedter said that the money is kept in a reserve account.  So far 60% has been received and there are no pending cases. 

Engineer's Report - Muller reported that the Meco/Sullivan traffic light continues to move forward.  PennDOT has come back with revisions based on the meeting with Verizon and MetEd.  The site's utility poles are an issue - what has to be relocated and what does not have been noted.  Benchmark is working on the plan revisions.  The horizontal geometry of the site has to be approved.  The approval for the signal was received Jan. 31st (or Feb. 1st).  It is an ongoing issue with PennDOT.   Muller said that he continues "to push it to make sure it gets done."  He said, "We're almost there." 

Muller said that he and DPW Director Roberts discussed the sanitary sewer lines that are to be replaced this spring on Sullivan Trail.  He is working to get that done before the road realignment for the signal installation at Meco/Sullivan. 

Chuss asked if the PennDOT requests are reasonable?   Muller said that they are, however, some of the issues are because the initial engineering survey missed things - including some poles (not the utility companies' fault).  He would like to get the project out to bid sometime this spring so that it can get done this summer.

Muller said that he met with Roberts, the old Township engineer, and the GIS representative from his firm, Gilmore & Associates, regarding the GIS system in the Township.  He said that great strides have been made in the first couple of months in getting things up-to-date.

Muller has also met with Roberts regarding storm drainage issues on another intersection and will review the survey and make recommendations so that Roberts can move forward and get it re-topped. 

And, lastly, Muller said that there are a couple of small subdivision plans and land developments in the works.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.




Ordinance 314 - Solar Amendment to Zoning Ordinance Approval
Ordinance 315 – Solar Amendment to Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO)
(Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that basically if one has a house in any zoning district a solar energy accessory use is allowed.  If one wants to generate solar power for one's own non-residential property it, too, is allowed in any zoning district.  There are provisions in the ordinances for ground and roof top arrays.  The ordinances were drafted by the Planning Commission (PC) which held a January 26 public hearing.  They were reviewed by the LVPC (Lehigh Valley Planning Commission) who commented favorably.  The Board of Supervisors' public hearing was earlier tonight at 7:00 PM. 

Billings motioned to accept ordinance 314.  Howell seconded and the vote was 5:0.

Howell motioned to accept ordinance 315.  Egolf seconded and the vote was 5:0.

Inter-municipal Sale of Police vehicle (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that a Board member from the Borough of Roseto approached him regarding the purchase of one of Forks' two old police vehicles.  They are used only in emergencies.  Schnaedter said that the Borough representative liked the 2003 Crown Victoria with attached light bar and 105,366 miles on its odometer.  He spoke with Dorney and with Roberts and they said that the Township should be able to accommodate Roseto (including the light bar).  The price developed from past sales history of old vehicles was $1200.

Egolf made a motion to sell the vehicle "as explained and described" to Roseto.  Kline said that in an inter-municipal sale, the advertising and bid process are not necessary.  The vote was 5:0.

Awarding of the Amphitheater Contract (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that CMX reviewed the amphitheater bids and that Bracy Contracting submitted the low bid of $360,000.  All bids were also reviewed by Kline to verify that they were proper and contained all the necessary documents. 

Billings asked if the $360,000 bid is the amount for everything and Schnaedter said that the paving will be done by the public works department.  An alternative bid was requested should the paving work be contracted.  Bracy's was low bid at $17,600 (or $11/square foot) for the paving.

Chuss said that he is concerned about the overall cost including the $46,000 already paid for the architectural work.  He said in looking at the site as a whole, the project is pushing into the $500,000 cost range.  He said that although he is supportive of an amphitheater, the Board should look at other alternatives.  He personally feels that this simple amphitheater has been "over-engineered."  Chuss added that the five year recreation plan is due next month and this project will eat up a lot of the $1.8 million in the recreation fund (before knowing what other projects will need money.)  He said that one can get quite a house for that amount of money and this does not seen like a good value to him.  Chuss asked that the Board look at alternatives.

Howell said that two years ago the Parks & Recreation Standing Committee viewed a lot of proposals and some were quite nice.  He said that he wouldn't approve this plan without also approving a restroom and asked Schnaedter how much the Braden rest room cost.  Schnaedter said it was about $40,000.

There was additional discussion and Schnaedter reminded the Board that although (when they last looked) the prefab structures cost $150,000 to $180,000, they require costs for delivery and construction which can bring prices close to $300,000.  Several firms could not provide the committee with an idea of those costs.

Egolf said that he has reservations about the general design of the CMX structure.  He said that he sat in on one of the planning sessions with engineers, architects and area vendors.  There were many questions raised about how to put it together and how the panels would be hung.  He saw dollar signs mounting.  He is worried about change costs and structural problems.  He said that it seemed to him that things weren't clicking and he got a strange feeling that this was not the right path.  Egolf said that he does want an amphitheater.

Billings said that he is worried that the cost number is not something that the community is comfortable with - yet he does not want "nothing" to happen.  He feels that if it is to be tabled, it should be time bound.  He asked Schnaedter if the Township is still trying to get programs for the facility. Schnaedter said that he approached the Business and Commerce Association of Forks (BCAF) about two years ago and they were very supportive of being involved in cultural programs for the community.

Schnaedter said that he will provide the Board with details of one of the earlier structures the committee looked at along with a sketch from a pamphlet and estimates for construction.  Howell said that he and Muller can look at them with Schnaedter.  Muller said that he will look but construction costs are not his (nor his company's) area of expertise.  He suggested that Bracy be asked to look at them.  Schnaedter said that a municipality that constructed one of these (less than three years ago) has been identified.  He will get their cost (and caveat) information.

After confirming that the bid package indicates the bids are firm for 90 days, Howell made a motion to suspend consideration of awarding the contract for two meeting dates to the second meeting in April.  Billings seconded and the vote was 5:0.

Chuss asked Rogers if the Board will have the five year recreation plan next month.  She said yes.

Construction and maintenance agreement – CMX (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter noted that in light of the situation with CMS and after prior consultation with DPW Director Mark Roberts and Township Engineer Muller, it was felt that having a backup hourly rate agreement in place should concerns or questions arise during construction was a good idea.  CMX declined and instead gave a single line item bid.  Schnaedter recommended rejecting the proposal.  Kline said CMX submitted the proposal and no action is necessary by the Board.

Purchase of Zoning Scanner (Jim Farley - Finance Manager) - Farley said that a replacement scanner for the zoning and sewer departments was included in last fall's budget.  At the time, the money was to come 50% from the zoning capital account and 50% from the sewer capital account.  The price is contracted by PA.  The unit selected is from OCE North America and costs $16,519.  It is compatible with all the other department equipment.  The old machine is from the 1970s and the inputs on it do not match the computers.  Special adapters must be purchased.  And, it is time to renew the maintenance agreement as well as buy supplies. 

Egolf made the motion to purchase and Billings seconded.  In discussion, Howell asked if the new scanner can do 8-1/2" X 11".  Weis said that it can.  He said that it is a color scanner.  The old one is black and white and should it break, there may not be parts available. 

Howell said that the administration side of the office does not have a (regular format) scanner.  Farley offered that with the purchase of software, the office copier can do scanning.  He will get prices on the software.

The vote to purchase the new large format scanner was 5:0.

Bushkill Creek Watershed – Designation of a Representative (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter said that he received a letter from Northampton County asking that the Township appoint a representative to the Act 167 Watershed Advisory Committee.  He will be responsible for attending at least four meetings, for reviewing and commenting on the plan, and for reporting back to the municipality on the plan process.  Howell nominated Egolf.  Rogers seconded.

Egolf said that he has spoken with Geoff Reese (sic) of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC).  He is in charge of this program.  He (Egolf) is also on the Bushkill Stream Conservancy and he wanted to be certain that there would be no conflict of interest.  Egolf was told that there is no conflict of interest posed by serving both groups and he said that he is interested in doing it. 

Egolf said that he also learned that it is important for the Township Solicitor, Township Engineer, and Chairman of the PC to be aware that the end result will be a municipal ordinance.  Reese suggested that they should all be on the Bushkill Creek Watershed mailing list for announcements, minutes, and updates to keep them apprised of what is going on with the committee.

The vote was 5:0.  Schnaedter will write a letter to advise the Bushkill Creek Watershed group that Egolf was chosen to be Forks' representative.

Executive Session - There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned. 

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