Public Hearing - Comprehensive Plan - 6:30 PM
The final public hearing on the three-years-in-the-making, Forks Township Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) was short and sparsely attended. Two Supervisors were absent.
Charlie Schmehl of URDC, the consulting firm that guided the Planning Commission (PC) in the Comp Plan's development, summarized it as a "set of policies for the future development and preservation of the Township over the next 15 years." It helps to support Township development regulations and provides policies for natural feature preservation, agricultural preservation, facilities and services, transportation, and contains ways to carry out the plan.
It is the result of the work of the Planning Commission and of citizen committees who met in workshop sessions over the course of three years. There are no changes in the Township's zoning map and there are minor revisions of zoning and SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance). The new Comp Plan recommends that more attention be paid to the FP (Farmland Protection District) with agricultural preservation given a higher priority, that the TC (Town Center District) be made more pedestrian friendly, and that trails continue to build on what has already been done. It also contains recommendations for traffic improvements and for economic development.
Per the MPC (Municipalities Planning Code) Comprehensive Plans are non-binding and cannot be used to challenge actions of townships. In simpler terms, a township can use it to defend itself but it cannot be used to attack it.
Solicitor Kline explained the process further saying that the PC held a public hearing. The BoS held one on December 1st and because some significant changes were made, this night's hearing was being held. This meeting was advertised as was the possible adoption of the plan at the regular meeting that follows the hearing. Kline said that the Comp Plan was sent to the LVPC (Lehigh Valley Planning Commission) and the Township received favorable comments. In accordance with the MPC, the plan must be adopted by ordinance.
Dean Turner, PC Chairman, asked if the Township has an electronic version of the Comp Plan so that it can make copies as needed? Schmehl said that a "cleaned-up copy with the adoption date" in both electronic and paper formats will be provided to the Township.
The vote to approve took place during the regular meeting.
Supervisor Howell asked Mr. Schmehl about the soon to be on the agenda, solar ordinance. He wanted to know if there were any incentives (for commercial applicants) for changing the parking space formula if charging stations are provided in parking lots. Mr. Schmehl said that as long as there is a "basic bare minimum of parking," the Township can have any type of incentives it wants. He talked about Allentown's incentive for bike racks (one bike rack = one less parking space) and about California's incentives for solar panels over parking lots as "a very good use of land" since it does not increase impervious surface requirements and it provides shade for cars. There can also be increased impervious surface incentives with minimum LEED certifications.
Kline asked if LEED "certified" would be required or would LEED "qualified" be okay since LEED certification is costly and some architects are saying that they will design to LEED but not apply for it. Mr. Schmehl replied that that is an alternative however, sometimes they say they will build to it but do not.
Regular Meeting - Agenda
On this night, Supervisors unanimously approved the long awaited Comprehensive Plan, agreed to sign on the dotted line for restructured bond financing, and heard from a resident who wants new, professional management at the Community Center.
Approval of Minutes
The approval of the minutes from the February 4th meeting was tabled in a 4:1 vote with Billings casting the nay. There were many "corrections" by Chuss including his first where he alleged that Ms. Sandy Hanks (who filed a document request and was given only one of the documents requested) said that she got all that she requested. She was at this night's meeting and told Chuss that he was wrong and that she did not get the documents she requested and that instead he told her to file another request. Chuss argued with her and said that she shook her head "yes" when asked. Again, she said that she did not. Undeterred, Chuss continued with more "corrections." Egolf made a motion to table the approval until March 4th in order to make the corrections. Rogers seconded.
Public Comments (non-agenda)
- Gretchen Gerstel - resident - read a statement in which she called for the Township to employ a professional in Community Center management, in particular a college graduate with the "latest know-how" who can handle its three-quarters of a million dollar budget. She suggested that the $60,000 expense of the current manager is enough to attract a dynamic person from outside the Township. Ms. Gerstel said that the Supervisors need to engage in "anticipatory thinking." She said, "As important as 'hanging on,' is knowing when to let go." After Ms. Gerstel finished her statement there were no comments from the Board.
- Supervisor Rogers thanked DPW Director Mark Roberts and the public works crew for the great job they did clearing the roads after the last storm. She said that they were in her neighborhood at least five times. Township Manager Schnaedter said that since Roberts was not at the meeting, he would tell him for her.
- Supervisor Billings said that he sent Roberts an email thanking him for the great job that his crew did. He told of attending an "elected officials forum" today. It was hosted by Senator Mensch and Tatamy, Forks, and the City of Easton were there. The next one is in April. Billings found the discussion fascinating. One bill mentioned would allow municipalities to use radar guns for speeding. Also, attendees were told that there is a lack of grant funding in the PA 2010 budget and that grants will be few and far between. There was discussion of Act 47 in the City of Easton and Lehigh Valley gambling money distribution.
- Supervisor Egolf said that he thought it important to get township managers to forums like that since they have their "finger on the pulse." Billings said that he will send a request to Mensch.
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 $7,724,347.
Resident Sandy Hanks asked about the transfer of $27,079.29 from Recreation Land Acquisition to the General Fund. She said that fund transfers have been ongoing since November and amount to $365,000. Finance Manager Farley said that the money is from developers for recreation development. The fund does not have a checkbook and in order to pay bills money must be transferred to the general fund. This money is being used to pay bills for the refurbishment of the tennis and basketball courts as well as various other BoS approved projects.
Standing Committee Reports:
- Public Safety - Supervisor Egolf - said that there was no meeting because of the snow. The next will be on Wednesday, March 10th at 7:15 PM.
- Public Works - Supervisor Howell - reported that the next meeting is March 8 at 7:30 AM. He added that Supervisors have copies of an exchange of emails from citizens and merchants concerning snow removal on Braden and Ian - neither of which are dedicated (to the Township) roads. A discussion of what policies are in place to deal with requests like these will take place at either Public Safely or Public Works meetings. Also, Howell said that there was a letter from the Vista Estates Homeowners Association with their opinion of the public works garage and its possible impact on their neighborhood. He said that the Association has been in contact with himself and Billings. The committee will respond to the Association.
Schnaedter said that Kimmel & Bogrette will meet with staff at a rescheduled "kick-off" meeting on February 22nd at 1 PM. It was postponed from last week. New designs for the placement of the public works garage will be shown and the engineer will be introduced. Also, staff will see new ideas for the heating system, the electric, and the mechanics.
Egolf said that the PC received a (public works garage) report from Zoning Officer Weis. A formal presentation of the new designs will be given to the PC at a later date. Planner Vito Tamborrino said that Weis was to pass on the PC comments to Schnaedter.
- Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Rogers - said that the next meeting is March 3rd at 6 PM.
- Community Relations - Supervisor Chuss - said that the committee held a brief meeting on February 8th prior to the goal setting session. They discussed:
- The newsletter.
- Website is to be monitored for content updates - if any are missed, inform "staff."
- Ten people have signed up for the arts council and there are 10 days left in the sign up period. The kick-off meeting will likely be in March in the Community Center. There will be refreshments.
- Community Days was not discussed due to lack of time but the committee does want to ensure that Mr. Lokitus of BCAF (Business and Commerce Association of Forks) talks to the Bennetts about taking over the reins.
Dean Turner (PC) asked if the goal setting session was a public meeting and if the goals will be made public. Chuss said that it was a public meeting and that the Board will get copies of the goals. He said that he was unsure if they will be available to the public.
Schnaedter said that he has a draft of the goals for the Board's review and that after the Board has accepted them, they will be sent to David Woglom of Lafayette College. He will make a more formal synopsis of the session. Schnaedter added that the report prepared by Woglom will become a public document.
Billings requested that the goals document be put on the Township website. There was no disagreement by the Board. Schnaedter said that last year's document was four to five pages. It will also be available at the counter at the office.
The next committee meeting is Monday, March 8th at 4:30 PM.
- Finance & Administration - Supervisor Billings - said that the last meeting was snowed out and that the next is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10th at 6 PM.
Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that there has been a difficult time with the newsletter printing company because of trouble getting advertisements. A copy (of the content as opposed to a proof) has been given to the Board for approval. It will expedite the process. Schnaedter remarked that the Crayola article is getting dated - it took place last winter.
A draft copy of the goal setting session has been provided by David Woglom. Schnaedter asked that the Board review it and get back to him with any comments - so that he can get them back to Woglom.
Schnaedter reported too, that he received an email from Tim Edinger of CMX. Edinger said that unless CMX is wanted as construction manager for the amphitheater, its work is done once the bid documents have been reviewed and a contractor recommendation is made. Schnaedter said that he reviewed the contract signed last July and that it does state that construction management is at an extra cost. He recommended that the Township and CMX part ways when their part of the project is completed as he feels that staff and the Township Engineer can oversee the project to completion. Schnaedter asked that the Board take its time to review the email. He would like to provide an answer to CMX before the March 8th bid opening.
Billings asked if a problem is found with the bids, will CMX do more? Schnaedter said that they will review the bids and make a recommendation to proceed or not. "Anything beyond that is additional cost." Billings said that he favors using Forks' staff and engineering.
Howell requested that this be put on the March 4th meeting agenda for "informational purposes." Tamborrino asked if CMX has "construction administration" in the contract. He said that if the Township takes over the project and CMX is not handling the construction administration, then the Township has excluded liability of CMX for being responsible for any errors and omissions. "Construction administration" means basically that CMX has to take the Township's phone calls during construction. Schnaedter said that full and partial construction administration is listed on the contract as additional services.
Billings offered to sponsor the agenda item. Chuss said that "we will work out who sponsors the agenda item." He thought it should be the solicitor or the engineer.
Engineer's Report - Muller reported that Alfero Construction's project is now under review. He said that It was presented at the last PC meeting by engineer Bob Toedter. It is for a two story office and 24,000 square feet of warehouse for their construction operation - on Glover Road.
Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.
Ordinance 313 - 2010 General Obligation Bond (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that the bond auction was today and that there was good news to report. He turned over the good news announcement to Gary Pulcini (Township financial consultant) and Michael Gaul (Township bond counsel.)
Pulcini said that the auction began at noon and concluded at 12:17 - after three time extensions which were the result of better bids coming in during the last two minutes. There were five syndicates bidding and a total of 20 bids. The winning bidder was Roosevelt Cross - representing a syndicate of Payne Webber and others. Pulcini said that because of the great rate, the size of the issue was reduced from $11,825,000 to $11,300,000. The rate through 2027 - when the Township will be debt free - is 3.48%.
The Township's bond rating was upgraded since 2003 from A2 to AA, the same as Northampton County. The AA rating is "a reflection of the Township's moderate debt load, the professionalism of the Township, and the income levels of the Township." Pulcini said that through prudent debt management, "the capital plan has increased" and over 50% of the borrowing base is unused.
Pulcini reviewed the summary sheet of the bidding. The savings from refinancing the older bond is $734,703.93 and from the newest one, $31,919.16 for a total savings of $766,623.09. He said that the Township is walking away with a $4.7 (sic - $3.7) million loan for a very low impact - $91,000.
Kline remarked that the bid was done just before the Fed increased its interest rate today.
Mr. Gaul presented the ordinance to the Board for their approval and signature. The ordinance accepts "the proposal to buy the bonds by the underwriter." It also makes tax covenants to ensure that the bonds are issued as tax exempt; it authorizes compliance with FCC disclosure requirements (to the bond purchaser); and it arranges for the payoff of the old debt. Documents must be signed by the Chairman, the Secretary/Treasurer, and the Finance Manager. There will be "a second wave" of documents shortly.
Kline said that he reviewed the ordinance and everything is fine. It should be adopted tonight. There is a tight schedule including sending it to the Department of Community and Economic Development for approval - in order to make the March 23rd closing.
Gaul said that it must be signed tonight in order to accept the underwriter's bid. He said that the Board has had the ordinance for review for a couple of weeks. The financial details were added today - they were not available until today's bid closing.
Pulcini said that there is flexibility built in to take advantage of rate decreases - a 10 year part call. If rates go down, the new money portion could be refinanced immediately. If rates drop, the "refunding portion" can be refunded in 10 years - with 90 days notice prior to the call date.
Billings made the motion to approve the ordinance. Egolf seconded and it passed unanimously.
Resolution # 100218-1 Forks Township Comprehensive Plan of 2010 (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that the resolution is to approve the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan of 2010. It was drafted by the PC and worked on by many committees. The PC held one public hearing and the Board held two - one earlier this night. The hearings and the resolution have been properly advertised. The motion to approve was made by Howell and seconded by Egolf. It passed unanimously.
Howell asked Kline how the Panzini property purchase is progressing. Kline said that on February 4th the Board approved the signing of the agreement of sale for 708 Zucksville Road at a purchase price of $230,000. It will be a cash transaction. The closing will be at the end of March. The land is adjacent to the Township municipal park and next to another Township owned property (on the east.) The property has 400 feet of frontage on Zucksville Road.
Executive Session - There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.
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