Sunday, July 26, 2009

Proposed Forks Township Police Coverage of Stockertown Update

I have heard the Public Safety Committee (PSC) has outlined a proposal that would extent Forks Township police coverage to Stockertown. The PSC has authorize the township manager and Police Chief to start discussions with Stockertown.

I believe The PSC is willing to provide police services to Stockertown. I imagine the township may not be willing to support a proposal providing backup police services to Stockertown.

It is my understanding the State police only respond to felony matters, domestic abuse and accidents with injuries. Forks Township will need to determine the potential number of calls from Stockertown,so the Police Chief can determine the right level of police coverage.

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The 10-10-10 Model: What will happen in 10 mins, 10 months, and 10 Ten years

So, what does a management book by Suzy Welsh, and today's Express-Times editorial have in common? They both deal with the issue of thinking about the  consequences of our decisions. The Express-Times editorial deals with the consequences of today's community planning decisions over the next 10 years.  The essence of Suzy Welsh book is a simple question. "When faced with a complex dilemma, stop and ask, "What will the consequences of my options be in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years?" (Suzy Welch web site).  According to the book, we are not suppose to take the "10" literally. The first "10" could be right now or one week. The second "10" is really about short-term consequences, while the final "10" is all about the future where the particulars of the options are vague. 

The  Express-Times Editorial argues we need to have reasonable growth plans and avoid the pitfalls of urban sprawl. Furthermore, the editorial states "the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and every other set of planners within earshot of what's coming down the pike need to stay on top of what, at the moment, is a reasonable evolution of providing services to people who have brought suburban life to our fading farming fields".

It would be interseting to have the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and the various municipal Planning Commissions look at the ramifications of planning decisions using the 10-10-10 model. For example, if any Planning Commission decides to approve a high density development, what are the consequences? In 10 minutes, the developer will praise the commission on approving the development. In 10 months, the new development will be built, as the community welcomes new neighbors. In 10 years, we will know the full impact of an increasing population, as traffic congestion and overcrowd schools lead to significant tax increases.  As I have stated, you can not take the "10" literally, but I think you get the idea.

I agree a single new development may not lead to urban sprawl, but 10 separate planning decisions, when considered as a whole, can lead to serious urban sprawl.

Get Involved  Every Voice Counts!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stockertown approaches Forks Township for Police Services

At tonight's Forks Township BoS meeting, our police chief stated Stockertown was interested in  obtaining the services of the Forks Police department.

I will keep you informed of future developments!

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!

Should Lower Macungie pay for State Police Services?

In 2008, Forks Township, where I live, spent 36.2% of its total budget on police services. That’s a lot of taxpayer dollars. Yet, neighboring municipalities like Lower Macungie have no police departments of their own and rely instead on PA State Police to serve their police protection needs.

What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, some of us are once again paying twice while some pay only once. I pay taxes that support Forks’ police department and I pay State taxes, a portion of which goes to fund the Pennsylvania State Police. Of course, my neighbors in Lower Macungie also pay taxes to the State. And, they do not have the burden of funding a local PD.

Of course, before fairness (as in everybody pays) can be used as a tool in this argument, one must consider what it is that my police-less neighbors want. Perhaps they do not want the burden of more bureaucracy, more institutions, more paperwork, etc. Theirs isn’t exactly a free ride. They simply do not pay directly for local police services. They still pay. They do no have the benefit of a police department where “everybody knows your name.”

This is not about Forks Township however, it is about Lower Macungie Township and their need to settle on police coverage.

Under House Bill 1500 a fee would be imposed on municipalities for patrol services provided by the Pennsylvania State Police; and providing for allocation of funds and for penalties. A per resident fee shall be paid by a municipality: (1) for the first year of service, the fee shall be $52 per year. (2) For the second year of service, the fee shall be $104 per year. For the third and subsequent years of service, the fee shall be $156 per resident per year for Pennsylvania State Police full-time patrol services.

This is the interesting balance that public officials need to understand. In the specific case of Lower Macungie, the issue is between funding a local police force and the regionalization of police services. I do believe the townships need to explore regionalization of its public services, including police protection. In these stressful economic times, this is the best course of action to save taxpayers money.

Lower Macungie Township needs to look at regionalization of its police services versus paying a fee to the State for police protection.

It is a tough decision, but a regional police force may be the best option for Lower Macungie to provide a professional police force with a local focus. It is certainly worth the discussion!


Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Proposed School District Development Impact Fees - Pt 2

This is the second part of a two part blog post. The following is the proposed language to amend the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code:


Section 503-B. Educational impact assessment.

For a subdivision located in a school district that imposes an educational impact fee, the subdivision plan shall include an educational impact assessment, a copy of which must be filed with the school district. No subdivision plan may be accepted that does not include an educational impact assessment. The assessment must include the following information:

(1) The name and location of the proposed subdivision.

(2) The number and type of dwelling units proposed for the subdivision, including the target population that will be residing in the dwelling units.

(3) The approximate sales cost of each type of dwelling unit.

(4) The primary access roads to the proposed subdivision.

(5) The time frame for construction of the dwelling units.

(6) An estimate of the number of school-age children who can reasonably be expected to reside in the dwelling units based on the demographic characteristics of similar housing located within the school district.

Section 504-B. School district facility expansion.

If a school district determines after reviewing an educational impact assessment that it will be necessary to expand school facilities as a result of the impact of the proposed development, the school district may offer the developer of the development the option to pay twice the impact fee owed in return for the option of having naming rights for any expansion required to be constructed.

Will we see a school named after a developer?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Proposed School District Development Impact Fees- Part 1.

The same Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog entry also mentioned another interesting bill.  Rep. Grucela has introduced House Bill 1527, that will impose an educational impact fee and assessment in certain school districts. The bill was referred to the Local Governments Committee on May 26, 2009.  I like this idea, as we need to find a way to fund school expansion to support our rapid growth. I do wonder how the developers will react to this bill?  The following is the proposed language to amend the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code:


Section 502-B. Educational impact fee.

(a) Authority to levy fee.--

(1) The board of directors of a school district may levy an educational impact fee on each subdivision plan and building permit issued for the construction of new residential units located within its geographic boundaries in accordance with this section. Prior to the adoption of an educational impact fee, the school board shall give public notice of its intention to adopt the fee and entertain public comments. The educational impact fees shall be collected by the school district.

(2) No subdivision plan approval or building permit may be issued without the applicant providing proof that the educational impact fee has been paid in full.

(b) Amount of fee for subdivision plans.--The amount of the educational impact fee levied on each proposed subdivision plan shall be a fixed fee. The fee shall be $2,500 imposed upon each bedroom in excess of one for each separate proposed residential dwelling unit in the subdivision plan. The fee may not exceed $7,500 for each residential dwelling in a proposed subdivision plan.

(c) Amount of fee for building permits.--The amount of the educational impact fee levied on each building permit for new residential construction shall be a fixed fee. The fee shall be $2,500 imposed upon each bedroom in excess of one for each proposed residential dwelling for which the building permit is issued.

(d) Exemptions and deductions from impact fee.--

(1) A school district may reduce or eliminate the educational impact fee on affordable housing units for low-income and moderate-income individuals.

(2) A school district shall waive the educational impact fee for building permits issued for the replacement of existing dwelling units, even if the permits are nonconcurrent.

(3) A school district shall waive the educational impact fee for subdivision plans or building permits for residential dwellings built for older adult housing.

(4) A school district may provide a $500 deduction from the impact fee owed if the developer shows that each home being constructed meets or exceeds the National Energy Star rating.

(5) A school district may provide a $1,500 deduction for each acre of land preserved within the proposed development for open space uses by the community.

(6) A school district may provide a $1,000 deduction from the impact fee owed if the developer provides for a designated school bus loading area and an area for a school bus turnaround if necessary.

(7) A school district may provide a $500 deduction from the impact fee owed for each house in the subdivision that has a stone or brick front on the facade of the house.

(8) A school district may provide a $500 deduction from the impact fee owed for each house in the subdivision that uses porous materials for the driveway and sidewalks. Each school district, in consultation with the local governing body, shall define what constitutes porous materials in the resolution imposing the impact fee.

(e) Deposit and restricted use of fee.--The school district shall deposit the educational impact fees collected into a separate school account. The moneys in that account may only be used for new construction for additional classrooms or renovation of existing buildings to expand classrooms or classroom space and any additional personnel costs to cover an increase in student enrollment.

Regional Cooperation - House bill 1754


A Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog entry mentioned the passage of House bill 1754. This is an amendment to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, will require municipalities to notify the school district of any approved residential development. The following is the actual language of the bill:

"508.1.  Notice to School District.--Each month a municipality shall notify in writing the superintendent of a school district in which a plan for a residential development was finally approved by the municipality during the preceding month. The notice shall include, but not be limited to, the location of the development, the number and types of units to be included in the development and the expected construction schedule of the development".

The PA General Assembly unanimously passed the bill. The PA State Senate will consider the bill next.

I think this is a very good idea, as we need to improve regional communications between the various legislative bodies.

Get Involved! Every voice counts!



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bill that allows the municipalities to post legal notices their web site

As you know, I have been against a bill that allows the municipalities to post legal notices their web site.   The purpose of the bill is to allow the various municipalities to save money, by posting legal notices on their web sites, instead of the local newspapers.  This is bad news for the newspapers, as they lose a vital revenue stream.  It is bad news for our citizens, as we continue to limit the public access to critical public information.  I am all for fiscal responsibility, but I have a stronger desire to maintain the transparency between the public and local governments.

It seems the House Judiciary has forgotten the broadband penetration is around 50%, so many of our citizens will not have access to the legal notices, once this bill is passed.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure by a vote of 18-6.

Get Involved! Every Voice Counts!