The regular meeting of the Westfall Township Board of Supervisors was held Tuesday, September 6, 2011, at 7:36 pm. The meeting was held at the Township Building on Delaware Drive and LaBarr Lane, Westfall Township.
Those present were Vice-Chairman, Lester Buchanan; Supervisors, Robert Ewbank, Paul Fischer, Raymond Banach; Solicitor, Robert Bernathy and Secretary, Lisa Green. Also present were Michael Rendleman, Bill Schneider, Marge Tonkin, Roland McDonald, Gwen Federico, Tom Friend, Catherine Toussaint, Gregg Callaghan, Richard Mai, Elaine Shewchuk, Jack Shewchuk, Muriel Gargano, Larry Flansburg, Luis Bocaletti, Bob Melvin, Rollin Cook, Lisa Mickles, and approximately 29 members of the general public. Chairman, James Muir was not present.
AGENDA: The agenda was approved on a motion by Vice-Chairman Buchanan, seconded by Supervisor Banach. Motion carries with all in favor.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Muriel Gargano commented that Cummins Hill Road was totally cut off with communication during the Hurricane Irene situation and questioned if there was a way that our emergency management could set up a rotation of contact to be passed along. Further stating they did not find information out for four days. Mrs. Gargano also said that there should be road closed signs. Saying that one time she went down the road and it was open and by the time she went to go back up the road was closed even after she was told it wouldn’t be. Radio doesn’t work because they do not get reception up there. Mrs. Gargano also said that there is a resident who loves to shoot his gun at night and the ordinance says up to 10:00 pm. She feels the board should change it to say after a reasonable hour. Vice-Chairman Buchanan asked the Chief if he knew anything about it. He did not and asked Mrs. Gargano where she lived advising her to call 911. Discussion followed.
Larry Flansburg asked if we have an emergency plan because it is really confusing when the road is closed and you can’t get out in either direction. Mr. Flansburg suggested being proactive instead of reactive and contacting Larry Oellerich to take a few of his trees down before they fall down across the wires. Mr. Flansburg added that he knows it is a State Road but it is our township.
Supervisor Ewbank said he understands Mrs. Garganos concerns about the roads being closed and communication, unfortunately Sunday there were several trees down on Cummins Hill Road. There was a PennDOT truck stuck up there who couldn’t go either way. He ended up cutting his way down the hill to Glass House Hill. There were cablevision and telephone wires on the road that people were driving over. The road was closed but people ignored the signs. Supervisor Ewbank asked Mrs. Gargano if she had phone service and said if residents do they need to call 491-5177, that is the Matamoras Emergency Management Office. The residents should also listen to 1630 am. Discussion followed about the road closures and the possibility of notifying residents in the future of potential closures. Supervisor Ewbank said there were a lot of egos going back and forth between the fire departments, the Power Company and PennDOT and instead of working together they all had their own idea of how they wanted to do it. Further discussion followed about the communication difficulties and the storm troubles. Solicitor Bernathy stated there should have been more coordination at the County level, stating the people up there are basically landlocked.
Mr. Flansburg questioned if the township owned any road closed signs saying that he saw cones across the road and stating there should have been signs with the emergency management phone number on them.
Luis Bocaletti said the fire departments were working quite well together for the duration of the storm.
Bill Schneider said yes they do have road closed signs and they were out on Pond Drive and Glass House Hill. They were not on the State Roads. There were quite a bit of problems. They normally get criticized for going on a PennDOT road and they were there and did help. When the poles came in town they helped replace them. Mr. Schneider also stated the fire departments did work quite well together. Solicitor Bernathy questioned if there were any public service announcements made over that radio station. Supervisor Ewbank said they were notifying people on Monday of where to document storm damage and an update of what Orange & Rockland was doing. Noting was on the radio on Sunday. Mr. Schneider said when trees were down on Sunday four crews were sent to take the trees down but they will not touch the wires because if someone touches the wire they will get electrocuted.
Bob Melvin said the simple answer would be to do reverse 911 call outs and set up a phone apparatus. He said it is very inexpensive and even if people don’t have phones you can put cell phones on it. If you can reach five or six individuals it would spread the word. It would be something to look at.
Gwen Federico says it looks like there is a pocket of isolated folks in the township and maybe a flyer or some other plan could get word out.
Another resident said they do not get 1630 but they do 1490 which used to give a lot of local information.
Rollin Cook said they used their smart phone to access all the local radio stations. Solicitor Bernathy said that the information needs to be on the station however for residents to benefit.
Supervisor Ewbank referred residents to call 570-491-5177, listen to am 1630 or www.matamorasema.com
Supervisor Ewbank wished to thank the Westfall Fire Department, Mill Rift Fire Department, Westfall Highway Department, and Bob Melvin stating they all pitched in and helped out.
Bob Melvin said that he also works with Orange & Rockland OEM Center, and Pike County Light & Power OEM Center and they had crews in from Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin and there mission is to get power to people as soon as possible. There was an urgency to get to Cummins Hill Road for access and they worked to get that, but they had 3500 individual jobs and they worked through that as best they could.
Lisa Mickles asked if we declared a State of Emergency. Supervisor Ewbank said that yes the Borough of Matamoras, the Town of Deerpark, the City of Port Jervis, Borough of Milford and the Township of Westfall all declared an emergency and Vice-Chairman Buchanan added that the State of Pennsylvania declared an Emergency on Friday afternoon, which encompasses all of Pennsylvania. Supervisor Ewbank stated the State of Emergency opens the door for Federal funding.
MINUTES: The minutes of August 2, 2011 were tabled.
TREASURER’s REPORT: Scott Myer presented the Treasurers Report and said the report is positive. We have already collected 100% of income for the year and are below budget in expenses. Supervisor Ewbank said it sounds like Mr. Myer is doing a good job, to which Mr. Myer stated he is just reporting information. Supervisor Banach moved to accept the report. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Fischer and carries with all in favor.
POLICE REPORT: Assistant Police Chief Stewart gave the report for August reporting 240 calls for service, with 4,412 miles patrolled. Asst. Chief Stewart said there were a lot of complaints about the power and everyone was trying to work together. He himself did not have power for five days. He said there were rumors that people were getting tickets of $500.00 for going through barricades and that is simply not true. One person was written a ticket for driving through an area where the power company was working and they almost ran someone over and that was the only citation written. Motion to accept the police report made by Supervisor Ewbank and seconded by Supervisor Fischer. Motion carries with all in favor.
FIRE DEPARTMENTS: Ken Zielazny gave the Mill Rift Fire Department report for August reporting wires down Bluestone Blvd on 8/4, Equipment Maintenance on 8/10, 8/17, 8/24 and 8/27, Monthly Meeting on 8/11, Public Service basement pump out on 8/16 & 8/28, wires down on 8/28 and a structure fire on 8/28. Total man hours 98 and 15 equipment hours for the month. Luis Bocaletti gave the Westfall Township Fire Department Report for August reporting mutual aid structure fires 4, 3 automatic alarms, 6 MVAs, 1 mutual aid for drowning victim, 2 river rescues, 3 wires down, 2 pump outs, 2 mutual aid pump outs, 1 standby, 1 car fire, 1 mutual aid water rescue, 1 car fire, 1 structure fire, 1 co alarm, total calls for month 29, total man hours 328. Standby for the storm 40 calls. EMS total of 57 calls for month. Supervisor Banach moved to approve reports. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Fischer and carries with all in favor.
HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT: Bill Schneider gave the Highway report for August reporting that they have been performing regular maintenance on the township buildings, properties and vehicles. Met with PennDOT representatives about the pedestrian tunnel under 84. They sent down their bridge crew who worked on clearing the right of way of debris, trees and overgrowth and also worked on a drainage issue. Applied hot patch on Pond Drive in preparation for resurfacing. 8/11 road repair and work on compost pile with Matamoras DPW. 8/12 cut back grass and trimmed right of way on Roberts Lane. 8/15 opened ditches and removed tree from road, while monitoring flooding from heavy rains on Sunday. 8/16 kept drainage ditches open. Pond drive closed. 8/18 road repair on Fire Tower Rd. Prepare for culvert pipe replacement on Pond Drive. Attended Pike County Road Task Force Meeting. 8/22 check roads and clean ditches. Continue work on Pond Drive. 8/23 replaced culvert pipe on Pond drive. 8/25 began to prepare equipment for Hurricane Irene. 8/26 cleaned out drainage ditches, 8/27 responded to standby at highway department at 11:30 pm Saturday. Heavy rain started. 8/28 first called out by Pike County Comm Center at 2 a.m. for red lights out at K-mart, no power in the area. 2:30 called out for trees down and debris on Heater’s Hill. Numerous calls throughout the storm Sunday through Monday for emergency cleanup. Called in extra manpower on Sunday morning after dangerous conditions subsided somewhat. 13 hours. Trees down on mostly all township roads, wires down, power outages throughout. Cummins Hill and Mill Rift Road were for a time closed in both directions. Assisted PennDOT along with EMA Director Bob Ewbank and PennDOT foreman Scott Gillette with opening one lane on Glass House Hill for access to Mill Rift in one direction for emergency vehicles. Mill Rift road remained closed until the night of 9/1 with several poles and all wires down. There were flooding conditions on Pond drive which was also closed. 8/30-current and future- continued cleanup from the storm. 9/2 replaced culvert pipe on Decker Lane. Many thanks are to be given to the numerous township residents who pitched in and helped removed trees and branches from the roadways. Motion to approve the highway report made by Supervisor Fischer. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Banach. Motion carries with all in favor.
BUILDING /ZONING: Zoning Officer Mike Rendleman gave the August report stating that we issued one building permit, and one zoning permit with total fees of $2,204. Supervisor Ewbank moved to approve the report. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Fischer and carries with all in favor.
CORRESPONDENCE: On dais for review.
Act 47 Monthly Report: Solicitor Bernathy stated the Township continues to be compliant with regard to
the Bankruptcy Plan as well as the Act 47 plan and the Township continues to operate within its budget. As Mr. Myer has indicated we are slightly under budget. The township continues to provide essential services. There is a letter that we received from Federal Master Sandor that the Secretary has responded to on August 23, 2011.
HometownPress / Greg Cook & Carlos Fernandez: Not present.
Ordinance # 155 Cummins Hill Speed Limit: Vice-Chairman Buchanan moved to approve Ordinance # 155. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Ewbank and carries with all in favor.
Amend Zoning Ordinance: Vice-Chairman Buchanan stated this pertains to the Delaware Drive section from the property line of the Township which is over on the other side of the highway building to Kittatiny Canoes. Vice-Chairman Buchanan opened up discussion to the public.
Jack Shewchuk said he and his wife Elaine live at 1134 Delaware Drive and they submitted a letter to all the board members and do not want to be included in the C-2 Zone Change. They disagree with the zone change and want to hear from the board members as to the reasoning of the zone change. Supervisor Banach said he personally does not want it.
A resident asked if this means that there will be more septic trucks going by their houses. Solicitor Bernathy said that would be an expansion of a preexisting use and is generally permitted. The zone change will not affect that. Discussion followed as to whether or not Mr. Muir would be expanding his business or selling his property for other uses. The resident questioned if there is anything they can do to stop it.
Greg Callaghan said pretty much everyone on Delaware Drive is against the zone change. Mr. Callaghan said the trucks step on the gas right after passing over the bridge and the noise gets louder and louder. Gwen Federico of 1022 Delaware Drive said Pedestrian traffic is very dangerous, stating you take your life in your hands trying to walk down to the Avenues with no sidewalks. Catherine Toussaint of Matamoras said she was just made aware of this two weeks ago and was quite surprised and asked if an impact study on the effects that this is going to have on Avenue C, the small bridge that connects both Matamoras and Westfall Township. Mrs. Toussaint complained about the traffic and stench coming from Westfall Township and said Matamoras will have more of an impact than Westfall will on this change. Solicitor Bernathy stated that from a legal perspective we are required by law to provide impacted parties with notice via the newspaper and in addition when there is a zone change we are required by law to provide notice to people that were within a certain distance to the zone change. Or Mrs. Toussaint would have received a notice. Mrs. Toussaint questioned Mr. Bernathy as to where he lived and how he drove here tonight. Solicitor Bernathy said where he lived is not the issue and that Mrs. Toussaint has no standing at the meeting this evening. He is allowing a Matamoras resident to speak at a Westfall meeting and they were not required to notify her of the zone change. Mrs. Toussaint tried to drive home the point that people needed to drive through Matamoras to get to this section of Westfall Township. Solicitor Bernathy said the other laws do not address impact for adjacent communities. Supervisor Banach said a good township board would do that. Mrs. Toussaint appealed to the board to consider the impact it would have on Matamoras Borough.
Larry Flansburg said he would like to go on the record to say that he is personally against it and he felt the lawyer that spoke at the last meeting summed it up pretty nicely by saying the road just can’t handle it.
Mr. Flansburg said the old adage goes “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”. Mr. Flansburg said the Skate Rink was handled was quite well that if you want to change the use of your property you come and get a permit and that should be the way it is done, not to change everyone’s property. Several people agreed.
Mr. Barnes said he felt that a everybody is pointing out the worst possible scenario in changing the zoning when there are a lot of uses that could be done with the land that will have very little impact. The trucks going by will continue to go by whether you change the zoning or not. Mr. Barnes said a restaurant or motel or housing would not affect the traffic much. Mr. Barnes stated that there is no plan to expand the sewer plant at this time.
Mrs. Shewchuk asked if a conditional use of a particular parcel be limited as far as build out scope is concerned versus C2 designation where a parcel owner can build out up to 70% of their property. Solicitor Bernathy said a conditional use is something where from where a use is permitted, however the Supervisors after reviewing the application can attach whatever conditions they deem necessary for purposes of protecting health, safety, and welfare. So there is a lot more regulation that can be accomplished in a conditional use which is different from a zoning classification. So the difference is a conditional use is something that gives Supervisors discretion to add additional conditions that really aren’t set forth in the ordinance. Just under the general guise of health, safety and welfare. Mrs. Shewchuk asked if rezoning the area would set a dangerous precedent for a lateral expansion. Solicitor Bernathy said he did not believe so and explained that it would be difficult to develop these parcels due to the fact that they are probably in a floodplain. Not to mention that many other of the arguments that have been mentioned would have to be applied to the applicant. Discussion followed about the board being duty bound to comply with their ordinances. Supervisor Ewbank said isn’t it true that they would have to comply with the Park Service. Solicitor Bernathy said there are many other third party approvals needed. Mrs. Shewchuk asked why we are even changing it. Vice-Chairman Buchanan said we had a request by a resident to change it and it was sent to the planning board. Richard Mai said that he submitted a letter than he does not want to be included in the zone change. Solicitor Bernathy said there were two letters that were received that will be made part of the record from Mr. & Mrs. Jack Shewchuk and Mr. & Mrs. Richard Mai stating they did not want to be included in the zone change.
Mr. Callaghan said he feels that something was trying to get snuck by him. Solicitor Bernathy assured Mr. Callaghan that as the Solicitor for this township nothing would get snuck by him. The law said within a reasonable distance and we looked at the map and determined 1000 feet as the designation. Mr. Callaghan said they disagree with the 1000 feet. Mr. Friend asked how they decided on 1000 feet. Solicitor Bernathy said you could argue that it was an arbitrary number, that is what we came up with as to who would be impacted.
Marge Tonkin said she is a member of the Planning Board and the vote was two against and two in favor of commercial.
Mrs. Toussaint said no one knows what the plans are on the properties.
Christine Robin said we should preserve the only peace and beauty that the township has left.
Mr. Barnes said his original plan when he bought the property was to put in senior housing and he doesn’t believe it will impact that greatly. The reason he needs the zoning change is to increase the density. Vice-Chairman Buchanan asked how much property Mr. Barnes owned. Mr. Barnes answered thirteen acres. Vice-Chairman Buchanan said the main properties affected are the Westfall Township properties, Mr. Barnes properties, Kittatiny, and Mr. Muir.
Attorney Schneider said the board does not allow certain uses that aid in economic developing stating that when Mr. Jones business changes he needs to sometimes change and if he needs to come in for a variance his burden of proof is almost impossible. He has to go to the Zoning Hearing Board, he can’t have a self imposed hardship and it’s almost impossible to get. He wants the board to be aware of the rights that Mr. Jones has to utilization of his property and the benefit it will give the municipality.
Mr. Shewchuk said when Kittatinny clear cut their property it had a devastating effect on his property and downstream. Mrs. Robin said changing the zone will place us on the defense and put a chink in our armor.
Tom Friend said he is the closest house on the road on Delaware Drive and he is totally against any extra traffic on Delaware Drive. Antoinette Kubie said the live on Delaware Drive and they do not want any more septic trucks. Mrs. Kubie said they cannot even hear their television with the windows closed due to the septic trucks.
A resident asked what was the rush to have it done so quickly. Vice-Chairman Buchanan said it has been going on for months. Rollin Cook asked what is the benefit to the people. Supervisor Fischer said there are residents that want to see the zone changed and they are still people. Mrs. Banach said we already have senior housing in the township. Stating that you can’t buy property and then change it. Further stating people have inherited property or have owned it for years and now you want to change what they have.
Mr. Barnes said he does not want to change their property at all.
Mr. Gregory said he wants to remind the board that at the last meeting they heard from an expert witness that did an assessment who said in his opinion rezoning the properties on Delaware Drive would have an adverse impact. Mr. Gregory said he thinks the board should consider that in their decision.
Supervisor Fischer said there was also other testimony that went against that.
Mrs. Shewchuk said when she received her information from the Attorneys office it meant nothing until she received the map. They then divided up the properties by residential and commercial properties by the canoe liveries, Pike County Environmental, the Township, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They than looked at the acreage which was residential vs. acreage in the other properties and it was actually 175.56 acres for the residential properties and 80.35 for the business, township, and state properties which is actually a 2:1 ratio. Mrs. Shewchuk said as a residential owner she feels she is being ganged up on by special interests vs. residential property owners and asked if anyone wanted to speak to that. Solicitor Bernathy stated there was a long process that the township went through for the preparation of the comprehensive plan and there were studies that were conducted and comments that were received. When you talk about impact it has to be a Township impact not just an area impact and part of the comprehensive plan that Solicitor Bernathy encourages Mrs. Shewchuk to look at has a lot of maps that break down the zones available that are left for commercial development. And those zones are very limited. So there’s very limited area left for purposes of generating tax base. The township is in need for increase tax revenue, with that comes increase services, so one of the things the supervisors looked at is to provide for more commercial development vs. increases property taxes. So the board is trying to strike a balance.
Supervisor Banach asked how commercial property is taxed and stated that commercial property is taxed at the same rate. Stating that Solicitor Bernathy is just spending our money. Supervisor Banach further stated that they have a $1,000,000.00 Police Department. Supervisor Banach said that the township went from a 2 man police department and one Wal Mart to a 9 full-time 3 part-time department. Supervisor Banach said we have a letter from Larry Flansburg with 80 names of residents who do not want this change and the room is full for the second month in a row. He feels it is the board’s duty to say that we do not need this and he is going to make that motion.
Mrs. Shewchuk said at the August 2, 2011 meeting the people showed up concerned about the three lane and this is a two lane road. This is a big concern for the residents especially if senior housing comes in.
Another resident is concerned his property value will go down with increased traffic.
Dave Jones said there are other uses that won’t necessary increase traffic. The state may need to work on the road. They may need to be fair to the businesses.
Mr. Gregory asked what businesses would not bring in more cars.
Mr. Jones said there may be more cars.
Mr. Barnes said this area is the best stretch of area for Westfall but no one has access to it because it is private property. Stating that along with senior housing is the possibility to put in a park to access the river.
Mrs. Shewchuk said there is a beautiful park 3 miles from here in Matamoras. Do we know that a park will be built here in this area?
Ms. Federico said if there is senior housing this area floods and that would be a large amount of people to be concerned with.
Supervisor Fischer stated we monitor the river and begin to evacuate at 12 feet.
Larry Flansburg said that 90% of the people in the township are against it and when the Supervisors vote that what they should take into consideration because the Supervisors work for the residents.
Vice-Chairman Buchanan asked where are the 90% stating he heard from about 10 people maybe 100 total out of 2400 residents.
Supervisor Banach moved that no change to the zoning takes place. Motion seconded by Supervisor Ewbank. Supervisor Fischer and Vice-Chairman Buchanan are opposed. Tie vote, motion does not carry.
September 11, 2011 Memorial Service / Town of Deerpark: Vice-Chairman Buchanan read a letter from Flo Santini inviting the board to the memorial service.
PennDOT Winter Services 5 Year Municipal Agreement: Roadmaster Bill Schneider recommended approval. Vice-Chairman Buchanan moved to approve the agreements. Supervisor Ewbank seconds the motion. Motion carries with all in favor.
Schedule Budget Meetings: Budget meetings will be scheduled for October 13th, 20th, and 27th; at 7:00 pm. Fire and Police will come to the first meeting.
Milford Water Authority in Westfall Township re: Orange & Rockland: Discussion was held regarding the Milford Water Authority bringing water into the township for Orange & Rockland. Solicitor Bernathy asked how the water was getting into the township. Are they using a township right of way or a PennDOT right of way. Vice-Chairman Buchanan asked if there were any objections from the board if they were not using a township right of way. There were no objections.
Correspondence from Michael Sandor dated August 11, 2011: That has been responded to in the August 23, 2011 letter.
Resignation of Lester Buchanan: Supervisor Ewbank read the letter of resignation from Lester J. Buchanan resigning his position from the Westfall Highway Department effective 3:00 pm, December 21, 2011. Mr. Buchanan said it has been a pleasure working with Roadmaster Bill Schneider and serving the citizens of Westfall Township. Supervisor Banach moved to accept the resignation. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Fischer and carries with all in favor. Supervisor Banach suggested advertising the position. Vice-Chairman Buchanan said he spoke to Bill Schneider and he feels we should hire by December 1, 2011 to have an overlap of 3 weeks to get the new employee familiar with the new job before Mr. Buchanan leaves. Vice-Chairman Buchanan said right now we only have one application. We will advertise in the Pike County Dispatch and place this on the website. The rate of pay will be $15.00 per hour, full-time, health benefits for individual, CDL required.
Burning Ban: Supervisor Ewbank has a proposed ordinance from the Pennsylvania DEP Model Air Pollution Control Ordinance that he would like to place on the next meeting for public hearing. Solicitor Bernathy questioned if Supervisor Ewbank would like to send that for any type of recommendation to the Planning Commission. Supervisor Ewbank said they could but he would like to get together with Solicitor Bernathy first
to fine tune it, stating that it would only apply to areas of Westfall Township that are adjacent to the borough of Matamoras. The board will send this ordinance on to Planning. No advertising will take place yet.
SUBDIVISION REVIEW and ACTION:
Monroe Optical Land Development Plan
Preliminary / Final Phase – Preliminary for Phase II: Solicitor Bernathy stated a letter has been received from Planning that a motion was made and carried at their August 23, 2011 Planning Commission meeting to recommend approval subject to the conditions listed on the aforementioned letter. (Attached and made part of the record) Vice-Chairman Buchanan moved to approve Monroe Optical based upon the listed conditions. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Banach and carries with all in favor.
Mill Rift Cemetery / Haney Minor Subdivision Plan: Solicitor Bernathy said similarly you have a motion from Planning at their August 23rd meeting to recommend approval of this submission with the recommendation of the applicants request for a modification to be approved upon the condition they submit the waiver request in writing which they have done. Vice-Chairman Buchanan moved to approve the Subdivision. Motion is seconded by Supervisor Banach and carries with all in favor.
ADJOURNMENT: Vice-Chairman Buchanan moved to adjourn at 9:22. Motion seconded by Supervisor Ewbank and carries with all in favor.
Lisa A. Green