The East Allen Township Board of Supervisors held a workshop meeting on Thursday, October 26 where they discussed the recommendation to grant conditional final plan approval for the NASD Route 329 elementary school and education center, as well as the 2024 proposed budget.
Under business, the board unanimously approved the following: the recommendation to accept the dedication of right of way on Snowdrift Road for the Compass Business Center East land development plan as Resolution 2023-21; the offer from Northampton Regional EMS of $100,000 for the “as is” purchase of a 2022 Ford E-450 ambulance; the proposal for core samples for Township Line Road with permission not to exceed $7,500; and the appointment of Frank DeVito as alternate to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Next, Terry DeGroot from Terraform Engineering provided the board with some updates on the Route 329 elementary school and education center project that was scheduled for consideration.
DeGroot shared that the district made a minor change to the plan, adding a note about covenants on the land due to state historical requirements, even though there is nothing of historical value on the land.
DeGroot also divulged that the monuments that were required for Seemsville Road and Bernie Way have been sent, and the others will be done during the course of construction on the project.
Additionally, DeGroot stated that NASD has worked out the value of the escrow cost estimate with Hanover Engineering, so the figure is ready to be placed into a security agreement, and that the district has presented the description of the dedication of Tanglewood Road, which will be dedicated as a deed of easements instead of a simple deed because of restrictions placed on the property by the state.
During discussion about the deferral of open space fees, Supervisor Donald Heiney withdrew his support for the deferral of NASD’s open space and recreation fee, instead requesting that the board consider requiring the $365,072 in fees up front.
Supervisors agreed and amended the condition to: The developer/owner shall pay the required payment to the township of a fee in lieu of dedication of land for open space and recreational area in the sum of $365,072 prior to the time of recordation of the plan.
After resident Maggie Kemp raised concerns regarding the need for testing of pollution, noise and traffic at the Route 329 site from current and proposed warehouse development and tractor trailer traffic due to their potential safety hazard, Vice Chairperson Mark Schwartz asked Solicitor Joseph Piperato whether the township can require NASD to perform those studies.
Piperato stated that the warehouses were not approved by the township because they were approved by Allen Township based on their location. Therefore, the only authority the township has is to look at the project and apply the standards of their own ordinances. Moreover, Piperato pointed out that the project has already been through an advertised conditional use process, the property has been posted and it has been through multiple public Planning Commission meetings that were advertised and posted as well. So, while there may be some concerns regarding environmental issues, the application only considers the applicant and their proposed plan rather than the warehouses down the road.
Piperato confirmed that there is no condition that the township can add onto the existing conditional use requirements.
“Every condition that we impose has to make reference to a specific section of an ordinance of the township, and I’m not aware of any other ordinances that would be applicable in response to the previous statements that were made on this particular project other than what we have in our ordinance,” said Piperato.
“Just so the public is aware that we did hear it and there’s nothing in our jurisdiction that we could impose,” Schwartz reiterated.
Kemp implored the township must have some kind of consideration for what’s going to be around the surrounding areas of the school.
DeGroot also requested that the township reduce the $5 million cost estimate escrow amount to $50,000 to cover township costs due to the letter of credit tying up district funds and placing an additional burden on the district, but Piperato stated that he did not believe this was an option.
Supervisors unanimously approved Resolution 2023-22 to grant conditional final plan approval for the Route 329 elementary school and education center per the conditions dated Oct. 26, 2023 including the amendment to open space and recreation fees made during the meeting.
In other business, Township Manager Brent Green presented the 2024 township budget, which included $3,229,668 in general fund revenue with tax millage remaining the same even though assessment has gone up, $1.4 million in projected property taxes, $1,050,000 from local service and reality taxes, slightly less revenue from projected fees and permits, $1,050 in interest from a CD, sale of proceeds from equipment, and yard waste permits no longer covering 50% of what the township pays to the FRCA. Green noted the township is not currently in a deficit.
Some of the projected expenses for the 2024 budget include increases in executive, administration and finance, yard waste and recycling, recreation and IT network expenses. Additionally, engineering expenses are up because of two township projects, fire department expenses will include an increase in utility costs for operations, exploring new methods of recruiting and repairs/upgrades to the building, employer paid benefit expenses accounting for a 10% increase in health insurance plan rates, insurance expenses being high due to an increase in claim histories and a large part of public works expenses covering materials and employees.
Green also presented that budget revenues are at 97%, which is roughly $2.7 million in total revenues, $2,240,388.68 in expenditures, a net operating income of $503,000, and $453,151.61 in surpluses, which includes capital purchases.
Green will do a full 2024 budget presentation at the next meeting when there is a full board, however, he revealed that no tax increase is proposed.
The next East Allen Township Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 8 at 7 p.m. in the township building, located at 5344 Nor-Bath Blvd.