PC meeting, March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017:

Went to our Greenwich Twp meeting tonight.  Why?  Because this was brought to my attention through Facebook.

WAREHOUSE PROPOSAL MEETING.  BE THERE.

What????  Where in the heck do they think they can put a warehouse, off of the Krumsville PA exit 40 of I-78?  And they plan to run tractor trailer traffic through Krumsville how?

I have to go to this meeting and find out what it’s about.  When I show up at our tiny township building, fifteen minutes before the meeting is due to start, there are so many cars there already that they are parking along Old 22, in the field behind the building, in mud, and anywhere they can.  Inside it is standing room only. I got a rough head count, 120 individuals here to find out what’s going on.

I work my way through the crowd and jostle many of my neighbors to reach a wall where I can stand, jammed in like sardines in a can, so I see, hear and be heard.

Oh yes, I signed my name on the sheet of paper so I could be heard.

Yeah … more on that later.

Standing room only.  The walls are lined with people, all the folding chairs are full, people are jammed in the back entrance way and even standing outside the doors, holding the doors open (which wasn’t a bad thing as the temperature in this room was already warm and was about to get hotter)

What is all the hubbub?  The local citizens of Krumsville, PA were recently made aware that a 500,000 square foot warehouse was proposed to be built on a parcel of land in their little historical village of Krumsville.

Problem is … this was actually made public on November 30, 2014.  Oh, yes.  It was.  However, us Krummy’s didn’t pay attention. And the township didn’t feel it was interesting enough to inform their constituents that this developer was proposing a warehouse on this parcel of land.  For two years the developer has been working with the township, crossing T’s and dotting I’s to get the proper permissions to construct a warehouse.

In fact, in April 2016, Victor Berger was quoted at the Board of Supervisors meeting (in a Reading Eagle Article) that the rumors about a warehouse being built were just that, rumors.

Uh huh

warehouse1warehouse2warehouse3During these past two years, while the developer spent his time doing his due diligence and presenting to Greenwich Township everything that was required to secure permission to build a warehouse on the property, is when we should have been attending meetings and making our protests, concerns and wishes heard.  While we were kept in the dark about this project, this past Thursday, two days after 21 inches of snow dumped on Krumsville, PA, the developer had all the permission necessary to move forward so they closed the sale on the property … and brought their initial construction plans to township planning commission meeting tonight.

Now that we found out about this situation – through the trusty grapevine – this past week,  we all show up at the meeting to find out what is going on and why and who thinks this is a good idea?

Oh dear.  A room full of angry residents.  And it is really getting warm in here.  Temperature, as well as tempers.

So, I am here to tell you that we asked questions – and got no answers.  I mean, the township attorney is good.  He is a pro at redirecting.  In fact, he should be the one standing on the little corner, under the blinging red light, redirecting traffic when I-78 gets FUBAR and they detour onto Old 22 and truckers are running over cars, mailboxes, each other, and telephone poles trying to maneuver through the intersection of Old 22 and Rt 737.  Yes, he should be out here “redirecting” and then he might understand how we are confused that this intersection will be able to handle daily tractor trailer traffic, on a massive level, for a 40 bay warehouse.

A woman starts the question portion of the meeting with an angry statement about her mailbox being damaged during the recent 21 inch snowstorm. “Oh my gosh, Lady.  Did they clear the roads so you could get to a hospital or to work or to a grocery store? Go spend $50 and repair your mail box.”

I laugh to myself as the attorney calmly explains that this is not the meeting to discuss mailbox damage.

Let’s talk about the questions asked, by several people, in several different ways, on several occasions, that were not answered.

As the questions began, a man in the crowd starts videoing.  The attorney says “No Legal Recording” is allowed at this meeting.  The man responds, “That’s okay, I am illegally recording.”

We all laugh but it’s not really funny.  Because we are in a public building, at a public meeting, and I’m pretty sure that we can take photos and record whatever we choose to.  I will check into that. (UPDATE: March 23, 2017 – yes, we can record or video any public meeting, the information for that law is listed here)

In the meantime, I turn on my phone and record so I can remember what was said to write up this blog.  I suppose this BLOG is illegal, too.

  • QUESTION 1:  Why were we not informed of this meeting by the township.
  • RESPONSE 1: All Planning Commission and Supervisor meetings scheduled are posted at the beginning of the year, open to the public.
  • QUESTION 2: Yes, but why were we,  your tax paying residents, not informed that there was a meeting about a proposed warehouse being built in our community,
  • RESPONSE 2: All meetings are open to the public and anyone can attend.  We have been discussing this proposed construction for several months.
  • QUESTION 3: Yes, but we found out about this meeting today, where this developer is presenting development plans, through the grapevine (posted signs put up on Thursday, Facebook shares, fliers in mailboxes over the weekend)  We were not informed about this proposed project and we want to know why.
  • RESPONSE 3: The Planning Commission does not make any decisions, we are simply here to review the plans for legal and illegal conceptions and have the developer make the necessary changes to make the construction legal.
  • STATEMENT 3: You are not answering our question!  Why is this project just now being brought to our attention through non-township sources.
  • RESPONSE 3a: All residents are allowed to attend all Supervisor and Planning Commission meetings, this project has been on the agenda for several months.
  • QUESTION 4: Where is the agenda posted for the residents to review?
  • RESPONSE 4: The agenda is posted on the website.
  • (ME, hand raised – STATEMENT 4):  Excuse me! No, the agendas are not posted on your website.  And neither are the meeting minutes from the Planning Commission, ever,  and the Supervisors meetings stopped posting minutes in December 2015. (don’t believe me, check out their website)
  • RESPONSE 4a: Well, it is not our responsibility to post anything on a website, all residents can make a formal request for copies of the meeting minutes and the agendas are published in the newspaper.

At this time, the room gets a little out of control as multiple people start chiming in and requesting that meeting minutes be posted on the township website.  That the proposed construction plans be posted on a website. That the entire project be posted and updated daily, on a website.

Pretty much, the township attorney rebuffs all these comments and concerns with the statement:  “We do not make decisions, this is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to review the construction plans for legality as zoned by the township and to make the developer aware of any illegal plans so those illegal plans can be corrected to be legal plans.”  (this is a verbatim quote)

This next series of questioning is very interesting.

  • QUESTION 5: Who are our representatives for the township, the county and the state.
  • RESPONSE 5: I’m not sure I understand your question.
  • QUESTION 5a: Who do we contact about our concerns about this proposed construction project?
  • RESPONSE 5a: The Board of Supervisors is your township representative.
  • QUESTION 5b: So the Board of Supervisor represents us at a township level.  Then why were we not informed about this project before now? And who do we contact at a County and State level?

Unfortunately, the room exploded with many people all talking at once so I was unable to hear the response from the attorney regarding who to contact.  I will have to investigate that information on my own and I will post it here.  I believe he said that there is not a County Level representative, but I’m not sure.  I could petition the Planning Commission for a copy of their meeting minutes, but I’m not sure how that will go as I carefully watched the people at the table and I did not see anyone taking notes, or recording this meeting.

And for several minutes, the line of questioning, comments and concerns revolved back to the “WHY WERE WE NOT INFORMED” with more of the same responses.

As a seasoned public speaker and meeting moderator, I am appalled by the unruliness of this meeting.  It is not being brought back to control by the Planning Commission members and it’s getting loud and angry.  I am desperate to get things back into a productive discussion so I raise my hand and speak over the crowd (and you all know me, I can out “loudness” an entire room!)

“EXCUSE ME, EXCUSE ME, I have three questions”

Amusing me greatly, the attorney looks relieved and he directs his attention to me and tells me to proceed.  The room quiets down as I ask my first question.

  • QUESTION #6: Obviously, the tractor trailer traffic into a 40 bay warehouse is going to generate a lot of noise in our quiet historical town.  I believe there are approximately 30 homes along the proposed route from I-78 into the warehouse that will be affected by the noise. What is the townships plans to reduce this noise for the current residents.
  • RESPONSE #6: Well, we don’t have any plans for that.  Why would you believe the township should be responsible for noise control?
  • QUESTION #6a: Is there a noise ordinance in place in our township?
  • RESPONSE #6a: No, because of the highway through our township, to affect any type of noise ordinance, you would find that you would not be allowed to run your lawn mower?
  • QUESTION #6b: So, there will be no controls in place to reduce noise from the tractor trailer traffic through Krumsville?
  • RESPONSE #6b: Not at this time.  After the warehouse is in operation, you would have to prove that the noise is disruptive and then present that to the Board Of Supervisors for review.

(Did I just hear that correctly?  There will be no studies prior to the construction and after the construction we would have to “prove” that there was a noise problem?)

  • QUESTION #7: My home was damaged during the major part of construction on the new bridge due to the constant traffic of dump trucks and large equipment.  My home was built in 1872 and the vibrations of this heavy traffic caused mortar to become dislodged from the bricks, we even lost a couple bricks during this time.  What is the townships plans to prevent historical buildings in Krumsville from becoming damaged by the heavy tractor trailer traffic.
  • RESPONSE #7: This would be the responsibility of PENN DOT.
  • QUESTION #7a: Excuse me, excuse me, but no, my insurance company clearly told me that there is no recourse in damage reimbursement from PENN DOT for the damage to my home caused by the heavy equipment.  So my question is, What plans does the township have to protect the historical buildings in Krumsville?
  • RESPONSE #7a: That is not our responsibility.  You would need to prove that the tractor trailer traffic was causing damage to your home.
  • QUESTION #7b: So, after I prove that the new warehouse and the traffic is generates is damaging my historical home, how does the township plan to handle those damages and protect its historical buildings?
  • RESPONSE #7b: That is not our responsibility, it would probably be PENN DOT that you would need to petition.

(You’re kidding me, right?  Time to involve the State Historical Society.)

At this point, the crowd gets loud again, barraging the council with questions, statements and concerns about damage to their property and the dangers to the small children living along the proposed route into and out of the warehouse and the dangers to the Amish and Mennonite families that drive their buggies down Rt 737 into Kutztown.  Many people stand up and the questions become repetitive, and the answers remain the same.

WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE.

WE DO NOT MAKE DECISIONS.

I did not get to ask my third question so I want until there is a brief break in the chaos.

  1. QUESTION #8: Excuse me, but I believe I have one more question to ask.  All us residents are very aware of the dangers to our intersection of Old 22 and Rt 737 when the highway has an accident and they reroute traffic onto Old 22.  ( the crowd rumbles with confirmation of this statement) Tractor trailers cannot make the turns safely.  Over the years I have lost my mailbox several times, I have seen many cars get run over by trailer tires, people have had their cars damaged parked at the Krumsville Inn (the crowd roars with yesses) and at the Antique Shoppe.  Cars have been crushed sitting at the intersection waiting their turn (again the crowd rumbles with hear us!) What is the townships plans on handling tractor trailer traffic through this tiny intersection?
  2. RESPONSE #8: That would be a PENN DOT issue, not a township issue.
  3. QUESTION #8a: So, the township has no plans on making the intersection safe for the residents?
  4. RESPONSE #8a: That is not our responsibility, these are state owned roads.  We have had three meetings with PENN DOT on these very issues and they are starting studies.
    (here is a photo of the intersection off I-78 through Krumsville proper that these tractor trailers are supposed to travel through)

    Photo taken March 21, 2017

    Photo taken March 21, 2017

The crowd goes mad.  Many people are asking how they can be informed about these PENN DOT meetings so they can attend and make their concerns publicly heard.

PENN DOT MEETINGS ARE PRIVATE AND NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE RESIDENTS TO ATTEND.

(update March 23, 2017) After several phone calls we are informed that ANY meeting with PENN DOT by Greenwich Township is transparent and any township resident can attend the meeting and can receive an official copy of the minutes from that meeting, whether they attend or not.  We have made a formal request for the minutes from the three meeting that Greenwich Township stated they had with PENN DOT.  You can also make a request.

Oh boy, the crowd is angry and many people are speaking out about the dangers of increased tractor trailer traffic, and why are we not allowed to be involved in these road traffic meetings, and how to we make our voices heard.

And, once again we come back around to the “Why were we not informed and why is the township hiding information from the residents.” and the every famous question, that was asked and asked and asked, “How do we stop it?” The response every being, “You can’t, it is an approved use of the land and now the only thing that will stop it is itself.” – meaning that the construction plans can’t get approvals through other outside state and federal agencies.

Yes, I am done.  it is 9:00 pm, we have been here since 7:30 pm and here is the Reader’s Digest version.

The warehouse proposal was approved by the township in 2016.  It is to be built on a section of land was designated “INDUSTRIAL” in the year 2000. (CORRECTION, as of March 2003, this parcel of land is still registered as Commercial.  I have requested the variance and when the variance was approved to change the parcel to Industrial)  The development company got the necessary testing/approvals so they proceeded with the purchase of the property and now they will start the plan approval stage.  Multiple groups will be involved.  PENN DOT, the state DEP are two that were mentioned over and over again.

In my internet research last night and today, I have found that a petition was presented to the township, with roughly 900 names on it, regarding the warehouse.  This petition was presented in January 2016.  Surprisingly, there are no Board of Supervisor minutes posted on the website after December 2015.  Soooo, what happened with this petition?  Who was in charge of this petition and why wasn’t the petition followed up on?

screen captureHere is what I propose to the residents that are concerned.  We have to attend every meeting from now until this warehouse is built.  We have to keep presenting our concerns and start producing “proof” that this warehouse is not in the best interest of the community.  We have to reach out to other state agencies that can help us provide this proof.  And we have to be diligent. (UPDATE March 23, 2017 – I will be presenting a formal request for the meeting minutes that are not posted on the website.  As Greenwich Township HAS, in the past, posted their meeting minutes on their website, I can formally request that all minutes from 2016 and 2017 be posted on the website and they have five days to comply)

In today’s world of instant gratification, I do not see a crowd of 120 people attending every meeting coming up.  In fact, I full expect it to boil down to a couple of residents that are directly affected, like the family that is going to lose a piece of their land and old trees to the construction project.

In which case, the warehouse will get built.

NEXT MEETING, APRIL 3 – Board of Supervisors.  I’ll be there.  Will you?

I have downloaded the township ordinances.  I will be going through it with a fine tooth comb and highlighting those areas in which we (the township residents) have the power to make submissions of protest.  I will be attending the meeting with pictures, diagrams, and documented concerns regarding the warehouse (not fitting into our historical community), the increased tractor trailer traffic (causing major safety concerns for all residents along the pathway) and the loss of value to our homes and property.

See the document I will be presenting at the April 3rd 2017 Board of Supervisors meeting.