Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sunshine Act Prompts East Allen to Postpone Big Box Hearing

These people were unable to see or
hear what was happening in the meeting.
Welcome to America's Truck Stop! The Fed Ex ground facility going up right now in Allen Township is expected to be the largest ground facility in the world, according to Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley. In addition to the Fed Ex itself, The Morning Call reports that Allen Township is planning for 13 warehouses around the Fed Ex. They will take up as much room as 100 football fields. This demand for big boxes is so strong that it has spilled over into East Allen Township. Last night, East Allen Supervisors were expected to consider a proposal to change the zoning designation of 155.03 acres along the southwest side of Weaversville Road, from Agricultural to Light Industrial. The suits were all there. Lehigh Valley International Airport, which owns the land. The Rockefeller Group, salivating for more big boxes. But the meeting ended abruptly with no decision or testimony because some bottom-feeder pointed out that Supervisors were violating the Sunshine Act.

That troublemaker was me.

I was there once before and had no trouble finding a place to park. But last night was different. There was no room in the parking lot, but I eventually was able to park on the grass at an empty lot next to the fire company. I was far from alone. Many cars were already there.

80 people were inside the meeting room
Walking toward the municipal building, I noticed a state trooper parked there. Maybe someone had tipped him off that I was coming. But he let me go by without tasing me. He must have been lying in wait for Ron Angle, who like me pops up at the strangest places.

The hallway inside the municipal building was packed with about 20 people. They were unable to get inside the meeting room. More importantly, they were unable to hear the meeting in any way. Resident Sonia Shadid told me another 20 people had previously been sent away.

Though there may have been no room to sit, I figured I could stand alongside a wall and decided to go in. But as I walked in, a big and burly firefighter with 24-inch pythons stopped me at the door. He told me no more than 80 people are allowed inside the room, and that I alone probably count as 10 people, so I wasn't getting in. He weakened a little when I told him I am friends with King Allentown, but he insisted on following the law.

So I insisted on following the law, too. The Sunshine Law. Though largely toothless, it does provide that the "right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decisionmaking of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process." It provides for public participation at meetings, enabling the public to speak on matters before official action is taken. In this case, the public was being deprived of the opportunity to both listen and speak.

From the doorway, I loudly objected. You see, there's a provision in the Sunshine Act that enables any person, even a bottom-feeding blogger, "to raise an objection at any time to a perceived violation of this chapter at any meeting of a board or council."

So I did. I pointed out that the public was being deprived the opportunity to witness government in action and to add their own voice. Shadid told Supervisors that about 15-20 members of the public had actually been turned away.

Solicitor Joe Piperato was receptive to this argument and explained the law to Supervisors. They unanimously voted to postpone its public hearing until they can find a bigger hall.

After it was over, I thanked each Supervisor and Piperato, all of whom were very gracious.

Lehigh Valley truck traffic is expected to double in the next ten years as a result if all these box boxes,and it will be coming down Airport Road. About 100 people were on hand for this meeting, not including the ones sent away. But I saw no one from the daily newspapers.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good for you Bernie!

Brian Budraitis said...

Bernie,

These warehouses have to stop and they are the main reason why I decided to run for Township Supervisor. It was great to see such a large crowd at the meeting last night. Remember, the Municipal Primary is this Tuesday and I am completely against further industrial development. Keep It Rural!
Brian Budraitis
Candidate for Township Supervisor

Anonymous said...

Couldn't some of this haphazard development be prevented if Townships would be less parochial, and agree on multi-municipal zoning agreements? I believe they could then designate certain areas for different uses without running into the law making every municipality allow anything.

Anonymous said...

Build, build, build

Jobs, jobs jobs

It's just that simple. However, there has to be concurrent development in expanding the road infrastructure to accommodate the increased traffic as a result of the increased amount of commerce.

Anonymous said...

You sir need to be defeated. What are your other positions. Lock the Township Borders and don't let anyone else in. Have you checked out Mill rate. No development equals higher taxes.

Anonymous said...

The traffic situation just gives the illusion that there are jobs to be had and it is the hustle and bustel deversionary circus carnival sideshow. Real statistics would be a nice compliment to this developmental dengeneration of the entire area that seems to suffer the backwards consuquences.

Barbara Diamond said...

Good for you Bernie. Pretty soon our beautiful Lehigh Valley will look like northern New Jersey or Long Island. Do these warehouses with their automated operations really offer more than a handful of jobs and are they good jobs with a decent wage & benefits?

Anonymous said...

While there is a great desire to deplete farmland into warehouse space, the number of jobs they create is minimal, compared to the impact.

donmiles said...

Warehouses typically provide less than 10 jobs per acre consumed (in the Lehigh Valley, usually irreplacable farmland)
See: http://www.ronbeitler.com/2016/09/08/how-many-acres-warehouses-does-it-take/
Warehouses produce far fewer jobs per acre than manufacturing or service industries.

The thousands of diesel-engine trucks per day generated to/from Lehigh Valley's millions of square fee of warehouses have made our metropolitan area 14th worst in the nation (our of over 300) for the particulate air pollution that is largely produced by those trucks. (Particulate air pollution -- microscopic black soot that imbeds in people's lungs -- causes heart and lung diseases, asthma, and other respiratory symptoms including coughing and difficulty breathing, which impact hundreds of thousands of Lehigh Valley residents, particularly children and the elderly.)

The traffic impacts warehouses have and will have upon once-rural roads in the East Allen Township area and the upcoming FedEx Ground-trucks congestion on Airport Road and its Route 22 intersection are well-known.

East Allen Township already has hundreds of acres of land zoned for industrial use and has no legal requirement to rezone the land on the southwest side of Weaversville Road to produce more feeble-job-producing, air-polluting, traffic-clogging warehouses. It's time for East Allen and other Lehigh Valley municipalities in these already over-burdened areas to say "enough".

- Donald Miles, Lehigh Valley Sierra Club

c said...

Great post Don Miles and great job Bernie!

Anonymous said...

I understand protesting warehouses, as they provide few jobs per acre and that number will continue to shrink with automation. But let's not pretend manufacturing is coming back. Pennsylvania and the entire US are not business-friendly places, and robots are replacing workers at a dizzying pace. Farms overproduce and are subsidized to prop up prices. Automation is the culprit here, as well. I don't know the answers. But manufacturing and farming are not two of them. Would it were that the Sierra Club was around when beautiful woodland was clear cut for farms. Our economy has progressed from agrarian to industrial to service and technology. Few have ever survived by attempting to stand athwart technology. Better to get smart and get on the right side of robots before they replace the humans who didn't keep up.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I couldn't help but chuckle at the requirement to prove I'm not a robot in order to submit my comment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You would not if you saw all the spam it prevents.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bernie! I was one of the individuals who was not allowed in the meeting last night because of capacity issues. I do find it rather disappointing that the township officials didn't decide to reschedule the meeting on their own...they should know better! I hope the next meeting has an even bigger turnout. We don't need any more warehouses. It's a quality of life issue and the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Does the City of Bethlehem provide water to these industrial parks ?

Anonymous said...

Good job Bernie. You taught me a thing or two about the SS Act, and I am not surprised you stodd up for principal. I used your teaching at a high profile meeting to warn the administration they were about to hold a useless meeting because they were turning away people - and they heeded my warning. Funny how they would have pressed ahead otherwise... solicitors keep their mouths shut until something comes up.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good for you. I find that most local officials want to do the right thing. Not all, but most.

Anonymous said...

Residents have to realize that this rezoning is a mere formality. The Township started the warehousing of this area two years ago with the updated comprehensive plan that's nowhere to be found on the township's website. They will use that plan to justify the rezoning in the end.

John said...

Back in February, Bill Gates suggested that robots taking human jobs should be paying the same payroll taxes that would have been paid by people. Too bad it won't happen.