Friday, May 14, 2021

South Whitehall Candidates Queried About Overlay Districts and Compact Growth

Blogger's Note: In his eighth and final question to South Whitehall Comm'r candidates, Brad Osborne asks about overlay districts and compact growth. An overlay district is a special zone placed over an existing zoning district. It is often used to encourage a specific kind of development. Compact growth is a principle under which new development is directed at existing development to minimize the need for new infrastructure or increased services. 

A Morning Call headline on August 20, 2017 reads “Flexible zoning in South Whitehall landed massive Kay Builders development.” This ushered in the controversial conversation of compact growth in the township. Many residents were caught by surprise. The developer credited South Whitehall’s forward-thinking and recently revamped zoning rules. South Whitehall planner Gregg Adams said, “I don’t think the township has ever seen anything like this on this scale.” But the enormous Ridge Farm development isn’t just big for South Whitehall. “It’s big for the entire region” observed Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley at the time. “That’s the type of scale of development you’d see in Las Vegas during the housing boom. It’s absolutely a big deal.”

Today’s Candidate Question: In 2014, the Board of Commissioners adopted the “Innovation Overlay District”, a zoning revision that is intended to promote areas deemed to have the potential for compact growth. Would you support the continuation of this zoning concept in the next Comprehensive Plan? Why or why not?

Christina “Tori” Morgan (R): No response.

Joe Setton (D): No response.

David Kennedy (R): A thorough review of the “Innovative Overlay District” as it affects SWT residents is important. I would not support the overlay district in its existing form. The next comprehensive plan must be forward thinking and consider at least 20 to 30 years into the future. I think we have learned a lesson with Ridge Farms and the impact that will have on our township residents. A development should not negatively impact the surrounding neighborhoods.

Monica Hodges (R): In 2014, the Board of Commissioners added Overlay Districts (TND’s) to the Zoning Map which included the Ridge Farm, Hills at Winchester (Regency), Spring View Apartments, and Park View Inn properties as an alternative to traditional zoning which would have been strictly residential. As a result, approximately 2000 dwellings are either being built or are being proposed in the most congested areas of the township. This zoning change allowed an unprecedented amount of dense development, as well as commercial development, to these properties.

In more remote areas of the township an overlay district could be greatly beneficial, but not in the most heavily congested areas of our township. We already have overlay districts in place, so there is no reason to add more in the next Comprehensive Plan, especially if they are placed in already congested areas. State law permits TNDs, but it does not require them. It would be better to change zoning to limit dense developments and maintain the beauty and character of our township.

Thomas J. Johns (D): I had the privilege of serving on the Board in 2014. Nevertheless, I could not support the continuation of this zoning concept in the next Comprehensive Plan. The Township has evolved since 2014, growth and development have been ongoing, some infrastructure improvements have been made. These factors must all be considered prior to my support.


Anonymous said...

And once again, Tori and Joe do not have enough respect for the voters to submit answers to their questions. At least Mr. Johns has enough guts to come on this platform, admit he is partially responsible for the TND, and state that he would not do it again. Thank you to Mr. Kennedy and Mrs. Hodges for also addressing the issue. Both gave well thought out answers.

And what do we get from Tori Morgan instead of straightforward answers to reasonable questions? We get a mailer. A mailer which is misleading at best, full of outright lies at worst. For example:

"Hold the line on Taxes and Spending" after she approved a 9-11 million dollar renovation of the administration building, $650,000 for a new playground, $155,000 for new bathrooms, etc. Who's gonna pay for that stuff? We all know who. We are, with increased taxes. In fact, under Mrs. Morgan's administration our property taxes have already gone up 78%. So much for "holding the line" on taxes.

"Promote the preservation of open space.." Is Ridge Farm what she considers "Open Spaces"? Because that is the only kind of space she promotes. In fact, she has been commissioner for 12 years, and yet South Whitehall has only one protected farm. I think it is about 70 acres. At the same time we have lost hundreds of acres of open space to Ridge Farm and warehouses.
In Tori Morgan's South Whitehall everything is open for development. If she cares so much about spaces why hasn't she championed preserving more farmland during her 12 years in office? The only open space she seems interested in is parks, parks and more parks. At tax payers expense.

"Managing economic and smart Growth" Is that what you call approving every single waiver requested by the Ridge Farm developer? Is that what she calls "Managing"? As far as I can tell, based on her record, "managing" means giving developers everything they want.

"Fighting Government overreach and Bureacracy" Does that include the secret midnight appointment of Joe Setton that she orchestrated, against the wishes of the voters?

So, she is unwilling to face the voters with direct answers to their questions, and instead spreads false claims through direct mailers, which ignore her 12 year record. I think South Whitehall deserves better. It's time to vote out the incumbents. Say no to Tori and Joe.

Anonymous said...

Really don't appreciate South Whitehall Township Police vehicles used as a photo op. The mailer photo shows the police vehicle with a window down this an on duty police officer was used on duty for political purposes.... Something fucked up about's to protect and serve.....NOT campaign for queens, Shame on South Whitehall Police

Anonymous said...

Would love to see the campaign committee reports for Morgan

Why are they not listed on the county website????

Anonymous said...

I had that same mailed in the mailbox yesterday. Lots of pictures and political phrases. Looks like something a first time candidate would send out.
Funny thing is, what I didn’t see on the mailer was Morgan’s record for the last 10 years.
It read like a typical politician making promises that if you just give me another term in office ...I need four more years to work on these promises.

I had ten years so far to get this stuff done but I didn’t. But hey, vote for me again!! Me me me !! This time I will keep taxes low.
Give me another chance. I won’t raises your taxes again. Or your trash and water bill.

I don’t know about you, but after reading the Parkland Press last week where it said south whitehall has no audits for the last ten years after a million dollars was stolen...there is no way I trust Tori Morgan to have another chance. How did she miss doing the audits for ten years?
You raised our taxes but didn’t do your job?

I’m tired of her political talk. Tori Morgan needs to retire. The voters need to wake up. It’s time to kick the empty promises to the curb.
Vote for the ones who took the time to answer questions so we know what we are voting for. And I mean real answers ...not politics talk again.

Kennedy Hodges and Johns are the only ones on here who weren’t afraid to tell us what they believe in. To me, they are the ones who deserve the votes.

Anonymous said...

I saw the mail with that police car picture. Since when do the police get involved with politics here.
That’s just low.
Using the police to get a vote?
Where’s the police chief about all this
He needs to speak up and tell Morgan this is not allowed
Tax money pays for the police to protect us not help Morgan out.

Anonymous said...

Christina "Tori" Morgan is such an underhanded politician and will do anything to maintain her firm grip in power in South Whitehall.

Just look at the latest issue of the Commissioner vacancy. Morgan is insisting on appointing Ben Long to the vacancy. She refuses to compromise on another candidate, why? Well, there seems to be two reasons:

1. Ben Long has endorsed Morgan and has professed his love of massive, high-density development. He will always "toe the line" and will only be another Morgan puppet.

2. The following fact is even more sinister and disgusting. Morgan and Long participate in what some call "pay to play" politics. Morgan's latest financial disclosure forms, filed with Lehigh County on May 7th, show that she received a $125 donation from Mr. Benjamin B. Long, and an additional $100 donation from Ben's parents Barry & Audrey Long. Might Ben Long have donated to Morgan on the condition she reward him with a position? At the time of his donation (February 27th), he had just applied for the vacancy on the Planning Commission, and now he is applying for the Commissioner vacancy. Morgan has made it clear she wants Ben Long above any other more qualified candidate. I wonder why?

To make matters worse, this was not disclosed during the application process, as it should have been.

If Morgan is given four more years as a Commissioner, she will continue to ruin SWT, violate ethics rules, and surround herself with a bunch of unqualified loyalists. South Whitehall simply can't afford four more years of her reckless, self-centered leadership.

David Burke said...

Ridge Farms was the first application of the Residential Overlay District Regulation and now there is a proposal to utilize the Commercial Overlay District Regulation at the Parkview Motel site. In both cases, the result has been/would be unprecedented density of dwellings in a location that has inadequate infrastructure to support the resultant traffic not to mention changing the fabric of the neighborhoods involved. As a former Commissioner stated, "developers only concern is maximizing profitability on a piece of property leaving little regard for the quality of life of the neighbors”. And that’s what they do, citizens be dammed! It’s their job!
Commissioners Morgan and Setton were certainly remiss in avoiding a response to this, arguably most important question the township faces. Of course, Setton made his position known at the League of Women Voters Debate in 2019 when he said Smart Development like Ridge Farms is good for South Whitehall township. So, given no reply, it could be his position is clear.
Commissioner Morgan, in her recent campaign mailing which we received yesterday touts “promoting the preservation of open space while Managing Economic and Smart Growth”. There has been little, or maybe even no, preservation of Open Space that I know of. Regards managing Smart growth and continuation of Overlay Regulations, an explanation from her would be in order. On that fateful night in November 2019, as the Conditional approval was granted for the Ridge Farms Development, “Commissioner Morgan said that while she admired the passion in the room, the township was bound to follow procedure. She tried to offer hope to residents that the land use development process would afford more opportunities to see the plan change and possibly reduce in size”. Perhaps her position is, let it happen and we’ll manage it? Well, we all know how that worked out!!!! The project may have even grown from that point on. What we do know is that every waiver submitted by Kay Builders was approved by Morgan and her two Democratic allies. Even the five waivers related to safety were approved by a 3-2 margin (Setton, Morgan and Mobilio approving). It sure doesn’t sound like “managing smart growth” for the benefit of the citizens!! Sounds more like managing it for the developer.
As candidates Hodges and Kennedy state in their replies, the Overlay standards should be reviewed, revised and if applied at all, should be applied in areas where the infrastructure is capable of supporting the development and not in the most congested areas of the township.
Open the Morning Call news reporting (below) on the November 20th, 2019 Conditional Approval Meeting for Ridge Farms and see if you get the feeling that the Commissioners, to a person, voted for approval not because they were proud to do so, but because they felt they had to, to avoid a lawsuit. Isn’t that a clear indicator that review, revise or eliminate are in order unless the Overlay can be applied in situations where it makes sense for the safety and welfare of the citizens. You decide!

Just a short anecdote regards the mailer. My neighbor, a long- standing Republican who doesn’t attend the township meetings but does follow the newspaper accounts of each meeting very carefully, called me this morning with a very simple question. “Is there a mistake on this mailing? It says Christina Morgan is a Republican. How can that be. She votes with the two Democrats on every issue that comes to the Board.”
Got me thinking, “that is a good question”.

Anonymous said...

If Ben Long’s contribution to Tori Morgan is in fact true, this is the last straw. And his parents being part of this “pay-to-play” scheme? I just don’t want to believe it.

I’ve heard a lot about the lack of transparency and back-door deals associated with South Whitehall and Tori Morgan, and dismissed them as propaganda.

If anonymous 3:47pm can produce any evidence of this alleged contribution, I along with many other other voters will take this into consideration on May 18. I think many of us are disgusted with the shenanigans of entrenched politicians. Shame on Tori Morgan.

Anonymous said...

I know Brad Osborne wants to remain objective and just provide information for the voters to decide for themselves, but if this latest bombshell can’t be confirmed by the readers, I hope he will dig into it. May 18 is just days away!

Anonymous said...

During the April 7th SWT Board of Commissioners meeting when Commissioners were discussing the process for filling the vacancy, Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley asked if candidates would be forced to disclose any relations or ties to any sitting Commissioner. Commissioner Morgan replied that absolutely that would be the case.

If the above comments are correct about Ben Long making a financial contribution to Morgan, was that disclosed in the interview, per Pinsley’s recommendation? I sure hope so.

Geez, between using a SWT police car in a campaign flier and now an alleged instance of “pay for play”, Morgan seems to have committed quite a few ethics violations. I wonder what else is out there that has yet to be uncovered?

Anonymous said...

I’ll wait to see if this new information about Ben Long contributing to Tori Morgan’s campaign is true or not, but if it is, Tori Morgan should recuse herself in this entire process. What are we going to find out when the next report comes out?
Honestly, I find this whole thing disgusting. This is not the township it was 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

For those that asked above, here is a link to the evidence:

This clearly shows a donation to Friends for Christina Tori Morgan by Benjamin B. Long, and then another donation by Barry & Audrey Long - Ben’s parents.

This reeks of play to play. Shame on you, Tori Morgan!

Anonymous said...

Wow.... Nice info.... Tori Pawlowski!

Anonymous said...

It's a May surprise!

Anonymous said...

why is Tori"pawlowski"Morgan blocking questions to her campaign facebook page?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin B. Long was out knocking on doors for Christina “Tori” Morgan today, desperately hoping his $125 contribution doesn’t go to waste. He so wants to be a 7-month commissioner so he can help her approve more big developments this year. His mommy & daddy gave another $100 to try to sew up the backdoor deal. So sad.

Anonymous said...

I checked out the link for Christina “Tori” Morgan’s campaign contributions, and have to agree with anonymous 8:51pm that this is not only shady, but also unethical. You give me money, and I’ll push for you to be a commissioner??! I have the Vacancy Board person in my pocket, and together we’ll make sure you get in, Ben. Thank you for your contribution!!

Anonymous said...

Shame on Tori Morgan for promising Ben Long he’d be a commissioner by the end of May if only he’d give her $125, then when that wasn’t enough, another $100 from his parents.
This is not Ben’s fault. It’s Tori Morgan’s fault for taking advantage of a young kid who can’t seem to hold down a job.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is really a stretch. Anyone who thinks Tori Morgan would sell a Comm'rs set for $225 is just being silly. Sorry but this is argument is borderline cRaZy. Stick to the issues in this campaign. Argue she's selling the twp to developers, is disregarding the people's will, or is nontransparent. But these kinds of arguments just make you look bad and her look good. I am telling you this as an outsider.

Anonymous said...

How sad is it that the 6th (Champagnie) and 5th place (Setton) finishers in 2019 for 3 seats will decide the vacant commissioner position? Gotta love SWT as a Step being Whitehall with the high crime, apartments everywhere and shady busiensses adn warehouses crushin

thanks Tori, 4 more years pleased to create the williamsport you came from to destroy SWT...get started on going traffic jamming on on walbert ave like macarthus is gridlocked...

police car photo op in a mask?

isnt the quuen of SWT Vaccinated? Is Morgan an anxti-vaxxer but a masker?

do tell

Anonymous said...

Bne kocking on doors, he does that pretty good, he knocked on doors for

Mad matty mulqueen two years ago........lost
For himself against schlossberg........lost
for Donald Trump..........lost
Dean Browning.....lost
Lisa Scheller.....lost
Glen Eckhart.....lost
Scott Wagner........lost

you might win bennie this tuesday as I beliueve Tori will win, name reconignityion and on duty cop car ads always play well

congrats ben and tori

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you’re right. This election is not about how much Ben Long contributed to Tori Morgan. Or even the motivation behind the contribution and her acceptance of it. This is actually a referendum on Morgan’s performance in office. This is the first contested primary she has had in any of her elections. I think people have had enough of her lack of transparency, tax increases of over 70% in the last 10 years (for what??) and her coddling of profit-oriented developers.
Thank you for bringing the conversation back to the facts and subjects.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Benjamin B Long a Lehigh County Republican Committee Person is campaigning hard for known Democratic sympathizer Christina Tori Morgan. Ms. Morgan is actively campaigning for Joe Setton, just like she did in 2019 and appointed him to replace Mark Pinsley. Morgan had the chance to appoint a republican and did not instead she let known Democratic operative Pinsley choose Joe Setton even when he finished 5 out of 6 candidates for 3 positions in 2019.

Ms. Morgan also had the chance to vote for a ceremonial vote of no confidence in Mad Matty Mobilio after he said all supportors of Donald J Trump should be hung for treason. While a vote of no confidence is not a removal of office it does show the seriousness of what Mad Matty wrote. By the way 5700+ South Whitehall residents voted for Trump in 2020. Does Benjamin B Long think it is ok a sitting commissioner at the time said that 5700+ voters in SWT should be killed? How as a Republican Committee Person does Benjamin B Long feel about Ms Morgan disrespectfing the Party he represents and that is Lead by The 45th President of the United States.

The leader of the Republican Party is Donald J Trump. Benjamin B Long needs to support the party, campaign for loyal true republicans and not RINOs or opportunitists like known Democratic sympathizers.

This is the same Benjamin B Long who resigned to campaign for County Executive and Democratic Muller.
Benny should his true colors then and a leopard can't change his spots.

Benny has alot to learn about the Republican Party of Donald J Trump.

He will never be the candidate for the special election.

Fun fact, doubt Ms. Morgan will lose the primary, however if she somehow did she will flip to the Democratic Party a d get their nomination for the Special Election.

Cue the Cyndi Lauper song "True Colors"

Anonymous said...

He can hold down a job. His problem is supporting real Republicans with REAL republican values.

Anonymous said...

When is South Whitehall Township going to have in person meetings?

Stop hiding behind video cameras where staff never turn them on. I wonder how many are drinking on township time during night meetings.

If they can have a ribbon cutting with no masks, and every other municipality is having in person meetings why not SWT.

Brand new 13 million dollar building and yet no in person meetings.

I predict no in person meetings until Labor Day at the soonest.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Brad Osborne has a good reputation and is considered trustworthy by many people, but do you have independent confirmation that Tori Morgan did not respond to the public’s questions? I’m a registered Republican in South Whitehall, and if Tori Morgan really didn’t answer what seems to be basic but important questions, I couldn’t possibly vote for her.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, do you think Brad Osborne will be posting about the South Whitehall results?