Friday, February 5, 2016

Results of Poll - Who Was Most Responsible for Passage of the Water Extraction Amendment

When the evidence is examined, it is obvious that there are multiple parties responsible for passage of an amendment that never should have seen daylight.  It became apparent early on that one entity stood out, and this entity remained far and away the top choice as more and more information became available.

The vote as of now is:

Eldred BOS: 17
Carson Helfrich: 10
Sharon Solt: 38
I don't know/Someone else: 2

When the poll was created, naturally the standout was included.  Sharon Solt was added as well as the entire BOS, and the regional planning body CJER.  Not many know what CJER does, and CJER doesn't appear anxious for anyone to know (try to find their minutes, or to submit questions to them in writing per their absurd policy and wait for an answer), but in fact they had a very important role in the adoption of ordinance updates in 2014.   This is a very important lesson of the damage that can be caused by allowing control to be taken away from the township planning agency and local citizen view.  State funding is bally-hoed to create committees like CJER, but the community shoots itself in the foot while the people who arranged for the grant high five each other and make grandiose statements to the press.  When the dung hits the wind vane, people scatter.  In this case, State Representative Jack Rader Jr. resigned from CJER just three weeks after Nestle Deer Park rented space in Kunkletown and their cover was blown.  Perhaps a coincidence.  Perhaps not.

Grand Prize - Most Responsible: Carson Helfrich
  • Carson Helfrich, Planning Consultant Grade: F- (As a teacher, you can't give an F-.  But this isn't school, it is real life.)
Carson Helfrich wrote the 2004 Eldred Township Zoning Ordinance - you will find his company name on it.  Mr. Helfrich was also the Planning Consultant hired by the CJER townships sometime in 2013 to make definitions identical across the townships and create regional uses - uses that are provided for in some townships but not others, to share the burden of having to provide for all uses.  You will also find his name on the 2014 Ordinance.

While you might assume that CJER had intense sessions, where the Ordinance changes were discussed in detail, a review of the CJER minutes shows no evidence of such discussions.  The Eldred Township planners were totally left out of the process, and only presented with a final draft in late February 2014.  Therefore, it may be assumed that Mr. Helfrich identified the vast majority of changes needed in his office, and drafted the new Ordinance for each township.  In this capacity, Mr. Helfrich would know without having to consult anything in print that the water extraction amendment described in the Wimmer Letter:
  • was horse crap because the premise stated was false, and the effect was not as stated
  • would violate the Comprehensive Plan
  • would create multiple definitions of a single use within CJER - violating its primary goal of consistency
  • would add a use to the Commercial district of more intense use than the district is designed for
Given the responsibility that Mr. Helfrich had in his professional capacity, it is impossible to understand that he did not contact multiple parties, and inform them of these issues in what he had received from Mr. Wimmer on March 21, 2014.  In the transcript of the March 27, 2014 CJER meeting, he didn't mention one single issue with this amendment, only that he had added it to his list of changes and he could move forward if the Supervisors authorized it.  He never did obtain authorization, but on the 27th he has already forwarded this pile of crap to the Monroe County Planning Commission, instead of leaving that task to the responsible party, the Eldred Township BOS.  In this manner, he further enabled this ill-conceived amendment to pass through the system contrary to the procedure prescribed, instead of being stopped in its tracks.

Mr.Helfrich stands head and shoulders above all others in having the expertise and knowledge to realize and warn the Eldred BOS, Monroe County Planning Commission, Edlred Township Planning Commission, CJER, CJER's Solicitor and Mr. Wimmer that water extraction was never allowed in the Commercial district, and for this reason the premise of the amendment was nonsense and it needed to be edited and submitted to the Eldred BOS as a curative amendment.  However, he did not.  For unknowns reasons, he was not at the critical meeting at which all the CJER Ordinances were adopted on May 1, 2014, although he was scheduled to be.

First Runner Up - Most Responsible: Monroe County Planning Commission Staff
and Eldred Township BOS Solicitor Mike Kaspszyk
  • Monroe County Planning Commission (MCPC)
  • Christine Meinhart-Fritz, Senior Planner, Lead MCPC Grade: F
  • Eric Koopman, Senior Planner MCPC Grade: F
  • Mike Kaspszyk, Eldred Twp BOS Solicitor Grade: F
The Monroe County Planning Commission (MCPC) rates a nose behind Mr. Helfrich.  Mr. Helfrich sent the Wimmer Letter to the Director and the Senior Planners at the MCPC on March 24.  They had it.  All they had to do, and should  have done, was open the Eldred 2004 Ordinance (on their shelf - I asked to look at it), and they would have seen within two to three minutes that the Wimmer amendment was nonsense.  These people are paid staff at the county level.  I asked to see everything that they were submitted to review, and what I saw in the folder did not include the Wimmer Letter.  So they recommended approval of what was officially sent (a two word definition change), and ignored that which proved that the premise of the amendment was false, and that a land use change would occur.  Unbelievable.  Ms. Meinhart-Fritz (now the Director of the MCPC!) made statements at the March 27, 2014 CJER meeting that reflect total ignorance that this amendment badly violates the Comprehensive Plan, which factors into her grade.

Update 2/9 10:30 am Eldred BOS Solicitor Kaspszyk was not responsible for reviewing amendments during this time, but he was responsible for seeing that procedures were followed - and they were virtually all violated.  The amendment was not approved for consideration by the BOS.  The amendment was not sent to the Eldred Planning Commission or CJER or the Monroe County Planning Commission by the BOS.  The amendment was not authorized by the BOS to be drafted by the Planning Consultant, and it was not authorized to be advertised by the BOS.  Mr. Kaspszyk therefore earns a grade of F.

Second Runner Up - Most Responsible: Multiple Winners
  • Darcy Gannon, Planning Commission Recording Secretary Grade: F
  • Sharon Solt, Supervisor, Secretary, Treasurer, CJER Secretary and Representative, Monroe County Planning Commission Representative Grade: F
  • CJER
  • CJER Planner Matt Neeb: Grade: F
  • James Fareri, CJER Solicitor Grade: F
  • James Wimmer, Landowner's attorney Grade: F
The Eldred Solicitors were directed not to review amendments, again a mistake of allowing the removal of local oversight.  Instead, CJER Solicitor Fareri was the sole Solicitor to review amendments.  There is no evidence that he was sent the Wimmer Letter (amendment), or that he reviewed it.  There is also no evidence that CJER, the entity that coordinated the amendment update process and standardization of definitions and uses, reviewed or discussed the Wimmer Letter.  Four pages of additional amendments across CJER townships that should have been reviewed between March 27 and adoption by CJER on May 1 could not have been reviewed since their April meeting was cancelled.  Thus on May 1, CJER allowed amendments to be adopted that CJER had not reviewed.  However, despite all this, Mr. Fareri had a responsibility to check the Ordinance for the effect the water extraction amendment would have, and should have discovered it would cause a land use change.  My understanding is he did bill for this service.  Matt Neeb, a former senior planner at the MCPC, and a paid planner in Chestnuthill, didn't see a problem with the passage of this amendment or the fact that it violated the principle of consistency when I spoke with him on December 10, 2014.

The Eldred Planning Commission didn't take part at all other than to witness a discussion between two clueless people, memorialized in a similar fashion.  The only thing they could be faulted for is approving the minutes of that meeting, which might rate a "5th Place" category.  Furthermore, the impression given by Supervisor Gannon Pettit, Representative Rader, CJER Chairman Gould and CJER Solicitor Fareri was that the changes were "minor".  Ms. Gannon Pettit emphasized "none of our zoning is changing - none."  Mr. Wimmer came and misrepresented what was in the current Ordinance, and Solicitor Lyons assumed he was correct.  Secretary Darcy Gannon then misrepresented what happened at this meeting.  Garbage in, raw sewage out.  You just could not make this shit up.  Ms. Solt receives a grade as the paid Secretary for Eldred Township and CJER.  Minutes are to describe what happened at the meeting, not what you want people to believe happened or omit what you don't want people to know happened.  This should be a lesson to never again allow a Supervisor to be Board Secretary.  The Borough of West Easton in Northampton County just extricated itself from a similar quagmire.

4th Place - Most Responsible: Multiple Winners
  • Gretchen Gannon Pettit, Supervisor
  • Dan Lyons, Planning Commission Solicitor Grade: F
  • Eldred BOS
Gretchen Gannon Pettit was the significant other of the landowner during the period in question.  If you believe she didn't know water extraction was not permitted on the property, that is your prerogative.  The Eldred BOS appears as an entity only because two of the three Supervisors share responsibility.  Mary Anne Clausen was a new Supervisor, and attempted on multiple occasions, including at both CJER meetings, to understand the process fully and make sure the proper process was being followed.  She didn't know what she was up against, but found soon found out.  

Elected and appointed officials don't receive a grade.  Paid staff, consultants and professionals do.  Solicitors play the most important role of knowing the law, knowing the Ordinance, and making sure that the municipal bodies know what procedures are prescribed by law.  Boards and appointed bodies may ignore the advice of their solicitor, but it is the solicitor's responsibility to inform them of the consequences of their actions.

Addendum It should be noted that Supervisor Clausen and the Planning Commission both took steps to undo the damage of the water extraction amendment as soon as its true purpose became known, and before Nestle chose to do testing.  The Planning Commission unanimously recommended it be overturned.  Ms. Clausen made a motion twice in 2015 to consider overturning it, and neither Supervisor Solt or Supervisor Gannon Pettit would second her motion to overturn an amendment that has been shown to be illegally passed.  Ms. Solt has stated that she is neither for or against the amendment.  If that is true, she should have leaned towards overturning it, since it was passed illegally.  If it had been overturned in a timely manner, Nestle would have gone away.  There was a public record, however, that the amendment was being challenged within Eldred Township.- when they chose to move forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment