Monday, May 23, 2016

Eldred Township water extraction amendment advertisement does not match what was approved and submitted to Pocono Record - long version

A simplified version of this post with the same conclusion is located here

On April 14 and April 21, 2014, a Public Notice advertisement was published in the Pocono Record, for the purpose of informing the public of zoning ordinance amendments in Chestnuthill, Jackson, Eldred and Ross Townships.  Sounds easy, right?  Only if what is printed makes sense, and it is printed as intended.  Hang in there.  This is a long post but you will be rewarded.  We will see that what was printed can't be understood without knowing what was supposed to be printed, and furthermore we will see that there was either intervention or two very unlikely coincidental errors were made, rendering the water extraction amendment advertisement useless.

Quiz #1 - Can you tell what the proposed changes are in the amendments by looking at them?
The task was to advertise the amendments that were added to the ordinance pending to be approved on March 27, 2014.  These were four pages in a Word document, and all four pages were passed to the planning commissions in each township and the Monroe County Planning Commission in April.  CJER itself in its wisdom did not meet in April to review them (after all, these are just simple changes and your ordinance isn't changing... wink, wink).  Here is the final draft after review, obtained from CJERP Right to Know Officer and Chestnut Hill Zoner and Planner Matt Neeb.  See if you understand what the planners reviewed, and the Board of Supervisors approved on May 1, 2014.  You may need to use full screen at the lower right corner to see the detail.

Zoning Changes approved to be advertised for May 1, 2014 adoption at CJER meeting

  1. Do you know what the double underlining of text means?
  2. Do you know what the single underlining of text means?
  3. Do you know what the text in italics means?
  4. Do you know what the text with strike-through means?
This is the task the planners and supervisors had - and an easier one than readers of the newspaper advertisement, as we will soon see.  Planning consultant Carson Helfrich prepared the document above, and included no explanation with or in it.  Wouldn't it have been nice if he included a key for an extra $20 or $30 of his time so readers would have a clue?

Answers to Quiz #1
  1. Double underlining means new text to be added, if you can see the double underlining and figure that out.
  2. Single underling is text to be underlined (trick question!)
  3. Italics means a use, and is either a direct reference to a use or a use to be modified, depending on context.  Did you spot that?  No?  Then you aren't a pro at zoning ordinances.  Don't feel bad - nobody else had a clue either, and you shouldn't have to be an expert.
  4. This is the second straightforward one.  Existing text to be deleted.
What was your score out of 4?  Hopefully a "4", because when this mess is put in the newspaper it will only get worse.  Let's assume best case the planners and supervisors all knew what these conventions were, and forge ahead.

Quiz #2 - What differences are there in the ad printed in the newspaper? Does the ad make sense? 
No hints provided.  Try to make sense of the actual ad, assuming our understanding of what was sent to the newspaper (the document above).  Again, you may need full screen (lower right corner):

  1. Do you see any double underlining?
  2. Do you know what the single underlining of text means?
  3. Do you know what text in italics means?
  4. Do you know what text with strike-through means?
Answers to Quiz #2
  1. Nope.  The double underlining is gone because the newspaper couldn't print it.  Sorry, Charlie.
  2. Not any more, because the double underlining is now single.  The reader can't tell what single underlining means, because it could be two different things (underlined text or new text).  For example, under Jackson Township, "if shown to be functioning" had double underlining in the final draft.  Now it looks simply like underlined text.  You can't tell the difference.
  3. Same meaning as in final draft
  4. Same meaning as in final draft
This newspaper ad was essentially meaningless in conveying to the public the changes that would occur to something in the existing ordinances.  This ad was expensive, and nobody put any thought into whether its contents would be meaningful to the guy reading his paper on the deck.

The Eldred Twp water extraction amendment was intentionally disguised or printed in error
It gets worse.  Much worse.  There are some expected items missing in the Eldred Township water extraction amendment (doh!).  The words manufacturing, light are not single underlined in the ad, as you would expect (double underlined in the submission).  Also, the text industry is missing.  
Punchline: what should have appeared as "manufacturing, light industry" using the only underline font available to the newspaper was printed as "manufacturing, light".
The reader would not have understood the meaning of the water extraction amendment if the bastardized single underlined convention was used as it was throughout the ad.  How on this Earth would they know the meaning of what was printed for the water extraction amendment?  OK, water extraction is considered industry.  What is the change?  There is no change?  That's what they wanted readers to think.  That's what landowner Gower's attorney James Wimmer "No Comment" Esquire told people at the planning commission and in the Wimmer Letter.

Quiz #3
  1. Are there any other discrepancies between the printed ad and the submission, similar to the missing underlining and text with strike-through of the water extraction amendment?
Nope.  The only case where underlining is missing, and text with strike through is missing, is the example cited.  Not one but two discrepancies in the most critical place in the entire ad - the amendment that causes a land use change - the Eldred Township water extraction amendment.  And no errors anywhere else in the ad.  How the heck would a proof reader miss the fact that "manufacturing, light" is not underlined, yet gets every single character like "N" underlined?  And get single characters like "C" with strike through, but misses a much longer word like "industry"?  It isn't going to happen.

  1. The newspaper either made an error in two different places only in the Eldred water extraction amendment or the change that deleted the underlining of manufacturing, light and the word industry with a strike through was intentional
  2. There are twenty-three total instances of double underlining in the draft amendments and twelve instances of strike through.  The probability that the one double underline and one strike through missing are both in the water extraction amendment is 1/23 * 1/13 = 1/299 = 0.3% or close to zero.  Put another way, there is a 99.7% probability the change was intentional.
  3. If the printing of the ad was in error, and items in the water extraction amendment were omitted, nobody at CJER or CJER's solicitor detected it.  Either time the ad was printed.
  4. Even if the amendments were printed the exact same way they were in the Word file, the average citizen reading the newspaper would not understand the convention of the underlining, italics and strike-through.  But the actual ad uses a corrupted and nonsensical convention - a single underline could mean one of two things.  This is CJER's fault for allowing it to happen, not the newspaper's.
  5. It should be noted that the Appellants would prevail in their appeal of the passage of this amendment, even if the advertisement looked exactly like the final draft of the amendment.  The reason is that the proposed change resulted in a land use change - a substantial change.  The Municipalities Planning Code requires a substantial change of a pending ordinance to be described in enough detail for the reader to have clue.  The nonsense printed?  Fuhghetaboutit.
Footnote:  As a further example of how asinine things were handled by CJER, see how different the advertisement for the March 27, 2014 meeting was than the May 1 advertisement - no double underlining, no strike-through.  Consistency wasn't given a thought.

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