Saturday, February 27, 2016

Landowner Gower's law firm advises gag order on CJERP members, and states that Gower and CJERP both believe the 2014 amendment was passed properly

James Fareri of the law firm of Newman, Williams, Mishkin, Corveleyn, Wolfe & Fareri is the CJERP Regional Planning Committee solicitor, and also was at the time that the 2014 water extraction amendment was passed.  Mr. Fareri's partner Marc Wolfe represents landowner Ricky Gower.

At the CJERP monthly meeting on February 25, 2016 Mr. Fareri made an announcement that due to a pending legal matter, he has advised CJERP members to not discuss the events surrounding CJERP's involvement in passage of the amendment.  This advice comes more than a month after Mr. Wolfe entered his appearance for Ricky Gower in the court action.

CJERP member and Eldred Township resident Bob Boileau asked if this represents a conflict of interest.  Mr Fareri's response was fascinating - he stated that since CJERP and landowner Gower both maintain that the 2014 amendment was passed properly, there is no conflict of interest.

Don Moore then rose to speak at courtesy of the floor, and pointed out that Eldred Township has admitted through its solicitor that mistakes were made, so Eldred Township's position is adverse to landowner Gower.  Mr. Fareri stated again that CJERP and Mr. Gower are "on the same side of the issue" and that both "believe the amendment was passed properly."

Mr. Moore requested that if he was unable to have a discussion with CJERP members, that he be permitted to read a statement into the record.  He proceeded to read a list of more than ten errors that were made in passage of the amendment, by CJER Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich, CJER Solicitor Fareri, CJER, and the Monroe County Planning Commission.  However, CJERP Chairman Gould did not waver from the advice of Mr. Fareri, and there was no response from a CJERP member.  Mr. Gould was the Chairman of CJER in 2014 when CJER totally failed in its responsibility to vet this amendment.

It is hard to believe that someone other than the Eldred Township CJERP representatives didn't realize that Mr. Fareri's assertion that the amendment was passed properly was just shredded.
Update 3/17 -  An itemized list of errors correlated to a pictorial representation of how an amendment should be passed is shown here.  Note that errors were made at every single step of the process.  Solicitor Fareri's position that the amendment was passed properly on behalf of CJERP is absurd, but his law firm has a duty to hold this position on behalf of its other client - the land owner.

Mr. Gould seemed very pleased to not have to discuss responsibility, didn't thank Mr. Moore, and shouted "NEXT SPEAKER".  Mr. Moore expected gruff and rude treatment, because others have been treated similarly by the leadership at CJERP meetings.  However, the wax museum, deaf and dumb treatment was not expected. There was no mention by CJERP of the questions about the amendment that Mr. Moore submitted to CJERP per CJERP Planner Matt Neeb's request on December 17 and December 31, 2015, to which CJERP has never responded.  Another Eldred Township resident submitted written questions to CJERP in November 2015, and they haven't been answered either.  Perhaps Chairman Gould, CJER and "professionals" have some culpability in this matter:

Chairman Gould states at the March 2014 CJER meeting that consistent definitions and land use and consistency with the Comprehensive Plan were goals of CJER.  One month later at CJER's May meeting the water extraction amendment was adopted that violated these consistency and land use goals of the Comprehensive Plan.  Chairman Gould asked Eldred residents at CJER's September 2015 meeting "why are you here?" and told them to "go back to Eldred Township and ask what happened in 2014 there." Today he has adopted the position that no member of CJERP shall discuss what happened in 2014.  Mr. Gould, doesn't this go far beyond a local matter?

Here are a few obvious questions:
  • How did Solicitor Fareri formulate his opinion that CJERP is on the same side of the issue as landowner Gower?  CJERP has not discussed this in a meeting, heard a motion or held a vote.   Is this being handled the same way as matters in 2014, where unathorized executive decisions were made by multiple parties without public discussion, deliberation, and then a vote? 
  • What is CJERP's position on whether it agrees with landowner Gower, or with Eldred Township?  It is CJERP that determines its position, not its Solicitor.
  • If Mr. Fareri is correct that CJERP did everything appropriately, why is was a gag order requested by him?
  • Mr. Fareri advised the gag order on CJERP after his partner commenced representation of landowner Gower on January 4, 2016.  Is his gag order based on protecting CJERP members and consultants, someone else, a combination of the two?
  • Why wouldn't CJERP agree to take the position of CJERP member township Eldred, in the face of the overwhelming evidence the procedure used violated the statutory procedure?
  • What liability would CJERP members or consultants be exposed to if they simply told the truth about what happened in 2014?  Failing to properly advertise or ensure an amendment was authorized are not criminal offenses, and wouldn't result in a fine.
  • Wouldn't a better justification to not talk about what public officials and consultants did in 2014 be that it is believed someone was corrupt, not that everything was done properly?
  • What function does the CJERP Planning Committee actually perform, other than add a layer of volunteers and consultants who have no land use planning background between the Monroe County Planning Commission and local planners in Eldred Township?  Is more better?

Feb 26 letter to CJERP, recommending that CJERP appoint a new law firm and planning consultant, and adopt a position aligned with member township Eldred that the water extraction amendment not passed per statute

Following this meeting, Mr.Moore sent a letter to CJERP memorializing the events of the meeting, and made three recommendations:
  • Appoint a new law firm to perform the duties of Solicitor, and terminate the contract with Solicitor Fareri's law firm
  • Adopt Eldred Township's position that the 2014 amendment was passed improperly
  • Appoint a new Planning Consultant, and terminate the contract with Carson Helfrich

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Explosion Adjacent to Eldred Twp Nestle Water Extraction Site - IED or "Atmospheric Event"?

On Sunday morning, a very loud explosion rocked houses adjacent to the site of the Nestle/Deer Park water extraction operation.  Reports are that it ripped a "thirty foot wide path" through trees, on a property across Chestnut Ridge Road from the site.  The explosion apparently occurred at an elevated level above ground, ripping apart the crowns of trees, and raining tree branches down to the ground.  Walls of houses shook, and it was reported there was some broken glass on a resident's property.

Tree debris - if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck -
it's a duck

It is rumored that one agency that received a report of this event has suggested that the cause is an "atmospheric event".

I found this interesting.  What is an "atmospheric event"?  If someone breaks wind, is that an atmospheric event?  It's man-made global warming, for sure, but I don't believe it is an atmospheric event.  An atmospheric event is an electrical storm, for example.

Come on.  Google it.  I guarantee that you won't find improvised explosive devices included in atmospheric events - trust me.  People who have seen the damage suggest C4 or a stick of dynamite.  I'm not sure how you convert one of those into a surface to air missile, but that sounds a lot more likely than an atmospheric event.  When God starts dropping bombs from the sky, we're in a heap more trouble than tractor trailer traffic all day and night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nestle Attempts to Disqualify Zoning Hearing Board Chairman at First Special Exception Permit Hearing

The number of Solictiors in the Eldred Township Fire Hall outnumbered the entire membership of the Zoning Hearing Board, including its the two alternates.  The hearing lasted 3-1/2 hours, with little accomplished other than watching lightning lick around the edges of the fire hall, qualification of the standing of several residents, a desperate effort by Nestle to disqualify Zoning Hearing Board Chairman O'Donnell, qualifying Nestle's engineer to testify, and setting the next two meeting dates.

Several Attorneys, Representing Several Entitites
The legal representation included two attorneys on behalf of Eldred Township, Jordan Yeager and an associate, Monroe County Asst DA Chad Martinez representing the Zoning Hearing Board, Jim Preston representing Objectors, Tim Weston representing Nestle, and Marc Wolfe representing landowner Ricky Gower.  Update 2/27 - It is believed that another attorney at Mr. Wolfe's law firm, Robert Kidwell, was also present to represent landowner Gower.

It remains an unanswered question how the law firm of Newman, Williams, Mishkin, Corveleyn, Wolfe & Fareri can represent both Gower and Eldred Township (Fareri is the CJERP Solicitor, partly contracted by Eldred Township), given that in the pending court appeal these two are adverse parties.  Hey, its Monroe County - anything goes.

Update 2/27 - At CJERP's monthly meeting the following evening (2/25),  Mr. Wolfe's partner and CJERP Solicitor Fareri announced that he has advised CJERP to not discuss any of the facts surrounding the 2014 amendment review and adoption process.  He was questioned by Eldred Township CJERP representative Bob Boileau whether he has a conflict of interest since his partner represents the landowner, and Mr. Fareri's reply was "since CJERP and landowner Gower are both of the belief that the 2014 amendment was properly adopted, they are on the same side of the issue, and there is no conflict of interest."  A recommendation was sent to CJERP on February 26 to replace Solicitor Fareri's law firm.

Sharon Solt was not observed at tonight's hearing, to see more of the fallout of her actions in 2014, when as Township Secretary she forwarded the unauthorized water extraction amendment to the Monroe County Planning Commission and the Eldred Township Planning Commission that had not been authorized by the supervisors.  Personally, I'd be too embarrassed to attend if I were she, but having seen this person in action this is highly unlikely the explanation.  Nor do I believe the double-barreled single finger salute of the last meeting was related - I think that slid off her back like a crushed tomato off an oil-coated sloth.

Unwavering Dedication of Residents
The room was full of dedicated Eldred Township residents - dedicated to seeing that Nestle leaves town as soon as possible, from this reporter's view.   It is both heartwarming and heart wrenching to see these citizens turn out meeting after meeting, sitting attentively and looking for the first sign that this nightmare may come to an end.  There are obvious strong bonds withing the community, and these residents are unified in their opposition to this project.  The tension in this room, which has become a regular meeting place due to the community backlash, is often palpable, broken by occasional smiles and knowing looks exchanged between people across various spans of the room.  In this gathering place, where a visitor imagines a wide variety of community activities are held, for the foreseeable future these solemn gatherings will be repeated at least twice more.  The next two Zoning Hearing Board meetings are scheduled for March 30 and April 20.

Attempt to Disqualify Chairman O'Donnell 
for Using Commonly Used Descriptor of Nestle/Deer Park
It was not a surprise when Nestle Solicitor Weston launched into an attack on Mr. O'Donnell, because within the community it has been discussed that a bitter and manipulative passed-over candidate for the Zoning Hearing Board tried to use words in a letter Mr. O'Donnell had written to a environmental organization to argue that he should be disqualified from the Nestle hearing.  Perhaps she dreams they will haul her down to the Fire Hall and appoint her to hear this case - or perhaps she is just vindictive - or perhaps she's trying to do a solid for someone.  It boils down to O'Donnell referring in September 2015 to a possible Nestle operation in Eldred Twp to being a potential nuisance.  Sounds like common sense, but Mr. Weston made it sound like Mr. O'Donnell would not have an open mind.  He grilled Mr. O'Donnell so much that a guy nearby said "that attorney is going to rip the old guy to shreds."  Mr. O'Donnell's explanation for the source of the term "nuisance" was simply that he saw that description of Nestle in the newspaper. Reality bites, eh?  Mr. O'Donnell held up well, and then Mr. Weston made the mistake of an exaggeration that everyone in the room caught - after droning on and on about case law and ethics and the appearance of impropriety, in an authoritative tone he then stated that Mr. O'Donnell made this comment while Nestle had a pending application - which totally misstated the facts.  Nestle filed its application on December 30th. This misrepresentation was identified immediately by Mr. Yeager.  Mr. O'Donnell stated quite succinctly that he has not yet seen any evidence, has an open mind, and will make a decision once all the testimony is complete.

Mr. Weston's motion to have Mr. O'Donnell's disqualified will be briefed by attorneys prior to the next hearing, and Mr. Martinez will issue a ruling prior to commencement of testimony.  If you ask me, this is little more than the result of a bitter passed-over woman trying to influence the makeup of a Board.  I've been rejected from serving on my town's Zoning Hearing Board, and felt I was more qualified than the person chosen.  It's not that hard to move on with life - not so hard that you have to go sand bagging people.

More dirty tricks by government, or "oversight"?
Residents who believe they have standing were requested to fill out a form in advance, with their justification.  A resident who owns property along the target site's property line - whose standing is thus unquestionable, reports that she submitted her form yesterday at the township building, to supervisor and disgraced former Secretary Sharon Solt.  The form was not in the pile when she arrived at the hearing.  Naturally, this presented no problem, since the form was merely to accelerate the vetting process during the hearing.  This resident was qualified immediately when she presented herself at the hearing.  Salute!

The next meeting should be more productive, with this one spent mostly on housekeeping.

Monday, February 22, 2016

CJERP Regional Planning Committee to Consider Eldred Twp Water Extraction Amendment at its February 25th Meeting

Eldred Township residents should be aware that the water extraction amendment that will overturn the one passed in 2014 will be reviewed by the CJERP Regional Planning Committee at its Thursday, February 25, 2016 meeting at 7pm at the Chestnuthill Municipal Building, 271 Rt 715.  This won't affect Nestle's pending application, but will pertain to future applications.  The Eldred BOS will hold a meeting in March to review recommendations and take action on this amendment.

Review of Stunning List of Errors CJER and its Solicitor Made in 2014
CJER (its name in 2014) is the body which held the meeting on March 27, 2014 at which Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich stated he had the water extraction amendment in hand, and would move forward with it if authorized.  (1) Mr.Helfrich was not authorized by the Eldred supervisors, but moved forward with it anyway.  Strike one.

CJER had the following responsibilities, according to the CJER Intergovernmental Agreement:
  • (2) review amendments from the member townships
  • (3) review recommendations on member township amendments from the Monroe County Planning Commission
  • (4) review recommendations from the remaining CJER townships when one township submits an amendment
Furthermore, in the March through May 2014 period, (5) CJER Solicitor James Fareri was solely responsible for reviewing amendments, and (6) CJER had the responsibility to advertise amendments.

CJER cancelled its April 2014 meeting in its infinite wisdom, and there is no evidence any of the reviews of the amendment that it was charged with were done.  Strikes two through four.  

CJER met on May 1, and at this meeting after no discussion, the Eldred Supervisors voted to approve the amendment.  Mr. Fareri apparently did not catch the very clear land use change from industrial to light manufacturing of water extraction, or the fact that this change would make water extraction in Eldred different than the uniform definition in the other CJER townships.  Strike five.

The advertisement for Eldred Township water extraction amendment for the May 1 meeting, which was authorized by CJER and CJER Solicitor Fareri, was not authorized by Eldred Township.  Strike six.

All of the above happened on CJER's watch, yet to date they have taken zero responsibility.

Will CJREP and the Monroe County Planning Commission Play Ball, 
or Try to Cover their Asses by Recommending Against the Amendment?
It is suggested that Eldred Township residents may wish to attend Thursday evening's meeting, and see if CJERP (its current name) can do any better than it did in 2014.  The same key players are involved, from leadership to planner Matt Neeb to the solicitor.

Let's hope to see a discussion about how the new amendment actually is compatible with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, while the one that that CJER failed to review (thus effectively approving it) totally violated the Plan.  Or will CJER and the Monroe County Planning Commission refuse to admit the stunning errors made across the board in 2014, and try to cover their asses by stubbornly questioning Eldred's new amendment?

My Wish
I dearly hope that CJERP recommends against approval of the amendment.  Why?  Because it will reflect on CJERP and its solicitor (whose law firm is representing the interests of the owner of the land Nestle is leasing - no conflict of interest there), not Eldred Township's amendment.  Because of the primary goal of consistency, the only possible defense is that the other four townships agree and wish to change water extraction to a light manufacturing use.  Then the Monroe County Planning Commission will have to argue that water extraction is of light manufacturing intensity.  But it isn't - not with constant truck traffic of 40 ton+ vehicles.  That argument can't be won.  

If this happens, Eldred Supervisors will ignore this advice (remember these agencies are advisory) and pass the amendment, to undo the egregious errors made by the Monroe County Planning Commission, CJER, the CJER Solicitor, the Regional Planning Consultant, Eldred Township Supervisors, the Eldred Township Planning Commission Solicitor, and Eldred Township's Secretary Solt in 2014.  You just can not make this shit up.

Turn north on Rt 715 at the Wawa

Explosion on Chestnut Ridge Near Disputed Site of Planned Nestle Operation - The Effect of Corruption and Violating the Rights of the People

The Times News reports an explosion at 6:20am Sunday morning, adjacent to or on properties of objectors adjacent to the Gower property where the Nestle water extraction project is proposed.

This is what happens when your government turns its back on the citizens, and allows or worse facilitates corruption to take place.  Citizens are pitted against citizens, while elected leaders sit back and act as though they aren't responsible.  Not all elected leaders, mind you - it only takes two when a board is three people.

Pattern of intimidation
This explosion is likely the latest incident in a pattern of intimidation.  It started with candy being pitched back at charitable people distributing it from a vehicle in a parade.  In the past few months, there have been incidents of tires being flattened and oil drained from car engines.  Nice.  Now there are explosives being directed at people's properties.  And Supervisor Solt sits back and watches like an observer, acting as if she had no hand in creating the situation that is unfolding.  Unfortunately, you reap what you sow.

The Times News reports the explosion as "mysterious".  Not really.  What is next?  Property damage?  Physical harm?  Whoever perpetrated this can level the entire town of Kunkletown, and it won't improve their chances in court.

Why supporters may be nervous
Let's look briefly at who is right and who is wrong in this matter.  The amendment that resulted in the application by Nestle to develop on this property was illegally passed.
  • It was not authorized to be drafted by the Supervisors
  • It was not reviewed by all the planning agencies required (ie CJER and the CJER townships)
  • It was not authorized to be advertised by the Supervisors
  • The advertisement was insufficient to describe its effect to the public*
That last item is the Achilles's Heel.  Some would tell you, hey, the 30-day appeal period passed over a year ago.  That is true - and Nestle certainly was aware, because they signed the lease on the property just as the appeal period expired.  However, the law specifically requires that when a change to a pending ordinance change occurs, that change must be described in sufficient detail for the community to know what its effect will be.  There is an exception to the 30-day rule, which is what those who planned the underhanded adoption of this amendment didn't anticipate.

Therefore, the objectors have the upper hand.  The landowner does not have the right to host the development of this operation, because the amendment that would allow it was illegally passed.  It will take a court to arrive at this finding - but the case appears strong.

Writing is on the wall
It's hard to believe the objectors set off this explosion.  They have the law on their side, and will likely win the court appeal.  The Planning Commission has announced its plans to recommend the Special Exception permit be rejected, which is firmly supported by the facts.  This will be the subject of an article later today or tomorrow.

Predictable result
The entire community is to be a party to discussions of ordinance amendments and land use changes at public meetings - not just one or two residents who hope to benefit from a change.  When your government acts in a manner that allows such an injustice to occur, and then refuses to undo that error, the people will rise.  That is what is happening here.

It is also predictable, according to some in the community, that immature acts of vandalism and intimidation would result from this conflict.  It may get worse before it gets better - brace yourself, Kunkletown.

If this happened on my property
If this happened on my property, I would press Betsy into service.  She's The Decider, as George W Bush used to say.  She doesn't listen well, but she packs one hell of a punch on the business end.  There wouldn't be a repeat incident with the hooligan or hooligans who pulled this crap.

One has to wonder if Nestle knew what it was getting into when it signed on to lease this property.

Explanation for Why Water Extraction Amendment was not Submitted to the Eldred Board of Supervisors, as Required by Statute

In an earlier post, it was explained how an amendment should be proposed, reviewed, and adopted, according to applicable statutes.  It was then shown the actual process that the water extraction amendment took, which deviated in many ways, not the least of which the Eldred Township Supervisors did not receive it from the landowner and did not vote to authorize it being drafted for review - the very first step.

Here are diagrams that depict each process:

Note how our friend the Amendment does an "end around" and makes his way all the way to Carson Helfrich, the Planning Consultant, totally bypassing the Supervisors.  Why did this happen?  Is it as simple as this was the quickest way to obtain the desired result?  Perhaps - after all, that result was achieved with no muss and no fuss, with no one the wiser for a year.

Perhaps there is a critical reason that the amendment was not brought to the Supervisors - it couldn't be without risk of being stopped out of the gate. At the December 2015 Supervisors meeting this reporter heard a citizen address Supervisor Gannon-Pettit, and allege that she had been in a close relationship with the landowner in question for "years", and she did not deny this but replied "do you think that is why I am here?"  In speaking with other residents, the relationship is accepted as fact.

There are standards for conflict of interest for members of a supervisory body that can require them to abstain from a vote, when considering a motion which would result in a close relative achieving a pecuniary gain.  Clearly the landowner stands to reap financial benefits from adding this third principal use to a property that already hosts two.  Whether or not the actual nature of the assumed relationship reaches the standard of a conflict of interest is not known, but by circumventing the Board, this issue never had to be addressed.  If Ms. Gannon-Pettit had to recuse herself, the motion to authorize the amendment could have resulted in a 1 to 1 vote and faiiled.  As it is, she did in fact vote to adopt it, once all the other obstacles had been eliminated.  You just could not make this up.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Supervisor Solt Receives Single Finger Salutes Of Recognition During Nestle Special Exception Hearing

As reported earlier today, one commentator blurted out some colorful language when faced with an argument he vigorously disagreed with put forth by the legal counsel for Nestle at its Special Exception presentation to the planning commission.

It wasn't the only crack in decorum during the meeting.  There were several residents who became emotional during the evening, which is normal when residents believe they are on the verge of losing something precious to them.

One resident who had sat through slide after slide by hydrogeologist Lou Vettorio (when Mr. Vettorio first rose to speak, a young lady asked in a low voice "do you think he will be as condescending as he was last month?") suddenly broke the monotonous progression by exclaiming something like "I'm sorry, but this is b(@) @#(!"  He looked towards the presenters as he pulled his jacket on, shrugged his shoulders almost apologetically as if to say "there is nothing you have to say I am interesting in hearing," and left.  As the evening progressed, there were others in the crowd who figured they has seen enough and left.  Again, pretty typical.  But there was one who was in it for the long haul, who brought her game face with her.

It is reported that Sharon Solt, who sat through most of the meeting looking like she was cast in stone, evidently inspired a far more heartfelt response from one citizen in the audience.  This person reportedly said something to the effect of "we wouldn't be here if it were not for you," which is a 100% accurate statement.  It became known in May of 2015 that a change in land use not advertised to the community occurred when the ordinance update advertised as "simple changes" by three agencies that Ms. Solt sat on (Eldred Supervisor, Monroe County Planning Commission, CJER).  Ms. Solt was also the Eldred Secretary (what could go wrong?), and instead of bringing the amendment she received from Planning Consultant Carson Helfrich on March 24, 2014 to her supervisor colleagues for an authorization vote, she submitted a 2-word version of it to planners for review.  Between May 2015 and when Nestle filed its Special Exception Application in December 2015, Ms. Solt had multiple opportunities to second a motion to overturn this ordinance change that Eldred Township's counsel now admits was passed improperly, but she refused to do so.  She has stated "I am neither for or against this project," which clearly doesn't match her inaction in failing to right a wrong which was enabled only by her own own flawed actions.  She failed to do her job.  There is no shortage of gall in Ms. Solt, who incredibly voiced a concern during the February 2016 supervisor meeting over the amount of money Eldred Township is spending to undo the ordinance change and keep Nestle from developing on a site they would not be able to be targeting if not for Ms. Solt's own failures.

In a sudden collapse of the stony facade that Ms. Solt had on her face, she reportedly replied "you should have paid closer attention to what was going on."  This says a lot about Ms. Solt's character, or lack thereof.  The various bodies that Ms. Solt was associated with had the responsibility to pass ordinance amendments that had been properly discussed and reviewed in public, and that process failed miserably - starting with the fact the amendment in question was never even authorized to be drafted by Solt and her colleagues.  There were multiple Eldred Twp residents at the CJER meeting where this illegal amendment was passed, and Ms. Solt did not see to it that the amendment was discussed in proper detail that they could ask the right questions.

Reportedly, in the face of Ms. Solt's inability to take responsibility for her actions (not the first time, according to reports), this citizen extended a single finger salute to Ms. Solt during the presentation - twice.  Not knowing whether these were simultaneous, or spaced in time, the following graphic covers both possibilities.  This reporter must have been concentrating on Mr. Vettorio's slide show, because the interaction was not heard or seen - pity.

Where is this covered in the Zoning Ordinance?
Is this a Variance or Request for Interpretation?

Update: It is reported that the individual delivering the salutes in question looks not totally unlike the woman in this picture.