April 23, 2014 —
DAMASCUS, PA — The Damascus Township Board of Supervisors spent the greater part of its April 21 meeting defending itself against charges from two residents that ranged from nepotism and collusion to dereliction of duty. Presented during the public comment period before agenda items were tackled, the charges centered around the planning commission’s long-awaited decision on minimum property lot size. The two residents were vocal in their support for a minimum lot size of not less than two acres per parcel.
Reading aloud a section from the Supervisors Handbook that defines the duties and responsibilities of the planning commission as implementing the will of community residents, Bob Gross claimed that the commission does not represent the community as a whole, because its members are appointed, not elected, and some of them are related to supervisors. He also pointed to survey results indicating that a majority of respondents preferred larger, not smaller, lot sizes. He further noted that a public hearing is required before an authoritative decision can be made.
Chairman Jeffrey Dexter reminded Gross that a public hearing was held some months ago, that Gross had been present at it, and that he had taken the floor at that time to express his opinion. Dexter also reminded Gross that the subsequent board vote had gone against increasing lot size. Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer Ed Lagarenne explained that determining minimum lot size is a complex process that takes into consideration many factors, including ground percolation requirements. Supervisor Joe Canfield remarked that township planning commissions are urged to take direction from state and county planning groups, both of which favor smaller minimum lot requirements. Planning Commission Vice Chairman Marty Kuntsman assured the board that the commission will make its decision public at the next monthly supervisors’ meeting on May 19.
Operations Supervisor Steve Adams defended the highway department against charges of apathy and neglect from a resident complaining about poor road conditions and numerous road closure signs. Adams accounted for the signs, saying that state law decrees that they be placed on any road that represents a danger to drivers and vehicles. He explained further that the severe buckling, sinking and potholes found on many area roads is due to residual moisture beneath road surfaces caused by frost leaving the ground. Until sunshine and warmer air temperatures dry the roadbeds, driving heavy highway department trucks over them will cause additional damage to road surfaces. He added that a long-term solution to the problem would be to trim roadside foliage, permitting more direct sunlight on road surfaces. At the same time, he acknowledged that tree elimination is extremely unpopular with residents.
Adams’ request to hire two additional summer highway department workers was approved by the board. Envisioned as college students (male or female) capable of operating weed whackers, mowers, power washers and spray paint machines, the temporary workers will be paid $10 per hour or less, per Pennsylvania state law.
Gardeners are being sought to plant individual plots in the Damascus Community Garden at 554 Galilee Rd., scheduled to open on May 15. An outreach program of Damascus Methodist churches, the community garden is intended to make organic gardening space available to township residents who currently have no access to arable land. Plots of varying sizes are available at no charge on a first-come, first-serve basis. If interested, call Doris Swendsen at 570/224-4178.