By Katie Collins
News Eagle Reporter
Follow Katie @Neaglereporter
LACKAWAXEN TWP. - There was a lengthy hearing at the Lackawaxen Township building Feb. 24, where a number of residents expressed their concern, regarding the beauty of the latest signage required for the new Ordinance 103 for 911 signage.
Township Solicitor Tony Waldron explained the reasoning for the changes. The ordinance was initially adopted in July 2013, and it is “referred to as an address and sign ordinance,” that is meant to help emergency responders during emergencies, as they try to locate buildings. Each property is given a designated number, which he said is a process that started about 12 years ago. Waldron said it was unfortunate that the procedure with the ordinance took Pike County a long time and a fair number of people still don’t have numbers.
Most of the details of the provisions, he said will remain effective. There are requirements for specific building numbers, as well as the direction the sign is facing. There are additional rules about the color contrasting and reflections, so there was a change to blue or green backgrounds with words on both sides of the sign. Sign sizes were changed to be a minimum of 4 inches high and 2 inches wide with a plain block font.
With regards to planned communities, Waldron said there was a public hearing in June where members of the public from Mast Hope and Woodloch commented about the signs. The biggest change, he said was the deletion of provision 6.2, which was about cluster developments with multiunit signs that are responsible for keeping such signs in compliance. The Fire Commission, Waldron said asked the township to delete the provision, in part because section 7.1 which he said is an, “intent provision” that allows the Fire Commission and code officer to be consulted, which Waldron said he thought was, “implied.” This, he said, isn't bad because it, “can't do any harm to clarify.”
The Director of Sales at Woodloch, Nick D’Andrea had several questions about the 911 Ordinance. For one, he questioned if residents would be required to change street signs based on the way the ordinance is written now. Waldron said the ordinance is specific to house signs, not street signs. And so, D’Andrea questioned if the color of the street signs would be, “grandfathered in.” Referencing previous “arguments,” D’Andrea said a provision would give the residents the ability to appeal. Waldron replied that any property owner could appeal, just as they can with a zoning ordinance.
D’Andrea questioned if the code officer is the sole decision maker, to which Waldron said he is. However, the code officer would likely talk with the Fire Commission, and if someone doesn’t agree with a decision, Waldron said it could be, “challenged.” Knowing the code official for some time, he said he doubts the official wouldn’t consult with others before making a final decision. Waldron pointed out that what may happen in Woodloch Springs, may not affect everyone. Continuing on with the concern about who makes decisions, D’Andrea said it may be better if there was, “more broad scope thinking,” rather than one man’s thoughts. To which Waldron replied that, the supervisor’s offices are “not hard to find,” in addition to the monthly meetings where people can express their concerns.
Still discussing the beauty of the signs, D’Andrea talked about how the residents of Woodloch Springs might have wanted to do a presentation because of “things we've done,” since that, “may serve as mitigating circumstances.” It would be, he said, “more fair,” if the residents were given an “opportunity to share all that we do.” Waldron replied that a, “reasonable presentation,” was made in June. That presentation, he said, led the supervisors to make a decision. Although a fire call may not be hard to find, Waldron said an ambulance call can be and so the options have, “been revisited,” which is why there was the Feb. 24 hearing. The latest hearing, he said was an opportunity to hear what emergency responders had to say.
Delayed response, D’Andrea said is the, “biggest concern,” because of the numbering system for rooms at Woodloch Pines. Waldron said there isn't a provision for numbering rooms, instead the buildings are identified.
Presenting a few suggestions, D’Andrea acknowledged that, “we're all on the same boat,” as it is essential that first responders find the emergency quickly. He noted that, “we're certainly not bucking the system,” and are thankful for the handwork from everyone. But, he said there, “may be a better way we can accomplish the same objective.” To aid in finding a place, D’Andrea asked if emergency vehicles have GPS systems. To which, AJ Manzione from the Lackawaxen Volunteer Ambulance said there are GPS systems in all vehicles, but the systems won't put the responders in someone's driveway. And so, then D’Andrea asked if the vehicles have updated, laminated maps of the various communities. Supervisor and Chairman Bob Cocchi said some do and some don't. But Manzione responded that finding a road isn't the issue. The problem arises when trying to find individual units because there isn't a 911 sign.
The purpose for the ordinance, Cocchi said is to, “provide safety for our residents” because if responders can't find the emergency, he said it is the township's fault.
The President of the Lackawaxen Township Fire Commission, John Kerkowski said the ordinance is not unique to Lackawaxen Township as Shohola and Blooming Grove also have one. Matter of fact, he said almost any township in Pennsylvania has one because it’s, “being done for life safety purposes.” Kerkowski said commission members expressed their concerns because it was a, “liability issue,” if emergency responders can't find a home. The problem began, he said at the June hearing where it seemed as though Woodloch would request a waiver. But, he said the members of the commission's concern that the ordinance should “follow pattern of all other ordinances.” The “waiver mechanism,” is meant to, “allow recourse to people who have a hardship and it provides an audit trail,” he added.
After explaining that there are numbers, reflective paint, strobe lights and a detection system in Woodloch Springs, D’Andrea said that he felt he was, “trying to defend something.” He acknowledged the importance of finding a residence and an “earnest effort” has been made so responders can find the homes but, “all we can do is the very best we can.” The problem however is, “trying to balance what architecturally we set up originally,” so the residents can have what they expected when they moved to the developments.
The hearing continued on about the beauty of the signage, to which Manzione questioned if a homeowner would be more concerned about how a sign looks or having their life saved. The signs, he said, “are going to save lives,” which he added is, “more important than anything else.”
D’Andrea maintained his position as he acknowledged what Manzione was saying, but despite the new ordinance, he said there will still be instances when the signs won't help. Now, D’Andrea questioned if something more could be done to give residents, “what they're looking for; safety, and assurance at the same time meeting our architectural standards.” Basically, he said it comes down to, “balancing.”
The Supervisors approved Ordinance 103 for the 911 signage.
Residents concerned over look of 911 house signs
By Katie Collins