Mahoning Township supervisors received an update from new township engineering firm CMX Engineering Principal Project Manger Tim Edinger who updated the board on the current status of the Carbon County Packerton Yards project which is located in both the township and Lehighton Borough.

Some significant changes were made in the last revision provided to the township in the fall of 2009 according to Edinger, who was originally retained as the consulting firm for the township when the county hired past engineering firm Carbon Engineering to be the Packerton Yards project consultant.

"This was a major revision than we saw in the plan from earlier last year," Edinger told supervisors. The alterations to the plan included a reduction in the number of lots, the acreage being developed as well as the access points to the planned industrial park.

The original plan showed 15 lots that spanned 97 acres on the property that would be located either in Mahoning Township or Lehighton Borough. The newer plan shows only eight lots spanning 71 acres of the property. "Five of the lots are in the township, while two are in Lehighton," he said. The other lot is planned for the water plant along the river.

Edinger said the lots themselves did not change much in size from the original plan. He said most of the changes involved access into the lots. Initially the lots were accessed from Center Street, but in the newer plan the access point would be located in the area of the Packerton Dip.

He said the reduction in lots appeared to have occurred with the change in access point as the land west of the railroad tracks which was developed on the original plan was not developed on the newer plan. Another concern with the location of the new entrance are the sight distances in the vicinity.

Packerton Hollow Road also needs to be developed for the project and Edinger pointed out it would take a significant amount of grading in the area to improve it for development and the road would need reconstruction and will be moved to allow for queuing lengths for trucks in the development.

He told supervisors he has yet to see any of these concerns addressed by either the township planning commissioners or emergency services. He said the primary importance of the changes to the road is when "the access was off Center Street, this Packerton Hollow Road was an emergency access point into the development. Now (with the newer plan), this becomes the primary and only access into the project." If an emergency was to occur in the Yards, there would be only one way in or out and if that was blocked people would have no way in or out of the park.

Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt asked if there were any options to require the plan to have two access points to prevent this problem or do our ordinances limit our ability to require this. Edinger said he didn't remember seeing anything in the ordinances that would require a second point. He added that emergency services might say they would like a second point. Edinger said one strategy that would help get the second access would be to negotiate with any waivers that would be requested to make the actions mutually beneficial to both parties.

Steigerwalt said, "Right now, I will not approve any plan with an entrance at the Packerton Dip as the way the road is now. I'm not sure how it will look when they alter the road." He pointed out the accidents that occurred within the last few months have been at red lights along Route 443. He said he believed if there was an accident at the light in the dip, it would freeze traffic along Route 209 and Route 443 as well as blocking any access into or out of the park and cause major problems for the entire area.

Supervisor Franklin Ruch said he felt this is important to him also because it would create a traffic issue with the existing Packerton Dam Road which would be about 50 feet away from the intersection and it would probably snarl traffic unless the road was brought out at the signal.

Edinger told the supervisors, the county, through discussions with their engineer, has proposed phasing the project in which the first phase would be the land development while the second phase would be developing the access road into the park. "I don't know if the plan can be recorded until the development is given access to a road," he said. He added the plan expires in July and will probably need to be extended, because there is a significant amount of work to be done.

Supervisor George Stawnyczyj asked about if the project accounts for the heavy water drainage that occurs in the vicinity of the project. He wanted to know how they would remedy that or improve the area as well as whether a retention pond was planned for the project. Edinger said he had the same questions as it was not addressed in the plans he had reviewed and pointed out there were several things to consider including how to manage it and cross it over or under the railroad.

"Are they going to use the existing entrance to the property or move the road so that it is across from Packerton Dam Drive?," said Ruch. Edinger said the entrance appears to be a "T-style" intersection indicating the road would not be changed. This brought up concerns over a driveway that connects to a house which sits off the road from the dip and its location in close proximity to this new planned intersection.

Mahoning Valley Firefighter Jay Maholick said he felt that multiple entrances would be a benefit as it would provide for flexibility to get responders and people in and out easier. Ruch asked if Lehighton is still involved in an agreement that would have Lehighton's fire department respond to that area first. Maholick said it was still in place. Planner Bruce Steigerwalt said he thought maybe Lehighton's Fire company should be looking at the plans also.

Planning Commission Secretary Pat Snyder said she wasn't sure which plan Edinger was using, but she said how the developers were addressing the driveway was a concern to the commission. "I don't want to speak for the rest of the board (commission), but we were not thrilled with it at all."

Township Chairman John Wieczorek said his concern was with the order of the phases in the project. He believed it was more feasible and logical to have to work on the highway occupancy permit first and then the development of the park. Edinger said the board would need to check with its solicitor but he believed their ordinances could allow for accepting the plan but its approval would be conditional on them securing a highway occupancy permit. He didn't believe the county would be able to record the plans before the permit was obtained which would hold up the acceptance of the project.

Wieczorek also asked Edinger if waivers were approved for the original plan would they have to be reapplied to the new plan. Edinger answered by pointing out the new plan has different owners for some of the lots and as such he believed the waivers would need to be reapplied on the newer plan. He pointed out this was his opinion, but the county or planning commission could differ on their conditions for what would be needed to approve the plan.

Wieczorek thanked Edinger for the update on the Packerton Yards project before closing the informational briefing.