The first topic on the agenda for the Penn Forest Township Planning Commission was David Moyer's request for approval to remove a 4-foot by 8-foot sign at the corner of Church Road and State Route 903 and install a 12-foot by 24-foot billboard. He presented documentation that confirmed that the request was in accordance with regulations.

After a description by Moyer, and a discussion about dimensional specifics, the commission approved the billboard and recommended a special exception at the next zoning hearing.

The focus then shifted toward the Middle Carbon County Comprehensive Plan. Carson Helfrich, a community planner who owns Community Planning and Management LLC., briefly explained each part of the detailed plan which he had developed.

Despite having received the plan in the middle of the summer, commission members admitted that they had not had sufficient time to review it. They agreed to look over the plan in more detail, and discuss it in the next meeting. The floor was then open to public comments.

Hope Gramlich, a resident of Lehighton, expressed her concern regarding the encroachment of the government and trespassers on private property.

"These comprehensive plans are a way for the government to come in, seize property, and tell people what they can and can't do," Gramlich said.

Although there were no proposed takings in the comprehensive plan, she was particularly concerned that new public works would require the government acquisition of private property and may also result in tourists trespassing on private land.

Gramlich repeatedly referenced the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in her case. In 1992 this conference developed a non-binding voluntarily implemented action plan, which is known officially as Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 is intended to involve action at the federal, state, and local level and provide a framework for sustainable community growth. The commission was uncertain about the connection that she was trying to make, but it was clear that she had a genuine concern regarding city sprawl and how many of the township's zoning and planning regulations referred to it.

Gramlich's comments were interrupted by Jim Thorpe resident, Robert Dages, who shared her concerns of trespassers and the encroachment of the government into people's business.

"I urge this commission to think carefully and with reservation when they consider the implications of new trails that people have suggested," Dages said.

He continued with a hypothetical problem.

"When a tree that is rooted in my neighbor's yard, but leans into my yard, topples into the new trail, who is responsible for cutting it down?" Dages asked.

"There are already laws in place to decide who is responsible," Commissioner Alan Heydt responded.

Before the commission could fully understand what Dages and Gramlich were proposing, Commissioner Herbert Green received a phone call and had to leave for personal reasons. The meeting was adjourned due to lack of quorum, as commission member David Swinkowski was absent, and it was decided that the discussion shall continue at the next planning commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on April 22.

The Middle Carbon County comprehensive plan is available at the following URL. http://www.communityplanning.biz/ [1].