South Whitehall Twp. historic preservation process proving to be just that

Posted: 10:24 PM EST Nov 20, 2013   Updated: 7:17 AM EST Nov 21, 2013

The South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners received an update on its quest to possibly draft an ordinance to protect the township's historic sites during Wednesday night's meeting.

If that update provided any underlying theme, it was that commissioners and township residents, eager for the protection in the aftermath of the King George Inn controversy, better take to heart the adage "good things come to those who wait."

Howard Kutzler, the township's recently appointed director of administration, provided the legislative body a quick history lesson. He noted that in July 2009, the township adopted a Comprehensive Plan, with one element of that plan related to historic preservation.

In that outline is a strategy dedicated to identifying properties as historic. The first part of the strategy is simple enough: Come up with a list of historic sites, Kutzler said.

"At the last meeting it was suggested that a committee be put together to go through the existing inventory we have and basically firm that up with any other information that may be out there in the public," he said.

At the moment, Kutzler said, the township has the "word out" with board members and the public and so far, the township has a "few names" who, along with township staff, would comprise the committee.

"What we would plan on doing then is basically looking at the comp plan, our existing inventory and firming that up and then frankly reporting back to you all (commissioners) as to what we think as part of considering the adoption of an ordinance."

Once the committee is actually comprised, Kutzler went on to add, the first meeting would take place sometime in mid-December. In addition the board's solicitor, Zator Law, is doing a case law review on historic preservation ordinances.

"It's very important that before we even get too far down the road that we understand frankly what the limitations of what we can do are," Kutzler said.

For example, the township doesn't want to look at structures that are 50 years old if there is case law that prohibits ordinances of that nature.

"We don't know," Kutzler said.

Zator is expected to issue his findings to the township "around Thanksgiving."

In other business, township Manager Jon Hammer provided board members with an update on the 2014 budget process, and, the news is good for township residents who don't have a burning desire to pay more taxes. That's because the budget holds the line, Hammer noted. And he offered an early Christmas present when he added that he expected the refuse bill for residents to decrease from $344 a year to $280 annually.

The budget is expected to be formally voted on at the December 18th board of commissioners' meeting.

Also, Police Chief Thomas Toth, informed commissioners that Yankee, a former township K-9 officer who served for more than seven years from 2004 through 2011, died November 10th. The 11-year-old, crime-fighting pooch was nasty with criminals but proved quite the charmer with kids, Toth said.

President Christina Morgan was absent from Wednesday night's meeting.