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Township officials reference Monroe Co. shooting rampage in setting ground rules for rezoning hearing

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Aug 22 2013 06:24:18 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 22 2013 07:07:12 AM CDT
Lower Saucon Twp.
LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. -

The reverberations from a shooting rampage in Monroe County earlier this month were felt at a municipal meeting in Northampton County Wednesday night.

The Aug. 6 shooting rampage became part of a conversation Lower Saucon Township Council members were having about a series of ground rules for a public hearing next month on a hotly debated rezoning issue.

Council vice president Thomas Maxfield brought up the killing of three people by a gunman who fired into a meeting of the Ross Townhip supervisors while he was discussing security and safety provisions for the Sept. 25 hearing at Saucon Valley High School.

Maxfield noted that no guns would be allowed at the hearing because state law forbids the carrying of firearms on school property.

He then told his colleagues that two police officers would be present at the hearing, and, if council approved, one of the officers would use a wand to check people for weapons.

Maxfield said as far as he could determine, having people frisked with a wand before a public hearing would be a first for the township, "but what happened in Ross Township made me take notice."

At another point, Maxfield said the shooting rampage made him think differently about being a municipal official.

That the Ross Township deaths were on Maxfield's mind was evident from the outset of Wednesday night's meeting. Maxfield asked for a moment of silence in honor of the victims before any business was conducted.

Council voted 4-0 for the use of the wand, along with 10 other guidelines for the hearing on the rezoning of nearly 140 acres along Applebutter Road on the west side of a landfill operated by IESI.

The debate over rezoning has been going on for about a year and a half. Several residents have vigorously fought against rezoning, because landfill officials have said they would like to expand their 224-acre facility by about 50 acres, if the rezoning goes through.

Other guidelines for the Sept. 25 hearing agreed to by council include:

-- Each person will be permitted to comment on the rezoning only once, for up to three minutes, after being sworn in by a court reporter.

-- Comments must be directed only to the chairman of the hearing, and speakers will not be permitted to make personal attacks.

-- People can submit written questions to council before or during the hearing, and council members will answer the questions publicly at their Oct. 4 meeting.

-- The hearing will begin at 7 and conclude at 10 p.m. in the high school's Audion room, and council will have the option to continue it at a later date if necessary.

-- The guidelines will be posted on the township's Web site under the heading Applebutter Road Zoning.