Coolbaugh Supervisors Act to Give Township Businesses Leeway for Outside Activities During COVID
COOLBAUGH (JUL 21 2020) – The Coolbaugh Board of Supervisors tonight unanimously passed a resolution designed to assist township businesses struggling with occupancy limits imposed by the COVID mitigation orders issued by the governor and various state agencies. Township businesses can now apply for a no-cost temporary permit, good through October 1, to conduct a portion of their business outside, provided that the space used meets existing setback requirements.
Resolution number 08-2020, was not even on tonight’s agenda, as the inspiration for it came only on this past Saturday, when the township’s Director of Zoning & Code Enforcement, Tomas Keane, made what he said was his first foray into a restaurant since early March. Keane said that when he went into Mamma Maria’s, a popular local eatery, he noticed most of the seating blocked off. The owner explained he was limited to about 5 or 6 dine-in customers due to the most recent COVID mitigation orders issued by the state health department.
Keane had noticed establishments in other municipalities with ad hoc outside dining and asked owner Fillippo Lopresti if something like that would help his business survive the public health crisis. Lopresti said it would be a big boon for him, and Keane contacted Bill Weimer, chair of the Board of Supervisors to take his temperature on a temporary measure to permit similar solutions for businesses in the municipality. Weimer said he enthusiastically supported Keane’s idea, and asked him to “make it happen.”.
Current rules in the township would not permit businesses to set up outside their premises, so Keane contacted the solicitor. They crafted a resolution which was placed in the board’s packet at this evening’s meeting for informational purposes only. Keane’s expectation was that it would be discussed at the following work session and perhaps adopted in August.
After a brief discussion, supervisor Lynn Kelly suggested that the board consider adopting it right away, to give businesses the maximum time possible to take advantage of the temporary measure. The board then unanimously adopted the resolution. The board also unanimously passed Kelly’s subsequent motion to waive the usual $50 permit fee. Weimer thanked Keane for his work, saying that “we’re coming up with solutions - our employees are stepping up to the plate and making us look good.”
Under the new rules, businesses would apply for a permit, show where they would be set up, and be limited to selling their normal stock in trade (to discourage pop-up flea markets). Businesses interested in taking advantage of the relaxation of the rules can contact Keane at Tkeane@coolbaughtwp.org, or the township zoning office at 570.894.8490, ext.4.
Short Term Rental Ordinance Public Hearing Set
The board also set August 18, at 6 pm for a public hearing on the township’s proposed short-term rental ordinance. The hearing had been delayed due to the COVID emergency. Details of the management of the hearing are yet to be worked out, but the board expressed a strong desire to conduct an in-person hearing, as opposed to an online one.
Weimer said he prefers that participants have the chance to sit “face to face and tell me why they want us to vote one way or another.” He also speculated that the in-person meeting could involve logistical problems including moving small groups of people into the meeting room to make their statements, and then requiring them to leave so that another group can enter, in order to maintain the 25-person limit under COVID regulations. Details are expected to be discussed at the August 4 work session.
Budget Sessions Set, PMRPD Does Crackerjack Work on Firecrackers, PMREMS Request for Financial Help Placed on Agenda for Next Meeting
The board is beginning its 2021 budget preparations. It set August 27, September 10 and 24, October 1, 22, and 29, and November 12 for budget work sessions to begin at 6 pm. They also set Saturday, November 21, at 9 am for their final “marathon” work session.
In other business, Lynn reported that the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department Chief said the department had confiscated more illegal fireworks this month than any other department in the state. She said that most were of the commercial variety requiring a professional license to possess, and were seized at numerous calls responding to fireworks complaints.
Weimer announced that the Pocono Mountain Regional Emergency Medical Services would be at the August 4 work session to present their proposal to the Township for immediate and long-term financial assistance to the organization, to help it through the reduced income as a result of the COVID shutdowns.
Also tonight, the board rejected a request from the Pocono Mountain Municipal Airport Authority to waive the requirement for a perimeter fence around a stormwater management basin. The Authority had cited safety concerns over the fence. In response to the request, the township engineer had sent a letter with the opinion that there was no real safety concern. There was no response from the Authority, which did not appear at the meeting to present its case. The request was unanimously denied, without prejudice to the Authority renewing it if it had a basis to refute the engineer’s analysis.
Lynn announced that Parks and Recreation had cancelled their popular September “Touch a Truck” event due to COVID concerns and restrictions. The board also paid a total of $171,088.56 in bills this month.
The meeting lasted a very manageable 61 minutes. The board next meets on August 4 at 6pm, on the second floor of the Pocono Mountain Library in Coolbaugh.