Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors Work Session

March 19, 2001  

MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting April 11, 2001. WORK SESSION OF 3/19/01:Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the work session of 3/19/01; the motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining.

Members Present:       Tom Jirele, Vice Chairman; Scott R. Harp, Treasurer; Frank Mendicino, Secretary; Steve Harris, Township Solicitor; Bob Larason, Township Engineer; Cornell Hopkins, Township Manager. 

Call to Order:            In the absence of Chairman Sanderlin, Mr. Jirele called the meeting to order at 8:15 PM.   

Changes to the Agenda:   Pheasant Pointe was moved to the beginning of the agenda.

SEPTA Route Changes was added after the Maintenance Building Facility. An executive session at the conclusion of the meeting for matters of land acquisition was announced.  2 handouts, received 3/19/01, concerning the sound barrier were distributed.          

Land Use 

Pheasant Pointe – Zoning Hearing Board Matter – Bob Gunderlach, Sam Costanzo, John DiPasquale

Bob Gunderlach said there has been a misunderstanding regarding the calculation of impervious surface.  He said that when the project began it was determined that the development crosses two zoning districts, and that there were two calculations for impervious surface. Mr. Gunderlach cited a letter dated 2/13/01 concerning stormwater management.  He said that the property was approved with a combined storm water management plan, and that their impervious surface calculations had been done on a project wide basis. Mr. Gunderlach also cited a letter to Tom Harwood dated 2/21/01, asking for reconsideration of his prior interpretation of calculation of impervious surface. 

Mr. Gunderlach reviewed a chart of impervious surface calculations for Pheasant Pointe, and said that at some point during the process the impervious surface calculations should have been done separately.  He said that because the Planning Commission did not want additional curb cuts they designed a cul de sac, which consumed a lot of impervious surface in the R-1 district.  They had understood a global application of the impervious surface and didn’t foresee the calculation being done separately.  They felt that calculation of impervious surface was much easier on a tract-like basis, by lot.  They have tried to allow a little extra on each lot. 

Mr. Gunderlach distributed a letter from Tom Harwood dated 1/15/01, that defined impervious surface allotment as 12% per lot; Elliott redesigned according to this letter, and took the plan back to Mr. Harwood.  He said that they next received a letter from Mr. Harwood dated 1//31/01, in which he stated that he had been mistaken and that impervious surface should be 12% on a tract wide basis, by zoning district. 

Mr. Harris reminded the committee that the ZHB application is for a variance on five lots to allow 5700 square feet per lot.  The board has authorized Mr. Harris to oppose the variance.  He said he sees this as a matter of zoning variance. 

Mr. Mendicino asked Mr. Gunderlach about the length of operation of the Elliott Group, and how many municipalities they have worked with.  He said he did not understand why Elliott is confused over the calculations.  He said the ordinance should be defended as written, and that the issue should lie with the ZHB. 

Mr. Gunderlach reiterated that, since the stormwater management and retention basin services the entire development and were calculated together, they have developed the 2 zoning districts as one project.  He said he felt that the zoning officer seemed confused, and that they are not looking to build larger homes. 

Mr. Jirele said that even if the stormwater management is shared, that the impervious surface calculations should have been done separately.  He suggested that another alternative was to eliminate one of the lots.  He said that Elliott should have realized the problem earlier in the land development process. 

Mr. Costanzo asked the board to look at the ordinance, as he sees confusion in the definition of tract – by lot or by project.  He said he believes that as land is divided, each lot becomes a tract.  He said that they have no problem taking the issue to the ZHB, but wanted to find out why the board opposes the application for a variance. 

Chris Maley, who has purchased Lot #5, asked when the developer was aware of the problem with calculations, and if there was anything in writing concerning this.   He wondered if the problem had been identified before July 2000, when he purchased the property.  Mr. Mendicino said he could check the minutes from 3 to 3 ½ years ago. 

Newtown Place – Sound Barrier

Caroline Van Zytvield, Brookside HOA; Dan Faust, Jim Manahan; John Connor; and Jan Swartz, Chandler Hall were present for discussion. 

Ms. Van Zytvield said they have contacted the governor concerning sound barriers and have received information from him. 

Mr. Faust said they have contacted neighboring developments.  He said that Brookside is interested, and Newtown Crossing is not interested in being involved but would support the issue.  Chandler Hall will support, but not financially.  Mr. Faust said that they are looking at a unique funding source, found by Representative Dave Steil, which would not involve matching funds.  When the original study was done on the Bypass, it didn’t consider the impact of noise on the community.  

Mr. Jirele said that a big concern of the board was aesthetics; and asked if the group had gathered any additional information. 

Mr. Faust said he had researched on the Internet, and has spoken with contractors who precast barrier walls, and that there were a number of things that could be done.  He presented a brochure that pictured examples of architectural concrete with design and texture.

Other sound barrier walls in the area that have been observed were discussed: the blending of natural environment incorporating plantings has been done along the Blue Route, and the molding of trees into concrete on Route 202 were two examples.  Mr. Faust said they didn’t think that there was any cost implication with the addition of aesthetics to the barriers.

Mr. Harp said that the existing fence along the Bypass could be improved upon, and asked if a sound barrier could be placed where the fence now exists.

 Mr. Harris said that PennDOT would determine details of the barrier: when the board approves the project, then Rep. Steil would go to the legislature for funding.  Sound studies would be completed and submitted to the board for evaluation.  After this process, the design, height and other details of the sound barrier would be decided.  Mr. Faust said that engineering would dictate such details.  It was clarified that funding would pay for construction only.

Mr. Jirele asked when the board would have an opportunity to review the design, etc.  Mr. Larason said that since the road belongs to PennDOT and their funding would be used, that PennDOT would listen to input regarding aesthetics, but they would determine where and what is needed for a barrier. 

Mr. Faust noted the clear wall issue, saying that PennDOT would not want the barrier too close to the road.  He said that PennDOT only has authority on its own land; Mr. Larason said PennDOT would probably keep construction to its own right of way if possible.  Ms. Swartz expressed concern over the blockage of air at Chandler Hall. 

Mr. Hopkins said that in the Newtown Place HOA the owner has a majority vote, which was unique.  Mr. Faust said their petition was signed by the homeowners.  Mr. Manahan said that the developer had indicated support, but if a different scenario developed that might require funds or donation of land, they would have to approach him again. 

Mr. Harris advised that each HOA should act formally, and asked what the group would do if PennDOT will only fund part of the wall.  Mr. Faust said they were not requesting funding, but were looking for board input.  The board said there would be no financial obligation to fund additional walls. 

Mr. Jirele asked that if PennDOT would not fund some of the aesthetics, would the HOA’s fund.  He asked the group to get a letter from each HOA stating their support, and their willingness to financially support for the addition of aesthetics if necessary.  He said that after the letters are received, the board would consider the issue.  Mr. Faust will contact all of the HOA’s involved. 

Ms. Swartz expressed a preference for the brick barrier pictured in the brochure; many agreed.  Mr. Larason noted that grants are available for planting of trees along corridors like the Bypass.

Applebee’s – Sign Discussion

Hank Lieberman of the Rose Group presented sketches of a proposed settlement concerning the ZHB issue of Applebee’s signs.  He said that the sign above the front door was the only remaining issue; other small signs measuring 20 square feet have been approved on the sides of the building.  Mr. Lieberman said that the standard Applebee’s sign is usually 80 square feet, and that a 20 square foot sign over the door would be very small in relation to the entire building. 

Applebee’s is proposing a sign over the front door, measuring 20 square feet, and consisting of just the letters of the name “Applebee’s”.  The letters would be white, and there would be no apple and no background.  The sign would have a translucent face.  They would also like an illuminated stripe, which would run the length and follow the line of the building.  They have created a strip made of non-exposed LED, which Mr. Lieberman felt was more attractive than the allowed Christmas lights in other locations in the township.  He showed the board a piece of the proposed striping.

Mr. Harris said that, since the issue is a matter of litigation, and since they have heard the proposal presented, the board should discuss the issue in executive session.

Mr. Lieberman said that since they are under construction, a quick decision would be greatly appreciated.  He said Applebee’s is planning a June 26 opening. 

Maintenance Building Facility – Joe Phillips, Donovan & Associates; Lou Melchiondo

Mr. Phillips said he met with Lou Melchiondo to discuss the interior design of the proposed maintenance facility.  Mr. Phillips reviewed sketches of the proposed building, noting that adequate height to accommodate trucks was figured in.  Mr. Melchiondo said that one garage door was planned on the north side, which was more desirable than two since it is quite windy there and the loss of heat from the building would be minimized. 

Other features noted were:

·         Storage space for smaller equipment

·         Men’s’ locker room providing 12 lockers, tool room and parts room on the lower level

·         The upper floor would contain a bay area for storage of the sweeper, a 20’ x 26’ lunch/training room to accommodate 18-20 people,        and supervisor’s office to contain PA1 call, fax, computers, etc.

Mr. Phillips said the location of the bunkroom was changed with input from Mr. Melchiondo.   He also said that the bays would be heated with infrared units, which is efficient because it heats objects, not space.

Mr. Phillips said that the cost of this building for construction only and not including fees would be $460,000 - $530,000.  Mr. Hopkins reminded the board that all costs had been summarized in a memo sent about 4-6 weeks ago, which included an estimate of 10% of the project cost for furnishings.

Mr. Mendicino said he felt that much misinformation had been received and that he would like to put the project forward into the new administration in 2002.  Mr. Jirele liked the design and said he would like to see cost figures for just this building.

Mr. Melchiondo noted that the need for improved records storage has brought the maintenance building to the fore.  Mr. Phillips said that a phasing plan has been developed, which would involve building the new maintenance building first, then renovating for records storage.

Mr. Phillips said that the only way to firm up cost numbers any more than they have been already would be to hire an independent cost estimator.  He said that they have historically been within 5% of the ensuing bid costs, but that the true cost is not known until the bidding is complete.  He said that he has already given the board all of the numbers for the project except for fittings, and he has not been authorized to go any further.  The next steps would be to prepare structural, mechanical and construction documents; the bulk of the cost goes to construction documents.

SEPTA Proposed Route Elimination

SEPTA is proposing to cut Route 301.  The board has been asked by Northampton for a letter opposing the elimination of Route 301.  Mr. Hopkins said that there are two additional routes through the township, and that they have greater ridership than 301.

Mr. Harp asked if any residents are opposed to this. Mr. Hopkins said the township hasn’t received any calls, and he has heard that a few residents opposed in the borough.    Mr. Harp noted that there might be a future need for such transportation due to the anticipated energy shortage.

The board decided to take no action; Mr. Hopkins will inform Northampton.

Public Comment

Bill Sterling asked if the township had received any reply or further contact from Lower Makefield, in regards to the proposed road through his property.  Mr. Hopkins said that Lower Makefield has contemplated a large public meeting, and that Mr. Sanderlin has suggested another meeting.

Jim Bowe expressed concern over the Applebee’s sign issue, and said he was concerned with setting a precedent and opening the door for future sign variance requests.  He also said that he felt Christmas lights in town were quainter than the proposed edging lights for Applebee’s.

Bob Conway requested that streetlights, bathrooms and minutes be included on next month’s work session agenda.

Public/Park Restrooms

Mr. Jirele said he has heard a lot of feed back about the public bathrooms at Swamp Park and other recreation areas, and asked if there is a way to open them up for use.  Mr. Hopkins said that vandalism is a big issue.   He said that there has been vandalism but no breakage at Swamp Park, and that there has been more damage at Chandler, where rocks put into the toilets could get into the pumps and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.  He said those running athletic events do have keys for the bathrooms.

Mr. Harris said that the situation almost requires security personnel.  He and Mr. Harp suggested that users of the park, such as Little League, could be required to supply a security person or someone to supervise bathroom use.  Mr. Mendicino said that in Philadelphia there is staff present when the parks are in use.  Mr. Harris reminded the board that regular employees would require time and a half if hired to do such duties.  Mr. Hopkins said that at time and a half, the cost for use of regular employees could be as much as $25-$30 an hour.  He said that the use of college kids or part-time summer help, who would cost about $6-$8 per hour and receive no benefits, would be more economical.

Mr. Jirele suggested just opening the bathrooms and keeping the police close by, and seeing what happens.  Jim Bowe suggested the township put the users on attention that if damage occurs, fees will be assessed in the future.   Mr. Hopkins noted that users have been notified before.  Mr. Harp suggested that a letter be written to the leagues, saying that if there are problems or vandalism at the park public bathrooms, it could result in fees in the future.  Jerold Grupp, Council Rock School Board member, suggested making whoever is responsible and has a bathroom key responsible for damages, perhaps up to $100.

The board asked Mr. Hopkins to ask Bill Wert and Lou Melchiondo for suggestions.  Mr. Hopkins recommended opening the bathrooms, monitoring them and see what happens.

Council Rock Senior Center

Mr. Harp recently went to Council Rock Senior Center and asked for a copy of the budget and participation numbers.  They said they would be willing to come and make a presentation to the board.  Mr. Harp said he would like them to attend the next work session; Mr. Harp will contact them.  He noted that since the Senior Center is a public organization, the township is entitled to budget and participation information.  Mr. Hopkins reminded the board that there are two ways to count participation, by mailing list names or people attending; he said that the board may wish to ask for an accounting of actual folks that use the center.

Adjournment: Without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 9:38 pm.


Respectfully Submitted by:                                                                                                                   
                                                         Leslie P. Dunleavy, Recording Secretary          3/30/01