NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

JANUARY 9, 2002


MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting January 23, 2002. REGULAR MEETING OF 1/9/02:  Mrs. Goren moved to approve the minutes of the 1/9/02 regular meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.


The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, January 9, 2002, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM.  In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Scott Harp, Vice Chairman Tom Jirele, Treasurer Richard Weaver, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Anne Goren and Member Raymond Goodnoe.  Also present were:  Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Gerald Smith, Township Manager Robert Pellegrino and Township Finance Director Elaine Gibbs.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

CALL TO ORDER:  Chairman Harp called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. 

INVOCATION:  Given by Pastor Gerry Newswanger of the First Baptist Church of Wycombe.  This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. 

ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA:  Mr. Pellegrino announced that a Certificate of Completion for St. Andrews Briar will be considered under the Manager’s Report, and there will be a report on the Joint Planning Commission following the Business Development Council report. 

MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS: 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: 

REGULAR MEETING OF 12/12/01:  Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 12/12/01 regular meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Goren abstaining.

BILLS LISTS: 

BILLS LIST- 12/26/01:  Mr. Weaver moved to pay bills totaling $390,836.54 and to make interfund transfers totaling $5,251.40; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Goodnoe asked if the payment to Reed Smith Associates is the last one, and the total amount paid to Reed Smith.  Mr. Harp responded that this payment is the final one, and the total amount is slightly over $50,000. 

Mr. Weaver’s motion passed unanimously, with Mrs. Goren and Mr. Goodnoe abstaining.   

Mr. Weaver noted that this bills list includes the final payment for the Clark property. 

BILLS LIST - 1/9/02:  Mr. Weaver moved to pay bills totaling $164,540.76, and to make interfund transfers totaling $434.05; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously. 

TREASURER:  No items for this section. 

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS, COMMISSIONS: 

HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD:  Mr. Jirele reported that HARB did not meet in December, and there are no Certificates of Appropriateness to consider. 

CABLE TV COMMITTEE:  Jim Bowe reported that the Committee held a short meeting on 12/19/01.  A Comcast representative reported on two personnel changes, and the committee discussed the tour of Comcast facilities that had taken place earlier in the month and how to use the PEG channels.  The committee will seek funds with which to generate content for the PEG channels, pursue coordination with other municipalities, and meet with BCCC again later in January.  Mr. Bowe also reported that the committee will meet with the Council Rock School District regarding Channel 78. 

Mr. Goodnoe asked if the Township is using the tape produced by the Newtown Library.  Mr. Harp said he has seen it recently.  Mr. Bowe commented that material has to be retired for a while from time to time.  He suggested that scheduling be discussed when the committee comes to the next work session. 

Mr. Bowe said he saw two main issues for the committee to address this year:  content and competition. 

Mr. Goodnoe suggested that the committee seek material from the state legislature, and Mr. Harp suggested contacting local universities. 

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL:  Mr. Weaver reported that the Council met on 1/3/02.  Linda Mitchell of the Newtown Athletic Center spoke to the Council about the impact of nonprofits on the business community.  A proposal for a revised mission statement will be discussed at the Board’s work session on 1/21/02. 

JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION:  Mr. Weaver reported the Commission met 1/3/02 and discussed HB 1219, which is due to be signed by the Governor soon.  The proposed legislation sets deadlines for municipalities’ action on conditional uses, zoning variances and PRDs.  The Commission is recommending that municipalities oppose this legislation. 

Mrs. Goren moved that Mr. Pellegrino be directed to draft a letter for Mr. Harp’s signature opposing HB 1219, to be faxed or e-mailed tomorrow to the Governor.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously. 

Mr. Weaver said the Commission also discussed computerized tracking of the review process for proposed ordinances. 

MEMBERS’ COMMENTS:  None. 

COMMUNITY COMMENTS: 

Nancy Crescenzo asked why the Open Space Committee was dissolved.  Mr. Harp responded that a majority of the Board, as well as the Recreation Director, favored bringing the Open Space Committee and the Recreation Board together again.  Mr. Goodnoe said he dissented from this decision because recreation issues are different from stewardship of the land.  Mr. Harp said the two functions need to be coordinated.  Ms. Crescenzo said she would have liked an opportunity for public comment on the decision. 

Ms Crescenzo also asked if Mrs. Goren has resigned from the Y committee.  Mrs. Goren said she has.  Mr. Harp said he has also resigned.  He said that Mr. Weaver remains on the committee as a Newtown resident, not as a Supervisor. 

Ms Crescenzo asked Mr. Harris to explain his letter about School Board reapportionment.  Mr. Harris said he will be discussing this in detail at the Board’s work session on 1/21/02.  He said that the School Board can reapportion representatives themselves, or others can file a court petition and propose an alternate plan.  He said that Pennsylvania law requires that school boards have a minimum of five members and a maximum of 11.  

Ms Crescenzo also suggested that the Township seek cable TV content from the state legislature.  Mr. Harp said the Township would like to get PCN, the state’s equivalent to C-Span. 

Ms Crescenzo also asked where the $50,000 paid to Reed Smith came from in the budget.  Mr. Harp said it came from cash reserves in last year’s budget. 

Mr. Harp announced that the Board is trying a different approach to Community Comments tonight.  After approximately half an hour, the Board will do the business of the Township.  If there are more members of the community wishing to comment, they can do so after the business is concluded. 

Douglas Terry, a member of the Business Development Council, said the business community has been able to raise and address concerns with the Township through the Council.  He asked why the question of the Council’s mission statement was tabled to the work session of 1/21/02.  Mr. Harp said the Board wants to discuss the statement fully and make recommendations to be brought back to the Council by Mr. Weaver.  Mr. Jirele invited Mr. Terry to attend the work session and participate in the discussion.  

Mr. Terry asked if Board members objected to the Council making recommendations to the Township.  Mrs. Goren said she is not opposed to this idea.  

Mark Byelich, a Township resident, asked several questions regarding the budget.  Finance Director Elaine Gibbs was present and said that the Township’s 2002 budget showed approximately $650,000 to be transferred out of cash reserves, to address increases in overall operating expenses.  She said that the Township budgets very conservatively; last year’s budget projected a draw of approximately $600,000 from reserves, but only about $200,000 was taken out. 

Mr. Byelich asked how the expansion of the Municipal Building will be funded.  Mr. Harp responded that the primary recommendation is to fund it with a bond issue. 

Mr. Byelich asked what the Township is doing to increase revenues.  Mr. Jirele responded that the Township is encouraging the growth of businesses in the community, particularly in the LI, OR and Commercial zones.  Mr. Harp said the Township is also asking department heads to be conservative.  He said the Board hopes to have no funds coming out of cash reserves in the next budget. 

Mr. Goodnoe said he opposed a deficit budget this year.  He recommended that operating expenses be separated from capital expenses.  He suggested that the Board commit to having no deficit in the operating budget, and discuss the capital budget separately. 

Mr. Byelich asked about the status of the YMCA feasibility study.  Mr. Harp said it has not begun, but results are expected in the spring.  He said the study will assess unmet recreation needs in the community. 

Mr. Byelich asked who initiated contact with the YMCA.  Mr. Harp responded that he spoke with Mr. Briscoe some time ago.  Mr. Byelich said he is concerned about the religious elements of the YMCA’s mission, and claimed that the prices are not much different from the prices at the Newtown Athletic Center. 

Mr. Byelich also asked several questions about the solicitor for the Planning Commission.  Mr. Harp said the Board and some members of the Commission felt it would be a good idea.  Mr. Goodnoe commented that the Commission should use the same attorney as the Board.  Mr. Harp said he did not know if other municipal planning commissions have solicitors, although they all have access to legal representation.  He felt that Mr. Ward’s fee of $125.00 an hour is comparable to other municipalities’ legal representatives.  Mr. Harp said that Mr. Ward was the only candidate interviewed, but he is well qualified.  Mr. Harp pointed out that Mr. Ward’s fees would be paid by the developers, not the Township, although there is a $3500 item in the budget for legal consultation to the Commission on matters other than land development issues.  Mr. Harp said he will be meeting with Mr. Ward and the Commission’s chairperson to clarify how Mr. Ward’s services will be used and billed.  Mr. Jirele said he understood that Mr. Ward’s services would not cost the taxpayers anything, but Mr. Goodnoe noted that Mr. Ward may draw on the $3500 line item.  Mrs. Goren said that the line item is capped, unless the Board approves additional expenditures. 

Mr. Harp said that Community Comments will continue after the Board conducts its business. 

Robert Williams protested this decision.  He stated that he felt Community Comments is the most important part of the meeting. 

Mr. Jirele responded that last year the Board often took up the Township’s business at 11:30 PM or later.  This year they have decided to address important decisions while the members are fresh, and return to Community Comments afterwards.  He said that sometimes one community person will be at the podium for as long as 45 or 60 minutes. 

Mr. Harp asked Mr. Byelich to finish up his comments.  Mr. Byelich asked what the purpose of the Ethics Committee is.  Mr. Harp said the purpose was clearly stated in the ordinance that created it.  He said the ordinance covers employees and elected and appointed officials.  Mr. Byelich said that the Committee seems to be concerned with moral judgements, since financial impropriety would be referred to the State Ethics Commission and criminal allegations would be referred to the District Attorney.  

Mr. Byelich also asked why Mr. Goodnoe was not appointed to any positions at the Organization meeting on 1/7/02.  Mr. Jirele and Mrs. Goren noted at least two appointments:  to the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation and the Joint Municipal Authority Board. 

REPORTS OF OFFICIALS: 

CHAIRMAN:  No items for this section. 

OTHER BOARD MEMBERS:  No items for this section. 

MANAGER: 

RCN HEARING:  Mr. Pellegrino said that the Board previously authorized a hearing for RCN, and the date suggested by Mr. Polner is 2/28/02.  Mrs. Goren said she can not be present on that date until 8:30 PM. 

Mr. Jirele moved to set the RCN hearing for 2/28/02 at 8:30 PM.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.

SOLICITOR: 

PLANNING COMMISSION SOLICITOR:  Mr. Harris said that Mr. Ward asked him if there was a problem if he serves as Planning Commission Solicitor (effective 1/15/02) and Auditor.  Mr. Harris said he advised Mr. Ward to obtain an opinion from the State Ethics Commission.  Mr. Harris suggested that the Board adopt a motion to appoint Mr. Ward as Planning Commission Solicitor subject to a favorable opinion from the Ethics Commission. 

Mrs. Goren asked how long it will take to get the opinion.  Mr. Harris said he did not know.  He explained that the Municipal Code says a public official can not represent a person before a Board until he has left the position for a year, and “person” could be interpreted as a municipality.  Mr. Harris said he doubts that this section is applicable, but he felt this point should be clarified.

Mr. Jirele moved to rescind the appointment of Mr. Ward as Planning Commission Solicitor until the matter can be revisited when an opinion from the State Ethics Commission is available.  In the interim, Harris and Harris will provide legal counsel at Planning Commission meetings.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Goodnoe said he will abstain from this vote because he opposed the appointment of Mr. Ward.   Mr. Harris said either Mr. Sander or himself will attend the Commission meetings. 

Mr. Harp asked if any member of the public wished to comment; no one came forward. 

Mr. Jirele’s motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining. 

ENGINEER:  Mr. Harp introduced Gerald Smith of Pennoni Engineering Corporation, who will be attending Board of Supervisors meetings as Township Engineer.  Mr. Smith introduced his colleague Chris Walker, who may attend when Mr. Smith is unavailable.   He also introduced Nelson Shaeffer, who will serve as Township Traffic Engineer. 

PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Mr. Pellegrino said that two conditional use hearings are scheduled for the 1/23/02 meeting.  The Board must act on one that expires on 1/28/02.

OLD BUSINESS:  No items for this section. 

NEW BUSINESS:

PRELIMINARY PLAN - HESTON TRACT - UPPER SILVER LAKE ROAD - TOLL BROTHERS - TMP# 29-10-77:  Attorney Ed Murphy was present to discuss the applicant’s plan to build 24 single family homes on a 77.3 acre lot in the OR District.  Mr. Murphy explained that the preliminary plan hearing was continued from 12/12/01 for resolution of several issues: 

1.      Street improvements along Upper Silver Lake Road:  Mr. Murphy said that Carroll Engineering recommended curbing, sidewalks, widening and storm sewers, and the applicant will comply with this recommendation.

2.      Street lights:  Mr. Murphy said that Toll Brothers is proposing street lights at the two intersections of the loop street with Upper Silver Lake Road.  Mr. Jirele said he would like to see two additional lights on the loop street.  Mr. Murphy said Toll Brothers will comply with whatever the Board wants.

3.      The barn:  Mr. Murphy said the Joint Historic Commission recommended that the barn stay on site, although it is unlikely that any private individual will want to assume responsibility for its maintenance.  Mr. Harp said he would like to see a written opinion from the Joint Historic Commission.  Mr. Murphy said that Toll Brothers will do whatever the Township requires, including dismantling and moving the barn.

4.      Open space:  Mr. Murphy said that the Open Space Committee recommended a fee in lieu of open space.  The fee would be approximately $5,000 per lot in lieu of approximately 2 ½ acres. 

Mr. Goodnoe said that developing this tract as residential instead of office/research will cost the Township about $52,000 in lost revenue.  He suggested not approving the plan and pursuing office/research development.  Mr. Harris said that there are several areas in which the plan does not comply in its present form. 

Jeffrey Frantz of Eastern States Engineering gave Board members copies of a soils report, which he said had not been given to the Township Engineer yet.  Mr. Harris said that the report may be based on the wrong floodplain survey. 

Mr. Harp asked Mr. Murphy to agree to an extension to 3/14/02, so that the disposition of the barn, the open space issue and the soils report can be discussed at a Board work session.  He said that Carroll Engineering was still the Township Engineer for this plan.  Mr. Harris advised that the soils issue must be resolved at the preliminary plan stage. 

Mr. Murphy said he understood that the Board would like to see one or two additional street lights; Mr. Harp confirmed this. 

Mr. Goodnoe said that the open space should be near the road, joined with 2 ½ acres of active recreation space.  Mr. Jirele said that he would like to see the buffer between this residential use and any potential office use expanded. 

Mr. Murphy signed an extension to 3/14/02 drafted by Mr. Harris. 

Mr. Harp said the matter will be on the Board’s agenda for 2/13/02, to give Carroll Engineering time to review the revised preliminary plan. 

PHEASANT POINTE - ESCROW RELEASE:  Mrs. Goren moved to approve the release of $68,191.00 in escrow funds for the Pheasant Pointe project, based on Certificate of Completion #6.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously. 

ST. ANDREWS BRIAR - ESCROW RELEASE:  Mr. Jirele moved to approve the release of $40,401.96 in escrow funds for the St. Andrews Briar project, based on Certificate of Completion #5.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously. 

Mr. Harp thanked Mr. Pellegrino for his help with the transition from Carroll Engineering to Pennoni Engineering. 

COMMUNITY COMMENTS (CONTINUED):   

Robert Williams asked how the community will benefit from the new policy for community comments.  Mr. Harp responded that the Board is trying to make good business decisions for the Township.  He said the Board will continue to evaluate the new policy, and noted that the School Board handles public comment in a similar way. 

Mr. Williams said that he was concerned about how the Board seems to be manipulating the agenda for their meetings.  He asked that changes in policies and the introduction of new issues be done more openly.  He also said the second half of community comments may not get good attention from the Board. 

Nancy Crescenzo asked that the Township require that the barn on the Heston Tract be preserved on the site.  She also asked that the Board consider the impact of the residential development on school taxes. 

Ms Crescenzo also stated that the Y study committee’s meetings will be closed to the public, and that she hoped that the decision to review the Business Development Council’s mission statement was not the result of the Council’s desire to comment on local issues. 

John Gabriel asked that policy changes such as the one implemented tonight regarding public comment be announced and discussed in advance.  He also asked how the members of the Ethics Committee were selected.  Mr. Harp said the Board members unanimously agreed on the appointments, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining. 

Karen Gabriel said the Board should be glad that residents want to be involved with Township business and to comment.  She stated she felt the new policy on public comment is unfair. 

Robert Williams said the new policy will be difficult if there is a big issue before the Board. 

Mark Byelich asked that the Board interview more than one candidate if the Planning Commission must have an independent solicitor. 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  Mr. Harris said there is a need for a very brief executive session for matters of real estate tonight, but no need for the Board to reconvene. 

ADJOURNMENT:  Mrs. Goren moved to adjourn.  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:50 PM.

 

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED: 

 

_____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary

 

Minutes Approved as submitted _______ as corrected _______

 

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Scott R. Harp, Chairman

 

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Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman

 

 _____________________________
Anne Goren, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer

  

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Richard Weaver, Treasurer

 

 _____________________________
Raymond Goodnoe, Member