Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors Minutes

JANUARY 23, 2002 


MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting February 13, 2001. REGULAR MEETING OF 1/23/02:  Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 1/23/02 regular meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously. 


The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, January 23, 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:  Planning Commission Chairperson Karen Doorley, Sycamore Street Committee Chairman Vincent Lombardi, HARB Vice Chairperson Elinor Campbell, Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Gerald Smith, Township Manager Robert Pellegrino and Township Finance Director Elaine Gibbs. 

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

INVOCATION:  Given by Reverend Paul Chreiman, retired minister of the Newtown Methodist Church and Chaplain of American Legion Post 440.  This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.  

ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA:  Mr. Pellegrino announced that a Certificate of Completion for Chandler Hall and a proposal for a Canine Unit will be considered under New Business.  Mr. Harris said that a brief executive session for matters of pending litigation following the regular meeting will be necessary.  Also, an item concerning the mylars for Tyrol’s Sycamore will be added to the Solicitor’s report. 

SPECIAL ACTIONS: 

EAGLE SCOUTS:  Mr. Jirele congratulated three young men who recently attained the rank of Eagle Scout, and asked them to describe their community service projects:

·       David Arner reconstructed an area of the Churchville Nature Center

·       Michael Grady reconstructed a gravel path at a church in Yardley

·       Matthew Klitus installed a garden in from of the Chancellor Street School

CONDITIONAL USE HEARINGS: 

MCLAUGHLIN TRACT - STOOPVILLE ROAD - TOLL BROTHERS:  Mr. Harp opened the advertised hearing for this application.  He noted that no representative of the applicant was present, and that the Township had received a 1/14/02 letter from attorney Edward Murphy requesting that the hearing be continued to allow Pennoni Associates time to review a plan for improvements to Stoopville Road.

Mr. Weaver moved to continue the conditional use hearing to 2/27/02; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.

LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS COUNCIL - PENN STREET - TMP# 29-10-33:  Mr. Harp opened the hearing for this application.  Attorney Don Marshall and Steve Schriber were present to discuss the applicant’s request for conditional use approval for D-1 Office Use, with H-5 Non Residential Accessory Use (warehouse), and for conditional use approval for an increase in the impervious surface ratio to 60%.  Mr. Schriber was sworn in. 

Mr. Marshall explained that the applicant proposes to build an 85,000 square foot office building on a 7.09 acre lot in the Newtown Industrial Commons (NIC) in the Light Industrial District.  D-1 Use is planned for approximately 68,000 square feet and H-5 Use for approximately 13,000 square feet.  Mechanical systems will occupy approximately 4,000 square feet.  The applicant is proposing 366 parking spaces, 54 of which will be employee parking under the building.  

Mr. Marshall stated that the Law School Admissions Council is currently in an existing building in the NIC, and would like to consolidate their office and warehouse functions in one building.  They currently have 219 full time employees and hire approximately 60 temporary employees seasonally.  The Council anticipates few visitors.  Mr. Marshall said that the hours of operation will be from 8:30 AM to 4:45 PM, with a few flextime employees staying as late as 8:00 PM, Monday through Friday.  A few employees may work occasionally on the weekend, especially in the peak season.  There will always be a security guard on the premises.  Mr. Marshall stated that one eighteen wheel truck, and eight UPS type trucks, will arrive daily.  The Council also owns a small truck.  No hazardous materials or environmental impacts are anticipated.   

Mr. Marshall said that the applicant has furnished all the information required for conditional use approval of up to 60% impervious surface, and will comply with all ordinance requirements and all points in the Heritage Conservancy letter. 

Mr. Marshall noted that several of the neighboring homeowners attended the Planning Commission meeting on 1/15/02 and raised concerns about buffering between this site and their homes.  He said that this lot is the only one in the NIC that abuts a residential area, and the applicant is willing to provide a substantial buffer.  He said that consideration of the preliminary plan for this project was postponed so that the applicant can meet with a group of neighbors and develop a mutually satisfactory plan for the buffering and lighting. 

Mr. Marshall asked Mr. Schriber if Mr. Marshall’s statements on his behalf were accurate, and Mr. Schriber said they were. 

Mr. Jirele asked for a clarification of the requirements for approval of 60% impervious surface.  Mr. Harris said that the applicant must demonstrate that their stormwater management system can handle the increased runoff.  Mr. Marshall said the applicant sent the data to Carroll Engineering, which has asked for further details.  He said the applicant proposes two shallow detention basins. 

Mr. Jirele said the parking proposed seems excessive.  Mr. Marshall said the ordinance requires these spaces, but the applicant will be asking to hold some of the parking in green. 

Mr. Goodnoe asked if the project’s driveways will line up with those of the residences across the street.  Mr. Marshall said they do not, in accordance with the recommendation of the applicant’s engineer.  The driveways are some distance away from the problematic intersection of Penn Street and Pheasant Run. 

Mr. Harp asked why the applicant plans to request a waiver of the required traffic study.  Mr. Marshall said the Council already is functioning in the NIC, and therefore would not have an impact.  He said that when the building in which the Council is presently operating acquires a new tenant, a traffic study will be appropriate. 

Mrs. Goren moved to approve the application for D-1 Office Use, with H-5 Accessory Warehouse Use, as well as the application for an increase in the impervious surface up to 60%.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously. 

MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS: 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: 

ORGANIZATION MEETING OF 1/7/02:  Mr. Jirele moved to approve the minutes of the 1/7/02 Organization Meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Goodnoe stated that the minutes should be corrected as follows:  the vote on the appointment of Vincent Lombardi to the Vacancy Board should read “The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed 4-1, with Mr. Goodnoe voting ‘nay’”; and the motion regarding the appointment of the Township Technical Advisor should include the statement “The Township Technical Advisor will report directly to the Township Manager”. 

Mr. Jirele and Mr. Weaver agreed to amend their motion in accordance with Mr. Goodnoe’s comments above.  The motion passed unanimously. 

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. 

BILLS LIST:  Mr. Weaver moved to pay bills totaling $158,144.06; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously. 

INTERFUND TRANSFERS:  Mr. Weaver moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $310,085.37; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously. 

TREASURER:  No items for this section. 

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS, COMMISSIONS: 

PARK AND RECREATION BOARD:  Mr. Weaver reported that the Board elected Bernie Bires as Chairman and Andy Levine as Co-Chairman at their most recent meeting.  They heard a presentation from Boyce Associates on playground equipment for Roberts Ridge Park, and expect another proposal from another supplier.  The Board also discussed electrification of the band shell/gazebo for Roberts Ridge Park, which may cost as much as $40,000.  They also reviewed the Law School Admissions Council preliminary plan and recommended a fee in lieu of recreation space. 

Mr. Jirele asked if it is necessary to electrify the gazebo.  Mr. Weaver responded that electrification is needed for entertainers and speakers.  Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township may not need all the electrification proposed. 

Mr. Goodnoe asked if these improvements are consistent with the master plan for Roberts Ridge Park developed by Boucher and James, and asked Mr. Pellegrino to provide him with a copy of the master plan. 

PLANNING COMMISSION:  Chairperson Karen Doorley reported on the Commission’s 1/15/02 meeting.  Officers elected for 2002 are:  Mrs. Doorley as Chairperson, Allen Fidler as Vice Chairman and Vince Lombardi as Secretary.   The Commission welcomed three new members. 

A conditional use application and a preliminary plan for the Law School Admissions Council were reviewed and recommended for approval.  The Commission recommended that a Zoning Hearing Board variance request be opposed because of the excessive relief sought.  The Commission also stated they have no opposition to a proposed JMZO amendment allowing home occupations in the VR-1 District.  Several liaison appointments were also made. 

HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COMMITTEE:  Vice Chairperson Elinor Campbell reported that HARB met on 1/16/02.   Officers elected for 2002 are:  Terry Mc Lean as Chairman and Ellinor Campbell as Vice Chairman.  Plans for the year include working with the Sycamore Street Committee and awarding historic plaques. 

SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE:  Chairman Vince Lombardi reported on the Committee’s 1/22/02 meeting.   Engineering reports were not available because of the transition in Township Engineers, but work is generally progressing satisfactorily.  The Committee is hoping that the project will not lose momentum with the change in engineers.  The Committee’s next meeting will be on 2/12/02.  

Mr. Goodnoe said he is concerned about the transition in Township Engineers.  He asked who is assigned to the Sycamore Street Committee from Pennoni Associates.  Mr. Lombardi said that the primary liaison is Nelson Shaeffer, with assistance from other staff as needed.  Mr. Goodnoe asked if Pennoni will provide night inspections; Mr. Lombardi said Carroll Engineering will perform this work until 1/25/02, and Pennoni will take over for the remainder of the night work, which is expected to last another week or so. 

MEMBERS COMMENTS:  None. 

COMMUNITY COMMENTS:  Mr. Harp announced that the Board will hear approximately 30 minutes of community comments, address Township business, and then invite further public comments. 

Linda Mitchell of the Newtown Athletic Center (NAC) provided the Board of Supervisors with copies of her presentation to the Business Development Council on 1/3/02.  Ms Mitchell said she had four main points:  the NAC has instituted a financial assistance program; the YMCA is a religiously based organization; the YMCA will have to compete directly with local businesses to be viable; and services are more expensive at the YMCA than at the NAC. 

Tom Ragan, a resident of Newtown Colonial Commons, stated he is the Chairman of the Citizens Advocacy Commission of SEPTA.  He invited the Board of Supervisors to join him on the Route 130 bus on SEPTA Newtown Bus Awareness Day on 1/30/02. 

Mrs. Goren commented that she is concerned that there is no public transportation between Council Rock High School and Bucks County Community College.  She also stated she would like train schedules to be available at businesses near the Langhorne train station. 

Sue Beasley asked the Board not to give Township land away to the YMCA.  She also reminded the Board of Mr. Goodnoe’s estimate that approximately $3,000,000 in tax revenue will be lost because the Heston Tract is being developed for residential use instead of office/research use.  

Mr. Jirele responded that residential use is permitted in the OR District, and Toll Brothers has always been clear that they are not interested in any other use for that site.  Mrs. Goren asked Mr. Pellegrino to provide Board members with data relating to potential tax revenues from this tract. 

Mrs. Beasley also asked the Board not to make donations of Township funds to two community libraries.  She said that individual residents can choose to donate privately and get a tax deduction. 

Elinor Campbell asked how the Acme building will be used.  Mr. Harp said that the asbestos problem precludes using it for offices or recreation, so the Township plans to use it for storage and as a staging area for materials to be used in the Sycamore Street project.  Mrs. Campbell also suggested that the Township consider using the barn on the Heston Tract as a community center. 

Mr. Harp announced that after the Board addresses the items on tonight’s agenda there will be an opportunity for more public comments. 

REPORTS OF OFFICIALS: 

CHAIRMAN:   

WORK SESSION 1/21/02:  Mr. Harp reported that the Board met in a work session on 1/21/02.  Among the items discussed were:  preemption devices in ambulances, a proposed millage increase to be put on the ballot in the primary election, the Heston Tract, Tyrol’s Sycamore project, the Cable TV Committee and conditional use procedures.  Mr. Harp said that the Board will have another work session on 1/31/02 to discuss goals for 2002, the Municipal Building expansion and a demolition permit for the Newtown Rental Center. 

OTHER BOARD MEMBERS:  No items for this section. 

MANAGER:  No items for this section. 

SOLICITOR:  

ZONING HEARING BOARD MEETING - 2/7/02:  Mr. Harris said that there are five applications scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board’s 2/7/02 meeting, and the Board has already asked him to represent them regarding the Keller-Williams sign.  Board members indicated there is no need for Mr. Harris to represent them regarding the four other applications. 

PROPOSED TAX MILLAGE INCREASE:  Mr. Harris commented that this item, referred to by Mr. Harp in his Chairman’s report, must be on a general election ballot and cannot be on a primary election ballot. 

NEWTOWN RENTAL DEMOLITION PERMIT:  Mr. Harris stated that he has requested an extension from the attorney for the Newtown Rental Center, but has not received a response. 

TYROL’S SYCAMORE - MYLARS:  Mr. Jirele moved to authorize the Board of Supervisors to approve and sign the mylars for the Tyrol’s Sycamore project.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously. 

ENGINEER:  No items for this section. 

PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Mr. Pellegrino reported the Township received a letter granting an extension for the Law School Admissions Council to 2/28/02. 

OLD BUSINESS:  None. 

NEW BUSINESS:   

ESCROW RELEASES: 

LAKEVIEW ESTATES:  Mrs. Goren moved to approve the release of $178,892.00 in escrow funds for Lakeview Estates, based on Certificate of Completion #3.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Jirele said that there had been an issue concerning the encroachment of trees on the macadam path around the development.  Mr. Harris said that approximately $150,000 remains in the escrow account.  Mr. Pellegrino said he will bring this problem to the developer’s attention. 

Mrs. Goren’s motion passed unanimously. 

CHANDLER HALL:  Mrs. Goren moved to release $68,837.65 in escrow funds for Chandler Hall.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Goodnoe noted that the paperwork for this escrow release was not in the Supervisors’ packets.  Mr. Harp suggested this matter be continued to the next meeting. 

Mrs. Goren and Mr. Jirele withdrew their motion. 

PROPOSAL - POLICE CANINE UNIT:  Mr. Pellegrino stated that Chief Duffy has submitted a proposal for a canine unit for the Police Department.  The cost is estimated to be about $2,000 a year.   Mr. Pellegrino said that Chief Duffy made a presentation about this proposal at the last work session. 

Mr. Goodnoe said he is concerned about the impact of this proposal on the budget.  He pointed out that there are additional costs attached, such as the loss of the two officers’ time while they are trained.  He said that the police study did not recommend this unit, and an earlier canine unit in the Township was disbanded. 

Mr. Jirele said he feels rushed into this decision, and has concerns about coverage for the two officers, one of whom is one of only two detectives on staff. 

Mrs. Goren said she was impressed by Chief Duffy’s presentation, but she suggested that Mr. Pellegrino ask Chief Duffy for more details, particularly about coverage for the officers involved and possible overtime pay.  Mr. Harp said the matter can be considered at the work session scheduled for 1/31/02. 

Mr. Harp asked if the public had any comments on this matter. 

Sue Beasley asked if the work session is open to the public; Mr. Harp said it is.  She asked that examples of how the canine unit will be used be presented. 

Tom Ragan said he is concerned about the Township’s liability exposure if the dogs hurt someone. 

Mark Byelich said he feels a detective does not need a patrol dog.  Mrs. Goren said the dogs will be trained in a variety of functions, including burglary investigation and bomb threats.  She said that Chief Duffy mentioned several incidents for which the Township borrowed Middletown’s dog.  Mr. Byelich also asked that the matter be discussed at a regular Board of Supervisors meeting. 

Paul Salvatore asked if the Township has experienced a sufficient number of bomb threats to justify the unit.  He also wondered if the Township would have to make its dogs available to other municipalities. 

PUBLIC COMMENT (CONTINUED): 

Dave Povernick, a resident of Newtown Grant, said he is a retired police officer with experience in ethics investigations.  He asked several questions about the qualifications of the newly appointed members of the Township’s Ethics Committee.

Mr. Harp explained that the Ethics Committee’s charge is not to investigate allegations but to make recommendations about them to the Board.  Mr. Povernick also suggested the committee should include at least one female member, and asked about the sensitivity and diversity training recommended by Reed Smith.  Mr. Harp said the training is being planned. 

Alan Rogers, a member of the Ethics Committee, explained his understanding of the functioning of the committee.  He provided copies of his remarks to the Board.  He said the purpose of the committee is to help the Board evaluate allegations, not to investigate. 

Mike Iapalucci, a Township resident, asked several questions about the barn on the Heston Tract.  Mr. Harris explained that the problem is not the location of the road, but the location of the barn on a lot where a new home will be built.  Mr. Jirele said that the developer can raze the barn if they obtain a demolition permit, since it is not in the historic district. 

Elinor Campbell asked further questions about the Heston barn.  Mr. Jirele said that the topography of the site means that the road can not be relocated; the developer must either obtain a variance to allow the barn to be close to the road, or move the barn to another site. 

Mark Byelich said this is typical of problems that will arise as the OR District is developed.  Mr. Jirele said that the Heston Tract plan meets the requirements of the ordinance except for the barn issue, which could be settled by razing the barn. 

Mr. Goodnoe asked Board members if they will commit to actively encouraging office/research development in the OR District to raise tax revenues.  Mr. Harp said he will be looking at how to manage the development of the rest of the OR District.  Mrs. Goren and Mr. Jirele said they want to look at all the factors involved. 

Paul Salvatore said that the YMCA is a real threat to small businesses in the community.  He said the Township should ask the business community to address unmet needs like programs for teens and seniors. 

Tony Passello, a resident of Kirkwood, asked why the issue of residential developments in the OR District did not come up earlier.  Mr. Harris said it came up when the developer submitted the application.  He said that Toll Brothers has been clear from the beginning that they want a residential development on this site. 

John D’Aprile, a Township resident, said the public’s copy of tonight’s agenda said public comment speakers are limited to five minutes.  He pointed out that most comments tonight have exceeded this limit.  Mr. Harp said this was only a suggestion, and he has not enforced the limit. 

Robert Williams asked that the canine unit proposal be voted on at a televised meeting, as the public expects to be able to see important votes during the regular meetings.  He also cautioned the Board about drawing conclusions in ethics matters based on uninvestigated hearsay. 

Chris Kennedy, a resident of Newtown Grant, stated she feels it is important to have some kind of structure for public comments.  She said she supports the Board’s efforts to get the Township’s work done at a reasonable hour. 

RESIDENTIAL USES IN THE OR DISTRICT:  Mr. Goodnoe moved to ask the Planning Commission to study and make recommendations concerning the possible removal of residential use as a permitted use in the OR District.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Jirele suggested that the Board discuss this issue further and develop their questions for the Planning Commission before passing such a motion.  Mr. Goodnoe stated he feels the Board should act as soon as possible. 

The motion failed 1-4, with Mr. Harp, Mr. Jirele, Mr. Weaver and Mrs. Goren voting “nay”. 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  Mr. Harp said the Board will move into executive session for matters of pending litigation. 

ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, Mr. Harp adjourned the meeting at 11:20 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

 

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Raymond Goodnoe, Member