Board of Supervisors Minutes
April 23, 2003
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting May 28, 2003. MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF 4/23/03: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 4/23/03 regular meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Goodnoe and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 23, 2003, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Scott Harp, Vice Chairman/Assistant Treasurer Anne Goren, Treasurer/Secretary Richard Weaver, Member Thomas Jirele and Member Raymond Goodnoe. Also present were: Planning Commission Chairperson Karen Doorley, Cable TV Committee Chairman Jim Bowe, HARB Chairman Terry McLean, Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Gerald Smith, Township Manager Robert M. Pellegrino and Director of Parks and Recreation Bill Wert.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Harp called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.
INVOCATION: Given by Reverend David Ridder of the First Baptist Church of Newtown. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA: Mr. Pellegrino requested that an item relating to the YSM contract be added to the Manager’s Report. He also asked that the Board meet in executive session for matters of personnel, following the adjournment of the public meeting.
MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF 3/26/03: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 3/26/03 regular meeting; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF 4/9/03: Mrs. Goren moved to approve the minutes of the 4/9/03 regular meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
MINUTES OF THE WORK SESSION OF 3/17/03: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 3/17/03 work session; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
BILLS LIST: Mr. Weaver moved to pay bills totaling $195,414.96, and to make interfund transfers totaling $3,666.58. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe asked if more bills from Rothman, Gordon are expected. Mr. Harris said the firm has had to respond to RCN’s appeals. He said that ultimately the Township’s costs for legal counsel in this matter will be reimbursed through the $250,000 letter of credit, which is a payment on the final judgement of $2.2 million.
Mr. Goodnoe also asked about a bill from Pennoni Associates for a review of the Delaware Valley Watershed. Mr. Pellegrino said this work was done to comply with new stormwater management standards.
Nancy Crescenzo, a Township resident, asked how the $2.2 million figure was determined. Mr. Harris said it is an estimate of revenue lost and expenses increased as a result of RCN’s failure to comply with their contract with the Township. He added that RCN has been unwilling to discuss a negotiated settlement.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed unanimously.
TREASURER’S REPORT: No items for this section.
ARBOR DAY CELEBRATION: Sue Sutton, a member of the Park and Recreation Board, described events planned for Arbor Day (4/25/03) in the Newtown area.
Mr. Goodnoe said that he expressed a concern at the last meeting about PECO’s aggressive trimming of street trees because he would like to know if the Township’s ordinances relating to tree-planting requirements are somehow in conflict with PECO’s need to keep their wires clear. He asked that the Park and Recreation Board consider this question and make a recommendation. Ms. Sutton agreed to bring this question to the Park and Recreation Board.
NEWTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB - DONATION: Linda Mitchell of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) presented checks totaling $3,099.35 to Bill Wert, Director of Parks and Recreation. Ms. Mitchell said the donation is a portion of the funds raised at the teen dances hosted by the NAC this year.
CONDITIONAL USE - PRYDA, L.L.C. - 159 N. SYCAMORE STREET: Mr. Harp opened the hearing on this conditional use application. Mr. Harris reviewed Mr. Sander’s 4/22/03 letter to Douglas Maloney, attorney for the applicant. Mr. Harris said Mr. Maloney told him he cannot reach the applicant to discuss the status of the application. Mr. Harris suggested that the Board continue the hearing to 6/11/03, but not beyond this date.
Mrs. Goren moved to continue the conditional use hearing for Pryda, L.L.C. to 6/11/03. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
Mr. Harris said he will notify Mr. Maloney of this decision.
Mr. Weaver moved to close the hearing; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD (HARB): HARB Chairman Terry McLean presented a revised set of bylaws for HARB, a copy of which the Supervisors received in their packets. He said the Board worked with the Manager, the Solicitor and others to revise the bylaws. Mr. McLean noted that there are italicized explanatory comments in the draft that will not appear in the final version.
Mr. Harp said he would like to expand the definition of excused absences in item #1 of Article IV. Mrs. Goren suggested that “a like nature” be replaced with “a personal or professional nature”.
Mr. Goodnoe said he disagreed with this suggestion, as HARB is a legally constituted body and its members have a responsibility to attend as many meetings as they possibly can. Mr. Jirele said he felt the suggested wording gave too much leeway.
Mr. Harris suggested changing the definition of excused absences to include “other personal or business emergencies”. Board members generally agreed with this suggestion.
Mr. Goodnoe asked that item #1 of Article XIII be clarified to indicate that the bylaws can be amended or revoked only by the Board of Supervisors. There was general agreement with this change.
Mr. Weaver moved to approve the revised bylaws of HARB, with the following changes:
1. The second sentence of item #1 of Article IV will read “Absence due to sickness, death or other personal or business emergencies shall be recognized…”.
2. The first sentence of item #1 of Article XIII will read “…and shall remain in effect until amended or revoked by the Board of Supervisors”.
The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Nancy Crescenzo questioned the need for the changes made by the Board.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed unanimously.
PLANNING COMMISSION: Karen Doorley, Chairperson of the Commission, reported on their 4/15/03 meeting. The Commission reviewed a request to move approximately 340 cubic yards of clay soil from the First National Bank construction site, and recommended that the Board approve the request. They reviewed a revised final plan for the Village at Newtown South, and tabled the matter until the applicant can research earlier revisions and approvals on this plan. The Commission also reviewed a revised plan for a minor subdivision at 93 Richboro Road and recommended approval of the plan with several conditions.
The Commission reviewed four applications scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board on 5/1/03 and found three of them to be excessive requests. They also noted that the 413 Office Center plan will require Board action soon. Mr. Harris said that an extension to 5/30/03 has been received from the 413 Office Center applicant.
Mr. Goodnoe asked that the Planning Commission also look at the tree trimming issue discussed earlier.
FINANCIAL PLANNING COMMITTEE - RESOLUTION ON RESERVE FUND POLICY (2003-R-13): Mr. Weaver reviewed his 4/17/03 memo on the Committee’s recommendations to the Board regarding a Reserve Fund Balance Policy. Mr. Weaver said that the Committee unanimously approved the recommendations.
In response to a question from Mr. Jirele, Mr. Pellegrino said that present general fund reserves are approximately $2.6 million, or 35% of the total budget. The General Fund has a budgeted transfer to the Capital Improvement Fund of $380,000 in 2003 to fund capital projects.
Mr. Goodnoe said the Township has a lot of money in reserve that was taken from taxpayers and for which the Township has no immediate plans, yet taxes were raised this year. He suggested the reserves could be used to pay off debt early, or for some major capital projects like a community center or the municipal complex expansion. He also said the proposed resolution should include definitions of capital expenses and operating expenses, and asked that the public be allowed to review the proposed policy before the Board votes on it.
Mrs. Goren said taxes were raised for the Fire Company after voters approved it in a referendum. She also said it does not make sense to pay off debts when interest rates are low.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt Resolution 2003-R-13, establishing a policy for Reserve Fund Balance. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele said that “non-operating expenses” should be defined, and that there should be a cap on the amount of money maintained in the Capital Improvement Fund balance. He also questioned if the Township should be raising taxes while collecting excess revenue.
Mr. Harp said the Township has many large capital projects coming up in the near future, so he does not anticipate that the Capital Improvement Fund will continue to grow at this pace. Mr. Jirele said he would like to hear the Financial Planning Committee’s recommendation on the question of a cap on the Fund. Mr. Harp said he would also like to hear the Committee’s recommendation on this matter.
Mr. Weaver said the Committee is working on a capital planning policy which will define terms. This will be available in a few months.
Mr. Goodnoe asked if funds will be transferred to the Capital Improvement Fund all at once. Mr. Weaver said the transfer would be made gradually. Mr. Pellegrino suggested that the transfers be listed on the bills list, so that the Board will know when they are being made and will approve each one.
Mr. Jirele said he would like to have terms defined and a policy on a cap for the Fund in the resolution before it is passed; Mr. Goodnoe said he agreed.
Walter Iwaskiw, a Township resident, noted that the Township has seven times the amount of reserves recommended by the state. He said the public does not want taxes to be raised.
Del Purscell, a Township resident, asked that major capital projects be in the budget so that reserves are not spent unwisely.
Nancy Crescenzo said that the Township has a history of spending funds that are not allocated, particularly in the parks and recreation area.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Jirele and Mr. Goodnoe voting “nay”.
Mr. Harp asked Mr. Weaver to bring up the need for definitions to the Financial Planning Committee. Mr. Weaver said the Capital Fund policy that the Committee is developing will also deal with the amount that should be in the Fund.
CABLE TV COMMITTEE: Committee Chairman Jim Bowe reported on recent issues. He said the Committee canceled its scheduled meeting last week because the Comcast representative could not be there. Comcast will be studying the issue of running cable into the LI District. Mr. Bowe noted that their contract requires them to do this. He said it is important to have high speed internet access available in the LI District to make these properties more desirable to tenants. Mr. Harris said he will review the Comcast contract and update the Board on its requirements at the next meeting. Mr. Bowe said the Committee has been trying to work with Comcast, but it is time to deal more firmly with this issue.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE: Mr. Weaver said the next Committee meeting will be 5/8/03 at 8:30 AM. Property owners in the Newtown Industrial Commons have been invited to discuss their needs and ideas. This meeting is expected to yield more useful results than a survey.
JOINT DOWNTOWN NEWTOWN CORPORATION (JDNC): Mark Craig reported on the JDNC meeting on 4/9/03 with the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. The purpose of the meeting was to assess the JDNC’s readiness for the Main Street Manager program. The two state agencies were pleased with the JDNC’s progress, and they recommended that the JDNC apply for two awards for their work so far. The JDNC also held their regular monthly executive committee and board meetings. The board is developing long term fundraising plans and long term goals, such as a plan for parking in the Newtown area.
PARK AND RECREATION BOARD: Park and Recreation Department Director Bill Wert and Little League president Buck O’Neill were present to discuss the proposed agreement between the Township and the Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association (CRNAA). Board members had received a copy of the draft and a sketch plan earlier. Mr. O’Neill said his group is requesting permission to erect vending machines and advertising signs, and to install two new scoreboards. He said the group is also proposing to erect a three-foot high split rail fence along Sycamore Street with plastic-coated wire; he displayed samples of the materials to be used.
Mr. Jirele said he would like to see plantings instead of the wire, and suggested the Township could add the plantings.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve the agreement between the Township and the Council Rock Newtown athletic Association as drafted. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Weaver asked for clarification of where the scoreboards will be located. Mr. O’Neill said a new scoreboard will be installed in Field #1, which is closest to Sycamore Street, and the existing scoreboard in Field #3 will be replaced. Sponsorship signs will be in Field #3 only. Board members discussed the appropriate placement of the new scoreboard in Field #1, and concluded that this should be left up to the CRNAA.
Mrs. Goren and Mr. Weaver agreed to amend their motion as follows:
1. In item #2, the first sentence will read “Newtown Township hereby grants permission to the CRNAA to install, at the CRNAAS’s sole expense, an electronic scoreboard at Field #1.”
2. The second sentence in item #2 will read “The scoreboard shall be subject to inspection and approval by the Township.”
Elinor Campbell, a Township resident, asked if other products besides Coke will be sold in the vending machines. Mr. O’Neill said that there will be juices and other drinks in the machines.
Nancy Crescenzo said she does not like soft drink advertising at a Township facility. She suggested the Township should pay for the fence because it is being erected for safety reasons. Mr. Goodnoe said the fence is not being erected for safety reasons. Mr. O’Neill said the CRNAA is willing to pay for the fence.
Mrs. Goren’s motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Jirele voting “nay”.
MEMBERS’ COMMENTS: None.
Elinor Campbell asked the Board to remove some of the restrictions on community comments. Mr. Harp noted that many area municipalities have even stricter rules.
Abraham Levine, a Township resident, objected to the pedestrian crossing on Eagle Road at the proposed Hoffa Tract development. He said very few pedestrians will use it, and the flashing light will be a nuisance for residents of nearby homes. His home is about 50 feet from the site. He also said this is not the best place to cross Eagle Road. Mr. Harp said the Township will keep Mr. Levine apprised of the progress of this plan.
Paul Beckert, a resident of Lower Dolington Road, said he heard that Mr. Jirele expressed support for the Stockburger proposal at a meeting at Newtown Grant. Mr. Beckert said he was involved in the litigation against this proposal a few years ago, and he does not want to see it considered again.
Mr. Jirele denied that he spoke in support of this proposal. Township resident Phil Calabro, who attended the meeting, agreed that Mr. Jirele did not say anything like this. Mr. Jirele said he does favor a fact-based discussion of the proposal.
Del Purscell asked that the Board consider addressing stormwater problems in the Newtown Industrial Commons. He also said he felt the Board has pursued anti-business policies.
Nancy Crescenzo said she attended the Newtown Grant meeting, and it was a good discussion. She also complained that the report of the Ad Hoc Community Center was ignored by the Board.
John D’Aprile, a Township resident, said residents voted for the fire tax because they wanted to support the Fire Company.
REPORTS OF OFFICIALS
PANCAKE DAY: Mr. Harp announced that the Exchange Club and the American Legion will hold their Pancake Day on 4/27/03.
WORK SESSION OF 4/14/03: Mr. Harp said that the Board met with the Acme Site Visioning Committee at the work session, and asked Mr. Pellegrino to work with Mr. White to develop a Request for Proposals based on the Committee’s recommendations. The Board also discussed the agreement with the Little League, plans for Silver Lake Park and Roberts Ridge Park, and the Township’s annual report.
OTHER BOARD MEMBERS
CODES COMMITTEE: Mrs. Goren reported on the 4/10/03 Codes Committee meeting. The Committee granted relief to an applicant who was not aware that he needed a permit to do some construction work. There was also a discussion of fees for inspection of parking lots.
Mr. Goodnoe said he would like to see the fee structure; Mrs. Goren said she will see that it goes into the next Board packet.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mr. Pellegrino said there are no plan expirations requiring Board action.
RESOLUTION GRANTING SIGNATURE AUTHORITY - NEWTOWN TRAIL PROJECT (2003-R-14): Mrs. Goren moved to adopt Resolution 2003-R-14, authorizing the Chairman and the Manager to execute Supplemental Reimbursement Agreement 061595-C with PennDOT regarding the Newtown Trail Project. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
AWARD OF FUEL BIDS: Mr. Jirele moved to award the bids for premium gas, at $0.8925 per gallon, and for diesel fuel, at $0.9605 per gallon, to Sunoco, Inc. of Aston, PA, in accordance with the recommendations in Mr. Harwood’s 4/15/03 memo. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
PROPOSAL FOR MASTER PLAN - SILVER LAKE PARK: Mr. Pellegrino said YSM was asked to remove a few elements of their proposal in order to reduce costs, and YSM said the fees would remain the same with or without those elements. As an alternative to the contract with YSM, Mr. Pellegrino proposed that the Township hire a planner to develop a sketch plan for the park that would be based on the 1999 Comprehensive Plan. The sketch plan would be reviewed by the Planning Commission and the Board. Then the Township could work on planning the engineering part of the project. He noted that the contract with YSM has not been signed.
Mr. Jirele said he was upset that the Township is changing directions again. He said this seems to be a better alternative, however, since he did not think that planning for facilities at Silver Lake Park should cost anywhere near $17,000.
Mr. Pellegrino said that he can obtain a proposal from a planner if the Board wishes to consider this alternative plan. Mr. Harp asked him to do so, and said the Board will not act on the YSM contract until it has looked at the proposal.
ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS - 5/1/03: Mr. Harris reviewed the four new cases scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board’s 5/1/03 meeting. The Supervisors indicated they do not wish to be represented in any of the cases.
FULL DISCLOSURE ORDINANCE: Mr. Jirele asked about the status of the Full Disclosure Ordinance. Mr. Harris said he will update the Board on this ordinance at the next meeting.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mrs. Goren asked if the Board can adopt a resolution that all plans are rejected on the expiration date unless an extension has been received from the applicant. Mr. Harris said the state law requires positive action; if the Township does not act, the plan is automatically approved. Mr. Goodnoe asked if not granting an extension is a legally acceptable cause for denying a plan. Mr. Harris said there are always issues in the Engineer’s review letter that can serve as reasons to deny.
ENGINEER: Mr. Smith commented on a few current engineering projects. He said that the Law School Admissions Council project is expected to start on 4/28/03 and take about 12 months; the traffic light at Route 413 and North Drive should be functioning by July 2003; and the realignment of the intersection of Penns Trail and Newtown-Yardley Road (part of the Wiltshire Walk project) will be completed soon.
Mr. Jirele asked Mr. Smith to make sure the Law School Admissions Council builds the berms early in the project, which was a condition of approval.
Mike Piazza, a Township resident, said he is against the Stockburger proposal. He also said some community comments are abusive.
Harvey Edelman, a Township resident, said construction traffic for the Law School project was not supposed to use Fountain Farm Lane, but there have been some problems. Mr. Smith said he will follow up on this.
Del Purscell said some Board members do things that have the appearance of being dishonest. He asked that members not vote on issues that affect their own property values.
Walter Iwaskiw asked when the Board will discuss its goals for Park and Recreation projects. Mr. Harp said it will be on a work session agenda soon.
Mr. Iwaskiw said that people near the Hoffa Tract do not know about plans for the Trail. He asked that the Township get in touch with the Cliveden Homeowners Association.
Jim Bowe noted that some of the first appointments to the Economic Development Committee were people who have often disagreed with the majority of the Board. He suggested that the appointment process be formalized and include interviews with the candidates.
Nancy Crescenzo complained about a comment Mrs. Goren made to Kathy Fink, a Newtown Borough resident, following a recent meeting. She also criticized the Board for voting on the YSM contract without all the facts, and for overspending on parks.
Kathy Fink said Stockburger’s business is not appropriate where it is now in Newtown Borough.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: Mr. Harp said the Board will meet in executive session for matters of personnel, following the adjournment of the public meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:28 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted _______ as corrected _______
Scott R. Harp, Chairman
Anne Goren, Vice Chairman/Assistant Treasurer
Richard Weaver, Treasurer/Secretary
Thomas Jirele, Member
Raymond Goodnoe, Member