Board of Supervisors Minutes
January 28, 2004
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting February 11, 2004. REGULAR MEETING OF 1/28/04: Mr. Goodnoe moved to approve the minutes of the 1/28/04 regular meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, January 28, 2004, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Richard Weaver, Vice-Chairman Scott R. Harp, Secretary/Treasurer Anne Goren, Member Thomas Jirele, and Member Raymond Goodnoe. Also present were: Planning Commission Chairman Shawn Ward, HARB Secretary Ethel Hibbs, Township Solicitor Stephen B. Harris, Township Engineer Gerald Smith, and Township Manager Robert M. Pellegrino.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Richard Weaver called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.
INVOCATION: Given by Reverend Blake Blakesley of the Newtown Presbyterian Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
ADDITIONS AND CHANGES TO THE AGENDA: Mr. Pellegrino said there were no additions or changes. He said there is a need for an executive session for matters of personnel following the public meeting.
SCOTT R. HARP: Mr. Weaver presented a plaque to Mr. Harp in honor of his two years of service as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
KAREN DOORLEY: Mr. Weaver presented a clock to Mrs. Doorley in honor of her 16 years of service as Chairperson of the Planning Commission.
JAMES OTT: Mr. Weaver presented a certificate of appreciation to Mr. Ott in honor of his two years of service on the Planning Commission.
MINUTES, BILLS LIST, AND REPORTS
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
REGULAR MEETING OF 1/14/04: Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the 1/14/04 regular meeting; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
ORGANIZATION MEETING OF 1/14/04: Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the Organization Meeting of 1/14/04 with the following correction: The last line of the motions under items 13 b and 13 c should both read, “… passed 3-2, with Mr. Goodnoe and Mr. Jirele voting ‘nay’”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
BILLS LIST FOR 1/28/04: Mrs. Goren moved to pay bills totaling $275,444.60; Mr. Harp seconded the motion.
Discussion of motion: Nancy Crescenzo, a Township resident, asked if an engineering bill for Silver Lake Park was paid from funds donated by a developer. Mr. Pellegrino explained that the funds received from the developer are dedicated to the construction of a parking lot at the park and were not used for engineering costs.
Mrs. Goren’s motion passed unanimously.
FINANCIAL PLANNING COMMITTEE: Mrs. Goren said the Committee met on 1/20/04 and discussed developing a five-year plan for capital expenditures, revenue generation, and reduction of expenses. They also decided to ask all departments to review their budgets this spring for possible reductions in expenses.
2003 AUDIT: Mrs. Goren reported that the 2003 audit would begin on 2/9/04.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS, AND COMMISSIONS
HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD (HARB): HARB Secretary Ethel Hibbs reported that HARB is recommending approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness for a proposed fence repair at 7 South Sycamore Street, the property of Debra Granite.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve a Certificate of Appropriateness for a fence repair by Debra Granite at 7 South Sycamore Street, in accordance with the recommendation of HARB at their 1/13/04 meeting. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
PLANNING COMMISSION: Chairman Shawn Ward reported on the Commission’s 1/20/04 meeting, at which they continued their review of the Economic Development Commission’s recommendations, welcomed new members Beth Sanderlin and Michael Piazza, reviewed a sketch plan for Roberts Ridge Park, and discussed four applications to the Zoning Hearing Board. The Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Solicitor support the decisions of the Zoning Officer and oppose the variance request in the case of Stonehouse Holdings.
The Commission also discussed the need for a more organized process for reviewing JMZO amendments, and asked Planner Judy Goldstein to provide two seminars on zoning and land development issues for new and continuing members at 7:00 PM on 2/17/04 and 3/2/04. Ms. Sanderlin and Mr. Piazza were appointed Commission representatives to the Sycamore Street Committee, and the Commission reviewed a Request for Proposals for development of the Woll Tract.
PRD VARIANCE - FRANK AND SUSAN PRATICO - 115 N. ASCOT COURT - TMP# 29-13-98: Frank Pratico was present to discuss his plan to build an addition on his home in the Country Bend development that will result in a rear yard setback of 20.82’ instead of the required 30’. Mr. Pratico provided a letter from the Country Bend Homeowners Association stating that they do not object to the planned addition.
Mr. Harris noted that two sides of the property are bordered by open space. He asked if the neighbors to the south had any objections; Mr. Pratico said they do not.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve the proposed revision to the final plan for Country Bend, dated 11/24/03 and last revised 12/11/03, subject to the conditions that the applicant provide mylars for signing by the Board of Supervisors, and that the applicant pay all costs of review. The motion was seconded by Mr. Goodnoe and passed unanimously.
MEMBERS’ COMMENTS: None.
Sue Herman, president of Residents for Regional Traffic Solutions, said there was a near accident on Stoopville Road recently involving a school bus and a quarry truck. She reviewed accident history and near misses involving trucks on Stoopville, Worthington Mill, and Lindenhurst Roads. She said quarry truck traffic belongs on Swamp Road and criticized the decision to seek TIP funds for improvements to Stoopville Road. She asked the Board not to implement the project if it is funded.
Frank Mendicino, a Township resident, said he does not agree that quarry truck traffic belongs on Swamp Road. He said he would like to see all Township roads made safer.
Mr. Mendicino also referred to newspaper articles about a group of residents who successfully petitioned the Board of Elections to place a question on the ballot about changing the Township’s form of government to home rule. He said such a change would result in higher taxes.
Ms. Crescenzo also asked if residents could attend Ms. Goldstein’s seminars for the Planning Commission. Mr. Pellegrino said interested residents should register with the Administrative Office in advance, and pay any additional costs involved.
Ms. Crescenzo also asked that the Board establish a separate committee to study the needs of senior citizens in the Township, and an environmental council to advise the Township on open space and other related issues.
REPORTS OF OFFICIALS
ROAD WORK: Mr. Weaver commended PennDOT and the Public Works Department on their efficient clearing of the roads during and after recent snowstorms.
OTHER BOARD MEMBERS
WEE CARE BEAR PROGRAM: Mr. Harp said there would be a bear collection at Wrightstown Elementary School soon; he will announce the date when it is known.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mr. Pellegrino said there were no plan expirations requiring action by the Board.
PARKING DURING SNOWSTORMS: Mr. Pellegrino thanked residents for refraining from parking on Township streets during the recent snowstorms. This made road clearing much easier for the Public Works Department.
NOISE ORDINANCE (2004-O- 2 ): Mr. Harris provided copies of a stand alone ordinance which is based on the police power of the Township and regulates noise as a public nuisance. He noted that lawn mowers and other power equipment could be operated from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM under this ordinance.
Mr. Harp moved to adopt Ordinance 2004-O-2 regulating noise throughout the Township. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
JMZO AMENDMENT - FLOODPLAIN ORDINANCE: Mr. Harris provided copies of a proposed ordinance allowing limited activity within areas of a floodplain where a detailed Flood Insurance Study has been completed. He said that FEMA has reviewed and approved the ordinance, and it has been sent to the other Jointure municipalities for their review and comment.
Mrs. Goren asked Mr. Harris to clarify in which areas activity would be permitted. Mr. Harris said that a floodplain area consists of a floodway, which is the actual watercourse, and the flood fringe, which is the area in which activity would be permitted. He stated that the ordinance does not change the definition of a floodway, but pertains only to the flood fringe.
Mrs. Goren asked how the ordinance would affect the Brandywine Realty Trust’s proposed Newtown Corporate Center project. Mr. Harris said it would allow them to build the proposed bridge in the floodplain if they can comply with the ordinance.
Mr. Smith said Brandywine’s most recent sketch of the project shows no construction in the floodway; he was uncertain whether this was a revision of the plan reviewed earlier by the Board.
Mrs. Goren said she is concerned about how the Brandywine project will affect other property owners. Mr. Harris said the ordinance would require that a developer demonstrate that there will be no adverse impact on other properties. Mr. Smith said there are two upstream properties that will be affected by a slight rise in the flood fringe, and Brandywine will have to provide letters from the property owners stating there are no adverse effects.
Mr. Harris said the ordinance would be forwarded to the Planning Commission for their review and a report to the 2/11/04 Board of Supervisors meeting.
ZONING HEARING BOARD - 2/5/04 MEETING: Mr. Harris reviewed the five new cases scheduled for the next meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board. He noted that the Board has already authorized his office to attend the meeting to oppose an earlier appeal by Stonehouse Holdings.
Mrs. Goren moved to authorize the Solicitor to appear at the 2/5/04 Zoning Hearing Board meeting to support the Zoning Officer’s second Notice of Violation and to oppose the variance request in the case of Stonehouse Holdings. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp and passed unanimously.
Mr. Harris also said that one hearing involves J. Loew and Associates and concerns the screening of mechanical equipment on the roofs of buildings in the Newtown Shopping Center. Mr. Harris believes that a settlement will be reached on this issue and brought to the Board for approval in the future.
The Supervisors indicated they do not require the Solicitor to represent them in any other cases scheduled for 2/5/04.
AUTHORIZATION OF TRAFFIC SIGNAL PERMIT APPLICATION): Mrs. Goren moved to approve a resolution authorizing the Engineer to submit an application for a traffic signal permit for a pedestrian crossing signal at the intersection of Hemlock and Eagleton Farms Drives. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele asked if the signal would be pedestrian-activated. Mr. Smith responded that PennDOT would not approve a pedestrian-activated signal, so it will be flashing all the time. Mr. Jirele expressed concern about the impact of the flashing light on neighboring homes. Mr. Smith said the proposed locations of the signals have been moved further away from nearby homes.
Mr. Goodnoe suggested the Township contact the Homeowners Associations of Eagleton Farms and Newtown Grant for their comments. He also asked if LED lights cast less light than incandescent lights. Mr. Smith said LED lights are more intense, but he will have to research the question of light spillage.
Mr. Pellegrino said the Board approved a similar application in 2001, but PennDOT lost the paperwork and asked the Township to resubmit the application. He said this item is not time critical and suggested that it be postponed to the next meeting.
Mrs. Goren and Mr. Harp withdrew their motion.
WRIGHTS ROAD AREA FLOODING: Mr. Smith referred to his 12/9/03 letter regarding a proposed preliminary study of an area of Wrights Road that experiences frequent flooding. This proposal was considered at the Board’s 1/14/04 meeting and postponed so that Mr. Pellegrino and Mr. Smith could study documents pertaining to Newtown Grant. Mr. Smith reported that Mr. Pellegrino found a letter from Carroll Engineering indicating that there would be more detention in the Newtown Grant basin; he has requested Carroll Engineering’s calculations but has not yet received them. Mr. Smith also noted that the Board previously discussed deleting alternatives #3 and #5 in his proposal.
Mrs. Goren asked if the proposed floodplain ordinance would worsen conditions on Wrights Road. Mr. Smith said the ordinance requires applicants to demonstrate that there will be no adverse effects.
Mr. Goodnoe said there have been flooding problems for many years on Wrights Road, and recent developments have actually reduced the flooding in that area. He said he believes correction of present flooding problems is not a Township responsibility but concerns private property.
Mrs. Goren asked if the floodplain ordinance would allow development in municipalities upstream from the Township to adversely affect the Township. Mr. Smith said any effect would be upstream from development, not downstream, and the total amount of water will not change.
Mr. Harp moved to approve the study proposed by Mr. Smith in his 12/9/03 letter, minus alternatives #3 and #5. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Pellegrino said he recommended approving just alternative #1. Mr. Smith suggested including #2 because it is possible that more can be done in developments along Route 413 that have not been built yet, and new facilities could be constructed during the Municipal Complex expansion project. Mr. Pellegrino said his understanding of alternative #2 is that it would include a review of proposed stormwater facilities along Route 413 to ascertain if the developers could be asked to make further improvements, and a review of what could be done on the Township’s Municipal Complex property. Mr. Goodnoe said he could not support alternative #2 as presently worded.
Mr. Harp and Mrs. Goren amended their motion to include only alternatives #1 and #2 in Mr. Smith’s 12/9/03 letter.
Discussion of motion: Carl Koenig, a resident of Wrights Road, said flooding problems on his property have been much worse during the last six months. He asked the Board to address this more aggressively, and said the Township has caused his recent problems by waiving woodland disturbance and stormwater management requirements for a new development in the area.
Mr. Harp’s motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Goodnoe voting “nay”.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
NEW BUSINESS: None.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS (SECOND SESSION)
Glenn Beasley, a Township resident, said about 650 people signed a petition asking for a question on the ballot about a study commission to consider a change in the Township’s form of government. He said there would be many opportunities for public education and dialogue about this issue in the next three months. Mr. Beasley said the Township has changed greatly since the present form of government was instituted and it is time to look at a change.
Mr. Beasley said that recent statements about low property taxes in the Township are misleading. He said they are low because the Township has an Earned Income Tax (EIT); without the income generated by the EIT, Township property taxes would be about 64 mills higher.
Nancy Crescenzo asked why there was no discussion after her earlier suggestions for a committee to continue the work of the Ad Hoc Community Center Committee and an environmental council. Mr. Goodnoe and Mr. Jirele spoke in favor of having a discussion about a community center.
Mrs. Goren said the community center issue was discussed at a public meeting; no one was able to estimate the costs of building and maintaining a center, or explain how these costs would be met without raising taxes. She said the Board also discussed making a community center part of the Municipal Complex expansion project.
Mr. Goodnoe said the business community asked for Township cooperation to explore how a community center could be established and funded but the Board refused to appoint a liaison. Mrs. Goren said she did not favor the business community’s proposal because they did not want the Township to run income-generating programs that would compete with private business.
Mr. Jirele said he is also concerned with the cost of operating a community center, but the Township has not done any research or discussion of the costs or funding options. He said that present Park and Recreation programs already compete or cooperate with private businesses.
Ms. Crescenzo asked if an environmental council would be on a future agenda. Mr. Weaver said it could be put on a work session agenda, perhaps in February. Mr. Jirele supported this idea.
Del Purscell, a Township resident, said the proposed Municipal Complex expansion project would cost the taxpayers two to three mills for the next few years, then eight to ten mills a year to operate. He also said the 2004 budget is not balanced and is 40% higher than the budget four years ago.
Frank Mendicino said the Township needs to do some careful financial planning on issues like the Newtown Business Commons, the Municipal Complex expansion, the home rule proposal and others. He said the Township needs to take the initiative in looking at costs and funding options and presenting the facts to the public.
Phil Calabro, a Township resident, said he is glad the public will be educated about the home rule question. He said the flyer supporting the ballot question does not give the reasons why a change should be studied, and he thinks disagreeing with the decisions of the majority of the Supervisors is not a good reason.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: The Board met in executive session for matters of personnel following the adjournment of the public meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: Without objections the meeting was adjourned at 10:15 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted __________ as corrected___________
Attest: _________________________ ___________________________
Robert M. Pellegrino, Manager Richard Weaver, Chairman
Scott R. Harp, Vice-Chairman
Anne Goren, Secretary/Treasurer
Thomas Jirele, Member
Raymond Goodnoe, Member