Board of Supervisor Minutes
July 13, 2005
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting July 27, 2005. Minutes of regular meeting of July 13, 2005: Mrs. Goren moved to accept the minutes of July 13, 2005. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, July 13, 2005 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: Park and Recreation Board Chairman, Andrew Levine, Main Streets Manager Chris Ortwein, Sycamore Street Committee Member Frank Tyrol, Township Solicitor Stephen B. Harris, Township Engineer Chris Walker and Assistant to the Township Manager John Boyle.
Call to Order: Chairman Richard Weaver called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.
Invocation: Given by Robert Davis, member of the First Baptist Church of Newtown. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Additions and Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Boyle informed the Board that item iv of the Land Development Projects was to be removed from the agenda, and that the attorney for Soccer and Lacrosse Center has requested a continuance of the conditional use hearing.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes of regular meeting of June 22, 2005: Mrs. Goren moved to accept the minutes of June 22, 2005. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve bills totaling $604,201.13. Mr. Harp seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the expense of $399.92 for police riot gear. Mr. Weaver explained that this is standard issued police equipment.
Mr. Goodnoe said that he would abstain from voting, as there is payment to his restaurant on the bills list.
The motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $166,915.32. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Andrew Levine, Chairman of the Park and Recreation Board, reported that the Board met on July 6, 2005. Ms. Kathryn Elokdah, a recreation therapist who serves on the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities, was in attendance to discuss the addition of a handicapped playground to the Roberts Ridge Park playground. Ms. Elokdah has worked with Easter Seals and the March of Dimes to create handicapped playgrounds, and has volunteered her time to help Boyce Associates to design a playground that would adapt the existing structures at Roberts Ridge Park for handicapped accessibility. The plan that was presented retrofits some of the existing structure, using ramps to bring children into the play areas, above the existing wood chip safety surfacing, and adds a few handicapped specific events. The Board was very pleased with this new design, which does not separate the handicapped specific events from the rest of the playground. Ms. Elokdah, through her contacts at the Mayor’s Commission, has shown the plan to a number of societies for handicapped advocacy, including the Autism Society, and all have given comments to help her make her recommendations. She indicated that this would be the first municipally sponsored handicapped specific playground in the area. She will be giving the Board some guidance on seeking some grant opportunities to help with funding, and the Board will continue to seek support from organizations within the community. They hope to have a proposal for the Board of Supervisors to be included in next year’s budget.
Mr. Levine reported that the summer recreation programs and camps are up and running, all camps are completely full, and are a great success.
Mr. Levine reported that the multipurpose rectangular playing field behind Staples will be ready for play during the upcoming fall season. He suggested that the Board of Supervisors consider giving this field a name, either honoring someone in the community or giving a geographic name.
Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation: Ms. Chris Ortwein, Main Streets Manager, was present to report for the JDNC. She said that the Design Committee is close to completion of its way finding project. She will be presenting the designs chosen for location signage to HARB and the Planning Commission. She has been invited to show the project to the Newtown Business Commons Association, which has expressed interest in possibly working together to create a uniform look for signage throughout the Commons.
The Façade Committee had given seven grants for Newtown businesses, including two on Sycamore Street, Tasteful Teas and More and Freestyle Salon.
JDNC has received a $300,000 grant from DCED for State Street improvement. They are currently applying for a PennDoT Hometown Streets grant.
JDNC continues to sponsor “AHA Friday”, the first Friday of each month. They are also working on a mapping project and a Web site, www.newtownpa.org. Newtown is to be the first featured downtown on the Pennsylvania Downtown Web site, and has won the State Preservation Award.
In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Ms. Ortwein said that a map that currently features State Street businesses is being redrawn to include Sycamore Street businesses as well. The NBPA map, featuring local businesses and some advertising blocks, is being created for the entire Borough and Township.
Mr. Goodnoe congratulated Ms. Ortwein, who recently received the Perry Foster Award for Lifetime Achievement given by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.
Sycamore Street Committee: Mr. Frank Tyrol reported that the Sycamore Street project is nearing completion. The lights at the southern end of the street are lit. There have been some difficulties with the topsoil being used to fill in where lawns and gardens must meet the new sidewalks. The quality is very inferior.
Mr. Goodnoe suggested that the Township Engineer look into this problem, and perhaps make use of some of the topsoil currently held at Helen Randle Park.
Land Development Projects
Conditional Use – Soccer & Lacrosse Center – 53 German Avenue: Mr. Harris reported that the Township had received correspondence from Don Marshall, attorney for the applicant, requesting that this hearing be continued until after such time as the parties can review the plan with the Board of Supervisors during a work session. The Board could then make a decision during a regular meeting, as the hearing must be advertised. He suggested adding this application to the agenda for the work session of August 15, 2005, with a decision rendered at the next regular meeting.
Mr. Goodnoe moved to continue the conditional use of Soccer and Lacrosse Center, 53 German Avenue to September 14, 2005. Mrs. Goren seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Amazon Café – 2834 South Eagle Road: Mr. Mick Petrucci was present to request conditional use approval for the Amazon Café, an E-5 eating place use, in Village at Newtown, located between Radio Shack and the camera store. The shop will have fruit drinks, salads and sandwiches, and will be open seven days a week. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Petrucci agreed to provide designated “take-out” parking if parking in the fire lane becomes a problem.
Mr. Jirele moved to grant conditional use approval to the Amazon Café as an E-5 eating place, with the conditions that:
Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Preliminary Plan for Minor Subdivision – Linton Hill Pumping Station (Newtown Sewer/Patel Property) Attorney Ed Murphy, representing Newtown Sewer Authority, presented a plan for minor subdivision of a 5.29 acre parcel into two lots, lot one to measure 4.988 acres, and lot two to measure 0.302 acres. Lot two is to serve as a pumping station for sewers to be extended to the Mardot Village section of Newtown. The pumping station is mainly held underground, with a garage like structure above, which will be built of the same materials as the house on the larger lot. In discussing whether any escrows would be required, Mr. Murphy agreed that, after the Township Engineer has reviewed the plan, his client would post any required escrows. Variance relief has already been granted by the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Murphy said that this approval is only for the smaller parcel for the pumping station, and that no plans have been submitted as yet for the larger parcel.
Mr. Goodnoe moved to grant preliminary plan approval for a minor subdivision for the Linton Hill Pumping Station subject to the conditions that:
The following waivers are granted:
Mrs. Goren seconded the motion.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele asked if compliance with the Zoning Hearing Board should be included in the motion.
Mr. Goodnoe amended his motion to require compliance with provisions of the Zoning Hearing Board decision. Mrs. Goren seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Extension of Variance – Brett and Dawn Tanner – 554 Washington Crossing Road: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Harris said that an extension could be granted for a variance that has already expired.
Mrs. Goren moved to extend the variance of Brett and Dawn Tanner, 554 Washington Crossing Road, to December 31, 2005. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Member Comments: Mr. Harp thanked Victoria Bowe and the First Fourth Committee for all of their hard work in bringing together a wonderful First Fourth celebration.
Community Comments: Paul Salvatore, president of the Newtown Business and Professional Association, reported that Township Manager Robert Pellegrino had been the speaker at their last meeting. He thanked Mr. Pellegrino for his entertaining and informative presentation. He thanked Chris Ortwein for her work in bringing together all of the many groups working in Newtown. He said that NBPA would be sponsoring its annual car show on July 24, 2005.
Mr. Salvatore asked if speed limit signs are to be placed along the newly paved Sycamore Street soon, and if not, if temporary signs could be installed. Mr. Goodnoe said that the signs would be replaced very soon.
Mr. Salvatore expressed concern that NBPA has never been invited to participate in First Fourth planning and events. He said he is particularly unhappy that Reedman/Toll Autoworld was invited to present a car show at the First Fourth, but that neither of the two Newtown dealerships, Bill Marsh Ford and Stockburger Chevrolet and Chrysler, had been included. He said that it is very important to support the Newtown businesses at these local events. He thought that this is also a violation of the franchise laws.
Mr. Harp responded that each of the dealerships had made contributions to the event and Stockburger had provided cars for the parade. He noted that entertainers and Shriners from the region had also been invited to participate.
Mr. Salvatore again stated that Newtown should support Newtown businesses that pay Newtown taxes. He requested that NBPA have a liaison to the First Fourth Committee in future years.
Resident Larry Raffles expressed concern that the recently mailed Stockburger Citizen Survey had been mailed only one per household. He also expressed concern about the gathering of demographic information in the survey, and the wording of some of the questions. He said that he felt the questions lack objectivity. He would like to see the land remain as office research to generate larger tax revenue.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo said that she thought that television Channel 23 should have displayed the names of the community members serving in the military on the Fourth of July and that all homes should have displayed flags. She expressed concern that the 1% earned income tax is a burden on minimum wage workers.
Mr. Harris explained that the earned income tax must be levied equally, as required by Pennsylvania state law.
Mrs. Crescenzo agreed with Mr. Salvatore’s comments about inviting Reedman/Toll Autoworld to display cars at the First Fourth.
Resident Gary Spack said that as a market research professional he found the Stockburger survey to be flawed. He first pointed out that the use of a four-digit code is standard research practice for quality control. He said that the failure to include the return postage would affect the results, as some recipients will have discarded the survey before the return envelope has arrived. He also pointed out that the survey lacked a return due date, which could be a serious flaw when a survey is mailed during the summer vacation season. He felt that a number of questions were ambiguous, and that there was no opportunity to check any agree/disagree/not applicable type of answer box. He felt that tabulations could be skewed by counting unchecked questions, as this could artificially inflate tabulations.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he did not find any fault with the survey. He agreed with Mr. Salvatore that Stockburger and Bill Marsh Ford should have been included in the First Fourth car show. He also said that the difficulties that Brandywine has faced in Newtown would discourage other businesses from wanting to move here.
Reports of Officials
Township Manager: Mr. Boyle reported that there are no plan expirations.
Payment #20– Sycamore Street Construction Improvements Mrs. Goren moved to authorize payment #20 of the Sycamore Street Construction Improvement Project in the amount of $210,323.54. Mr. Harp seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe asked if this payment included that topsoil that Mr. Tyrol had reported about. Mr. Boyle said that it is not part of this payment.
The motion passed unanimously.
Solicitor: Mr. Harris asked that the Board vote on an amendment to the Ordinance for stop signs on roads in some of the new developments that have recently been dedicated to the Township.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve Ordinance number 2005-11, to establish stop intersections on various Township Roads. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve Ordinance number 2005-12, to prohibit smoking in all Township owned buildings and in areas of buildings that the Township leases. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Engineer: Mr. Walker reported that the roadway maintenance program is underway, and that milling of Barclay Street and Braeburn Road is to begin this week. Other work will begin next week, to be completed August 19, 2005.
Roof Repair Contract – Clark House: Mrs. Goren moved to approve the bid of Sid Peart General Contactors to repair the Clark porch roof for $6,130.00. Mr. Harp seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo asked if the repair materials would be in keeping with the historic nature of the Clark house.
Mr. Walker said that this would be an in-kind replacement.
The motion passed unanimously.
Air Conditioning Contract – Clark House: Mr. Walker reported that the low bid for air-conditioning for the Clark house was $42,000 over the projected budget and he recommended that the project be re-bid.
Mrs. Goren questioned why the house is being air-conditioned.
Mr. Jirele said that he thought it was part of the budgetary repairs authorized last fall.
Mr. Weaver said he would look into it.
Escrow Release No. 3 – Lot 21 - Newtown Business Commons: Mr. Goodnoe moved to release escrow funds in the amount of $48,856.49 for lot 21 – Newtown Business Commons, as recommended in a letter of Pennoni Associates dated June 28, 2005. Mrs. Goren seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Contract Change Order No. 1 – Armour & Sons Electric – Traffic Signal Battery Back-up: Mrs. Goren moved to approve change order no. 1 submitted by Armour Electric, in the amount of $6,726.25, as recommended by Pennoni Associates in a letter dated June 23, 2005. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application to Install and Operate Flashing Warning Device – Lower Dolington Road at Stanford Place: Mrs. Goren moved to approve signing the application to install and operate a flashing warning device on Lower Dolington Road at Stanford Place. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application to Install and Operate Flashing Warning Device – Sycamore Street at Chandler Field: Mr. Walker explained that this signal is already in place but the application is not on file at PennDOT; it might be lost. He said that no changes could be made, such as turning the light off at night, unless the application is on file.
Mrs. Goren moved to approve signing the application to install and operate flashing warning device on Sycamore Street at Chandler Field. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Authorization to sign Mylars – 30 Alyssa Drive: Mrs. Goren moved to authorize the signing of Mylars for 30 Alyssa Drive. Mr. Harp seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Authorization to sign Mylars – Village at Newtown South, Parcel “A” Lot Line Changes: Mrs. Goren moved to authorize the signing of Mylars for Village at Newtown South, Parcel “A” Lot Line Changes. Mr. Harp seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo asked if additional lots were to be developed, as she had heard that a business is planning to build there. Mr. Goodnoe said that the lot lines were divided for financing purposes. At this time only PNC Bank has submitted plans for developing the center lot. He said that he thought that an additional building could be added behind the bank at some future time.
The motion passed unanimously.
Community Comments: Resident Paul Beckert expressed concern that only one Stockburger survey had been sent per household, and felt the suggestion to discard the survey if members of a household disagree was insulting. He said that the wording of the questions was confusing and gave no indication of what the Township is considering doing.
Regarding community comments on difficulties that the Brandywine project has faced, he said that neighbors of the project have objected to the proposed bridge on the property, not to the development of the property for office use.
He asked the Township Engineer if roadway maintenance on Lower Dolington Road would be completed before Mr. Sterling’s farm stand is scheduled to open.
Mr. Walker said that he has discussed this with Mr. Sterling and has assured him that all work will be complete before the scheduled opening of his farm stand.
Resident Frank Mendicino expressed concern about both the Stockburger survey and about the possibility of re-zoning the By-pass for auto dealerships, because he said that the current office/research use generates more tax revenue. He said that he had attempted to learn about Core Research, and had been dissatisfied with responses he had gotten, especially that Core Research had been chosen because the price quoted included the mailing, which was then sub-contracted and mishandled. He noted that the Core Research proposal refers to “marketing a positive survey”. He said that the survey did not touch on key issues, and that Core Research had not been adequately prepared to investigate these issues. He said that he also was dissatisfied with the quality of information provided at the information meeting sponsored by the JDNC. He said that he had attempted to gain information about the Township’s involvement with Core Research and had been told his requests were delayed while an issue of attorney/client privilege was researched. He asked what that issue was.
Resident Ethel Hibbs said that she and her husband had no trouble answering the survey. They discussed the questions, understood them and came to an agreement on the answers. They then returned the survey using their own stamp.
Resident Gerry Shenkman expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of discourse and lack of civility between the Township Board of Supervisors and the residents. He suggested that Television Channel 23 be used for a television forum to address the concerns of the community, and to provide more in depth information for the residents.
Mr. Weaver responded that this matter has been discussed by the Supervisors in executive session, and a television program tentatively called, “Let’s Talk” is being developed. It will be a talk show format with a host and guests to be interviewed on issues and concerns of the community.
Resident Walter Iwaskiw said that Channel 23 is a government channel, not public access. He said that he, also, was unhappy that the surveys were sent one per household. He noted that the sub-contracting of mailing by a researcher is common practice.
Resident Phil Calabro asked if the restrictions on the shoulder of the By-pass at Richboro Road are to be enforced. He feels that it is dangerous. He asked if the shoulder would be made into a turning lane, and restrictions lifted, when school re-opens.
Mr. Jirele said that it has been discovered that the shoulder is not strong enough for regular traffic.
Mr. Calabro asked about repair of streetlights along North Drive.
Mr. Jirele responded that the public works department would address his concerns.
Mr. Calabro questioned whether a county agency has been involved in helping Bensalem attract businesses to move there from out of state, and whether Newtown could also work to attract some of these businesses that are planning relocation.
Mr. Goodnoe and Mrs. Goren suggested that Bensalem has worked closely with the Bucks County Economic Development Authority and the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County, and that Bensalem actively pursues business. Mr. Jirele said that Newtown has also worked with these agencies recently to change a non business-friendly environment.
Mr. Calabro also expressed agreement with Mr. Raffle’s comments about the survey, and asked what would happen to the returned surveys after the results have been tabulated.
Resident Shawn Ward said that Bensalem has its own Industrial Development Corporation.
Resident Robert L. Ciervo presented a financial impact analysis he had prepared, comparing the development of the Heston tract as residential instead of as an office park. He said that his comparison points out that the housing development generated less in recreational impact fees, earned income taxes and property taxes than an appropriately sized office park would have. He noted that the residential development also adds children to the school district. He said that the 77.3-acre parcel could have been developed as 540,000 square feet of office space, as opposed to 23 homes. He suggested that single-family residential housing should be removed from the uses allowed in the office/research zoning district.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she would like to see more discourse between the residents and the Board. She thinks that community meetings would be a good idea. She asked why the prospective television show was discussed in executive session, rather than discussed publicly.
She suggested that a “friends of Clark Nature Center” organization be formed to save taxpayer money. Such an organization of volunteers could maintain the property. She expressed concern about the condition of the rhododendrons on the property and about the introduction of new species of plants by various camp and student groups.
She said that she did not think that the Township should fund a playground for special needs children alone, but that support should come from private organizations and corporate sponsorship.
She congratulated the Main Streets Manager and JDNC for recent awards.
Mr. Spack said that completed surveys belong to the client of record, and in the case of the Stockburger survey he was not sure whether the client of record is the Township or Stockburger.
Mr. Salvatore said that he had not intended to “politicize” the First Fourth events, but only to seek equal treatment for Newtown’s businesses.
He announced that the Newtown Business and Professional Association would sponsor its annual golf outing on August 25, 2005 at Middletown Country Club for the benefit of the Neighborhood Outreach Foundation.
He said that he agrees with the comments of Mr. Mendicino and Mr. Ciervo. He said that there should have been a visioning committee formed and that some of the facts have been distorted about Stockburgers.
He questioned when the parking lot next to Silver Lake Park would be complete. He said that he did not see any point to providing a paved parking lot there because there is adequate parking on the other side of the By-pass near the footbridge.
Mr. Harp responded that the parking is to remain as gravel, and that it is needed for the Public Works Department to maintain the park.
Mr. Jirele commented that the Public Works Department has been maintaining the park without the parking lot for many years.
Resident Karen D’Aprile asked the community to send in the completed surveys.
The meeting adjourned at 11:30PM.
Respectfully Submitted: ____________________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted __________ as corrected___________
Robert M. Pellegrino, Manager Richard Weaver, Chairman
Scott R. Harp, Vice-Chairman
Anne Goren, Secretary/Treasurer
Thomas Jirele, Member
Raymond Goodnoe, Member