Newtown Township

Board of Supervisor Minutes

February 8, 2006


MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting February 22, 2006. MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 8, 2006 REGULAR MEETING:  Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of February 8, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded.


The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, February 8, 2006 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman/Assistant Treasurer Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Shenkman and members Thomas Jirele and Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor; Chris Fazio, Township Engineer; and Robert Pellegrino, Township Manager.

Call to Order: Chairman Anne Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.

Invocation: The invocation was given by Judy Joseph, Police Department Chaplain.

Additions and Changes to the Agenda: none

Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo thanked the new Board for keeping track of questions brought up at public comment for future response or discussion. She said that snow is not removed from the trail system, and asked that the trails be included in future snow removal assignments. She noted that a portion of the trail abruptly ends on one side of Eagle Road and begins again on the other side of the street without any curb cut for handicapped access. She said that it has been completed for many months and is not ADA compliant.

Mr. Jirele responded that this section of trail is not yet complete. It is to be extended about 50 yards south to the entrance to Overlook development, where it will cross over with proper curb cuts. It will also join the trail that runs through the Overlook development. Toll Brothers is to complete this portion of the trail system.

Resident Paul Zotter said that he was disturbed that, when questioned on Mr. Beckert’s qualifications as Township Solicitor, Mrs. Goren’s response to each question had been, “I don’t know”. He expressed concern about Mrs. Goren’s leadership as chairman of the Board of Supervisors if she makes decisions without knowing specifics.

Mrs. Goren responded that she has reviewed the resumes of all appointees to the Township as consultants, and was satisfied of all qualifications; however when questioned about specifics during a public meeting, without the resume to refer to, she was unable to answer with certainty. She also noted that, as chairman, she is charged with running the Supervisors’ meetings, not with running the Township.

Resident Bob Apple said that he would like the Supervisors to send the Township Solicitor to the Court of Common Pleas to support two residents who are appealing the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board in the Brandywine application. He said that there is concern about flooding, about traffic safety and about the scope of the project adjacent to residential properties. He suggested that the property be developed as age restricted housing so as not to burden the School District. He said that the proposed Brandywine development’s parking lot would be right in his back yard.

Resident Larry Fyock urged the Board to review the floodplain ordinance that had been changed recently. He expressed concern about flooding issues.

Member Comments: Mr. Shenkman thanked the Board and the community for their condolences on the recent loss suffered in his family.

Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports

Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of January 25, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded.

Discussion of Motion: Mr. Beckert noted that page 5, second sentence should read, " one-story addition with a rear yard setback of 25.1 feet and a side yard setback of 9.2 feet, and an existing shed with a side yard setback of 2.9 feet and a rear yard set back of .3 feet."

Mr. Weaver amended his motion to accept the minutes of January 25, 2006, as corrected. Mr. Jirele amended his second and the motion passed unanimously.

Bills List: Mr. Shenkman moved to authorize payment of bills in the amount of $443,836.26. Mr. Weaver seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo noted that there is a payment to Wrightstown Self-Storage each month because there is not enough room at the municipal complex to store everything. She said that this problem needs to be addressed.

The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Shenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers in the amount of $165,349.08. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions

Environmental Advisory Council: Chairman Donald McEachron reported that the EAC, in conjunction with the Newtown Borough EAC, has announced an Ecostar awards program with press releases to local papers. Applications have been distributed at a number of business association meetings, and are available through the Township Web site, via the EAC link. He expressed some concern that the application is not easily accessible on the Web site, and he would contact the technology department to speak about this. He said that there have been no applications submitted thus far, and EAC members would begin making calls on local businesses to make them aware of the program. In response to questions from the Board, Dr. McEachron explained that the annual awards would be given in recognition of businesses located within Newtown Township or Borough that have exhibited a commitment to environmentally sound practices, such as green architecture and commitment to recycling. There would not be a single “winner”, but any businesses qualifying would be recognized. The EAC members would select recipients, and would consult with other neighboring EAC’s the Planning Commission and the Park and Recreation Board for additional expertise if necessary. While the deadline had been set at February 17, it could be extended if applications begin to arrive after the deadline. The goal had been to select recipients to be honored in conjunction with Earth Day, April 20, 2006.

Dr. McEachron reported that Delaware Riverkeepers Network had conducted a stream assessment in November, at the request of the EAC, and had presented its findings at the January 23 meeting. The EAC would like to follow up on one of the Riverkeepers recommendations, a riparian restoration along the creek at Carl Sedia Park. The Newtown Borough EAC is interested in pursuing this jointly, as one side of the creek is in Newtown Borough. Riverkeepers has offered to guide the EAC through a grant application with “Growing Greener”, sponsored by DEP. The proposal would include some stabilization and removal of invasive species. Riverkeepers has estimated that the grant application would request $30,000. The deadline for application is March 3, 2006. Dr. McEachron has not been able to present this idea to the Park and Recreation Board because of their meeting schedule, however he has made contact with the chairman and will be on the PRB March agenda.

Mr. Pellegrino said that he thought this would be a good idea for the EAC, however noted that $30,000 does not go very far on this type of project.

Mr. Jirele suggested that Dr. McEachron provide the Supervisors with copies of the Riverkeepers Assessment, and allow them to review it at the next work session.

Dr. McEachron reported that EAC has begun to draft an open space inventory evaluation sheet as a first step in their attempt to inventory all open space within the Township.

Mr. Pellegrino suggested that the Council begin its inventory by checking the Township Web site for an already completed inventory of open space. He said that Township staff could be of help with this project.

Planning Commission: Mr. Ward reported that at the meeting of February 7, 2006, the Commission reviewed proposed amendments to the JMZO. They recommended approval of the amendment changing the McGrath owned property on Rte 413 from PS-2 to R-2 zoning to allow for an age restricted community. They recommended approval of the amendment for group homes, which brings the Ordinance into compliance with ADA and Fair Housing Act requirements. The Commission reviewed the accessory contractor amendment, but felt that it was too restrictive and would create a number of non-conforming uses for businesses that already exist. The Commission requested the solicitor to compare the existing open space ordinance with the proposed amendment, which separates open space from recreational open space. The Commission also discussed some procedure and policy matters. There is some concern that the members are not given all relevant information in advance of the meetings. There was also some discussion about focusing meetings on addressing ways that applicants cannot comply with the ordinance. In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Ward said that the Commission had particular concerns with the accessory contractors’ amendment’s lot size limits, and the failure of the ordinance to define side and rear yard setbacks.

Reports of Officials:

Board Members: Mr. Weaver reported that the Newtown Business Commons Association held its first general meeting on January 26, 2006 at the LSAC headquarters. There were about 45 businesses represented at the meeting and he was very encouraged that the NBCA would be successful.

Manager: Mr. Pellegrino reported that Pennoni Associates had completed a study of the U-turn on Mill Pond Road at Buck Road and concluded that the maneuver would require vehicles to slow down and pull to the right before making the u-turn, giving the impression to following vehicles that they are pulling over. This results in potential for sideswipes and angle accidents. Additionally, during morning peak hours, significant queues on Mill Pond Road were observed, well past the end of the concrete median, impeding a vehicle’s ability to make the u-turn. There is a sight distance of 475 feet approaching Buck Road on Mill Pond, and limited sight distance from Diamond Drive.

Mr. Shenkman moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance prohibiting u-turns at the Mill Pond and Buck Road intersection. Mr. Weaver seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele expressed concern about enforceability.

Mr. Ward said that motorists could turn around at the intersection of Cherry Lane and Mill Pond Road. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, he said that this problem does not exist at the intersection of Mill Pond and Richboro Road.

The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Pellegrino said that the Board had appointed an assistant treasurer at the reorganization meeting, however this position is not necessary for the efficient operation of Township government. Elimination of this position would save $1500 on the bond required. The Township did not have this position for the past two years and operated without incident.

Mr. Weaver moved to eliminate the position of assistant treasurer from the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Shenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Weaver moved to change the amount of the bonds to: Treasurer - $3,000,000.00, Finance Director - $1,000.000.0, Manager - $1,000.000.00. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Solicitor’s Report:

Public Hearing: Ordinance Changing the Name of the Occupational Privilege Tax to Emergency and Municipal Services Tax and Increasing Tax from $10 to $30:

Mr. Weaver moved to change the name of the Occupational Privilege Tax to the Emergency and Municipal Services Tax and to increase this tax to $30.00. Mr. Shenkman seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele said that he would like to increase the exemption to $10,000 if the tax is increased to $30.

Mr. Calabro said that he would like the exemption to remain at $500.

In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Shenkman said that the tax is collected up front and those who qualify can apply for a refund.

Mrs. Goren said that she would like the tax collected to be the minimum needed for the Township to remain solvent, and would prefer to give any possible break to those at lower income levels.

Mr. Pellegrino provided the Board with a memo that compared the income generated for the Township at $10, $25, and $30, with exemptions of $500, $5,000, and $10,000. He said that he has done additional research and learned that there has been an increase in the number of employees working in the Township, as well as an increase in the number of employers. About 13% of those employed in the Township are residents of the Township.

Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about those residents on fixed incomes. She said that many on Social Security work part-time to supplement that income. She suggested finding out what the maximum allowable earned income is for those collecting Social Security and making that number the exempt amount. She noted that Genuardi’s employs many seniors and disabled people who would be affected by this tax increase.

Resident Paul Zotter agreed with Mrs. Crescenzo. He suggested collecting the maximum allowed with the highest possible exemption amount.

Mr. Shenkman suggested that Mr. Pellegrino provide comparisons of amounts collected if the exemption were raised to $12,000. He said that the points made by the residents should be carefully considered. He suggested continuing this discussion at the upcoming work session.

Mr. Weaver withdrew his motion. Mr. Shenkman withdrew his second.

JMZO Group Home Regulations: Mr. Jirele moved to authorize advertising for final passage of JMZO Amendment 2006-01, Group Homes. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

JMZO Amendment: Accessory Contractor or Trade Use: Mr. Beckert said that he had discussed this with Ms. Piette, attorney for the Jointure, and has learned that Wrightstown originated this amendment to allow for some contractor uses in the CM district. Currently only professional occupations are permitted, and the aim is to expand the rights to certain trades people. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert said that already existing uses were either permitted under the old ordinance or have been given conditional use approval. This only applies to houses in the CM district.

Mr. Shenkman said that if Wrightstown sees this ordinance very differently than the Newtown Planning Commission, then it needs to be redrafted to be clearer in meaning. The comments of Newtown Township’s Planning Commission should be included in the revised draft.

Mr. Ward said that he and Mr. Weaver would attend the Jointure Ordinance sub-committee and would bring these comments to the meeting.

Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about parking for up to three employees and about storage of possibly dangerous or combustible materials. She said that this could not be monitored at residential properties.

Dr. McEachron expressed concern about toxic waste disposal. He said that even small amounts of toxic waste improperly disposed could be a serious problem for the environment.

The Board agreed to ask Mr. Ward and Mr. Weaver to bring these concerns to the Jointure meeting.

JMZO Amendment to Zoning Map from PS-2 to R-2: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize advertisement for final passage of an amendment 2006-03, changing the Zoning Map for property on Durham Road, Newtown from PS-2 to R-2. Mr. Weaver seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele said that Wrightstown had expressed some concern about impervious surface ratio. He said that he would prefer passing the amendment at the same time as a plan for development of the parcel is submitted.

Mr. Pellegrino said that this motion is to authorize advertisement. The plan has been submitted.

Mr. Thomas Hecker, attorney for McGrath Builders, said that the fully engineered plans have already been submitted to the Planning Commission and they have already been granted conditional use approval.

Mr. Jirele said that he would like Newtown to be the last Township to vote on the amendment, and that it should be at the same time as the land development approval.

Mrs. Crescenzo suggested that this is spot zoning. She said that not all Newtown Grant residents were aware of this proposal.

Mrs. Goren said that this parcel is surrounded by R-2 zoning, and had been zoned R-2 at one time. Changing it back to R-2 does not meet the criteria for spot zoning.

Mr. Zotter expressed concern about this Board’s willingness to change zoning, and questioned their philosophy and attitude toward the joint zoning concept.

Mr. Jirele briefly outlined the history of the zoning of this parcel, which had been CM at the time the jointure was formed and changed by curative amendment to R-2 then to PS-2.

In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Pellegrino said that the property was posted for the zoning change, and those within 500 feet of it would be notified before final passage, along with master boards of homeowners associations within the 500 feet. Not all homes in a development are notified.

Resident John D’Aprile said that the Newtown Grant Master Board is supportive of this plan and of the requisite zoning change.

The motion passed unanimously.

JMZO Amendment to Eliminate Babysitting Provision: Mr. Weaver moved to forward this amendment to the jointure for approval. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Authorization to Advertise Ordinance and Forward to Jointure for Review: Petition and Ordinance regarding the Rezoning – Applicant Toll Brothers: Attorney Ed Murphy said that there have been some recent changes to the plan that improve the impervious surface and open space. He asked to bring the plan to a work session for review. The matter was tabled.

Sex Predator Ordinance: Mr. Beckert provided the Board with some research done by Harris and Harris, along with copies ofsimilar ordinances passed in nearby municipalities.

Mr. Jirele said that, as surrounding communities adopt these ordinances, he would like Newtown to protect its residents as well.

Mrs. Goren asked whether a certain percentage of the Township would have to be available to registered sex offenders, after areas surrounding schools, playgrounds, etc., were restricted to them. She asked what an appropriate distance would be. She said that she would like to compare different distances.

Mr. Beckert explained that an ordinance would have to be constitutionally defensible. First, distances should be selected for comparison. A variety of housing options would have to be available to sex offenders, but not a particular percentage of land in the Township. There is no Pennsylvania case law on this; the only case has been in Iowa. It is important in drafting an ordinance to not be so restrictive that the ordinance provides for the total exclusion of a class of people. He said that most neighboring municipalities have set the distance at 2500 feet.

Shawn Ward said that the Pennsylvania Crime Code has set the drug free school zone at 1000 feet.

Dr. McEachron said that while he thinks it is important to protect children from predators, he thinks that passing an ordinance labeling and excluding people goes to far.

Mr. D’Aprile said that he would not want Newtown to be the only municipality without such an ordinance. He said that the state has a Web site listing all sex offenders.

Mr. Zotter said that the Supervisors should let Mr. Beckert draft an ordinance and rely on his expertise.

Mr. Calabro asked whether the density of the population would be a factor in choosing a distance, noting that the only tested case was in Iowa, where the population is not dense and it is possible to reside there without being within 2000 feet of any of the restricted facilities.

In response to a question from Mrs. Crescenzo, Mr. Beckert said that he has drafted ordinances while a county solicitor.

Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township technology department could map out distances from daycare centers, schools, and playgrounds. He could have this information for the next Board meeting, noting that state Web site lists sex offenders by zip code, not by address, except in the case of violent predators.

Newtown Corporate Center Zoning Hearing Board Appeal: Mr. Beckert reported that he attended the rule 27 conference in the appeal of two residents to the decisions of the Township Zoning Hearing Board granting a de minimus variance, a variance and a special exception for Brandywine to construct a bridge across Core Creek. The appeals have been consolidated. Mr. Beckert asked the Supervisors what position the Township would take in this appeal.

Mr. Shenkman moved to join the appellants in opposition to the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Calabro seconded.

Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Shenkman said that he made his motion on the grounds that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision was erroneous. He said that the briefs submitted in the appeal cite concerns about bridge construction safety and flooding.

Resident Mike Iapalucci questioned the time limits for appeal. He wondered whether the 30 days from the rendering of the decision had expired.

Mr. Beckert explained that the Township has been a party to this application, and as such is included in the appeal. The question is what position the Township wishes to take.

Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the Township could take no position. He said he did not think we should use taxpayer money to support two residents in a personal appeal. He noted that every month the solicitor asks whether the Township will take a position on Zoning Hearing Board applications, and they rarely do. He also said that he thought it is wrong to send the Township solicitor to support these two residents because Mr. Beckert had been the attorney for the residents at the Zoning Hearing Board.

Mr. Beckert said that he has spoken to Brandywine’s attorney and there has been no objection.

In response to Mr. Iapalucci’s questions, Mrs. Goren said that there have been other occasions when the Township has sent the solicitor to support residents’ appeals of Zoning Hearing Board decisions. She said that in this case, she feels the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision is in error, as the bridge will allow backwater onto adjoining properties. This decision has Township wide impact.

In response to Mr. Iapalucci’s further opposition to using taxpayer money in support for two residents’ personal appeal, Mr. Calabro noted that the Township had sent the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board in support of Brandywine.

Mrs. Crescenzo said that she had attended a Zoning Hearing Board meeting at which a resident had asked for a variance to replace a bridge over her driveway. The Zoning Hearing Board granted that resident a variance under the same ordinance as Brandywine had been granted, over the strenuous objection of an adjoining property owner who was already experiencing flooding and backwater. She said that the Zoning Hearing Board has been consistent in its decisions, and the Township has not supported that opposing resident in appeals. She said that it was immoral to support these two residents in their personal appeal against Brandywine, especially sending Mr. Beckert, who represented these residents at the Zoning Hearing Board. She said that Mrs. Goren should abstain from voting as she is a resident of the development adjacent to the Brandywine property and has a conflict.

Mrs. Goren said that her property does not adjoin Brandywine and there is no conflict of interest.

In response to Mr. Zotter’s questions, Mr. Beckert said that typically such an appeal would require about 25 to 30 hours of his time at $125 per hour. He has already had some communication with parties in the case, and has completed about 10% of the work.

Mr. Zotter asked that these two residents pay the costs associated with the Township’s support of the appeal.

Resident Mary McNamara said that she supports the efforts of the appellants and asked the Supervisors to support them in this appeal.

Resident Ethel Hibbs asked that the Supervisors set guidelines for public comment, as some of the comment has been inappropriate and has attacked the reputations of public officials.

In response to Mr. D’Aprile’s question, Mrs. Goren said that there has been some flooding in the area around Upper Silver Lake Road.

Mr. D’Aprile said that there are six bridges in Newtown and none has failed. He is in support of the Brandywine project. Brandywine will bring jobs, business and tax money to Newtown, and Brandywine has stated they will build the project with or without the bridge.

Mr. Jirele said that although Pennoni Associates had not completed its review of the 150-foot bridge, the project’s final land development approval is contingent on a favorable review, and PennDOT would not approve a bridge that is sub-standard.

Resident Demary Roberts said that although only two residents have filed an appeal, many are in support of that appeal. She said that the Township has already spent $10,000 to support Brandywine at the Zoning Hearing Board. She asked that the Supervisors send the solicitor in support of the appeal.

Resident Jen Dix said that PennDOT is currently reviewing approved bridges that are failing. She asked the Supervisors to support the two residents in the Brandywine appeal.

The motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Jirele and Weaver voting nay.

Mr. Jirele said that this issue is dividing the community and he asked the Board to remember that they represent all 18,000 residents. He said that we are all neighbors and we must refrain from name-calling and nastiness on both sides of this issue.

Mr. Calabro expressed some concern about the public comment “blasting” the Solicitor and the Chairman.

Mr. Calabro moved to authorize the Solicitor to review the floodplain ordinance and the riparian buffer along Core Creek. Mr. Shenkman seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele asked that the reference to the riparian buffer along Core Creek be removed from the motion. If the riparian buffer is to be reviewed for Core Creek, then he would like Newtown Creek included also. In response to Mrs. Goren’s comment that Newtown Creek had been excluded from the buffer zone because of the negative impact to businesses along Sycamore Street, Mr. Jirele said that only a very small portion of Newtown Creek is in the business district.

Mr. Calabro amended his motion to include the review of the riparian buffer of Newtown Creek. Mr. Shenkman seconded the amended motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Old Business

Mr. Calabro reported that he has been in contact with Superintendent Klein about access to the Woll Tract from Wrights Road through School District property. The District is very interested in working out an agreement on this.

New Business

Mr. Pellegrino reported that Comcast will be reconfiguring its channel line-up. Effective March 28, 2006, WNJT will be at Channel 23 and the Government Access Channel will be at Channel 22. Customers are being notified directly by Comcast.

Public Comment

Mr. Zotter said that his comments were not meant to be “blasting” the Solicitor or the Chairman, but the residents have a right to say what they want, respectfully, which is how he spoke. He also asked whether a skateboard park would be included in the plans for the Woll Tract. He said that his son would like to begin a petition to have skateboarding included in the athletic facilities.

Mr. Shenkman said that this Board is receptive to a skateboard facility at the Woll Tract. He suggested that Mr. Zotter direct his comments to the Park and Recreation Board.

Mrs. Crescenzo said that at one time she had served on a committee formed to investigate a skateboard park, and she had the minutes from those meetings, petitions, and research on equipment. She agreed to share this with Mr. Zotter.

Mrs. Crescenzo said that she has heard that the alternative school might move out of its current location, and she asked if the land at the current alternative school would be available for a community center. She said that Toll Brothers had offered to work with the Township on a community center, and would be moving a building from the Fidler property.

Mr. Beckert said that the issue of the Fidler barn has not been resolved at this time.

Mr. Jirele said that the Township has been in contact with the School District about the property near Roberts Ridge.

Mrs. Crescenzo complained that the winter/spring Park and Recreation brochure is being mailed to all residents, even though many will throw it away. She said that the brochure should only be mailed to those who have participated in programs in the past or who have requested it. She complained that listed in the brochure is a program called “4-H Seedlings”, meeting at Clark Nature Center. She said that this is an environmentally sensitive area and non-indigenous seedlings should not be introduced there. She also complained that the brochure advertises a walking club at Clark Nature Center, where the trails are accessed on the far side of the parking lot, across the lawn. The handicapped accessible trails cannot be reached via a handicapped accessible route from the parking lot. She said that the park should not have been open to the public until it was completely handicapped accessible. She said that the Township should not pay a naturalist but should rely on volunteers, college interns and the Environmental Advisory Council.

Mr. D’Aprile said that the money allocated for the Woll Tract is not enough to complete the project, and he asked where the additional funding would come from. He said Penndel has signed a deal for cable service through Verizon.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 PM. 

 

Respectfully Submitted: ____________________________________
                                          Mary Donaldson,  Recording Secretary

 

Minutes Approved as submitted __________ as corrected___________

 

Attest: _________________________                                                         ___________________________
           Robert M. Pellegrino, Manager                                                            Anne Goren, Chairman

 

                                                                                                                     ___________________________
                                                                                                                     Phillip Calabro, Vice-Chairman

 

                                                                                                                     ___________________________
                                                                                                                     Jerry Shenkman, Secretary/Treasurer

 

                                                                                                                     __________________________
                                                                                                                     Thomas Jirele, Member

 

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                                                                                                                     Richard Weaver, Member