Board of Supervisor Minutes
February 22, 2006
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting March 22, 2006. MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 22, 2006 REGULAR MEETING: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of February 22, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman 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 Pastor Gerry Newswanger of First Baptist Church of Wycombe.
Additions and Changes to the Agenda: none
Public Comment: Resident Jim Bowe announced that Newtown Chamber Orchestra, which gives four concerts each year, would give its third concert of the season on Saturday at 7:30PM at the Bucks County Community College Auditorium. Tickets are available at the box office. For further information check www.newtownchamberorchestra.org
Resident Paul Salvatore announced that the Newtown Business and Professional Association has begun planning its annual car show. NBPA would like to move the car show to Sycamore Street to highlight the newly completed street improvements, and to bring 7,000 people to the downtown Newtown area on Sunday, July 23. During the car show, the shops along State Street would hold a sidewalk sale. The committee will work closely with the businesses and residents of Sycamore Street to insure that they are not inconvenienced. He asked the Board for a motion to approve the Sycamore Street venue for the car show.
Mr. Pellegrino said that he has spoken to Main Streets Manager Chris Ortwein about such concerns as traffic control. The Township will do whatever the Board directs.
At Mrs. Goren’s request, Vince Lombardi, chairman of the Sycamore Street Committee and resident of Sycamore Street, was called to the podium. Mr. Lombardi said that the Sycamore Street Committee had not formally discussed this at a meeting, however he has spoken to other residents informally, and none are in favor of the car show on Sycamore Street. There are a few handicapped people who would be house bound if the road were closed to traffic.
Mr. Salvatore said that the NPBA has worked successfully with the businesses and residents of State Street to address concerns, and would do the same with these residents. There is a great deal of planning involved and NBPA would need an answer to this request within two or three weeks.
Mr. Lombardi expressed concern about traffic issues on a Sunday with church traffic.
Mr. Jirele said that the intersection would not be blocked for traffic coming from St. Andrew’s Church, and Newtown Presbyterian Church uses a parking area at the rear, accessible through Eagle Road. He said that the Sycamore Street Committee does not represent all of the residents. He suggested that Mr. Salvatore address the Sycamore Street residents and business owners to discuss their concerns. He then suggested that Mr. Salvatore return to a work session to talk about the response these residents and business owners have had to the proposed car show.
In response to questions from Mr. Salvatore, Mr. Beckert said that the proposed increase in Emergency and Municipal tax to $52 would be paid by all who are employed in Newtown, both residents and non-residents. Those earning less than $12,000 would be exempt.
Mr. Schenkman said that the proposed tax would bring in an estimated $565,000, of which $270,000 had already been in the budget. The surplus would be placed in a fund for emergencyand municipal services. This fund could be used for road repairs and maintenance.
Mr. Salvatore said that he has concerns about this additional tax as he works toward promoting Newtown to businesses considering moving.
Resident Patrick O’Brien complained that his cul-de-sac in Kirkwood development had been plowed a second time after the last storm at 8:00PM in the evening, after he and his neighbors had shoveled their driveways. The plows pushed snow back onto the driveways and they had to be re-shoveled.
Mr. Pellegrino explained that culs-de-sac are the last streets to be plowed after a storm. He understood Mr. O’Brien’s frustration, but suggested that Mr. O’Brien and his neighbors wait until after the plows have completed their work before shoveling the end of the driveway.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Mr. O’Brien said that the second plowing had been necessary to remove snow and packed ice.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo complained that the trails along Eagle Road had not been plowed after the last snowstorm.
Mr. Schenkman said that some of the trials are the responsibility of the adjoining Homeowners Associations. He suggested that Mr. Pellegrino ask the Public Works Department to get to the trails a little sooner if possible.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she had seen a newspaper advertisement for an Upper Makefield Zoning Hearing Board application seeking a variance to construct something in the floodplain. She pointed out that Upper Makefield residents were benefiting by the amendment to the Ordinance that had been used in the Brandywine application. She said that since this amendment is benefiting residents of the Jointure, Mr. Beckertshould not be sent to support the appeal of two residents opposed to the change.
Resident Robert Ciervo said that he was happy to learn that there could be a skateboard facility at the Woll Tract. He also expressed concern about the proposed change in zoning of the Durham Road property opposite the municipal complex from PS-2 to R-2. He said that this location is already densely populated and should not be burdened with such an intense use. He said that the proposed municipal and emergency service tax is a 420% increase and he did not think it should be enacted.
Member Comments: Mr. Calabro reported that he had attended a Council Rock School District facilities meeting and found the School District very receptive to working out an agreement to allow access to the Woll Tract from Wrights Road. He would like the Park and Recreation Board to become involved in future meetings.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of January 18, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of February 8, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that his name had been misspelled in previous minutes.
The motion passed unanimously.
Bills Lists: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills in the amount of $260,667.46. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo asked whether it is necessary to use both cell phones and pagers. She noted amounts for repair and service for a bus, and for a garage door opener. She asked about “PA One Call”.
Mr. Pellegrino explained that “PA One Call” is called before any digging can take place.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked about a bill for a Verizon Consortium.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Verizon was the subject of the meeting, not the guest.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s further questions on bills, Mr. Pellegrino said that “XO” is the Township’s telephone carrier, and that the Park and Recreation Director had attended a conference. Pennoni bills related to Pryda had recently been submitted for work done in the past and was paid with funds from Pryda’s escrow account.
In response to further comments on Pryda, Mrs. Hibbs, as secretary to HARB, responded that HARB has been meeting with the new owners of this property to bring the property into compliance with HARB.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers in the amount of $325,000. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Sycamore Street Committee: Chairman Vince Lombardi reported that the three open space areas on Sycamore Street now have concept designs presented by Shannon Wilson. Volunteers have been recruited to maintain the planting beds. A plan is being implemented to repair or replace damaged flags. The ribbon cutting ceremony is still being planned with no specific date set. The Sycamore Street Committee had not discussed the use of the street for the NBPA car show; this has only been discussed informally among residents and business owners.
Telecommunications Advisory Board: Chairman James Manahan reported that a resident’s environmental issue with Verizon has been resolved. The Board has not had a representative of Verizon at a meeting although they have been invited.
In response to a question from Mr. Manahan, Mr. Pellegrino assured residents that Verizon has paid escrow and engineering fees and obtained all necessary permits for their work.
Board member Jim Bowe reported that the Board has joined a consortium of municipalities working to promote cable competition. He said that consortium members are not prepared to sign agreements with Verizon at this time as proposed agreements offered have not proven mutually beneficial.
Planning Commission: Chairman Shawn Ward reported that the Planning Commission reviewed a final plan for subdivision of the Veterans Association property on Linden and German Avenues. Parking concerns have been satisfactorily addressed. The Commission recommended approval of the revised final plan of Community Association Realty with the condition that the facility not be used for outside catering, only for tenant and employee functions. The Commission felt that the proposed zoning amendment for VR-1/VC-1 impervious surface placed an unfair burden on Newtown Township, as it shifted the more intense use and higher density to Newtown. The Commission found the accessory landscape contractor amendment overly restrictive and there is some concern about creating non-conforming uses. They suggested inclusion of rear and side yard setbacks. The Zoning Hearing Board applications were reviewed. The Commission recommended that 11 Friends Lane, an adaptive re-use of an industrial site, be renovated for combined medical and office use, not entirely medical use. The regional Planning Commission had requested comment on possible rezoning of properties involved with the Veterans Cemetery. The Commission felt that comment would be premature, as no plans have been presented.
Historic Architectural Review Board: In response to questions from Mr. Jirele, Mrs. Hibbs said that the certificate of appropriateness for Raymond James & Associates, 223 N. Sycamore Street is for the wall-mounted sign only.
Mr. Weaver moved to approve the certificate of appropriateness for Raymond James & Associates, 223 N. Sycamore Street. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Board Members: Mr. Weaver reported that the First Fourth Committee is beginning to plan this year’s celebration. He asked interested residents to contact the Township building to volunteer for this committee.
Manager: At the Board’s direction, Mr. Pellegrino had prepared maps of the Township with areas within 1500, 2000 and 2500 feet of schools, parks and daycare centers circled for comparison for a proposed sexual predator ordinance.
Mr. Beckert advised that the 2500-foot distance would be too restrictive if the ordinance were challenged. Some neighboring municipalities have instituted ordinances with 2500-foot distances. He said that when considering an appropriate distance from these locations, there must still be available housing of a variety of types. None of these ordinances have been challenged, so it is difficult to say whether they would be upheld, but he said that a total exclusion would be indefensible.
Mr. Jirele agreed, noting that the 2500-foot distance would eliminate whole zoning districts, whereas at 2000 feet all types of housing would be available.
Mr. Schenkman asked that the Board be provided with more information about the number and types of homes available at each distance.
Mr. Calabro suggested that community and swim club pools be included among the restricted areas.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that the bigger problem is through the Internet and she urged the Supervisors to ask Congress to “go after sexual predators”.
Solicitor’s Report: Mr. Beckert reported that K. Hovnanian has filed a land use appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. He asked what position the Supervisors wished to take on this.
Mr. Jirele moved to authorize the Solicitor to represent the Township in support of its decision in K. Hovnanian’s conditional use application. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Resident Jay McGuigan said that he, as party against the application, had received no notification of this appeal.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize forwarding the Toll-Fidler B-19 use ordinance amendment to the Jointure. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Beckert reviewed three residential Zoning Hearing Board applications. The Board took no action.
Mr. Beckert reviewed the application of 11 Friends Lane, LLC for variances for number of parking spaces and parking on side property line.
Mr. Salvatore said that this is an adaptive re-use of an existing industrial building. He would be renovating for a combination of office and medical uses. He said that he would like to work with the Zoning Hearing Board to reach a compromise on additional parking. His application seeks variances from the maximum required number for 100% medical use, 232 spaces, to allow only 155 spaces. He said that the building would not contain only medical uses, but would be a mixed use building.
Mrs. Goren said that she agrees with the Planning Commission that the application seeks too much relief. She expressed concern that there will be on-street parking. She asked Mr. Salvatore to revise his application to seek less relief. She suggested that Mr. Salvatore come back to the Supervisors with a revised application.
Mr. Jirele said that he would prefer the Zoning Hearing Board to hear Mr. Salvatore’s application and work with him.
Mr. Weaver pointed out that if the building were to contain no medical uses, then the relief would be only 19 parking spaces.
Mrs. Goren said that she would like Mr. Salvatore to revise his application, or if not, to send the Solicitor to oppose it.
Mr. Salvatore said that he would prefer appearing before the Zoning Hearing Board and working out an agreement there.
Mr. Beckert explained that once a variance has been granted, then the Supervisors must abide by that when reviewing any conditional use application.
After some additional discussion, Mr. Salvatore said that he would agree that the building would be 16,000 square feet of medical use and 20,000 square feet of office use, although the application does show 100% medical use. He said that he would rather work with the Zoning Hearing Board than amend his application.
Public Comment: Mrs. Hibbs complained that the sign at the corner of Sycamore Street and Jefferson Street says “Jefferson Avenue”. She asked that it be corrected. She asked about dips in the paving on Eagle Road.
Mr. Pellegrino responded that he would look into the dip problem and that the sign is to be changed.
Mrs. Hibbs asked why the proposed emergency and municipal services tax is now recommended at $52, when the Financial Planning Committee had only recommended an increase to $20.
Mr. Pellegrino explained that additional funds were needed to make up for the home inspection program, which has not been enacted
Mrs. Hibbs said that the Board had discussed increasing the tax to $25 at previous meetings, and now the proposed tax is $52, which is excessive. A tax of this amount would create a hardship for senior citizens, part-time workers and low income earners, especially since the tax is taken, in its entirety, from the first paycheck of the year. She said that everyone would be charged this tax, and those making less than $12,000, while exempt, would have to wait until the following year and then apply for the refund.
Mrs. Goren said that this tax is imposed on those who work within the Township. Those workers enjoy the benefits of the municipality, and should be taxed to contribute to our emergency and municipal services, especially as surrounding municipalities enact their own earned income tax. In response to Mrs. Hibbs’ comment that the amount is in excess of what is needed, Mrs. Goren said that this would be used to build a reserve and stave off possible property tax increases.
Mr. Jirele said that the earned income tax base is not dwindling and we should not take more money than is needed.
Mr. Salvatore announced that the next NBPA meeting is February 28 at 7:30 AM at Goodnoe’s. He reported that the Rotary Club’s “Pedals for Progress” program collected and repaired 250 bicycles. They are still collecting if anyone still wished to contribute.
Mr. Salvatore said that he agrees with Mrs. Hibbs’ statements about the emergency and municipal service tax. He reminded the Board that business owners pay taxes and do give back to the Township.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern that the increase in the emergency and municipal service tax would be an unfair burden on youth and senior citizens. She said that if there is a shortfall in the budget, other money, such as the RCN settlement, should be used. She complained that there is no turning lane at Swamp Road and Sycamore Street and traffic gets backed up when school or St. Andrew’s Church lets out. She complained about the high speeds traveled on South Eagle Road, and read a list of statistics on the numbers of speeding cars during morning and afternoon rush hours. She said that at these times there are teen drivers on the roads, athletes running along the road, emergency vehicles exiting and entering as well as shoppers. She asked that improvements be made to make the road safer. When Mrs. Goren said that this road cannot be reconfigured, she complained that Mrs. Goren did not give a similar response to residents of Newtown Gate who complained about speeders. Mrs. Crescenzo continued to complain about the Township Naturalist introducing plants to the Clark Nature Center. She also said that the Park and Recreation minutes say that horse trails are going to be built.
Mr. Pellegrino said that there is not a budget shortfall. The budget that was approved was a balanced budget that included projected revenue from home inspections, a program that has not been enacted. The increased emergency and municipal service tax will make up for that lost revenue. Regarding the turning lane on Swamp Road, while it is not going to be put back, traffic should be helped greatly by the improvements that are to be implemented at the intersection of Swamp and South Eagle Roads.
Mr. Ciervo said that he is disappointed that the Board is sending the Solicitor to support two residents’ appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board decision in Brandywine. He presented an aerial photograph of the area, and pointed out that the two residents’ homes will not experience flooding, and are a great distance from the proposed bridge.
Mr. Beckert responded that these residents have standing to oppose the decision because their properties adjoin the Brandywine property, not because they would experience the flooding.
Mr. Ciervo said that engineers for owners of properties that might experience backwater have said that this is not an issue. He said that the Township should not spend taxpayer money to defend residents who are not directly affected. He suggested that Brandywine access Lindenhurst Road through the CAU property instead of building the bridge.
Mr. Ciervo read a list of political contributions made to the Newtown and Bucks County Democratic Parties by the Township’s newly appointed engineering firm. He said that this firm has been fined in New Jersey for illegal campaign contributions. He questioned the ethics of the appointment of this firm. He asked whether the Board was aware of the large contributions made.
Resident John D’Aprile suggested that a solution to the Brandywine access to the Bypass might be to build “Concept Way”, a plan that had been discussed many years ago. He opposed the amount of the emergency and municipal service tax, noting the hardship it presents to low-income earners. He complained about the appearance of Silver Lake Park. He said that it was unfair for residents of Sycamore Street to willingly accept taxpayer money for street improvements and façade grants, and yet be unwilling to share the street for one day for a charity car show. Regarding the complaint made earlier by a resident whose driveway was plowed in, he suggested standing outside and asking the plowmen to leave the drives clear. They have been cooperative when he has asked. He said that the public would like to know why consultants were changed. He asked whether any Newtown Supervisors were involved in the VA Cemetery/Toll deal.
In response to Mr. Ciervo’s comments about contributions to the Democratic Party, Mr. Calabro read a list of contributions made by the former solicitor and Brandywine officials to Republican campaigns. He said that he stepped down from his position as chairman of the Newtown Democratic Party when he ran for office.
The meeting adjourned at 11:35PM.
Respectfully Submitted: ____________________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted __________ as corrected___________
Robert M. Pellegrino, Manager Anne Goren, Chairman
Phillip Calabro, Vice-Chairman
Jerry Shenkman, Secretary/Treasurer
Thomas Jirele, Member
Richard Weaver, Member