Board of Supervisor Minutes
July 26, 2006
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting August 9, 2006. MINUTES OF JULY 26, 2006 REGULAR MEETING: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of July 26, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, July 26, 2006 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro 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 Paul Kester of Newtown Friends. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Pellegrino said that a report of the Park and Recreation Board has been added, and the signing of an improvement agreement for 54 Penns Trail and the bid for Mardot Village drainage improvements have been removed from the agenda.
Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo commented on the recent power failure.
Mrs. Bauer of 340 Wrights Road asked about the plans to fix a ditch in front of her home. She said that the ditch is very deep, and has become a breeding area for mosquitoes and ticks, and her supplier has refused to deliver propane gas to her house. It is also very unsightly.
Mr. Pellegrino said that there had been serious drainage problems in this neighborhood, and the Township had attempted to address these problems by redefining swales. The results have been unsatisfactory, creating a ditch of about 3 to 4 feet on Mrs. Bauer’s lawn. The Township has requested bids to pipe the swales for drainage improvement, but they have come in very high. The Township Engineer is attempting to negotiate a better price with the low bidder. If a lower price can be agreed to, the Board would be asked to vote acceptance of the bid at the next meeting. The project would pipe the swales and repair lawns. In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Pellegrino said that if a bid is accepted, the project could be completed right away. However, if no bid is acceptable, the project would be included in the 2007 road bid in December. If that is the case, then work would be done in the spring of 2007. In response to Mrs. Bauer’s questions, he said that once a bid has been accepted, work would begin. This work can be done during the school year without interfering with school bus runs. He agreed to send public works employees to mow the swale area every two weeks until the repair is completed.
Member Comments: Mr. Calabro praised the Township public works and emergency services departments for their efforts during the recent power failure.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes of Regular Meeting of July 12, 2006: Mrs. Goren noted that on page 3, the eighth bullet point under the Promenade at Sycamore should read,”52%”.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of July 12, 2006, as corrected. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills Lists: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $224,809.24. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $8,693.71. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation: Main Streets Manager Chris Ortwein reported that the downtown area is still awaiting completion of the closed loop system for the traffic lights. Newtown Main Streets has been awarded the “Townie” award for events for the “AHA! Friday” program. The August program is entitled “Street Noise”; September’s program is “Peaceable Kingdom”. In September there will be a ribbon cutting for the “Saloon” on Sycamore Street. During the second quarter, four new businesses, bringing five new full-time positions, were opened. Two public space projects have been completed. On October 21, a brew fest will be held at the Stockingworks, with over 20 breweries represented.
Planning Commission: Chairman Shawn Ward reported that at the July 18, 2006 meeting the Commission reviewed a PRD variance for 54 Copperleaf Drive for an addition, and recommended that the Board approve the request.
A revised preliminary plan for a major subdivision on the Fidler tract was presented. The discussion was tabled until revisions to the plan have been made to reflect an extension of the Newtown Trail, an extension of alleyways to intersect with roadways, additional
on-site parking is provided and a decision is made on preservation of existing historic barn. Mr. Fidler indicated that he has proposed purchasing the barn.
The Commission reviewed without comment the four Zoning Hearing Board applications.
The members tabled discussion of JMZO 2006-05, agricultural accessory use, JMZO 2006-09, VR-1 and VC-1 zoning and SALDO Ordinance on site and street lighting glare. The Commission recommends approval of JMZO 2006-07, greenhouse use and JMZO 2006-12, on babysitting.
Newtown Borough Planning Commission member Mike Sellers has suggested possibly holding some joint meetings.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Ethel Hibbs, Secretary to HARB, reported that the applicant for a certificate of appropriateness for signage at 9 Cambridge Lane, Dr. Michael Shanfeld, had not attended the meeting of July 17, 2006, nor did he provide the additional documentation that HARB had requested. He had indicated that he would be requesting an extension, however he has not done so. Dr. Shanfeld also indicated that he would be requesting permission to erect a temporary sign. Chairman McLean has asked the applicant to meet with him in advance of the meetings. HARB members have had some concerns about the size of the sign. The plans show a sign that is within the permitted size limitations of the Ordinance; however, it is not appropriately sized for the proposed location, on a stone wall. For these reasons, HARB is recommending that the application be denied.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Dr. Shanfeld had faxed the Township office this afternoon granting an extension with the condition that a temporary sign be permitted; however the letter is neither dated nor signed.
Mr. Jirele moved to deny the application for a certificate of appropriateness for 9 Cambridge Lane, as the application is incomplete, with the following information missing:
In addition, the sign appears to be too large for the proposed location. The applicant failed to appear before the HARB at its July meeting, as requested, and HARB has recommended denial.
Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo commented on structures in the historic district that have not complied with HARB.
The motion passed 4-0.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that the mid-year revenues of the Park and Recreation Department are up 9%; participation is the same as last year. Camps are running well, with over 500 children participating, bringing $30,000 more income than last year. The camps were closed for two days during the power failure.
There is a freeze on park expenditures as no recreational impact fees have been collected this year.
There have been some unforeseen delays on the start of the Roberts Ridge Park of Possibilities due to rain and flooding in nearby communities, requiring use of equipment scheduled to be available for the project. Work has now begun and is expected to be completed in the fall.
The sports organizations are scheduled to make presentations on field needs at the August meeting. There is some discussion between the Board and Restaurant 552 on the use of its parking area for the fields on the Wiggins tract. The sports organizations are also discussing financing a road opening for the Township to construct a temporary parking area to make these three fields available for fall sports. In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Levine said that the Wiggins tract would not have lights. The Board, as well as the Township Comprehensive Plan, only considers lighting at the Woll tract fields as appropriate.
Mr. Pellegrino suggested that the Board proceed with requests for proposals for engineering of the Woll Tract and the Clark Nature Center forest management plan, as some impact fees should be paid shortly.
In response to questions from Mr. Calabro, Mr. Levine said that estimates for these projects from Pickering Corts and Summerson were very high. There would be requests for proposals. The Township Engineer would review these proposals. It has been the Township’s practice to seek bids for large-scale projects, with the Township Engineer reviewing proposals and plans. The Township Engineer could provide the engineering for these projects with an outside firm reviewing them if that is what the Board would prefer.
Mr. Levine expressed some concern about Elliott Building Group’s failure to present plans for Promenade at Sycamore to the Park and Recreation Board for recommendations on either dedication of open space or fee in lieu. Elliott’s counsel had indicated that no recreational impact fees are due to the Township.
Mr. Beckert said that the agreement with Elliott does not waive any fees. He would look into this matter.
Land Development Projects
Conditional Use – The Promenade at Sycamore L.P. – North Sycamore Street.
Mrs. Goren opened the hearing.
Mr. Weaver moved to continue the hearing to August 23, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to close the hearing for conditional use for the Promenade at Sycamore. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Mrs. Goren reported that the Bucks County September 11 Memorial committee has requested a donation from Newtown Township. Many other Bucks municipalities have already contributed. She asked the Board to consider making a contribution of either $2,500 or $5,000.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize a contribution of $5000 to the 9-11 Memorial Garden fund. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele asked whether there is money in the budget that could be used for this contribution and whether a second class township can legally make such contribution.
Mr. Pellegrino said that there are funds available in reserve, or unused funds in the “making a difference” fund could be transferred.
Mr. Beckert agreed to research the question of the legality of the contribution and advise the Board in writing.
Mr. Jirele suggested that information about the fund and the Township’s contribution should be put on the teleprompter, as residents would be interested to know of the Township’s participation.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s questions, Mrs. Goren said that Bucks County residents who were victims of the attacks would be honored at the memorial. More information on the project could be found at www.9-11memorialgarden.org/
Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the Board’s decision to make this contribution without first reviewing financial information on the project. She also questioned giving money to the project while Township projects are unfunded. She asked whether the other Board members had been given advance notice of Mrs. Goren’s request.
The members agreed that Mrs. Goren had notified them in advance of this request and that all of their questions and concerns have been addressed. Mr. Jirele said that although he did not know the particulars of the fundraising effort, he did know that the funds are still needed for both completion of the project and for ongoing maintenance.
The motion passed 4-0.
Manager: Mr. Pellegrino praised the efforts of the Township public works and emergency departments and office staff during the recent power failure. He said that the municipal complex lost power, and the 25-year old generator also failed. He said that he would recommend purchasing a new generator for the main building as well as for the codes and public works departments. The fire and police departments’ communications systems have battery back up. During the power failure there was no failure of communications systems. The Nextel walkie-talkie system was invaluable during this emergency.
Solicitor: Mr. Jirele moved to table action of JMZO 2006-05 Agricultural Sales and Agricultural Entertainment Accessory Uses to August 23, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt JMZO Ordinance 2006-07 – Commercial Nursery and Greenhouse uses. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to table JMZO Ordinance 2006-09 – Amendments regarding VR-1 and VC-1 Zoning Districts to August 23, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt JMZO Ordinance 2006-12 – Deleting Babysitting Provisions From Section 803. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned whether eliminating babysitting provisions from the ordinance would compromise safety.
Mr. Beckert explained that all safety requirements would still be in place, as these are State requirements. This amendment would eliminate the zoning requirement for a conditional use approval for the temporary care of three or fewer children, making it a matter of right under the “no impact” business definition. He explained the ordinance definition of “temporary” as including regular daily care, but not full time boarding.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Beckert reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board applications.
Mr. Beckert said that there would be an executive session, but that no action would be taken.
Engineer: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release of $10,0389.50 to Vincent and Sally Lombardi for 123-125 Sycamore Street. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Public Comment: Resident Jonathan Haller requested Board signatures confirming his attendance at the meeting.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained that Mr. Beckert “brokered a deal” for the sale of the Brandywine property to a developer of age-qualified housing. She questioned whether Mr. Beckert, as attorney of record to the appellants in the Brandywine Zoning Hearing Board decision, has a conflict of interest in this matter. She also questioned whether Mrs. Goren also has a possible conflict of interest, as she has been involved in a suit with the Township and the developer of her own property over the zoning of her development, which adjoins this property. She noted that Mrs. Goren has been involved in a review by the State Ethics Board. She complained that during the Brandywine hearings, those opposed cited traffic as their main objection, however the proposed age-qualified development of 150 homes will also generate a great deal of traffic. She also complained about Mrs. Goren’s comments in the Courier Times about the development of the Melsky property by Toll Brothers.
Mr. Beckert said that he was not involved in the deal between Brandywine and McGrath Builders. All attorneys involved in the appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board decision in Brandywine had no objection to Mr. Beckert’s withdrawal as counsel to the appellant and representation of the Township as solicitor. Mr. Beckert said that the State Ethics Board has found no conflict of interest in Mrs. Goren’s votes regarding Brandywine. He noted that the State finds conflict of interest when a party, or a member of his family, directly benefits financially by a vote.
Mrs. Goren said that she had sued the builder of her home for misrepresentation of the zoning of her development as residential, not office research. She did not sue the Township. The State Ethics Board had found no conflict of interest when it reviewed a complaint lodged against her. She also said that she had been misquoted in the newspaper article on the Melsky tract.
The meeting adjourned at 9:48 PM.
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