Board of Supervisors
Minutes of August 23, 2006
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasure, Jerry Schenkman and members Thomas Jirele and Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor, Edward Koehler, 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, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: none
Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo questioned the accuracy of an article in the Bucks County Courier Times that indicates the Township’s consideration of withdrawal from the jointure.
Mrs. Goren said that Mr. Pellegrino had not been directed by any member of the Board to contact Upper Makefield to discuss withdrawal from the jointure. She noted the hard work done by Upper Makefield’s Board of Supervisors to come to an agreement on the proposed veterans cemetery.
Mr. Pellegrino said that he has had a conversation with the Upper Makefield Township Manager about Newtown’s position in the jointure.
Resident David Riker of Stoopville Road said that he has no objections to plans for a cemetery in Upper Makefield, however, with the cemetery and increased development, he is very concerned about traffic impact. He requested that approval of plans not be given without a traffic study and some traffic calming along Stoopville Road.
Resident Walt Iwaskiw questioned recent violations at Rosebank Winery, where he had observed three tents, where only one is permitted. He said that one of the tents he observed was over a deck.
Mr. Beckert said that the Code Enforcement Officer has issued a notice of violation. Rosebank’s attorneys have indicated that the large tent had been blown over, and in its place another large tent, joined together with two small tents, had been erected. The conjoined tent is smaller in square footage than the original tent. The smaller tents have been removed, and the larger tent will be removed after a September 29, 2006 event. The violation notice is being held in abeyance. He has visited the site, as has the Code Enforcement Officer. He suggested Mr. Iwaskiw contact his office if he had additional concerns or questions.
Resident Robert Ciervo expressed concern about recent decisions to rezone properties to accommodate high-density housing. He was particularly concerned about the stipulation agreement settling a lawsuit, which allows high-density housing on a tract previously zoned for office research, noting that the office research district does have some provision for residential use. He said that the rezoning should only be done through the jointure. He questioned the Supervisors’ commitment to the jointure.
Mrs. Goren responded that she has some concerns about the number of sites available for high-density housing. The answer should not always be Newtown. She also said that the Supervisors would not be discussing withdrawal from the jointure at the September 18 meeting, as rumored, but would be reviewing the recently updated comprehensive plan.
Mr. Ciervo continued to express concern about all of the high-density and age-qualified housing being approved here.
Resident Ethel Hibbs said that she is very concerned about the clearing of trees at the Delancey Court property on Durham Road. She said that McGrath’s agreement with the Township only permits removal of brush, but many trees are being destroyed. She read a brief poem lamenting the loss of mature trees, and questioned whether McGrath would be required to replace them.
Mr. Beckert said that the land development plans would be reviewed by the Board in September.
Resident John D’Aprile expressed concern about the newspaper article referring to Newtown Township’s withdrawal from the jointure, and about the Toll/cemetery plans.
Lower Makefield Resident Claudia Fontaine expressed concern about increased traffic on Stoopville Road if the Toll/cemetery plan goes through.Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of July 17, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Hibbs noted that page two should refer to HVAC, and suggested that on page three, reference to “large delivery trucks” should specify the axle size.
Mr. Weaver amended his motion to include the correction. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of August 9, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Hibbs noted that page 4, paragraph 11 should read, “…lawns would be reseeded and mulched in September of 2006.”
Mr. Weaver amended his motion. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Bills Lists: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $189,963.31. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the expense for camp buses.
Mr. Pellegrino assured Mrs. Crescenzo that the camps are self-sufficient.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $192,113.75. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Shawn Ward reported that the Commission recommended approval of conditional use for Affinity Insurance Solutions, 123 North Sycamore Street.
The Commission reviewed a final plan for major subdivision for Delancey Court, 398 Durham Road, and recommended approval subject to the following conditions:
The Commission tabled discussion of the Villas at Newtown preliminary plan for major subdivision.
The Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Joseph W. McGrath for 298 North Sycamore Street. The plan would create street front access to retail and commercial units along Sycamore Street, with a freestanding pharmacy to the rear. The property is zoned PC, however the plan is designed to more closely comply with TC zoning. There was some concern about the proposed parking, but otherwise the Commission recommended that the Supervisors support this application.
Mr. Jirele expressed some concern about the submission of a plan that conforms to the TC zoning standards on a property that is zoned PC. He said that applicants do not choose which zoning standards they would rather comply with, but must comply with the existing zoning district’s requirements. He asked that Mr. Ward review the differences between PC and TC.
Mr. Ward said that impervious surface is limited to 50% in the PC district, but is 80% in the TC district. The TC district requires sidewalks. He explained that the Commission members preferred TC type of development for this parcel, as it completes the “downtown” style of the recent Sycamore Street revitalization. He noted that, while the concept plan showed 84% impervious surface, the current use has 65% impervious, already above the permitted allowance in the PC district.
Mrs. Goren said that the concept plan had been discussed at a recent work session, and that the Board of Supervisors had indicated a preference for a proposal in keeping with the Sycamore Street streetscape.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Ward said that the Planning Commission had not reviewed the plans for land development, but only a Zoning Hearing Board application. He said that it had been the Commission’s impression that the Board of Supervisors approved of this concept.
Mr. Jirele said that he had serious concerns about what would amount to rezoning of the property without going through a rezoning process. He said that he is very concerned about the increase in impervious surface. He also questioned whether the Planning Commission had a quorum when it voted on this recommendation.
Mr. Ward said that he did not think that the Planning Commission must have a quorum to make recommendations, as it is an advisory board, only.
The Commission recommended approval of JMZO-2006-05, Agricultural Accessory Use, and rejection of JMZO-2006-09, Revising Impervious Surface Limitations and Dimensional Criteria in the VR-1 and VC-1 Zoning Districts. The members were concerned that, while there are not any VR-1 and VC-1 districts in Newtown, this amendment would limit or eliminate certain uses that could have gone on these sites.
Telecommunications Advisory Committee: Committee member Harry Stevens reported that the committee met with Mr. Jeter of Comcast on August 2, 2006 to discuss the recent channel line-ups. He said that a franchise agreement has been reached with Verizon and asked Mr. Pellegrino to discuss this.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Verizon had held a meeting with representatives of the municipalities to discuss VIOS technology. The municipalities in attendance later formed a consortium to pool resources and reduce costs of negotiation with Verizon. Newtown Township took the lead and drafted an ordinance to form the group. Member municipalities were able to share legal costs and preserve the franchise fees for all participating.
Mr. Schenkman commended the work done by the consortium during difficult negotiations.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the agreement provides for a process to report difficulties and resolve problems with Verizon. Verizon will provide public access, educational and government channels.
Mr. Stevens said that the advisory committee voted to recommend that the Township adopt the agreement. He suggested posting it on the Township Web site. He thanked current and past Board members, especially Scott Harp, for their support in bringing cable competition to Newtown.
Mr. Pellegrino said that there is still some concern about bringing the service to businesses, but he hopes that Verizon will want to compete with Comcast and will bring service to the business districts. He expects cable competition to be available in early 2007.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize advertisement to adopt the agreement with Verizon. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo complained that a vote was being taken on an item not on the agenda.
The motion passed unanimously.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Certificate of Appropriateness for Shanfeld Chiropractic – 9 Cambridge Lane:
Mrs. Hibbs reported that HARB had some reservations about the appropriateness of the size of one of the signs.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the freestanding sign and to deny approval of the wall mounted sign. Mrs. Goren seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Beckert said that the size of the shopping center is not included in the application. The applicant must establish that the center is larger than five acres in order to qualify for two signs. The applicant is entitled to the additional sign if the property fronts on two streets.
Mr. Jirele said that he has concerns about multi-use tenants.
Mrs. Hibbs said that some of the signs in the shopping center, that are referred to in the application, have been granted relief by the Zoning Hearing Board and some are outside the historic district.
Mr. Calabro questioned whether, if the applicant is entitled to only one sign, the Board was limiting the applicant’s choice.
Mrs. Hibbs said that the applicant could return to HARB to express a preference.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Hibbs reported that HARB has purchased a plaque in memory of Eleanor Campbell, to honor her dedication to historic preservation in Newtown, especially at the Newtown Presbyterian Church, at a cost of $250.67. She asked that the plaque be paid as an expense item in the HARB budget. She presented a photograph of the proposed plaque.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that this be added to the agenda for a September meeting in order that the Board could vote to approve the expenditure.
Mr. Jirele asked about increased signage along Sycamore Street, in particular, about banners on “The Saloon”.
Mr. Beckert asked that HARB inventory all approved signage, in order for the codes officer to notify those in violation, first with a telephone requesting removal, to be followed by a letter, if necessary.
Conditional Use – Affinity Insurance Solutions – 123 N. Sycamore Street: Mrs. Goren asked if anyone present wished to be party to this application. There was no response.
Property owner Vincent Lombardi and operator Christopher Cice were sworn in.
Mr. Beckert entered the following exhibits:
Mr. Cice said that he would like to open a small property/casualty insurance office at 123 N. Sycamore Street, with hours Monday through Friday 9 to 5, with no weekend hours. He would have one additional employee on the premises.
In response to Mr. Beckert’s questions, Mr. Lombardi said that the property has 14 parking spaces. Affinity Insurance will occupy 700 square feet, and will be assigned 3.5 spaces. Other tenants have already been assigned 7 spaces, leaving a total of 3.5 spaces for future tenants.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Cice said that he did not expect to have hours beyond 5:00 PM. He said that he might occasionally remain in the office beyond 5:00 PM, but the business would not be open. He did not think it would be necessary to amend his application to include extended hours.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about parking in and around this business, and said that she did not think 3.5 parking spaces would be enough for the business, with two employees, clients and delivery trucks.
Mr. Beckert said that the Ordinance requires 3.5 parking spaces, and the Township cannot require more.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Cice said that he is relocating an existing business. He has conducted most business over the telephone or by mail, and has had no client visit him. He expects only occasional deliveries other than mail.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant conditional use approval for Affinity Insurance Solutions for a D-1 office use at 123 Sycamore Street, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Schenkman’s suggestion that deliveries be limited to morning hours before 10:00 AM, Mr. Lombardi said that mail and UPS deliveries to this street are after 11:00 AM each morning. There have never been problems with mail or UPS trucks blocking traffic, and the driveway area is sufficient.
The motion passed unanimously.
Conditional Use – The Promenade at Sycamore – North Sycamore Street: Mrs. Goren opened the conditional use hearing.
Mr. Beckert said that the applicant has requested an extension to September 27, 2006. He indicated that the conditional use hearing would not be part of land development.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to hear this application before the applicant appears before the Zoning Hearing Board, in order for this Board to determine whether to support the Zoning Hearing Board application.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that, since the Board had previously voted to support the application, it should review its position in light of changes to the plan, before the Zoning Hearing Board meeting.
Mr. Calabro said that he would prefer that the applicant proceed to the Zoning Hearing Board first.
Mr. Weaver moved to continue the conditional use hearing of Promenade at Sycamore to September 27, 2006. Mr. Calabro seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to close the conditional use hearing of Promenade at Sycamore. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Jirele expressed concern about the Board’s previous decision to support the Zoning Hearing Board application.
Mr. Jirele moved to withdraw his motion to support the Zoning Hearing Board application of the Promenade at Sycamore. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Goren said that she would like to review the current, possibly revised, application, and compare it to the original concept.
Mr. Schenkman noted that if the Board’s support is vacated, a new motion could be made after review of revised applications.
The motion passed unanimously.
PRD Variance – Louis and Joann Leigh – 54 Copperleaf Drive: Mr. Beckert entered the following exhibits:
Mr. Leigh explained that he would like to put an addition on the rear of his home for a computer room/office and Florida room.
Township Engineer Edward Koehler said that the plans do not show grading details or roof drains. He said that the increase in impervious surface would require installation of a dry well. He explained the installation process and said that a dry well would be covered by lawn and would not be visible. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, he said that a new Pennsylvania regulation now requires these. He said that the Leigh’s engineers would be able to help them to add grading to the plan and comply with the requirement for a dry well.
Mr. Schenkman said that Mr. and Mrs. Leigh are his neighbors, and he supports this application.
Mr. Leigh agreed that he would not seek additional impervious surface coverage, and will comply with the engineer’s review letter.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant a PRD variance to allow an increase in impervious surface of 8.5%. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Manager: Mr. Jirele moved to authorize signing of improvement agreement for 54 Penns Trail, LLC, Penns Terrace Office Park. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize signing of Mylars for 54 Penns Trail, LLC, Penns Terrace Office Park. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment #15 for Sycamore Street enhancements, construction inspection. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment #18 for Sycamore Street enhancements, construction inspection. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment #25 for Sycamore Street construction improvements. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment #26 for Sycamore Street for construction improvements. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment #27 for Sycamore Street for construction improvements. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Pellegrino reported that representatives of the Township, LSAC and Newtown Gate Homeowners Association met recently to choose an appropriate light fixture to satisfy residents’ concerns. An agreement was reached and replacement fixtures are to be ordered and installed.
The Board discussed the “no turn on red” sign at the intersection of Jefferson St. and Sycamore Street. Mr. Calabro said that perhaps some of the congestion would be relieved if the stop line were moved back to allow a wider turning area.
Mr. Calabro moved to authorize Pennoni Associates to restudy this intersection. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Pellegrino said that he had been told that there is not sufficient sight line distance to permit a right turn on red. He suggested that the Township Engineer look at the intersection.
Mr. Calabro amended his motion to request the Township Engineer to study the intersection to possibly push back the stop traffic line. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo said that she wanted the Board to also address the back-up of traffic at the Swamp Road/Sycamore Street intersection.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Gilmore & Associates is already doing an analysis of this intersection. He also noted that the traffic lights have recently been adjusted to add seconds to the green lights on the side streets. This has helped with back up.
The motion passed unanimously.
Public Hearing to authorize enactment of JMZO Ordinance 2006-0 – Agricultural Sales and Entertainment Accessory Uses: Mrs. Crescenzo asked about the provision for entertainment until 11:00PM for wine tasting events.
Mr. Beckert explained that the only winery in Newtown is governed by a separate agreement, which dictates ending times for events; however the ordinance for agricultural accessory use governs agriculture other than wineries. In response to her question about flea markets, he said that flea markets are specifically excluded.
Resident Bill Sterling questioned the provision that forbids produce grown on other properties from being sold at a farm stand. He said that in addition to farming his own land, he leases other properties, and brings produce from those properties to his farm stand. He expressed concern about the parking requirements, and the need for permits for educational programs, noting that he sometimes allows scout troops to tour his farm. He said that he is also concerned about his protections as an agricultural security area.
Mr. Beckert said that in drafting the Ordinance there had been concern about agricultural entertainment, and turning farms into amusement parks. He said that he has brought Mr. Sterling’s questions to the jointure.
Mrs. Goren said that she did not think that educational tours are addressed in the Ordinance. She said that she is in favor of supporting the portions of the ordinance dealing with agricultural entertainment, but has concerns about the agricultural sales aspects.
Mrs. Hibbs suggested that the Board review the Bucks County Planning Commission review letter, which touches on a number of these concerns.
Mr. Jirele suggested that this hearing be tabled to allow Mr. Beckert to get an opinion of the definition of farm stand from the jointure solicitor, and for the Board to review the Bucks County Planning Commission letter.
Mr. Jirele moved to table enactment of JMZO Amendment 2006-05. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Public Hearing authorizing enactment of JMZO 2006-09 – amendment regarding VC-1 and VR-1 zoning districts: Mr. Beckert said that this amendment would limit impervious surface coverage in these two zoning districts. Wrightstown has opted out of the amendment. There are no VC-1 or VR-1 districts in Newtown. Upper Makefield has requested the amendment, which limits impervious surface coverage in some areas to 18%.
Mrs. Goren said that, although Newtown is not directly affected, she would prefer to consider this amendment after the review of the updated comprehensive plan.
Mr. Jirele disagreed. He said that the amendment only affects Upper Makefield. Newtown has recently asked the jointure to pass zoning changes that only affect Newtown, and the other municipalities have cooperated, even when there were misgivings and concerns. He asked the Board to cooperate with the requests of the other jointure municipalities.
Mrs. Goren said that the change would preclude Upper Makefield from having supermarkets or other intensive commercial uses. The burden of accommodating these uses then falls to Newtown.
The Board briefly discussed the possible negative impact of the proposed ordinance.
Mr. Beckert said that the Jointure is now requiring that the originating municipality provide a statement of the intent and purpose for the requested amendment. He suggested that the Township Planner be asked to provide an analysis of the impact on Newtown.
Mrs. Hibbs said that documentation had been provided to the Township’s Planning Commission. She suggested that the members review the Bucks County Planning Commission review letter.
Mr. Jirele moved to authorize adoption of JMZO 2006-09. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele expressed concern about the Board’s inconsistency on matters involving impervious surface. He wanted the Board to be consistent in its decisions in that regard.
Mr. Schenkman and Mr. Calabro expressed concern about voting without full understanding of the impact the amendment would have on Newtown.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained that although this item appears on the agenda, the members have come to the meeting unprepared to vote.
Mr. Jirele said that it is reasonable to allow the two newer Board members additional time to become familiar with the proposed ordinances.
Mr. Jirele withdrew his motion and moved to table discussion to September 13, 2006.
Mr. Beckert discussed the need to re-advertise the hearing. He was concerned that tabling until September 13 would not allow sufficient time to re-advertise twice, as required by law.
Mr. Jirele withdrew his motion to table to September 13. Mr. Jirele moved to table discussion to September 27, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Beckert reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board applications.
Mr. Jirele said that he had some concerns about the McGrath/Goodnoe tract application’s request for parking variances. He compared the site’s proposed uses to Village at Newtown South, where parking is becoming inadequate at times.
Mr. Jirele moved to send the solicitor to oppose the McGrath/Goodnoe tract Zoning Hearing Board application for increased impervious surface. The motion failed to be seconded.
Mr. Beckert said that there would be a need for an executive session.
Mr. Jirele asked whether there has been any progress in plans for sidewalks and streetscape improvements in the Business Commons.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Township Planner Judith Stern Goldstein has prepared a draft that will be reviewed shortly.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that the trail committee should be re-activated. She complimented Upper Makefield’s Township Web site. She complained that some committees’ minutes are not yet on the Web site, and that some members of the Planning Commission have not had consistent attendance, and that all committee members should commit to attending meetings.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45 PM.