Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 20, 2006
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Monday, November 20, 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, Edward F. 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.
Invocation: The invocation was given by Reverend Sandra Reed of St. Mark’s AME Zion Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Superintendent Mark Klein of Council Rock School District, along with School Board Members Richard Abramson and Alan Harvison, were in attendance to thank the Newtown Township Police Department for its help in the recent bomb scare at Council Rock High Schools North and South. Mr. Klein thanked Chief Duffy, Captain Moorehead and Sergeant Hartman and his K-9 unit, who all worked to insure that the school was safe for the students and staff. They continue to work together with the Northampton Police Department on the ongoing investigation into the bomb threats, and coordinated extra security after the high school was re-opened to students.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo questioned an expense on the August 4, 2006 bills list for supplies for guide rails in Silver Lake Park, when no such rails have been installed. She questioned the delay in installation, and the wisdom of opening the park to the public without the guide rails, handicapped parking spaces or weight restrictions on the culvert. She reviewed minutes of a 2002 Park and Recreation Board discussion on Clark Nature Center, questioning why some of the ideas discussed had not yet been implemented. She complained about the expense of fencing for the 4-H Club garden project, and suggested that a “Friends of Clark Nature Center” group should be formed to do work at the center.
Resident Jim Bowe, a member of the Planning Commission, said that the Planning Commission has not reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Promenade at Sycamore. It is to be reviewed at the meeting tomorrow, but the Planning Commission will not have an opportunity to make a recommendation before the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. He did want the Board to know his own concerns about the application, however. He noted that the new plans have eliminated the third floor of the building, which reduces some of the parking requirements, but also eliminates the residential use for the property. He said that he is concerned that there is still not adequate parking. He is concerned about traffic back-up at the loading area because there is only one entrance to the rear parking area proposed.
Special Action: On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and the Township, Chairman Goren presented a proclamation congratulating Sean Nyquist on his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 380. Among Mr. Nyquist’s Eagle Scout projects was coordinating a clothing and supply drive for troops stationed in, and residents of, Bagdad.
Mr. Nyquist thanked the Supervisors, and particularly thanked the residents of Newtown who generously gave much needed clothing and baby supplies to his collection drive.
Member Comments: Mr. Weaver said that he had received resident complaints about a large pothole on Newtown Yardley Road. This problem is to be addressed immediately.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of October 16, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mrs. Goren abstaining.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 25, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the budget meeting of November 8, 2006. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,215,209.42 for November 8, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned a payment for Wrights Road drainage repairs.
Mr. Pellegrino said that this is for work in Mardot Village.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $179,746.18 for November 8, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $521,909.91 for November 20, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $150,000 for November 20, 2006. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mr. Weaver moved to issue a certificate of appropriateness for Stephen H. Berkowitz, Esq. At 281 North Sycamore Street. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to issue certificates of appropriateness for 123 North Sycamore Street, signs A-1, A-2, A-3 and B-1. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to issue a certificate of appropriateness for a joint use sign at 123 North Sycamore Street. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to issue a certificate of appropriateness for “Creekside” 123 North Sycamore Street. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Land Development Projects
Final Plan for Minor Subdivision – DeLuca (St. Andrew’s Convent) Sycamore Street: Attorney Ed Murphy reviewed the plan to subdivide the St. Andrew’s Convent lot. The Zoning Hearing Board has already granted relief for the smaller lot size, impervious surface ratio and setbacks. Lot #1 would contain Old St. Andrew’s Church, parking lot and Cemetery. Lot #2 would be the convent site, only. The Archdiocese is trying to keep this lot as small as possible to retain the land needed for Church use. The convent is a 3000 square-foot building. The easement for parking would be “in perpetuity”. HARB has agreed to the exterior changes.
Mr. Beckert noted that a condition of these variances is that the parking easement “in perpetuity” be reviewed by the Township Solicitor.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked about stormwater management for a property backing onto Newtown Creek.
Mr. Murphy said that the existing stormwater management is adequate, as there is to be no modification to the existing impervious surface.
Resident Ethel Hibbs asked about a demolition permit for the existing deck.
Mr. Murphy said that all necessary permits would be applied for.Mr. Weaver moved to grant approval for a minor subdivision of 135 South Sycamore Street into two lots, with lot #1 containing Old St. Andrew’s Church, cemetery and parking areas, and lot #2 containing the existing convent building, and measuring 0.1755 acres, subject to the following conditions:
The Following waivers are granted:
Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Mrs. Goren reported that the Exchange Club’s Wee Care Bear program would be assembling bears to be donated to the police department for distribution to children during emergency situations on December 1 at Newtown Elementary School. She thanked all who participate in the program, especially Principal King of Newtown Elementary, Scott Harp and Jean Tanner.
2007 Budget: Mr. Pellegrino asked the Board to adopt the preliminary budget that had been presented on November 8, 2006. This is a balanced budget with $9,700,000 in appropriations, no tax increase and no reduction in services. The budget must be advertised and available to the public for twenty days. This preliminary budget can be changed at any time, with any line item changed by 10% and the entire budget up to 25%.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she objects to the Park and Recreation Department budget, which contains a shortfall. She expressed concern about borrowing money to cover this shortfall and about the conditions at Clark Nature Center.
Mr. Schenkman said that no money is being borrowed; $30,000 is being transferred from the reserve in a $15,000,000 budget. There is money in the Park and Recreation budget to address problems at the Clark Nature Center.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained about the lack of employees to groom playing fields and about the salary of the Township Naturalist.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt the preliminary budget, as presented on November 8, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
2006 Consortium Pipe Bid: Mr. Jirele moved to award pipe bids to Kennedy Culvert for corrugated steel and aluminum pipe and bands, Chemung Supply for smooth bore N-12 poly vinyl pipe and all PVC pipe, and Terre Hill Concrete for concrete inlet tops, boxes, steel grates and concrete end walls. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Pellegrino explained that the pipes are supplies used by the Township throughout the year for culvert replacement and stormwater management repairs. Each community accepts bids separately and the pipes are available for purchase as needed.
The motion passed unanimously.
JDNC Main Street Resolution: Mr. Pellegrino explained that this resolution acknowledges transfer of State grant funds to the JDNC Main Street program. This is required for the program.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt the resolution approving the sub-recipient agreement acknowledging Township obligation to transfer State grant funds to the JDNC Main Street program. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Educational Channel License Agreement: Mr. Pellegrino explained that this is an ongoing agreement with a three year term between the Township and Council Rock School District and Bucks County Community College to allow the College and School District to use the cable channel, and to indemnify the Township.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize signing of the Educational Channel License Agreement. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Sycamore Street Payment: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment of $44,636.54 for the Sycamore Street project. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Pellegrino said that this payment exhausts the funds for the project. The Township is seeking additional funding.
The motion passed unanimously.
Realty Transfer Tax : Mr. Beckert explained that the Township Ordinance revising the Realty Transfer Tax has been advertised for passage. This Ordinance, relating to the computation of interest on delinquent payments, is necessary in order to bring the Township Ordinance in line with requirements of state law.
Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt the realty Transfer Tax Amendment. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications: Mr. Beckert reviewed applications to the Zoning Hearing Board for Rick Steele’s Gulf Service, DeLuca Corporate Center, Dugan, Barsky, and 826 Newtown Associates. The Board made no comment on these applications.
Attorney David Sander, representing Eliot Building Group, and L. Scott Mill of Van Cleef Engineering, were in attendance to review the application of The Promenade at Sycamore.
Mr. Sander said that the new plans show a two story building with a first story of 20,980 square feet of retail space and 5,960 square feet of restaurant space; the second floor is 30,440 square feet of office space. The third story of the building is no longer part of the plan, nor is the third level of the parking structure. Removal of the third level of parking reduces the garage to 144 parking stalls.
Mr. Sander reviewed each variance request:
Mr. Sander showed a sketch of the elevation proposed, noting its relation to the Newtown Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Beckert indicated that the Church would be satisfied that this new plan’s height is lower than the Church.
Regarding parking, Mr. Sander said that it is difficult to determine demand and shared use because there are currently no tenants. He said that the plan meets the requirements of the redevelopment agreement.
Mr. Beckert advised the Board that the traffic engineer has concerns about the adequacy of the parking. If the restaurant were to have an intense use, such as a bar that attracted a younger clientele, arriving in separate cars, there is not adequate parking. He asked whether the applicant would agree to a condition that each prospective tenant, when applying for conditional use, could be turned down based on the parking.
Mr. Jirele said that at the planning stages it had always been known that there would not be adequate parking; it was understood that with mixed uses and some on-street parking, the plan could be viable. Each tenant’s parking requirements could be reviewed at the time of conditional use application.
Mr. Beckert expressed some concern that if a variance were granted to permit the reduced parking, this could supersede the Supervisors’ withholding of conditional use approval.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert said that it would probably not be possible to hear all conditional use applications at the same time. He noted that the applicant intends to apply for a generic conditional use approval for all uses shortly.
Mr. Sander said that he did not think it would be possible to have all tenants apply for conditional use approval at the same time, however each prospective tenant’s parking requirements could be considered at the time of application. With the variance, the applicant has the right to develop the property with 144 parking spaces. Conditional use approval is given at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors. In response to Mr. Jirele’s concerns about hearing a generic conditional use application, Mr. Sander said that each tenant would still be required to obtain approval. This process would just give approval to develop the property for office, retail and restaurant use. Mr. Sander indicated that Eliot intends to use a portion of the second floor for its headquarters. Conditional use would be for general office use only, not medical use.
Mr. Beckert said that the Church has concerns about the steep slopes, because of the possibility of water run-off.
Mr. Miller said that the plan is not yet fully engineered, however swales are planned to direct run-off to inlet drains to a collection basin.
Mr. Sander said that the loading areas are planned to accommodate UPS style delivery trucks. There is no access for tractor trailers. Mr. Sander agreed to Mr. Beckert’s request that deliveries and refuse removal be arranged for off-hours.
Mr. Beckert and Mr. Sander discussed whether the issuance of a parking variance would preclude denial of conditional use for insufficient parking. Mr. Sander indicated that the variance was sought in order to develop the site. Each applicant would still need to apply for an individual conditional use, approval of which could be based on adequacy of parking.
Mr. Beckert advised the Board that he is very concerned about the overlapping parking needs for retail and restaurant, with shops remaining open for business during the dinner hours.
Mr. Sander said that the applicant seeks to locate one up-scale restaurant in the building, although no specific tenant is yet committed to the location.
Mr. Beckert discussed the possibility of limiting the percentage of the business intake of alcohol sales, or limiting the number of seats at the bar, in order to prevent the restaurant from being primarily a destination bar.
Mr. Schenkman said that such limits would be unenforceable and would also prove a disincentive for a successful business. He disagreed with other suggestions from the Board for a “reservations only” policy, a “dinner only” policy, or limited bar occupancy.
Mr. Sander again said that the location would be one up-scale restaurant with a liquor license. He agreed that there could be some overlap of parking needs among shoppers, early diners and late office workers, but he suggested that this would probably not be at peak times. He pointed out that there are numerous on-street parking spaces available and the goal of the Sycamore Street revitalization has been a pedestrian friendly shopping district.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained about this lengthy “bickering”. She said that the Supervisors created the problem by requiring intensive uses for the property. She began to complain about parking at Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Jirele disagreed with Mrs. Crescenzo, noting that there has been some important communication and the discussion has been very productive.
Mr. Calabro questioned whether a three level parking garage is out of the question.
Mr. Sander said that a third level could add 40 to 50 additional parking spaces, however it would add greatly to the cost of the project. It might be necessary to charge a fee for parking.
The Board briefly discussed the availability of on-street parking and fees for garage parking. It was agreed that the owners of the garage could charge a fee, offer parking validation to customers, or use designated areas for employee parking. The Board did require that Newtown Presbyterian Church would have the use, free of charge, for members attending services and Church sponsored events.
Mr. Beckert reviewed again each variance request, polling the Board as to whether the members would require him to attend the Zoning Hearing Board meeting in support of the application.
Members agreed to support the requests for variances for steep slopes, woodland disturbances, front and rear setbacks, and height. If parking spaces were double striped, the members would support the stall size variance. Members again discussed the request for reduced parking, and agreed that they would support a request for 200 spaces. This would require the addition of a half-level to the garage.
Mr. Weaver noted that the Board had agreed to support the project, as part of the redevelopment agreement, knowing that numerous variances would be required.
Mr. Weaver moved to send the Township Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to support the application of The Promenade at Sycamore Street for D-1 office use, 30,440 square feet, first floor E-1 retail use, 20,980 square feet, and first floor E-5 eating place use, 5,960 square feet, for variances as follows:
Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Schenkman and Calabro voting nay.
Engineer’s Report: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment Certificate #2 of the 2006 Road Improvement Program in the amount of $2,385.84. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize signing of Mylars for Villas at Newtown Preliminary as Final Plan. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Comprehensive Plan Review Committee Mission Statement: Mrs. Goren read into the record the proposed mission statement for the Newtown Township Comprehensive Plan Review Committee:
Mr. Jirele commented that the statement seemed lengthy, and not in keeping with the idea for a “visioning” committee, as suggested by Mr. Calabro.
Mr. Calabro agreed, noting that he has suggested a “visioning” committee that would not be limited in scope to “land use goals”, but to all aspects of the current and future quality of life in Newtown.
In response to Mr. Pellegrino’s comment that revenue enhancements fall under the purview of the Financial Planning Committee, Mr. Calabro noted that he expected a visioning committee to overlap with other existing committees.
Mr. Schenkman said that, while the update of the comprehensive plan will need to be reviewed, he would not like to limit a visioning committee to only that one charge. He would prefer a mission statement that, while not too broad, would encompass more than just comprehensive plan review.
Mrs. Goren noted that zoning and land use greatly affect the quality of life, and she would like the committee’s first charge to be to review the Comprehensive Plan.
After further discussion, Mr. Pellegrino suggested tabling the mission statement at this time. He would speak to the Township Planner about reviewing the draft comprehensive plan with the Board of Supervisors. A mission statement for a “visioning committee” would be drafted and presented to the Board for consideration.
Public Comment: Resident Ethel Hibbs asked when the old Acme building would be demolished and whether there is any information about the boarded up houses on Durham Road.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the agreement with Eliot Builders allows sixty days from issuance of a building permit for the removal of the old Acme Building.
Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the Board’s use of the phrase “quality of life”. She reviewed old Park and Recreation Board minutes that referred to safety issues at the Clark barn, and asked about plans for a skate park.
Mr. Calabro said that the Park and Recreation Board is currently working with a group of high school students interested in planning for a skate park at the Woll tract. These students have been provided with all research produced by previous skate park committees.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained about parking, handicapped access weight restrictions and guide rails at Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Jirele expressed some concern about the parking at Silver Lake Park, and the use of the park by the public.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the Public Works Department will be installing the guide rails. There is no weigh limit on the culvert.
The meeting adjourned at 11:20PM.