Board of Supervisors
Minutes of January 10, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 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 Rabbi Howard Cove of Kol Emmet Reconstructionist Congregation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Larry Raffle said that he is a member of the Council Rock Tax Study Commission, but was speaking as a private citizen. He said that on May 15, 2007, the voters would decide by referendum whether to adopt Act 1. Adoption would generate a reduction in property tax of 25%, and an increase in earned income tax of 0.9%. The average property tax reduction would be about $942, for those residents who have signed up for the Homestead Tax Exclusion. He went on to explain that the Council Rock Tax Study Commission is recommending that the School District adopt an increase in the earned income tax, not the personal income tax. Adoption of Act 1 would most benefit those property owners, such as seniors, who do not have any earned income. There are 2400 Newtown Township property owners who have not signed for the Homestead Act Exclusion yet. The deadline is March 1, 2007. Mr. Raffle said that he would provide the Township with a copy of the list of those properties which have not sought the Homestead Act Exclusion. He asked that property owners with questions about the Tax Study Group, Act 1 or the exclusion, please phone him at 215-497-0180 or the County Tax Collector at 215-348-6000.
At the Board’s suggestion, Mr. Pellegrino agreed to post a notice about this on both the cable channel and the Township Web site. He said that concerned residents could phone the Township for further information, or to check the list for their homes.Resident Nancy Crescenzo asked the Board what its expectations are for the coming year. She suggested a mid-year or year-end evaluation. She said she would like to see some progress made toward a much needed municipal complex expansion, but would like the residents to have input into budget and funding for the project. She suggested that work sessions should be limited to work, without any votes, and that the televised regular meeting schedule should be expanded rather than holding regular meetings late into the evening. She announced that she would be running for Township Supervisor in this year’s election.
Historical Architectural Review Board Recognition: Mrs. Goren, on behalf of the Board, staff and residents, honored Terry McLean for his ten years on the Historical Architectural Review Board, as member and chairman, presenting him with a plaque and gavel. She thanked him for his dedication to the Township. He will be greatly missed.
Mr. McLean thanked the Board for this recognition. He said that he has enjoyed his time with HARB, and has many wonderful memories of working with the HARB members, especially with Elinor Campbell.
Sycamore Street Committee Recognition: On behalf of the Board, staff and residents, Mrs. Goren honored Shannon Wilson, Shawn Ward, Terry McLean, Karen Doorley, Mike Piazza, Melba Vittoriano, John Nejman, and Chairman Vince Lombardi for their tireless efforts over many years to complete the Sycamore Street improvement project. The committee applied for grants and worked on sidewalk, street lights, furniture, crosswalks, planting beds, and traffic improvements, making Sycamore Street a beautiful thoroughfare, for the benefit and enjoyment of all of our residents and visitors. She also thanked committee members not in attendance, Frank Tyrol, David Burns and Joe Merjeski.
Chairman Vince Lombardi thanked the Supervisors for the plaques presented commemorating the completion of the project. Mr. Lombardi said that the committee held over 80 meetings, countless sub-committee meetings, plus each donated many individual hours. Through the course of the project over 45 people had served as volunteers on the committee. He expressed thanks to all who participated.
Service Awards: Mrs. Goren presented a plaque to Ethel Hibbs for her twenty years service to the Township in many secretarial positions.
Mrs. Hibbs thanked the Board, commenting that her years as a Township employee have been a great pleasure, and she has, and will continue, to thoroughly enjoy her work in Newtown.
Mrs. Goren presented a plaque to Sergeant Robert Matthews for his twenty years as a Newtown Township Police Officer.
Sergeant Matthews thanked the Board for this recognition, and thanked his fellow officers for making his job such a wonderful experience.
Mrs. Goren presented a plaque to Police Chief Martin Duffy for thirty years with the Police Department, and thanked him for his dedication to the people of Newtown.
Chief Duffy thanked the Board for this wonderful honor, but said that his time in Newtown has been especially rewarding because of this fellow employees in the Police Department and in the Township. He particularly thanked Mr. Pellegrino for his support and help. He announced that he would be retiring from his position in April of 2008, after 31 years serving the people of Newtown.
Mrs. Goren presented a plaque honoring Sergeant Charles Patton for his thirty years of service to Newtown Township as a Police Officer.
Sergeant Patton thanked the Board for this honor, and thanked his family and the people of Newtown for making his job such a pleasure. He particularly thanked Chief Duffy for his support over the years.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of December 13, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the reorganization meeting of January 2, 2007. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Bills Lists: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills dated December13, 2006, totaling $227,046.10. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers for December 13, 2006, totaling $400,000. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills dated December 27, 2006., totaling $64,288. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned a payment to Stockburger Chevrolet for repair to the Township Manager’s car. She asked if the car belongs to the Manager, and if repairs are part of his contract.
Mrs. Goren said that the car was purchased by the Township for Mr. Pellegrino’s use. It is in his contract, as is standard practice throughout the country. When the Township conducted a search for a Township Manager, it was learned that in order to be competitive in recruiting a qualified candidate, the offer of a vehicle was necessary.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers for December 27, 2006, totaling $19,672.432. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills dated January 10, 2007, totaling $214,573.08. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Final Plan for Minor Subdivision – Lewis – 46 Maple Lane: Attorney Bill Dion represented the applicants, Geraldine and Jeffrey Lewis, who are seeking approval to subdivide their 2.8206 acre lot on Maple Lane in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, into two parcels, with lot #1 totaling 60,831 square feet and lot #2 totaling 62,038 square feet. Lot #1 contains the Lewis’s existing dwelling. Due to Mr. Lewis’s recent health issues, they would like to build and occupy a new, handicapped accessible house on lot #2. They have already been granted relief by the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Dion said that the applicant will comply with all review letters; the existing 8 inch pipe will be removed and a drainage swale will be installed. There had been some confusion about a Park and Recreation fee, but it seems that there is no fee calculated on a minor subdivision of fewer than three lots. He asked that the Board waive the traffic impact fee. The Lewis family is attempting to remain in the community and the subdivision and building of the new handicapped accessible house is the only way they can remain in Newtown Township. The applicants are only seeking approval for subdivision of the lot; no plans for building have been completed at this time.
Mrs. Goren said that this would be the Township’s only opportunity to collect a traffic impact fee; it cannot be collected at the time of sale of either lot. For this reason the Township does not usually waive the traffic impact fee.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked that the Board waive the traffic impact fee for this applicant.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve a minor subdivision for tax Map Parcel 29-04-03 into two residential lots subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Dion’s question, Mr. Beckert said that financial security agreements are included in the conditions only “if required”.
Mr. Schenkman noted that there was no mention of hardship in the application, and he asked if there was a financial hardship in paying the traffic impact fee.
Mr. Dion said that the Lewis family has lived in the Township for 33 years, and Mr. Lewis has recently faced some very serious health issues. He has been hospitalized most of the past year, and now requires a completely handicapped accessible home. The family is financially stable but the many fees and costs for subdivision are proving overwhelming.
Mrs. Lewis said that her husband has been very ill, and has accepted a disability retirement. While they are not poor, the family has had some financial setbacks associated with her husband’s illness. He has had one leg amputated, and currently needs full time in-home health care.
In response to the Board’s interest in postponing collection of the traffic impact fee, Mr. Beckert suggested that a unilateral declaration be signed so that the fee could be collected when either lot was sold. This would postpone collection of the fee, but would not be a lien on the property.
Mr. Schenkman moved to amend his motion to include postponement of collection of the traffic impact fee until the time when either lot one or lot two were sold. Mr. Weaver seconded the amended motion.
Discussion of Motion: Resident Roger Taylor said that while he sympathizes with the applicants, there is no provision in the ordinance for hardship. When Mr. Beckert repeated that the fee is not being waived, he said that, as a HARB volunteer, he has seen such agreements get lost and forgotten.
The motion passed unanimously.
Waiver of Land Development – Newtown Plaza Shopping Center: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant. Mr. Marshall said that the owners of the Newtown Plaza Shopping Center propose to construct an 1,800 square foot addition to the existing shopping center. The plans propose new off-street parking and the relocation of the existing driveway to be aligned with Eagle Road in conjunction with the Township’s plans for traffic improvements at that intersection. Some new parking spaces are planned, with employee parking in the rear of the building. Mr. Beckert has prepared an agreement with the Township regarding the intersection improvements which the applicant has already signed.
In response to Mr. Beckert’s question, Mr. Marshall said that an ice cream shop is planned for the addition, and that tenant would apply for a conditional use.
Mr. Calabro suggested that the existing driveway remain open for right turn entrance for deliveries and to help with traffic back-up during school or Church dismissal times.
Mr. Marshall said that the road is to be widened to help with traffic back-up. The applicant intends to use the area of the existing driveway for additional parking. This shopping center has no tractor-trailer deliveries, so entrance to the parking lot will not be a problem. He anticipated that the Township’s plans for a traffic light at the intersection of Swamp and Eagle Roads will also help greatly with traffic problems.
Mr. Jirele asked about the stop line for eastbound cars waiting to turn into the shopping center. He also expressed some concern for pedestrians, coming from the schools, crossing over to the ice cream shop.
Mr. Pellegrino said that a crosswalk would be planned for the intersection, and concerns about the stop line would be part of the PennDOT traffic signal permit application.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant a waiver of land development for an addition to the Newtown Plaza Shopping Center subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Final Plan for Major Subdivision – Rockbridge Drive – Washington Crossing Road: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant for a major subdivision of 10.84 acres off Washington Crossing Road in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District. Preliminary plan approval had been granted on June 9, 2004 for this property. Since that time the plan has been reduced from four lots to three, and the roadway is now a private drive. The Planning Commission discussed whether the second emergency access is still needed since the development has been reduced to only three lots, and it would eliminate an extra cut into Washington Crossing Road. Mr. Marshall said that the Fire Marshal would like the access, which would be packed soil, not paved. An additional waiver, from SALDO Section 505.5 is sought at the recommendation of the Planning Commission. This would allow for the private entrance road to have less than 100 feet of straight road.
Resident Jan Adamusco expressed concern about developing this tract of land, which is extremely environmentally sensitive. It is frequently swampy, and will have grave impact on the banks of Newtown Creek and on the residents and businesses downstream. She questioned whether the DEP has reviewed this plan, as Ms. Trabor at DEP said that no permits have been issued, and that the plans do not coincide with FEMA maps. Ms. Adamusco expressed dismay that there has been a waiver of the requirement for a tree count. She also suggested that there should be some kind of disclosure to buyers of the new homes that this property has been prone to flooding.
Mr. Beckert said that DEP permits would be required before building could begin. He also noted that there are conservation easements protecting the trees on the property except for the building envelopes. He noted that the Zoning Hearing Board has granted a variance to protect the tree canopy, and the Board cannot override this variance.
Wayne Johnson of Pickering Corts and Summerson said that DEP permits had been issued in the name of one of the previous owners of the site.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Johnson said that low level spot lights would be placed at the driveway entrances for the three houses.
Mr. Marshall said that easement agreements exist with the Sewer Authority.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Mr. Johnson said that there would be no construction activity in the creek, and that the proposed road would have no impact on the creek. There is a crossing of a small channel, for which a permit has been issued. The distance from the road to the creek varies; at its closest point it is about 50 feet. It is always outside of the 100-year floodplain. The depth of the creek also varies, but is between three and five feet deep.
Mr. Jirele said that he has some concern that residents of these proposed houses will not be able to get out of their homes during floods. He has seen the creek go over its banks in this area.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Mr. Johnson said that there is an extension of the stormwater management provisions to include 400 feet of underground detention to compensate for the additional impervious surface.
Mr. Beckert said that the Planning Commission has recommended the Township Engineer would review the plan to see if any additional erosion control along the creek is needed. He asked whether the applicant would also agree to the Environmental Advisory Council’s reviewing the plan. He asked if the applicant would agree to a condition that would disclose the flooding issues to home buyers.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would not object to the Township Engineer’s consulting with the EAC, and that he would have to work with Mr. Beckert on appropriate language for such a disclosure.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that in her opinion the Environmental Advisory Council should review this plan. Although Mr. Beckert said that EAC review of stormwater and erosion control would be a condition of approval, Mrs. Crescenzo said that the EAC should review the entire plan.
Mr. Beckert repeated that flooding is the issue of concern that the EAC would be asked to review.
Mr. Marshall said that the law has certain written standards; the plan has already been reviewed and approved to these standards. The applicant cannot be held to a standard that is not in the Ordinance.
Mr. Taylor said that he has an Emergency Action Plan for the Newtown Dam prepared in 1980 and revised in 2002 that he wished to share with the Supervisors. He indicated that it was ‘classified” by the Department of Homeland Security. He received this document from then County Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick. It is his understanding that he can share this information with the Supervisors. Referring to this document, he said that the area downstream of the dam is in extreme danger if the dam is breached. The dam had eroded as a result of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, as witnessed by former Supervisor Raymond Goodnoe. The area downstream of the dam, the area of this proposed development, acts as buffer to Newtown Borough. He also expressed some concern about placing an additional opening on Rte 532, as he has seen a number of very serious accidents at this stretch of road. He questioned whether the area of open space used for Lakeview Estates’ drainage is being disturbed.
Mr. Beckert said that the drainage area is not being disturbed.
Mrs. Goren noted that the County maintains and regularly inspects the dam.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant final plan approval of Rockridge Drive, a major subdivision of Washington Crossing Road, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted: from SALDO sections 402.3.B.c, 302.2, 303.2, 520.5, 402.3.g, 507.5, 508.6, 531.1, 517, 516.2, and 505.5.
Mrs. Goren seconded and the motion failed 3-2, with Messrs. Calabro, Jirele and Schenkman voting nay.
Revised Preliminary Land Development – Newtown Athletic Club Pool Addition – 209 Penns Trail: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant for a 12,809 square foot addition to the building and a 2331 square foot patio at Newtown Athletic Club (NAC)
Lawrence Schorr, engineer on the project, reviewed the current entrance to the club, noting that the plan proposes to move the entrance further up Penns Trail, away from the intersection with the Newtown By-pass. The entrance will be through the adjoining property, which is also owned by the NAC. The entrance would be one way in only. Egress would continue to be through the rear of the parking lot. The Planning Commission recommended elimination of the south side parking at the adjoining baseball facility. The parking would be reserved in green unless or until it is needed. The applicant anticipates no need for additional parking, as both the baseball facility and the proposed addition are for children’s programs, where children are only dropped off and picked up. There would be no net effect on the impervious surface coverage, and for this reason the applicant would like to put the drainage facilities in reserve.
Mr. Schorr said that the Planning Commission had suggested eliminating the original entrance, but the Fire Marshal wanted it to remain for emergency access to the fire connections. He would propose moving the fire connection to the other side of the building and adding a fire hydrant near the baseball facility. If this change is made, the Fire Marshal indicated that he would be satisfied. The proposed driveway would be one-way, but wide enough to accommodate emergency access.
Mr. Marshall said that in moving the entrance, the applicant proposes to re-stripe Penns Trail from Newtown Yardley Road to the entrance, creating a center turning lane. There would be two 12-foot wide lanes for traffic, plus a 10-foot wide center lane. The applicant would like to use the traffic impact fee for the re-striping. The applicant is seeking a number of waivers, for curbs, sidewalks and scale of plan.
Mr. Beckert said that the Planning Commission would need to see a plan for the adjoining property, the baseball facility, to see that it meets all Township requirements. There will have to be a perpetual easement for the driveway.
In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Schorr said that Penns Trail is wide enough for the proposed re-striping. The re-striping would end at the new driveway, so as not to interfere with the double lane of traffic and the turning lane at the By-Pass intersection.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would comply with Township signage requirements.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant preliminary plan approval for Newtown Athletic Club pool addition, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply with the Ordinance on the adjoining property with existing non-conformities.
The motion passed unanimously.
Preliminary Plan for Land Development – Newtown Industrial Building – 11 Friends Lane: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant for an adaptive re-use of an existing 34,382 square foot building for D-1 office use and D-2 medical office use in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District. The 3.6831 acre parcel has been granted Zoning Hearing Board relief for 50% medical use.
Richard Knudsen, engineer on the project noted that the Remington and Vernick review letter cites two stabilized construction entrances, but the Bucks County Conservation District approved one construction entrance. The property has two entrances, but only one construction entrance.
Township Engineer Chris Fazio waived the comment.
In reviewing the request for waivers, Mr. Marshall noted that the request to allow parking within 20 feet of the building is to help preserve a stand of trees on the property.
The Board discussed the traffic impact fee. Mr. Marshall suggested that the applicant provide $3000 toward a traffic study that the Planning Commission recommended, which would pool traffic impact fees from projects in the Business Commons for one future study.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the Traffic Engineer would calculate the traffic impact fee.
In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Marshall said that the Zoning Hearing Board had granted relief for 155 parking spaces for 50% general office use and 50% medical office use, instead of the required 205 spaces.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant approval of the preliminary plan for land development for 11 Friends Land, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Escrow Release – Foxhall Estates: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release number 1, in the amount of $315,199.80 to Foxhall Estates. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Escrow Release – Blacksmith 161, LLC - Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release number 4, in the amount of $68,426.55 to Blacksmith 161, LLC. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Escrow Release – Penns Terrace Office Park - Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release number 1, in the amount of $187,630.06 to Penns Terrace Office Park. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Appointment to Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board: Mrs. Goren said that at the organizational meeting, a member had been appointed to the Sewer Authority Board for a term ending in 2007, but that term should have ended in 2010.
Mr. Pellegrino said that his office has researched the history of appointments to the Sewer Authority Board and discovered that a member had been mistakenly appointed for a term of six years, instead of five years. The appointment made at the organizational meeting was mistakenly made to complete a term ending in 2007, when in fact that term had already expired. All other members of the Sewer Authority Board have been correctly appointed.
Mr. Weaver moved to extend the term of Allen Fidler to the Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board to 2010. Mrs. Goren seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Community Comment: Mrs. Crescenzo reviewed some letters written by former Code Enforcement Officer Thomas Harwood in 2001 regarding the safety of holding Boy Scout meetings in the barn at the Clark Nature Center. She expressed concern that workmen have been using the barn, which might be very unsafe, and questioned the Board’s plans for future use of the Clark Nature Center. She asked that the name of the Clark Nature Center be changed to Lyman and Mary Clark Nature Preserve, as had been discussed with Mr. and Mrs. Clark prior to the Township’s acquiring of the property. She urged the Board to form a “friends of the Clark Nature Center” group to help with planning and maintenance of the park.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:20PM.