Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 18, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 18, 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 Tom Jirele and Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor, James Watson, 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. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Eagle Scout Honor: Mrs. Goren presented a Proclamation to Benjamin Wallace on his earning the rank of Eagle Scout. To earn the Eagle Scout rank, Mr. Wallace completed the renovation of the Historic Fallsington municipal building, supervising his fellow scouts in painting and repairs and installation of fencing.
Presentation to Mr. Pellegrino: As this was Mr. Pellegrino’s last meeting as Township Manager before taking a position in Northampton, Mrs. Goren, on behalf of the Board and staff of the Township, presented Mr. Pellegrino with a clock and thanked him for his service and his dedication.Mr. Pellegrino thanked the Board for this honor. He noted that he was grateful to the Board, and all previous Boards that he has worked with since 2001, for their support and respect. It has been a pleasure to work with this Township. He expressed his gratitude to the staff, employees, and the many volunteers who tirelessly serve on committees, boards and commissions, and the many residents he has come to know.
Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo expressed concern about the ongoing use of what were to have been temporary trailers in the Council Rock schools. She said that she does not think that the schools can be secure with the trailers in use because the doors are unlocked.
Resident Karen D’Aprile thanked Mr. Pellegrino for his years of very attentive service to the residents of the community and wished him luck in his new job.Resident Phillipa Roosevelt introduced herself as new resident and offered to volunteer in any capacity to serve her new community.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of February 19, 2007. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes the regular meeting of March 28, 2007. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 4, 2007. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that page two, paragraph four should read, “…as do representatives of Lower Makefield, Yardley and Northampton”.
Mr. Weaver amended his motion; Mr. Calabro amended his second to accept the minutes of April 4, 2007, as corrected. The motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Jirele abstaining.
Bills List : Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $415,981.64. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $162,059.00. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
HARB: Chairman Harriet Beckert wished Mr. Pellegrino good luck in his new position.
Mrs. Beckert said that the Joint Historic Commission would like to remind the Board that a permit is needed for demolition of the old Acme building.
Mr. Pellegrino said that a building permit has not yet been issued for the site. The builder has sixty days from issuance of a building permit to demolish the old building.
Mrs. Beckert asked the Board to approve a certificate of appropriateness for The Annex, 301 N. Sycamore Street. She said that owner, Ed Murphy, has agreed to use wooden windows on the original portion of the building, which was first occupied in 1820. Mr. Murphy is changing the orientation of the building, and had planned to make the original front entrance area into a window, but has agreed to let the entry remain a door.
Mr. Murphy told the Board that although these requests came from a minority of the HARB, he would be willing to comply with these requests.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for 301 N. Sycamore Street with the additional condition that windows on the original section of the building are wooden and the original front door remains a door. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Conditional Use – Promenade at Sycamore Street: Mr. Beckert reminded those in attendance that the parties to this application had agreed to postpone a decision awaiting the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board. The Zoning Hearing Board’s written notice of decision dated April 6, 2007 was entered as Exhibit T-12.
T.J. Walsh, representing Newtown Ambulance and Newtown Presbyterian Church and Craig Smith representing Sycamore Center Associates agreed to wait until David Sander, attorney for the applicant arrived.
Remanded Hearing for Consideration of Final Plan for Gigliotti Avignon Associates – Rockbridge Way: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant. This appeal has been remanded for consideration of other evidence, which Mr. Marshall has provided as follows:
Mr. Marshall said that, as agreed at the Rule 27 Hearing, Pickering Corts and Summerson has reviewed the plan and shifted the driveway so that at its nearest point it is 30 feet from the floodplain. He noted that this is a studied floodplain.
Mr. Beckert said that the Township had asked its engineers to review the site as well.
Edward Koehler of Remington Vernick & Beach said that he has reviewed the plans and all data supplied by the applicant and did a field investigation. There are two wells in the stormwater report, SW1 and SW3, which are not shown on the plan. He found a discrepancy in the delineation of the floodplains; the applicant’s engineer has performed a survey and has used FEMA elevations and distances along the creek but not FEMA’s assessment of the floodplain. At some points the FEMA floodplain is 150 feet west of the applicant’s surveyed floodplain. If the applicant has found a difference in the floodplain, a HEC-RAZ study could be submitted to FEMA for certification. The soil and hydrology data does not show the location of test pits. The applicant’s test pits found no groundwater at depths of 72 and 77 inches. His own test borings hit groundwater at six inches in some locations. The March 24, 2004 Preliminary Plan approval was granted subject to a condition that the retention basin not be in Bowmansville soil. Remington Vernick & Beach conducted five soil borings and found Bowmansville soil in each, and found groundwater at 33 inches or less, at some points at 6 inches. Del Val’s tests were performed in December when wetlands are at their lowest. He also pointed out that the variances granted by the Zoning Hearing Board were to have expired after six months, or after a one year extension. In response to Mr. Beckert’s questions, Dr. Koehler said that borings 1, 2 and 3 encountered groundwater, which would make detention basins non-functional as currently designed. The road falls within the FEMA floodplain, but could be moved.
Mr. Marshall noted with some dismay that he had not been supplied with a copy of Dr. Koehler’s report in advance of the meeting. Mr. Marshall said that the plans do comply with FEMA, and the past Township engineer, Mr. Smith, had agreed. He noted that no borings were performed in the area of the proposed detention basin.
Mark Havers of Pickering Corts and Summerson said that he would provide Dr. Koehler with the locations of the wells. He said that the elevations used in his survey are FEMA benchmarks. A detailed FEMA study was used with elevations plotted along the stream to determine the floodplain.
Mr. Marshall entered as Exhibits AR-15a - a floodplain map prepared April 16, 2007 and AR-15b – a HEC-1 chart. He noted that on Exhibit AR-15a the red line indicates the applicant’s floodplain measure. Exhibit AR-15b shows discharge information from the dam; it shows a relatively constant discharge.
Dr. Koehler showed pictures taken on April 16, 2007, after two days of heavy rain. The creek did not overflow its banks. There are three other contributors to the flood area in addition to the creek. The photographs, taken at 2PM on Monday, April 16, 2007, show wetlands with six inches to one foot of water.
Dr. Koehler submitted as Exhibit K-1 a drainage inspection report for Rockridge Drive dated April 18, 2007.
Mr. Beckert said that at the original hearing the Board found that the private driveway was located in an area of ongoing and regular flooding. There has been conflicting testimony that the relocated road is still within the area prone to flooding. Dr. Koehler has indicated that a detention basin could be engineered to work effectively. He asked whether the applicant would revise his plans to put the driveway outside of Dr. Koehler’s red lined area and to address redesign of the detention basin.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would like his engineers to review Dr. Koehler’s report. At Mr. Beckert’s suggestion, Mr. Marshall agreed that Mr. Havers and Dr. Koehler would meet to discuss these concerns. Mr. Marshall did express some concern that the Board has a certain opinion of this project regardless of evidence presented.
Mr. Jirele said that Dr. Koehler’s borings found all Bowmansville soils, which is of concern to him. He asked that Mr. Marshall provide the soil maps used by DelVal Soils.
The applicant agreed to continue the application and to attempt to address the issues brought up in this hearing.
Mr. Weaver moved to continue the remanded hearing for consideration of final plan for Gigliotti Avignon Associates – Rockbridge Way to May 23, 2007. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Conditional Use – Promenade at Sycamore Street: This hearing was reconvened upon the arrival of Mr. Sander.
Mr. Beckert said that when the Zoning Hearing Board’s final full decision is rendered it would be Exhibit T-13, and the original Conditional Use application is entered as Exhibit T-14.
Public Comment on the conditional use application of Promenade at Sycamore: Mrs. Crescenzo was sworn in. She complained that the Township created its own hardship when it entered into the Redevelopment Agreement for such a large project. Although she did not believe that a large building with a parking garage is what is needed at this location, the plans are what had been envisioned in the Redevelopment Agreement. She urged the Board to move forward with this project, but to be mindful of issues of asbestos removal in demolition of the existing building.
In closing Mr. Smith said that many of his client’s concerns have been addressed by the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision. He believed that this proceeding should not have begun until after the conclusion of the Zoning Hearing Board application. The decision of the Zoning Hearing Board will not allow this development as proposed. The application before the Board cannot be built, and he asked that the application be denied.
In closing Mr. Walsh agreed that based on the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board, which granted some requested variances and denied or limited other requests, the project cannot be built. Referring to contract zoning, Mr. Walsh said that because an agreement has been signed and the Supervisors had been required to support the Zoning Hearing Board applications, it is not possible for the Board to be impartial. The Redevelopment Agreement negates impartiality.
Mr. Sander reminded the Board that this is a conditional use application, not land development. The applicant is seeking approval for three permitted uses in the TC Zoning District. These uses are subject to review for the health safety and welfare of the community. The property can be developed under the variances granted by the Zoning Hearing Board. He asked that the Board grant conditional use approval so that the project can move forward.
Mrs. Goren said that historically, developers present a plan, and conditional use is granted based on that plan. The plan that has been presented is not compliant with the Zoning Hearing Board decision and cannot be developed.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board told the applicant what to do. It is the applicant’s responsibility to get necessary variances. By granting approval, we are only approving uses; it is still up to the applicant to obtain all other necessary approvals.
Mr. Schenkman said that he had not been part of the earlier process. While he is eager to see the property re-used and the idea of a mixed use is a good one, he does not think this plan meets the vision. In order to approve, he would want to see a fully developed plan.
Mr. Weaver noted that he has been involved with the project from the beginning. The visioning committee had required a residential component, as a 24-hour presence in the Sycamore Street area. Additional parking had always been a requirement of the visioning committee. The plan has eliminated the residential component and has inadequate parking. He said that the plans are too open ended for him to feel comfortable granting approval.
Mr. Calabro said that he did not think the Redevelopment Agreement requires the Board to support whatever is proposed. While he would like to see the property developed, he feels that there should be a residential component. Each iteration of the plan has been a repetition of prior proposals.
Mr. Schenkman movedto deny the application for conditional use filed by the Promenade at Sycamore, L.P., North Sycamore Street, Newtown, Pennsylvania, Tax Map Parcel No. 29-10-7; the reasons for the denial are as follows:
Therefore, pursuant to Article XIII, Section 1301.B.4., the application is not in conformance with all applicable requirements of the JMZO and all municipal ordinances.
Therefore, the Board finds the applicant has not complied with Section 1301.B.5.
Therefore, no justification for those waivers having been shown, the applicant has failed to show that the application is in conformance with the applicable requirements of all municipal ordinances (JMZO Section 1301.B.4.).
Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Jirele voting nay.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Walsh thanked the Board.
Mr. Sander berated the Board for delaying the proceedings and for its lack of support for a plan that better than meets all of the requirements of the Redevelopment Agreement. The purpose had been to approve the uses for the site, not the plan.Mr. Weaver moved to close the conditional use hearing. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials:
Mrs. Goren reported that the Supervisors had met in executive session of April 16, 2007.
Mr. Jirele reported that he had attended a meeting earlier this evening at Bucks County Community College about the planned reconstruction of Swamp Road. The plans are very different from those presented in 2002. He asked the Township Manager to arrange for PennDOT to make a presentation to the public about the scope of the current plans.
Ratification of Firefighters Collective Bargaining Agreement: Mr. Pellegrino asked the Board to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the Firefighters. This will be a six year contract which will require the firefighters to pay 10% of their medical benefit premium and will provide them with a raise of 4% for the first five years and 4.25% for the last year, plus an adjustment of $1500 to the base rate for 2007 and 2008. The contract provides a reduction in the firefighter retirement age from 62 to 60 years of age in 2010, however the employees will contribute 2% of gross wages toward this benefit. The annual increased cost for this contract is approximately $20,000 per year.
Mr. Weaver moved to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters for 2007 through 2011. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver commended Mr. Pellegrino for the six year length of the contract.
Bids for Motor and Fuel Oil: Mr. Weaver moved to accept bids for motor and fuel oils as follows:
Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Main Street Program:
Mr. Jirele moved to adopt a resolution authorizing the filing of a proposal for funds with the DCED on behalf of the Main Street Program. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Mr. Pellegrino said that this is a five-year program with the State for funding of administrative services of the Main Street program. This includes salaries and office expenses. Two years remain in the program.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she thinks this is a good program for both the Borough and Township.
The motion passed unanimously.
Trash Haulers Ordinance: Mr. Weaver moved to establish an ordinance for the collection and transport of municipal waster and source separated recyclables generated within the Township and the reporting of the quantities of source separated recyclables collected and delivered to a recycling facility and providing penalties for violation of this ordinance. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Ordinance for Short Term Loan: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize adoption of an ordinance increasing the indebtedness of the Township by issue of a general obligation note in the amount of $1,500,000. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that this loan is for the acquisition of property from the Archdiocese for the expansion of the municipal complex and for certain architectural and engineering services. There is no pre-payment penalty, and the loan will be paid off with a bond issue.
Resident Robert Ciervo expressed some concern about the Township’s undertaking of the municipal complex expansion and the opening of a line of credit at a time when the Township Manager will be leaving in a few days and the Chief of Police is retiring shortly. He suggested postponing the loan, and projects until a new manager and police chief have had an opportunity to contribute to discussion of needs.
Mr. Weaver noted that it has taken a number of years to negotiate a deal with the Archdiocese, and the building cannot be expanded without the additional land.
Mr. Pellegrino confirmed that most of the open space surrounding the municipal complex belongs to the Archdiocese. Mr. Pellegrino’s predecessor had begun the process of the municipal expansion. Because of difficulties with grade elevations it would be more expensive to expand the current facilities than to build new. Design drawings would not be complete until the end of the year, and any new personnel would have an opportunity to become involved in the planning.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that the new manager should be hired before the expansion plans get underway. She asked about the reserve fund and questioned why a loan is needed; it would have been better to save money for the project rather than borrow.
Mr. Schenkman said that the better business practice is to borrow at a low rate; savings is earning more than the interest that will be paid.
Mr. Pellegrino agreed with Mr. Schenkman’s assessment. He noted that no additional taxes have been levied to save for the expansion.
Mrs. Crescenzo continued to question the Board about saving versus borrowing, preventing Mr. Pellegrino from giving a detailed answer to her questions.
Mr. Jirele said that a tax increase would have been necessary to save ahead of time for this project.
In response to Mrs. Roosevelt’s questions, Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township’s fiscal information is available for public review. She can call his office for any information she would like.
Mrs. D’Aprile said that new facilities are necessary, as the Township employees are working in very overcrowded conditions, however she questioned the financial arrangements. She suggested that the RCN settlement money be used for the purchase of the land.
Resident Ethel Hibbs noted that in her more than twenty years of employment in the Township, she has seen managers borrow money for various reasons, and she is certain that borrowing at this time is a wise decision. Any loans will be paid off as the Township collects income from businesses and residents.
Mr. Jirele pointed out the very low rate of 4.15% for this loan and agreed with Mr. Schenkman that the reserve account is earning more than that.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that it is a sound decision to proceed with the land acquisition.
The motion passed unanimously.
JMZO 2006-04 – Livestock and Poultry: Mr. Weaver moved to adopt JMZO 2006-04, livestock and poultry. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Beckert explained that this ordinance addresses the keeping of livestock on 3 to 10 acre parcels. Its effect on Newtown is negligible.
Jane DelBianco of Wrightstown Township said that this changed ordinance addresses the size of various livestock. The old ordinance considered every head of livestock equal, whether it was a hors or cow or pigmy goat. The change better reflects the size of the animals, so that a cow is equal to five goats, etc. She thanked the Board for their consideration.
The motion passed unanimously.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications: The Board reviewed five Zoning Hearing Board applications without comment.
Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review the Zoning Hearing Board application of OHB Homes for a development of 21 new single-family homes on the Goodnoe tract on eagle Road. Relief is sought to provide 35.321 acres of open space instead of the required 45.7639 acres, to permit a 78% disturbance of steep slopes and to permit disturbance of 45% of class 2 soils. The applicant wishes to pay a fee in lieu of active open space, at the recommendation of the Park and Recreation Board.
Mr. Jirele noted that the request to pay a fee in lieu is a Board decision, not a Zoning Hearing Board matter, and should not have appeared in the application. He also expressed concern about the reduction in open space.
Mr. Murphy said that the layout of the homes has reduced the available open space. With a compliant plan, there would be additional open space. The applicant is willing to provide an easement to the Township for access to other open space behind the development.
Mrs. Goren noted that the compliant plan’s open space was not as useful as with this plan. The open space is contiguous instead of spread throughout the development.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained that it might be possible to access Hidden Lake by means of a trail through this property, which would be dangerous, as the police cannot patrol it.
Mr. Murphy said that full engineering has not been completed. There is also a question as to whether the Township would take dedication of the open space. The applicant will provide an easement if the Township wants it.
Mr. Jirele said that Hidden Lake can be accessed through this property now and some people use it for fishing.
Mrs. Goren noted that the lake is owned by the County, which permits fishing.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Mr. Murphy briefly compared the compliant plan with the current plan. The original plan would have been B-14 village lots of about 6,500 square feet with 29 homes. The current plan shows 22 ½ acre lots for new homes and two existing homes. The homes will be similar in size to those in the Overlook development. The two plans each had similarly sized homes. In response to Mr. Ciervo’s question, Mr. Murphy said that the B-14 use is a “by right” use. In response to Mr. Ciervo’s comments on open space preservation, Mr. Murphy noted that all natural resources are protected.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release for Overlook in the amount of $115,600.39. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Beckert said that there would be an executive session.
New Business: Mr. Weaver moved to appoint John Boyle acting Township Manager effective April 26, 2007. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Public Comment: Mrs. D’Aprile said that the plans proposed for the Acme site were what had been requested in the Redevelopment Agreement. She asked that the Board move forward to clean up the site.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked whether the bleachers at the sports fields have been replaced.
Mr. Pellegrino responded that some have been replaced, some have been retrofitted. The work is ongoing.
Mrs. Crescenzo complained that Roberts Ridge Park had been closed for too long last year, and that the roof of the picnic pavilion has not been shingled yet. She also made reference to last year’s Newtown Newsletter article celebrating the redevelopment of the Acme site.Mr. Schenkman and Mr. Pellegrino each attempted to explain that the Roberts Ridge Playground renovations were done by volunteers at their convenience. The special safety surfacing required a great deal of work. Volunteers have committed to complete the roof to the satisfaction of the building inspector shortly.
Mr. Schenkman moved to declare the Redevelopment Agreement of May 5, 2005 with Elliott Building Group in default. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.The meeting adjourned at 12:15AM.