Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 9, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, May 9, 2007 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, and members Tom Jirele and Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor, James Watson, Township Engineer and John Boyle, Acting Township Manager.
Call to Order: Chairman Anne Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. Rabbi Weinstein of Lubavitcher Center gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Larry Raffle urged residents to participate in the primary election of May 15, 2007. On the ballot will be a referendum on the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, asking Pennsylvania citizens whether they favor imposing an additional 0.9% earned income tax. The revenue generated from the increased tax rate will be used to reduce taxes on qualified residential properties by $942. Mr. Raffle provided a flyer containing financial impact if approved. He noted that the primary beneficiaries of the relief, if approved, would be low income and fixed income residents, including senior citizens. Council Rock School District is hosting a meeting to explain Act I on May 10, 2007 at the Chancellor Center. He urged everyone to attend.
Newtown Borough resident Paul Salvatore announced that the Newtown Business and Professional Association would hold Welcome Day on May 20, 2007 on North State Street from noon to 5:00PM. NBPA is also sponsoring a fundraising event, “Go Dana” for a local child who has been diagnosed with leukemia. The event is a family fun night at the Newtown Athletic Club on Friday evening, May 12, 2007. Newtown Rotary is sponsoring its annual golf outing on May 24, 2007 to raise funds for Pickering Manor.
Mr. Salvatore also urged residents to vote in the primary election, noting that if the Act I is passed, only residents who have filed a Homestead Exclusion would be entitled to the reduced property tax.
Mr. Raffle confirmed this statement. He said that the Homestead Exclusion form must have been filed before March. If ACT I passes, those owner/occupants who have not filed the Homestead Exclusion would have an opportunity to file for 2008. For more information contact the County Tax Assessor.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo expressed concern that the Township and the Board of Supervisors are attempting to re-purchase the Acme site from Elliott Builders. She said that, although the community, and the Acme Visioning Committee, had favored a community use such as a community center, the Board had disregarded these preferences and entered into the Redevelopment Agreement. Although the plans by Elliott were very similar to the sketch shown in the Newtown News article announcing the Agreement and subsequent celebration, the Board has failed to give necessary approvals, and is now attempting to purchase the property. There are now costs associated with litigation as the decisions are being appealed, and the Acme site remains an eyesore.
Resident John D’Aprile expressed agreement with Mrs. Crescenzo’s statements on the Acme site, and wondered what “shady deals” went on “behind the scenes”.
Sue Herman of Lower Makefield said that the prevailing rate of speed on Stoopville Road is 53 MPH, and is dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. She thanked the Supervisors for developing a traffic calming plan. She supports the concept of roundabouts, which are not traffic circles. She said that those opposed to the roundabouts are not concerned with residents’ safety.
Members Comments: Mr. Weaver announced that Saturday, May 12, 2007, mail carriers will be collecting non-perishable food for local food pantries. Their past efforts have resulted in collections of over one million pounds of donated food.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 18, 2007. Mr. Calabro seconded.Discussion of motion: Resident Ethel Hibbs said that the minutes are a permanent record of the meetings, and as such, should not have included the word “angrily” on page 7, or the word “badgered” on page 8. Mr. Weaver amended his motion to include removal of the word “angrily” from page 7, and to substitute “questioned” for “badgered” on page 8. Mr. Calabro amended his second to accept the minutes of April 18, 2007, as corrected. The motion passed 4-0.
Bills List : Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $473,597.52. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.Mr. Weaver moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $357,612.47. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission : Chairman Shawn Ward reported that the Traffic Engineer gave a report at the May 1, 2007 meeting. It was noted in the report that Pennoni Associates has been asked to evaluate Silo Drive for possible one-way traffic. The Commission discussed this at length, and because it would be detrimental to businesses in that section of the shopping center and, because a developer has previously agreed to pay for a signal at the intersection of Silo and Sycamore Street, voted to recommend that Silo Drive remain open to two-way traffic. They also voted to recommend that the Traffic Engineer participate in Regional Traffic Task Force and Swamp Road improvement meetings representing Newtown
Mr. Jirele suggested that the Supervisors discuss all aspects of traffic in the shopping center area at a work session.Mr. Ward reported that the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the Board approve the final plans for land development for 11 Friends Lane, subject to conditions outlined in Mr. Ward’s letter to the chairman. The Commission also voted to recommend advertisement of JMZO 2007-02, changing the soon to be acquired Archdiocesan property from CM to MS. The Commission voted to recommend adoption of JMZO 2006.
Final Plan for Land Development – Newtown Industrial Building – 11 Friends Lane: Don Marshall represented the applicants for final approval for renovation of a 34,382 square foot, one story office building for D-1 office use and D-2 medical use. The plan includes the reconstruction and expansion of existing parking areas. The Zoning Hearing Board has granted relief from certain buffering, screening, parking and loading berth requirements. The applicant will comply with all review letters. Mr. Marshall noted that the Traffic Engineer has indicated that a payment of $7500 should be made toward a traffic study in the Business Commons, and the traffic impact fee is $91,910.76
Mr. Marshall noted that a Park and Recreation fee in lieu of open space has been set at $45,000, but this project has no new building; it is renovation of an existing building. There have been other adaptive re-uses in the Business Commons where the fee has been waived.
Mr. Beckert said that the Ordinance states that where land development or subdivision occurs, a fee is due. It appears that no fee had been paid at the time of original construction. A decision on whether adaptive re-use requires payment of a fee in lieu of open space would be a Board policy decision, but the Board is entitled to collect the fee.
Mr. Marshall said that the Park and Recreation fee is to be in lieu of dedication of open space. This project will not involve building anything; no open space is being taken away. He urged the Board to review this Ordinance, as it seems to apply to any change in use. The fee had originally been calculated based on the footprint of the building, but that has been changed. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Marshall said that he has been involved in a number of recent adaptive reuse projects. He could not be certain of all for which the fee was waived, but he did recall that 104 Pheasant Run was waived. He said that the recent Rose Group project paid a fee, but land development had been waived.
Mr. Jirele said that a consistent policy should be established for adaptive reuse. Mrs. Goren had noted that no fee had been collected at the time of construction of the original building. Mr. Jirele said he was not inclined to completely waive the fee, but that he would be amenable to reducing the fee by half.
The Board discussed this further, and agreed with Mr. Jirele that a consistent policy should be set going forward. Mr. Weaver noted that he has been active in the Business Commons community, and wished to encourage this type of re-use of existing buildings. For this project, the Board agreed to reduce the fee to $25,000.
The applicant agreed to this compromise, and would waive the requirement that the fee be used within three years.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant final land development approval to 11 Friends Lane LLC, located at 11 Friends Lane, Newtown, Pennsylvania, Tax Map Parcel No. 29-10-105 for D-1 office use and D-2, medical office use, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo said that those Supervisors voting “nay” on this motion must give the public an explanation for that vote. She said that the explanation should be given before the question is called.
Mrs. Goren reminded Mrs. Crescenzo that at this time, only discussion of the motion would be entertained, not on the voting procedure.
Mr. Calabro said that he and all of the Board members have always been willing to explain their position after a vote is taken.
Despite Mrs. Crescenzo’s continued insistence that the explanation be given first, Mrs. Goren called the question.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mrs. Goren again reminded residents that discussion of a motion is limited to the motion or conditions attached to that motion, only.
Inter-Municipal Liquor License Transfer – Sycamore Restaurant Group, LLC – 240 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Beckert explained to the Board that a recent amendment to the Liquor Control Act allows a municipality to approve or disapprove of an inter-municipal liquor license transfer at the governing body’s reasonable and sound discretion. The decision may not be appealed. His earlier correspondence to the Board had not included the provisions of this recent amendment.
Mr. Beckert entered the following Exhibits:
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Beckert explained that the Board can approve this transfer with certain conditions attached to approval.
Attorney Robert Stein represented the applicants, and indicated that he is a partner in this venture. Mr. Stein said that Sycamore Group, LLC, is interested in the transfer of a liquor license to Newtown Township for a 5000 square foot tavern with an Irish pub flair at the Goodnoe’s Corner development. He introduced his partners:
Mr. Stein provided the Board with a packet of exhibits as follows:
Referring to Exhibit A-4, Mr. Stein reviewed the plan for a circular bar with 36 seats and an additional 50 seats in the bar area, 120 seats in the dining room and 40 to 50 seats in the patio. The patio will have a roof and retractable windows, and will be in use year round. The bar will have a separate entrance and the dining room will be separated by glass. Total seating will be about 200. The building is one story.
The partners are seeking transfer of a liquor license from Bristol to the corner of Silo Drive and Sycamore Street in the Goodnoe’s Corner development. The partners are responsible for construction of the one-story building.
Mr. Stein indicated that the applicants are aware of the Township’s concerns about serving alcohol. All staff members are to be certified in TIPS and RAMP programs for the responsible serving of alcohol.
The plan calls for a family style pub, to be opened for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with hours until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2:00AM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In response to Board questions, Mr. Stein said that the applicants are not seeking a club or amusement license. There will be no live music except for a very occasional special event. There will be no outdoor music, and although the plans are still in the design phase, it is not currently planned to have speakers on the patio. The target clientele would be families, and adults between 35 and 55 years of age.
Mr. Beckert noted that the applicants would need conditional use approval, at which time music and noise concerns could be addressed further.
In response to Mr. Beckert’s questions, Mr. Stein said that there will be a basement for storage and for kitchen prep. The restaurant will have a California kitchen, with cooking visible to diners. The license to be purchased from Bristol is currently active. The nearest school is Council Rock North High School; the nearest church is Newtown Presbyterian; the closest liquor license is Il Sol. There will be no separate entrance for take-out food or beer sales. The ratio of food to alcohol sales is projected at 60/40, which is similar to family restaurants like the Olive Garden.
Resident Walt Iwaskiw expressed concern about noise and outdoor music, which has been a problem with other restaurants in Newtown.
Mr. Jirele said that outdoor music would be addressed during the conditional use hearing.
Mr. Stein noted that the patio would be a dining room, and drinks would be served with meals, but it would not have an outdoor bar.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked about the number of liquor licenses available in Newtown.
Mr. Beckert said that the number of licenses is based on population. The number is adjusted every ten years, after a census has been completed.
Mr. Jirele said that at one time Newtown was considered a resort area, and had been permitted more licenses than the population would have warranted. The existing licenses are grandfathered into the number allowed.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s further comments, Mr. Beckert said that the State allows for the transfer of licenses within a county, with the approval of the municipality. The holder of the license in Bristol is a willing seller.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about the transfer, and the addition of another location where liquor is served. She complained about noise and traffic generated by other restaurants in the Village at Newtown area.
Mr. Jirele said that those restaurants that have not met the conditions of their approvals have been cited. The applicants have a right to present plans, and the Township has the right to enforce if businesses are not living up to conditions of approval.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s question, Mr. Driscoll said that he would look into including an elevator from the basement to the main floor, to make it handicapped accessible. He noted that the basement would not be open to the public, but would be for storage and some food preparation.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that Shawn Ward is the husband of Cheryl Ward, one of the applicants, and Mr. Ward is a member of the Township’s Planning Commission. He should have abstained from voting on any plans that have been presented for Goodnoe’s Corner. She complained that applicants have not been treated fairly, as the Promenade plans also called for a restaurant, which plans the Board rejected. She questioned the impervious surface ratios for both projects, and felt that they are interrelated because both projects are close to one another
Mr. Beckert noted that both Goodnoe’s Corner and Promenade had been granted relief for impervious surface by the Zoning Hearing Board.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert said that once the liquor license is transferred into Newtown Township, it could be sold within the Township after five years.
Mr. Jirele said that, while he likes the proposal before the Board this evening, he has certain reservations if the license could be transferred to a location that the Board does not like, if this venture were to fail. He asked whether it would be possible to condition approval on not transferring to another location.
Mr. Stein said that under the terms of the commercial lease, the developer has the right of first refusal on the license. The developer wants a pub at this location. The lease has a thirty year term. He said that the partners would be amenable to a condition, as framed by Mr. Beckert, that the approval of the Township Board of Supervisors would be needed to transfer the license within the Township prior to application to the Liquor Control Board. Mr. Stein also agreed to other conditions suggested by Board members. These conditions included: no outdoor bar; no separate take-out entrance and no amusement permit.
In response to questions from Mrs. Crescenzo, Mr. Beckert said that the Township has not done any research to verify the claims of the applicants that they have clean records, as this is done by the State Liquor Control Board.
Mr. Stein further explained that tonight’s proceeding is the first step in the application process. The application cannot proceed to the State Liquor Control Board until the municipality resolves to accept the transferred license. The application is then reviewed by the Liquor Control Board, at which time extensive background checks of all of the applicants are conducted. Enforcement is by the Pennsylvania State Police. He noted that four of the applicants are Newtown Township residents.
Mr. Weaver moved to pass a resolution authorizing inter-municipal transfer on behalf of Sycamore Restaurant Group, LLC for license number 19131, transferring the license from Bristol Township to 240 North Sycamore Street, Goodnoe’s Corner, Building 1, pursuant to 47 PS Sections 4.404 and 4.461.B.3, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Officials:
Board Members :
Mr. Jirele asked that the Board review parking along Wrights Road, as there have been a number of residents’ complaints about this. He suggested that the police be asked whether parking should be further limited.Mr. Beckert said that a discussion on Township traffic will be on an upcoming work session agenda.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2006-06, Winery Accessory to Vineyard. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert said that each municipality has a different acreage requirement because Newtown’s representatives at the Jointure felt that five acres for wine producing was too much, but the other municipalities’ representatives disagreed. Regarding outdoor events and music, each municipality’s noise ordinance would regulate noise.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s comments, Mr. Beckert said that Newtown’s winery is a pre-existing use. In response to Mr. Iwaskiw’s questions, Mr. Beckert said that the advertisement would not contain the full text of the Ordinance, however he provided Mr. Iwaskiw with a copy. Others in the community who are interested in seeing the full text can read a copy at the Township offices.
Mr. Iwaskiw said that he has concerns that the wineries are becoming primarily catering businesses. He has concerns about traffic and safety.
The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Jirele voting nay.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2007-02, rezoning of parcels purchased from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by the Township, from CM conservation management to MS, municipal Services. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to approve the agreement of sale of property from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to Newtown Township. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize an interim agreement with the developer of Goodnoe’s Corner to permit foundation work at the developer’s own risk. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert said that utilities are to be relocated to the rear of the project.
The motion passed 3-0-1, with Mrs. Goren abstaining.Mr. Beckert said that there would be a need for an executive session.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release for The Reserve, aka the Heston tract, in the amount of $272,817.85. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.Mr. Jirele moved to authorize escrow release for Delancey Court in the amount of $82,822.50. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Public Comment: Mr. Salvatore asked if anyone on the Board had heard rumors of redistricting of Goodnoe Elementary School. The Board members had not heard these rumors.
In response to Mr. Salvatore’s question about a lower speed limit on Newtown Yardley Road leading into Newtown Borough, Mr. Beckert said that a new ordinance would be reviewed at an upcoming work session.
Mr. Salvatore said that he is very concerned that people are parking along Lower Dolington Road to walk to the playground, and are not using the parking lot.
Mr. Jirele suggested that the Board investigate whether the existing parking lot is adequate for the increased use of Roberts Ridge Park since the renovation.
In response to Mr. Salvatore’s question, Mr. Weaver said that if voters decide against the increased earned income tax, the matter would be returned to the State Legislature.
Mr. Salvatore said that he has paid over one million dollars in taxes on his renovated building in the Newtown Business Commons. He urged to Board to develop a consistent policy on Park and Recreation fees for projects involving renovation of existing industrial buildings.
Mr. Iwaskiw said that a sign has recently been placed on Durham Road in front of Acme, advising of a 55 MPH speed limit. He said that this is too fast for such a busy stretch of road.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked about the continued presence of temporary trailers at Newtown Middle School. She expressed concern about safety and security, and questioned whether these trailers are inspected by the Township.
Mr. Beckert said that permits issued to the School District for the trailers are subject to renewal and have been renewed. He is not sure of the schedule for re-inspection.
Mrs. Crescenzo commended the Township on the completion of Roberts Ridge Park, and asked about Carl Sedia Park, which is in disrepair.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s questions, Mrs. Goren said that the Township has advertised in trade publications within Pennsylvania for a new manager. The Board has a goal of finding a new manager by September in order for the new manager to participate in budget preparation.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has already conducted a first round of interviews with some applicants. Additional rounds are being scheduled. Because the applicants prefer confidentiality, no applicants will be presented to the public.
Mr. D’Aprile noted that each month there is a utility bill for a fountain in Silver Lake Park for $350. He said that this amount seemed excessive. He also commented that Ms. Herman’s statement on a 53 MPH speed on Stoopville Road seemed reasonable to him, as it is only 8 miles above the posted speed limit. Stoopville is not a residential street, and roundabouts do not belong on this road. This is a truck route to Doylestown He has spoken to a number of engineers about roundabouts; some like them, some don’t. He noted that those engineers who like roundabouts do not live in Newtown.
Mrs. Herman said that the “truck route to Doylestown” which includes Stoopville, Lindenhurst and Worthington Mill Roads, has 9000 residents and 155 access points. The road is too dangerous for pedestrians.
The meeting adjourned at 10:45 PM.