Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 13, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman and member Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor, James Watson, Township Engineer and John Boyle, Acting Township Manager.
Call to Order: Mr. Calabro called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. Father Ernest Curtain of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Boyle welcomed Boy Scout Troup 29 to the meeting. He said that a Telecommunications Advisory Committee report would be added to the agenda.
Public Comment: Victoria Bowe, introduced members of the First Fourth Committee, Michael Clancy, John Davis, Joe Gordon, Marlowe Gordon, Gary Lumpkin, Mike Pettrucci, Paul Salvatore, Dave Spencer, Bill Wert and Mr. Weaver. She reviewed this year’s celebration plans for Saturday, July 7, 2007, with the theme “America at 400”. Planned activities include a 5K run, bicycle decorating contest, parade, softball game, reading of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary re-enactors, food court, live music and fireworks. Ms. Bowe invited the Supervisors to ride in the parade, and invited the community to attend this fun-filled day. Volunteers are needed for the day’s many events. For more information, visit the Web site www.newtownfirstfourth.com
Resident Jim McCrane said that he had recently learned that Elliott Building Group had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He said that his development, St. Andrew’s Briar, built by Elliott, has ongoing problems with failing sidewalks. Two street trees have died. He asked that any bond money held for this development be used first to correct these ongoing problems.
Mr. Beckert assured Mr. McCrane that the bond would not be affected by the filing. Once the engineer has determined the merits, a claim would be filed on behalf of St. Andrew’s Briar.
Mr. McCrane questioned recent comments by the Park and Recreation Board regarding re-zoning of the Woll tract to increase impervious surface. He was strongly opposed to any change that would increase the impervious surface on the currently zoned conservation management land. The residents surrounding the park are opposed to any change or increase in impervious surface ratio.
Mr. Beckert said that the Park and Recreation Board is investigating appropriate Park and Open Space Zoning for the Woll tract, as park will be the use of the property. The increase in impervious surface would allow for the parking lots proposed for the park.
Resident George Vanderhorn said that residents of the Swamp Road area are very upset with PennDOT’s proposed roadway improvements, which include 40 foot roadways. The surrounding residents are very much opposed to destruction of the rural roadway. The residents are asking that the Board of Supervisors work with Swamp Road area residents to make their concerns known to PennDOT, as the plans would force Swamp Road to unfairly bear the brunt of the heavy truck traffic. Lindenhurst and Stoopville Roads have been given traffic calming, although studies show that they do not warrant traffic calming. He asked that two Supervisors meet with a committee of residents and with representatives of Wrightstown Township to plan for a fair distribution of truck traffic.
Resident Fred Olivieri asked that the Supervisors support residents opposed to PennDOT’s plans for Swamp Road. He said that the heavy volume of speeding trucks creates unsafe conditions for residents and students of the Community College. Because the quarries open at 5:30 AM, the truck traffic begins at 3:30 AM, creating noise and dirt, forcing residents to keep their windows closed all year. He asked that police enforce the speed limits on the roads.
Resident Dr. Massoud offered the Supervisors a petition signed by 132 residents of Colonial Commons opposing the PennDOT proposal for Swamp Road improvements. He said that the proposed changes are not justified, that speeding creates unsafe situations and that Swamp Road should be given the same consideration as Lindenhurst Road. He offered a few suggestions to improve safety on Swamp Road, including removal of landscaping at the entrance to the college, addition of a third entrance to the college, addition of stop signs at college entrances and at Twining Bridge Road. He asked the Supervisors to support the Swamp Road residents.
Resident John Sollito, president of the Nob Hill Homeowners Association, representing 53 families, said that residents are very angry about the proposed PennDOT plans for Swamp Road. He felt that “Residents for Regional Traffic Safety (RRTS)”have been given unfair preference in road calming/improvements for Lindenhurst Road, pointing out that Lindenhurst has large, sound muffling berms, has only 16 driveways along 2.2 miles of road, and is considerably wider than Swamp Road. He asked why the problem of truck traffic is being entirely shifted to Swamp Road, which has 33 driveways, 9 side roads leading to 300 homes, and over 1000 cars each day going to the college, most with young, inexperienced drivers. He asked the Board of Supervisors to show support for the residents of Swamp Road, and to stop the RRTS from pushing traffic onto Swamp Road. Traffic should be evenly distributed among all of the roads, including 413, 232, Lindenhurst and Swamp Road.
Resident David Clark introduced his two Boy Scouts, Robert and Jeff, working on Eagle Scout rank. He said that he is an employee of the United States Department of Transportation. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration would work with the Township on truck stops to enforce existing laws. He provided the manager with contact information.
Mr. Schenkman said that he is a member of the Regional Traffic Task Force. More open houses are planned for public input into the Swamp Road improvement plan. While the plan is in its preliminary stage, public input is integral in developing the final plan. The Supervisors will give support to residents along Swamp Road and he, along with another Supervisor, would gladly meet with representatives of the Swamp Road residents group. The goal should be the safety of all sixteen major roadways in the area, and he agreed that the traffic should be distributed evenly, not concentrated on one road. He agreed that the 2002 study is very different than the current proposal. The newly organized Swamp Road residents have the same opportunity that RRTS has had to make its voice heard.
Mr. Weaver expressed his support of the residents, agreeing that the current proposal is very different than the 2002 plan. He would work with representatives of Wrightstown as well as officials at the State level.
Mr. Calabro offered full support and cooperation.
Resident Michael Gallagher asked whether a traffic study, similar to the recent Gilmore & Associates study of Stoopville Road, could be conducted. He thanked the Supervisors for supporting residents on this issue.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Supervisors would be asking the Township Traffic Engineer to participate in Swamp Road improvement meetings with PennDOT to represent the Township’s interests. A study of Swamp Road could be cost prohibitive, but would be considered if the Township found it necessary.
Resident Paul Zotter, president of Devonshire Meadows Homeowners Association, expressed support for the Swamp Road residents. He asked if there has been an update on a skate park.
Mr. Calabro said that the Park and Recreation Board would attend the next work session to discuss possible skate park locations.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the Supervisors would not vote on this during a work session. Any vote would take place at a subsequent regular meeting.
Resident Monica Flint expressed concern about safety on Swamp Road and also discussed the environmental impact on the air quality and of animal safety, as the road runs between Tyler Park and Clark Nature Center.
Resident Debbie Appel said that quality of life is affected by the trucks on Swamp Road, blaring their horns at critters crossing the road, beginning as early as 3:30 AM.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of May 23, 2007. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Schenkman noted that on page 5 of the work session minutes of May 14, 2007, paragraph 5 should read “….adaptive reuse…”
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of May 14, 2007, as corrected. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $348,905.18. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $184,911.25. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman ShawnWard reported that at the June 5, 2007 meeting the Commission heard a report from the Traffic Engineer, who suggested that he give a presentation on the TIP in July, with follow-up discussion in subsequent meetings. Previous TIP lists had included improvements to the Newtown Yardley Road corridor, which have not been completed due to budget constraints. This will be reviewed. The traffic engineer told the Commission that, after a review, it was recommended that Silo Drive remain open to two-way traffic, with a suggestion of addition of signage directing northbound traffic to Rte 532 to turn at Ice Cream Alley. Members requested that Mr. Johnson investigate timing of traffic lights at Buck Road and the Bypass and along State and Sycamore Streets, particularly at the intersection with Jefferson Street. The Commission supports the Silo Drive recommendations.
The Commission was introduced to Thomas Wilkes, Remington & Vernick’s representative to the Planning Commission.
The Commission reviewed a sketch plan for Cricklewood Green. This plan will require a variance. The Commission is supportive of the changes to this already approved plan, as it enhances the appearance of Lindenhurst Road, helping it retain its rural aspect.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Ward indicated that signage on Ice Cream Alley directing northbound traffic, and the addition of a traffic signal at Sycamore Street, should alleviate traffic congestion, making “right turn only” unnecessary at the intersection of Silo and Sycamore Streets.
Mr. Ward said that because of the Independence Day holiday, the July 3, 2007 meeting has been canceled.
Telecommunications Advisory Committee: Harry Stevens reported that Chairman Jim Bowe had offered his resignation as chairman of the Committee, as his business will now require frequent travel. The Committee has nominated Mr. Stevens to serve as chairman. Mr. Stevens said that Comcast representatives have notified Verizon that Comcast will not provide the feed for Verizon to carry the PEG channels. Many residents have complained that Verizon is not yet providing the PEG channels, and these residents have been unable to watch Township and School Board meetings. He asked the Supervisors to step in with Verizon on this. The Advisory Committee has recently discussed hosting televised debates of candidates in local elections, using volunteers from Council Rock or the Community College in a location such as this meeting room, with the League of Women Voters as moderators. The debates could then be taped and rebroadcast.
Mr. Stevens noted that because of the Independence Day holiday, the July meeting has been canceled.
Mr. Schenkman said that he is liaison to the Consortium, which has recently submitted a first draft of the franchise agreement to Comcast. Verizon has until the end of 2007 to begin broadcasting the PEG channels.
Mr. Stevens said that Brian Jeter of Comcast always attends the Committee meetings, but Verizon has never sent a representative.
Conditional Use - Lang Ski and Scuba, 107-109 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Beckert opened the hearing and entered the following exhibits:
Mr. Weaver moved to continue the conditional use hearing of Lang Ski and Scuba to June 27, 2007. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to close the hearing of Lang Ski and Scuba. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Reports of Officials
Board Members: Mr. Schenkman reported that he recently participated in a meeting with PennDOT about synchronization of the traffic lights on the Bypass. The consultants now have the software, which will be put in place in the next few weeks. They will then monitor traffic flow in all directions, now and in the fall, when school is in session. There was some discussion about the timing of the Richboro Road intersection, which will be closely monitored.
Manager: Mr. Boyle presented a memo outlining bids for the 2007 Road Program. He noted that the bid presented was the only response that was under budget. Two items have been re-submitted for bids, and the $718,500.50 bid does not reflect these two items: concrete sidewalks and asphalt sidewalks.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the bid for the 2007 road program from Asphalt Paving Systems, Inc. in the amount of $718,500.50. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Boyle asked the Board to authorize payment on the Sycamore Street project, which is fully reimbursable.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment #34 of the Sycamore Street Project in the amount of $30,212.22. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Solicitor’s Report: Mr. Beckert asked the Board to re-enact the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 in order to bar any future procedural challenges. At this time there are no claims pending. This has been advertised by all three municipalities in the Jointure.
Mr. Weaver moved to re-enact the JMZO of 1983, including all amendments through December 31, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Resident Robert Ciervo asked about the status of the Federal Cemetery Overlay Ordinance.
Mr. Beckert said that the Overlay Ordinance was enacted in 2006, and is being re-enacted now. The only outstanding challenges to that ordinance have been withdrawn in Newtown and in Upper Makefield, and the Zoning Hearing Board has accepted the withdrawal.
The motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Beckert asked the Board to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2007-01, which relates to the Quarry district in Wrightstown Township. The amendment deals with residential uses in the quarry district; the amendment puts CM conservation management standards on the residential uses.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2007-01. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Beckert asked the Board to consider authorization to advertise JMZO 2006-23, Consumer Fireworks Facility Use. The sale of fireworks is permitted in Pennsylvania; however there is no location where it is permitted within the Jointure. This amendment would establish locations at the sites of Hansen and Eureka Quarries in Wrightstown where sale would be permitted as a conditional use. There have been requests to sell fireworks within the Jointure in the past.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2006-23. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Beckert discussed an ordinance amending the fee schedule. Newtown Township currently does not have a set fee for inter-municipal transfer of liquor licenses. This ordinance sets a fee and escrow for same. The ordinance also addresses Park and Recreation fees in lieu of dedication of open space for the adaptive re-use of properties. The proposed ordinance would set the fee at 100%, but allows the Board to consider reducing or waiving the fee on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Weaver and Mr. Calabro expressed support for that provision.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance amending the Newtown Township fee schedule. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Engineer’s Report: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize signing of Mylars for Pryda Design and Construction, 159 N. Sycamore Street. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize signing of Mylars and Improvement Agreement for 11 Friends Lane. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize signing of Mylars for St. Andrew’s Church, 81 Swamp Road. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize escrow release for The Villas at Newtown in the amount of $275,000.13. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release for Delancey Court of Newtown in the amount of $198,615.96. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize escrow release for Goodnoe’s Corner in the amount of $312,269.53. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Public Comment: Resident Ellen Reliance, speaking on behalf of the Swamp Road Residents Group, expressed great concern about the noise along Swamp Road, noting that the loud brakes on the trucks are heard very early in the morning. She asked whether the noise ordinance could restrict the use of the brakes.
Mr. Beckert said that the Township has passed an ordinance on the use of Jake Brakes; however it can only be enforced on Township roads, not State Roads. An application has been made to PennDOT requesting authorization to enforce. The noise ordinance cannot be enforced to regulate the noise trucks make in their normal operation. He said that he will speak to Wrightstown’s solicitor about the change in the quarries’ hours of operation.
Ms. Reliance spoke about the speed on Swamp Road, noting that RRTS has gotten traffic calming for Lindenhurst Road, and Swamp Road should be treated the same. She also talked about the reduction in property values if Swamp Road is widened so that properties backing onto the road no longer have buffering. She asked that the speed limit be reduced to 40 MPH and that a crosswalk be installed at Tyler State Park, and horse-crossing signs be placed along the road.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that she document her claim of reduced property values.
Mr. Vanderhorn said that he did not want to anger residents along Stoopville Road, creating an “us vs. them” attitude. He was looking for the common good of all of Newtown, with safe roads throughout the Township.
Resident Denis Fisher said that he is concerned about the speed on Swamp Road, and the safety of all Township roads. He said that there would be a newsletter in the end of June about the Swamp Road Project, and he requested that future meetings be placed on the Township Web site and television station. He commended the work of the Supervisors in bringing a Veterans Cemetery to the area. He commented on a recent Bucks County Courier Times article on plans for the municipal expansion. He encouraged the Supervisors to involve the public in the plans.
Mr. Beckert said the purchase of land for the expansion has been completed.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether architectural plans for the expansion could be put on the Township Web site. He also asked about discussion of a traffic ordinance.
Mr. Beckert said that representatives of the schools on Wrights Road wanted to be in attendance at a work session at which parking along Wrights Road is to be discussed. This will be on the July 11 agenda.
Ms. Reliance asked the Board to work with Wrightstown Township on the Swamp Road issues. There are a number of individual homeowners concerned about this problem, not just development residents. She is working on an e-mail distribution list to keep interested residents informed. Residents can contact her to be added to the list.
Mr. Ciervo asked about sidewalks on State Street.
Mr. Boyle said that those sidewalks were part of the 2007 Roads Program that are to be re-bid. The sidewalks will be done this summer.
Mr. Ciervo said that the residents in the Stoopville Road area do not support traffic roundabouts.
Mr. Schenkman said that there is a possibility of a roundabout, but not in Newtown. There is no Board support for the roundabouts.
Mr. Stevens commented on a recent incident of road rage on Eagle Road. He asked whether the Board had considered methods of speed limit enforcement such as cameras.
Mr. Weaver said that he thought that the city of Philadelphia was installing some of these enforcement cameras on a trial basis.
Mr. Beckert informed the Board that there would be a need for an executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 10:15 PM.