Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 27, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Ann 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 John Boyle, Acting Township Manager.
Call to Order: Mrs. Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. Nooshin Asadpoor of the Bahai Faith gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Boyle reported that the applicant’s attorney has requested that the remanded hearing for consideration of final plan for Gigliotti Avignon Associates, Rockridge Drive, be continued to July 11, 2007. The Zoning Hearing Board application of Third Federal Bank and the renewal of a DEP application for MRI Flexible Packaging have been added to the Solicitor’s Report.
Special Action: Officer Rob Hannah Memorial Scholarship: Sgt. Stephen Meyers of the Newtown Township Police Department presented the Rob Hannah Memorial Scholarship, awarded by the PBA to Cory Morris, a recent graduate of Council Rock High School North. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a Council Rock graduate pursuing a post-secondary education in criminal justice in memory of Officer Hannah, who served for many years in both Newtown and Northampton Townships before succumbing to cancer.
Public Comment: Mark Craig of Newtown Borough invited the residents to participate in the events on “Newtown’s First Fourth” on Saturday, July 7, 2007, with the theme “America at 400”, celebrating the 400 th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony. He noted that it is also the 500 th anniversary of the naming of America. 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. Volunteers are needed for the day’s many events. For more information, visit the Web site www.newtownfirstfourth.com
Resident Nancy Crescenzo commented on the number of residents in attendance at the June 13, 2007 meeting, who discussed concerns about traffic and improvement plans for Swamp Road. She noted that these residents had felt that focus had been on Lindenhurst and Stoopville Roads for traffic calming. She suggested that South Eagle Road should also be included in any discussion of traffic problems, and suggested that enforcement of existing traffic laws would reduce some of the speeding and danger on all of the roads. She asked that the Township’s speed board be used at all times, moved to a different location each day. She referred to a traffic study that indicated that South Eagle Road has heavy traffic on school days; between 7:00 and 10:00 AM 662 cars were counted and between 3:00 and 6:00 PM 994 cars were counted. She requested information on the number of speeding tickets issued on this segment of Eagle Road.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman noted that in the Telecommunications Advisory Committee report, it should have stated that Mr. Bowe had resigned his position as chairman, but not his position on the committee.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of June 13, 2007, as corrected. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0-2, with Mrs. Goren and Mr. Jirele abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $309,879.60. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $150,000. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Planning Commission member Vince Lombardi reported that at the June 19, 2007 meeting the Commission reviewed a land development application for Lang Ski and Scuba, 107-109 N. Sycamore Street and recommended approval, subject to certain conditions. This plan is very little changed from the earlier approved plan.
The Commission reviewed and recommended approval of ten conditional use applications, all subject to certain conditions, as follows:
The Commission also reviewed four residential Zoning Hearing Board applications, and passed them on without comment. The application of Ray and Catherine Pugh, 34 Wrights Road, seeks variances to construct a single family home in Mardot Village. The Commission would like the Board to be aware that there are a few vacant lots in Mardot Village that had restrictions on building until public water and sewer was made available. Other than this, the Commission passed the application without comment. The Commission reviewed the application of Friends Lane, LLC, 104 Penns Trail for a variance for increased impervious surface. This new construction of a storage facility on a vacant lot involves an increase in impervious surface. The applicant has a 100-foot easement that is not included in the impervious calculation. If it had been included, the impervious surface would be below the maximum permitted, and new stormwater management will handle all run-off from the new construction. The Commission would like the Board to be aware that the 100-foot easement exists on many of the properties in the Newtown Business Commons. Other than this, the Commission passed the application to the Board without comment.
Mr. Lombardi announced that the July 3, 2007 meeting would be canceled.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Chairman Harriet Beckert announced that the Board holds meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 1:00 PM in the Martindell House. These meetings are open to the public.
Regarding the application of Rouget, 2 Swamp Road, Mrs. Beckert pointed out that HARB is recommending approval of two signs; a third sign is still being reviewed.
Mr. Weaver moved to issue a certificate of appropriateness for Rouget, 2 Swamp Road, for two signs. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Conditional Use – Newtown Veterinary Hospital, 107 Penns Trail: Mr. Beckert opened the hearing. He entered the following exhibits:
Mrs. Goren asked if anyone present wished to be party to the application. There was no response.
Attorney T.J. Walsh represented the applicant. Dr. Timothy Ireland, Trisha McLaughlin and Jeff Grogan were sworn in.
Mr. Walsh said that this is an application for conditional use for a veterinary hospital, Use E-20, in a converted 10,000 square foot warehouse in the Newtown Business Commons. The Zoning Hearing Board has granted relief for 50 parking spaces, with 15 spaces 9 feet by 18 feet, which will be designated as employee parking. A variance was also granted for the location on a non-arterial road. Mr. Walsh briefly discussed the overnight boarding of animals, noting that this would only be for medical or surgical reasons. There are no boarding kennels planned for this location. There are animals which remain overnight for medical treatment or observation. Newtown Veterinary Hospital has been at 671 Newtown Yardley Road for forty years. That facility will remain open for therapy, with the veterinary offices and surgery at the new location. The new facility will also house a pharmacy. There are 30 employees, with a maximum of 16 on site at any time.
Mr. Walsh said that it has been determined that a tractor-trailer could not maneuver in the parking lot. The company that makes a weekly delivery of animal food will use a large truck, but not a tractor-trailer.
Dr. Ireland confirmed that Mr. Walsh’s summary of the application is accurate.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant conditional use approval for Newtown Veterinary hospital for Use E-20, Veterinary Clinic, at 107 Penns Trail, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Conditional Use Lang Ski and Scuba – 107-109 N. Sycamore Street: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant in this continued application for conditional use.
Mr. Beckert explained to those residents in attendance that if they wish to be a party to the application they would have the right to cross-examine the applicant and any of his witnesses, present evidence and witnesses, and make any statement concerning the application. Should they disagree with the decision of the Board of Supervisors, party status would give them the right to appeal the decision. Anyone present not wishing party status would be allowed to make statements for or against the application after the hearing and before a decision is rendered.
Mrs. Goren asked if anyone present wished party status. There was no response.
Robert Lang and Heath Dumack were sworn in. Mr. Murphy explained that the application for conditional use is limited to parking within the flood fringe area. This applicant had been granted conditional use approval on October 16, 2006 for an E-1 retail use in a 2,830 square foot space at this location. The property borders Newtown Creek. Of the 23 proposed parking spaces, portions of 9 are within the flood fringe. A flood plain study was conducted and reviewed by the Township Engineer. The Planning Commission reviewed the application at the June 19, 2007 meeting and recommended approval.
Mr. Murphy explained that the flood fringe is the outer edge of the floodplain, which is the area that would be subjected to water in a 100-year storm.
In response to questions from Mr. Jirele, Mr. Dumack said that this is a new parking area; the stormwater facilities have been expanded to accommodate the new area. In a 100-year storm, water in the flood fringe would be about one foot deep.
Mr. Jirele expressed concern about any construction in the floodplain. In response to his further questions, Mr. Dumack said that no structures will be built; there will be no impediment to the flow of water. The additional paving will have no impact, or possibly a positive impact of the flow, because the paving conforms to the same slope. Water will meet less resistance than with lawn areas.
Mrs. Crescenzo was sworn in. Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about the environmental impact of construction in the floodplain. She questioned the Township’s policy for allowing construction in the floodplain. She said that she is concerned about the flow of the stream in an environmentally sensitive area. She questioned whether there have been any other conditional use approvals or variances granted in floodplains.
Mrs. Goren responded that each application is considered individually. A flood study was conducted which shows that the flow would be the same, or possibly improved. There have been other variances and approvals granted, for example the CAU project has some parking in the flood fringe.
Mr. Schenkman commented that this has not been designated an environmentally sensitive area, although it is within a floodplain.
Mr. Murphy said that this application meets the objective criteria for activity in the floodplain, as defined in the Ordinance.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the parking plan, noting that the paved area is about 10 feet from the creek’s floodway. Tire stops will be placed along the edge of the parking area facing the creek. The stormwater management system has four inlets to capture water, as well as French drains, which capture run-off, retains it and infiltrates it back into the ground. In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Dumack said that the inlets were located at the corners of the parking area for easy access for maintenance. The French drains are about three feet wide with landscaping shrubs shielding them. The proposed parking area meets the criteria of the Ordinance; it occupies 21% of the flood fringe.
Mr. Watson said that he has reviewed and approved the plan. He noted that the Pennsylvania DEP allows paving in the flood fringe, provided it does not change the surface elevation more than one foot. The oversized underground retention system addresses this. The proposed solution will reduce the amount of water in the floodplain in the event of a 100-year storm.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s further questions, Mr. Dumack said that the volume of water would be stored on-site, whether from overflow of the creek or from rainwater. The flood study measured conditions in the 100-year storm. There are no data on 50-year storms.
Mrs. Crescenzo discussed a group called the “Newtown Creek Coalition” which has been meeting to document the condition of the Creek. She suggested that this group review the plans for comment. She also requested that the applicant donate money to the Coalition.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Dumack said that in this particular situation, the use of porous paving would not make any difference.
Mr. Murphy noted that his own property has porous paving, but it is not a busy parking area. Porous paving is not recommended for retail settings, with frequent in-and-out traffic.
Mr. Dumack discussed possibly lowering the parking area. He briefly discussed the capacity of the underground retention system, calculating that it could hold about 9600 cubic feet of water.
The Board briefly discussed whether the Environmental Advisory Council should review the application for its environmental impact. Mr. Murphy noted that the Ordinance has recognized that there might be a need for parking in the flood fringe in the TC zoning district. He was reluctant to add another layer of review.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Murphy said that the Ordinance requires 20 parking spaces for this use, and 23 spaces are proposed. Similar conditions exist elsewhere along the creek. The parking area could not be designed differently, as space is needed to allow cars to maneuver in and out. The applicant would be amenable to leaving three parking spaces in green unless or until needed.
As to the suggestion to lower the parking area, Mr. Watson said that this could cause turbulence during a flood.
Michael Boccardo was sworn in. Mr. Boccardo said that he lived on the property during his childhood. Prior to the building of the dam upstream, the property was frequently flooded, but the creek has never breached its banks since the dam was built.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant conditional use approval to Lang Ski and Scuba for parking in the flood fringe at 107-109 N. Sycamore Street, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0, with Mr. Jirele voting nay.
Mr. Weaver moved to close the conditional use hearing of Lang Ski and Scuba. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Preliminary as Final Plan – Lang Ski and Scuba – 107-109 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Murphy represented the applicant. He indicated that the applicant will comply with all conditions of the review letters. The only issue to be discussed is the Park and Recreation fee in lieu of open space. The fee has been calculated to include the existing apartments on the site. These apartments have been on the property all along, and are not adding any impact to the site. The applicant is asking that the fee only include the new retail use in the calculation.
Mr. Beckert advised the Board that the Ordinance does not give credit for a second use. Waiving of the fee is at the discretion of the Board.
Mr. Jirele agreed that the existing apartments have been there along time and will not have any new impact.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would be inclined to waive the fee if the applicant were willing to either provide access to the creek, or in some other way work with the Newtown Creek Coalition.
Mr. Weaver and Mr. Calabro agreed that the apartments should be grandfathered, and not assessed a Park and Recreation fee.
In response to questions from the Board, referencing the earlier discussion of parking spaces, Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant would defer to Mr. Watson’s opinion as to which three parking spaces remain in green. He also said that the applicant would willingly work with the Newtown Creek Coalition.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant preliminary as final plan to Lang Ski and Scuba, 107-109 N. Sycamore Street, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Remanded Hearing for Consolidation of Final Plan for Gigliotti Avignon Associates – Rockbridge Drive: Mr. Weaver moved to continue the remanded hearing of Gigliotti Avignon Associates, Rockbridge Drive, to July 11, 2007. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Amendment/Revision to Approved Final Plan for Land Development and Conditional Use: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants. Mr. Marshall briefly reviewed the project from its beginning, when the Economic Development Committee (EDC) began working on converting the Industrial Commons to the Newtown Business Commons. It had been the EDC’s recommendation to add use E-22, Executive Inn/Conference Center to the permitted uses in the Business Commons, subject to the following conditions:
After long and arduous meetings, Homewood Suites had been approved for land development and for conditional use. The Zoning Hearing Board granted necessary variances for height and for signage. At all meetings, the developers have always indicated that there would be about 10,000 square feet of conference space. Earlier Planning Commission minutes show the largest room to be 2,000 square feet. Nothing in this revision is inconsistent with the earlier approval.
Mr. Marshall showed the revised floor plan, pointing to an area that has been reconfigured so that four small conference rooms can be made into one large room with the use of moveable partitions. While the total conference space is 9,966 square feet, the entire project has been reduced by 10%. The largest room, at 2306 square feet, can accommodate 154 people at tables, or in a seminar/lecture setting, 330 people. In addition, the breakfast room is 2,200 square feet, and can be used as a reception space. There are five dedicated conference rooms of 465 square feet, which would seat 31 people. Eight conference suites are located within the hotel. These suites contain Murphy beds, but when made up as conference suites, can seat 30 people. These plans comply with all approvals. To provide conference facilities for 500 people would require a banquet kitchen to feed the attendees. This plan is more in keeping with the needs of the Newtown Business Commons. All fees have been paid; the applicant has committed to off-site signage.
In response to Mrs. Goren’s questions, Mr. Marshall said that there is a conference suite on each floor. All other conference rooms are on the first floor. If the suites are removed from the calculation, there are 5500 square feet of dedicated conference space on the first floor. Referring to minutes of Planning Commission meetings, Mr. Marshall noted that at no time did the applicant indicate that all 10,000 square feet of conference space would be on the first floor. The approval decision refers only to 10,000 square feet of “conference space”.
Mr. Jirele said that he is a frequent business traveler, has stayed at Homewood Suites, and feels that this type of facility is in high demand.
In response to Board questions, Thomas Reese, Jr., who is the developer of the project, reviewed the set-up of the conference suites, which are frequently used as both conference rooms and in the evening as guestrooms. He said that the breakfast room can be set for conferences, but flexibility is needed for this space to be used to serve guests’ breakfast. His architect indicated that the archways leading to the breakfast room could be partitioned to be closed off from the lobby. Food is served from an area called “the pantry”, which is not part of the breakfast room.
As some Board members continued to discuss their expectation that the hotel could host large two/three day conferences or conventions, Mr. Marshall noted that the Board had not wanted catering facilities on the premises and that parking is not adequate for large events. There are not sufficient guestrooms for larger events, and it would not be possible to move all of the conference space to the first floor, or to remove walls to create one very large conference room. The applicant has been in touch with Mr. Troilo, about using space in 104 Pheasant Run for additional meeting rooms. He again discussed the need for this type of facility inside the Business Commons, to service the businesses in Newtown.
Mr. Beckert said that this amended plan has been brought before the Board because Mr. Solomon was shown plans with only 1,500 square feet of conference space. He was hesitant to issue permits for a plan that differed so much from the originally approved plan. He said that the Board could do one of the following:
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has changed since the original plans were approved; however the applicant had been given direction to build a hotel/conference center in the Business Commons, and this plan conforms to what had been the Board’s guidance.
Mr. Jirele moved to authorize the Codes Department to issue permits for the revised plan presented on June 27, 2007. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Marshall said that residential neighbors had been notified of the original conditional use hearing and of the Zoning Hearing Board application. There had been a few concerns about lighted signs at the top of the building, but those residents’ concerns have been addressed.
Mr. Schenkman said that he had some concerns about the plan, but would support the applicant.
Mrs. Goren said that she appreciated that the applicant has adjusted the plan to provide one large conference room, although she had hoped the plan would have been a first class conference center, able to host large events.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she has attended many previous Board meetings, as well as the last work session, at which this plan was discussed. She said that the plans reflect what the Board had originally asked for. She noted that the Board had not approved a restaurant in the Commons with late evening hours, which would have been necessary for a large conference center.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Reese said that, although there are not banquet kitchen facilities on site, the hotel could accommodate catering of meals for conferences, using outside caterers.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mrs. Goren voting nay.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Mrs. Goren reported that the Board had met in executive session on June 16 and June 23, 2007 in executive session on matters of personnel.
Mr. Schenkman reported that he had recently attended the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities Convention in Scranton, PA. He would provide the Board with a detailed report and share printed materials with the members.
Manager: Mr. Boyleprovided the Board with copies of a proposal to upgrade the current Channel 22 Government Access Channel to include news, weather and stock information. Harry Stevens, chairman of the Telecommunications Advisory Committee and Jeff Jim of Video Gold were in attendance to discuss the proposal.
Mr. Stevens said that the Telecommunications Advisory Committee has been attempting to expand the content on Channel 22. This upgrade would provide news, weather, etc, along the bottom or side of the screen, in addition to the other content. The cost is $995 for the upgrade, with an annual subscription rate of $895.
Mr. Jim discussed the existing system’s capabilities. It is possible to update the screens remotely now; for example an employee could post weather closing information or meeting cancellation information from a home computer.
The Board members questioned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Jim about the addition of the subscription to the existing service, and questioned whether the public would be interested in having the scrolled data during televised meetings. There was some confusion about whether the news, sports and weather would be local, with Newtown and Council Rock information, or would it be the same as viewers are currently receiving on all-news networks.
As the Board could not reach a consensus on purchasing the upgrade, it was agreed that a video presentation would be made at an upcoming work session, to better evaluate the content.
Solicitor: Mr. Beckert reviewed the proposed traffic regulations Ordinance, noting that there would be no left turn permitted from Silo Drive onto Sycamore Street.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of the Newtown Township Ordinance amending the Code of Ordinances relating to traffic regulations, stop signs and parking regulations. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Beckert said that Pennoni Associates had recommended the “no left turn” on Silo Drive. Signs would be placed on Silo Drive advising northbound motorists to turn at Ice Cream Alley to Durham Road to Rte 532 northbound. If a traffic light is warranted after construction of the shopping center, the signs would be removed.
Mr. Jirele said that he is concerned about causing confusion if left turns are not permitted. He said that he favors making Silo Drive a one-way street.
Mr. Beckert said that a traffic light could not be sought until after the new shopping center is completed. Pennoni Associates had suggested that creating a one-way street on Silo would change the flow of traffic, producing collateral consequences. He suggested removing this provision from the proposed Ordinance at this time, if the Board is not in agreement about the “no left turn” provision.
Mr. Weaver amended his motion, removing the “no left turn” provision on Silo Drive. Mr. Calabro amended his second.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from Mrs. Crescenzo, Mrs. Goren said that the proposed Ordinance amends certain stop signs, posted maximum speed limits, etc, throughout the Township. She asked Mr. Boyle to arrange for posting the Ordinance on the Web site.
Mr. Calabro said that after completion of the new Goodnoe’s Corner Shopping Center, a traffic study would be conducted to determine whether a traffic light would be warranted at Silo Drive and Sycamore Street.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to advertise a Newtown Township Ordinance amending the Firefighters Pension Plan. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to enact a resolution amending the Administrative Conditional Use procedures. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Beckert said that he and Mr. Solomon drafted the resolution. Mr. Solomon had been having some problems with granting administrative conditional use approvals in certain circumstances, such as when an already approved use relocated to a location where parking might be an issue, or when a new use, that would be the same generic use, but with a different impact, was planning a move into a location. This resolution will help in determining when an application can be handled administratively.
The motion passed unanimously.
The Board passed along all of the Zoning Hearing Board applications without comment.
Mr. Beckert said that the Zoning Hearing Board application of Third Federal Bank is to be heard at the July meeting. The application has been revised such that the sign is now three sided, 25-square feet, on a stone base with sandblasted wood, and is externally lit.
Mr. Jirele moved to withdraw the Board’s opposition to the Zoning Hearing Board application of Third Federal Bank. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Beckert informed the Board that he had received from MRI Flexible Packaging, Inc., 112 Penns Trail, a Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection Renewal Application. He had furnished the application to Board members via e-mail earlier. The application is for five years, and the applicant indicates that it currently contains 98% of harmful emissions on site. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Beckert said that there have been occasional complaints of odors, which Fire Marshal Don Harris has referred to the DEP. Mr. Beckert said that if the Board wishes to comment on the application, it must be done by year end.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has begun to review the materials Mr. Beckert had provided. He noted that the emissions involve volatile organic compounds that can cause eye and lung irritations. Prolonged exposure at high levels could impact liver functions. He said that he would like to know how complaints to the DEP were resolved.
Mr. Schenkman moved to make comment on the DEP application of MRI Flexible Packaging, Inc. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Engineer’s Report: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize signing of Mylars for Leigh, 54 Copperleaf Drive. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that the Leighs are his neighbors.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release for Newtown Walk in the amount of $205,222.50. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Public Comment: Mrs. Crescenzo asked the Manager for a list of speeding tickets issued on South Eagle and Stoopville Roads.
She thanked Messrs. Schenkman, Calabro and Jirele for their support of the Newtown Creek Coalition and for their concern about environmental matters.
Mrs. Crescenzo read from old Park and Recreation Board minutes about a plan to label trees at the Clark Nature Center, and complained that this project has never been undertaken.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board of Supervisors has never authorized the labeling of trees at the Clark Nature Center.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed support for the request of the AARK Foundation to move to the Clark Nature Center.
Mrs. Crescenzo reviewed old minutes from various meetings concerning the use of the Acme property. She said that the Acme Visioning Committee had some support for a community center, as had an ad hoc committee formed to investigate a Newtown Township Community Center. She said that the Board has ignored the community’s need for a community center for teens and senior citizens. She asked that the Board, along with residents, begin long-range planning for a community center.The meeting adjourned at 12:30 AM.