Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 14, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Thomas Jirele and Richard Weaver, members. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor, James Watson, Township Engineer and Elaine Gibbs, Finance Director.
Call to Order: Chairman Anne Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM.
Invocation: The invocation was given by Pastor Christopher Edwards of the Northampton Presbyterian Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mrs. Gibbs informed the Board that Road Program Certificate 1-C has been added to the Engineer’s Report.
Public Comment: Resident Jay Sensibaugh thanked the voters who supported his campaign for Supervisor and congratulated Robert Ciervo and Mike Gallagher on their election to the Board. He looks forward to working with them as a member of the Planning Commission on issues of traffic and land preservation. He urged residents to volunteer for the Township’s committees.
Resident Dennis Fisher thanked to voters who supported his campaign for Supervisor and congratulated Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Gallagher on their election, and looks forward to working with them as a Planning Commission member and liaison to the Environmental Advisory Council. He asked how interested residents should apply for positions on committees.
Mrs. Goren said that the Board will be accepting applications for positions on committees, boards and commissions for terms beginning in January of 2008. Letters of interest should be either mailed to Toni Garcia, the Administrative Assistant to the Township Manager, at 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown PA 18940, or e-mailed at email@example.com, no later than December 14, 2007. If a resident has a specific interest or skill, that should be noted in the letter.
Mr. Jirele reviewed the process by which appointees would be chosen: letters of interest, received by December 14, 2007, would be distributed to the Board members and members elect for consideration. Each Board member would then choose two candidates for further consideration. Township Consultants would be appointed in a similar way, with each Board member submitting two choices for consideration. Applicants for consultant positions will be asked to submit a letter of interest stating qualifications and specifically outlining ways that they or their firms could save the Township money. Once two names have been chosen by each Board member, interviews would be conducted by the entire Board. As for Board liaison assignments, each Board member will be asked to prioritize his preferences for liaison positions. All five Board members will be involved in the selection process.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo congratulated Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Gallagher on their election to the Board of Supervisors. She said that she learned a lot during the campaign, and thanked Messrs. Calabro and Jirele for their gracious words after the election. She said that she is continuing her project of “Stamps for Democracy” and will be working with a Northampton resident, the wife of a soldier deployed to Iraq, who is collecting video games and game systems to mail to the troops.
Resident John D’Aprile congratulated Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Gallagher on their election. He thanked all of the residents who participated by voting on Election Day, and he thanked the candidates who lost but have continued their involvement in our government.
Member Comments: Mr. Weaver thanked Council Rock High School North for its recent tribute program honoring veterans. The entire High School auditorium was filled for the program that paid tribute to Newtown’s veterans.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 24, 2007. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the minutes of the work session of October 15, 2007. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $762,946.66. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned bills from Mr. Beckert for Rockbridge and for a civil rights matter.
Mr. Beckert said that he had not billed on Rockbridge, pending the outcome, as the applicant would have been responsible for his bills had the Township been successful in the appeal of its decision. Regarding the civil rights matter, the Township is being sued in Federal Court by a person who is claiming civil rights violation regarding a traffic issue. This person has filed 9 such suits against Newtown Township, Newtown Borough and Bucks County, all on matters related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is the Township’s contention that these are frivolous claims and is seeking sanctions. The Township is obligated to respond to these claims.
Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the bills for both a Commerce Bank credit card and a Home Depot credit card.
Mrs. Gibbs said that the Commerce Bank card is in her name, and is used for on-line purchases, hotel reservations, etc. The Home Depot card is used by the Public Works Director for purchase of supplies needed for various jobs and repairs. There is not sufficient petty cash to handle these purchases. All bills are paid in full upon receipt and no finance charges are paid. Checks are not used for purchases because checks require the signature of two Board members, and are signed at the regular meetings. It would be impossible to anticipate the need for checks for purchase of repair supplies.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $176,616.87. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Shawn Ward reported that at the October 30, 2007 meeting the Planning Commission reviewed the revised preliminary plan to construct a 47.6 acre active recreation park utilizing the C-5 Recreational Facility use, and recommended that the Board of Supervisors grant preliminary as final plan approval subject to some conditions, including a widening of Wrights Road at the entrance to the park to allow through traffic to pass around any cars that might stack to make a left turn into the park. Regarding lighting, the Commission recommended that field lights be extinguished by 10:00PM, and that the Board of Supervisors devise a schedule for parking lot and security lighting. The recommendation is also conditioned on the rezoning of the parcel currently zoned POS, Park and Open Space to be rezoned as EIR – Educational Institutional Recreational. The portion of the property closest to Eagle Road is currently zoned CM, Conservation Management. The Commission recommended that portion to remain CM. The Commission suggested that the Park and Recreation Board provide calculations for impervious surface if playing fields are to be covered by artificial turf.
The Commission reviewed and recommended that the Board of Supervisors grant conditional use approval for BF Pizzeria at 2102 South Eagle Road for an E-5 and E-6 eating place use in an 1800 square foot space at Village at Newtown South, which had been Philly Crab Express, also a take out food business. The Commission discussed with the applicant the ongoing difficulties with trash at the rear of the shopping center, and asked his cooperation in working with the shopping center owner to keep trash inside dumpsters. It is the shopping center owner’s responsibility to provide a screened location for the dumpsters.
Because of the meeting schedule for the month of November, the Commission would not have an opportunity to formally review the Zoning Hearing Board applications prior to the Board of Supervisor’s review. Mr. Ward said that the Commission circulated the application summaries, and via e-mail, discussed some concerns about the Robert M. Lantzy application for increased medical use at 11 Friends Lane. This property had been granted a parking variance subject to the condition that only 50% of the building would be used for medical uses, which have more intense parking needs. The Commission is concerned about increasing the area used for medical offices, as it could be a burden on the Business Commons and the Township.
Attorney Don Marshall, who represents this applicant, said that he will be requesting a continuance from the Zoning Hearing Board. He would then have an opportunity to discuss the application with the Planning Commission. He asked that the Board table consideration of this application until the Planning Commission has reviewed it formally.
Mr. Ward said that the Commission had no comment of 40 Autumn Drive. The applicant for 13 Hillside Road had been granted Zoning Hearing Board relief only one year ago to put an addition on the house. Any hardship this property owner is experiencing is, in the opinion of the Planning Commission, self-imposed.
Land Development Projects
Conditional Use – B.F. Pizzeria, 2102 South Eagle Road. Mrs. Goren opened the conditional use hearing.
Mr. Beckert entered the following exhibits:
Attorney Brandon Wind represented the applicant.
Mrs. Goren asked if anyone in attendance wished party status. There was no response.
Applicant Vito Ferrigno was sworn in.
Mr. Wind said that the applicant plans to open a pizzeria, an E-5 and E-6 eating place/take-out at 2102 South Eagle Road, which had been Philly Crab Express, the same use. There is to be no alcohol served. As had been discussed with the Planning Commission, the applicant will work with the shopping center to screen trash and to install trash receptacles for customer use at the front of the store. No exterior changes or improvements are anticipated. The applicant agrees to comply with the recommended conditions of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Ferrigno agreed wit Mr. Wind’s statements. In response to Mr. Beckert’s question, Mr. Ferrigno said that he intends to remain open until 10:00 PM on weekdays, but it is possible that, if business demands, he might wish to remain open until 11:00 PM. He asked to change that condition on his application.
Mr. Jirele asked whether Philly Crab Express had any designated parking spaces for pick-up. If not, he would like such spaces added as a condition. The spaces should have a short time limit, 15 or 20 minutes, similar to other designated take out parking in the shopping center.
Mr. Wind said that the applicant would comply with that request, if the landlord would accommodate the request.
Mr. Ferrigno said that employees would park in the rear of the shopping center.
Mr. Calabro move to grant the conditional use application of BF Pizzeria, Inc, 2102 S. Eagle Road, Newtown, to operate an E-5 and E-6 ( Eating Place/Drive In Use) on the following conditions:
Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to close the conditional use hearing. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Johnson Kendall Johnson, 109 Pheasant Run – Preliminary as Final Plan for Land Development: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant for this adaptive reuse of the former Sonic Systems light manufacturing site. The applicant proposes to renovate the existing building for Johnson Kendall Johnson’s insurance offices. A 7,500 square foot addition is proposed to be built in three or four years. The applicant is requesting to place 16 parking spaces, to be held in reserve until needed, in the front of the building. Presenting an aerial photograph of the site, Mr. Marshall pointed out the existing features and proposed addition. Zoning Hearing Board relief has been granted to permit only 93 parking spaces where 98 are required and to permit parking within 6 feet of the property line.
Mr. Marshall said that the plan submitted has 98 parking spaces, but some of those spaces will be used for a loading area for delivery by UPS trucks.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the requests for waivers including a waiver for front yard parking, parking within 20 feet of the wall of a building, parking in a drainage easement, and the requirement to perform a traffic study; the applicant proposes to pay a fee of $7500 in lieu of a traffic study. The applicant agrees to comply with the consultants’ review letters and with the Planning Commission conditions.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Marshall said that the applicant, an insurance firm, will occupy 100% of the building. A few parking spaces are to be located about 5 feet from the building. The Planning Commission preferred that the woods to the rear of the property not be disturbed for parking and preferred parking in the front yard. The adjoining property also has front yard parking. The estimated 93 parking spaces includes the 16 spaces held in reserve.
Applicant Bruce White, a principal in 109 Pheasant Run, LLC and an employee of Johnson Kendall Johnson, said that the firm has about 59 employees. At any given time, at least 15 employees are on the road, and clients do not visit the building. While the plan proposes to build 82 parking spaces immediately, the most needed would be between 60 and 70 parking spaces.
Matthew Chartrand of Boehler Engineering, said that the interior space is to be renovated at this time. The project will include sidewalks and street trees; there is a space about 13 feet wide between the edge of the parking lot and the roadbed.
Mr. Weaver moved to grantpreliminary as final land development approval for Johnson, Kendall & Johnson, Inc. and 109 Pheasant Run LLC to permit a 7500 square foot addition to an existing 11,827 square foot existing property at 109 Pheasant Run Business Commons, Tax Map Parcel No. 29-10-128, on the following conditions:
Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Extension Request for DiNardo Subdivision – 49 Stoopville Road: Applicant Michael DiNardo requested a one year extension on a variance granted by the Zoning Hearing Board to subdivide his property, creating a lot of 2.6 acres where three acres are required. He explained that he had difficulty working with the architect, and a new architect has been retained for the project.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant a one year extension on the Zoning Hearing Board variance granted to Michael and Jennifer DiNardo, 49 Stoopville Road. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Mrs. Goren reported that the Board had met in executive session prior to the start of the meeting to discuss matters of personnel, litigation and land acquisition.
Mrs. Goren repeated her request for volunteers to submit resumes or letters of interest to the Township to serve on committees, boards and commissions. At Mr. Jirele’s suggestion, she asked that this request be placed on the Web site and television station.
2008 Budget: Mrs. Gibbs suggested that the Board discuss the preliminary budget this evening and continue discussion and the hanging of the budget at the work session scheduled for November 19, 2007.
In response to questions from Mr. Jirele, Mrs. Gibbs said that the $30,000 budgeted for air conditioning in Schedule A is necessary, as the system had failed and a portion of it had been replaced last summer. The proposed replacement would continue to be utilized after the renovations to this building as part of the municipal expansion.
Mr. Jirele questioned the need for deer fencing at Clark Nature Center, as the deer and rhododendrons have co-existed for over 100 years.
Mrs. Gibbs said that this has been included at the request of the Park and Recreation Department, and the necessity could better be addressed by Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director. Mr. Wert had indicated that this is part of a stewardship plan to protect the rhododendrons, which have been severely damaged by deer. She would include Mr. Wert’s report on this issue in the Friday packets for all of the Supervisors.
Mr. Jirele questioned the need for a new vehicle for the Park and Recreation Department and the use of a vehicle by the assistant manager. He said he would rather see the Park and Recreation department have the full use of the vehicle currently assigned to the assistant manager. The assistant manager would have access during the work day to vehicles that are located on site for Township business.
Mrs. Gibbs said that this is a policy decision. At this time the assistant manager has the full use of a vehicle.
Mrs. Gibbs said that some other updates and changes to the preliminary budget would be included in the Friday packets.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question on increased management salaries for the Codes Department, Mrs. Gibbs said that Ron Weaver has been moved from the Technology Department to the Codes Department. There is an increase in the codes budget with a corresponding decrease in the technology department’s salary budget.
Mrs. Gibbs said that the proposed $5000 for Sycamore Street is for flag replacement, gardens and decorative flower baskets. No baskets were installed last year.
Executive Search for Chief of Police: Mrs. Goren said that Mr. Boyle had provided the Board with information on two firms to work on a search for a Chief of Police. Money is in the budget for this. The Board agreed to meet with Safe City Solutions during executive session before hiring.
Solicitor’s Report: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of a Newtown Township Ordinance to amend provisions of the pension plan or program of Newtown Township Police. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Calabro moved to adopt an ordinance revising the Newtown Township Nuisance Ordinance relating to the operation of all terrain vehicles and dirt bikes and related vehicles declaring certain conduct to be a nuisance. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of a local services tax. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Beckert explained that the previous EMS tax authorized by the Commonwealth has been replaced by an authorization for a local services tax. Newtown Township’s present EMS tax in terms of rates of tax and exemptions is in accordance with the local services tax revision. This Ordinance would simply establish the local services tax replacing the EMS tax and would be effective the first of the year. In response to questions from Mr. Jirele, Mr. Beckert said that the Township had discussed levying a $25 tax with no exemptions, however chose to enact a $52 tax with an exemption for those earning under a certain amount. That exemption is now required by the local services tax.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to see this tax brought down. He asked that the motion be tabled until some research has been done on neighboring municipalities’ EMS taxes.
Mrs. Goren pointed out that this is not a tax on residents, but on those who come to the Township to work. The Township would like employees to contribute to the services they use.
The Board discussed the small number of residents who also work in the Township and the contributions already made by employees through the Earned Income Tax. The EMS tax contributes $500,000 to the budget. Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Board look for ways to reduce the budget rather than ways to add to revenue. He noted that the Earned Income Tax continues to grow.
Mr. Jirele noted that he had discussed a few items that could reduce the budget by as much as $150,000.
The motion failed 2-0, with Messrs. Jirele and Calabro voting nay.
Mr. Beckert noted that if the tax is to be enacted, regardless of the amount of the tax, it must be advertised in order to be effective by the start of next year.
Mr. Jirele asked Mrs. Gibbs to review the budget for possible reductions.
Mrs. Gibbs noted that the largest percentage of the budget is salaries and benefits, which cannot be reduced. To reduce the budget substantially could require elimination of capital projects. Impact fees cannot be moved into the general fund to cover costs, and a portion of the EMS tax is paid to Council Rock School District. She agreed to review possible cost reductions and provide some information to the Board prior to the November 19, 2007 meeting, at which time the Board could discuss whether to possibly reduce the amount of the EMS tax.
Mr. Jirele said that he would be in favor of a reduction of the tax.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance approving bond indebtedness allowing short term borrowing in the amount of $1,700,000. Mrs. Goren seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Beckert explained that, should the Township be the successful bidder, the loan would be for purchase of the Acme property. The Commonwealth will award the bid on November 20, 2007. There are four bids, and if the Township is not successful, the money would not be borrowed.
Mr. Jirele noted that if the Township is the successful bidder, the Township would have some control over future development of the property.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that the Township should not be involved in purchase of this property unless it is to be used for a community center.
Resident Ethel Hibbs asked whether the Township intends to develop the property.
Mrs. Goren said that the Township would resell the property for development.
Mr. Beckert said that the Bankruptcy Court would most likely award the property to the highest bidder. Other bids might be in excess of the Township’s bid.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Beckert reviewed a proposed JMZO Ordinance limiting the use of electronic and video graphic signage. The Bucks County Planning Commission concurs with the Newtown Township Planning Commission’s recommendations that the signage not be permitted in the LI zoning district and that language be added stating that said signs not be visible from the historic district or from the Newtown Bypass. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, he said that the only locations where such signage would be appropriate are in the area of South Eagle Road near Genuardi’s and in the CC district near Richboro Road.
The Board agreed with these recommendations, and Mr. Beckert said that he will notify the Jointure Solicitor of the Township’s position.
Mr. Beckert reviewed JMZO 2007-05 – Landscape Contractor Use. He said that Wrightstown Township would like to permit this use on 5 acre properties, while Newtown’s Planning Commission has favored 3 acres and Upper Makefield has favored 10 acre parcels. Because Newtown and Upper Makefield have no interest in such an ordinance at this time, Wrightstown has proposed an overlay district. Wrightstown has a problem with the current “hole” in the Ordinance, but there is some concern that an overlay district defeats the purpose of a jointure.
In response to questions from Mr. Jirele, Mr. Beckert said that Newtown’s Planning Commission feels that restricting this use to 5 acres or larger would create a hardship. The use is not a permitted use now, and therefore currently existing uses could not be considered non-conforming uses and could not be grandfathered. In Newtown Township, these uses exist as no-impact home uses. Occasionally there are problems, such as employees congregating, and Mr. Solomon of the Code Department, has been able to address these problems, but the use itself is not a permitted use. Wrightstown has been having problems and wants to create an ordinance an a conditional use procedure to allow the use on certain properties.
Mr. Jirele said that perhaps allowing the use as “no-impact home use” and creating a conditional use on 5-acre parcels is better than permitting the use on properties of less than 3 acres. He suggested that Mr. Beckert speak to Wrightstown about supporting the request for 5 acre zoning for this use, either as a Jointure ordinance or as a Wrightstown and Newtown Overlay.
Mr. Jirele moved to forward to the Jointure a proposed JMZO Ordinance establishing an E-23 Convenience Store use and establishing a TC-3 Town Commercial District amending the zoning map to establish said district. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: The Board discussed certain restrictions on lot size for use E-11, car dealership, which would require 88,000 square feet. Mr. Beckert said that there is some concern about creating non-conforming uses and about spot zoning. Mr. Jirele said that he would like to restrict medical uses and child care facilities. He discussed restrictions on the size of buildings in the proposed district, with a height limit of two stories, no more than 30 feet in height.
In response to questions from Dr. Ciervo, Mr. Beckert said that there are not size limits on structures; impervious surface limits and height limits act to control building size.
Mr. Jirele suggested asking the Planning Commission to review the proposed ordinance and make recommendations as to building size.
Mrs. Hibbs expressed some concern about certain properties in the TC district along Sycamore Street that are not in the historic district.
Mr. Beckert said that the historic district is a matter for State approval. This is a zoning matter.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Beckert reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications; 40 Autumn Drive, 13 Hillside Road and 11 Friends Lane. As noted by Mr. Marshall during the Planning Commission report, 11 Friends Lane is to be continued. The Board passed on the applications without comment.
Engineer’s Report: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $102,590.79 to Village at Newtown South, PNC Bank. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $112,005 to 11 Friends Lane, LLC. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $6,912 to Friends Lane Parking Improvement. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment 2A of the 2007 Road Program in the amount of $322,907.73. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize payment 1C of the 2007 Road Program in the amount of $19,981. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Public Comment: Mrs. Crescenzo said that the Township should form a “friends of the Clark Nature Center” program, as the Township Naturalist has not tagged the rhododendrons. She urged the Board to fence in these plants, which she feels need protection from deer. She asked that the Township re-activate the Open Space Committee and the Trail Committee, which are currently part of the Park and Recreation Board.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45PM.