Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 19, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Monday, November 19, 2007 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman and Richard Weaver, member. 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. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo discussed and energy efficiency program being initiated in both Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield and suggested that Newtown Township investigate participation in the program. She also read lists of programs for senior citizens being held in other Bucks County municipalities and complained that Newtown Township does not offer senior specific programming. She said that a community center at the Acme site is needed for both senior citizens and youth.
Preliminary/Final Plan for Land Development, Woll Tract: Park and Recreation Board Chairman Andrew Levine and Engineer Sharon Dotts of Gilmore & Associates were in attendance to review plans for development of a 47.6 acre active recreation park. The property had been acquired by the Township from Council Rock School District in 1996, and had been designated for active recreation, including lighted playing fields, use C-5, in the 1999 Comprehensive Plan.
Ms. Dotts outlined four issues to be considered by the Board:
Regarding item 4, the St. Andrew’s Briar Homeowners Association has requested that the Township accept dedication of this basin, however the Planning Commission has recommended not accepting it. The current design of stormwater management for the park would prevent additional run-off from infiltrating the St. Andrew’s Briar basin.
The current zoning of the property is POS, Park and Open Space, with an impervious surface ratio of 8%. A zoning change to EIR, Educational, Institutional and Recreational zoning for the active recreation portion of the park has been requested. Under EIR zoning, 35% impervious surface is permitted. The 10 acres nearest Eagle Road is zoned CM Conservation Management, for which no zoning change has been requested. If no zoning change is granted, it would still be possible to build the park if the planned walking trails used porous materials. The trails are to be one measured mile. If artificial turf is used on all three rectangular fields, the total impervious surface would be 30%.
Mr. Levine reviewed the park plan, which includes three ball fields, three rectangular multipurpose fields, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a large pavilion, a maintenance building and a playground. Mr. Levine noted that the Township currently has only one rectangular/soccer field, located behind Staples. A resident has come forward with a generous donation of $25,000 toward tennis courts. Tennis is one of the Township’s most popular recreation programs, although we have no public tennis courts in the Township. The area designated for basketball could be used for a skate park instead, if the Board finds that one is needed. The playground was planned to allow for some activities for younger siblings attending sports games. The pavilion would house restrooms, snack bar, some storage for equipment and two meeting rooms that could be used by the sports organizations and by the Park and Recreation department for programming. Bio-retention basins are planned to create wetlands so that water recharges. This should help to greatly reduce run-off, which is having a scouring effect on the Clark Nature Center.
Mr. Levine reviewed plans for access to the park, noting that PennDOT has found that a traffic signal at a Durham Road entrance is not warranted. The Planning Commission and Park and Recreation Board are recommending a right in/right out access onto Durham Road. Negotiations are ongoing with Council Rock School District to gain an easement to the park from Wrights Road. The School Board has had a number of requests, including that the access road provide 60 parking spaces that can be used during school events.
Ms. Dotts indicated that the plans will comply with the review letters of the Township consultants. She said that the Park and Rec department is asking to plant street trees in the right-of-way to continue an existing tree line, providing shade on the road. The Boucher and James letter discusses the access to the maintenance building. Analyses have been conducted to insure that trucks would have sufficient space to pass if cars are parked near the entrance. In addition to the maintenance building there are areas for storage of infield mix. A small, prefabricated pedestrian bridge is planned for continuation of the walking trails over the wetlands, but fully engineered plans cannot be included until a bridge is chosen.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Levine said that discussions with the School District are ongoing regarding sidewalks. At first the District did not want sidewalks. The Planning Commission had recommended widening Wrights Road at the entrance to allow traffic to drive around cars stacked to make a left turn into the park. This would be added to the plans if the Board supported the recommendation. The Public Works Department has worked closely with the Park and Recreation Board and with Gilmore & Associates to plan an appropriate maintenance building in the park. It will not be located on the 10 acres designated for passive recreation, and will be screened from residential properties.
Mr. Levine reviewed the lighting plans that have been developed in conjunction with Musco lighting. These lights produce no glare and spillage is 0.0 at the residences, and 0.1 foot candle at the border with any residential property. In order to have full control of glare and spillage, very high standards are required. Some of the 17 poles will be 80 feet high.
Tom Bush of Musco Lighting discussed the color of poles, noting that steel poles are less obtrusive in appearance than those painted green or brown. There are not any telescoping poles. Automated shut-off systems are part of the system. Some municipalities prefer manual shot-off systems. The use of higher poles insures better control of the lighting.
Mr. Levine discussed costs for the park, with lighting at $610,000, or 12% of total build-out, which would be $4,900,000. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Levine said that the sports organizations have indicated willingness to contribute to costs, particularly the cost of lights. This could be done in a number of ways; in Lower Makefield, for example, Yardley Makefield Soccer paid for artificial turf in exchange for exclusive use of the fields. Other arrangements can also be made. The leagues would like to apply for field construction grants, which cannot be done until an approved plan has been committed to by the Township. At this time no analysis has been done on permit fees, in-kind maintenance or for leagues constructing their own fields. He noted that, as with currently existing fields, a good deal of the maintenance is performed by the volunteers in the leagues. The proposed parking was calculated at one space per two park users, which is more than the Ordinance requires. There are to be 245 parking spaces in the lot, plus 60 along the access road, with an additional overflow area for 75 vehicles on reinforced grass.
In response to further questions from the Board, Mr. Bush discussed the lifespan of the lights, indicating that the systems have a 25-year maintenance warranty, which would include one re-lamping. Re-lamping costs about $200 per bulb, with bulbs lasting about 3000 -5000 hours.
Resident Al Furlong of Blayze Court said that he supports the athletic fields, but wants assurances on the light spillage.
Mr. Levine said that Musco guarantees the glare and spillage. A light meter is used and Musco would be required to show that there is no spillage. He and Ms. Dotts reviewed the lighting plan, locating the nearest residence about 500 feet from the closest lights.
Mr. Furlong said that he is also very concerned about noise when the park is in use. He would like a curfew of 8:30 PM. He questioned the need for such an elaborate plan when all that is needed is a few playing fields. He objected to parent-taxpayers paying twice for the fields, first through taxes then through league fees.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about noise. She said that although there would not be spillage and glare, the lighted fields would be visible from the houses of nearby residents. She said that she has concerns about use of fertilizer on playing fields having an impact on bio-retention basins. She said that the Environmental Advisory Council should be required to review these plans. She objected to the use of a bond to pay for the park, and did not think that a public works building on site is necessary, as there is to be adequate storage at the improved municipal complex. She objected to meeting rooms in the pavilion because an employee would have to open and lock the building when it is used. She objected to a bridge being included as part of the trail because there have been concerns about other bridges in the Township. She said that the park should be accessible to all via sidewalks. She said that no vote should be taken until the new Board is seated.
Mr. Levine attempted to address Mrs. Crescenzo’s numerous objections, noting that there will not be a public address system for announcing games; there will be an evening curfew; the maintenance facility and storage area have been included at the request of the public works department; Dr. McEachron, chairman of the EAC, has been in touch via e-mail about plans for the bio-retention basin and has voiced no objection; bio-retention basins are successfully used in other Township parks, including Chandler fields, where there has been no negative impact on Newtown Creek; the bridge has been included in the walking trail system for the convenience of walkers from Eagle Road; the park will be accessible via sidewalks along Eagle Road and from Newtown Grant. Regarding a curfew, Mr. Levine said that although the Planning Commission has suggested a 10:00PM cut-off for lights, he believes the leagues would be very happy with a 9:00 end of play, with complete cut-off of all lights at 9:30PM, to allow for fields maintenance and safe departure from the playing fields. Lights can be controlled remotely via wireless communications, or manually.
Resident Walter Leck said that he lives right next door to the proposed park. He is not opposed to the park, but has concerns about lights and noise. He visited Macclesfield Park in Lower Makefield and found that the lights were very visible and lit up the sky. He is concerned about the use of lights later in the evening, particularly if the fields are used by men’s sports leagues. He asked that a fence be installed between his property and the park to protect children from danger on his property where he stores the equipment for his waste management business. He expressed some concern about children trying to go to the park on their own on Rte 413. He noted that the Board has been sensitive to concerns of residents when lighting has been discussed for other businesses, and he asked for the same consideration. He also questioned whether the park would be locked after hours.
Mr. Levine said that an 8-foot fence with evergreen screening is planned between the park and Mr. Leck’s property. The School District has also requested a gate to lock the park after hours. Locking and unlocking would have to be worked out with the Police Department.
Resident Brian Bart, president of the Council Rock Lacrosse league said that there is a need for rectangular playing fields in the Township. Township children have had to rely on Upper Makefield for fields. He hopes that some compromises can be reached so that the park can be built. Regarding a curfew, Mr. Bart said that weekday evening practices would probably end by 7:30 PM, noting that these fields would be used by young school children.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he did not think a new park is necessary. Older residents are against a tax increase. He would be against field lighting if the park is built.
Resident Ed Fox of Blayze Court said that there are 22 children on his street who would use the park; he is not opposed to the park, but he would like a curfew of no later than 8:30 PM on lights.
Resident Greg Killian of Pheasant Point said that he would like a curfew of 8:30 for field lights to be turned off. He understands that the lights would have to be ramped down to allow players to safely exit the park, but would want play to stop by 8:30PM.
Resident Steve Popescu, president of Upper Makefield Newtown Soccer Club said that children’s sports have changed and children are playing all sports all year. His organization has 1200 children enrolled, relying on parent volunteers for coaching and field maintenance. His league would use lights for practices in the evenings from mid October through Thanksgiving until about 7:30 or 8:30 PM.
Resident Dorothy McCrane of St. Andrew’s Briar expressed concern about the quality of life in her neighborhood with late evening lights and noise. She does not support lights at all, but if they are allowed she would like them turned off as early as possible.
Resident James McCrane of St. Andrew’s Briar said that lights are not specifically mentioned for the Woll tract in the 1999 comprehensive plan anywhere except as a budget item. He questioned whether Musco Lighting is a reliable company that will still be in business throughout the lights’ 25 year warranty period; whether a plan that does not meet current zoning requirements can be approved at all; whether the right in/right out entrance on Rte 413 would be adequate; whether the finance committee has reviewed the costs and whether the cost would cause a property tax increase. He expressed concern about the quality of life for residents whose homes surround the park, especially about noise issues. He discussed the country’s economy and the prospect of going into debt in the current economic climate. Past Park and Recreation Board minutes show that it had been understood that the sports organizations would assume all costs associated with lighting of fields. He asked whether any grants have been assured; he has understood from contacting various granting agencies within the national sports organizations that grants are primarily given for field construction in deprived areas.
Mrs. Goren said that the budget for 2008 would be discussed later in the agenda, and that budget does not include a tax increase. Financing of the park would be part of the 2009 budget. Approval of a plan this evening would allow the sports organizations to begin grant applications and fundraising efforts to contribute to the park.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Beckert said that the plan has been reviewed by the Planning Commission, which recommended approval. This is the Board’s opportunity to consider the plan and the Planning Commission’s recommendation. Financing of the park is not part of tonight’s approval.
Mr. McCrane presented the Board with a petition of neighbors asking that no amplified sound systems be permitted in the park and that lights not be permitted after 8:30 PM.
Resident Colleen Flusida said that, as the parent of three children, she is supportive of the park and hopes that it will be approved, with or without lights, as fields are desperately needed.
Resident Ken Brightout said that he is a coach and is in support of the plan; he would like the project to move forward as an investment in the Township and in the future. He would like lights to be approved; noise should be regulated by existing noise ordinances.
Resident Robert Ciervo said that this plan should not be approved as a final plan, as there is still an outstanding zoning issue and no easement has been agreed to by Council Rock School District. He said that there is currently enough money set aside for the Woll Tract to complete the playing fields and parking. He suggested that the Township not finance the full project with basketball, tennis, trails, etc, and focus on only the playing fields.
Resident Marty Summer of Eagle Road said that he is very concerned about noise, lights, traffic and the quality of life for surrounding residents, as well as of the financing of the Woll tract. He does not think the Township should go into debt in the current economic climate. He is very concerned about the view with such tall poles, well above any existing trees.
Resident John Buhr of Blayze Court said that he would like all lights extinguished by 8:00 PM. He is also concerned about heavy traffic at the change of games while some players are exiting and others arriving at the same time.
Resident Joseph Garvey, President of Newtown Rock Girls Softball thanked the Park and Recreation Board and Mr. Wert for the hard work that has gone into the planning of this park. As a coach of girls travel softball, he visits fields all over the country. Our Township does not have an adequate number of fields as many sports are now played at the same time of year or year round, as is girls’ softball. He hoped that the Township would be able to compromise with surrounding residents to allow field lighting for early evening practices. He hoped that this Board, which has been involved in the planning of the park for four years, would approve it this evening, to have the experience of seeing their hard work come to fruition. Regarding storage for maintenance equipment, he noted that on site storage would save money by reducing labor costs and wear and tear on equipment.
Mr. Weaver moved to grant preliminary as final land development approval for Newtown Township regarding the Woll Tract at Durham Road for a Use C-5 (Recreation Facility) on the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted:
Discussion of Motion: Mr. Levine asked that lights be allowed to ramp down, with play ending at 8:30PM. It is necessary to allow additional time on the field for clean up and general field maintenance.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether the various sports organizations would be able to seek funding from granting agencies with only a preliminary approval. He said that he is reluctant to commit to financing until he has better assurances that the sports organizations will be contributing.
Mr. Levine said that he does not think there would be grant money available for lights. Field construction grants might be available and certainly in-kind contributions for field construction would be available. A concept or sketch plan is not sufficient for any grant applications. An approved plan, preliminary or final, would be adequate.
Mr. Schenkman expressed hesitation on granting final approval because the budget is not clear.
Mr. Levine again stated that the full build out would be just under $5,000,000. Portions of that are in the current Park and Recreation budget. If approval is not given this evening, Mr. Levine said that he hoped it would come shortly.
Mr. Beckert suggested that the Board could defer decision on lighting to a future Board.
In response to questions from Mrs. Goren, Mr. Levine said that Upper Makefield Newtown Soccer Club, Newtown Little League and Rock Softball are working on grant applications. Hopefully a preliminary approval would be adequate for the granting agencies to consider the applications. PennDOT applications need to be submitted. He would like to see construction begin in spring of 2008.
Mr. Weaver moved to amend his motion to read “preliminary plan for land development” and to change the lighting motion, item 9, to read, “all lighting decisions regarding hours of light, times of day and times of year are to be determined in the future by the Board of Supervisors.”. Mr. Calabro amended his second.
Discussion of motion: Mr. McCrane thanked the Board for changing approval to preliminary approval only.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked whether EAC review and approval by the fire marshal are included in the motion. She asked if stormwater management has been approved.
Mr. Beckert said that EAC approval is not part of the motion. The EMS has already reviewed the plan and compliance with its review is a condition of approval. Our Township consultants, the Planner and Township engineer, have reviewed the plans and are in agreement as to granting of waivers for stormwater management. Those waivers allow for different, but better, criteria to be met.
Mrs. Goren said that the plans will meet a higher standard than our stormwater ordinance.
The motion passed 4-0.
Newtown Township Municipal Complex – Donovan & Associates, Architects: H. Joseph Philips, Jim Linske and Mark Ross of Stonehouse Group were in attendance to review cost estimates for the municipal expansion. Mr. Philips said that at this point, having carefully reviewed the plans, costs can be better estimated, and it is now estimated that the total cost will be $10,289,000, about $680,000 less than estimated at the March 26, 2007 presentation. The project would follow a schedule beginning in July of 2008, beginning with the administration and public works buildings, followed by renovation of this building for the Police Department and of the existing Public Works facility for the Park and Recreation Department.
Mr. Ross discussed the various levels of LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. He noted that many municipalities aim for the silver level of certification, which adds about 1.6% to construction costs. These costs are usually recouped in 12 to 24 months in energy savings. It is expected that with deregulation, these savings could double. The LEED certification uses both energy and water efficiency.
Mr. Schenkman said that at a recent seminar at the National Congress of the League of Cities he learned that most municipalities seek a silver certification.
Mrs. Goren agreed that with costs for gold certification at 2.2% and platinum at 5 to 7%, silver certification is probably the best choice.
Mr. Ross said that the cost of $196,050 for LEED certification would include before, during and after construction involvement of Stonehouse Group for a three year period to 2010.
In response to comments from Mr. Schenkman, Mr. Philips suggested attending a work session in January to discuss the initial analysis of Stonehouse and the benefits of a “green roof”.
Hang the 2008 Preliminary Budget: Mrs. Goren explained that by hanging the preliminary budget, it can be made available to the public for review and comment. This is not a final budget.
Mr. Schenkman moved to hang the preliminary budget of 2008. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the budget is available at the municipal offices and will be posted on the Township Web site.
Local Services Tax: 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. This tax already exists in Newtown Township and the State tax mirrors our existing ordinance. A motion to advertise is needed.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance providing for a Local Services Tax. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that he was disappointed when the tax was first enacted at the highest rate. He would like to see this tax reduced. Although 80 to 85% of those paying the tax are non-residents, there are about 1000 residents who live and work here and pay the tax. Non-residents are already paying the Earned Income Tax.
Mr. Schenkman said that it is reasonable to question the tax and he would like to see some analysis of what the money is used for and whether the tax could be reduced.
The motion passed 4-0.
Maintenance Bond – Law School Admission Council: Mr. Weaver moved to authorize release of the maintenance bond for Law School Admission Council in the amount of $197,811.60. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
New Business: Mrs. Goren reported that the Board had met in executive session prior to the meeting to discuss personnel.
Mr. Weaver said that regarding discussion of the budget, he wanted the public to know that this is the administration’s best estimate looking forward. Over 80% of the budget is fixed, in salaries, benefits, utilities, etc. Mr. Boyle, Mrs. Gibbs and the staff have worked very hard and this is the finest municipal staff in the County. This is a balanced budget; the Township is in good shape with no debt. He pointed out that the Newtown Business Commons contributes 2.2 million dollars in earned income tax. In recent years the general fund has grown:
The 2008 general fund balance will be $3,000,000. The earned income tax is expected to go up again; in 2007 it was up 5% for resident and 9% for non-resident contributions. In 2008 the earned income tax is estimated to increase 6% for residents and 10% for non-residents.
The Township is in great financial shape, thanks to the hard work of our staff.
Mr. Schenkman reported that he attended a League of Cities National Convention in New Orleans and will prepare a report for the Board.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45PM.