Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 9, 2008
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 9, 2008 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice-Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro, members. Also present were: Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Tom Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. Reverend Blake Blakesley of Newtown Presbyterian Church gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Jirele asked that discussion of the Upper Silver Lake Road opening be moved to the top of the agenda, under Chairman’s Report.
Mr. Garton asked that approval of the decision on the Council Rock Natatorium be added to the Solicitor’s Report.
Public Comment: Sue Herman of Lower Makefield thanked Mr. Calabro for his participation in the Regional Traffic Task Force. The Task Force will provide participants with a CD containing a comprehensive report including pertinent documents, minutes, etc. Newtown Township’s input was instrumental in bringing about the CD. Ms. Herman said that she does not support the recommendations of the Task Force regarding Lindenhurst Road and traffic roundabouts on Stoopville Road.
Resident Lisa Kruse was in attendance to follow up on her recent complaints about sight distance from her driveway at 35 Stoopville Road. She had asked that the Board uphold a 2000 Zoning Hearing Board decision that requires her neighbor to provide at least 388 feet of clear sight distance from Mrs. Kruse’s driveway entrance so that she can safely exit.
Township Traffic Engineer Amy Kaminski said that she has visited the site. She has recommended removal of two of the eleven trees on Ms. Kruse’s neighbor’s property to provide a clear view of oncoming traffic for the required distance. She expressed some concern that Mrs. Kruse and Ms. Kaminski have different opinions as to the definition of an “unobstructed” view.
In response to Ms. Kruse’s questions, Mr. Garton said that the Township has established that the trees are not in a public right-of-way but are on private property. If the neighbor does not comply with the Township’s enforcement notice, the Township will have to pursue a court order. The Township has not yet proceeded, awaiting a report from the Township Traffic Engineer.
In response to Ms. Kruse’s further requests that trees be removed, Mr. Jirele noted that the Township Traffic Engineer has determined that two of the eleven trees should be removed in order to provide a clear view of oncoming traffic for 388 feet. Once this has been done, someone from the Township will visit the site to confirm that the sight distance is adequate.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has visited the site; the Board of Supervisors has not “ignored” Ms. Kruse’s requests that the Township take some action in this matter.
Resident Manya Deere of 21 Stoopville Road said that she has attempted to trim the trees on her property to accommodate Mrs. Kruse. She wants to find a solution and work with her neighbors to insure safety for all. She noted that there is a curve in the road and that traffic passes at unsafe speeds. She is concerned that she will not be able to satisfy Mrs. Kruse.
Resident Jennifer Dix asked the Board when it will discuss final plan approval for the Woll tract.
Mr. Jirele said the Woll tract plans will be reviewed at the Board of Supervisors work session on April 14, 2008. At Ms. Dix’s suggestion that the meeting be televised since the municipal complex expansion is also to be discussed, Mr. Jirele said that this is an informal work meeting; there is no need to televise it.Mr. Schenkman suggested that if the Board has input from residents requiring further discussion, an open house could be scheduled for review of the plans.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the minutes of March 26, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Schenkman abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $322,836. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $187,230.63. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of $810.39, union dues to CWA. This check does not appear on the current bills list. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports and Comments of Officials
Chairman: Mr. Jirele said that, because so many residents are in attendance to discuss the opening of Upper Silver Lake Road, he would move the discussion to this part of the agenda.
Ms. Kaminski presented the Board with a memorandum summarizing her recent visit to the site and review of the 2001 traffic study conducted by Orleans for the Wiltshire Walk development. She said that if the Board were to decide to re-open the road, she would recommend some improvements including traffic calming such as speed bumps and repaving with curbs and sidewalks. A traffic count would be needed to determine if the intersection with Newtown Yardley Road warrants a signal. She noted that the 2001 study found the level of service on this road to be a level “F”. If the Board elects to close the road permanently, improvements would be needed to make the road accessible for emergencies; pedestrian access to the existing trail would be necessary.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the 2001 study, which found that the road would provide a failing level of service, did not take into account the more recent and ongoing construction in the area.
In response to questions from the Board, Ms. Kaminski said that the added development would increase traffic. She had not investigated the possibility of a right in/right out access. If the Board is interested in opening the road, either for right in/right out or full access, new traffic counts would be needed. It is hard to predict how much additional traffic would be necessary to warrant a traffic signal. She did not think a signal would cause significant delays on Newtown Yardley road for traffic exiting the Bypass. She would need to consult with an outside source to estimate costs associated with the required improvements for re-opening the road.
Mr. Czajkowski noted that McGrath developers has agreed to fund improvements for the closed portion of the road until October 1, 2008, including sidewalks and curbs.
Dr. Ciervo said that a motion had been made at the March 12, 2008 meeting to proceed with the process to vacate Upper Silver Lake Road. That motion had been tabled pending a review by the Board of the 2001 traffic study. That information showed that the intersection failed. He said that he would rather permanently and correctly close the road rather than invest in costly improvements. He asked that the Board take action on the motion.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Mr. Garton said that an action by the Board to vacate the road would be appropriate and defensible.
Mr. Jirele said that he agreed that a decision to close the road had been made seven years ago because service was failing. To re-open the road would cost several hundred thousand dollars and would greatly inconvenience the residents who live on the closed portion of the road.
Mr. Garton said that the motion to secure necessary easements to vacate Upper Silver Lake Road is still on the table. After public comment a vote on that motion could be taken.
Resident John Hitchner of Upper Silver Lake Road, speaking on behalf of his “four neighbors,” read onto the record a letter asking that the road remain closed, as had been promised by the 2001 Board of Supervisors as part of the Wiltshire Walk plan approvals.
Resident Joan Baiocchi read into the record from 2001 minutes of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission, discussion of approval of the Wiltshire Walk development during which the word “vacate” was used repeatedly in connection with the conditions of approval. She asked that the road be closed permanently, as had been a condition of Wiltshire Walk’s approval. She also noted that the president of the Kirkwood Homeowners’ Association, in his letter to the Board in support of the re-opening, had not been authorized to speak on behalf of all Kirkwood homeowners.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he agreed with previous speakers that the road should remain closed.
Mr. Garton said that the motion made by Dr. Ciervo and seconded by Mr. Gallagher to obtain the necessary easements to vacate Upper Silver Lake Road is still on the table and can be voted on.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that had this matter been addressed correctly in 2001 it would not have become an issue. He would have preferred that the road be re-opened but understands that current conditions do not seem appropriate for re-opening. He urged all residents to accept the outcome of the vote.
Mr. Gallagher said that the costs to make the road safe if re-opened seem like they could be onerous. He also felt that the Township should uphold its promise to close this road.
Mr. Calabro agreed that had the closing been done correctly, this would not have been an issue before the current Board.The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Schenkman voting nay.
Financial Planning Committee: Chairman Glenn Beasley reported that the Committee has set its goals for 2008/09 as follows:
The Committee also evaluated the MuniCast financial planning software package. Based on a demonstration by Mr. Gallagher and direct feedback from municipalities using the tool, the Committee recommends that the Township purchase the package as a cost effective financial planning tool.
Mr. Beasley asked that the Board consider prioritizing the goals. He noted that since submitting his report the Committee had met with the architect to discuss the municipal complex expansion, and would submit a report at the upcoming work session.
Mr. Jirele said that the main concerns of the Supervisors are the municipal building and the budget process.
Mr. Schenkman agreed with Mr. Jirele’s assessment. He said that there is no time limit on the goals other than the municipal complex recommendations. He also noted that the Board is investigating other revenue sources.
The Board agreed that the 2008 budget process should be observed with a goal of improving the process in the future. The goals are ongoing. The Committee should also begin to be involved in some long term planning.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Beasley said that the Committee was impressed with the Municast software, and feedback from other municipalities using the software had been very favorable. The package cost is $5000, and includes support. No other packages were considered.
Mr. Gallagher said that he had investigated financial planning software packages and this is the only package he found that is specific for municipal finances.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he, Finance Director Elaine Gibbs and Assistant Manager John Boyle had also seen the demonstration. The price seems very reasonable and the package could be used on the Township network. The package has the ability to forecast out 25 years, with accuracy for 5 years. It would be a line item in the budget.
Conditional Use - Basil Leaf Restaurant: Mr. Garton said that this is an application for conditional use for an E-5 Eating Place and E-6 Eating place/Drive in or take out restaurant at unit 1/31 at 2804-2806 South Eagle Road at Village at Newtown. A notice of the hearing has been published in the Newtown Advance on March 20 and 27, 2008.
Loan Nguyen of Jahanden, LLC was sworn in.
Mr. Garton reviewed the recommendation of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Nguyen agreed to all of the recommended conditions. In response to questions from the Board he said that the restaurant is located in the former West Coast Video store, next to Saladworks. He will have a maximum of 8 employees on the premises at one time in order to try to keep costs down. There might me a higher total number of employees, working part-time on different shifts. The restaurant will have 96 seats.
In response to questions about the allotted parking, Ms. Fountain explained that the shopping center has 360 parking spaces. There is a variance for parking. The Planning Commission had discussed the current mix of uses and would like to review the uses and the parking calculations.
Mr. Calabro said that he did not think that parking would be a problem at this end of the shopping center, as the other restaurants, Saladworks, Lee’s Hoagies and Bagel Junction, are primarily busy from morning through lunch.
Mr. Nguyen said that he expected his business to be busiest in the evening after 7:00 PM.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant approval of the conditional use application of Basil Leaf Restaurant, for uses E-5 and E-6, eating place and eating place/drive-in at 2804-2806 South Eagle Road, tax map parcel #29-3-24-4, subject to the following conditions:
Reports of Officials
Plan Expirations: Mr. Garton reported that he has spoken to the attorney for Rosebank Winery and has been assured that Rosebank will respond to the Board’s decision regarding further extensions.
Consortium Fuel Bids: Mr. Czajkowski presented a memo from Public Works Director Gary Crossland outlining the Bucks County Consortium bids for motor fuel and heating oil. While in previous years the Consortium was able to either go with fixed price or floating price, due to the market volatility, all bidders are offering floating bids only. The recommendations are for delivery charge only as posted price of fuels changes daily.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the bid for motor fuel and heating oil as outlined in the memo dated April 2, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Solicitor's Report: Melsky Rezoning Update: Mr. Garton reported that he has provided the Board with a draft ordinance that would remove the Newtown Township portion of the Melsky property from the Federal Cemetery Overlay, as requested. He noted that the ordinance would have to be reviewed and approved by the other jointure partners and would not affect the previously approved Toll Brothers plans for development of the property. At this time, Toll Brothers has sold the cemetery property to the Veterans Administration with no conditions attached. There are still four outstanding issues to be resolved by the courts:
The Township is monitoring these issues. Mr. Garton confirmed that he has spoken to people who were in attendance at the Toll/VA sale; he has checked with the recorder of deeds and the ownership has been transferred to the VA. The amendment will not impact the sale of the property or the cemetery. He has not discussed the amendment with the Jointure partners as he has not been directed by this Board to do so.
Mr. Gallagher moved to begin the process to adopt this amendment to remove the Newtown Township portion of the Melsky tract from the FCO. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele said that he would like to bring this amendment to the Jointure’s May meeting for discussion, to ascertain whether Upper Makefield would be interested in removing its portion of the Melsky tract from the FCO.
Mr. Garton explained that the Township’s proposal should be forwarded to each municipality for consideration with each municipality separately advertising public hearings but the municipalities would coordinate the advertising so as to appear as a joint advertisement as opposed to a single and separate advertisement. Within the time frame required by the MPC, the County, Joint and Municipal Planning Commissions would submit recommendations to the Boards of Supervisors of each of the participating municipalities. All amendments must be approved by all three Boards of Supervisors.
Carole Stuckley of Upper Makefield thanked the Board and Mr. Garton for taking this step, as she feels there is no justification for higher density housing on the Melsky tract.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick said that she is very concerned about suburban sprawl and its impact on the environment. She has concerns about the quick approvals granted for higher density housing. She is also concerned about the lack of communication between the Township and School District on proposed construction.
The motion passed unanimously.
Extension Request for Newtown Veterinary Hospital: Mr. Garton explained that theZoning Hearing Board’s decision expires after six months if no action is taken or permits sought. It falls to the Board of Supervisors to determine whether an extension should be granted.
Dr. Timothy Ireland was in attendance to request an extension on the variance granted by the Zoning Hearing Board. He said that there had been some delays in his financing, and when he was ready to apply for permits he learned that his variance has expired. He asked for a six month extension. Construction would begin shortly and be completed within the six months.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant a six month extension on the variances granted to Newtown Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Extension Request for the Pugh Zoning Board Decision: Mr. Garton explained that this is a similar request, as the variances had expired when the applicant applied for permits.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant a six month extension on the Pugh Zoning Hearing Board decision. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Council Rock Natatorium: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize entering into a waiver of land development agreement with Council Rock School District for a natatorium addition. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Other Business: Mr. Garton reported that Judge Mellon has reversed the previous Board’s approval of land development on the Goodnoe tract, pursuant to an appeal by resident James McCrane. The applicant has 30 days to appeal the decision, otherwise the applicant must submit a new application for land development.
Mr. Gallagher and Dr. Ciervo thanked resident James McCrane for pursuing this matter in an attempt to preserve open space.
Mr. Garton reported that Judge Mellon has reversed the decision of the previous Board in the Gigliotti/Avignon appeal. The Board’s decision on the application for land development, in a 2-1 vote, had been deemed denied.
Mr. Schenkman asked for an executive session.
Delancey Court of Newtown Certificate of Completion: Mr. Calabro moved to grant an escrow release in the amount of $291,859.54 to Delancey Court of Newtown. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Old Business: In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Czajkowski said that the traffic Engineer would investigate placement of “Jake Brake” signs, as the Board had adopted an ordinance prohibiting their use.
Mr. Gallagher said that volunteers are needed to fill vacancies on the Environmental Advisory Council, the Finance Committee, the Technology Committee and HARB. The HARB vacancy is for an architect.
Mr. Jirele said that poll workers are needed for the upcoming primary election. High School students can fill these paid positions as a community service.
The meeting adjourned at 10:15 PM.