Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 23, 2008
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 23, 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. Pastor Chris McClosky of First Baptist Church of Newtown at Grace Point gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski reported that a request for a letter of support from the Newtown Corporation for a DCNR grant will be added to the manager’s report.
Public Comment: Sergeant Charles Patton of the Newtown Township Police Department asked the Board to speak with him and other members of the Department about internal issues. He said that he is a 32 year veteran of the Department and is eligible for retirement, but he has concerns about personnel matters and communications issues among the police personnel that he would like the Board to consider as it proceeds with its search for a new chief of police. He provided the members with copies of a 2000 report prepared by a consultant hired to evaluate ways to improve the Department. He urged the Board to read it. He expressed some concern that none of the members of his Department have been interviewed by either a Board member or the consulting firm contracted to find a new police chief.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has contracted with a consulting firm to find a new chief, with the understanding that the new chief will be involved in addressing Sergeant Patton’s concerns. The Board does not have any expertise in police policy or procedure, and for that reason is relying on a consulting firm that specializes in this area.
Mr. Schenkman agreed with Mr. Jirele, noting that it is the Board’s objective to find the best possible new chief, who will then evaluate the Department with “fresh eyes.” Prospective candidates are aware of the issues to which Sergeant Patton has alluded.
Mr. Gallagher assured Sergeant Patton that he and Dr. Ciervo are attempting to learn about the Department, but agreed that the Board must rely on the expertise of the professional consultants.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo referred to the 2000 report Sergeant Patton had provided and reviewed various points in the report, noting its finding of a “strained relationship” between the Board and administration and the police chief, due in part to lack of effective communication. There is also reference to annual updating of the police manual. She asked the Board whether the manual has been updated, and if not, why not. She also urged the Board to become familiar with the contents of the 2000 report. She agreed with Sergeant Patton that all of the members of the Police Department should have been interviewed as part of the search for a new chief.
Mr. Jirele again stated that the Board is relying on professionals to conduct the search. Some members of the Department have been interviewed. It is not within the purview of the Board of Supervisors to create or revise a police manual. This also falls to the experts within the Department.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh asked about the signage for the Jake Brake Ordinance.
Mr. Czajkowski said that information from the Police Department has been forwarded to the Traffic Engineer for inclusion in an application to PennDOT for signage. A response is expected shortly.
Resident Lisa Kruse of 35 Stoopville Road asked whether any action has been taken to enforce the notice sent to her neighbors about her sight line distance to exit her driveway.
Mr. Jirele said that Mrs. Kruse’s neighbor has met with Township representatives and has agreed to address the issues as outlined in the violation notice.
Mrs. Kruse said that the Township’s Traffic Engineer had found that two trees and some shrubbery must be removed, and a fence moved back five feet in order to give her clear sight distance, however a representative of PennDOT visited her property and found that more than just two trees should be removed. She noted that the Township Engineer disagreed with this assessment. She asked that the PennDOT assessment be used in enforcing the violation notice.
Mr. Jirele said that to enforce the notice, the PennDOT finding would have to be submitted to the Township in writing, as this could become a matter of litigation.
Resident Manya Deere of 21 Stoopville Road said that PennDOT does not require 388 feet of clear and uninterrupted sight distance. She said that this is not a matter of Township or State Ordinances, but a zoning matter.
Mr. Jirele said that the Public Comment portion of the meeting should not be used for neighbors bickering. He said that the concerns of Mrs. Kruse and Ms. Deere would best be resolved in private meetings.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 9, 2008. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the work session of March 17, 2008. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mr. Gallagher abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $346,344.10. Mr.Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked that the bill for dues for the League of Cities in the amount of $7136.74 be removed from the list. He said that he has benefitted greatly by membership in this organization, which has provided workshops and educational opportunities, and acts as a lobbyist for member municipalities in Harrisburg and in Washington. D.C. He suggested that, because the dues are so high, a representative of the organization attend a work session to give a presentation and overview before the Board authorizes payment.
Mr. Gallagher amended his motion to remove he $7136.74 payment from the $346,344.10 total bills. Mr. Schenkman amended is second.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the ongoing payment of bills to the former solicitor.
Mr. Gallagher explained that some of the solicitor’s bills are paid from developers’ escrow accounts when funds are collected.
The motion passed unanimously.Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $190,000. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Mr. Jirele reported that the Board had met in executive session on Saturday and this evening prior to the meeting to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.
Mr. Jirele noted that there have been numerous questions asked by residents about signs for local businesses.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that the Codes Department has investigated these comments and complaints, and has been advising business owners that if unauthorized signage is not removed violations will be issued.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s question about Jake Brakes, Mr. Czajkowski said that he expects the Traffic Engineer to submit the application for signage to PennDOT within the week.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has spoken to Fire Marshal Don Harris about some emergency training for the Board. He asked Mr. Czajkowski to arrange for the training.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Czajkowski said that milling has begun on the Bypass, and repaving will be done at night, with work to be completed in June.
Dr. Ciervo thanked the Public Works Department for completing the crosswalk on lower State Street. He also commented on a resident’s recent e-mail about the proper display of an American Flag at the Goodnoe’s Corner patio.
Resident Harriet Beckert, chairman of HARB, noted that approval of the flagpole had been granted subject to the condition that the flag be displayed properly.
The Board agreed that the Codes Department should investigate whether the code for display of the flag is being followed and if not, a letter should be sent to the owners of the shopping center.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Certificate of Appropriateness - Luna Chick, 10 Swamp Road: Mr. Gallagher moved to issue a certificate of appropriateness for Luna Chick, 10 Swamp Road for two freestanding signs with background color Rachel Pink, as outlined in a memo to the Board from HARB secretary Christy Holley-Flaherty, dated April 10, 2008. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Beckert said that the HARB architect has resigned, leaving an opening on the Board. To serve, an architect need not be a resident of Newtown Township.
Parks and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine and Greg Glitzer, and engineer with Gilmore and Associates, were in attendance to review the Supervisors’ suggested changes to the Woll tract plans. In an effort to reduce the costs, the following items have been eliminated from the plans:
With these changes the estimated construction costs have been reduced to $3,098,478.54. Additionally, eliminating the grass pavers for overflow parking and reduction in the size of the playground and removal of some landscaping could reduce costs further.
Mr. Levine explained that with these changes the impervious surface is reduced to 9.6%. He pointed out a driveway along the edge of the parking lot, which could also be eliminated. The driveway circle remains to provide access to the storage area for infield mix.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the impact fees on hand total $2,100,000 right now. It had been projected to be $2,800,000 by year’s end, however that expectation might no longer be accurate. He said that an additional $300,000 will probably be collected in 2008.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has three possible options for funding the project:
Mr. Schenkman asked about eliminating a field to save some money.
Mr. Glitzer explained that the costs for grading the entire site and erosion controls will be necessary regardless of the number of fields; there would not be any significant savings by elimination of a field. He suggested eliminating a pad for court sports, the pavilion or the trails to reduce costs.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s questions, Mr. Glitzer said that plantings for buffers with neighbors and basin planting would not be eliminated, only landscaping throughout the park and along the trails would be removed from the plan.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Mr. Levine said that the sports equipment costs are for fencing around stands and dugouts, required by the insurance carrier for safety.
Mr. Garton suggested that the Department submit bid proposals with alternate bids for the entire project and for the park without trails, etc.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would not support borrowing to complete the project, but would want to eliminate trails and grass parking.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern about the reduction in the width of trails, making emergency access to fields difficult.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to see the project reduced to a cost that the Township can afford.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to put the project out to bid without the pavers and trails, and if the bids come in with our accounts $200,000 short, the difference could be made up from the general fund.
Mr. Calabro said that he does not support the suggested cutbacks. Borrowing additional money along with the municipal complex bond would have a minimal impact on the taxpayers and would provide a first class park.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Levine said that if the project were put out to bid and were begun in June, allowing one season for growing of grass on the fields, the park could be open for playing in the Spring 2010 season.
Mr. Jirele said that he is eager to get started and suggested that the goal should be to provide a safe park for the children to begin using. He suggested putting the bid for the park with and without the trails and grass pavers.
Mr. Schenkman said that he appreciates the efforts made by the Park and Recreation Board and Department. He has some concerns about whether the park will eventually be completed as planned. He expressed some concern about the elimination of the internal landscaping. He said that he thinks the cutbacks are shortsighted.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Levine explained that the 10 acre parcel between St. Andrew’s Briar and Pheasant Pointe would no longer have a paved trail; the area would be meadowed with a mowed trail. The trail would help prevent people cutting through the yards of neighboring residents.
The Board discussed seeking bids for the park, with and without grass pavers, extensive landscaping and full or partial trails. Dr. Ciervo said that he would support plans for playing fields: 2 baseball, 1 softball, and 3 rectangular fields.
Mr. Jirele asked Mr. Garton to prepare necessary documentation for the Township to take over the detention basin on the property. Mr. Jirele said that he would be in support of seeking a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board for a small increase in impervious surface to accommodate parking and trails.
Mr. Garton advised that the documentation should be prepared for the bid process, but should not be submitted until a variance for impervious surface has been secured.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh suggested that the bid be prepared for the full project, with “deduct items”. Once bids are received the Board can select which specific items would be eliminated. He mentioned that he had some concern about elimination of parking.
Mr. Garton suggested that the bid requests should include per unit pricing for landscaping. He agreed with Mr. Sensibaugh’s suggestion, which is what he was recommending when he suggested alternate bids.
Mr. Levine agreed to work with Gilmore & Associates to prepare requests for bids for the park as outlined in the discussion and to seek Zoning Hearing Board approval for increased impervious surface. He would also return to the Board with the revisions for final plan approval.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she is concerned about the future costs associated with maintenance of a new park. She also noted that some of the expected recreation impact fees would be needed for other projects.
Resident Walter Leck said that there has been no discussion of field lighting this evening. He lives next to the park and would like lights either prohibited or limited to a very early shut-off time. He suggested that trails would need to be 8 feet wide to accommodate emergency vehicles. He has some concern about the entrance to the park being located on Durham Road, as this street is very busy and the proposed entrance might not have adequate sight distance. He said that he recently moved the bulk of his business to Ivyland in part because Durham Road has become too dangerous, and in part to be a good neighbor to his residential neighbors. He asked that the Township show similar consideration.
Dr. Ciervo commented that he has similar concerns about the safety of the Durham Road entrance to the park.
Reports of Officials
Planning Commission Synopsis: Mr. Czajkowski reviewed the synopsis of the Planning Commission’s April 15, 2008 meeting. The Following Zoning Hearing Board applications were reviewed with recommendations:
T-Mobile Northeast LLC, 251 Frost Lane: No Comment
Dr. & Mrs. Kim, 27 Sibelius Road: The Commission recommends that the Board ask the applicant to scale back the plans to reduce the increase in impervious surface for this application for backyard pool and other amenities.
James McLaughlin, 174 Durham Road: No Comment
Emmanuel Fashakin, 11 Waterford Place: The Commission recommended that the Board require the applicant to demonstrate that the development’s stormwater system can address the large increase in impervious surface or that the applicant provide on-site stormwater management to accommodate the run-off from impervious surface above the permitted 7718 square feet for this application for pool, tennis courts and other amenities.
Ali's Igloo Inc., 33 Swamp Road: No comment
Michelle McNulty, 9 Connover Place: The Commission has asked Mr. Solomon to contact the applicant to ask that Homeowners Association approval for a six foot fence be presented with the application.
Mike & Michelle Reilly, 4 Hillview Drive: The Commission recommends that the Board ask the applicant to scale back the plans to reduce the increase in impervious surface.
Michael Sullivan, 178 Durham Road: This application seeks an increase in impervious surface for a flag lot to construct a single-family home. The Commission recognizes the hardship because the applicant is required to provide two entrances onto Durham Road and understands that adequate stormwater management will be part of construction. The Commission had no further comment.
Newtown Venture I Associates LP, Silver Lake Executive Campus, Silver Lake Road & Newtown Bypass: The Commission discussed this application for a number of variances, primarily for parking, for a 150,000 square foot office complex in the OR Zoning District. The Commission recommends that the Board support the application, as it will be a benefit to the Township’s tax base and is appropriate use of the property.
In addition the Planning Commission reviewed the following amendments to the JMZO:
JMZO 2007-05 Accessory Landscape Contractor: The Commission recommended one minor clarification in the language of this amendment and voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors advertise to adopt the ordinance.
JMZO 2007-03 Video Signage: Discussion was tabled pending further information from the Solicitors of the Jointure about whether it is necessary to address these signs within the Ordinance.
Addendum No. 8 to Jointure Agreement: The Commission discussed this addendum and the mission of the Joint Planning Commission. Members agreed that they would like to receive more detailed information regarding the reason member municipalities propose certain amendments from the JMZO. No action is recommended at this time.
DCNR Comprehensive Recreation, Parks, and Open Space Plan Update Resolution: Mr. Czajkowski asked that Board to adopt Resolution 2008-R-11 which would involve providing matching funds up to $20,000 to update the Open Space Comprehensive Plan for Parks, Recreation and Open Space. The update is necessary to qualify for open space money from the County.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2008-R-11. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from Mrs. Crescenzo, Mr. Jirele said that the matching funds, up to $20,000 would come from the general fund.
Dr. Ciervo noted that money from the Park and Recreation budget has been set aside for open space.
Mr. Gallagher said that a sub-committee would be formed to update the Open Space Comprehensive Plan. The Township has sought residents to serve on numerous committees, but there has not be a great deal of response. This particular committee would consist of members of the Environmental Advisory Council, the Park and Recreation Board and the Planning Commission. Some of these volunteers had served on the committee that drafted the 1997 comp plan. Meetings would be open to the public.
The motion passed unanimously.
Letter of Support for DCNR Grant Application: Jeffrey Marshall was in attendance to request that Newtown Township provide a letter of support for an application being submitted to the DCNR to develop a comprehensive inventory of the streamside corridor along Newtown Creek in order to evaluate and enhance pedestrian access to and connections across the creek, which forms the boundary between Newtown Borough and Newtown Township and to raise community awareness of the historic and environmental significance of the creek through physical enhancements, interpretation and interactive programs. The Newtown Creek Coalition, through the Newtown Corporation, will submit the grant application. Newtown Borough will also be asked for a letter of support. The Township would be asked for in-kind matching support in the form of volunteer time and use of meeting space. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s comment, Mr. Marshall confirmed that the application would gain points for having an inter-municipal effort.Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize signing of a letter of support for the Newtown Corporation/Newtown Creek Coalition DCNR grant application. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Consider Land Development Agreement, 109 Pheasant Run: Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt the land development agreement and financial agreement for 109 Pheasant Run. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Consider Conditional Use Decision /Order for Basil Leaf Restaurant, 2804-06 S. Eagle Rd.Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize signing of the conditional use decision of Basil Leaf Restaurant at 2804-06 South Eagle Road. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
T-Mobile Northeast LLC, 251 Frost Lane: Mr. Garton reviewed this application to construct a 10’ x 20’ concrete pad at the base of an existing water tank to house five equipment cabinets to support nine telecommunications antennae to be affixed to the top of the tank. Relief is sought from the required 60 foot rear yard setback, which backs to open space owned by a Homeowners Association. In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Garton said that the Zoning Hearing Board’s secretary will have notified the HOA and adjoining neighbors in advance of the hearing. This application was passed to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Dr. & Mrs. Kim, 27 Sibelius Road: The applicant seeks a variance for a 4.33% increase in impervious surface for a pool and other backyard amenities. Mr. Schenkman noted that the Planning Commission was concerned about the very large increase in impervious surface at this home, as it affects stormwater management, and recommended that the Board ask the applicant to scale back the plans to reduce the increase in impervious surface. He said that he agreed with the Planning Commission’s concerns.
Mr. Schenkman moved to ask the Codes Department to contact the applicant about scaling back the plans, or if not, to send the Solicitor to oppose this application. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
James Mc Laughlin, 174 Durham Road: The applicant is seeking relief from the front yard setback requirement to construct a two-car garage on an existing single family house on a two lot minor subdivision.
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern that the applicant had already been granted a variance in 2007 to subdivide the property. He expressed some concern about the applicant submitting applications separately for relief and would like more information before passing this application.
Mr. Schenkman moved to ask Mr. Garton to contact the applicant to appear before the Board of Supervisors to review this application, or, if not, to send the Solicitor to oppose the application. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Emmanuel Fashakin, 11 Waterford Place: The applicant is seeking to a construct a pool, decking, coping and a tennis court and is requesting a variance for an additional 8,692 square feet of impervious surface and side yard setback relief. Mr. Garton noted that this is a large lot in a subdivision with a limit of 7718 square feet of impervious surface permitted per lot. Were the Zoning Ordinance to be applied in the absence of the subdivision restriction, the maximum impervious surface permitted would be 19,702 square feet.
Ms. Fountain explained that the impervious surface was calculated for the entire development, instead of per lot, and includes roads, etc. The property has a 5.5% impervious surface ratio now, and with the proposed improvements would have 13%, still below the normally permitted 15% impervious surface.
Mr. Schenkman moved to ask Mr. Garton to contact the applicant to appear before the Board of Supervisors to review this application, or, if not, to send the Solicitor to oppose the application. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Ali’s Igloo Inc., 33 Swamp Road: The Board had no comment on this application to allow a 20 square foot sign, as it is consistent with other signs in the shopping center.
Michelle McNulty, 9 Connover Place: The Board had no comment on this application for a 6-foot fence.
Mike & Michelle Reilly, 4 Hillview Drive: Mr. Schenkman moved to ask the Codes Department to contact the applicant about scaling back the plans, or if not, to send the Solicitor to oppose this application. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern that this is a new development and that some impervious surface allowance was not left for outdoor amenities.
Michael Sullivan, 178 Durham Road: Attorney Susan Piette was in attendance to review this application for an increase in impervious surface. Ms. Piette explained that this property has a 292 foot driveway on a newly created flag lot. The driveway onto Durham Road has a Highway Occupancy Permit for right in/right out only. A second access, through an easement with the Twining property, is needed for left turns. The applicant was not part of the subdivision plan.
Mr. Jirele noted that at the time of subdivision, the Board had wanted only one access through the easement on the Twining property.
Ms. Piette said that the owner plans to build a house similar in size and appearance to other homes recently built in the area. The owner wants the house to have its own driveway in order to reduce the need to share access through the Twining property. She said that the applicant would have been amenable to placing a grass strip through the middle of the 292 foot driveway, but this was not acceptable to the EMS department.
Ms. Piette agreed to ask the applicant to return to the Board to discuss this application.
Newtown Venture I Associates LP, Silver Lake Executive Campus, Silver Lake Road & Newtown Bypass: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this application for variances to construct two three-story buildings approximately 78,426 square feet each, plus a 4,125 square foot cafeteria/fitness center in the Office Research Zoning District. Mr. Murphy said that the applicant is seeking parking variances to provide 787 parking spaces where 806 spaces are required. He explained that the parking is based on the square footage of the buildings. The cafeteria is a one story, green roofed structure located between the two office buildings. It is for employee use only, so no additional parking would be needed. The applicant is also seeking relief to provide 9’ x18’ parking stalls for 75% of the spaces, as is permitted in the LI Zoning District. Variances are sought for some of the stormwater requirements because the existing stormwater management facility was designed and installed based on development of the entire premises. One of the tenants in the other office building at this complex is seeking additional space to relocate its corporate headquarters from New Jersey. The applicant has been working with the County Economic Development Agency and the State to attract this prospective tenant, a pharmaceutical firm. This would be corporate offices, and no manufacturing would take place on the premises. One tenant would occupy the new buildings, while continuing to occupy some space in the existing building at the site.
Ms. Fountain explained that the request for relief from base site area calculations is necessary because the stormwater management for the entire complex is located on the lot where the new buildings are proposed. This basin already exists. The natural resources encroachment is for improvements to a driveway that already exists.
The Board had no comment on this application.
Certificate of Completion #5 – Tudor Square Phase III: Mr. Jirele moved to authorize certificate of completion #5 to Tudor Square Phase III in the amount of $121,448.34. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has concerns about addressing disputes among neighbors during the public comment portion of the meeting, as had occurred earlier with the Stoopville Road neighbors. He suggested that the Board consider a mediation procedure to resolve such disputes. He suggested that he contact some people with expertise in conflict resolution to make a presentation to the Board at a future work session.
Mr. Jirele agreed, noting that the public comment only slows down resolution of neighbors’ issues.
Mr. Gallagher asked the Board to consider purchase of Muni-cast software, as had been discussed at an earlier meeting.
Mr.Czajkowski said that funds are available in the reserve fund to cover the $5000 cost of the software. The consultant will enter data back to 2002 for this fee. Future updates would be at a cost of $75 per hour.
Mr. Schenkman confirmed that the Financial Planning Committee was impressed with the demonstration of the product.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize purchase of Muni-cast Budget Forecasting software. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 10:45 PM.