Board of Supervisors
Minutes of January 14, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on January 14, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor, and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. Rabbi Yair Robinson of Shir Ami gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Jirele welcomed Boy Scout Troup 29.
Public Comment: On behalf of Boy Scout Troup 29, Scout Ryan King thanked the Board for welcoming them. The Troup is in attendance to earn a community citizenship badge.
Resident Jen Dix asked a number of questions about the progress made on the completion of the Woll tract park.
In response to Ms. Dix’s questions, Mr. Jirele said that the previous bid on the Woll tract had about 6 or 7 responses. Because the bids were too high, the Board has re-advertised, this time asking for a bid on the fields, with certain additional amenities listed as add alternates.
Mr. Czajkowski said that it is hoped that construction will begin in the spring, with fields ready for playing in the fall of 2010.
In response to Ms. Dix’s questions about open space, Mr. Garton explained that purchase of the open space at the Rockbridge property had been delayed. The developer is to prepare subdivision plans for a two house development and the open space to be purchased by the Township. An agreement of sale exists, and the Township is contractually obligated to purchase the property by the end of February.
Mr. Jirele said that funds for the purchase of the Rockbridge property are from the Park and Recreation Capital Fund, mostly from development impact fees.
Minutes, Bills Lists, and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the work session of December 8, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Jirele asked that the Pension Investment Policy of 60% stock and 40% Bonds, referenced in the December 17, 2008 minutes under Chairman’s Report, be confirmed.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes the regular meeting of December 17, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the organization meeting of January 5, 2009 Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills Lists: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $329,543.70. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Czajkowski confirmed that the amount paid to Newtown Ambulance reflects 25% of the local services tax minus the cost of Workers Compensation.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $180,000. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele reported that he had met with Newtown Borough Council President Mark Craig to discuss formation of a joint traffic committee. The Borough has already assigned one Borough Council member and three residents; Newtown Township will need to do the same. A resolution will be needed to create this ad hoc committee. If any residents are interested in serving on the committee, which will be charged with investigating ways to address ongoing traffic concerns in both the Township and Borough, please contact the Township administration by telephone or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Jirele confirmed that the term for committee members would be one year. The Committee would be given direction after the Borough Council and Board of Supervisors have a joint meeting. This item will be added to that agenda.
Mr. Jirele reported that he and Mr. Schenkman recently attended the Joint Zoning Council meeting at which he asked Upper Makefield and Wrightstown to serve on a committee to review the current roadway classifications. Planning Commission member Allen Fidler has also agreed to represent Newtown Township on that committee.
Appointment to Financial Planning Committee: Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Tom Grace to the Financial Planning Committee for a two year term to end in 2010. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Technology Committee: Mr. Gallagher moved to standardize the appointments to the Technology Committee for one year terms, to be affirmed at the annual organization meeting. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to reappoint Richard Thompson, Edward Lipski, Robert Bower and Michael Horan to the Technology Committee for a term of one year. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Jonathan Schnell to the Technology Committee for a term of one year. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher asked residents with interest in serving on this committee to contact the Township Administration by telephone or e-mail at email@example.com, as there are still openings on the committee. The Committee will be working closely with the Park and Recreation Department and Board to help streamline technology use in the Department.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that at its January 2009 meeting the Park and Rec Board reorganized, once again electing Andrew Levine as Chairman and Joel Grosso as Vice-Chairman.
Mr. Levine said that Park and Recreation Director, Kathy Pawlenko reported an increase in department revenue of 3.7% and increase in participation of 8.2%, despite the restricted distribution of programming materials in the public schools. The Winter/Spring program brochure is being mailed to residents this week. The brochure offers programming for children and adults for fitness and for recreation, including an expanded swimming program and a partnership with Northampton on some computer classes. Summer Camp registration for residents begins on January 21. The Board discussed ways to expand the very popular summer camps in 2010, possibly partnering with our jointure partners.
The Woll tract is being re-bid with a pre-bid meeting set for January 21, 2009. The Township has budgeted $2,600,000 for the park. Mr. Levine and Mr. Gallagher reviewed the current bidding, which included three ball fields and three rectangular fields, with a list of other amenities to be bid as add alternatives. Once bids are opened the Park and Recreation Department and Board and Board of Supervisors will discuss the menu of alternatives to be selected and phased in to the park in the first phase.
The playground equipment for Helen Randle Park has arrived and will be installed shortly.
The Board reviewed some skate park designs provided by American Ramp. Two adult residents in attendance have volunteered to arrange meetings with some children in the community to get input on the layout of equipment. Once a design is settled upon, some fundraising efforts can begin in anticipation of acquisition of the land next to the multipurpose field at Newtown Shopping Center. The Board is still discussing such concerns as fencing and hours of operation.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Levine said that Mrs. Pawlenko strongly urged that the skate park have specific hours of operation, probably from dawn to dusk, with fencing that can be opened and closed by the Police Department.
In response to questions from Mr. Calabro, Mr. Levine said that currently the Park and Recreation Brochure can be viewed on the Township Web site as a PDF file. Registration must be done in person or by telephone, which is time consuming for the Department. It is hoped that working with the Technology Committee, the Department will produce a more interactive brochure and on-line registration. There might be substantial savings in printing costs and this could also alleviate some of the administrative burden on the Department employees.
Mr. Levine stressed that the Department is now at least 90% self-sufficient, and that self-sufficiency includes staff salaries and benefits. The Department is working to track which programs are most profitable. It is important, though, to keep in mind that many programs that do not bring in a great deal of revenue are very popular with the residents.
The Board will be meeting with a representative of a compost toilet manufacturer in February, for possible installation at Roberts Ridge Park. At first look, this appears to be a possible solution to the high cost of providing a restroom facility, but the Board will need some expert assistance on installation and maintenance concerns and questions. The Board had previously agreed that the Woll tract and restrooms for Roberts Ridge are the top priorities for 2009.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mr. Schenkman moved to appoint Bill Mahler to HARB. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.New Police Officer: Chief Henry Pasqualini introduced the newest member of the Township Police Force, Nick Whitney, who joins the force after serving in New Hope and Solebury. Officer Whitney will begin in Newtown Township tomorrow, as a replacement officer, following the recent retirement of Sergeant Patton.
Rosebank Winery Sketch Plan: Mr. Jirele reviewed the land development process for the Boy Scouts, explaining that those seeking to develop properties first present their ideas to the Board of Supervisors, seeking input on the plans. With some idea of what the Board, who represent the residents, would like to see, the developer then presents formal plans first to the Planning Commission then to the Board for approval.
Attorney Don Marshall, was in attendance to review a sketch plan for a two story 5400 square foot addition to the existing barn and a 1400 square foot deck to the existing wine producing building on a 10.675 acre parcel in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. Mr. Marshall explained that the applicant intends to move the wine production and sales to the new structure and wine related events will be moved to the existing structure. The tent will no longer be used for events and has been removed. A new orchard area for fruit trees is to be added. The parking area will be reduced to 116 spaces. The parking calculations have been based on the restaurant requirements in the Ordinance, since there is no reference to parking for winery uses. It is the applicant’s intention to have public sewers, hooked into the line that will be extended for the Township park. Permission will be sought for use of a temporary holding tank until the sewer line is installed. The impervious coverage is presently at 14.4%; with the addition it will be 17.8%. A variance will be needed for the increase, but the Ordinance is not clear on the permitted impervious surface. Agriculture has a 5% impervious limit but other uses in the CM district have a 15% impervious surface. This use would be H-17, winery accessory. As part of a court approved agreement, the applicant has agreed to go through the land development process for this addition.
Mr. Marshall said that he has already presented the plans to the Planning Commission, which was supportive with the recommendation that pull off areas be added to the 12 foot driveway to allow cars to pass one another. The Planning Commission also asked that additional buffering be added between the property and the school/park property lines.
In response to Mr. Garton’s questions, Mr. Marshall said that the reduction in parking does not have an impact on the impervious surface area. The parking will be gravel under grass, not paved, as the applicant is attempting to maintain a rural appearance.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the letter of CKS Engineering dated November 21, 2008, and noted that the applicant will comply with item #4, with greater than one acre dedicated to wine producing crops, and item #5, that 3,000 square feet of floor area will be devoted to serving customers.
Ms. Fountain noted that the Ordinance requires that the driveway be wide enough for two-way vehicular access. The Planning Commission had discussed a pull-off area, and this will be further considered at preliminary plan review.
The Board noted that for the most part, traffic will be headed the same direction on the driveway, either arriving or departing from events.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the parking, noting that the 116 parking spaces includes resident parking and handicapped spaces. The entrance will be widened for easier access and departure of traffic making either a right or left turn. The current agreement requires that a police officer be stationed at the exit for events of more than 200 attendees. This number will not be reached often; the new facility is not as large as the tent had been.
Mr. Marshall and Ms. Fountain again reviewed the Ordinance impervious surface limitations, again noting that agricultural uses are at 5% impervious and other uses are at 15%. Mr. Marshall said that he would argue that the use is an accessory H-17 and as such entitled to the 15%. Using the agricultural number, the property is already non-conforming.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like this issue resolved prior to the preliminary plan phase.
McGrath/Promenade: Attorney William Bolla represented the Township for this portion of the meeting.
Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to discuss what he referred to as “concept” plans, not yet at the sketch plan phase, for the Acme property on North Sycamore Street. These plans have not been reviewed by the Planning Commission. At the October work session, McGrath had presented plans for a four story building with retail on the ground floor level and three stories of condominiums. The Supervisors had expressed some concern about the size and height of the building as well as the density of the residential units. The developer has attempted to meet the spirit of the Acme Visioning Committee to provide an upscale retail space to bring in tax revenues, with some residential or office mix, while eliminating the current eyesore. The applicant has spoken to representatives of the surrounding community, including the Presbyterian Church, the EMS and the business and residential community. Once the developer has some indication of support from the Board of Supervisors, the developer will need to make application to the Zoning Hearing Board for some relief. There is one retail tenant actively seeking a lease for this location, with the understanding that it could occupy the space by the fourth quarter of 2010.
Architect Anthony Russo presented renderings of the plan as presented in October and of a revision to that plan. He noted that the fourth floor has been reduced in square footage and is now set back so that it is no longer visible from Sycamore Street. The pitch of the roof has been reduced. The new height is 49 feet 3 inches on Sycamore Street, with a mean height of 44 feet, and at the new, set back fourth story it is 54 feet. One unit has been eliminated from the condominium floors. The parking and underground lot have not been changed.
Mr. Murphy said that once there is some assurance that the process will move forward, probably with Zoning Hearing Board approval, the old Acme will be removed. This could be as early as this coming summer.
Mr. Russo and Engineer David Harke reviewed the use of “green” roof materials, which Mr. Harke explained are panels with six inches of soil for a vegetative roof. The roof has a 50% retention rate and is better for stormwater management.
Mr. Jirele reviewed the goals set forth by the Acme Visioning Committee, and he said that the architecture does complement the historic area, and meets the goals of mixed use and high end retail. His concern is the very large size of the structure.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would have liked to have seen a rendering of the building as it will appear as approaching from Jefferson Street. This rendering was then presented.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether it would be possible to show both sides of the street, if not as an actual rendering, at least with the sizes of the buildings on the opposite side of the street represented, for comparison.
The Board briefly discussed the size as compared with the LSAC building.
Mr. Murphy noted that in keeping with both the Acme Visioning and with the concerns of the neighbors, the developer has attempted to make a more pedestrian friendly street front.
Engineer Scott Mills reviewed the plan’s elevation at street level, explaining that the frontage is elevated because of the topography of the site. To lower the building entrances would require extensive excavation that would interfere with the ability to install underground parking. There is also some concern about stormwater management and hooking into existing piping on Sycamore Street if the building site were excavated for a street level entrance. The sidewalk is ramped at the shop entrances, rather than placing entrances at grade and installing internal stairs.
Mr. Jirele again expressed concern about the size of the structure. He said he would like input from the Planning Commission and would like the developer to explore the possibility of eliminating the fourth floor entirely.
Mr. Gallagher said that he is supportive of the project as it complements the existing streetscape, will provide good tax revenue and will enhance the street life. He expressed some concern about the height and the appearance of the structure in relation to the other buildings on Sycamore Street. While he had some concern about increased traffic at the intersection with Jefferson Street, he noted that this plan provides a second entrance north of the intersection, which could help to alleviate some congestion. He said that also of concern is the precedent established with a tall building on Sycamore Street. Looking ahead there are a number of other properties on the street that might be redeveloped in the next few years.
Mr. Calabro said that Sycamore Street has changed a great deal since the Acme Visioning Committee had discussed recommendations. He is concerned about the size of the structure. He noted that the proposed building is considerably larger than the LSAC building, and will dominate the street. The previous plan presented by Elliot Builders was only 57,000 square feet and less than 35 feet high. He also expressed some concern about traffic and safety.
Mr. Murphy responded that the Elliot plan also included a three story, 80,000 square foot parking structure. He noted that the request of the Visioning Committee for high end architecture and retail tenants comes with a cost. He urged the Board to consider the ordinance a living thing that adapts to the times.
Mr. Schenkman said that he appreciates the efforts that have been made to address the parking and traffic concerns. The second entrance should help. His only concern is the scale of the project, placing a 19 th century façade on a 21 st century building, as it dwarfs the other buildings on the street. He noted the design of Goodnoe’s Corner, where a few buildings are placed close together but with areas to pass between buildings, as an acceptable alternative.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is concerned about the height of the proposed structure. He did not think it is necessary to build 31 condominiums in order to make a profit on the construction. While he approved of the design of the first floor, he would have preferred only one story of condominiums. The current proposal has an “urban” feel. He would like to see a project closer to that which would be permitted by the current zoning. He agreed with Mr. Schenkman that a project similar to Goodnoe’s Corner might be preferable. He also agreed with Mr. Gallagher that a precedent would be set for large, tall buildings along Sycamore Street.
Mr. Gallagher asked that information be gathered on fire rescue capabilities for such a tall structure.
Resident Shawn Ward, a business owner on Sycamore Street, said that he supports this mixed use project, as it represents what the Sycamore Street Business Association wants. It will promote a safe and pedestrian friendly atmosphere. The residential component is important to provide a “round the clock” presence on the street.
Andrew Abruzzese, owner of properties at 9 and 11 South Sycamore Street, said that there is no perfect solution but that this plan is close to what the residents and business owners on Sycamore Street want. As a painting contractor in the area for over 40 years, he has worked with the McGraths many times and they are builders with integrity who continue to support the communities where they build. The Township has spent a great deal of time and money to build a pedestrian friendly sidewalk on Sycamore Street that is never used. This project will invite people to walk the length of the street. He urged the Board to support the project, which will bring jobs to the Township.
Resident Vincent Lombardi said that he was on the original Acme Visioning Committee and is a current resident of Sycamore Street. He supports this project, especially the condominium component, because owner/residents will provide a more stable presence on the street. The proposed architecture complements the historic district. When looking to the future the Board should consider that other land on Sycamore Street, particularly the auto dealerships, could be developed as PC Planned Commercial shopping centers.
Joe Swerk of the Newtown Ambulance Squad said that the proposed building will block the view of the cell tower. The Ambulance Squad is very supportive of the plans. Mr. McGrath has spoken to the Squad representatives and has worked with them to develop an attractive appearance at the rear which abuts their property. He said that the Ambulance Squad supports the plan but has concerns that if it is not approved the property will be sold again and the space will remain vacant for years.
Brent Wiggins, member of the Newtown Presbyterian Church Board of Trustees, said that the Church does not oppose this project. Mr. McGrath has worked with the Church to address its concerns.
Resident Vicki Verbit said that she is a potential purchaser of one of the condominiums. As an empty nester, she sees the condominium as a wonderful way to accommodate “in town” living and hopes the plan will be approved.
Resident Pancho Messier said that he supports the project. As an empty nester he also is looking forward to purchasing a condo in town, within walking distance of shopping and the high school, where he will continue to attend sporting events. He is eager to see the site cleaned up.
Resident Steve Verbit said that he supports the plan. The architecture blends in with the historic areas, and the site is an eyesore that he is eager to see cleaned up.
Resident Karen Katz said that she has some concerns about the large size of the plan, as do other residents in the nearby community in both the Township and Borough. She noted that the Acme Visioning Committee completed its work eight or ten years ago. A new committee should be formed to discuss what current residents want to see at the site. She would like some kind of community room. She urged the Board to set up meetings with residents to discuss this site.
Mr. Jirele said that at this time the Board is only taking comments on the plan that has been presented this evening, not on possible uses for the site.
Jim Chapman said that he is a retiree looking to move to Newtown Township and into a McGrath home. McGrath is a builder with integrity who gives back to the communities where he has a presence. He supports the project, which has maintained a balance of old and new.
Mike Maurer said that he owns a property on State Street and is concerned about the deterioration of commerce in Newtown’s business district. This plan provides an opportunity to enhance the community. The McGrath organization would be a good neighbor. He urged the Board to approve the plans.
Mr. Jirele suggested that the next step would be to get input from the Planning Commission. He said that he would be interested in seeing the fourth floor eliminated.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that he would like input from the Planning Commission. He said that residents are eager to see the site developed and he hopes that there is some common ground.
Mr. Murphy said that he is concerned that there will not be any common ground. His clients have attempted to meet the requirements of the Visioning Committee and have attempted to address the concerns of the surrounding neighbors. He had hoped to gain some support from the Supervisors before going to the Zoning Hearing Board for the necessary relief.
Messrs. Jirele, Gallagher and Calabro said that they would probably be able to support the project if the fourth floor were eliminated. Mr. Gallagher said that he would have preferred seeing the plans in his packet in advance of the meeting to be better prepared to comment on the presentation.
Mr. Schenkman said that he could probably support the plans with the elimination of the fourth floor but would be more supportive if the project were 2.5 stories.Dr. Ciervo said that the plans with three stories would still be too high.
Reports of Officials
Police Chief: Chief Pasqualini presented his monthly report to the Board as well as a year end report, noting that in 2008 the department had responded to 12,276 calls for service.
Chief Pasqualini said that he had met with the Wrightstown Supervisors who have been very satisfied with the Department’s coverage of Wrightstown, which now includes a truck detail.
Mr. Calabro noted that there had been two arrests for impersonating a police officer in 2008. He asked how residents should respond if they are not sure that a stop is being made by a legitimate officer.
Chief Pasqualini said that residents are within their rights to not immediately stop for an unmarked car. They should proceed to the police station, or at least to a populated, well lit area, before stopping.
Chief Pasqualini agreed to provide Board members with information on the locations of the traffic citations.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like a comparison with the 2007 traffic citations as well. He is also interested in seeing the number of citations given to speeders on the Bypass.
Manager: Mr. Czajkowski asked the Board to remain for an executive session after this evening’s meeting.
Resolution for Dedication of Public Improvements at Linton Hill Chase: Mr. Garton explained that a resolution is required to accept dedication of the streets, clear sight distance triangle easements, a detention basin easement, emergency access easement and utility easements at Linton Hill Chase. He further explained that the Township is not taking ownership of the detention basin. If the stormwater facility were not properly maintained by the homeowners’ association, the Township could provide maintenance and bill the association if necessary. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s suggestion, he agreed to modify the language in the resolution to articulate this and the outstanding issues of speed limit signs, trees and shrubs to be installed or replaced and stabilization of open space, for which the Township is holding $10,000 in escrow. The Board could authorize adoption this evening and the modified resolution would be presented for members signatures.
Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt a resolution accepting dedication of public improvements of Linton Hill Chase. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to proceed with consideration of possible modifications to the zoning in the OR Office Research Zoning District. The Board had previously discussed rezoning the as yet undeveloped parcels in the OR district because the area has seen a great deal of residential development. The Planning Commission has already discussed this and reported its concerns to the Board. He asked that a zoning change be drafted and forwarded to the Jointure and the Bucks County Planning Commission for comment.
Mr. Schenkman said that in considering zoning changes to the OR district he would also like to address hotel/conference center uses.
Mr. Jirele asked the Township Planner to report on where in the Jointure such uses could exist.
Mr. Gallagher said that these are two different issues. He would like the solicitor to draft the rezoning of the OR properties.
Mr. Jirele said that a more comprehensive review might be better.
Mr. Schenkman agreed with Mr. Jirele.
Dr. Ciervo said that while he agreed that the permitted uses in the whole OR district need to be reviewed, these should be two different ordinances.
The Board then agreed to direct the Solicitor to draft a map change ordinance and to direct the Planner to research areas where a hotel/conference center could be built in the Jointure.
Resident Bill Sterling said that he owns a piece of property in the OR district and he would like it left alone. The Township has already created difficulties for him on his CM Conservation Management property.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like to consider the use of wind turbines to generate energy for the new municipal building. He said that there might be grants available and he would like to speak to the firm that is handling the LEEDS certification about this.
Mr. Schenkman and Mr. Jirele each noted that the Joint Zoning Council has been discussing appropriate zoning for wind turbines as well as other alternative energy sources.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like to investigate Doylestown Borough’s attempts to go “paperless”, which they claim will save $46,000 annually. He would like Newtown to attempt a similar reduction in the use of paper. He also noted that Wrightstown has begun Web casting of its meetings with hyperlinks from the agenda to the specific portions of the meeting. He understands that Video Gold is doing this for Wrightstown at a cost of $6000.
Dr. Ciervo asked wither this is something the Township staff could do with the DVD’s provided by Video Gold.
Mr. Jirele suggested that the Technology Committee could advise on this.
The meeting adjourned at 11:10 PM.