Board of Supervisors
Minutes of February 25, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on February 25, 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 and Philip Calabro, member. 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 and an invocation by Pastor John Stange of Newtown Community Church. This was followed by and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski announced that discussion of an Office Research Zoning Ordinance has been removed from the Solicitor’s Report.
Public Comment:. Vahakan Derassouyan, owner of Newtown Plaza Shopping Center, said that in 1995 the Township had asked to dump stormwater into his basin. German Avenue also empties into his basin. Since then, it has become a burden. He would like to add a parking space to his property. He cannot afford to put in underground stormwater management. He asked the Board to divert some of the run-off to the German Avenue area.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board is not well informed on this issue. He asked Ms. Fountain to research the problem and investigate what can be done.
Resident Kurt Dilatush of 31 Copperleaf Drive said that he objects to the proposed permanent closing and abandonment of the portion of Silver Lake Road that connects it to Newtown Yardley Road. The connection is a great convenience to residents of his development and in its current condition is dangerous; it still appears on GPS systems and Google maps. Recently a Lower Makefield ambulance was misdirected to this closed section in response to an emergency. He asked that the road be re-opened with traffic calming in place. He asked whether the road has been legally closed yet.
Dr. Ciervo said that closing of the road had been a condition of approval of the Wiltshire Walk development.
Mr. Garton said that the road has not been vacated yet as the Township is awaiting certain necessary easements. Once easements are secured a hearing must be held, which will be advertised. The question will be put to the Board at a public hearing and a vote will be taken at that time. Until a vote is taken it is still an open issue.
Ms. Fountain said that work on pavement at this location has been postponed because of cold weather. Once the temperature is consistently warm, the paving will be rescheduled.
Dr. Ciervo noted that at recent discussions on closing of Silver Lake Road the traffic engineer had indicated that if open the road would fail.
Mr. Jirele said that this has been discussed at two recent meetings as well as when Wiltshire Walk was built. The decision to vacate the road was based on safety concerns.
Mr. Dilatush said that the road would be a convenience for many residents. In its current condition it is unsightly and unsafe. With traffic calming it could be safely reopened.
Resident Jennifer Dix said that Wiltshire Walk’s Homeowners Association has sought advice from its attorney on the necessary easements. Many residents are in favor of reopening the road. Traffic studies that were done that concluded the road should be closed were conducted before Penns Trail North was built. She said that with Penns Trail North also opened, Silver Lake Road could be safely reopened.
Dr. Ciervo said that this intersection has been studied more recently, with the proposed building of Brandywine and with the McGrath Villas. Last year the traffic engineer said that the road would fail if opened.
Ms. Dix asked whether the timeframe for payment of improvements by McGrath had lapsed.
Mr. Jirele said that McGrath had agreed to either pay to improve the road on the Villas side of the street or pay for closing it.
Mr. Calabro said that if an ambulance has been lost because of the closed road, that is a safety concern as well. He said that if the road were reopened, it would probably not be used by residents attempting to make left turns onto Newtown Yardley Road causing traffic backups. Most residents familiar with the traffic patterns would probably take advantage of the opening going home, making a right turn from Newtown Yardley Road.
Dr. Ciervo said that at the previous discussion a right in/right out only entrance had been discussed.
Resident Karen Katz said that a group of Borough and Township residents have been meeting to discuss concerns about the downtown area around State and Sycamore Streets. This group would like to discuss concerns about future planning for the Township and Borough. Mrs. Katz read the group’s mission statement into the record: “In order to insure that Newtown remains a vital residential and business community that respects its past and looks forward, we feel that it is important at this time to plan for the future. This planning should encompass zoning, traffic conditions/congestion architectural size, style and mass of buildings, future development and community uses.” Residents interested in joining the group can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Jirele said that the Township would welcome input from this group. He suggested that the group make their minutes available to the Supervisors.
Mrs. Katz thanked Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Calabro for providing the group with some information on current zoning.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the Planning Commission has been charged with reviewing current zoning on Sycamore Street and looking toward the future, development along the street. He suggested that this group might want to have input into these discussions.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes the regular meeting of February 11, 2009. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills Lists: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $581,568.55. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Resident David Katz asked whether any progress has been made in reducing the costs for cell phones.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he is working on negotiations with providers right now and expects to report shortly.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $184,766. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele reported that the Township has been the recipient of a $75,000 grant for recycling in the community. He thanked Senator McIlhinney for his help in securing this grant.
Other Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that he attended the most recent Technology Committee meeting, at which members discussed working with the Park and Recreation Board and Department to develop a more responsive Web site for on-line program registration. The Committee will also review various options for technology uses in the new municipal complex.
Dr. Ciervo reported that the appeal of a resident on the development proposed for the Goodnoe tract on Eagle Road has been upheld in the Commonwealth Court. The resident had appealed an approved plan in the Court of Common Pleas and had won that appeal. Orleans Homebuilders appealed that decision to the Commonwealth Court where to Court of Common Pleas decision was upheld. The Township does not expect any further appeals.
Mr. Gallagher noted that in the Court’s decision upholding our JMZO, another Newtown case was cited.
Mr. Jirele said that this decision upholds our goals of lower housing density and preservation of open space.
Mrs. Katz asked what effect, if any, this has on the application currently before the Zoning Hearing Board.
Dr. Ciervo said that the current plan shows 40 twin homes. The recent Commonwealth Court decision dealt with a previously approved plan for a cluster of single family homes. The applicant has not put forth any plan that complies with the Ordinance without certain zoning relief. The original plan had not included existing homes in its base site calculations.
Mr. Jirele said that the current 40 twin home plan needs relief from the Zoning Hearing Board for disturbance of agricultural soils and steep slopes. The Township has sent its Solicitor to oppose this application.
Appointment to Financial Planning Committee: Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Matt Benchener to fill the opening on the Financial Planning Committee for the remainder of the current term. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Appointment to the Traffic Committee: Mr. Calabro said that many well qualified people volunteered to serve on this committee; he thanked the residents for their interest.
Mr. Calabro moved to appoint Jeff Rockower, Joanne Bintliff-Ritchie and Timothy J. Szwedo to the Joint Traffic Committee. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Chairman John Tyrol was in attendance to review the certificate of appropriateness for a sign at 301 North Sycamore Street.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for a sign at 301 North Sycamore Street as outlined in a memo dated February 12, 2009. Mr. Calabro seconded:
Mr. Tyrol noted that the sign will be 5 feet tall.
Mr. Jirele noted that the sign echoes the shape and materials used in an abandoned bridge abutment on the property. At one time this bridge had connected Rte 413 through to Newtown Borough.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Tyrol presented the application for a moveable sign permit for Sycamore Street. Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Galla of the Codes Department have worked with HARB to make sure the application contains all necessary information. There is a $50 permit fee.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Tyrol said that the only issue that has come up with Sycamore Street business owners has been approved colors. There are a few “grandfathered” non-conforming signs. Most business owners are eager to comply with the application’s requirements. Signs being issued permits must comply with the HARB approval for the other signs located on the property. If a special circumstance were to exist, the business owner would have to apply to HARB, and ultimately to the Board of Supervisors to address that circumstance if an exception were to ever be made. Non-compliance would trigger a fine, according to the ordinance. The fine and permit fee do not need to appear on the application. The sentence referring to number of signs and time of display can be moved to the top of the application. Businesses which have late evening hours would be permitted to leave the signs out until closing.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt the application for moveable sidewalk signs as presented by HARB. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that the Board has already begun working with the technology committee to develop a more interactive Web site with on line registration. It is hoped that the improved Web site will eventually lead to a great reduction in the use of paper.
The Board heard a presentation on composting toilets for Roberts Ridge using a new technology. The salesman has assured the Board that there is no odor, the restroom is easily installed and maintained and there is no maintenance requiring workers to enter confined spaces. The system runs on electricity but the vendor is preparing information on solar panels to generate power. The total cost would be about 1/3 of the estimate for a traditional public restroom at the park. Other communities using the system will be contacted and Mrs. Pawlenko and he hope to do some site visits. He will share a list of locations where the toilets are used so that Board members can also see them.
Mr. Levine presented the bids for the Woll tract. Sharon Dotts of Gilmore & Associates was also in attendance to answer questions the Board might have on the add alternatives to the base bid. Mr. Levine explained that the spreadsheet submitted to the Board shows the base bids for the construction of the park with all additions listed separately. Those additions that the engineers and Park and Rec Board strongly recommend be considered as part of the initial construction have been highlighted in boldface type. These include water irrigation loop and paved 6 foot and 10 foot paths.
Mr. Garton suggested that the Board first decide which alternatives should be included before accepting a bid.
Mr. Jirele said that the second round of bids were considerably lower than the first.
Ms. Dotts pointed out that the alternatives in bold are components of construction that would cause damage to fields and interruption of use if added after the park is completed. She pointed to the plan and noted the irrigation water loop, which would allow for sprinklers and water fountains and the location of walking paths at 6 foot and 10 foot widths.
The Board discussed whether to include overflow parking in the initial construction. Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Jirele felt that overflow should be constructed at the start. Mr. Levine noted that there would be adequate parking in the lot to meet ordinance requirements. He pointed out the parking lots that are included in the base bid. If installation of overflow parking were delayed until needed, its installation would not be disruptive to use of the park.
The Board discussed installation of sports lighting at this time. Mr. Levine said that the bid is for installation of the infrastructure for lighting. This would be placed along the periphery of the fields. No sports leagues have come forward with specific plans for paying for lighting yet, so he feels the decision can be postponed. Only baseball and softball would require permanent lighting; soccer and other sports using the rectangular fields can use temporary lights as they have done at the field behind Staples.
The Board discussed additional landscaping. Mr. Levine said that the base bid includes landscaping for the buffers between the park and residences. The additional landscaping would be street trees throughout the park along paths. The Board agreed that the sooner trees are planted the sooner they would begin to grow and make the park more attractive.
The Board discussed the trail widths proposed. Ms. Dotts said that the wider trails run through the middle of the park from the parking area so that emergency vehicles and public works maintenance vehicles, as well as leagues dropping off and removing equipment, will have access. The six foot trails are for walking around inside the park. After some discussion on the benefits of wider paths versus the increased impervious surface, it was agreed that 4624 feet of six foot trails and 1268 feet of 10 foot trails should be included in the bid.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has researched the costs for trash receptacles, park benches, bleachers and bike racks. These items can be purchased and installed by our Public Works Department at considerably lower prices than the bids propose.
Mr. Levine said that benches and additional trees are items the Park and Recreation Board had hoped might be donated by members of the community at some point.
Mr. Czajkowski assured the Board that these items can be installed by the Public Works Department.
It was agreed that these items would not be included in the bid.
The Board discussed installation of bleachers. Mr. Levine said that the bid includes placing the bleachers on concrete pads. He showed the areas around each field where bleachers are planned. The pads make for easier maintenance and a level surface for the bleachers. There are 21 bleachers planned.
The Board did not agree that a concrete pad would be essential for bleachers. Mr. Gallagher said that separate purchase of bleachers could save about $900 per bleacher.
Mr. Czajkowski said that if bleachers are purchased separately, Public Works can install them. They can also do concrete work if the bleachers require pads. There would be time in their schedule to do this work, if the Board decided to do it in house.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to include the playground and playground safety surface in the initial bid. He wants to be sure that there is a playground for the siblings of players.
Mr. Levine said that the playground would be the last thing installed before the park opens its playing fields. For this reason, purchase and installation could be postponed until next year.
The Board agreed that the alternatives to be added to the base bid would be the irrigation water loop and drinking fountains, additional landscaping and six and ten foot trails. Using his computer, Mr. Gallagher calculated that the low bidder for the base plus these additions, noted on the spreadsheet prepared by Miss Dotts as Alternatives C, D, G, H and I would be Adams-Bickel/Wolverine for a total cost of $2,452,161. McAlister Construction would be second lowest.
Ms. Dotts said that both are adequately qualified and have good recommendations.
Dr. Ciervo moved to award the Woll tract bid to Adams-Bickel Wolverine for the base bid plus add alternatives C, D, G, H and I. Mr. Jirele seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that he was not sure about which parts of the trail to widen or about including the additional landscaping in this bid.
Ms. Dotts noted that there would probably be some discounting of landscaping costs if included in this bid rather than trying to go back later to plant trees. The plants will be guaranteed for eighteen months. Planting the trees right away will make for a better park.
Mr. Jirele agreed with this. He said that the trees will be an important part of the park, and the sooner they are planted the better. He noted the tremendous savings being realized by the re-bidding and the separating of certain additional components from the base bid.
Mr. Calabro said that while he fully supports the park, he is hesitant to take this important vote without the full Board in attendance and without having met with the bidders.
Ms. Dotts said that Gilmore has reviewed all of the bidders’ credentials. All are qualified.
Mr. Garton said that the Board must award to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder.
Mr. Sensibaugh questioned the procedure for opening of bids.
Ms. Dotts said that all sealed bids were opened at a public meeting, as is required. Copies of bids could be made available to Mr. Sensibaugh.
The motion passed 4-0.
OHB Homes, Inc., Goodnoe Tract, Eagle Road – Conditional Use: Mr. Garton informed the Board that because OHB Homes has applied for a number of variances from the Zoning Hearing Board, which has indicated that the hearings might not be completed until April, the applicant has granted an extension on this application to May 31, 2009.
Reports of Officials
Rockbridge Resolution of Condemnation: Mr. Garton explained that pursuant to the settlement agreement with Gigliotti Avignon the Township has agreed to adopt a resolution of condemnation, the purpose of which is to obviate the need for either party to pay transfer tax. This is a friendly condemnation.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-9, a condemnation of Rockbridge property. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether funds had been secured from Bucks County’s natural resources grant funds. It was his understanding that the grant was supposed to have been in hand to make payment.
Mr. Jirele said that it was his understanding that the Township could be reimbursed later.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has sent a letter of intent to the Bucks County Planning Commission. He will confirm that the application can be made for a reimbursement after the purchase.
The motion passed 4-0.
The meeting adjourned at 9:40 PM.