Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 13, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on April 13, 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 and Jerry Schenkman, 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 and an invocation by Pastor Harry Whyte of More View Bible Church. This was followed by and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Joanne Bintliff Ritchiethanked the Board for hosting a very informative open house on proposed improvements to Stoopville Road. She asked for a status update on the project.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has not yet discussed adopting the plans at a public meeting and has not yet taken a position.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie asked whether Dr. Ciervo would be in support of Stoopville Road traffic calming plans, as they are to be funded by earmarks and Dr. Ciervo recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Bucks County Courier Times in opposition to earmarks.
Dr. Ciervo said that his support of this particular project is not in opposition to his stated position on earmarks. Traffic calming on Stoopville Road is needed, especially with the addition of the Federal Veterans Cemetery and the development of the White and Melsky tracts. Federal funding of road improvements has always been a part of the discussion of the Cemetery; former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick as well as current Congressman Patrick Murphy have both worked to have the funding made available to Newtown Township. Federal funding for road improvements comes from many sources, including our gasoline taxes.
The Board discussed the funding for this project, which has been a bi-partisan effort for a number of years, long before the stimulus package. Mr. Jirele noted that this project is, in fact, funded in part by an earmark.
Mr. Calabro questioned whether Dr. Ciervo’s support of the project is in contradiction to his stated position against earmarks.
After further discussion, the Board agreed that while some Board members have philosophical differences on the practice of earmark spending, this project is much needed and funding would be gratefully accepted.
Resident Gary Lumpkin, Activities Director for St. Andrew’s CYO thanked the Board for inviting him to discuss the CYO’s partnership with the Ancient Order of Hibernians to host a “Hike for Hunger” on April 18. His announcement at the March meeting has already generated a large response. The event will begin with Mass at St. Andrew’s Church at 9:00 AM, with the hike beginning at the Church and proceeding to Tyler Park. The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Hunger Project raises money to purchase food at greatly discounted prices to supply food pantries. Recently, the CYO partnered with the Hibernians to purchase food for $700 to stock the pantry at St. Luke’s AME Church in Newtown. CYO’s from Lower Bucks will join together to participate in the hike, raising money to supply pantries and food banks throughout the Bucks and Trenton areas, including pantries in Bristol, Fallsington, Warminster and Levittown. He urged the Board and residents to participate in the event to help those less fortunate. Donations can be mailed to Mr. Lumpkin c/o St. Andrew’s Church 81 Swamp Road, Newtown PA 18940, or dropped off at St. Andrew’s on Saturday morning. For more information, please call 215-968-2262 ext. 39.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the work session of March 16, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of March 25, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills Lists: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $634,596.96.. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $363,362.08 Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board Members: Mr. Schenkman reported that he will be attending the PSATS convention later this month and would provide a report to Board members.
Dr. Ciervo reported that he had recently attended a Pennsylvania Leadership Conference at which proposed State Senate Bill 648, which would amend the Prevailing Wage Act to allow political subdivisions to opt out of the prevailing wage for construction projects, was discussed. If adopted this could save municipalities and school districts a great deal of money. The Prevailing Wage can add up to 30% to construction projects. He provided copies of the bill to members and asked that they review it and possibly pass a resolution in support of it.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board members would need time to read the bill and research its implications for the Township and then discuss it before considering a resolution either in support or opposition to it. He questioned whether this bill has been debated in the Labor & Industry Committee.
Mr. Jirele suggested adding this to the May 13, 2009 agenda for further discussion.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its April 7, 2009 meeting the Commission discussed JMZO 2008-10, Historic Preservation. It was noted that our Jointure partners have some concerns about placing a financial burden on owners of structures deemed historic, and are awaiting a completed inventory before moving forward on the amendment. The Planning Commission members had similar concerns. At one time the Board of Supervisors had discussed asking the Joint Historic Commission to compile a list of historic structures located outside of the historic district. If such a list has been completed, the Commission would like to review it when considering the amendment. The members also had some concerns about additional permitted uses for historic structures, as it could become a burden on adjoining neighbors or neighborhoods if a building in a residential area were to become a commercial venture of some kind. These concerns will be reported to the Joint Zoning Council.
The Commission discussed currently permitted uses on Sycamore Street in the TC Zoning District. It was noted that the east side of the street consists of the historic district and most of the parcels are small, with existing structures. This side of the street’s redevelopment potential is somewhat limited. The west side of the street has a number of larger parcels that are, or could become, the subject of future redevelopment.
Most of the already permitted uses seem acceptable to the Commission on the smaller lots, but there were some concerns about these same uses on larger lots. Members were unsure of whether to completely eliminate these uses, or somehow control the intensity by more stringent performance standards. Of particular concern, primarily because of traffic and parking concerns, were the following:
Each of these uses, on a very small scale, could work well on the east side of the street. There are already successful offices and medical offices there; however when large buildings are constructed for these uses, they could be a burden to the street. While a single medical practitioner might require only a few parking spaces, for example, a medical arts building would be a much greater burden. If parking calculations were refined to contain adequate parking on site, however, these could be successful on Sycamore Street. The same could be true for a funeral home and a small hotel or inn. The Commission considered eliminating drive-through windows for financial establishments or requiring an internal drive, as is the case for First Trust at Goodnoe’s Corner in the PC Zoning District.
There was some confusion regarding what constitutes “trades” and when does a trade become an industrial or manufacturing use. Ms. Fountain will be providing more information on this. While certain artisans would be a welcome addition to Sycamore Street, and offices and storage for trades whose primary work is conducted off-site such as carpentry and plumbing could be acceptable, members had concerns about noise when carpentry, for example, expands into larger scale furniture and cabinetmaking.
At the meeting, a resident questioned whether the Township could control the façade or exterior appearance of new buildings and it was explained that only the size, height and setbacks could be controlled outside of the historic district.
The Commission plans to review uses currently not permitted in the TC district that could be viable additions. Ms. Fountain has agreed to research some successful main streets in other municipalities, to better understand uses that could add to the success of Sycamore Street. The Commission is eager to work with the Jointure on energy issues, historic preservation and highway classifications.
Promenade Concept Plan: Attorney Joseph Bella represented the Township during this presentation.
Attorney Ed Murphy presented an informal revised plan for the Promenade on Sycamore Street at the former Acme site. This plan has been revised since first presented to the Board in January, with adjustments made to size, height and design to reflect the Board’s and residents’ comments. Since first presented, the applicant has signed a lease with Anthropologie for 12000 square feet, as the anchor tenant. This is a fifteen year lease with two five year extensions. The applicant now has an obligation to deliver the space by June of 2010 for a store opening in September 2010. The applicant will need direction from the Board quickly so that the approval process can begin.
Mr. Gallagher said that at previous presentations he had asked that Mr. Murphy provide plans in advance of the meeting so that Board members could be better prepared.
Mr. Murphy explained that these sketches were only recently completed. Copies will be provided this evening. The plan will then go to the Planning Commission on April 21, and will return to the Board on April 22 for further Board input and comment.
Architect Peter Stampfl presented a comparison of the current design against plans shown at the September 2008 and January 2009 meetings. He showed that the current plan shows a mean height of 45 feet, where in September it had been 59 feet. The highest point is now 49 feet 10 inches. A mansard roof has been added to the south (Church) side with a height of 44 feet. The fourth floor has been completely eliminated and parapet walls have been reduced 2-3 feet. Some balconies have been opened to help reduce the mass of the building.
Mr. Stampfl showed a revised building footprint plan with minor adjustments, and an architectural rendering of the exterior. He pointed out the elements added to create the appearance of multiple buildings. Canopies and awnings have been added to the street level. The area over the Jefferson Street pass-through will be a common area with exercise room and meeting room for the condominium tenants. The number of condo units has been reduced to 27, although the underground parking has not been reduced. The height of the Jefferson Street pass- through is 14 feet, with pedestrian access to the shops.
Mr. Murphy said that there has been no change to either the below grade or rear parking lots. The plan meets ordinance parking requirements. A variance will be required for heights; the Ordinance limits height to 30 feet in the TC zoning district. He noted for comparison that the shops at Goodnoe’s Corner in the PC zoning district are 40 feet. He pointed out the changed roof lines and the addition of dormers to the top floor to create a more residential appearance to the upper levels.
Mr. Jirele thanked Mr. Murphy and the applicants for the work that has been done on this project to better address the Board’s concerns. He asked about the height of the Church Steeple.
Scott Mills, engineer on the project, said that the steeple of Newtown Presbyterian Church is 53 feet above the street. In response to Board questions he said that the building is 100 feet deep and about 300 feet long. The gross square footage is 83,054 square feet, reduced from 100,000 square feet. The residential units have been reduced to 1650-2100 square feet. There will be no office use; the ratio of retail to residential is 1/3 retail to 2/3 residential.
Mr. Murphy said that the site will be marked so that the Supervisors can better envision the size and location of the building if they visit the site.
Board members thanked the applicant for the work done; they asked that information on height as compared to the Church and to Goodnoe’s Corner be included in materials sent for the Board packets on Friday.
Resident Harriet Beckert said that the proposed project looks much better than earlier iterations, but asked that future renderings make reference to the Newtown Presbyterian Church for comparison. She asked that the exterior include elements of Newtown’s style by using Newtown materials, including Newtown Brownstone.
Mr. Stampfl said that he would attempt to add certain elements to sections of the façade.
Resident Jenn Dix expressed concern that the building would need a large height variance when a variance had already been granted to this site for 35 feet. She said that once granted a 45 foot height variance, a precedent would be set for the other large parcels in the TC district which could be redeveloped in the future.
Mr. Gallagher said that he did not think variances set precedent; each project is reviewed on its own merit.
Mr. Bolla said that a variance would only apply to the property for which it was granted, however, future applicants might cite this variance in their requests for relief.
Mr. Jirele said that this site has a hardship, which might not be the case for other applicants.
Resident Judith Norkin asked how close the building would be to the curb.
Mr. Stampfl said that the sidewalk is 12 feet wide; the building would be set 20 feet back from the curb.
Ms. Norkin said that she is concerned that if placed too close to the street, the 300 foot wide building will appear as a solid wall. Certain architectural elements appear to emphasize the building’s length. She asked what the rear of the structure would look like.
Mr. Stampfl said that the rear would be similar to the front; shops would have entrances from the parking lot. Landscaping and architectural features would be carried around the entire building.
Resident Karen Katz said that she would like to see more resident involvement with the plans. She mentioned a recent event sponsored by Newtown Creek Coalition which featured the history and vision for the future of the creek. She urged the applicant to keep the interests of the community in mind going forward. She asked interested residents to visit the Web site sponsored by a group called Newtown 21 st Century Voice at http://www.newtown21stvoice.blogspot.com/ . This group meets on Sundays at 4:00 PM at the Court Inn. A survey is being prepared on residents’ opinions on the future of the Township and Borough and members will be participating in Welcome Day in May.
Mr. Gallagher said that the residents do have a stake in this and urged the interested residents to continue to attend meetings and presentations.
Reports of Officials
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that in March the Department answered 1471 calls for service and issued 200 traffic citations. One motorcycle is in service and the second one just arrived. Officers have been trained and will be using them every day, especially for traffic enforcement in conjunction with the ENRADD system.
Dr. Ciervo asked for electronic copies of the traffic reports and for comparison reports with last year’s traffic citations.
Mr. Jirele asked for an update on overtime.
Mr. Czajkowski commented that overtime has been reduced; the Chief will provide detailed information shortly.
Engineer’s Report: Ms. Fountain asked that the Board authorize payment to A.H. Cornell for emergency storm repair for work on Swamp Road. The work was done quickly and $1100 under the estimate. It will be paid from the General Fund and is under warrantee for one year.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment to A. H. Cornell for emergency repairs on Swamp Road in the amount of $11,906.56. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment for Newtown Yardley Road signal modernization in the amount of $19,807. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Dr. Ciervo’s questions, Mr. Czajkowski said that this project had been authorized for about eight years. It is in the budget under TSA funds. The retained amount is reduced gradually as the project nears completion.
The motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo asked for an update on purchasing composting toilets for Roberts Ridge Park.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Park and Recreation Board would give a report with a recommendation at the next Board of Supervisors meeting. Temporary restrooms have been placed in the park. Regarding the new playground at Helen Randle Park, Mr. Czajkowski reported that the equipment has been installed and the grounds are being prepared with mulch this week.
Mr. Gallagher asked for an update on the St. Andrew’s Briar detention basin.
Ms. Fountain said that all required maintenance work has been completed. The Township could accept dedication at the next Board meeting.
Mr. Czajkowski announced that a groundbreaking ceremony for the Woll tract would take place on Saturday afternoon, April 18, 2009 at noon. He hoped that the Board members would be able to attend,
The meeting adjourned at 9:20 PM.