Board of Supervisors
Minutes of September 23, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on September 23, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Michael Gallagher, Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Benchener and Philip Calabro, member. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Reverend Gail Moore of Macedonia Baptist Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Peggy Zinger read into the record a letter from the League of Women Voters confirming that it will moderate a forum and debate for Township supervisor candidates on October 6, 2009 at 7:30 PM in the Council Rock Board Room. Democratic candidate Joanne Bintliff Ritchie has already confirmed that she will participate.
Mr. Benchener said that he is the Republican candidate and he will gladly participate and welcomes the opportunity to help residents learn the candidates’ positions of various issues.
Resident Natalie Kay, representing Newtown’s 21 st Century Voice, announced that the 21 st Century Voice’s survey results have been compiled. Of 330 respondents, 68% were Newtown Township Residents, 23% were Newtown Borough residents. The most prevalent concerns mentioned in response to questions in the survey were traffic, parking and preservation of the historic character of the downtown area. There was a great deal of support for an arts or community center as well as other park and recreational amenities. Most respondents are eager to see long term planning for growth in the area and most favored a maximum height of no greater than 40 feet. The complete survey can be viewed at www.newtownsvoice.org.
Mr. Gallagher thanked Ms. Kay and noted that the Board would be discussing the Newtown Area Joint Municipal Comprehensive Plan this evening and that the Board and Planning Commission have been working on considerations for the future of Sycamore Street.
Mr. Benchener thanked those residents who participated, noting that the numbers were a good sample and would help the Board with future planning.
Resident Joanne Bintliff Ritchie said that she would be speaking as a member of the Joint Traffic Committee.
The Board discussed whether Ms. Bintliff Ritchie should be allowed to give a committee report that had not been announced to the public in advance or been placed on the agenda under “Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions”. As Ms. Bintliff Ritchie assured the Board that she would be making an informal report and would not expect any Board action, the members agreed to allow her to discuss the Traffic Committee.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie announced that the Traffic Committee, in conjunction with the Township and Borough Police Departments, would sponsor a Newtown Halloween Pedestrian Safety Week. The Board would be asked to pass a resolution at its next meeting designating the last week of October as Halloween Pedestrian Safety Week. As part of that program a public education program using “decoy” pedestrians to create situations involving interactions with pedestrians and motorists would be used to help promote safety.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie sand that she was very disappointed with the Board’s recent decision to appeal the court decision to compel the opening of Upper Silver Lake Road. She expressed some concern about the cost of an appeal as well as what she perceived as ignoring the convenience and safety of many Township residents. She said she felt the decision to appeal was politically motivated cronyism.
Dr. Ciervo reviewed the history of the original decision to close Upper Silver Lake Road as part of the 2001 land development for Wiltshire Walk. He urged residents to review the minutes of both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors when this issue was originally discussed. After the 2001 “temporary” closure, which had been a condition of approval of land development for Wiltshire Walk, the Township failed to follow through with an official vacation of the road. The Board and Counsel agreed that the road could not remain as it is and must be either repaired or vacated. By entering an appeal, the Township gains time to review its next step, investigate costs for repair or hold a public hearing to vacate. While Dr. Ciervo said that he understands that some residents might want the road reopened, it is the opinion of the Township’s traffic engineers that if opened it would fail at the intersection with Newtown Yardley Road.
Mr. Benchener first said that the Joint Traffic Committee is doing an excellent job. Regarding Upper Silver Lake Road he said that he had supported an appeal because the judge’s decision gave the Township 30 days to open the road. The Township Engineer did not think the road could be opened with required repairs in that time frame. The Township is on a tight budget and he had additional concerns because of the Engineer’s estimate of costs involved in repairing the road. By appealing, the Township would gain time to further investigate costs and expenses to either repair or vacation of the road.
Mr. Calabro reminded the Board that he had suggested that the Township approach the judge or the attorney representing Wiltshire Walk to see if an extension could be granted, but this suggestion was rejected in favor of appeal. He also expressed concern that the projected estimates might not be accurate; no actual estimate of repair costs has been done.
Resident Jen Dix said that she agreed with Mr. Calabro that the Township should first have sought an extension on the time to comply with the judge’s order. She noted that an earlier estimate by Pennoni Associates for the necessary repairs was $100,000. McGrath had agreed to complete some of the work and had paid a traffic impact fee of $115,000, more than enough to complete the necessary repairs. She also questioned a statement by Mr. Benchener that he had only recently become aware of the issue.
Mr. Benchener said that as a member of the Financial Planning Committee he was aware of the issue for about 8-10 months.
Ms. Dix said that this has been an issue of concern among Wiltshire Walk residents for some time and has been discussed in that development’s newsletter. She said that the decision to close the road in 2001 should not have been made and that McGrath has agreed to assume some of the repair work as part of the Villas development approval. She noted that both Carroll Engineering and Pennoni have found that road closure is not warranted. There has only been one accident on the road. While there has been discussion of the sharp curves in the road, that is not an unusual road condition on other roads in the Township. She urged the Board to open the road with traffic calming in place.
Dr. Ciervo said that costs cited are for reconnection of the road, but if the road were opened the remainder of the road would also need costly improvements. The intersection with Newtown Yardley Road is already failing and opening would make it worse.
Mr. Benchener stressed that the reason for voting to appeal was based on the time frame given in the judge’s order. He said that a request for an extension might have been denied, leaving the Township that much closer to the deadline.
Resident Mick Petrucci announced that the Newtown Business and Professional Association held its annual golf outing to benefit Bucks County Housing Group and raised $12,000. The NBPA will be sponsoring a business expo at the NAC on October 7, 2009. For more information visit www.newtownbpa.org
Resident John D’Aprile said that long time residents were aware of the history of Upper Silver Lake Road and had opportunity to oppose its closing. He noted that the lawsuit to open the road had also cost taxpayers money and that Penns Trail North was built to accommodate the traffic in that area.
Resident Kurt Dilatush said that opening Upper Silver Lake Road would benefit hundreds of residents in Kirkwood and Wiltshire Walk. Only a small number of residents benefit by the continued closure of the road. He feels the decision is very political.
Dr. Ciervo stressed that the closing of the road had been a condition of approval of the Wiltshire Walk development. Residents had worked with the Wiltshire Walk developer to find a solution to their many concerns with the development plans. Some Kirkwood residents had participated in the meetings. A different board and different solicitor had then failed to properly vacate the road.
Mr. Calabro suggested that this discussion be placed on an upcoming agenda.
Dr. Ciervo noted that there would be a public hearing to vacate the road; the hearing would be advertised and residents would be notified. It would appear on a published agenda.
Resident Harriet Beckert said that results of the recent survey can be viewed at www.newtownsvoice.org.
Resident Susan Iazetti said that she has lived on Upper Silver Lake Road for many years. She said that the road was not closed to benefit a prominent Republican but was a solution agreed to by fourteen homeowners and the developer of Wiltshire Walk in exchange for stormwater easements and a construction entrance. The Upper Silver Lake residents then had to tie into public sewers at their own expense. Residents of Kirkwood had participated in the meetings at which the road closure was discussed. She stressed that the road is very dangerous.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to table consideration of the minutes of the work session of August 17, 2009. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of September 9, 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms. Bintliff Ritchie said that she had not attended the Open Space meeting, as noted on page 1, but had spoken to Chris Kern about it.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of September 9, 2009 as amended. Mr. Benchener amended his second and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,055,603.77. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $182,757.04. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo urged residents to participate in the County’s Park and Recreation survey at www.buckscounty.org
Mr. Czajkowski said that the link would be on the Township Web site and television station.
Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that the County Open Space Committee had met and recommended that Newtown Township be reimbursed for 50% of the cost of the Rockbridge property from the Natural Areas funds. The County Commissioners must approve the recommendation, but Mr. Gallagher said he is very optimistic. He particularly thanked Mr. Calabro, who cast the deciding vote to prevent the complete development of this property.
Mr. Benchener reported that the Financial Planning Committee has been working on long term planning. He noted that transfer tax revenues have declined almost 50% this year.
Historical Architectural Review Board: HARB member Joseph McKiernan presented an application of a certificate of appropriateness for replacement siding for 123-125 North Sycamore Street.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant a certificate of appropriateness for replacement of siding for Vincent Lombardi, 123-125 N. Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated September 10, 2009. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. McKiernan reported that HARB is close to completing a book of appropriateness with photographs of sample architectural elements.
Newtown Athletic Club, 209 Penns Trail – Request for Waiver of Land Development: Eve Krieger and Linda Mitchell were in attendance to review plans for a three story addition to the existing athletic club for offices and storage. Ms. Mitchell explained that the lobby area is to be renovated and expanded into the area which currently houses offices. The offices would move into the new addition. She presented plans showing that this addition would fill in a portion of the façade that is currently staggered. It would not increase impervious surface nor would additional parking be needed.
Ms. Krieger noted that the NAC had preliminary plan approval for a larger addition for a pool but those plans will not be developed. This is considerably smaller than the originally presented plans. The additional footprint will be 1681 square feet. One story will be below grade. The total square footage of the three stories is about 5000 square feet.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Ms. Mitchell said that she is seeking a waiver of land development because of time constraints and cost. By avoiding land development, construction of the new addition and the renovations to the lobby could take place in a shorter time, with some overlapping of the projects. The goal is to enhance member enjoyment by providing areas for socializing and also providing adequate office space for the 300 plus employees.
Mr. Garton suggested that if the Board is inclined to grant a waiver, a waiver agreement and an easement from the adjoining property for stormwater would be necessary.
Ms. Mitchell said that she would agree to the agreement and the NAC is the owner of the surrounding properties.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has waived land development for non-profits for very small additions of a few hundred feet. This is a substantial addition, with a total of 5000 square feet.
Ms. Mitchell noted that the addition would not significantly change the footprint of the building, would not impact surrounding neighbors and does not increase impervious surface.
Mr. Benchener said that he understood that land development was necessary to protect the Township and preserve the character of the community. This is a largely internal renovation which would not disrupt the surrounding area.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant a waiver of land development to Newtown Athletic Club subject to the condition that the applicant sign a land development waiver agreement and obtain stormwater easements from the adjoining property. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion failed, 2-2, with Mr. Benchener and Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Mr. Garton advised the applicant that she could either begin the land development process or present the request again when Mr. Schenkman is in attendance to take a second vote.
Reports of Officials
Minimum Municipal Obligation Statement: Mr. Gallagher read into the record that Mockenhaupt Associates has provided the 2010 Minimum Municipal Obligation reports for the Police, Firefighters and Non-uniformed Employees Pension Plans. It is required by the State Auditor General that the report be submitted to and read into the minutes of the Board of Supervisors by September 30, 32009.
Financial requirement and the 2010 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Police Pension Plan will be $586,932.
Financial requirement and the 2010 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Firefighters Pension Plan will be $106,933.
Financial requirement and the 2010 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Non-uniformed Employees Pension Plan will be $276,185.
The Board acknowledged that it has been notified.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Czajkowski said that the funds had seen a decease of about 20%, but that they are beginning to make up the losses.
In response to Mr. Benchener’s question, Mr. Czajkowski said that there is no typical obligation; the amount changes with the performance of funds and with the state’s contribution.
Mr. Benchener noted that a defensive strategy has been used which kept losses in check, however a more flexible investment strategy might be needed. He noted that there were about $60,000 in administrative expenses.
Mr. Czajkowski said that number includes actuarial fees.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie asked what investment growth had been projected.
Mr. Czajkowski said 8%.
Police Report: PoliceChief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department had answered 1381 calls, including two burglaries and 29 auto accidents. There were 17 thefts, but two individuals have been identified and arrests are expected. He urged residents to report any suspicious behavior and even small thefts.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Chief Pasqualini explained that because of recent aggressive enforcement there has been a decease in the number of speeders and a decrease in the number of citations. Drivers are obeying speed limits.
Mr. Benchener asked about concerns among residents about drugs in the high school.
Chief Pasqualini said that the Department works closely with the School District, has an officer in the high school every day and has been proactive in heading off problems through the Dare program.
Mr. Calabro asked about traffic at the intersection of Sycamore Street and Silo Drive.
Chief Pasqualini said that there have only been five minor accidents over the last few years.
Manager: Mr. Czajkowski reported that he attended a preconstruction meeting with PennDOT about the Stoopville Road project which will begin shortly.
Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that some time ago the Park and Recreation Board had recommended that the Township install a Bio-Sun Sunflower II, two stall, composting toilet at Roberts Ridge Park. This is not an approved budget item, however there are ample funds in the Park and Recreation Capital Fund for the toilet. Department of Health approvals are expected shortly.
Dr. Ciervo said that when the Park and Recreation Board presented this recommendation, the Board had been very supportive.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize purchase and installation of the Bio-Sun Sunflower II composting toilet at Roberts Ridge Park. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Solicitor: Mr. Garton advised the Board that the Amended Joint Comprehensive Plan has been presented for adoption by resolution. Lynn Bush from the Bucks County Planning Commission is in attendance to review and discuss the plan. This plan is a planning tool and does not carry the same weight as a zoning or subdivision ordinance.
Ms. Bush said that drafting of the updated plan began in 2005. There had been two prior plans, the 1983 plan, adopted with the formation of the Jointure and a 1997 update. A survey was conducted in 2006. the concerns of residents were: growth management, traffic, farmland preservation, taxes and preservation of parks and open space. The three Jointure Planning Commissions and Boards of Supervisors have contributed to the new plan, which contains nine principles:
Looking ahead, the current zoning map is adequate through 2020. It maintains the current land use pattern. The prior plans had designated Newtown Township for development, but this new plan considers Wrightstown and Upper Makefield as development areas.
Ms. Bush stressed that the Comprehensive Plan is a living document which provides guidance. The Jointure, as the only jointure in the state, attracts statewide attention. Because of this uniqueness, the Plan has been funded by grants.
The Board thanked Ms. Bush for her help and guidance in drafting this document. Dr. Ciervo asked that the errata sheet be amended to include deletion of the last two sentences of the penultimate paragraph of page 13, as use B-14 has been removed from permitted uses in the CM zoning district. He also asked that the last sentence of page 33 be amended to read, “ Newtown Township has several farms and would still like to preserve farming and is also committed to providing areas for both active and passive recreation and parks for its residents.” On page 60, the grid should be updated to show the name change to Helen Randle Park and the facilities column should note the exercise trail at Carl Sedia Park, and playgrounds at Helen Randle and Roberts Ridge and both playground and playing fields at the Woll tract. The Rockbridge property should be added as a preserved vacant natural area.
The Board agreed to these suggested changes.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution R-2009-25, adopting the 2009 Joint Comprehensive Plan with an errata sheet noting the suggested changes as outlined by Dr. Ciervo. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Penns Trail Storage Agreements: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the Development Agreement and Stormwater Agreement for Penns Trail Storage. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to extend the Zoning Hearing Board variance granted to Penns Trail Storage for an additional six months. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Lang Ski and Scuba: Mr. Garton explained that Lang Ski and Scuba has requested to post cash in the amount of $4,000 instead of a bond for 18 months.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept a cash escrow in place of a bond for Lang Ski and Scuba. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Engineer’s Report: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize final escrow release in the amount of $17,242.07 to Lang Ski and Scuba. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Ms. Fountain reported that Gilmore & Associates is handling the treatment of the detention basins at the Woll tract site for mosquitoes. The other detention basins discussed at earlier meetings have also been treated.
Dr. Ciervo asked Ms. Fountain to work on providing cost estimates for the paving of the pad for the skate park.
Mr. Benchener asked Ms. Fountain to estimate the costs associated with both the opening and vacation of Upper Silver Lake Road.
New Business: Dr. Ciervo announced that since the Board’s commitment to supporting a skate park, various ramp companies have been presenting lower estimates than had originally been projected. He urged interested residents and businesses to support the fund, which the Board has pledged to match at a 4-1 ratio up to $60,000. Information on the fundraising is at firstname.lastname@example.org.Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would meet in executive session to discuss matters of personnel and land acquisition.