Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 14, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 14, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Benchener, 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 Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Rabbi Weinstein of the Lubavitcher Center. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Jay Sensibaugh asked whether the Board had voted to adopt the 2009 Joint Comprehensive Plan, and if so, whether any changes or addenda had been included in the approval.
Dr. Ciervo said that the plan had been adopted unanimously with only minor corrections.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about the current budget for the Woll tract, as it appears that expenditures might exceed the budgeted amount.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the budget had been approved with $2.1 for the Woll tract.
Dr. Ciervo said that some funds from the Park and Recreation Capital Fund have been or will be transferred. Some impact fees are still expected to be collected and some other capital expenses for Park and Recreation were not incurred as budgeted.
Mr. Czajkowski noted that the Woll tract would not be completed in 2009 and some costs would be billed and paid in the 2010 budget. Some additional Park and Recreation Capital Funds have been made available through the reimbursement by the County for the purchase of the Rockbridge property.
Resident Jen Dix said that she has reviewed the 2001 meeting minutes provided by Dr. Ciervo regarding the closing of Upper Silver Lake Road. These minutes make reference to a private meeting held between representatives of Orleans Homebuilders and residents of Upper Silver Lake Road. The one Kirkwood resident in attendance at the public meetings in 2001 was not an officer of the Kirkwood Homeowners Association and did not represent the opinions of all Kirkwood residents. Ms. Dix provided copies of minutes of meetings held in 2002 at which some Kirkwood residents did speak out against the closing of the road. She said that the closing of the road was a “secretive deal” to benefit a small handful of residents.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he had been in attendance at the Planning Commission and Board meetings in 2001 and 2002 at which the Upper Silver Lake Road closing had been discussed. Residents who participated in the meetings were those most closely affected by the closing of the road. He noted that the minutes are only a summary of discussion, and only those residents who spoke are in the record. Although only one person from Kirkwood spoke at the 2001 meetings, many were in attendance.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the work session of August 17, 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-0-1, with Dr. Ciervo abstaining.
Mr. Calabro moved to accept the minutes of September 23, 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-0-1, with Mr. Schenkman abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,748,540.18.. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $354,443.61. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that Lockheed Martin has made a donation of $500 toward the skate park fund, and has indicated that it would consider future donations next year. The Township is working on bids for paving of the pad site for the park.
Other Board Members: Mr. Benchener reported that he had attended the Planning Commission meeting at which the Promenade and Sycamore Street were discussed. He was very impressed with the thorough work the Planning Commission is doing on the project.
Mr. Schenkman reported that he had met with Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler and Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush a few weeks ago to discuss the possibility of working with the County on the planning for Sycamore Street in anticipation of an updated ordinance. The County recently responded with an estimate of $1,000 for a planning guide which would include photographs and suggestions for current and future development. Mr. Schenkman said that he would like the Board to discuss this at an upcoming work session, as input from the County will be of great value as the Township considers revisions to the JMZO in the TC Town Commercial District.
The Board agreed that the estimate is very reasonable and the members are eager to move forward.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the proposal of Bucks County Planning Commission for guidance on the TC Town Commercial Zoning District as outlined in a letter dated October 1, 2009, at a cost of $1,000. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener agreed that the cost was acceptable.
Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler said that the Commission is very eager to have input from professional planners before attempting any revisions to the Ordinance. This help should move the project along more quickly.
The motion passed 4-0.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that the Planning Commission held a special meeting on September 29, 2009 at which the Traffic Engineer updated members on ongoing Township projects. Issues of concern were traffic calming medians proposed for Stoopville Road and maintenance items on Swamp Road. Township Assistant Manager John Boyle has resolved these issues since the meeting.
Attorney Ed Murphy and the engineers and architects for the Promenade on Sycamore Street presented a preliminary plan for land development for a project on 1.96 acres, with six retail stores and 25 residential condominiums with associated parking and stormwater facilities in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District. The Planning Commission concentrated its review on zoning, traffic and stormwater management.
Most of the items in the Engineer’s review letter regarding zoning have been addressed. Variances have been granted and the plan complies with the conditions of the variances. The applicant has met with Newtown Borough’s engineer to discuss traffic and an application is being submitted to HARB. Representatives of the Newtown Ambulance Squad and Fire Department will be reviewing the plan and will appear at an upcoming meeting to discuss concerns about emergency access.
The applicant’s traffic engineer reviewed the most recent traffic study, conducted in September 2009, after the opening of school. Of particular concern to Commission members were the PM peak traffic trips projected, 70 trips. Mr. DeSantis of McMahon Associates reviewed the ITE Trip Generation numbers used in his study to explain the peak hour and the number of trips expected for 25 residential units plus the retail traffic. He explained that condominiums generate fewer peak trips than single family homes. During the PM peak hour, traffic backs up on Jefferson Street now and the intersection is rated “E”. Mr. DeSantis offered some suggestions to improve traffic flow, including adding a left turn lane on Sycamore Street into the Promenade, which would allow passing, adjusting the timing on the traffic light and possibly permitting right turn on red for cars making a right from Jefferson to Sycamore Street. If this were done, there would have to be some slight change in the Sycamore Street left turn lane. Another possibility would be eliminating left turns from Sycamore Street onto Jefferson. Mr. DeSantis said that these suggestions would not dramatically improve traffic flow. He suggested that any changes to traffic patterns be done after the project is completed and conditions have been evaluated to better determine which, if any, changes might best address any problems.
Mr. Brown confirmed to the Commission that numbers used in the study are industry standards.
The Commission reviewed the plans for the parking lot and garage. There were a number of suggestions from members to address some tight turning radii for entering the underground garage. Members also offered some suggestions to change the loading berth area for easier access for deliveries. The Commission had some concerns about access to the rear by larger trucks, tractor trailers and vans for moving in and for large deliveries. Some additional autocad projections for large trucks and some revisions to the plans to provide better sight distances for vehicles exiting the underground garage are to be provided at the next meeting. Still to be discussed is emergency access to the rear and the underground garage.
The Commission reviewed the stormwater management plans and our members offered comment on connections from the underground detention basins to the Sycamore Street storm sewers.
The Commission reviewed the waiver requests and for the most part had no objections. It is possible that with the proposed revisions some requests might no longer be needed. One request is for the waiver to require planting of trees in parking areas for the underground parking. The Commission discussed requiring either a fee in lieu of trees or the planting of the equivalent number of trees elsewhere in the Township.
The engineers for the applicant have agreed to revise plans to address the comments of our professionals and of the Planning Commission members. Because of scheduling conflicts with the special counsel for this application, the Commission has agreed to alter the Planning Commission schedule; the next meeting will be October 15, 2009 at 7:30 PM.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would not want to wait until completion of the project to address traffic concerns.
Mr. Fidler said that the Planning Commission hopes to identify possible problems and solutions during the approval process.
Mr. Schenkman asked about the current rating of the Jefferson Street/Sycamore Street intersection.
Mr. Fidler said that the Jefferson/Sycamore intersection has a rating of “E” which is a failing intersection. It is hoped that with the Promenade, some measures will be taken to improve the rating. Mr. Brown and McMahon Associates will be discussing a left turn lane and some other ideas for shifting traffic.
Mr. Fidler said that at its October 6, 2009 meeting the Commission reviewed the application of Marisa’s Art of Apparel for conditional use for E-1 Retail Store, for a 1,700 sq. ft. women’s clothing boutique at 260 N. Sycamore Street at Goodnoe’s Corner at the former pretzel store. The Commission recommended that the Board approve this application subject to certain conditions, including a maximum number of 4 employees and hours of operation seven days a week, 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM Monday through Saturday and 12:00 to 6:00 PM on Sunday.
Environmental Advisory Council: Co-chairman Jay McGuigan reported that since its last report to the Board of Supervisors, the Environmental Advisory Council has participated in discussions for the wind turbine for the new public works building, has had a presentation on energy efficiency by Council Rock School District Facilities Manager Tom Schneider and has created a “Green Corner” for the Township newsletter.
The EAC has concentrated its efforts on wildlife management. The EAC has gathered data on deer/vehicle collisions since 2006, has mapped the accidents, which occur in clusters around the main north/south roads, and has reviewed the Heritage Conservancy report on the Clark Nature Center, which documents damage to the understory caused by deer. Working with the Public Works Department and local newspapers, the members have attempted to alert residents of the areas in the Township and times of day when the accidents seem to be occurring. Public Works has added flashing lights to existing deer crossing signs, added some new signage and utilized the speed board at high incident locations. Even with this effort there has not been any decrease in accidents, and in some areas, there has been an increase.
The EAC has investigated methods of wildlife management being used throughout the state. Deer Friends has given a presentation on non-lethal methods of wildlife management. The EAC has learned that such methods as contraception are not effective now, and scientists indicate it could be quite a few years before a contraceptive is developed that would be effective and affordable as a method of controlling the herd.
The wildlife management firms working with Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield have made presentations. Both firms brought wildlife biologists to the presentations. The biologists stressed the importance of controlling the size of the herd in suburban environments for safety, to protect the understory and for the health of the herd.
Both Upper and Lower Makefield have contracted with professionals to organize hunts. Upper Makefield is using Ecologix sharpshooters, who hunt year round on both public and private properties. Ecologix is also working with the Heritage Conservancy throughout the county. Lower Makefield is using first sharpshooters, followed by bow hunters but only on one property, Five Mile Woods. The professionals have stressed that while the organized hunts have been immediately effective in thinning the herds, this is an ongoing effort that will take five to ten years.
The EAC is carefully reviewing the results of Upper and Lower Makefield’s hunts and comparing the methods for screening and supervising hunters and has also begun to investigate costs of using professional wildlife management firms. The professionals have indicated that if Newtown would like to conduct a hunt, it would need to contract some time in early spring in order for the organizations to be ready to implement the hunt in the fall. It is the intention of the EAC to have a specific recommendation on an organized hunt some time early next year. Mr. McGuigan asked the Board to allow the EAC to ask for proposals and estimates of costs.
Mr. Calabro asked about non-lethal methods investigated for wildlife management.
Mr. McGuigan explained that a number of contraceptive methods are being researched but are not ready for use. Streiter lights, which are placed at intervals along roadways and are activated by the headlights of passing cars, have not been very successful, and cost about $1000 per mile. The mapping of deer/vehicle accidents shows a concentration of the accidents along 14 miles of roadway in Newtown.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he was involved in the Upper Makefield contract with Eccologix. The cost was about $50,000. Eccologix worked with both municipal properties and private properties.
Mr. Calabro expressed some concern about dangers of shooting or bow hunting in open fields.
Mr. McGuigan explained that all of the firms have indicated that the hunters are in tree stands above the ground and are shooting down at close range. There have been no incidents of injury.
Mr. Czajkowski said that in Upper Makefield the hunts were taking place on open farm fields without incident.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would prefer to see estimates for Township properties. If successful, the program could be expanded. He noted that the Clark Nature Center has a large concentration of deer and is adjacent to other Township properties and Tyler Park.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s questions, Mr. McGuigan said that both Upper and Lower Makefield have noticed a drop in the number of deer/vehicle accidents since the hunts have begun.
The Board agreed that the EAC should continue to gather information and should seek some estimates for hunts onTownship owned properties.
Mr. McGuigan noted that any effort undertaken should be coordinated with neighboring communities and with the state. The EAC would undertake a significant public education effort before any recommendation would be made to the Supervisors. The electronic speed board has not been used this year as it did not seem to have an effect.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the Ecostar award.
Mr. McGuigan said that the EAC has attempted to award the Ecostar to deserving organizations and businesses in the Township on an annual basis, but had not had any applicants for 2009, although efforts were made through the schools and business communities. The EAC will continue to promote the award and hopes to have nominees for 2010.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine said that the Board is in full support of the EAC’s efforts toward a wildlife management program. He noted that at one time the DCNR had conducted an infrared aerial photography program in Tyler Park and included Clark Nature Center, where 75 deer were in an area that could support only two deer. He urged the EAC and Park and Recreation Board to hold a joint meeting to discuss working together on this issue.
Mr. Levine reported that Newtown Little League would like to install a sprinkler system at Chandler Fields. The League currently uses hoses and is not charged for water by the Township. A sprinkler system would be more efficient and less costly to run. The Little League would pay the cost of the system and its installation. At its October 7, 2009 meeting the Park and Recreation Board voted to recommend that the Township allow the Little League to install a sprinkler system provided it got proper permits from the Township. Mr. Levine also asked the Township to notify the adjacent neighbors of the project. In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Levine said that the sprinkler heads would pop up when in use and would not be a danger to the children playing ball. The League, in cooperation with the Public Works Department, would be responsible for the maintenance of the system.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize Newtown Little League to install a sprinkler system at Chandler Fields. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Levine reported that the Park and Recreation Department’s new Web site www.newtownfun.com is up and running. This should save time and effort and eventually reduce the amount of paper used by the Department. The site will collect the same data the department is currently gathering on participation, revenues, etc. Within a few weeks the site will also permit on-line payment with a credit card. He thanked the Technology Committee for its help with this project.
Mr. Levine reported that the Woll tract park is coming along and should be open for play in Spring of 2011. A full season is needed for the grass to grow.
Marisa – The Art of Apparel, 250 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Garton reviewed this application for a conditional use approval to operate a retail store at Goodnoe’s corner in the premises formerly occupied by the pretzel store. The application has been advertised on September 23 and 30, 2009. The Planning Commission has recommended approval.
Ellen Tolen said that she would agree to the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission and that she is excited to be moving to Newtown. She has two other locations in New Jersey with clientele from the Newtown area.
Mr. Calabro moved to grant the l conditional use approval to Ellen Ryan, Inc. for an E-1 Retail Apparel Shop, Specialty Boutique, namely “Marisa, the Art of Apparel”, at 250 North Sycamore Street, Building 2A in the PC, Planned Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Officials
Community Development Block Grant: Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township is applying for a grant to install a concrete floor in the barn at Clark Nature Center. The amount of the grant is $8185, with an in-kind match of labor for installation of the floor. The Township is asking for a waiver of the requirement to provide an appraisal of the property.
In response to Mr. Benchener’s question, Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township will pull the grant if the appraisal requirement is not waived. The project would not move forward unless the Township receives the grant. A resolution is required as part of the application process.
Mr. Calabro moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-26. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Newtown Pedestrian Safety Week: Tim Swedo of the Joint Traffic Committee said that the committee has planned a Pedestrian Safety week to be held October 23-30, 2009. During this week the Police Departments of Newtown Township and Borough will work with the Traffic Committee on a program to educate both pedestrians and motorists on safety practices and concerns. A decoy program has been eliminated due to concerns of liability and entrapment. Newtown Borough adopted a resolution earlier this week.
Police Lieutenant Glen Forsyth said that the Township has worked closely with the Borough and the School Crossing Guard on the program. The District Attorney discouraged the decoy concept.
Dr. Ciervo read into the record the resolution designating the week of October 23-30, 2009 as Newtown Halloween Pedestrian Safety Week.
Mr. Calabro moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-27, Halloween Pedestrian Safety Week. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Dr. Ciervo said that Congress had declared October Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1992.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt resolution 2009-R-28, acknowledging October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mt. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo noted that he lost his mother to this disease a few years ago.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that acknowledgement of the resolution be placed on the Township Web site and television station.
The motion passed 4-0.
Police Report: Lieutenant Forsyth reviewed the police report noting that the Department had responded to 1,285 calls, including 33 thefts from vehicles. Many of the stolen items have been recovered and are being held at the Police Department. Photos of the items are on the Township Web site. If anyone has been a victim of vehicle theft, his stolen items may be available for return. An arrest has been made in these thefts.
Lieutenant Forsyth said that Lockheed Martin has begun its construction project and the Department is working closely with Lockheed Martin’s security department.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether any of the reported traffic accidents have involved deer.
Lieutenant Forsyth reported that in September there were 11 deer/vehicle accidents.
Mr. Calabro asked whether all information on police activity is released to the newspaper.
Lieutenant Forsyth explained that the Department submits a police blotter to the papers daily. Information concerning certain ongoing investigations is occasionally withheld.
Solicitor’s Report Continued
Ordinance Addressing Speed Limits: Mr. Garton advised the Board that with the Board’s investigation into reducing the speed limit on Newtown Yardley Road, staff realized that the Board would also need to take action to fix speed limits elsewhere and also to establish or remove stop signs. The proposed ordinance notes the locations to be addressed. A motion is needed to authorize advertisement of the ordinance.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance to address speed limits and stop signs throughout the Township. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: The Board discussed asking Mr. Weaver to attend a meeting to review the various locations in need of stop signs.
The motion passed 4-0.
Lang’s Ski and Scuba: Mr. Garton explained that this project has been completed and Mr. Lang has posted cash in lieu of a bond to guarantee the improvements. Mr. Lang is asking the Board to reduce the period of time for holding the maintenance monies in the hopes that he could get his $4000 returned prior to the expiration of 18 months.
Bob Lang explained that the project was completed in 2007, however an easement to the creek had not been completed until September of 2009. Grass and trees have been in place for over one year.
Ms. Fountain reviewed the inspection process. She suggested that in the spring of 2010 she could determine whether the 8 sugar maple trees planted at the site will have survived. At that time she would agree that the maintenance bond could be returned. She suggested releasing funds after April 30, 2010.
Mr. Benchener said that he did not want to cause a hardship to someone in our business community and supported the change in the release date.
Dr. Ciervo moved to end the maintenance period for Lang Ski and Scuba on April 30, 2010. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Lockheed Martin Roadway Opening Permit Agreement: Mr. Garton explained that Lockheed Martin has requested permission to place a construction entrance along Campus Drive. The placement would require a road opening and in order to clarify issues associated with the temporary construction access and the road opening permit, an agreement has been prepared memorializing the understanding between the Township and Lockheed Martin. The permit is for one year and Lockheed Martin is being billed for the agreement. The project is expected to be complete in June of 2010.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the Lockheed Martin Roadway Opening Permit Agreement. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
(Mr. Benchener briefly left the room at this point)
Mr. Calabro moved to authorize payment #1 for the 2009 roadway improvement program for concrete on Penns Trail, Pheasant Run and Armstrong Circle in the amount of $53,756.56. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
(Mr. Benchener returned at this point in the meeting.)
Dr. Ciervo asked Ms. Fountain for an update on Upper Silver Lake Road.
Ms. Fountain said that the stabilization of the roadway has been complete.
Mr. Garton explained that if the Board wishes to proceed with vacation of the road, a public hearing must be held. The law requires that residences abutting the area to be vacated be notified; he suggested notifying beyond that area. He said that his office would handle notification by mail and advertisements. He suggested that the vacation public hearing be scheduled for the second meeting in November.
Mr. Sensibaugh announced that due to a conflict with the Township’s special meeting for Promenade, the Regional Planning Commission meeting scheduled for October 15, 2009 has been canceled. The meeting will be rescheduled for next week. He asked that contact information on Mr. Benchener be provided to the Chairman of the Regional Planning Commission.
Mr. Czajkowski said that signs for the Township’s open space have been ordered and should be installed shortly.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is arranging a meeting with Senator McIlhinney and PennDOT at the intersection of Swamp and Twining Bridge Roads, the scene of a recent gravel truck accident. He would like PennDOT to agree to a three-way stop sign at this intersection.
Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that the truck driver involved in the accident has died.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would meet after the meeting in Executive Session to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 10:35 PM.