Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 28, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 28, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Mike Gallagher, 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. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the character generator on the television image was not working.
Public Comment: Resident Joanne Bintliffe Ritchie urged residents to vote in the coming elections.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the work session of September 14, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 14, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Gallagher abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,045,485.89. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $190,000. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that the Board had received a letter from John Frey of the Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition thanking the Board for allowing his group to make a presentation on the re-activation of the R-8 Newtown SEPTA rail line. This group is actively seeking support for the train, which was stopped in 1983. The Board is currently considering drafting a resolution in support of these efforts.
Dr. Ciervo reported that he, Police Chief Pasqualini and Mr. Czajkowski met with Senator McIlhinney and representatives of PennDOT at the intersection of Twining Bridge and Swamp Roads to discuss a three-way stop sign. PennDOT noted that the sight distance is exactly at the point of being acceptable, but agreed to do a warrant analysis. PennDOT noted that the stop bar at Twining Bridge should be moved, which might improve sight distance somewhat.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the State Supreme Court had turned down Orleans’ request for an appeal of the 24 home development of Eagle Knoll on the Goodnoe tract.
Board Members: Mr. Schenkman reported that after hearing the R-8 presentation by Pennsylvania Transit Expansion Coalition, he, and a number of interested Township residents and officials had heard a speaker representing Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission discussing the future of our region at the Newtown Business Commons Association quarterly luncheon. He was questioned extensively on the R-8, but indicated that DVRPC is focusing its efforts on road improvements and a rail line from the Quakertown/Allentown area to Philadelphia. The R-8 line is not on DVRPC’s list of future improvements at all. The communities which would benefit from the reactivation will have to work very hard to reactivate the R-8.
Mr. Schenkman noted that State Representative Steve Santarsiero was in attendance at the meeting to discuss the stop sign at Swamp Road.
Mr. Benchener reported that the Financial Planning Committee has been working on the next budget. Among their ideas for a more responsive budget process will be:
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Financial Planning Committee would provide reports from the Committee Chairman.
Mr. Benchener said that beginning next month, the Chairman would give a report to the Board each month.
Mr. Gallagher noted that he has been keeping careful track of the earned income tax collection on a monthly basis. The Township has collected $2.887 million, or 87.5% of the projected income tax from residents. From non-residents the Township has collected $1.7 million, or 75%. Because of the economy, the Township budgeted for less earned income tax revenue, but at this point, 75% through the year, the Township appears to be in good shape for earned income tax. There is a drop in revenue from real estate transfer taxes, but overall the Township is not doing as badly as had been feared. It is possible that the Township will feel a delayed effect from the economy in 2010/2011. Mr. Gallagher said that he has posted this information on his own Web site, www.newtowntownship.net.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its October 15, 2009 meeting the Planning Commission reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications. Edward Clark Grimes of 12 Harmony Way requested relief of the minimum rear yard setback for construction of a patio with sitting walls and stairs. The Commission ascertained that a variance is not required for increased impervious surface. As the property backs to open space, the Commission forwarded the application to the Board without comment.
The Commission reviewed the application of Holland Floor Covering, 35 Swamp Road for an additional sign on the building. The applicant explained that because the building is set back over 150 feet from the street, and Swamp Road’s name changes to Washington Ave, customers from other areas are frequently lost. The Commission forwarded this application without comment. The members urged the applicant to clarify his application to make clear that the proposed sign would be mounted over the door, not on top of the roof.
The Commission reviewed the application of Fascella Construction Corp. on behalf of Stephen R. Saurman, 81 Vera Avenue, for a special exception and variances to demolish an existing home damaged by an oil leak accident and to construct a new home on a non-conforming lot. The members urged the applicant to provide statements of support from his surrounding neighbors to the Zoning Hearing Board. An increase in impervious surface is sought. The Commission explained to the applicant that he should be prepared to possibly reduce the amount of impervious surface proposed, should the Board or Zoning Hearing Board object to that aspect of the application. The Commission forwarded the application to the Board without comment.
Attorney Ed Murphy presented thr final plan of Lithos, LP, 10 Friends Lane for renovation of an existing 25,020 square foot building and the addition of 35,700 square feet of office space with additional parking, modification of stormwater facilities and public water and sewer facilities on 7.3 acres in the LI Light industrial Zoning District. The Planning Commission reviewed a number of options for installation of sidewalks and recommends the proposed option 1, which provides a sidewalk on the Lithos side of Walker Lane, crossing to Friends Lane, where it will connect to an existing sidewalk. There is some reduction in width and setback for a portion of the Friends Lane sidewalk to accommodate existing PECO transformers and existing stormwater basins. The Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors grant Final Plan Approval subject to certain conditions. The Commission recommends that the Board calculate traffic impact fees using Edition #7 of ITE Trip Generation.
Mr. Murphy also presented a plan for land development for the Promenade, 200 N. Sycamore Street for a proposed development of 1.96 acres for six retail stores and 25 residential condominiums with associated parking and stormwater facilities in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District. Revisions to the plan had been made to comply with the preliminary review of September 29, 2009.
Changes have been made to the stormwater system to avoid additional disruption of Sycamore Street.
The Commission discussed traffic concerns on Sycamore Street. Of particular concern is the PM peak traffic on Jefferson Street heading toward Sycamore Street. The applicant’s traffic engineer said that a change in the timing of the lights could offer some relief. Should it prove necessary, after completion of the project, the applicant agreed to install “no left turn” signage on Jefferson Street, which could reduce some of the traffic and help with traffic flow.
The Commission was assured that, should blasting be necessary, the applicant has a plan in place to protect surrounding historic structures from damage.
The members recommended that a tree proposed in the parking lot be eliminated, to provide better sight distance for vehicles exiting the garage. The Commission recommended that a waiver be granted for this tree and that the tree be planted elsewhere in the Township.
The architect on the project reported that he has met with HARB and discussed a number of design changes. HARB member Harriet Beckert confirmed that the applicant has been cooperating with HARB for a certificate of appropriateness.
The Fire Marshal has approved the plan and Mr. Murphy assured the Commission that the Rescue Squad has agreed that the elevator and stairwell access to the underground garage are adequate for emergency responses.
The Commission recommended that the Board grant Preliminary/Final Land Development approval to this plan, subject to certain conditions. The Commission further recommends that requested waivers be granted. Chairman Fidler has urged the applicant to make all of the revisions to the plan which are included in the Planning Commission motion before presenting it to the Supervisors for approval.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Whartenby about the Planning Commission’s custom of passing Zoning applications to the Board without comment.
Mr. Whartenby said that many applications, particularly for residential variances, do not impact the community or surrounding properties. They adequately meet the criteria for variances. The Commission sometimes gives such applicants advice for making their presentations to the Zoning Hearing Board, but the members do not feel strongly that they, or the Board of Supervisors, should take a formal position at the Zoning Hearing Board, either sending the solicitor to oppose or to support the applicants.
Mr. Benchener said that the Jefferson and Sycamore Street intersection currently is rated “E”. He expressed some concern that with the addition of the Promenade the intersection will fail.
Mr. Whartenby said that the Planning Commission has discussed the traffic at the Jefferson/Sycamore intersection. The traffic engineers believe that changing of the timing of the traffic lights might help. The elimination of left turns from Jefferson Street could also help.
Mr. Calabro said that he fears that elimination of left turns would create a different problem, with motorists proceeding into the Promenade parking lot to make a U-turn in order to go south on Sycamore.
Mr. Whartenby said this was discussed at Planning Commission. Because of the arcade effect and the traffic pattern in the parking lot, the members did not think this would be an ongoing problem.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Commission considered making Jefferson a one way street.
Mr. Whartenby said this was discussed, but there is concern about the impact to the other cross-streets, particularly Washington Avenue.
The Board agreed that the traffic concerns would be discussed in detail during the land development hearings. Mr. Benchener suggested including the Joint Traffic Committee in discussions.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the Borough Traffic Engineer would also be issuing a review of the traffic study prepared by the applicant.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the request for increased impervious surface in the Saurman application.
Mr. Whartenby said that the original home had a deck which is being eliminated, but the dwelling will now be in that location. The Commission did not object to this, but suggested the applicants not increase impervious surface beyond this.
Mr. Gallagher said that currently applicants must go through three steps for variances, appearing at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors before going to the Zoning Hearing Board. Many applications are forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment from either Planning or Supervisors. He suggested that perhaps the Board could streamline this process, especially for small requests from residential applicants.
Mr. Schenkman agreed with this idea, noting that the Board and Planning Commission usually agree on recommendations.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Vice Chairman Harriet Beckert reviewed the application of Marisa, The Art of Apparel.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the certificate of appropriateness for four signs as outlined in a memo dated October 19, 2009, for Maria, The Art of Apparel, 250 North Sycamore Street. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mrs. Beckert said that HARB spent a great deal of time reviewing the plans for the façade of the Promenade with its architects. The architects have indicated that they will comply with HARB requirements for a certificate of appropriateness. She reviewed some of the suggested changes to the original plans, which include color and material changes for the buildings, a change to the roof and dormers in building one and some changes to balconies and railings. It had been Mrs. Beckert’s understanding that the representatives of Promenade would be in attendance to present a revised sketch illustrating the changes.
Mr. Garton suggested that since there are so many conditions to be added to the certificate of appropriateness, it might be better to table consideration until the details have been confirmed or the applicant is in attendance.
Mrs. Beckert noted that this applicant has been very cooperative with HARB and has been amenable to suggestions.
Mr. Gallagher moved to table consideration of a certificate of appropriateness for Promenade. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Request for Waiver of Land Development for Newtown Athletic Club, 209 Penns Trail: Linda Mitchell and Eve Krieger of Newtown Athletic Club were in attendance to review plans for a small expansion of the club. The plan calls for a 1681 square foot, three story addition to the existing 100,000 square foot club. The addition is needed for expanded storage and administrative offices and a renovated laundry room. Ms. Mitchell noted that the existing laundry room is needed for safety. The administrative offices will be moved, allowing for an expanded lobby seating area. No new athletic facilities are planned. The expansion will not generate a need for additional parking. The location will not impact traffic or pedestrian traffic flow, as it will fill in a portion of the staggered façade of the building, leaving the sidewalks intact. The waiver is sought because of the expense and time constraints of land development. It is hoped that the project could begin shortly, and could take place at the same time as the lobby renovation, allowing for a shorter time of disruption for the business. The NAC has been an active part of the community for over 30 years and employs 300 people.
Mr. Garton explained to the Board that if a waiver is granted, it should be conditioned on the applicant’s entering into a standard waiver agreement with the Township. Easements from the adjoining property owners would be needed. He noted that the surrounding properties are owned by the Newtown Athletic Club.
Mr. Benchener moved to grant a waiver of land development to Newtown Athletic Club, 209 Penns Trail, subject to the condition that the applicant enter into a waiver agreement with the Township, that all fees are paid and that easements from adjoining property owners are obtained. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that he is eager to streamline the land development process, especially for long standing Township businesses whose plans have minimal impact.
Mr. Benchener said that he has visited the site and toured the areas where the renovations and additions are planned. There are certain safety concerns which will be addressed by the addition. The project has very little impact on the surrounding properties. The lengthy land development process would be a burden to the Club, which has served our community for many years.
Dr. Ciervo agreed with the need for expansion but questioned the long delay in moving forward. The initial correspondence seeking a waiver had been in June. Had the NAC proceeded at that time, land development could have been completed.
Ms. Krieger said that since June there have been revisions in the plans and delays with various contractors. The current contractor is ready to begin.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the expansion, though small in relation to the existing building, is three stories with a 1600 square foot footprint. It should require the full review of the land development process.
Mr. Benchener urged more flexibility in considering each request on its own merits.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has also visited the site. He noted the NAC’s historic presence in the Township. This project could be used as a model for a redesign of the land development process.
Mr. Calabro agreed that because this is a small project with no impact on neighbors, the arduous process of land development should be waived. He noted that he is supportive of this streamlining for applicants with very small projects, either commercial or residential.
The motion passed 4-1, with Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Reports of Officials
Removal of Tree on North Sycamore Street: Mr. Czajkowski said that Allan Smith is seeking permission to remove a tree in front of Newtown Optical in Sycamore Center, as its roots are damaging the foundation. A new tree will be planted.
Allan Smith said that the new sycamore tree will be planted about six feet from the site of the tree to be removed. He is concerned that the existing tree is damaging the sidewalk and is becoming a tripping hazard.
Mr. Gallagher moved to allow removal of a tree in front of Newtown Optical at Sycamore Center. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Roberts Ridge Park Restroom: Mr. Czajkowski reported that the Township has received a permit from the Board of Health for a composting toilet at Roberts Ridge Park. The composting toilet has been ordered and Public Works is working with the manufacturer to install the foundation. It should be ready in about 60 days.
Mr. Gallagher noted that originally the Township had budgeted $168,000 for a restroom for Roberts Ridge. The total cost for the composting restroom is $52,000/
Mr. Czajkowski reported that signs denoting Township open space have been installed at the Wiggins and library tracts; Rockbridge’s sign will be installed shortly. A lease for active farming on the open space is being worked on.
Mr. Garton reported that the Board had met in executive session to discuss labor relations prior to this meeting.
McGowan Lot #2, Old Frost Lane: Mr. Garton reported that Mr. McGowan is requesting that the Boar consider a change to zoning or a variance on this property to allow conversion of the existing structure to two separate dwellings. As representatives of Mr. McGowan are not in attendance he suggested tabling the discussion.
Mr. Gallagher moved to table discussion of Lot #2, Old Frost Lane. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Recycling Agreement and Resolution: Mr. Garton explained that as a condition of the Township’s continued receipt of grant monies from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursuant to Act 11, the Board needs to adopt a resolution establishing a leaf and lawn waste collection program consistent with the act. In addition and consistent with the resolution, the Township needs to enter into an agreement with a licensed facility to receive the lawn and lease waste.
Mr. Czajkowski said that Warwick Green Grinders, which is closest to the Township, has been chosen as the designated collection location. The cost will be $1000, which entitles the Township to receive $96,000 from the act 101 funds. The mulch will be available to residents who bring their waste to the facility. Lawn and yard waste can be brought to the facility in bio-degradable bags or in cans; waste would include tree branches, leaves and grass clippings.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-29, a resolution related to the proper disposal of leaves and other yard waste, pursuant to Pennsylvania Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act of 1988. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked whether residents are required to take their waste to the location.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this is voluntary. The Township must provide the location and residents are encouraged to recycle.
Resident Glen Beasley asked whether the lawn waste would be picked up? He asked about the financial implications.
Mr. Czajkowski said that to pick up the waste would require special equipment and additional personnel. The state is requiring the Township to provide a facility in order to qualify for the grant. There is no limit to the amount of waste Warwick will accept for the $1000. He reviewed the location of the facility on Rushland Road. Information and a link will be provided on the Township Web site.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize an agreement with Warwick Green Grinders for the disposal of yard waste. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
George and Julia Hansbarger ( Holland Floor Covering), 35 Swamp Road: Chuck Tompkins of Holland Floor Covering reviewed this application for an additional sign on the showroom. He noted that it is needed because the business is over 150 feet from the street. The street name changes from Washington to Swamp to the Newtown Bypass. Many out of town customers have difficulty finding the showroom.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Edmund Clark Grimes, 12 Harmony Way: The Board passed this application for setback relief for patio without comment.
Steven R. Saurman, 81 Vera Avenue: Attorney Ed Murphy reviewed this application. One year ago and accident occurred at the property when 200 gallons of home heating oil was pumped into the basement. The property has become uninhabitable; the applicant intends to demolish the existing building and rebuild. This is a non-conforming lot, requiring a special exception. The building footprint is larger than the original, as the new home will encompass the original home’s patio and deck. Mr. Murphy noted that the Planning Commission has reviewed and passed the application without comment.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the Planning Commission’s reference to increased impervious surface.
Mr. Murphy said that the Planning Commission would only support the request of 25.7% but would not support additional impervious surface.
Mr. Benchener asked if the applicant has brought letters of support from neighbors.
Mr. Murphy said that neighbors have expressed support but the Zoning Hearing Board frequently does not accept such letters, as the writers are not present to give testimony.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Stop Sign and Speed Limit Ordinance: Ron Weaver was in attendance to review the speed limit and stop sign ordinance which the Board had recently advertised. He said that the North Drive location Mr. Calabro had referenced does not warrant a stop sign. Some of the stop signs in place right now are not part of the current Ordinance, making them unenforceable. There is some housekeeping in the Ordinance, removing from the list stop signs which have been replaced for traffic signals, for example. Some speed limits have been added to the Ordinance most changes are on small streets and culs-de-sac, making the limit 25 MPH.
2009 Roadway Improvement Program Pay Estimate #2: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize payment of $266,269.79 to Bray Brothers for the 2009 roadway improvement program. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener noted that this is not the final payment. The project is under budget.
Mr. Schenkman asked that future payment requests include a list of the completed paving work.
The motion passed 5-0.
Closed Loop Traffic Signal to Sycamore Street: Mr. Weaver explained that the new traffic signal at Swamp and South eagle Roads had been omitted from the original bid for fiber optic interconnection with the Sycamore Street Closed Loop. He asked the Board to authorize a change order for $7,457.50 for Armour & Sons to included this signal.
Mr. Benchener asked what the benefit would be, or what the consequence would be if this signal were not included.
Mr. Weaver explained that inclusion would allow both the Township and PennDOT to access the light remotely to make changes and to monitor the intersection to coordinate the timing of all of the Sycamore Street signals.
Dr. Ciervo said that this would be important, especially when the Promenade is completed and the Township sees changes in traffic patterns.
Mr. Benchener said that he would prefer to save this money or use it for roadway improvements going forward.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this is paid with TSA and cannot be used on paving.
Mr. Weaver discussed the importance to security for PennDOT to be able to access the closed loop systems throughout the State remotely in the event of a disaster or emergency. It also saves the time to visit each site to make adjustments. Video decection will also be attached to this fiber optic system.
Mr. Calabro moved to authorize the addition of the Swamp and Eagle Road signal to the closed loop system at a cost of $7457.50 to Armour & Son. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Weaver explained that this signal’s not having been included in the original bid was an oversight, probably because the signal had not yet been installed and it is not on Sycamore Street, itself.
Mr. Benchener said he disagreed that the benefit justified the cost.
Mr. Beasley noted that the TSA funds are set up by the State specifically to provide the opportunity to make this kind of upgrade to the traffic systems.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Benchener voting nay.
Mrs. Bintliff Ritchie asked whether the developers of the Promenade would have an archaeologist on site during the excavations, as this is a very historic area. She also questioned the plans for removal of the asbestos on the site.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that an archaeologist would be a good idea. This will be discussed during land development.
Mr. Garton and Ms. Fountain explained that both EPA and OSHA have requirements for asbestos removal; these would be part of the permit process. Precautions are taken to be sure that there is no exposure to residents or to the workers on site.
Mrs. Bintliff Ritchie asked about cost overruns reported at the Woll tract.
Mr. Benchener said that the Township is carefully reviewing correspondence and records regarding the cost overruns. Going forward the Board has informed Gilmore & Associates that the Board is to be kept much more involved in any issues or variances from the original budget.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he has worked on construction projects with asbestos abatement issues. This is a very strictly monitored process and the residents will be very safe. Mr. D’Aprile urged residents to get out and vote on Election Day.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.