Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors Work Session

Minutes of December 7, 2009

 

Members present: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Michael Gallagher. Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Benchener and Members Philip Calabro and Jerry Schenkman.

Also Present: Manager Joseph Czajkowski, Township Solicitor John Torrente and Township Engineer Michele Fountain.

Call to Order: Dr. Ciervo called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.

Community Comments

Resident John Ferrara, representing Rock Softball, said that he has been placing temporary signs advertising the upcoming Rock Softball registration, on Township roads every winter for many years. This year he was contacted by Township employee Ron Weaver, advising him that he must pay a $35 fee and fill out a permit form which requires that he list every location. He has done this, but has subsequently learned that he cannot place the signs on private properties or within 1000 feet of the Newtown Bypass, locations he has used for many years without incident. He has assumed this change in procedure will apply to all of the sports organizations. He said that he does not object to the permit procedure, but questioned why he would need to purchase a permit if he does get permission for private property owners or for State roads.

Dr. Ciervo said that he suspects there has been some miscommunication between the Board and Township staff. The Board has asked the staff to enforce the signage Ordinance for commercial signs. It had not been the intention of the Board to interfere with the efforts of children’s sports organizations’ registration campaigns. He asked the Township Manager to instruct the staff to allow the organizations’ signage to remain in place. He also asked that Rock Softball’s permit fee be refunded and that other children’s sports organizations not be required to pay the fee.

Mr. Czajkowski said that he would recommend that organizations be required to file a permit form, but that the Board could waive the fee.

Mr. Gallagher said that when placing these signs on private property without the owners’ permission, the owners do have the right to remove the signs.

Mr. Czajkowski also noted that PennDOT might remove signs along the Bypass.

Mr. Calabro said that perhaps other sports organizations got similar notifications but have not attended this evening’s meeting. He asked that they also be notified of the Board’s direction.

Discussions

Police Building Architectural Proposals – Boyle Construction: Sean Boyle and Ken Duerholz were in attendance to review the proposals of five architectural firms which have bid on the renovation of the existing administration and public works buildings for police headquarters and storage. In addition to reviewing the submitted materials, Mr. Boyle said that he contacted each bidder with some specific questions and concerns. He presented the Board with a spreadsheet comparison chart for the five bids. Based on Boyle Construction’s experience in the renovation business, he had expected estimates to be in the $75,000 range. He noted of particular concern is that Great Valley Consultants, the lowest bidder, was significantly lower than the next two bidders. Great Valley has also estimated many fewer man hours for the project than the other bidders. Great Valley is also farthest away from Newtown at 83 miles. Boyle has had no working experience with Great Valley, which is primarily a municipal engineering firm.

Mr. Boyle said that his firm has worked with each of the other four bidders, having fair to excellent experience working together. The Donovan and Kimmel firms’ estimates are considerably higher than the middle bidders, LB&W and MKSD. Boyle Construction has found Kimmel to be less flexible than the other three when working together, which could be a problem on a renovation project, where it is likely to run into more unexpected situations requiring more change orders.

Mr. Boyle stressed the importance of selecting an experienced and flexible architectural firm for a renovation project such as the police project.

Mr. Gallagher noted that he had been hesitant to select the low bidder for the construction management firm for the administration and public works project, but has been very pleased with Boyle, which has been an excellent firm. He thanked Mr. Boyle for providing this analysis of the bids for the next phase of the municipal complex.

Mr. Czajkowski said that at this point the Township does not know the final number on the project thus far, nor exactly how much will remain in the bond for the police phase. It might be necessary to divide the police project into components to proceed in phases.

Mr. Duerholz said that the final numbers should be available shortly. A punch list is being prepared now and furniture is expected next week. The LEED consultant will be giving an evaluation shortly, which will help to estimate the time to completion. A CO is expected next week and after some airing out, the building should be ready for move-in in early January.

Dr. Ciervo said that the Board should hold off any decision on the police project until after the amount of money remaining in the bond has been determined.

Field Swap – Rock Softball/Newtown Little League: Kevin O’Shea of Newtown Little League and Joel Grosso, Vice Chairman of the Park and Recreation Board were in attendance to discuss a field swap, which would convert the existing 60 foot baseball field at Helen Randle to a softball field and the proposed softball field at the Woll tract to a baseball field. Both leagues have agreed to the swap for the following reasons:

  • It would eliminate conflicts between the two leagues, as all of the fields at Woll would be baseball fields and all of the Township’s softball fields would be at Helen Randle;
  • It would consolidate softball in one park, eliminating driving between parks when Rock softball hosts tournaments. It will be more fun for the spectators and participants when all games are at one location;
  • It will eliminate the need for additional storage units at the Woll tract;
  • It will eliminate redundancy of field maintenance equipment for the softball fields;
  • Little League is recommending that all new fields have a 220 foot outfield. The softball field at Woll has a 220 foot outfield.

Mr. O’Shea reviewed a preliminary estimate for the changing of the fields. It would cost about $12,000 to make the change, which amount would be reduced by about $3000 if the infield mix at Woll could be moved to Helen Randle.

Dr. Ciervo asked who would pay for the change.

Mr. O’Shea said that the Park and Recreation Board had recommended at its October 7, 2009 meeting, that the Township should allocate $5000 per field for two fields at Helen Randle Park for renovations. This would include the conversion of the baseball field, leaving only the cost to convert the Woll tract field.

Mr. Grosso noted that the Park and Recreation Board has been reviewing the field usage fees charged to leagues. Little League is anticipating a large increase in field fees. It would be unfair to also expect the League to pay for the conversion.

Dr. Ciervo said that the Board of Supervisors has not authorized an increase in the field usage fee arrangement.

Mr. O’Shea reviewed recent contributions of Little League to Township fields:

  • $2600 for scoreboard repairs
  • $2000 dugout repairs
  • $3500 sprinkler system at Chandler
  • $3000 Helen Randle softball field renovations
  • Total - $11,100 contributed to Township parks, plus the league has purchased $5400 tractors for field maintenance.

In response to Mr. Benchener’s question, Mr. O’Shea said that there are 550 players in the league, but he is uncertain of the number of families.

Mr. Benchener said that if there are 400 families, it would cost about $12 per family to pay for the field renovation, which is not prohibitive.

Dr. Ciervo said that if softball is already expecting the Township to pay $5000 from Park and Recreation Capital Funds for its field conversion, the Township should consider paying for the baseball renovations as well, or at the least, sharing a portion of the cost. He said that although both leagues are in agreement to the swap, he has some concern going forward that only the Woll tract can have lights. Helen Randle Park does not have the capability of installing lights.

Mr. Grosso said that the Woll tract has the infrastructure in place for installation of lights, but the leagues would be expected to pay for the lights. Joe Garvey of Rock Softball is aware that Helen Randle Park cannot have lights, but has agreed to the swap.

Mr. O’Shea said that going forward, Little League has not budgeted for lights for the next few years, if ever.

Mr. Calabro said that he supports the swap, since both leagues are in agreement. He thinks it is a good idea to make Helen Randle a softball park.

Mr. O’Shea noted that there is still one 90 foot baseball field at Helen Randle Park. This field is not part of the swap.

Mr. Calabro said that he would want to have a copy of detailed information on the costs associated with the swap before making a decision on the Township’s making any contribution, although he is supportive of the swap itself.

Mr. Schenkman agreed that it is a good idea so long as the issue of lights has been thoroughly discussed by the Park and Recreation Board and the two leagues.

Mr. Gallagher agreed with Mr. Calabro that he has some concern with addressing the financial issues without having detailed information and the Township’s budget in hand.

Mr. Benchener said that if no fences need to be moved the swap seems sensible. He would want all of the costs to be privately funded, however, either by the leagues or through fundraising.

Dr. Ciervo said that he disagreed with this. Rock softball is trading a brand new field in a new park for an old, damaged field in a park that has parking issues. He would want the Township to fund the costs. The amount discussed is very small when compared to the total cost of the Woll tract.

Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he did not see the Helen Randle field improvements in the 2010 budget.

Mr. Czajkowski said that although recommended by the Park and Recreation Board, the field repairs at Helen Randle are not now part of the Park and Recreation Capital Fund budget. The Financial Planning Committee had recommended that this not be included.

Mr. O’Shea said that in entering into this agreement, it had been Mr. Garvey’s understanding that the Township would be investing in the Helen Randle fields. He did not think that Little League should have to pay for both fields’ renovations. The field usage fees collected by the Township should cover the costs.

Dr. Ciervo said that the costs are insignificant in the Woll tract budget and should be treated as a change order.

Mr. Benchener said that he is reluctant to spend from the Park and Recreation Capital Fund now. As has recently occurred with Promenade, going forward the Township might see more developer contributions going to the General Fund instead, reducing the projected Park and Recreation revenue expectations.

Mr. Schenkman again said he is reluctant to discuss costs until more detailed information has been presented to the Board.

Mr. Grosso said that the leagues make considerable investments in the Township owned parks and also pay fees. He asked if the Board would consider crediting the leagues’ maintenance contributions against any fees collected.

Mr. O’Shea said that it would be difficult to ask parents to raise funds for the field renovations if the softball fields are renovated by the Township. He also said that he has concerns this close to registration about trying to raise enrollment fees.

Mr. Calabro said that he is aware of the many contributions the parents make to the fields’ maintenance. He said that without the detailed information it is difficult to take a position, but the Board might want to explore a possible matching funds arrangement similar to what had been put in place for the skate park.

Mr. Czajkowski said that if the Township were to assume responsibility, additional bids would be needed. It is possible that with seed instead of sod, for example, costs could be reduced. It is his understanding that the fields would be ready for play in 2011.

Mr. O’Shea said that Little League would make the Helen Randle field available to Rock Softball by August 2010. This would allow Rock Softball to play fall ball and host a fall tournament.

The Board agreed that it would like more detailed financial information, including a review of the Helen Randle field repairs as part of the 2010 Park and Recreation Capital Fund budget.

Dr. Ciervo said that he would also like more detailed information on current field usage fees and possible increases.

Sycamore Street Discussion, Bucks County Planning Commission: Lynn Bush and Maureen Wheatley of the Bucks County Planning Commission were in attendance to review their research into updating the Town Commercial Zoning District. Ms. Bush explained that the TC, PC and historic districts were all considered in the review, as well as minutes from the Township Planning Commission’s meetings and recommendations. Existing non-conformities were reviewed.

Ms. Wheatley gave a PowerPoint presentation of existing land uses on both sides of Sycamore Street, noting that retail was the most prevalent use. She showed various photographs of existing lots, noting the setbacks and variation from the Ordinance required setbacks. She discussed the current height maximum which is 30 feet in the TC district and 40 feet in the PC district. A photograph taken from the center of Sycamore Street illustrated the difference at Silo Drive where the PC and TC districts are on opposite sides of the street. Ms. Wheatley noted that topography can contribute to perception of heights, noting that at Sycamore Center the land slopes down toward the creek and is raised at the Goodnoe Corner site, requiring steps up to the buildings on the Sycamore Street side, but entrances to the same buildings are at grade from the parking lot side. She reviewed the Ordinance’s method for measuring heights from grade to the mean of pitched roofs and suggested the Township might want to revisit the calculation method when reviewing the maximum permitted height.

Ms. Bush discussed the east side of the street where more of the properties have existing non-conformities. Many of these properties are in the historic district.

Dr. Ciervo said that going forward the Township will have to address the challenges of incorporating the existing historic properties with new construction. The Board is in some agreement as to an adjustment to the maximum height, but there is not consensus on permitted residential uses, particularly on the larger parcels.

Mr. Schenkman said that in addition to addressing concerns with the larger lots, the Board must also consider infilling on the smaller lots. He said that the Board is in agreement that it wishes to promote economic development with an increase to the business vitality of the street, so would encourage a variety of permitted uses, possibly expanding the permitted uses.

Dr. Ciervo said that the Planning Commission has recommended allowing some larger retail spaces, perhaps up to 12,500 square feet. Other factors would be considered in allowing the larger retail uses, as the Township would not want to encourage a great number of large retail shops. The goal is to promote a pedestrian friendly environment.

Ms. Bush said that larger retail could be limited to lots of a certain size.

Mr. Gallagher said that the Sycamore Street Community Association has discussed promoting Sycamore Street along with State Street as a downtown.

Mr. Schenkman said that the Newtown Creek Coalition has also discussed this, and has begun researching possible pedestrian access to and across Newtown Creek.

Mr. Gallagher said that the Township wants to promote Sycamore Street as a shopping destination for the region beyond just Newtown. To encourage foot traffic he would be supportive of some increased residential presence in apartments or townhomes, although he would not want to see a lot of large apartment buildings.

Resident Frank Tyrol mentioned the apartments over the shops at Goodnoe’s Corner and at Sycamore Center as a desirable arrangement.

The Board agreed that they would favor some increased residential presence, perhaps with only one or two units over each retail use. Mr. Calabro said that smaller apartments would draw young people and older, downsizing families. This could bring vitality to the street.

Mr. Sensibaugh suggested age qualified housing as an alternative which would not burden the schools.

Mr. Calabro said that smaller apartments above shops tend to attract a demographic with few children, without specifically restricting by age.

Resident Shawn Ward said that the concept of one apartment over each retail use would not be economically viable on larger properties, such as if Bill Marsh Ford’s five plus acre parcel were to be redeveloped.

Mr. Schenkman and Dr. Ciervo discussed ways to address the redevelopment of larger parcels. They said they would want the streetscape preserved but would consider offering some bonuses in exchange for possible public amenities such as plazas, fountains or benches. Dr. Ciervo said that he would welcome some small scale entertainment venue for performance or artistic presentations

Resident Vince Lombardi mentioned that on larger lots it might be possible to add an internal street or drive while retaining the streetscape.

Ms. Bush said that the JMZO is silent on the appearance of structures outside of the historic district. It might be possible to codify some design requirements.

Mr. Tyrol noted that most of the TC district is also in the historic district.

The Board discussed the need to promote the downtown, perhaps exploring better access to State Street. Mr. Schenkman said that looking ahead, he might also want to include access to the Creek for a walkway or other amenities.

Ms. Bush said she would contact the Creek Coalition for information on their visions for access to the Creek. She said she would also look into locations of paper streets.

Mr. Tyrol said that there has been some discussion about making existing bridges more pedestrian accessible.

Ms. Bush said she would begin work drafting some zoning concepts for the Board and Planning Commission to discuss.

Temporary Sign Ordinances

Mr. Gallagher said that he had requested that the Board review the existing temporary sign ordinance because he has noticed an increased number of commercial temporary signs at intersections, particularly near the Bypass. He would like the Board to either urge the Township administration to enforce the Ordinance or perhaps, draft a more prohibitive ordinance. He noted that he did not intend to include the sports organizations’ registration information signs in any enforcement efforts.

Mr. Torrente said that the current Ordinance is very restrictive; the Township could issue a notice of violation followed by an injunction and fining.

Mr. Gallagher urged Mr. Czajkowski to strictly enforce the current Ordinance, following the appropriate steps, first removing signs which are in violation.

Mr. Calabro asked about signs placed by real estate professionals directing to open houses.

Mr. Schenkman said that the Ordinance should not be so restrictive that it would prevent successful business. He did not take issue with open house signs which are promptly removed.

The Board agreed that the Administration should begin to more strictly enforce the current ordinance by removing signs on Saturday mornings and issuing notices of violation. This might help reduce the number of commercial signs.

Old Business

Mr. Gallagher announced that the Board had met in executive session earlier this evening to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.

New Business

Mr. Calabro announced that the Council Rock School Board would discuss whether to extend its agreement of sale with Toll Brothers on the Melsky tract at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 10:40 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted:
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary

 

Attest:

Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager


Robert Ciervo, Chairman

Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman

Matt Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer

Philip Calabro, Member

Jerry Schenkman, Member