Board of Supervisors
Minutes of January 13, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on January 13, 2010 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice 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 Gallagher called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Pastor Newswanger of First Baptist Church of Wycombe. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that appointment of a video consultant has been added to the Chairman’s Report; a report on the skate park pad has been added to the Vice Chairman’s Report and Lithos Final Plan for Land Development has been removed from the agenda.
Special Action: On behalf of the Board, Mr. Gallagher presented a proclamation honoring Charles F. Swartz III on being chosen Grand Chancellor of the Domain of Pennsylvania of the Knights of Pythias. Mr. Gallagher extended his congratulations to Mr. Swartz.
Mr. Swartz thanked the Board. He said that the Knights of Pythias was founded in 1864, and is the first fraternal order to be founded by an Act of Congress. Newtown’s chapter has 150 members and there are 1400 members in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Ciervo, also a Pythian, thanked Mr. Swartz for his dedication to the organization, which is helping with fundraising for research into a cure for pancreatic cancer.
Public Comment: Resident Jay Sensibaugh congratulated Messrs. Gallagher, Schenkman and Calabro for the work they have done to preserve a portion of the Rockbridge property as open space. The Bucks County Commissioners have announced that they will reimburse Newtown $157,500 from the Natural Areas Funds of the Open Space Program. He pointed to the efforts of Messrs. Calabro and Schenkman to prevent development of the parcel and Mr. Gallagher’s further efforts at the County to seek funding. He also acknowledged the work of Jeffrey Marshall and Joanne Bintliff Ritchie, who attended meetings at the County to help obtain the funding. Mr. Sensibaugh then asked if the receipt of these funds had been anticipated in the 2010 budget and if the money would offset some of the planned use of reserve funds to meet the budget.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the funds had been included in the budget in the Park and Recreation Capital Fund, not in the General Fund.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether any funds have been allocated for open space in the 2010 budget.
Mr. Gallagher said that no funds have been allocated toward open space. He also thanked the residents who have helped with preservation of open space, who have attended meetings and participated in the Open Space Comprehensive Plan Committee. He asked Mr. Czajkowski to compose a letter of thanks to the County Commissioners on behalf of the Board and residents.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of December 16, 2009. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo noted a typo in the spelling of “Anthropologie.”
The motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the special meeting of December 30, 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the reorganization meeting of January 4, 2010. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: The recording secretary noted a typo on page 6, item h. should read: “vote 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.”
Mr. Benchener noted that page 4, item g, should read: “vote 4-1, with Mr. Benchener voting nay.”
The motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $419,067.85. Mr. Schenkman seconded
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo questioned a large bill from Bill Marsh Ford on page 1.
Mr. Czajkowski said that a public works vehicle had been damaged. This will be reimbursed by insurance.
Mr. Gallagher asked about a kennel license listed on page 6.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this is the cage and doghouse used for stray animals until they are claimed by owners or transferred to the SPCA.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Board had discussed making some changes to create a system to track revenue versus expenditures. He asked whether this has been implemented.
Mr. Gallagher said that revenue and expense reports are not part of the bills list but of the treasurer’s report. The Financial Planning Committee is revamping the report, which will be shared with the public once implemented. It is hoped that the revised reporting method will be ready for the Supervisors to approve shortly.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether the plowing from the recent snowfall is in this week’s bills list, and whether it has impacted the budget.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the heavy snowfall was in 2009, paid from last year’s budget. The snow last week only required some salting of roadways and did not cost very much.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $225,750. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Mr. Gallagher confirmed that the County Commissioners have awarded the Township $175,500 for purchase of the Rockbridge property. He thanked the residents who helped work on the open space comprehensive plan and who attended the meetings at the County.
Dr. Ciervo said that thanks should also go to Mr. Jirele, who had worked first to prevent full development of the property and later to preserve it as open space.
Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Video Gold as the Township videographers. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that Video Gold has worked to move much of the video equipment to the new building. Since the same equipment will be set up, keeping the same contractor will make for a smooth transition.
The motion passed 5-0.
Board Members: Mr. Schenkman announced that Newtown 21 st Century Voice’s survey had a number of responses asking for more open communication with the Township. In response, the group will be sponsoring a Town Hall meeting to discuss a community center and the reactivation of SEPTA’s R-8 Newtown line on February 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM at the George School. He extended an informal invitation to the other Supervisors.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Mr. Garton said that there is no need to advertise if all of the Board attends, but no vote could be taken or decisions made.
Mr. Schenkman also reported that he had attended the Newtown Borough Council meeting at which a sketch plan for redevelopment of the Stockburger property was reviewed. The plan includes office, residential and retail uses and a large parking garage. One portion of the plan would involve moving the State Store from its current location at the rear of Centre Avenue to a much larger space directly on State Street. The Borough Council approved the sketch concept and considered a phasing in of the redevelopment with the relocation of the State Store to be expedited. At this meeting, the Council also directed its solicitor to review the revised bylaws of Newtown Corporation as the Borough considers its future support of Newtown Corporation.
Mr. Calabro suggested that the Board of Supervisors also consider its position regarding Newtown Corporation. A joint meeting of Borough Council, Board of Supervisors and Newtown Corporation is scheduled for January 28, 2010 at the Township’s new municipal building. This meeting is open to the public.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board should watch the Stockburger redevelopment carefully, as it will impact Township traffic in the Sycamore Street area.
Dr. Ciervo said that the group of residents working on the skate park fundraising effort have found a concrete contractor who has indicated that a concrete pad could be installed for considerably less than estimates received for an asphalt pad. Vendors of skate park equipment have expressed a strong preference for a concrete pad.
Dr. Ciervo moved to direct the Township Administration to prepare a bid request for a concrete skate park pad. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked about the Township’s proposal to match funds for the skate park.
Mr. Garton said that if government money is used, the project must be bid.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township had made a commitment to budget $60,000. The pad would show the fundraisers the Township’s good faith commitment to the project.
Mr. Calabro asked that the motion be repeated, as he wanted to be sure that this is a request for bids and not an approval of a specific concrete contractor.
Dr. Ciervo said that the committee had made a preliminary inquiry that showed concrete to be less expensive than asphalt. No specific vendor is being mentioned in the motion; it is only a request for bids.
Mr. Schenkman said that before the bids are opened he would like someone from the skate park fundraising committee to update the Board on its efforts.
The motion passed 5-0.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its January 5, 2010 meeting the Commission reorganized, voting for Mr. Fidler to remain as chairman, with Ms. Beasley and Mr. Whartenby to share the vice-chairman duties and Mr. Fisher to serve as Secretary/Treasurer. It was the feeling of the members that since the Commission meets twice each month and must report to the Board of Supervisors twice each month, it would be better to have four officers available to share some of the leadership responsibilities.
In addition to voting for officers, the members agreed to serve as liaisons, representing the Planning Commission at other Board and Committee meetings. The HARB liaisons called attention to some concern about the position of liaison to HARB. It seems that when HARB has lacked a quorum, the members have asked the Planning Commission liaison to participate in voting. This has been HARB’s practice going back a number of years. Mr. Fidler asked for some guidance on this matter.
Mr. Garton said that only those HARB members appointed by the Board of Supervisors are permitted to vote. He said that the Planning Commission liaison’s participation in discussion could be helpful, however.
The Commission discussed plans for the redevelopment of the Stockburger property in Newtown Borough. As this project will greatly impact Newtown Township, the Planning Commission would like to send representatives to Borough Planning Commission meetings as liaisons.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the plans would require any variances.
Mr. Fidler said that only a sketch had been discussed. He was not familiar with the Borough’s Code of Ordinances or SALDO. The Planning Commission does have some concerns about the large scope of the project so close to the Township border.
Mr. Schenkman said he would speak to Borough representatives about allowing some Township representation in the review process.
Mr. Gallagher said that it was his understanding that a traffic study was being conducted. He would like the Township to be allowed to see it.
Mr. Fidler said that in past years our Planner/Engineer has given a few brief classes on planning and zoning for the benefit of new members and new supervisors. These classes typically took place immediately before regularly scheduled PC meetings, and have proved very helpful to our new members. He asked the Board to authorize the Engineer to conduct these classes again this year.
The Board agreed to authorize the engineer to prepare a presentation for the benefit of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Benchener asked what the goals of the Planning Commission would be in the coming year.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Planning Commission reviews land development plans and conditional use applications in great detail, making recommendations to the applicants and to the Board of Supervisors. In addition, it helps Zoning Hearing Board applicants prepare their presentations. In addition, the Planning Commission participates in the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission and the Joint Zoning Council, which focus on zoning issues facing the Jointure, working on proposed amendments to the JMZO and other regional concerns including highway classifications and green energy issues. In addition, the Board has tasked the Commission with a review of the zoning in the Sycamore Street business districts.
Rosebank Winery Final Plan for Land Development: Mr. Garton reviewedthis application for final approval for land development on a 10.1928 acre parcel in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District for a two-story 10,616 square foot addition to an existing barn, a wood deck between the existing stone barn and the proposed winery, and a wood deck to the existing events and promotions building. The plans also propose to restore a portion of the existing parking area to a grass and landscaped area and a new 0.50 acre orchard along Durham Road. Preliminary Plan approval was granted September 9, 2009. The property was subject to a May 2006 stipulation agreement regarding events held on the property. There was some question regarding the calculation of impervious surface to be discussed.
Mr. Marshall explained that the plan has not been modified, but there had been a mistake in calculating the impervious surface. The property is currently at 24.2% impervious surface. Although the plan itself has not changed, the land being returned to porous surface was subtracted from the total twice. The correct amount of impervious surface after land development will be 18.6%. The Township’s Engineer and the applicant’s Engineer are to confirm that this change would not impact stormwater management.
Ms. Fountain said this had not yet been done.
Mr. Marshall said that the Township Traffic Engineer had questioned the highway occupancy permit and the applicant now has a highway occupancy permit pending with PennDOT.
Ms. Fountain said she has not received an NPDES permit, only the DCED approval.
Mr. Marshall said that the tent has been removed and the applicant has agreed to not use tents for functions. The applicant will comply with the winery ordinance and will re-institute portions of the court ordered stipulation agreement regarding use of police for traffic. The Fire Marshal has asked for a hydrant and the applicant will comply although it has not yet been determined which hydrant on surrounding properties will be used for the connection.
Mr. Garton said that the Fire Marshal has required that the applicant provide 1500 gallons per minute.
Mr. Marshall said the applicant will comply with that requirement. The applicant will provide buffering from the Township’s list and will not use Norway Maples. The Planning Commission had specifically requested that no trees be planted in the interior of the parking area so that the parking lot appears to be an open field.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Mr. Garton said that a fee in lieu of open space and a traffic impact fee would be calculated based on the fee schedule at the time of the application.
Dr. Ciervo moved to grant final land development approval to Rosebank Winery, 258 Durham Road, Tax Map Parcel 29-3-25-1, prepared by All County, Inc. dated May 1, 2009, last revised October 2, 2009, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo thanked the applicant for working with the Township to address past concerns.
Mr. Gallagher asked that the fire hydrant provide 1500 gallons per minutes, as requested by the Fire Marshal.
Dr. Ciervo amended his motion to include this provision. Mr. Schenkman amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Fleming said that the improvements are being done to do a better job hosting events and to expand the rapidly growing winery, which recently won 6 medals at a State competition.
Holy Family University, Release of Escrow: Ms. Fountain explained that an outstanding easement document on 4.01 acres of land located adjacent to Core Creek at the Holy Family University site has been received, satisfying all outstanding items to be completed. She recommended that the remaining balance in the escrow account, about $9,000, held by the Township be returned to the applicant contingent upon payment of all outstanding fees.
In response to Board questions, Mr. Garton explained that the easement is for passive recreation and has some restrictions. The easement cannot be used for playing fields.
Dr. Ciervo moved to release escrow to Holy Family University. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Plaza, Swamp Road at Eagle Road, Intersection Improvements, Pay Estimate #2: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment in the amount of $45,405.99 to Armour Electric. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms Fountain said that work is completed; it is part of the closed loop. There will be one more payment.
Dr. Ciervo said that the next intersection he has concerns about is Eagle Road at Silo Drive. This is private property, however, it does need to be addressed.
The motion passed 5-0.
Plan Expirations: Dr. Ciervo asked whether extensions must be granted for the Goodnoe Tract.
Mr. Garton explained that this matter is in appeal, so extensions must be granted.
Appointment to Building Code Board of Appeals: Mr. Garton explained that the Building Code Board of Appeals reviews applications where the strict application of the Code is not appropriate and some interpretation might be necessary. The names being offered are for a member and an alternate. If a second member is not found, the alternate is moved into the slot for voting purposes.
Mr. Calabro moved to appoint Richard Walker as member and Michael Hutchinson as alternate to the Building Code of Appeals. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department had responded to 1146 calls in the past month, including one burglary, and 107 false alarms. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, he explained that many alarm companies receive false alarms set off by faulty equipment or accidentally by residents. These alarms are first verified by the alarm company before forwarded to the police department. The department responds to all alarms forwarded, but if there are repeat false alarms from the same location, a fine is levied.
Mr. Calabro said he had recently read a newspaper article about criminal mischief at Council Rock being above what is normal.
Chief Pasqualini said that the department has a school resource officer and a very good relationship with the District faculty, staff and students. He would look into this and report back.
Dr. Ciervo questioned the pattern of traffic citations provided by the Chief, which shows month to month comparing 2008 to 2009. He noted a significant drop in citations in the latter part of 2009.
Chief Pasqualini explained that the drop is partly attributed to public education through the enforcement program. There has also been a change by the State in mandatory staff training. The Department will be concentrating its enforcement on the Bypass truck detail, working with Upper and Lower Makefield’s police departments.
Mr. Benchener asked for more detailed comparisons of activity month to month.
Chief Pasqualini said he would be addressing comparisons in his annual report in March.
Newtown Athletic Club, Waiver of Land Development: Mr. Benchener moved to adopt the waiver of land development agreement with Newtown Athletic Club. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Vacation of Roads Ordinances, Authorization to Advertise: Mr. Garton reviewed ordinances vacating portions of Eldridge Road, Upper Silver Lake Road, Putnam Avenue, German Avenue, Howard Avenue and Wayne Avenue. These ordinances will officially vacate roads not currently in use. The portion of Upper Silver Lake Road referenced is near the Sterling Farm. Vacation of the streets would remove them from the tax map and would give clear title to the adjoining property owners. He noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission has suggested that Howard Avenue, which is a paper street running between Richboro Road and Swamp Road, could provide access management for the frontage properties on Sycamore Street which could enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety on the Sycamore Street corridor. As the Township is contemplating the future development of Sycamore Street, it might be a good idea to give further consideration to the streets in that section of the Township.
Ms. Fountain provided maps highlighting the roads proposed for vacation.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would like to give more thought to vacation of the streets around Howard Avenue. He did agree that vacating the portions of Eldridge and Upper Silver Lake would not be a problem.
Mr. Gallagher suggested postponing action on all but Eldridge and Upper Silver Lake.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement of ordinances vacating portions of Eldridge Road and Upper Silver Lake Road. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Resident John D’Aprile said that the Township did a very good job removing the heavy snow from the roads, but he objected to a notice he was given for not clearing all of the snow from the sidewalks surrounding his home. The plows pushed snow into large mounds on the corner; there would have been no place for pedestrians to access a crossing.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Public Works Department was responding to complaints from residents about sidewalks that had not been shoveled. The notice is a reminder of homeowners’ responsibility to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.
Mr. D’Aprile said that he did appreciate that the budget did not include a tax increase.
Mr. Benchener said that he had received a notice about the sidewalks, also. He did not know he was required to shovel, and he guessed that some other residents were also unaware.
Mr. Czajkowski said that clearing snow from the sidewalks is an ordinance. The notice serves as a reminder to residents. It is not a fine.
Mr. Gallagher thanked the Public Works Department, which worked round the clock to clear the streets.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had discussed the costs associated with a field swap of the softball field at the Woll tract for a baseball field at Helen Randle Park. He asked that this be placed on a work session or regular meeting when representatives from the leagues involved would be in attendance. What is to be determined is who would pay for the work to convert the fields. He said that he feels the costs should be treated as field maintenance or change orders and should be the Township’s responsibility.
Mr. Benchener said that final cost estimates should be presented to the Board before a vote is taken on this.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had the impression that Little League might be willing to pay some portion of the costs, but that no representative of Rock Softball had been at the meeting to discuss Softball’s willingness to contribute.
Mr. Calabro suggested that rather than ask the representatives to discuss whether they are willing to help fund the field swap during a televised meeting, it might be better to discuss the swap in the informal setting of a work session, with a vote to take place at a regular televised meeting after details of any agreement have been worked out.
The Board agreed to place this on the February 17 work session agenda with a vote at the February 24 meeting.
Dr. Ciervo said that there have been some discussion about possibly adding two members to the Park and Recreation Board. The Park and Recreation Board was supportive of this suggestion, and would be particularly interested in having members who are involved in some of the local sports organizations.
Mr. Garton said that to expand the Board the Ordinance would have to be amended.
Mr. Calabro asked whether appointees would be specifically chosen to represent certain sports organizations.
Dr. Ciervo said that if the Board were expanded, the Township would advertise for interested residents to apply for appointment, the same as with any other committee. The Board then would make the final decision as to an appointment.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board had met in executive session prior to the meeting and would continue the session after adjournment.
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.