Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 10, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 10, 2010 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman, Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro and Michael Gallagher, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Robert Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Pastor Harry Whyte of More View Bible Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that the Park and Recreation Board Chairman, Andrew Levine, has asked to reschedule discussion of the Helen Randle/Woll Tract field swap to a later date as details of the swap are being discussed by the leagues.
Public Comment: Paul Salvatore of Newtown Business and Professional Association announced the annual Easter Egg Hunt, to be held at Pickering Manor on Saturday morning, March 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM sharp. All ages, smallest children through grandparents, are invited to participate. 2500 eggs will be hidden and prizes will be awarded. Any local businesses interested in donating prizes are asked to contact NBCA president Mick Petrucci.
Resident Mike Horan, athletic trainer at Council Rock High School North, thanked the Board for participating in National Athletic Training Month and for acknowledging the work of these health care professionals.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of February 24, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $190,029.97. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $320,796.98, noting that these are five separate transfers, two of which were made in 2009. One transfer involves accrued interest on a bond; one is a clarification of building expenses. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
National Athletic Training Month: Dr. Ciervo read into the record a resolution proclaiming March as National Athletic Training Month in Newtown Township, acknowledging the care provided by athletic trainers to prevent injuries and promote treatment, rehabilitation and education and recognizing athletic trainers as health professionals.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution R-2010-6, proclaiming March as National Athletic Trainers month. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener questioned the “whereas” which notes that athletic trainers are health care professionals, as he did not think it was within the purview of municipal government to acknowledge health care credentials.
Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Schenkman said that the resolution is acknowledging the work done by professional athletic trainers in our schools and community.
The motion passed 5-0.
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo said that U.S. Census forms are being mailed shortly and he stressed the importance of filling out the forms, as data gained from the Census influences Newtown’s share of state and federal funding for such programs as liquid fuels. He said that the national average for participation is 72% but in the 2000 census, Newtown had a participation rate of between 82-86%.
Dr. Ciervo announced that voting District #8’s polling place will be relocated from the fire house to the new municipal building’s main meeting room for the primary election on May 18, 2010.
Other Board Members: Mr. Calabro reported that he and Mr. Schenkman attended the Town Hall meeting sponsored by Newtown’s 21 st Century Voice at the George School on February 28, 2010. PA-TEC made a presentation on the reactivation of the SEPTA R-8 Newtown Rail line and residents discussed the idea of building a community center. The meeting was attended by about 80 residents. Mr. Calabro commended the 21 st Century group for their efforts to host the event to allow informal communication with Township and Borough officials.
Mr. Schenkman said that he and members of the Planning Commission attended a visioning presentation hosted by Newtown Creek Coalition on March 2, 2010 at Chancellor Center. The visioning included discussion of other communities which have made creeks or rivers centers for economic development. The Creek Coalition talked about revitalizing areas surrounding Newtown Creek, making pedestrian access points and focal points along the creek. This meeting had about 50 residents of the Borough and Township in attendance.
Mr. Gallagher reported that he had heard that SEPTA is considering authorizing an R-8 feasibility study, which would be a first step toward consideration of reactivating the rail line.
Newtown Corporation: Chairman Frank Tyrol and acting Executive Director Paul Salvatore were in attendance to review the revised mission statement and goals and objectives of the Newtown Corporation. Mr. Tyrol first thanked the Supervisors for their continued support of Newtown Corporation, which has grown from the main streets program. Newtown Corporation’s mission statement is now “working with all organizations, businesses and groups in the Newtown Community to create an alliance to maintain, develop and promote Newtown as a great place to live worship, work and shop.” In recent weeks the Corporation has refocused its efforts to develop 2010 goals and objectives in response to the requests of the Borough and Township governments, establishing protocols for banking, realigning committees, establishing new sources of revenue and creating new events and marketing opportunities. Included in the efforts to improve communications, the Corporation will focus more on the entire business community, including in this effort the shopping centers and the Business Commons.
Mr. Salvatore explained that in order to strengthen its ties in the community, Newtown Corporation will be working closely with the Sycamore Street Community Association, Newtown Business and Professional Association and Newtown Business Commons Association. Dick Weaver, vice chairman of Newtown Corporation has also recently been named Executive Director of Newtown Business Commons Association. Together the two organizations will be co-sponsoring a wine event with Bucks County Wine Trail in the Business Commons this May. Other upcoming events include restaurant week in April and a first Saturday promotion with local shops and restaurants which will run from April through December.
Mr. Benchener said that he was pleased with the direction being taken but asked Mr. Salvatore to provide specific information on measuring the success of Newtown Corporation’s results in actual numbers rather than anecdotally.
Mr. Gallagher suggested polling local businesses and organizations about current conditions as a baseline for measurement of Newtown Corporation’s success.
Mr. Salvatore said that there are some upcoming opportunities to do just that, as, for example, Newtown Corporation will be working to cross promote Newtown Presbyterian Church’s annual strawberry festival along with Sycamore Street’s June Saturday night promotional event. Both have been held before but this year they will be on the same evening, which should provide some comparison numbers to past years.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board would want to see numbers for both the special events and for the everyday improvements. He mentioned some daily promotions such as frequent shopper reward programs, where every tenth purchase entitles the purchaser to something free or upgraded. This would encourage shoppers to make the local businesses part of their regular routine. He urged the Newtown Corporation Board to attend formal training programs. He also asked whether Newtown Corporation has any plans for a formal marketing plan.
Mr. Salvatore said that being discussed are one, five and ten year plans which would set both short and long term goals. The Newtown Corporation is trying to develop a new Web site which would contain information and links to local businesses, organizations and municipal information all in one Web location.
Mr. Calabro said that there had been some discussion about the main streets program evolving into a chamber of commerce type of organization. He, Mr. Schenkman and Dr. Ciervo discussed some of the topics heard at the Borough Council meeting and continued to urge Mr. Salvatore and Mr. Tyrol to develop ways of measuring Newtown Corporation’s success.
Mr. Salvatore agreed to keep this in mind as Newtown Corporation searches for a new Executive Director. They will be speaking to the local businesses about their current needs and working on promoting all of the business interests through daily work and through annual events as well as through promotional marketing for businesses considering relocation to Newtown.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its March 2, 2010 meeting the Planning Commission discussed the history of the Federal Cemetery Overlay (FCO) and a proposed amendment to the FCO Ordinance and was very supportive of the change, as it would reduce housing density. The members agreed that the current Ordinance places the greatest burdens of housing density and traffic on Newtown Township. The members voted 6-1 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the amendment, subject to the condition that full legal descriptions, including tax map parcel numbers, referenced as Exhibits “B” through “G” be included and that the Township Solicitor review with the Board the legal issues involved with the adoption of the amendment. The dissenting voter, while in support of the effort to reduce housing density in the FCO, felt that the amendment is premature and that the legal ramifications have not been researched thoroughly. That member expressed concern that adoption of this amendment could open the Township and Jointure to costly and lengthy litigation should the properties in the FCO change ownership or should the current owners submit different plans for land development.
Mr. Benchener asked for a brief overview of the proposed amendment.
Dr. Ciervo explained that the Federal Cemetery Overlay District was created to give certain building density bonuses to those parcels in the overlay which would be developed as residential while carving out a portion of land to be used as a cemetery. The proposed amendment would remove all but the cemetery parcels from the overlay district, with the other parcels returning to their original zoning designations, which for the Newtown portion of the overlay would be conservation management zoning. Plans already submitted for these parcels would not be impacted by the adoption of the amendment.
Mr. Garton explained that the cemetery would still be part of the FCO. Newtown has an approved plan for the Melsky tract, which would not be impacted by a zoning change. Upper Makefield’s portion of Melsky has not yet been granted final approval. There is still an appeal to the ordinance as yet unresolved.
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it has expanded the Park and Recreation Board to nine members. Two names have been put forth as new appointees with terms expiring in 2010 and 2011. Going forward, three Park and Recreation Board members’ terms will expire each year.
Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint John Mark McMenamin (2011) and Catherine Anne Porter (2010) to the Park and Recreation Board. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that these two appointees are also active members of the Rock Softball executive board.
Mr. Gallagher said that he moved to appoint Mr. McMenamin to the longer term because he had sent a letter of interest to the Board last year.
The motion passed 5-0.
Villas at Newtown, Certificate of Completion: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize escrow release #11 to Villas at Newtown in the amount of $6,390.00. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Delancey Court Certificate of Completion: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize escrow release #12 to Delancey Court in the amount of $35,021.20. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Tudor Square Phase III Certificate of Completion: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize escrow release #11 to Tudor Square Phase III in the amount of $23,488.14. Mt. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Manager’s Report: Mr. Czajkowski reviewed the Earned Income Tax revenues as of January 31, 2010, noting that revenue is slightly down from 2009 collections but ahead of 2008. Real Estate Transfer taxes are up considerably from the same time in 2009.
Police Report: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department had responded to 1070 calls in February, including 111 false alarms, 33 traffic accidents and six theft investigations. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s questions, Chief Pasqualini said that there are no patterns to the thefts and no unusual calls to the Department. There were some weather related calls. An annual comparison report will be available to the Board shortly.
Mr. Calabro asked about excessive speeding through Newtown Grant’s through streets.
Chief Pasqualini said that he has re-aligned the Department to create a traffic unit which will be more aggressively enforcing speed limits throughout the Township. He noted that speeders in Newtown Grant who have been stopped are residents of the development, not cut through traffic.
Mr. Schenkman asked about overtime hours in the past month.
Chief Pasqualini said that the Department had some overtime because of the snow.
Mr. Calabro asked about vehicle repossessions listed on the report.
Chief Pasqualini explained that the Department must be notified if a vehicle is being repossessed to avoid any misunderstanding.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that the Police Department had about $4600 in weather related overtime. The Public Works Department had about $50,000 per storm.
Mr. Garton reported that the Township has received funds from the draw down on Foxhall Estates to complete the projects there. Orleans’ bankruptcy should not impact this project. He noted that the Township is not entitled to money not used to complete the project.
Bradley McGowan Conditional Use: Mr. Benchener moved to approve the conditional use for Bradley McGowan, 12 Old Frost Lane. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Ace Hardware Conditional Use: Mr. Benchener moved to approve the conditional use for Ace Hardware, 2670 South Eagle Road. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 3-1-1, with Mr. Gallagher abstaining and Mr. Calabro voting nay.
JMZO 2010-___ Federal Cemetery Overlay Amendment, Authorization to Advertise: Mr. Garton explained that this is a vote to authorize advertisement. A public hearing must be held for adoption; all three Jointure municipalities must vote to adopt the amendment. Wrightstown’s Planning Commission will be reviewing the amendment on March 11, 2010.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this proposed amendment would removed the residential components from the FCO; the cemetery portion would remain. There has been some discussion at the Jointure of concerns about possible litigation. If the Jointure partners are acting in good faith for the public good the amendment can proceed. Any currently approved plans would not be impacted.
Dr. Ciervo said that at one time Newtown Township had proposed removing only Newtown’s properties from the FCO. This new proposal would remove land in Upper Makefield as well. All of the affected properties would revert to Conservation Management zoning. If any of the already approved plans were to fall through, new plans would have to conform to CM zoning.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2010-___ Federal Cemetery Overlay Amendment. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that there had been some resistance to this amendment among the Jointure partners until legal opinions had been presented assuring the Jointure that already approved plans would not be impacted and the cemetery is protected. This will help to preserve the area’s quality of life.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown Township thanked the Board for taking this step to protect the open space and reduce housing density. It is his understanding that the amendment only impacts future plans and does not impact the Council Rock tracts.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Czajkowski to follow up on the Board’s request for financial information on the entities to which the Township makes annual contributions.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has the annual reports and budgets for the Fire Department and Ambulance Squad. He will provide the same for Newtown Corporation, Wrightstown Library and Newtown Library Company.
Mr. Benchener asked for an update on efforts toward traffic calming on Penns Trail North.
Mr. Czajkowski said that work had been delayed because of the weather.
Mr. Schenkman asked Mr. Czajkowski to begin investigating refinancing of the Township’s bond to look for possible savings in the future.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has spoken to Mr. Shearer about this but there would not be significant savings at this time. He will continue to monitor this.
Dr. Ciervo asked about filling of potholes.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Public Works Department is working on filling in the potholes caused by snow plows. He asked residents to phone or e-mail the Township if they spot any potholes the Department might have missed.
Dr. Ciervo said the Board would meet in executive session at the close of the meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 9:20 PM.