Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 24, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 24, 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 Doug Dwyer of Addisville Reformed Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that a resolution regarding document disposal would be added to the Treasurer’s report.
Public Comment: Resident Harriet Beckert, speaking on behalf of Newtown’s 21 st Century Voice, said that the group recently hosted a Town Hall meeting to discuss reactivation of SEPTA’s R-8 rail line and a community center. The group will sponsor similar events in the future and Mrs. Beckert urged residents to let the group know of any other topics of interest to be placed on the agenda.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the work session of February 17, 2010. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of March 10, 2010. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $293,276.95.. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that a payment of a bill from McNamara, Bolla, Williams and Panzer as special counsel for The Promenade has been moved from payment from the general fund to payment from the escrow fund.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $200,000 for payroll. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its March 16, 2010 meeting the Commission reviewed the application ofGeorge J. Donovan & Associates on behalf of Doug & Erin Demskis, 240 N. Chancellor Street, for a variance for increased impervious surface to build an addition to a single family dwelling and a future addition to the detached garage in the R-2 High Density Zoning District. The Commission passed the application to the Board of Supervisors without comment, however did recommend that the applicant consider ways to address stormwater management because of the increase in impervious surface.
The Commission reviewed the application of Eric & Gwen Varady, 10 Clearview Drive, for a variance for increased impervious surface and setbacks and for a special exception to construct an addition on a non-conforming lot in the R-1 Medium Density Zoning District. The Commission passed this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment, however recommended that the applicant consider ways to address stormwater management because of the increase in impervious surface.
At that meeting, Ms. Fountain gave a brief presentation on the duties and responsibilities of the Planning Commission as an advisory body. This presentation also dealt with Planning Commission reviews of uses by right and conditional uses, variances and special exceptions.
Mr. Benchener asked for further information on the Commission’s stormwater recommendation.Mr. Whartenby explained that the Commission suggested that each applicant provide the Zoning Hearing Board with information on addressing the increased run-off for the proposed increased impervious surface. Simple methods such as rain barrels, rain gardens and gutters leading to swales will mitigate the effects of run off on neighboring properties. These are not such large projects that they will require major stormwater management plans, but the Commission recommended that the applicants be prepared to address this, as it frequently is a concern of the Zoning Hearing Board.
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that he had recently attended the Newtown Fire Association banquet at which members were recognized for their years of service, including Bob Adams for 25 years, Andy Errico for 30 years, Glen Forsyth for 35 years, Skip Scarborough for 40 years and Charlie Keller for 45 years. He thanked these fire fighters for their service to the community.
Secretary/Treasurer: Mr. Schenkman said that part of his duties as secretary/treasurer is to oversee the official records of the Township. In the recent move and consolidation of records from off-site storage, a large number of records, all long past their retention requirement dates, were identified. As stated in Resolution 83-R-181, a resolution is required to destroy certain Township documents. A draft of the resolution with a description of the documents attached has been prepared.
Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt resolution 2010-R-7, authorizing the Secretary Treasurer to destroy certain Township documents. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener asked whether there are costs associated with destruction of the documents.
Mr. Czajkowski said that it would cost a few hundred dollars to shred the documents, however the Township is attempting to reduce the off-site storage by removing documents from the facility in Wrightstown. In the next few weeks that facility will be empty and there will no longer be facility rental costs. The documents are primarily records from 1985 through 1999.
Mr. Gallagher noted that the Township is now storing many old documents electronically.
Dr. Ciervo asked about retention of police accident/incident reports.
Mr. Czajkowski said that these need only be kept about three years. Only reports from incidents involved in court cases must be kept longer.The motion passed 5-0.
Board Members: Mr. Schenkman said that he recently attended a meeting of the Joint Historic Commission at which the toll house at Village at Newtown was discussed. There is some confusion as to the responsibility to maintain the building and it is rapidly falling into disrepair. In researching the Township’s involvement in and responsibility for preserving this historic structure it has become apparent that careful records have not been kept. The Joint Historic Commission has some ideas for maintenance of the property, possibly renovating it for office use. He suggested that discussion of the house be placed on an upcoming agenda, inviting both the Historic Commission and the property owners to attend.
The Board agreed to this suggestion and to a discussion of enforcement of demolition permits, another concern of the Historic Commission. The solicitor was asked to review the demolition ordinances.
Mr. Schenkman said that he and Mr. Benchener had attended the most recent Financial Planning Committee meeting. The committee would like to attend the second April meeting of the Board of Supervisors to discuss future direction and proposals, the benchmarking of benefits, the pension investment policy and creation of variance and executive summary reports. Mr. Schenkman also noted that three members of the committee have recently resigned and a fourth member’s attendance has been sporadic. He suggested that residents interested in volunteering, particularly those with backgrounds in finance, insurance, pensions and investments, contact the Township Manager either by phone or e-mail.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has done some preliminary work on variance reporting and found it difficult and labor intensive.Mr. Gallagher announced that the Newtown Business and Professional Association’s annual Easter Egg Hunt will be Saturday morning, March 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM sharp at Pickering Manor. The event is only a few minutes long, with categories and prizes for all age groups from babies through grandparents. He and Dr. Ciervo urged participants to arrive a few minutes early as the event begins right on time and is over quickly.
Financial Planning Committee: Chairman Glen Beasley reported that the Committee has been asked to review the existing pension investment policy, to which the pension fund manager has recommended changes. The Township is also considering a possible change in pension fund manager. A few years ago the Township had considered a change and at that time a few fund managers made presentations to the Pension Committee. Mr. Beasley suggested that this be done again, asking those presenters to give some input on the investment policy. This could be done prior to the Township issuing a request for proposals for a new pension manager. Having these presentations from interested providers could give some insight and could alter the RFP.
Mr. Schenkman said that he had participated in this informal process a few years ago. It was very helpful to understand that each presenter had a different approach to pension fund management.
Mr. Benchener said that he would support this approach, which could provide the Township with some free advice as it considers a change to the investment policy.
The Board discussed whether to invite some pension fund managers for informal presentations before or at the same time as the Township issues an RFP. Mr. Czajkowski said that some recent changes in the law will require changes to the draft of the RFP in order to comply. He said that he does have a list of a number of pension fund management firms which have expressed interest in working with Newtown. He will work with the Financial Planning Committee to arrange for some presentations at an upcoming meeting.
Mr. Gallagher asked about including PMRS in the presentations.
Mr. Schenkman said that PMRS had participated in presentations a few years ago, and would be considered again.Mr. Beasley said that the Financial Planning Committee would also give a report on the budget process at the April Board meeting.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Harry Cassidy and Ellen Neely, 234 N. State Street: HARB Member Harriet Beckert presented this application for a certificate of appropriateness for construction of a one story addition to a house whose entrance is on State Street in Newtown Borough, but whose lot is in both Township and Borough. The addition will be on the Township portion of the property. The addition is not visible from either State or Sycamore Street.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for an addition at 234 N. State Street, as described in a memo dated March 16, 2010. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Nancy Kyle, 127 S. Sycamore Street: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for fence, gate, landscaping and painting at 127 S. Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated March 16, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher said that the application references replacement of a business sign. He asked about the business, as this appears to be a residential application.
Nancy Kyle said that she is considering using a portion of the home for an interior design business and will work with the Township on appropriate permits, etc. She understands that any signage would also require HARB approval.
Mrs. Beckert asked about the status of the Marisa’s Art of Apparel application, which had been continued in January.
Mr. Garton said that he has been informed by the Codes Department staff that the applicant has asked to postpone this application to next month, at which time the Board will make a decision on the application. The applicant does not need to meet again with HARB.
Mrs. Beckert said that those in the community interested in its history are eager to see the Toll House addressed.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that the summer camp registration is in full swing and spots are quickly filling. The discount registration period is coming to an end. He urged interested parents to register their children for the programs quickly while space remains available.
Mr. Levine reported that the Park and Recreation Board and Department will be working with the Environmental Advisory Council on two projects: formation of a “Friends of Clark” group to help with maintaining the gardens on the property, and the wildlife management program that the EAC has been researching for the past few years. The damage to our parks caused by the deer population has been a great concern; the Park and Recreation Board is eager to work with the EAC on this matter.
Helen Randle Park/Woll Tract Field Swap: Mr. Levine reported that Rock Softball and Little League have worked out an agreement to change one of the baseball fields at Helen Randle Park to a softball field in exchange for conversion of the planned softball field at the Woll tract to a baseball field. The softball fields at Helen Randle Park are in need of maintenance and repair work. Water lines are needed nearer the fields as well. The Township has budgeted $10,000 for this work. The extra work would be skinning the baseball field. Each organization will benefit by the swap as it will provide the Rock Softball League with a home, making it easier for tournament play, for parking and for volunteer maintenance work. The agreement submitted would address all of both leagues’ concerns with the formal swap.
Mr. Benchener asked about the cost of converting the Woll tract softball field to baseball.
Mr. Levine said that Little League would like to leave the field as is, because it can be used for two different age groups using a portable mound and an extra set of bases. Little League will purchase these items themselves. The only Township costs would be at Helen Randle Park.
Kevin O’Shea of Newtown Little League confirmed that by leaving the field skinned it would have more flexibility. The additional equipment would probably not cost more than $1000, which the Little League would pay.
Resident Anne Porter, representing Rock Softball, said that the girls league is supportive of the swap because it consolidates softball at one location, making it more convenient for participants and parents. Helen Randle Park is in need of topsoil and water connections and there has been no commitment by the Township to do this necessary work although the funds have been allocated in this year’s budget, as they were in previous years. She would like the signed agreement to detail the work to be done by the Township at Helen Randle Park. The swap would have the girls giving up a beautiful new field for one in very bad condition. She urged the Board to make a commitment to girls athletics.
Mr. Gallagher said that there is a line item in this year’s budget of $10,000 for Helen Randle Park but he would like to ascertain that this would be a sufficient amount to put in the water lines and convert the field.
Resident Joseph Garvey, President of Rock Softball, said that he is very concerned about the agreement because the $10,000 has been in the budget for three years without any work being done. He agreed that the work to be completed should be detailed in the agreement. He asked for a firm commitment from the Township to spend the $10,000 at Helen Randle Park.
Dr. Ciervo said that the park improvement budget money comes from developers’ impact fees, which have not been coming in because of the economy. The Township is committed to spending the $10,000 at Helen Randle but would like the Softball League to confirm its priorities.
Mr. Garvey said that Rock Softball parents volunteer to maintain and improve the fields. A field maintenance day is scheduled for April 3, 2010. He suggested that the Township consider crediting the work against the usage fees charged to the leagues for regular play and tournaments. He noted that the Township has recently billed the league for equipment repairs. Water lines and skinning of the field are the two top priorities this year. The date of August 31, 2010 for completion of the conversion is satisfactory, as the girls can play on the field with grass.
Mr. Garvey said that although there are no immediate plans for lighting at the Woll tract, lights have been approved. There are no zoning laws against lights at Helen Randle Park, and looking ahead, Rock Softball will attempt to get lights at the fields there.
Mr. Levine said that there are not plans pending at this time for lights on any Township fields.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the agreement be redrafted to articulate all that is to be included in the $10,000 budgeted for Helen Randle Park. The agreement could then be signed at a later meeting.
Mr. Gallagher said that he disagreed with this suggestion and that the agreement should only include that the Township is committing to the cost of conversion of the field. No reference to water lines or other improvements should be part of this agreement. All of the fields being discussed belong to the Township, not to one league or the other. He would be voting nay on any motion which included specific reference to field improvement spending.
Mr. Benchener said that he would like the written agreement to better reflect its spirit, that the swap would include fields improvements and water lines.
Mrs. Porter said that this is not a simple swap of fields, but that the Softball League is looking for field improvements to be a part of the swap.
Dr. Ciervo expressed eagerness to iron out the details so that the swap could proceed. The Township has already committed $10,000 to field improvements at Helen Randle.
Mr. Garton said that the Township has agreed to pay the cost of the conversion of the baseball field, with Little League agreeing to use the softball field at the Woll tract as it is. The only remaining question is whether the spending of the remainder of the $10,000 after the conversion should be included in the agreement.
Mr. Calabro said that this is no longer a “field swap” agreement, since the Woll tract field will not be altered. He would like the agreement to be redrafted to only reference the conversion of the field at Helen Randle Park for softball use and the commitment to spend up to $10,000 for the conversion and improvements including water lines.
After some further discussion among the members, it was agreed that Mr. Garton would redraft the agreement to include specific reference to the conversion and the field improvements up to $10,000.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton to draft a facilities usage agreement outlining conversion of the Helen Randle baseball field to softball and other field improvements to be paid from the $10,000 budget for Helen Randle Park. This agreement will then be circulated among the Board of Supervisors, the users of the fields and the Park and Recreation Board Chairman before signing at the next scheduled Board meeting. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Garvey thanked the Board for working with the leagues on this issue. All of the organizations understand that the fields belong to the Township but all of the leagues also expend considerable energy and time in maintaining these fields for the leagues’ use.
Mr. Levine thanked the Board for helping to move this agreement forward.
Resident John D’Aprile questioned why this need for a field swap was not discussed earlier in the Woll tract planning phase and called this a “mistake” that now must be corrected at additional Township expense. He strongly objected to the Township paying any portion of the conversion, saying that the parents of the players should either pay or do the work.
Mr. Calabro said that the $10,000 being discussed is Township Park and Recreation Fund money already budgeted for the Township parks.
Mr. Benchener agreed that this is not an additional burden on the taxpayers but money from impact fees.
Mr. Garvey said that the sports organizations spend a great deal of money and effort to maintain and improve the fields already.
Joel Grosso, representing Newtown Little League said that the Little League spent $32,000 in field improvements in the parks and all of the organizations give generously in volunteer efforts in the parks, while also paying field usage fees.The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Gallagher voting nay
Skate Park Bids: Ms. Fountain reported that the Township had been given an informal estimate of $25,000 for a concrete pad for the skate park. With that in mind bids were requested and seven responses were opened on March 15, 2010. The low bid, received at six minutes after the 10:00 AM deadline, from Associated Paving Contractors, was $40,768.78. Because the low bid was so much more than the estimated price and because the bid was received after the advertised 10:00 A.M. deadline, CKS Engineers is recommending that the bids be rejected and the Township consider rebidding the project.
Mr. Gallagher moved to reject the bids for paving of the skate park. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms. Fountain explained that Rubright, which had originally estimated $25,000 did not bid because of the required bonding requirements in the specifications.
Mr. Garton noted that on bids less that $25,000 prevailing wage is not required.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski said that if the Board gives authorization, the staff can consider alternatives and rebid the project.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize the Board to move forward with rebidding the skate park project. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Road Materials Bid: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept to bids received from New Britain Township on behalf of Bucks County Consortium for road materials as outlined in a memo dated March 17, 2010 from Public Works Director Gary Crossland. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Sign Materials and Posts Bid: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept to bids received from Northampton Township on behalf of Bucks County Consortium for sign materials and posts as outlined in a memo dated March 17, 2010 from Public Works Director Gary Crossland. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown, Bucks County, Joint Municipal Authority: Mr. Garton said that the charter of the Joint Municipal Authority will expire and the Authority is asking the Board to adopt a resolution extending the term for an additional fifty years. At this time such resolution is not ready for adoption. Mr. Garton has been researching the matter for the Authority and expects the Township to be reimbursed for his time. He asked that the matter be tabled until research has been completed and a resolution has been drafted.
Mr. Benchener moved to table consideration of a resolution extending the term of the Newtown, Bucks County, Joint Municipal Authority. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
George J. Donovan on behalf of Doug and Erin Demskis, 240 N. Chancellor Street: John Charles of George J. Donovan and Associates and Doug Demkis were in attendance to present this application for a variance for increased impervious surface to build an addition to a single family dwelling and a future addition to the detached garage in the R-2 High Density Zoning District. Mr. Charles said that this is a 41,930 square foot lot with an already non-conforming 13.6% impervious surface. The house is a single story and cannot support a second story. The new additions for an expanded family room, foyer, bedroom and bathroom will add 1078 square feet to the 2674 square foot building, bringing the impervious to 17.33%. The future proposed expansion to the garage will not be built at this time, but when it is constructed will be for additional storage. Mr. Charles said that an amended plan will be presented to the Zoning Hearing Board showing downspouts to French drains to control additional run off. Letters of support from neighbors will also be presented to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Eric & Gwen Varady – 10 Clearview Drive: Eric Varady was in attendance to review this application for a variance for increased impervious surface from 12% to 18.5%, for setbacks and for a special exception to construct a two story addition at the rear of the house and an expansion of the driveway on a non-conforming lot in the R-1 Medium Density Zoning District. Mr. Varady said that he does not have any problems with run off on his property. The yards are planted with ivy which hampers flow. The land slopes so that run off goes toward the end of Clearview Drive to an orchard.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern about run off he has noticed on Frost Lane and urged Mr. Varady to present some plans for reducing run off to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Varady also pointed out that he has learned that his fence encroaches on his neighbor’s property. He has spoken to the neighbor about this and rather than move the fence they have drawn up an agreement acknowledging the encroachment and leasing the property to Mr. Varady. It is in a part of the yard which is heavily planted and is not really usable land for either neighbor.
Mr. Garton said that this encroachment is an issue between neighbors.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has some concern about the expansion of the driveway. The Township has seen cases where neighbors did not initially object to plans until it became clear how close to the property line the driveway would be. He suggested bringing the neighbors to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board wants to be sure this is not a concern of the neighbors.
Mr. Gallagher expressed some concerns about this; it should not be a matter of what is acceptable to the current neighbor but what is appropriate for the property.
Mr. Schenkman asked if any demolition is planned.
Mr. Varady said that the addition would only break through an existing window.
The Board agreed to forward this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Mr. Benchener asked for an update on traffic calming for Penns Trail North.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the weather had delayed this project but he expected a report from the traffic engineer shortly.
Mr. Gallagher expressed some concern about addressing traffic calming as residents point out particular issues. It might be better to develop a Township wide comprehensive effort to address traffic concerns.
Dr. Ciervo suggested adding this to a work session agenda, including residents, the Traffic Committee and the homeowners associations in the discussion.
Mr. Benchener said that he had supported vacating of Upper Silver Lake Road conditioned on the traffic calming for Penns Trail North. He would like this addressed.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to address the field usage fees. These had been adopted as part of a fee schedule earlier this year but he would like them to be reviewed and possibly kept at the 2009 rates.
Mr. Czajkowski said that since the fee schedule was adopted by resolution, a resolution would be needed to change the field fees. If the fees were rolled back to the 2009 rates the difference in collections would be $2500.
Mr. Benchener said that he would be against a reduction in the fees.
The meeting adjourned at 10:20 PM.