Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 23, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on June 23, 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, member. 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. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that the Zoning Hearing Board application of William and Susan Cunningham has been added to the Solicitor’s Report.
Public Comment: Resident Jim Ott of 271 Stoopville Road said that he had attended the meeting earlier this evening to discuss Phase II of the Stoopville Road Improvement Project. He asked whether stormwater management would be part of the Phase II plans, as it was not included in the motion.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township Manager will contact PennDOT as the drainage issues are a maintenance issue.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh thanked the Board for posting the 2010 budget on the Township Web site. He pointed to a difference in the amount of the general fund as presented at the November budget meeting and in the currently posted budget as the beginning balance. There is a difference of over $200,000 in the two numbers.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the number used in November to plan the budget is an estimate and the posted number is the amount estimated to be in the treasury on December 31, 2009. Part of the difference is that the Earned Income Tax is greater than had been anticipated.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown Township thanked the Board working together with the Jointure partners at the meeting earlier this evening about Stoopville Road.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the work session of April 19, 2010. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the work session of June 7, 2010. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that the recent festival on Sycamore Street was titled “takin’ it to the street,” singular.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of May 26, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Calabro abstaining.
Mr. Gallagher noted that this is Mr. Calabro’s first time abstaining, as he has only missed one meeting as supervisor.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $460,250.44. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that this list includes the entire disbursement to the Fire Association, totaling $251,409.57. He suggested asking a representative of the Fire Association to come to a meeting to discuss the distribution.
The Board members agreed to hold this distribution until after a Fire Association member has come to a Board meeting.
Mr. Schenkman amended his motion to pay bills totaling $460,250.44 less a fire association distribution of $251,409.57. Mr. Benchener amended his second.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh questioned a payment to Wells Fargo for 6500 gallons of gasoline.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the gasoline is purchased through Doylestown Township as part of the Bucks County Consortium. Wells Fargo is the collecting agent for the fuel provider.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $151,738.13. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher reminded the Board that at the June 7, 2010 work session, bills had been authorized for payment. He asked that the list be provided to the public this evening and payment be affirmed during a televised meeting.
Mr. Gallagher moved to affirm payment of bills totaling $189,902.46. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher noted that this amount withheld payment to Skotleski Video until certain issues have been resolved. That matter is still under discussion.
The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo announced the “Run over Cancer” a 5K run to benefit Pancreatic Cancer research to be held at 9:00 AM on Saturday, July 3, 2010 at Newtown Middle School. The event is part of Newtown’s First Fourth celebration.
First Fourth Request: Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has received an-email request from the First Fourth Committee asking the Township to contribute to the fireworks at the First Fourth. The Township has not made its annual contribution to First Fourth, nor has the Township made its budgeted contribution of $16,000 to Newtown Corporation.
Mr. Benchener said that it was a tough decision to remove this contribution from the budget last December. The Township’s financial picture has not changed since the contribution was removed. The Financial Planning Committee has been looking ahead at upcoming budget needs for the police and technology departments. He did not think the Township should make this contribution in light of the already tight budget. He urged residents to make private contributions.
Mr. Gallagher asked what amount is being requested.
Dr. Ciervo said that the original request was for $3000, but the committee is now asking for half of that amount.
Mr. Schenkman said that this will not be the first time the Township has missed fireworks. He suggested that in the future the Township consider combining its efforts with other municipalities. He agreed that this should be privately funded and indicated that he would make a personal contribution to the fund.
Mr. Calabro said that the Board had a very heated discussion on contributions at budget time. Removing fireworks was the easiest cut; they are nice but very fleeting. He would rather see any additional money go toward our libraries, which provide a lasting enjoyment. He also asked whether the Borough has made a contribution to the fireworks this year.
Mr. Gallagher moved to not make a contribution to the First Fourth fireworks. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that he did not think a formal motion is necessary to affirm an already passed budget. He again urged residents to make donations to the First Fourth fireworks fund.
The motion failed 2-0-3, with Messrs. Benchener, Ciervo and Gallagher abstaining.
Resolution in Opposition to Aria Hospital Construction in Lower Makefield: Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R10, a resolution of the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township expressing its continued objection to the construction of a hospital at the intersection of Route 332 and Stony Hill Road in Lower Makefield Township. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked whether there has been any recent activity on the Aria plans and if there is a reason to adopt the resolution now.
Mr. Benchener said that the Board has been following this issue for some time and had thought it should make a statement of support. Nothing in particular has changed to prompt the resolution at this time. He drafted the resolution with assistance from Mr. Garton.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether this resolution would require the Township to spend money or contribute financially.
Mr. Benchener said that financial contribution is not part of this resolution.
Mr. Garton said that at the time that Aria, then Frankford, Hospital filed an application to the Lower Makefield Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception to build the hospital, Lower Makefield, Newtown Township and a group of neighbors were parties to the application. Lower Makefield filed an appeal to the decision, and Newtown Township and the neighbors also intervened. The process has been delayed while the court decides whether that group of neighbors could intervene.
Mr. Calabro asked about any costs associated with the resolution.
Mr. Garton said only the cost of helping Mr. Benchener to write the resolution has been incurred.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether Lower Makefield has specifically requested a resolution.
Mr. Benchener said that he was prompted to draft the resolution because he wanted the Township to reaffirm its public stance in opposition because of the substantial negative impact the hospital will have on the residents of Newtown Township.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the hospital would significantly impact Newtown residents who are daily commuters on I95.
Irene Koehler of Lower Makefield said that the residents group in Lower Makefield has been granted status in the appeal. She thanked the Board for the resolution and for its help in opposing the hospital, which will have a negative impact on traffic twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. She said that the neighbors group, RAFR, feels this is the worst possible location in the County for a new hospital.
Zachary Rubin of Lower Makefield thanked the Board for the resolution. He said that the property is currently zoned office research. The applicant is required to show that the use will not impact traffic. He said that at the Zoning Hearing Board, Newtown Township was not allowed to bring witnesses to show plans for Newtown Township development. He also noted that the appellate process would not have high costs.
Steven Mosely of Lower Makefield said that the RAFR group has collected 1500 signatures of residents on a petition in opposition to the hospital’s building plans. He said that the hospital is not needed. The existing Aria Hospital has recently laid off 100 employees. There is no demographic need for a new hospital and this plan will increase Lower Makefield residents’ taxes. He thanked the Board for its support.
Michael Upton of Lower Makefield thanked the Board for considering the resolution. He said that the issue is regional and requires the efforts of the surrounding communities.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he questioned why Newtown Township is getting involved in a Lower Makefield zoning matter. He has concerns that Township money has been and will continue to be spent on this case. He said that Lower Makefield has not come to Newtown with its plans for other commercial development in the Stony Hill Road area, which has had similar traffic impact. Many Newtown residents would be supportive of a new hospital. The traffic caused by the hospital would not be as bad as traffic caused by Shady Brook farm’s holiday events. He, as a resident, is opposed to the Township getting involved in this matter.
Dr. Ciervo said that Lower Makefield had asked Newtown, as a neighbor, to get involved. The Board had agreed and had been granted party status at the Zoning Hearing Board. The proposed hospital will have a more detrimental impact on Newtown residents than on Lower Makefield residents. Some Newtown residents have approached him expressing concern about the issue.
Mr. D’Aprile said that a portion of the resolution mentions the degradation of open space. He said that this is not open space, but as yet undeveloped land zoned for office research. At some point it will be developed. This is not Newtown’s fight and he objected to the Township taking part in it.
Mr. Schenkman said that earlier this evening the Township participated in an intergovernmental action for the safety of all of the communities surrounding Newtown. He is pleased to continue an effort to support regional planning. The hospital is a non-profit which will be a burden to the community. We need to be careful about who is allowed to develop.
The motion passed 5-0.
Resolution Establishing a Pension Investment Policy: Mr. Benchener said that he and Mr. Schenkman, with the help of Jim McCrane of the Financial Planning Committee have drafted a new investment policy for the Township’s three pension funds. The draft has also been discussed by the Financial Planning Committee.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R-11, a resolution establishing an investment policy for the Newtown Township Police, Non-Uniformed and Firefighters pensions. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that as he reviews the contents of the proposed policy, which has only recently been provided to the Board, he has concerns that it could be too restrictive on the pension manager. The policy sets a goal for returns “not less than 8% over a full market cycle of three to five years,” but the policy places restrictions on investments which could make it difficult to reach the goal. He thought the proposed market cycle was not long enough. The policy could force the pension manager to take risks. He also found some confusing language throughout the policy. Under “D: Core Investment Strategy” Mr. Gallagher noted that item #3, which states that the “manager may not invest in any of its company’s, parent company’s, or affiliate’s proprietary funds or products” might be too restrictive. Also of concern is item #9, which states that “cash should only be used to prepare for pension payouts…or as a hedge against sharp downturns.” Mr. Gallagher reminded the Board that some cash was deliberately not invested two years ago and protected the funds in advance of a market downturn.
Dr. Ciervo said that the current pension manager has stated that the current policy makes an 8% return unrealistic. Dr. Ciervo has concerns that this proposed new policy seems even more restrictive.
Mr. Schenkman disagreed. He said that the new policy is less restrictive because it allows more diversification; for example the current policy does restrict international investment.
Mr. Benchener agreed with Mr. Schenkman.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has many concerns about “D: Core Investment Strategy.” He would like the Township to rely on its experts to manage the funds long term, providing that manager with a policy which allows flexibility. He does not object to a manager investing some portions of the funds in his company’s own funds or products when they are good investments, for example.
Mr. Benchener suggested that the proposed policy is designed to minimize costs and not encourage the manager to maximize his own or his company’s fees in the short term.
Mr. Schenkman said that perhaps the research done to develop this proposed policy should be shared with the entire Board of Supervisors. He said that of concern is that the Township’s pensions are comparatively small and might not get the kind of attention from the manager that the Township would like and has not gotten in the past. By adopting a policy with many specific requirements, the manager will be held accountable and it gives the Township more control.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the proposed policy should be reviewed by the current pension manager for his comment and input. He would not support a vote until the current manager has seen it. His concern is that the policy has a goal of 8% which the current manager might not be able to meet with the new policy’s restrictions.
Mr. Benchener said that the policy has been designed to protect the Township and he did not agree that the current pension manager should have an opportunity to review it. The Township’s Financial Planning Committee supports this policy.
Mr. Gallagher said that he felt the current pension manager has given the Township his attention. Finance Director Elaine Gibbs is in regular contact with the manager, who has attended quarterly meetings with the Pension Committee and is very actively managing our pension funds.
Mr. Benchener said that the Financial Planning Committee has concerns about the costs associated with managing the pension funds.
Dr. Ciervo again stressed that he is uncomfortable with proceeding until the current manager has confirmed that the goals can be met with the new policy.
Mr. Calabro said that he does not feel expert in this area but did have some concerns about the subjective nature of the proposed qualifications for a pension manager as outlined under “C: Management.” Also of concern was the section of the policy dealing with investment in fixed income, allowing investment in residential and mortgage backed funds, as some of these funds were involved in the recent downturn of the economy.
Mr. Benchener said that he relied on the advice of Mr. McCrane, who is an expert in the bond field. These mortgage bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States and provide consistent returns.
Mr. Calabro said that he had some additional concerns with the policy; for example he agreed that not permitting the manager to invest in his own company’s products could eliminate a conflict of interest but might also restrict the Township from some investment opportunities. He had some concern about the language in section “D: Core Investment Policy” particularly in item #9, which uses the words, “sharp downturn,” which is vague. He questioned who would determine a sharp downturn.
The Board discussed the provision of the proposed policy which requires the pension manager to attend work session meetings. It was agreed that the work session might allow for more informal conversation but the policy does not prevent the manager from appearing to report on the pensions at a regular televised meeting.
The Board members discussed some confusion on the terms “total world (ex US)” and “international.”
Mr. Benchener suggested reviewing all of the suggested changes and clarifications to the policy.
Mr. Gallagher moved to table consideration of the Pension Policy.
Mr. Gallagher said the Board had too many concerns and possible changes and alterations. He was not at ease with voting on the policy until those changes have been incorporated and each Board member has had additional time to consider the revisions.
Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Board Member Reports Continued: Mr. Gallagher reported that he has been actively working on a County project for a dog park and he is pleased to announce that the County Dog Park will open on Wednesday, July 7 at 5:00 PM at Core Creek Park at the Toll Gate Road entrance. The opening will be followed by the County Commissioners meeting in the park.
Joint Historic Committee: Mr. Czajkowski presented a letter of resignation from the Joint Historic Committee from member Neil Poppel.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept with regret the resignation of Joint historic Committee member Neil Poppel. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Financial Planning Committee: Member Ryan Gallagher reported that the committee has been working on a number of projects recently including:
Mr. Benchener moved to appoint Robert Daries and Ian Franklin to the Financial Planning Committee for a one-year term. Mr. Gallagher seconded. The motion passed 5-0.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Member Doug Terry and Denise Queeny were in attendance to review an application for a certificate of appropriateness for in-kind repainting of the exterior of 1 South Sycamore Street and refinishing of the garages at this location.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the HARB approved the wood finish on the garages, as they appeared more rustic than the prior finish.
Mr. Terry said that the finish was acceptable. He also noted that the apartment building will be repainted in the same yellow color with white trim.
In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Ms. Queeny said that the signage on the garages has been removed.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for 1 South Sycamore Street as outlined in a memo dated June 14, 2010. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Gallagher voting nay.
Mr. Terry provided the Board with a book of design guidelines recently compiled by HARB member Harriet Beckert. He said that Mrs. Beckert would like input from the Board before finalizing the design guide.
Police Report: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department has responded to 1546 calls for service this month, including 2 drug arrests, 8 fraud investigations and 30 traffic accidents. There were two struck pedestrians on Sycamore Street. He stressed the need for an education program to protect motorists and pedestrians from these accidents. The Township is working with the Borough, using signage, lights and speaking to drivers and pedestrians.
Mr. Calabro said that some drivers do not realize that they must always yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks.
Chief Pasqualini again said that this is an educational process as more and more people are walking and crossing the streets and sharing the roads with cars.
Dr. Ciervo asked about a recent incident involving child pornography.
Chief Pasqualini said that the person involved is being deported and is no longer in our community. He will keep the Board informed on the progress of the deportation.
Mr. Calabro asked about the missing person reports.
Chief Pasqualini said that some of the cases involved people with dementia who had wandered from home and some were young teens who did not return home when expected. All five of the missing persons were located unharmed.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of William and Susan Cunningham, 539 Taylor Avenue: William and Susan Cunningham were in attendance to review their application to the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance to increase impervious surface to 30.42% to widen their driveway. The Codes Department has noted that although the property is zoned R-2, with a maximum impervious surface of 13% permitted, the Newtown Estates final plan permits 30% impervious surface per lot and the current impervious surface is 26.19%. Mr. Cunningham said that there is already crushed stone on his driveway. He would like to pave it to provide space for two cars.
Dr. Ciervo asked Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham the exact location of their house in relation to Norwood Avenue. He asked if this plan has been discussed with the neighbors, noting that neighbors of a previous Taylor Avenue resident had objected to an increase in impervious surface.
Mr. Cunningham pointed to his lot on the map included with the application. His neighbors are supportive of the plan. He will provide copies of letters of support to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Planning Commission had discussed stormwater management for this application.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board of Supervisors would ask the applicant to consider addressing the increase in run off.
Mr. Cunningham said that he will consider this and investigate a rain barrel or rain garden plantings.
The Board had no further comment on this application.
West 85 th LLC, Baylinks Golf, 8 Pheasant Run: Martha Murray was in attendance to review this application to the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance to permit operation of use C-6, athletic facility on a 3.2 acre parcel where 5 acres is the minimum lot size required. Ms. Murray provided some promotional literature and explained that she proposes a four bay, indoor facility for high definition golf simulators.
Mr. Schenkman said that the proposed use is not directly addressed in our Zoning Ordinance and use C-6 seems to fit most closely.
Mr. Gallagher asked about sale of food and drink as depicted in the literature provided.
Ms. Murray said that each bay would feature a counter top with stools for groups to watch the golfers. Vending machines would provide some soft drinks and packaged snacks. There will not be a separate eating area. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, she said that in the business plan, food sales are expected to break even; snacks would be available as a convenience to the users.
Mr. Garton said that the Zoning Officer has already reviewed the application; food sales are an incidental accessory.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Newtown Business Commons Association has been looking into a long term strategic plan for the Commons. Indoor sports facilities should be considered as a permitted use when reviewing the zoning.
The Board had no further comment on this application.
Approval of Council Rock School District Waiver of Land Development Agreement: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that a year ago it had approved a waiver of land development for installation of a synthetic field at Council Rock High School North. The District delayed construction to allow use of the field during the 2009/10 sports seasons, but intends to begin the process of installation now. The Board is being asked to approve the agreement at this time.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the waiver of land development for a synthetic field at Council Rock High School North. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Mr. Garton said that the Township would not lose any fees because this is a change in an existing facility.
The motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Township Traffic Committee: Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R-11, establishing a Newtown Township Traffic Committee. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
JMZO 2010-01 Amending the Federal Cemetery Overlay District: Mr. Garton said that this amendment has been duly advertised for adoption and has already been adopted by Wrightstown and Upper Makefield. It removes all but the Federal Cemetery and the County owned open space from the FCO zoning district.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt JMZO amendment 2010-01 amending the Federal Cemetery Overlay District. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that Newtown Township had originally proposed only removing Newtown’s parcels from the FCO. Through ongoing discussions with the Jointure partners the amendment was changed to remove all but the Cemetery and County open space. The adoption of this amendment will not impact any already approved plans on these parcels, but should those plans fall through, the land will revert to its original Conservation Management zoning.
Wrightstown resident Le Sheppard said that he is pleased that the Jointure has worked together to create this amendment.
Mr. Schenkman said that the process has worked well; the Cemetery is here and we have gotten the stimulus money to improve Stoopville Road. The other zoning changes in the original FCO amendment are no longer necessary.
The motion passed 5-0.
JMZO Ordinance 2010-02, Municipal Services Agricultural Overlay District: Mr. Garton explained that this amendment will create an overlay at Wrightstown’s Chippewa Farm property and addresses some practical needs as related to setbacks and impervious surface ratios in order for Wrightstown to better use the property.
Wrightstown Township Supervisor Chairman Chester Pogonowski said that the amendment will allow Wrightstown subdivide 12 acres from the existing 62 acre parcel. Three small lots for the existing buildings will be created. Those buildings will be adapted for private uses and Wrightstown will maintain the remaining 50 acres as open space.
Mr. Garton said this amendment has been discussed and reviewed at the Jointure; the Township is being asked to authorize advertisement.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize advertisement of JMZO 2010-2, Municipal Services Agricultural Overlay District. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that Newtown’s Planning Commission had some questions about proposed 5 foot setbacks.
Mr. Pogonowski said that the ordinance is trying to accommodate existing setbacks between the buildings.
He motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Sheppard again complimented the Board on its efforts to work for the good of the entire community. He has recently spoken to State Senator Scott Petri about government “without borders” working together regionally.
Mr. Calabro asked the Township Manager to investigate residents’ complaints about the weeds in the median planters on Stoopville Road.
Mr. Benchener asked for an update on crossing signals with countdowns to replace the walk/don’t walk silhouettes.
Mr. Czajkowski said that these signs cost about $10,000. They can be paid through TSA funds.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like signage to require quarry trucks to stay in the right lane on the Bypass, as he has recently witnessed a number of traffic back-ups caused by pairs of trucks driving side by side.
Mr. Czajkowski said that such signage would require PennDOT approval.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township’s Skate Park fund has recently received a $500 contribution from Newtown Borough. Upper Makefield has also made a contribution.
Mr. Garton announced that the Board had met in executive session prior to the meeting to discuss a matter of litigation.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would remain after the meeting for an additional executive session to discuss litigation and personnel matters.
Mr. Benchener moved to re-introduce discussion of the pension investment policy. The motion failed due to lack of a second.
The meeting adjourned at 10:50 PM.