Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 27, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on April 27, 2011 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 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 Pension Investment Policy Statement has been moved below the Solicitor’s report and that a Welcome Day banner approval has been added to the Chairman’s Report.
Shannon Escalante, Sanford Bender and Pam Fitzpatrick of the Environmental Advisory Council announced that the EAC would be presenting a free screening of the film “A Chemical Reaction,” about the use of chemical pesticides in lawn care, followed by discussion, here in the Township main meeting Room on Friday, April 29, 2011 at 7:00 PM. All are invited to attend this free event. The EAC has extended invitations to surrounding communities’ EAC’s and to Newtown’s Homeowners Associations.
Paul Lange of Lange Ski and Scuba on Sycamore Street asked the Board when the skate park would re-open. On behalf of his many customers, who are frequenters of the skate park, he urged the Board to open the park, which is an asset to the community, as soon as possible. Mr. Lang said that the parents of the skaters have spoken to him about how eager they are to see the park re-open.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township has tested the sound from the skate park and is awaiting a report from the sound engineer. American Ramp is expected to make some adjustments to the ramps on Friday of this week. The Public Works Department is hoping to install sound muffling insulation and enclosures shortly. Once ARC and Public Works have completed their work, the park will re-open. It is hoped that the work can all be completed within two weeks.
Mr. Gallagher thanked Mr. Lange for his support of the skate park fundraising effort. He noted that Lange Ski and Scuba had sold the fundraising tee shirts.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of April 13, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $132,408.98. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $180,277.76. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Welcome Day Banner: Mr. Czajkowski asked for the Board’s approval for Newtown Business and Professional Association to hang a banner across Sycamore Street between Newtown Presbyterian Church and Vince Lombardi’s home for Welcome Day on May 22, 2011. Sycamore Street will be closed for the event from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the Welcome Day Banner. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that because of the Passover Holiday, the Planning Commission did not hold its April 19, 2011 meeting, but did review the four Zoning Hearing Board applications and communicate with one another electronically about their concerns. The Commission reviewed the application of Scott Unger, 5, Ainsley Court, for rear yard setback relief to install a wooden deck and passed the application without comment. The application of Matthew and Eva Blanchno Held, 433 Linton Hill Road, seeks relief of impervious surface maximum to install a patio. The Commission passed this application without comment. The application of Baylinks Golf, 8 Pheasant Run, seeks variances for three signs where only one wall mounted sign is permitted and relief for the size of each sign to allow one 110 square foot sign, one 30 square foot sign and one 20 square foot sign where only one 2 square foot sign is permitted. The Commission acknowledged that some relief is necessary for the success of this business, but would urge the applicant to seek only one additional sign and reduction in the size of “Sign A.” The Commission is hopeful that the Supervisors will be successful in guiding the applicant to adjust his request for relief. In the application of Keystone Novelties, LLC, 2900 South Eagle Road, the applicant is appealing the action of the Zoning Officer in denying an application for a temporary tent for the sale of fireworks. The Commission members were in agreement that the Supervisors send the solicitor to defend the action of the Zoning Officer. The members were concerned about the precedent of permitting a temporary tent for a business which does not have a presence in the shopping center. There was also some concern about allowing the tent to occupy ten parking spaces.
Mr. Schenkman asked Mr. Whartenby about the electronic review of the applications.
Mr. Whartenby explained that the Commission attempted to review the applications to communicate to the Supervisors whether there was concern about any applications or whether to pass the applications to the Zoning Hearing Board without delay. No votes were taken during the e-mail exchange.
Mr. Gallagher noted that the Technology Committee has been exploring ways to help the Township’s committees to conduct business using electronic technology. This seems like a good example of streamlining the process of reviewing the applications.
Mr. Schenkman said that he was concerned that the applicant did not have the benefit of direct communication with the Commission.
Mr. Calabro said that the Commission provided a written synopsis of the review in the Board packets. As no votes were taken and there is no information of specific individual opinions of the Commission members, he felt Mr. Whartenby’s presence this evening was politically motivated, as Mr. Whartenby is a candidate for Supervisor.
Dr. Ciervo said that he did not receive a copy of the written synopsis and had expected a Planning Commission report from the Chairman. Any questions he might have had would have been directed to the Planning Commission Chairman during this evening’s public meeting. The Township Manager sets the agenda for the Supervisors and he normally includes a Planning Commission report in addition to the written synopsis.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that going forward, the synopsis should include some kind of tally of any votes or consensus.
Regarding the Baylinks review, Mr. Benchener asked whether the Commission had a target size and number for the signage.
Mr. Whartenby said that the Commission was aware that the Baylinks business would need some relief to identify its presence in the multi-tenant building, but felt that some reduction in size would still accomplish that goal. The members thought the Supervisors could discuss this with the applicant.
Matthew Held and Eva Blachno Held, 433 Linton Hill Road: Mr. Garton explained that the applicant is seeking relief to increase impervious surface by 265 square feet to construct a patio. The applicant will remove 85 feet of existing impervious for the 350 square foot patio. The impervious surface will be 20.73% where 12% is the maximum permitted and 19.47% is existing. It is noted that the Linton Hill Farm final plan permits 20% impervious. No previous relief has been granted.
Matthew Held was in attendance to discuss his application. He said that he has owned the home for one year; the pool and walkways were already on the property when he bought it.
Mr. Garton explained that typically, when a development has a permitted impervious surface ratio, it is for the entire development, including roads, stormwater management and sidewalks; it is not a per-lot maximum.
Ms. Fountain agreed with this, noting that the R-1 Zoning District permits only 12% impervious, but it appears that Linton Hill Farm was built with 20% impervious per lot.
Dr. Ciervo said that the home, which was built in 1964, predates the Ordinance, which was adopted in 1983. While the proposed increase seems well above the permitted 12%, it is, in fact only a slight increase over the existing impervious.
The members agreed to pass this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Keystone Novelties, LLC, 2900 South Eagle Road: Mr. Garton explained that the applicant is appealing the action of the Zoning Officer, denying a permit application for a temporary structure to sell fireworks at the Village at Newtown. He referred the Board to his opinion letter regarding this application.
Brian Shaub of Keystone Novelties explained that his business erects temporary tents for the sale of fireworks in 350 locations, including a number of locations in Centro Properties, owners of Village at Newtown. It is his understanding that the Ordinance does permit temporary tents if seasonal. The Zoning Officer said that his main concern was the use of parking spaces for the tent. Keystone proposes to use ten parking spaces at the corner of South Eagle and Durham Roads, behind Bank of America, in a corner of the shopping center which is very quiet; he has not seen any cars parked there on his visits to the shopping center. He said that it had never been mentioned that the business would also have to have a storefront presence in the shopping center to erect a temporary tent.
Mr. Shaub said that regarding the sale of fireworks, his business sells the kind of hand held fireworks permitted by the State to be sold to Pennsylvania residents, such as sparklers and caps, not fireworks that blow up or go into the air.
Mr. Benchener said that the Jointure’s zoning ordinance specifically limits the sale of fireworks to the QA zoning district.
Mr. Shaub said that the kind of fireworks his business sells is not restricted and can be sold in supermarkets and dollar stores.
Mr. Garton said that he did not think the Ordinance differentiated between the two types of fireworks and restricts the sale of fireworks to the QA district. He said that the Ordinance was drafted quickly with the aim of restricting the sale of the types of fireworks that can only be sold to out of state residents.
Mr. Gallagher said that he thought there are two issues to be considered, the sale of sparkler type fireworks and the temporary tent for retail sales.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether the applicant would want to hold these sales at other times of the year.
Mr. Shaub said that his business sells fireworks in the two week period leading up to the Fourth of July, only. These sales take place in 280 Pennsylvania municipalities; there are 19 such tents in Lancaster County. Nearer to Newtown there will be tents in the Centro shopping centers in Conshohocken and Whitemarsh.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the business also distributes fireworks to other retail outlets.
Mr. Shaub said he sells directly to consumers from temporary tents, or occasionally, from storefronts. The tents are more successful.
Mr. Benchener expressed some concern about the precedent of allowing a temporary tent taking up ten parking spaces.
Dr. Ciervo said that he feels the Ordinance restricts sales of fireworks of any kind to the QA district.
Mr. Gallagher said that it had been his understanding that the seasonal tent was restricted to an accessory use for an existing business in the shopping center.
The members discussed whether to ask the solicitor to attend the Zoning Hearing Board to convey the members’ concerns on the two issues, the sale of fireworks and the temporary tent in the parking lot.
Mr. Gallagher moved to send the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to express the Supervisors’ concerns on the two issues. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that this would not give the Solicitor standing in the hearing.
Mr. Gallagher withdrew his motion. Mr. Benchener withdrew his second.
Mr. Gallagher moved to send the solicitor to participate in the Zoning Hearing Board hearing.
The motion failed to be seconded.
Mr. Benchener moved to send the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to defend the actions of the Zoning Officer and to express the opinions discussed by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
West 85th LLC (Baylinks Golf), 8 Pheasant Run: Mr. Garton explained that the applicant is seeking relief to allow three signs where only one is permitted. The size permitted in 2 square feet for one wall mounted sign. The applicant is seeking two additional signs totaling 108 square feet, 28 square feet and 18 square feet.
Applicant Robert Murray was in attendance to review his requests. He explained that this is his second time seeking relief, the first being a dimensional variance for lot size for an athletic facility. He explained that his business is one of three tenants in the building at 8 Pheasant Run. This is a corner lot with two driveways. His entrance is on the Terry Drive side of the building. The building is set back from the intersection, making it difficult for customers to see while driving by. He would like a free standing sign at the intersection, visible from both Terry Drive and Pheasant Run, as well as wall mounted signs near the entrance. He noted that GPS systems are directing drivers to the other side of the building. A number of patrons have phoned repeatedly when they have been unable to find the business; they are being directed to the end of the cul-de-sac. Many of his patrons are coming from outside of Newtown and are unfamiliar with the area. It is important that they see the building and understand where the entrance is before they park their cars.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the building and its other tenants.
Mr. Murray said that it is one large building; the two other tenants, Morningstar and Dentaurum, both at 8 Pheasant Run street addresses, each have a large, freestanding sign on the lawn.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has visited Baylinks to play golf and agreed that it is difficult to find. He approached the facility from Pheasant Run, coming through Newtown Gate, and drove past the facility without finding the entrance. He would agree that additional signage is needed because the entrance is at least 200 feet from the Pheasant Run intersection.
Mr. Murray explained that because of the cost to submit the application, he is seeking the maximum size he could possibly need. The signs have not yet been designed and could be smaller. He did not want to incur the expense of designing the signs until he knew whether he would be granted relief. He is asking for signs “not to exceed” rather than exact dimensions.
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern about another sign being added to this property, where there are already two large, free standing signs.
Mr. Murray said that his would be on the Terry Drive side of the building, away from the other two signs. He noted that these other signs are 90” X 30” and 86” X 36”.
The members agreed that as the Business Commons has changed from a light industrial park; large warehouses have been converted to multi-tenant buildings, making additional signage necessary. Mr. Schenkman suggested that perhaps the Board should bring this issue to the Newtown Business Commons Association for input on future signage guidelines.
Dr. Ciervo said that he was still concerned about the size of the wall mounted sign. He noted that any variance granted would go to the property, not to the business.
Mr. Murray said that his proposed sign will include the name and logo, making it visible to motorists trying to locate the entrance before parking. The building is very large so a small sign would not be eye-catching. He will work with the Zoning Officer to design an attractive sign that will function well with the property.
The members agreed to send the application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Board Members Reports, Continued
Newtown Creek Coalition Visioning update: Jeffrey Marshall of the Newtown Creek Coalition explained that as a member of the Heritage Conservancy and a Township resident, he has volunteered his time with the Coalition as the in-kind Township matching contribution on Coalition grants. He gave a PowerPoint presentation of the Coalition’s work on visioning for future preservation and use of the creek, which had been the centerpiece of William Penn’s vision for Newtown. He traced the 4000 acre watershed from its headwaters in Wrightstown, through the residential areas in Newtown Grant, to Hidden Lake and the County earthen dam, then through the business districts on Newtown Township and Borough until it meets with Neshaminy Creek in Middletown near Pennswood Village. One goal of the Coalition is to make the creek more accessible in the business area, allowing it to serve as an asset to the community. The Coalition has sponsored periodic clean-up days in the business district. Right now there is little public access. With a comprehensive plan in place, the Coalition could become eligible for DCNR grants to improve the water quality, to address stormwater concerns, to provide cultural resources and to provide recreational opportunities. The draft plan is nearing completion and the Coalition is conducting a survey at newtowncreekcoaltion.org
Mr. Benchener asked about planned development in the business district along the creek.
Mr. Marshall said that the group aims to protect the creek as part of the planned development of the Stockburger properties. Some creek access is envisioned at this location. Primarily the Coalition would like to see not complete access through creek walks, but access at specific pedestrian crossings of the creek, connecting the creek to the Newtown trail.
Dr. Ciervo asked about private properties along the creek.
Mr. Marshall said that the Coalition would like to provide some crossing points rather than pathways along the creek. Some abutments from old crossings still exist. The Coalition would like to work with private property owners to purchase easements, possibly using the County Open Space Preservation program.
Mr. Schenkman noted that all private property owners have been contacted; many have attended Coalition visioning meetings.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the Coalition has discussed public access in the dam area.
Mr. Marshall said that there is no official opening to the dam right now, although some people do walk up the trail to the lake and dam. There is no parking available now.
Mr. Schenkman suggested the Coalition representatives attend the Planning Commission meeting when Lynn Bush of the Bucks County Planning Commission discusses zoning for the Town Commercial zoning district along Sycamore Street. The group will have some shared interests.
Pension Investment Policy Statement: Grant Kalson of Dahab Associates was in attendance to review a draft investment policy statement (IPS). Mr. Kalson first reviewed the current performance of the Township’s three pension plans, still held by Merrill Lynch. The funds have grown by half a million dollars to $11.7 million as of March 31, 2011. Since March 31 there has been additional gain, bringing the total value to close to $12 million. The funds have had a 13.9% return for the year, but are still slightly below the actuarial five year goal of 7.5%. The funds are currently invested 67.4% in equities, 29.4% in bonds and 3% in cash. This ratio is slightly above the current policy for equities because of recent gains and the addition of some cash. All of the current managers have met or exceeded the benchmark.
Mr. Kalson reviewed his asset/liability study, noting that the current investments show that the benchmark should be at $88 million in 2031. This projects no investments in any exotics such as Real Estate Investment Trusts and commodities. With some adjustment to the current asset allocation to allow more equity investment and the inclusion of investments in international, emerging markets and REITs, it is possible to see a twenty year value of $122 million.
Mr. Kalson asked the Board to approve this new IPS, with greater equity allocations with broad target allocations of 55% domestic equities, 20% international equities and 25% fixed income. Once approved the Township could begin the transition to a new investment plan with funds directly invested in mutual funds.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the new statement addresses investment in the employers of Board members.
Mr. Kalson said that this was not specifically included in the statement.
Mr. Benchener said that he agrees with the recommended allocations, but questioned the exclusion of small cap value stocks.
Mr. Kalson said that many of the mid-cap value stocks “bleed into” the small caps. Because this is a relatively small plan, he did not want to include too many asset classes.
Mr. Benchener questioned exposure to REITs.
Mr. Kalson said that REITs are a small portion of the market; some mid-cap funds have some investment in REITs.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the funds would be actively managed.
Mr. Kalson said that the statement would allow for both active and index funds.
Mr. Schenkman asked about natural resource investments.
Mr. Kalson said that natural resources such as coal and precious metals could be help as part of other funds, but are not directly held; there would be investment in companies that hold real assets.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the Township is prohibited from investment in derivatives and option trading, but would like some clarification in the language in the prohibition section of the document. He questioned whether this would prohibit investment in funds which hold commodities.
Mr. Benchener said that exchange traded funds are not directly holding commodities but are investing in commodities futures.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would want the Pension Committee’s input on the IPS, especially as it relates to REITs and commodities.
Mr. Kalson asked for some clarification on the Pension Committee’s involvement. It had been included in the existing IPS, but he has not included the Committee in the new statement.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Pension Committee is made up of representatives of the three bargaining units. This is the employees’ retirement money. While the Supervisors have the final fiduciary responsibility, the Committee should be aware of the policy and should have input into changes in the strategy. The Board would want to proceed with the Pension Committee’s knowledge and approval.
Dr. Ciervo pointed to some discrepancies in the percentage totals.
Mr. Benchener asked that the IPS specifically address no load and cost equations.
Mr. Czajkowski suggested that Mr. Kalson address the Board’s suggestions in a revised statement which would be presented to the Pension Committee for review.
Mr. Kalson asked whether the Board is ready to move the funds from Merrill Lynch.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Pension Committee would review the IPS first; once the IPS has been approved then funds could be moved. The Board and Committee still need to consider how the funds are to be held after liquidation.
New Stormwater Ordinance: Ms. Fountain asked the Board to authorize advertisement of the new Act 167 Stormwater Ordinance, which must be adopted in May.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of the Act 167 Stormwater Ordinance. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski announced that a recent newspaper article stated that Newtown had received an $87,000 grant; this was not accurate, as Newtown Delaware County was the recipient.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that he had met with the contractors and engineer for a walk through of Veterans Park. The playing fields are still not optimal for play and he has notified the contactor that the Township is not prepared to accept dedication.
Mr. Schenkman recommended that the entire Board participate in the next walk through.
Mr. Gallagher reminded the public that the park is not open yet. No one should be using the fields until dedication has been accepted.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that the Public Works Department has been working on repairing potholes. There is a link on the Township Web site to report potholes.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the file on Applebee’s signage is being reviewed. A report should be ready for the Board shortly.
Mr. Calabro noted that the American Flag in front of Goodnoe’s Corner is frayed. He asked Mr. Czajkowski to contact the owners about replacing it.
Dr. Ciervo asked for an updated on changes to the retirement plans for newly hired employees.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the change would require an ordinance revision.
Mr. Garton said that there are some actuarial consequences which will require some language change to the ordinance.
Dr. Ciervo noted that a stop sign has been added to South Eagle Road in Village at Newtown. He asked whether it is effective in addressing traffic concerns.
Mr. Czajkowski said that it seems to be working well; the police will be monitoring it.
The meeting adjourned at 11: 10 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary