Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors

Minutes of May 25, 2011

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on May 25, 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 Doug Dwyer of Addisville Reformed Church. This was followed by the pledge of allegiance.

Special Action

Outstanding Achievements in Residential Recycling: Tina Leck of George Leck and Son was in attendance to present awards to the top recycling families in Newtown Township. These families have recycled as much as 3,016 pounds of recyclable materials. The Recyclebank program has helped residents with easy recycling and has brought an educational program and grant money to the Township. In 2010, Newtown recycled 862 tons of residential trash, saving 8,000 trees, 500,000 gallons of oil and 4 million gallons of water. Ms. Leck introduced Bob Milligan of Recyclebank and Walt Leck of Leck and Son to help honor the Horner, Kaner, McEntyre, Coughlin, Agasar, Lally and Albens families for being the top recyclers. They thanked Leck and Son, The Zebra Striped Whale, Chik-fil-a, Recyclebank, the NAC, Shady Brook Farm and Newtown Hardware for their contributions to the prizes and their local partnership in Recyclebank rewards.

Public Comment: Resident Shawn Ward, representing Sycamore Street Community Association, thanked the Board and residents for the success of Welcome Day last Sunday and announced the Summer Fest, to be on Sycamore Street on Saturday, June 4, 2011 from 3:00 to 9:00 PM, immediately following the Newtown Presbyterian Church’s annual Strawberry Festival. He thanked Newtown Police and EMS and Tina Leck for their help in planning the event.

Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports

Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of May 11, 2011. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the work session of May 16, 2011. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $178,601.90. Mr. Gallagher seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman explained that a separate document addresses fire truck payments to the Fire Company.

Mr. Gallagher asked about a payment to Upper Makefield for Stoopville Road.

Mr. Czajkowski said that this is for Gilmore Associates for the improvement project.

Mr. Calabro asked about auto repairs at M&M in Washington Crossing. He wondered why a Newtown business was not used.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township’s vehicles are repaired in a number of different shops; Public Works Director Gary Crossland brings certain types of repairs to certain businesses where the parts and expertise are available. Township businesses are used when appropriate.

The motion passed 5-0.

Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $175,277.76. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions

Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that work on the soundproofing of the skate park is nearing completion. He expressed thanks to the volunteers who donated the spray foam insulation. While sound has not been eliminated, it has been muffled.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the enclosure panels should be installed tomorrow and it is hoped the park would reopen this weekend.

Board Members: Mr. Schenkman reported that he had attended the Joint Historic Commission meeting at which the members discussed preserving the McBride Chrysler building on Sycamore Street. The site is being considered for demolition by Beneficial Bank. The Commission also discussed work to be done at the Toll House in Village at Newtown Shopping Center.

Mr. Gallagher reported that he had attended Welcome Day, sponsored by Sycamore Street Community Association and NBPA. It was very successful and well attended.

Mr. Benchener reported that he, along with other Board members, had attended the dedication of Veterans Park on Saturday. The entrance wall and flag poles honoring the six branches of our armed services were built by Eagle Scout Ryan Varian.

Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its May 24, 2011, meeting the Commission reviewed a Zoning Hearing Board application for The Saloon, 211-213 North Sycamore Street, for relief to construct a patio deck on top of 5 parking spaces, reducing the parking by 5 spaces while adding 34 additional seats. The Commission members were supportive of the applicant’s desire to improve his business and remain competitive but had concerns about the loss of parking while additional seats are being added to the restaurant. To help offset the loss of parking spaces, the Commission recommended that the oral agreement for shared parking between The Saloon and The Dentists of Newtown be formalized, and also suggested that some portion of the inside dining room could be closed when the patio is in use, as it was presented that indoor dining business drops off considerably in the summer months, when diners look to restaurants that offer outdoor seating.

Mr. Schenkman reminded Mr. Fidler that the Commission had discussed making use of the existing porch at the Saloon, but agreed that it was too narrow for more than a few tables for two.

The Commission also reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Julie Laughlin, 420 Eagle Road,for relief to demolish an existing building and construct a two story residence on a non-conforming lot. The Commission reviewed this application and passed it to the Supervisors without comment.

Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review a plan for land development for the Birches, 54-58 Durham Road, for an assisted living facility. The applicant has agreed to revise the plans to comply with our consultants’ review letters. We expect the applicant to return with a revised plan in July.

Mr. Calabro asked whether the Planning Commission had discussed the name of “The Birches at Newtown.”

Mr. Fidler said that the applicant was reminded that no new developments are to have “Newtown” or “Eagle” in their names.

The Commission voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the new Stormwater Management Ordinance. This ordinance would allow self-regulation of volume control for residential projects under 1000 square feet, and acceptance of a non-engineered plan for residential projects under 5,000 square feet. The Commission is working with the Township Engineer and the Environmental Advisory Council to develop a pamphlet outlining measures homeowners can undertake to address volume control on small projects.

The Commission has been provided with copies of Newtown Borough’s Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance. This will be placed on an upcoming agenda for our review.

Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Commission has any concerns about member Paul Cohen’s participation in the review, as he is also Newtown Borough Solicitor.

Mr. Fidler assured the Board that on occasions when Planning Commission members might have the appearance of a conflict, they have participated in discussion but not in voting. Mr. Cohen will be an asset to the Commission in this discussion. The members understand that no application is before the Borough Council yet and will be reviewing the ordinance and its possible impact on the Township, only.

The Commission was informed of the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority’s request for help with its updated comprehensive plan. Warren Gormley will attend upcoming meeting to discuss this further.

Engineer’s Report

Stormwater Ordinance: Ms. Fountain reminded the Board that the DEP is requiring municipalities to update their stormwater ordinances to comply with the new Act 167 Plan. This update requires new rate and volume controls on all projects. The Planning Commission has reviewed the draft prepared by the Bucks County Planning Commission and, as Mr. Fidler reported, is recommending approval. It is noted that the Commission is recommending that the Township allow self-regulation of volume control on residential projects less than 1,000 square feet and acceptance of a non-engineered plan on projects less than 5,000 square feet. The new regulations have been removed from the SALDO and incorporated into a new stand-alone ordinance. It was agreed by the Planning Commission members that the new regulations place a heavy burden on homeowners undertaking small projects, adding greatly to the work and expense of even simple projects like a 100 square foot shed or patio extension.

Mr. Garton noted that the ordinance has been duly advertised for adoption this evening.

Dr. Ciervo opened the hearing.

Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Ordinance 2011-O-2, Act 167 Stormwater Ordinance. Mr. Schenkman seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener asked whether the Township is required to pass the volume control portion of the ordinance.

Ms. Fountain explained that this is state mandated. The Township could require inspection of volume controls and fully engineered site plans, however with self- regulation, residents will have some flexibility. For smaller projects, very simple measures would satisfy the requirement, such as additional plantings or seepage pits. It is the state’s contention that the Neshaminy Creek is impaired and these measures will help to restore water quality.

Mr. Benchener said that the requirements could be onerous for residents undertaking simple home improvement projects.

Mr. Gallagher said that Newtown’s residents will want to be compliant with environmental requirements, if they are self-regulated. He has installed infiltration pits in his own yard and did not find it too difficult a task. He strongly favors self-regulation.

Mr. Calabro said that he is supportive of self-regulation, but has concerns about projects that are only slightly above 1,000 square feet.

Ms. Fountain said that the Township’s Codes Officials review applications. If a project is slightly above the 1,000 square foot line, the resident will usually work the plan to bring it under to avoid the extra expenses involved. The Township also has the option to waive requirements for projects just slightly above the 1,000 square foot mark.

Mr. Schenkman asked about the possible additional costs for fully engineered plans on projects above 1,000 square feet.

Ms. Fountain said that this could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a project because the site would need to be surveyed and infiltration testing would have to be done in addition to the cost of review and inspection.

Mr. Schenkman asked what other nearby municipalities are doing.

Ms. Fountain said that CKS has a number of municipal clients, all of which are electing self-regulation and non-engineered plans for small residential projects..

Lynn Bush, Executive Director of the Bucks County Planning Commission, explained that her office has worked for years with the DEP on this ordinance. Most Bucks municipalities are electing self-regulation of residential projects under 1,000 square feet. One municipality is exempting projects under 500 square feet. When the new regulations have been adopted, it will be assumed by most municipalities that new developments will already have stormwater management in place for the full impervious surface of each lot.

The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Benchener voting nay.

Rockbridge Development, Proposed Change to Stormwater Management System: Ms. Fountain reminded the Board that this three lot subdivision, with two residential lots and one lot preserved as open space by the Township, has a stormwater plan for two underground stormwater basins for each house. The developer is requesting to change the plan from underground basins to long, low, berms with PVC pipes for run-off control. She has reviewed the new plans and found they are acceptable. She had some concern about disturbance of trees to install the berms, however the applicant has contacted an arborist, who has confirmed that the existing trees would survive the construction, provided no heavy equipment is brought through the site and work is done by hand.

John Gigliotti, developer of the site, explained that the original plans would have been prohibitively expensive, at upwards of $300,000. The system would also have required complicated maintenance. There is a high water table on the property, and he also had some concern about floatation. He has worked with Ms. Fountain to design this new system, which will be natural, have lower maintenance requirements and provides groundwater recharge. One 3 inch caliper tree will be removed, but it will be replaced. The disturbance is still within the permitted amount.

Ms. Fountain noted that the plan has been approved by Bucks County Conservation District. A maintenance agreement will be executed with each homeowner.

Mr. Gallagher asked where the water will go with this new plan.

Ms. Fountain said that the berms create the equivalent of a very small detention basin. The water is eventually released to the Newtown Creek.

Mr. Gigliotti explained that the stormwater system is to address the two homes’ impervious surface. Water from the street already goes into a stormwater system connected by pipes to the Creek. The new plans do not encroach on wetlands.

Dr. Ciervo asked about the maintenance of the system.

Mr. Gigliotti said that a maintenance agreement with the homeowners will require twice yearly inspections.

Mr. Benchener moved to approve the amended and revised methodology for on lot stormwater management systems for Rockbridge development, subject to the following conditions:

Mr. Gallagher seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked what will happen if this new plan is not approved.

Ms. Fountain said that the homes do not have certificates of occupancy. Either the original plan or another new plan will have to be installed.

Mr. Calabro said that this change further proves that the land is sensitive and should have been protected from building.

Mr. Benchener said that he supports the plan because it does not increase the damage to the property and seems to better address stormwater management.

Mr. Schenkman said that he is not supportive because he has concerns that the plan will not be sufficient for major storms.

Ms. Fountain said that this plan meets the requirement to address the 100 year storm, the same standard as the original plan.

The motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Calabro and Schenkman voting nay.

Solicitor’s Report

The Saloon, Inc. 203North Sycamore Street: Mr. Garton explained that the applicant is seeking a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board to erect a deck over five existing parking spaces, reducing parking to 41 spaces where 85 spaces are required.

Attorney Shawn Ward represented the applicant, Dean Evangelou. Mr. Ward provided a memorandum and a series of exhibits to the Board, explaining that Mr. Evangalou has owned the business, use E-5, in the TC zoning district for three years. He proposes to build a deck for outdoor dining and would agree to conditions of no further enclosure of the deck, no outdoor bar and no outdoor entertainment. The hours of operation would the same as now. The deck eliminates five parking spaces, but he noted that the Township’s plan shows 46 spaces. The parking lot had been restriped and now has 51 compliant parking spaces; with the deck, there will be 46 spaces, so there is no loss of the approved number of spaces. The applicant has a cross-easement agreement with the adjoining lot for shared parking and an agreement with Dentists of Newtown for shared parking of 18 spaces, as their business hours are complementary. The restaurant employees use the dentist lot at night and the dentists use the restaurant lot during the day. In addition, there are 28 available on-street parking spaces in the immediate neighborhood.

Mr. Ward explained that the proposed deck will tie into the existing porch, but the porch itself could not be used for outdoor dining, as it is narrow and would only accommodate four or five tables for two. It could not be expanded because it would be in the right of way. The deck will have concrete planters to protect it from the parking lot. If a variance is granted the applicant will work with HARB to be sure the appearance is in keeping with the historic district. The plan has been reviewed by the Sycamore Street Community Association.

Mr. Schenkman asked whether the front porch will be used for additional seating.

Mr. Ward said that it must be kept clear for the handicapped entrance.

Dr. Ciervo asked how the restaurant had been approved without the appropriate parking.

Mr. Ward said that a restaurant at this location predates the ordinance. The Township House had been at this location for many years. The lot had been subdivided and has used shared parking. There has not been a parking problem at the location. The deck seating will not really be increasing the number of patrons because the dining room is not in full use during the summer months, as patrons prefer outdoor seating.

Mr. Schenkman noted that the Township is planning for the future of Sycamore Street and this seems an appropriate adaptive reuse of a very old building. The use will enhance the streetscape. Parking is always an issue when discussing a town center concept. It is impossible to provide both a pedestrian friendly town streetscape and ample parking. The applicant is making an investment in the community.

Mr. Calabro said that he likes the concept but does not want to lose five parking spaces. He was also concerned that the on-street parking is not designated for any particular business and should not be included in parking calculations. He suggested that the Solicitor attend the Zoning Hearing Board to defend the ordinance.

Mr. Benchener said that he would prefer to let the Zoning Hearing Board make the decision, as did Messrs. Schenkman and Gallagher.

Dr. Ciervo said that he was in agreement with Mr. Calabro and if this were a Board decision, he would not be supportive. He did agree with the others, however, that it was a zoning matter best left to the Zoning Hearing Board. He suggested that the applicant formalize his agreement for shared parking with the Dentists of Newtown.

Resident Vince Lombardi, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association, said that the proposed deck will be an enhancement to Sycamore Street and will have a positive impact on the community. The Association, whose members represent eight other businesses on Sycamore Street, was supportive of the plan.

Mr. Garton suggested that he could send a letter to the Zoning Hearing Board solicitor outlining the points discussed this evening.

Manager’s Report

Sycamore Street Zoning: Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush was in attendance to discuss possible revisions to the Township’s TC Town Commercial Zoning District. She said that she had met with the Planning Commission and reviewed the current zoning and mix of uses on Sycamore Street. Since the work had begun, two large lots have had proposals for redevelopment different from what had been envisioned in the concept plans.

In considering revisions to the Zoning Ordinance, the goal should be a neighborhood scale, creating a connection from Goodnoe’s Corner to Newtown Borough along Sycamore Street, mix of residential and commercial uses, public spaces and public amenities and green building. The ordinance should also address improvements and infill on the east side of the street.

Ms. Bush provided a chart of current permitted uses, with some suggestions for adding or removing certain uses.

Mr. Gallagher said that he is concerned about removing uses that already exist, because even if those uses are grandfathered, it could become difficult for those businesses to make changes or expansions. He noted that auto sales and service stations have been removed from permitted uses.

Mr. Schenkman said that the list removes trades from permitted uses. He would agree that businesses such as plumbing contractors might not fit any longer, but he would like to see skilled craftsmen and artisans such as furniture and cabinetmakers separated from trades. These skilled artisan shops might be a good fit for the TC district.

The members discussed mixed uses. Ms. Bush explained that the currently permitted mixed use, H-10, combines one residential use with one commercial use, with a 1 to 1 ratio, as when the business owner lives upstairs over his shop. The mixed use which was discussed at the Planning Commission envisioned apartments above retail with a bigger ratio.

The members were in agreement that a mixed use development like Goodnoe’s corner or Sycamore Center, with some residential apartments above shops would be acceptable.

Mr. Benchener asked if the current mixed use required that the business owner occupy the dwelling.

Ms. Bush said that it was the ratio of one business/one residential unit, not owner occupancy, only. The mixed use should be more clearly defined in a new ordinance.

Mr. Schenkman said that he had concerns not just for the ratio, but for the scale. He would like to avoid a very large building with a large retail component and a large number of dwelling units.

The members discussed single family homes, and did not object to individual homes on small lots but had concerns about a development with a large number of homes on one of the existing large parcels.

Ms. Bush said that she would like to revise the definition of “entertainment” because that use currently includes bowling alleys, skating rinks and movie theaters. These would be very large venues.

Mr. Calabro asked about the exclusion of churches and schools.

Ms. Bush said that there are already places of worship and they do fit well, but she did not think there would be enough room to accommodate all that a school would entail. This does not exclude commercial schools like dancing schools or music lesson schools.

Mr. Benchener asked about the exclusion of childcare and funeral home.

Ms. Bush explained that drop-off and pick up at childcare facilities can be intense and might not fit. A funeral home might not fit with the streetscape plan envisioned.

The Board was in agreement that funeral home and childcare facility should not be permitted.

The Board briefly discussed architectural style and appearance.

Ms. Bush said that architectural guidelines can sometimes be vague and subjective. She has seen some districts require review or conformity to certain historic district standards.

Mr. Garton said that the Township cannot require a certificate of appropriateness for a non-historic property, but could make review by HARB a condition of approval.

The members discussed the permitted height for the district. Mr. Garton suggested that 30 feet is permitted by right. The Ordinance could allow higher, perhaps to 35 feet, with a conditional use rather than by Zoning Hearing Board relief.

Mr. Schenkman suggested that additional setbacks could be required to compensate for height, to avoid a canyon effect.

After some further discussion it was agreed that some addition to the height, perhaps to as high as 40 feet, could be permitted by conditional use. The members favored having 40 feet as the top limit with some other performance standards to provide for staggering of heights.

Mr. Gallagher asked Ms. Bush to review the signage for the TC district.

The Board discussed parking requirements. Ms. Bush said that she has seen parking addressed on a case-by-case basis, as was done earlier this evening. It is difficult to anticipate adequate parking in a town center. She suggested that parking should be part of the conditional use process.

Ms. Bush agreed to return with a draft ordinance in one month. She would further research parking, signage and possible bonuses for infill.

Mr. Schenkman suggested that perhaps a joint meeting with the Board and Planning Commission could be beneficial.

Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department had responded to 1194 calls for service, including 3 burglaries, and 122 false burglar alarms. One resident had reported being contacted by Publishers Clearing House asking for personal information and a deposit to process the prize money. He reminded residents that legitimate calls from banks, the government or even sweepstakes, will not need your personal information.

Fire Protection Fee Schedule: Fire Marshal Don Harris explained that he would like to amend the fee schedule to allow a fee for a second inspection after a violation and an administrative fee for unpaid invoices. He explained that he would like to charge an additional $50 to re-inspect when a violation has not been corrected. The inspection fee includes a return inspection when there are violations, but some businesses do not correct the violations and the Department must return for a second, or even third, inspection.

Mr. Benchener said that he had heard of a study that found that when a fee is too small, some people would rather pay the fee than correct the violating behavior. It might be cheaper to pay $50 to postpone correcting a fire violation. Since the goal is safety and to have violations corrected, it might be better to levy a heavy fine rather than a small fee. If a fine is punitive it might encourage correction of the violation for the first re-inspection.

Regarding the $10 assessment for administrative work with re-billing, Mr. Garton suggested a percentage of the inspection fee, 12.5% but not less than $10 might be a better amount. This would encourage prompt payment of bills.

Mr. Czajkowski suggested that he and Mr. Harris would draft a new fee schedule for the Board to approve at a future meeting.

Manager’s Report: Mr. Czajkowski said that the traffic calming devices are to be installed on Penns Trail North next week. The windmill will also be installed next week. Both projects had been delayed because of the weather. The skate park should be ready for opening next week.

Mr. Gallagher asked the Manager to get smaller “no parking” signs for the islands in Newtown Crossing.

Public Comment: Resident Joel Grosso asked about the status of Veterans Park.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the contractor has submitted a letter with a punch list that the Township is reviewing. No date has been set for acceptance of the park.

Mr. Grosso said that he is concerned about the condition of the grass.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the fields have been aerated and seeded.

Mr. Grosso said that he is very concerned that the grass will be uneven and unfit for playing fields.

Dr. Ciervo said that he thinks the grass will fill in, but would be unwilling to accept ownership as it is now.

Mr. Schenkman noted that he has seen moss growing on the fields and is concerned that there is not sufficient topsoil.

Mr. Grosso said that the grass should not be the way it is; although the winter has been harsh, this is the third growing season. He urged the Board to get a second opinion on the grass as the contractor does not seem to be delivering suitable playing fields.

Dr. Ciervo said that the contractor was supposed to have reseeded, but the grass is not growing, although we have had three full weeks of rain. The matter is in the hands of the solicitor.

Mr. Grosso said that the contractor has missed deadlines and the Township should be compensated.

Mr. Garton said that because of change orders and weather delays, the exact date of the deadline is unclear, but it has definitely passed. There are options for compensation, which are being pursued.

Mr. Grosso said that he is very dismayed. There seems to be a breach here; there was no watering of the fields during drought seasons, no reseeding before the spring rains. He wondered whether the topsoil was adequate for growing grass. A large stockpile of topsoil seems to have been removed from the site.

Mr. Czajkowski said that topsoil was removed from the site as part of a Board approved change order.

Mr. Schenkman said that he had been concerned that the topsoil was being removed when it might have been needed to grow grass.

Dr. Ciervo assured Mr. Grosso that the Board is not happy with the progress of the park. Weather can no longer be an excuse. The Township contracted for a park with playing fields.

Mr. Gallagher said that this is becoming a matter for litigation.

Mr. Schenkman urged the other Board members to participate in the next walk-through of the park.

Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the Township has recently suffered the loss of a very valuable member of the community with the passing of Sue Beasley, who had volunteered on our Park and Recreation Board, Trail Committee and Planning Commission. She will be greatly missed by all in the Township for her many efforts. He urged the Board to find a suitable way to honor her memory, perhaps naming the Township trail for her.

Mr. Schenkman said that the Board would seek input from Mrs. Beasley’s family for a suitable memorial.

New Business

Mr. Benchener said that he had been asked by a resident to look into the condition of the handicapped curb cuts on South Eagle Road in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center.

Mr. Czajkowski said that he has spoken to the shopping center owner about this.

Mr. Garton suggested sending a notice to the owner and if the matter is not satisfactorily addressed, the matter could be reported to the Department of Justice.

The meeting adjourned at 11:05 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted:
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary

 

Attest:

Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager


Robert Ciervo, Chairman

Matthew Benchener, Vice-Chairman

Jerry Schenkman, Secretary/Treasurer

Philip Calabro, Member

Michael Gallagher, Member