Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 8, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on June 8, 2011 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, 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 Monsignor Michael Picard of St. Andrew Church. This was followed by the pledge of allegiance.
Resident Todd Stambaugh of Tyler Walk thanked the Supervisors for their efforts to address the noise in the skate park. The noise, though reduced, is still very loud and disturbing to the residential neighbors from very early in the morning until late at night. He said that he would not want the Township to spend additional money on a sound wall or buffer plantings because he feels these efforts would be ineffectual. The noise continues to disrupt the quality of life for residents near the park. He reminded the Board that he had already asked what would be done if sound muffling measures were not effective enough to satisfy the neighbors.
Dr. Ciervo thanked Mr. Stambaugh for his comments. The Township will continue to monitor the skate park.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Czajkowski what the hours for the park are.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the park is opened from 9:00 AM to sunset, as are all Township parks. He would ask the police to increase their patrols in the early morning.
Resident Sean Cardonick asked the Board to make public the results of sound monitoring tests conducted before the park and been closed. He complained that the park was re-opened without notifying the nearby residents and sited numerous newspaper articles referencing incorrect information on the park re-opening. He presented the Board with a petition signed by 32 people complaining about the noise. He showed photographs of some trash cans which were overflowing and complained of the mess and felt that non-residents are using the park and bringing drugs into the park. He said that he had gotten an estimate for a sound wall for $120,000 and an estimate from American Ramp to relocate the park to another property for $10-15,000. He urged the Board to consider relocating the park to another location.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board has not considered building a sound wall.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Supervisors had only authorized one sound test, which results have not yet been submitted by the sound engineer. The Board re-opened the park when all of the work, most of it donated, had been completed and it was determined that the sound had been mitigated significantly.
Mr. Cardonick continued to stress that although the sound has been diminished somewhat, he is still bothered by it and would like the park moved to another location.
Resident Hank Lawrence of Tyler Walk said that he thinks the skate park location was very poorly chosen because it is so close to residential neighborhoods. It would have been better to locate the park inside one of the Township’s existing parks.
Dr. Ciervo said that at no time had the Township considered that noise could become a problem. The site was chosen because of it is in a commercial district, adjoining a Township owned park. Regarding the costs associated with moving the park, Mr. Cardonick has only presented the cost for the manufacturer to relocate the equipment. The engineering and site preparation would add considerably to that cost. There is no location available which is not near some residential properties.
Mr. Gallagher agreed that the location, adjacent to the Township all-purpose field, is also within walking distance of the high school and middle school, making it easily accessible to many of the users. It is an appropriate location.
Mr. Lawrence complained that the site does not have a restroom.
Mr. Gallagher disagreed, noting that there is a port-a-potty near the playing field.
Mr. Lawrence said that the park has attracted users from other municipalities, who bring drugs and crime to the area. Tyler Walk residents should have been notified in advance that the park was being built. This has been discussed at the Tyler Walk Homeowners Association.
Resident Lorraine Lawrence of Tyler Walk said that she is very bothered by the continued noise and by the drug use at the park. She said that users of the skate park who come from outside of Newtown may have attempted to break into her home. She said that the park must be moved to another location. She also said that Durham Road is too busy and children are crossing it to get to the park, creating a dangerous situation. She said that when she tried to discuss this at the Tyler Walk Homeowners Association, the Board members indicated that they did not think the Supervisors would be open to moving the park.
Dr. Ciervo said that if residents are aware of crimes and drug use, this should be reported to the police immediately. He also pointed out that a skate park has been in discussion by the Park and Recreation Board and the Supervisors for many years. It has been discussed during televised meetings and reported in the newspaper on numerous occasions. The project was well publicized and not done secretly.
Resident Chad Perry said that he both lives and owns a business in Newtown and along with his son, is a frequent user of the skate park. He felt that a petition signed by only 32 people is not a large percentage; far more people are using and/or supportive of the park. He has visited many skate parks in other communities and does not think that there are drug problems as the residents have been saying. There might be some amount of drug use in all of the parks and schools, but the skate park does not have a particular problem with drug users.
Resident Kathy Stabula of Tyler Walk said that she is bothered by the noise from the skate park and does not feel the sound muffling measures have been sufficient.
Resident Karen D’Aprile said that she has lived in Newtown for over 15 years and has attended numerous meetings during that time to discuss a skate park. Various efforts to build the park have been in the local papers over the years. The skate boarders had been using the streets; she is very pleased to see that those kids now have a place to go and play. The park is an asset to the community and should not be closed.
Resident Jim McBride, president of Foxhall Estates Homeowners Association, said that in the recent rainstorms portions of sidewalk have been washed away and there is now a precipitous drop along a portion of the sidewalk. He has spoken to Pickering Corts and Summerson about this, as he is concerned about safety. Pickering Corts and Summerson questioned whether the sidewalk had been build according to the approved plan. It is his understanding that the land which has been washed away could have been designated as waters of the United States. Pickering Corts and Summerson has recommended getting a waterways consultant to determine whether this is still the case, as such designations are only in place for five years.
Ms. Fountains said that she has visited the site and has asked the contractor to repair the sidewalk. She is not sure whether the repair will hold. She also agreed that the drop-off is steep and could be dangerous. This development has not yet been dedicated.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that Mr. McBride continue to work directly with Ms. Fountain to have all of the issues resolved before dedication is accepted.
Mr. Schenkman assured Mr. McBride that the Township will follow Ms. Fountain’s advice. He suggested that the Public Works department work with Ms. Fountain to address the safety concerns, perhaps placing cones or a temporary fence to prevent accidents.
Resident Chris Weidenmiller of Tyler Walk asked what the Supervisors intend to do about the continued noise from the skate park. He mentioned that during the planning of the park, an $11,000 enclosure was eliminated from the equipment purchase and he asked what that was.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board is not yet sure what the next step will be for the park. He said that the noise has been mitigated significantly. He has visited the park on numerous occasions and has noticed the reduction in noise levels. The Police Chief is in attendance at tonight’s meeting, hearing residents’ references to criminal activity. He will be monitoring the park.
Dr. Ciervo said that during the planning, the Board decided not to include enclosures for the ramps because the ramp company said they were for cosmetic purposes only; litter would not accumulate under the ramps. These were not noise muffling enclosures. He said that he would like the Board to consider a fence around the park to help with enforcement of park hours.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he strongly resented the “not in my backyard” attitude of the speakers this evening. The skate park has been discussed for many years at public meetings. He noted that the land is zoned commercially and is an appropriate location for the skate park, as it is not a quiet, residential location. There are not any locations in the Township where residents do not hear noise from activities, from the high school, from the playing fields, from the police firing range. The drug problems reported seem to be exaggerated. There is some drug use everywhere. He urged the residents to monitor their own children and notify the police when criminal activity is in progress. Mr. D’Aprile reminded the Board that there is an ordinance against skate board use on public property; now the skateboarders have a place to go. Only a very small percentage of the population is complaining.
Kathy Fink of Newtown Borough said that she had been at a recent Borough Council meeting at which the Chairman of the Township Board of Supervisors spoke of traffic and population increase if the Stockburger property were developed as planned. As a member of the Joint Historic Council, she has closely watched the community change and noted that in the last forty years, the Township population has grown from 2000 residents to nearly 20,000 residents, while Borough population has decreased by 500 residents. The Borough’s population tends to “self-correct” and she feels that the proposed development of the 9 acre Stockburger site will add many good features which will benefit both Township and Borough. The increased traffic and population is only a small fraction of the general increase to the entire area in recent years. She is looking forward to the proposed development and urged the Board not to get people upset, but to let the Borough Council and residents work together with the developer.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that, because the Township has had some successful experience in challenging developers’ large scale plans, the Borough could benefit from the Township’s comments and contributions to the discussion. The Township’s intention is to help.
Dr. Ciervo said that his concern is that the Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance allows for a very great density. The performance standards could be applied to other parcels as well as the Stockburger site.
Ms. Fink said that the Borough has received a letter from the Jointure which also discussed the burden on the school district with the proposed development. She noted that Borough residents have borne the additional burden of the increased populations of Newtown and Upper Makefield for many years. The proposed increase to Borough population is not significant when compared to some of the very large projects in the other municipalities in the school district.
Mr. Calabro said that Dr. Ciervo had spoken at Borough Council as a concerned resident and not as Chairman of the Board, representing the Township.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of May 25, 2011. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $170,119.96. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $492,508.34. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked where the $149,000 transfer to the Debt Service Fund came from.
Mr. Czajkowski said it was from the dedicated debt service tax.
The motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo said that the entire Board is frustrated and disappointed by the recent destruction of the restroom facility at Roberts Ridge Park and the vandalism to the playground and pavilion. This park was completely handicapped accessible and designed for children with disabilities. The police force is working to find the person responsible for this destruction. He urged anyone who has any information to please contact the Police; a report can be made anonymously.
Dr. Ciervo reported that surveyors will be working at the intersection of Stoopville and Eagle Roads to complete the Stoopville Road improvement project.
Regarding the skate park, Dr. Ciervo asked that discussion of fencing and open and closing hours be added to an upcoming agenda.
Other Board Members: Mr. Gallagher echoed Dr. Ciervo’s comments on the destruction at Roberts Ridge Park. He commended the Public Works Department and one local volunteer for quickly clearing the playground and boarding up the restroom, so that the park was re-opened within a few hours.
Mr. Gallagher congratulated the Sycamore Street Community Association for its “takin’ it to the street” festival, which was a very successful family event.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that the damage to Roberts Ridge Park was deeply disturbing and went far beyond vandalism. This was a serious crime against the community’s children. He urged anyone with any information to please come forward.
Park and Recreation Board Resignation: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the resignation of Park and Recreation Board member Brian Bark. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo noted that Mr. Bark is moving out of the Township. He will be missed. He urged anyone interested in taking Mr. Bark’s place on the Board to send letters of interest to the Township Manager or to contact any of the Supervisors.
The motion passed 4-0.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that the Planning Commission discussed the Newtown Borough Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance and a proposed amendment dealing with a possible parking structure. The members found it difficult to review the ordinance without discussing sketch concepts which have been seen in the Borough for a multi-phased development for the Stockburger properties. When considering these sketch concepts, of concern to the Commission was whether Newtown Borough requires public improvements for the entire plan to be included in the first phase, as in the case in the Township. The members had concerns that a very long term phasing in of the project could be difficult on surrounding residential and business neighbors if streets, stormwater management and other public improvements were not addressed first. Also of concern are the proposed parking structure and its long term maintenance. As the Supervisors had indicated to the Commission Chairman that the review was to consider the possible impacts of the Ordinance on Newtown, the members would like to ask the solicitor and engineer to conduct a more formal review and provide more specific information on the maximum yield on any undeveloped areas of the Borough. Once the analysis results have been compiled, the Commission would prefer the further discussion to involve a subcommittee of a few Planning Commission representatives and our Borough counterparts along with our consultants. The members would like to discuss the phasing of the project as well as ownership and maintenance of the proposed public aspects such as public parking and open areas. The Commission would also like to include the Township’s possible amendments to our own TC District zoning in this joint committee’s discussion. The Commission will need to also obtain a copy of the Borough’s entire zoning ordinance to aid in the review.
Newtown Joint Sewer Authority Director Warren Gormley attended the Planning Commission meeting to review a list of undeveloped parcels for the 40 year planning of the Sewer Authority. The members were able to identify those parcels which are preserved open space and will not be developed at all. A few parcels whose development could be limited by steep slopes, floodplains, agricultural soil disturbance and high tension wires were pointed out. It is unlikely that all of the five parcels currently owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would be developed to their full capacity in the next forty years, and so it was suggested that their inclusion in the 40 year plan be limited to two of the parcels, only. The Commission also noted a few parcels that have not been developed but which have had development plans considered in recent years, and are likely to see development within the 40 year plan time frame. With the information provided, Mr. Gormley felt he could make a more accurate projection of future EDU needs.
Mr. Calabro noted that the Commission has recently lost some its most experienced members and he hoped the vacancy would be filled by someone with experience and knowledge of the Township’s history, rather than see a politically motivated appointment.
Dr. Ciervo asked how the Commission could know which parcels belonging to the Archdiocese would be developed.
Mr. Whartenby said that the Commission estimated a reasonable number, knowing that the Archdiocese has traditionally moved very slowly in selling its real estate.
Mr. Schenkman said that the County Sewer Authority is seeking this information for its long term planning, but is also seeking advance payment for expected additional EDU’s. This will have an impact in Newtown’s ratepayers. It is important to not over-estimate possible future development.
Reports of Officials
Mr. Garton pointed out that the vandalism at Roberts Ridge Park is considered a felony because of the seriousness of the damage; the court in Doylestown would prosecute.
Appointment of Independent Auditors: Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt Resolution 2011-R-6, appointing the firm of Majors and Mastro, LLC as independent auditors for the fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Czajkowski said that Majors and Mastro has been our auditor for a number of years and has agreed to extend the same rate for a three year commitment. The resolution has been advertised for adoption.
Mr. Schenkman said that as treasurer, he has spoken to the auditors and reviewed their work on numerous occasions and finds them to be accurate and timely.
The motion passed 4-0.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini said that he has provided the Board with copies of the Department’s annual report for their review. The Department responded to 1158 calls for service in the last month, including 18 thefts and 22 fraud investigations. He reminded residents to be vigilant in protecting their identities, as many of the reported investigations involved identity theft. Residents should be careful of their mail.
Chief Pasqualini said that the County Commissioners have approved financing for the narrow band program, which is federally mandated to take effect on January 1, 2013. The cost to the Township is estimated at about $250,000. This is an unfunded mandate that must be complied with.
The Police Department has collected forensic evidence in the Roberts Ridge vandalism and is working to resolve the case.
Mr. Schenkman asked about the reported drug use in the skate park.
Chief Pasqualini said that this seems to have been greatly exaggerated; there has only been one instance of a small quantity of marijuana found on one person. The Department, and he personally, patrol the park every day and will continue to do so. There has only been one phone call to police about noise since the re-opening. He would like the Board to consider installing a fence and some lighting at the park to help with enforcement of the park hours. Lights could have prevented the Roberts Ridge damage; he would like the Board to consider lighting at all of the parks.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that the traffic calming devices are being installed on Penns Trail North this week. The work is nearing completion.
Mr. Gallagher said that he recently attended a meeting of the tax collection committee. There has been some delay in forwarding tax payments inadvertently sent to Berkheimer instead of Keystone. He asked Mr. Czajkowski to send a letter to Berkheimer about this.
Mr. Calabro said that as the Township is seeking some new volunteers, it might be a good time to acknowledge the many volunteers who contribute their time to the Township. He suggested that some kind of sidewalk bricks or a wall acknowledging people who have served on our committees over the years would be appropriate here in the new building.
The other Board members were supportive of the suggestion and agreed to discuss it further.
Mr. Gallagher asked that the Board acknowledge the 50 th anniversary of the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority with a proclamation.
The members asked Mr. Czajkowski to see whether the second meeting in June would be necessary.
Mr. Czajkowski said that there are some agenda items for the next meeting. He would see if they could be postponed.
Dr. Ciervo asked that a skate park fence be added to an upcoming agenda.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that if the cost of the fence exceeds $10,000 it would have to be put to bid.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board had met in executive session prior to the start of the meeting to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 10:15 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary