Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 22, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on June 22, 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 Father Heckman of St. Mark’s Orthodox Church. This was followed by the pledge of allegiance.
Public Comment: George Wilson of Newtown’s First Fourth Committee invited the Supervisors to participate in the parade on Saturday, July 2, 2011 on Sycamore Street. The First Fourth will include a fun run on Saturday morning, a bike decorating contest, pet costume contest, the parade at 3:00 PM, party at Newtown Middle School and fireworks in the evening. Bucks County Food Pantry will be collecting non-perishable foods throughout the day.
Resident Michael Iapalucci said that he is a member of the skate park committee, which raised over $30,000 in donations for the park. The noise problems have been adequately addressed. He was very upset by derogatory characterizations of skate park users at the last Supervisors meeting. He is a regular visitor to the skate park, where the users are well behaved. There is no drug problem at the park. The land for the park was donated by the shopping center owners. It is a convenient location for the users, in walking distance from the high school and middle school. It was a carefully considered decision by the skate park committee, Park and Recreation Board and Supervisors to build the park at this location.
Resident Valerie Davis said that she is a member of the skate park committee and her son is a regular user of the park. She has been very pleased with the environment at the park, where the skaters are very respectful of one another and she is grateful to the Township for addressing the noise issue. She presented a petition with signatures of residents, including Tyler Walk residents, in support of the park.
Resident Mrs. Foy said that she visits the skate park regularly with her children and has been pleased with the behavior of the skaters. She has seen no drug use or bullying and has witnessed a police presence as officers have made the park part of their regular rounds. The skaters are very proud of the park and their own efforts to get in built.
Resident Denis D’Arcy said that he was a member of the skate park committee and has used the Tony Hawk Foundation Guide in planning the skate park. The guide notes that the opposition to Newtown’s skate park because of noise and bad behavior is very common and exaggerated. The guide does not support the use of fences because it can send a work message that skate parks are not public parks the way that ball fields and playgrounds are and that the skaters are not being treated equally.
Resident Kevin Edmunds commended the enormous effort of the volunteers who worked to build the skate park. He had felt that skateboarding had been an isolating activity, but has seen the park building effort and the park as creating a community for the skaters, who are no longer alone and “renegade.”
Resident John D’Aprile said that he was very happy to see so many supporters of the park come to the meeting. He also discussed the traffic calming on Penns Trail North. The residents of that area have been complaining about speeders and the only way to address speeding is through enforcement of the speed limit.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he agreed with Mr. D’Aprile on the traffic issue. He also announced that Newtown Creek Coalition would sponsor a creek clean-up day on August 6 at 9:00 AM at the parking lot on Centre Avenue.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of June 8, 2011. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $214,705.62. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $967.44. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Appointment to Park and Recreation Board: Dr. Ciervo moved to appoint Denis Darcy to the unexpired term of Brian Bark on the Park and Recreation Board. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Investment Policy Statement: David Lee of Dahab Associates explained to the Board that an investment policy statement must follow the rules and regulations governing pension plans and should be broad enough and specific enough to function as a living document. The funds are seeking long term returns by money managers and the statement addresses the asset allocation. In the draft provided to the Board, item “f’ should read “Barclays Aggregate Index.”
Mr. Schenkman asked whether the members of the Pension Committee would be participating in the discussion.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the members had been notified.
Mr. Benchener asked about active versus passive index funds.
Mr. Lee said that half of Dahab’s clients are public pension funds. Each is managed differently and there is no set formula. The intent here is to mirror the current investments in actively managed funds. The funds will be moved to similarly invested mutual funds. The move will take some time. Before specific investments can be made in either active or passive funds, the investment policy statement must be adopted. The draft document presents a new asset allocation ratio.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the draft statement changes some of the classes of investment, adds some classes and increases the top limit of equity investment as outlined in section “e.”
Mr. Schenkman asked about some kind of portfolio insurance during the transition period as assets are being transferred.
Mr. Lee said that Dahab is recommending hiring an intermediary transition manager. There is a cost associated with the transition manager, but that cost should be less than the cost of losses in investment value during the transition period if no manager were used. The goal is to minimize costs during the transition.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Resolution 2011-R-7, Pension Investment Policy Statement. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that he has participated in the Pension Committee’s meetings and the members have accepted the latest version of the investment policy statement and would not object to the Board’s adoption of it.
The motion passed 3-1-1, with Mr. Gallagher voting nay and Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Skate Park Fence: Dr. Ciervo said that he has always thought that the skate park should have been fenced and in light of some recent vandalism at Township parks, he feels it is even more necessary. Police Chief Pasqualini has always advocated for a fence to give the police more enforcement control. The fence would also assure residents that the park would only be used during posted open hours and not late at night and very early in the morning.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the recent publicity about the skate park has prompted some offers of donations. One vendor has offered free installation and the Park and Recreation Director has gotten some estimates in the $7500-$9000 range. There has also been an offer of a $2000 cash donation. The remaining Township costs would come from recreation impact fees. If the costs are kept below $10,000, no public bidding process would be necessary.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Township had set a process in place for capital expenditures above $5000. This process requires that the purchase be reviewed by the financial planning committee and included in the following year’s budget. Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko has presented a budget which includes a number of purchases for our parks. He would prefer the fence to be included in Mrs. Pawlenko’s budget for park improvements and prioritized as she sees its necessity.
Mr. Benchener agreed with Mr. Gallagher that the fence should be included in the budget review process for next year. The Township should take some time to review this and research it further. We have heard this evening that there are certain disadvantages to the fence in the opinion of the park users.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like to see some safety rail barriers installed along the Bypass to keep any cars from crashing down the hill into the park. He asked Mr. Czajkowski to investigate this.
Mr. Schenkman said that had the fence been part of the original skate park plan, he would have had no objection, but now he would prefer that it be included in the 2012 budget and prioritized with other recreation capital expenses. He is concerned that there are still some unknown expenses with repairing Roberts Ridge Park. He also questioned whether the possibility of cars crashing into the skate park is a real risk and suggested that this be researched further.
Mr. Calabro said that he had been concerned that the fence could impede skaters’ enjoyment of the park. He suggested that the fence be part of the 2012 budget and be considered at that time. He had some doubt about danger from cars careening into the park from the Bypass.
Mr. Benchener said that he understands that there is concern about monitoring use of the park after hours, and perhaps we could ask the police to patrol more frequently to determine whether this is a real problem.
Mr. Schenkman urged the users and the community to adopt a policy of self-policing, monitoring and reporting bad behavior, cleaning up and keeping trash in receptacles, promoting safety.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its June 21, 2011 meeting, the Planning Commission reviewed two zoning applications for adjoining properties, Mensh, 371 A and Zusina, 371 B Washington Crossing Road. Both applicants explained to the Commission that they would like a 7 foot high deer fence around their entire properties because they are very concerned about their children’s safety. There are twenty or more deer, coming very close to the houses and there is a concern about Lyme’s disease. While the Commission members were sympathetic to the applicants’ concerns, the members had misgivings about the complete fencing of the entire properties, which include some environmentally sensitive areas, waters of the United States and waters of the Commonwealth. The Commission encouraged the applicants to consider extending the fences only around the portions of the properties they use regularly, such as lawn areas and driveways, and not the entire wooded lots and to learn whether any permitting is required to erect a fence in the protected water areas. The properties have easements and any variances that might be granted could require that the applicants be responsible should the fences need to be moved to allow access to the easements. Ms. Mensh and Ms. Zusina expressed willingness to work with the Zoning Hearing Board to enclose a smaller area and also research whether any permitting from the DEP is required. Our engineer pointed out that the stormwater management plan for the properties has recently changed to include berms. The fences could not be erected upstream of the berms. The members were in agreement to recommend that the Board not oppose the applications if the applicant agreed to enclose a smaller area, work with the DEP on any necessary permits and accept any condition to be responsible for access to the easements.
Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush, who had been in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting, noted that some of the municipalities in the rural portion of the County have exempted deer fencing from their zoning ordinances.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Commission would have recommended opposition to the applications as written.
Mr. Fidler stressed that the applicants were willing to compromise on the applications, so no opposition seemed necessary, but the members were opposed to the requests as written.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Commission had considered how environmentally sensitive the area is.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission spent considerable time discussing the many habitats in the area and the migration patterns of the wildlife. He did not know if the residents were aware of the area’s environmental sensitivity when they purchased their homes.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that these applications may need to be amended to address all of the many concerns discussed.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission reviewed the application of Bucksrocks, LLC, 2950 South Eagle Road, for a commercial school in the PC District. The Commission was supportive of this application, as it will fill a vacant space in the shopping center and provide music opportunities for children. The applicant assured us that this facility will be for music lessons and rehearsals, only; and performances will take place off-site.
The Commission discussed a proposed alternative energy ordinance with Ms. Bush. She explained that the Jointure is trying to add provisions for solar, wind and wood fired boilers, as these energy sources become more widely used. The proposed ordinance primarily addresses these sources as accessory uses to residential and commercial uses. The Commission had some questions regarding using alternative energy in planned residential communities and whether homeowners associations could override what the ordinance permits. Ms. Bush agreed to research this question. The members were supportive of efforts to address alternative energy to provide some guidance as communities begin to address standards for solar panels and wind turbines. Here in Newtown, for example, the members saw that our flat roofed commercial buildings and schools could benefit by some solar technology. The ordinance does include setback requirements so that free standing solar equipment and wind generators will not to be unsightly or dangerous to neighbors.
Attorney Ed Murphy and Engineer Heath Dumack were in attendance at the Planning Commission to review Dr. Weglos Preliminary as Final plan for land development for a dental office at the site adjacent to Newtown Swim Club, 759 Newtown Yardley Road. Mr. Murphy indicated to the Commission that the applicant will comply with the review letters of our professionals and the fire marshal. The plans will be revised and the applicant will return later in the summer for a more formal review and recommendation for approval. One point to be researched is whether this plan would be in conflict with the long term plan for a possible boulevard treatment of Newtown Yardley Road. Ms. Fountain will meet with the applicant to review this question.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Board that in considering a fence around the skate park, the proposed fence might be in conflict with existing zoning ordinances for height and setbacks.
Mr. Calabro thanked Mr. Fidler for his contributions to the Township, as a Planning Commission member with extensive knowledge of our ordinances and our history. He said that the Commission is short-staffed lately and urged the Supervisors to consider appointing a new Planning Commission member with some experience and institutional memory.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Judith Ryzner, 1 North Sycamore Street, for roof replacement as outlined in a memo dated June 14, 2011. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for The Saloon, 203 North Sycamore Street, for an outdoor deck and patio as outlined in a memo dated June 14, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
HARB Chairman Joseph McKernan noted that the windows of The Saloon had been replaced without HARB approval and he asked the Supervisors to look into this.
Mr. McKernan also asked the Board for some input on the Book of Appropriateness HARB had submitted some months ago.
Dr. Ciervo said that not all of the Board members had reviewed the book yet. He asked that this be added to an upcoming work session.
Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road – Gym Deck Renovations, Request for Waiver of Land Development: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that they had reviewed this application involving additions to the existing gym and wellness center, addition of a vestibule and server room and removal of 3,537 square feet of impervious coverage. The renovations will enclose the connections between the wellness center and gym deck. The Board had some outstanding questions regarding the site’s total impervious coverage, stormwater management and traffic impact.
Eric Giannelle of KCBA Architects said that the increase to impervious coverage for this project is 0.01%. The site requires 2900 parking spaces and there are over 3,000 spaces. He has reviewed the stormwater management plan with Ms. Fountain.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the stormwater management is adequate. The parking is adequate. A Park and Recreation fee has not been calculated and it is the responsibility of the traffic engineer to determine whether the plan has a traffic impact.
Jim Links of Bucks County Community College stressed that the College has had a good partnership relationship with the Township’s Park and Recreation Department for many years and has shared the facilities whenever requested. There is no traffic impact with these plans as they are interior improvements to the existing facilities, enclosing the passage from one building to another. No new students or staff will be added. The College has cooperated with the Township on mutual traffic concerns and will continue to do so. The College is a taxpayer supported institution and the project will have a di minimus impact on the Township.
Dr. Ciervo said that the College impacts the Township’s traffic and he wants to know when the College last paid a traffic impact or recreation fee.
Mr. Gallagher said that he considers the College a big part of the Township’s recreation programming, noting that the College has allowed overflow parking during sports events at Helen Randle Park on weekends.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the waiver of land development for Bucks County Community College subject to the conditions that:
Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro said that he agrees with Mr. Gallagher that the College is an important part of the community, that the proposed changes are internal and will not impact traffic or recreation. The Township has waived land development in the past for small projects and this is a public institution.
Dr. Ciervo said that the College has never paid a traffic impact fee and it greatly impacts our roads every day.
Mr. Benchener said that the Township had asked for a calculation of the fees being waived, and that has not been provided. However this is a self-contained project which will benefit the community, without negatively impacting traffic.
Mr. Schenkman said that we do not have information from the traffic engineer or Park and Recreation Board on the fees being waived; this information should have been provided.
The motion passed 3-2, with Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Schenkman voting nay.
Traffic Engineer’s Report
Penns Trail North: Larry Young and Mike Stinton of Gilmore & Associates were in attendance on behalf of Amy Kaminski, our traffic engineer. Mr. Stinton explained that Gilmore had been asked to review the temporary traffic calming measures recently installed on Penns Trail and offer some alternative suggestions. The goal had been to test using temporary curb extensions and lane delineators before installing permanent chicanes. The vertical markers, which had been installed by Public Works, have already been removed. In their place, Gilmore is suggesting temporary speed humps or speed bumps. There are some objections to these temporary humps by emergency responders and public works departments. Mr. Stinton provided handouts with illustrations of the temporary devices.
Mr. Gallagher explained that the Township had agreed to the temporary measures in response to residents’ complaints regarding the closing of a portion of Upper Silver Lake Road, which diverted traffic through a residential development. The Board approved the temporary measures without fully understanding what was involved and for this the Board owes the residents an apology.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether there is really a need for additional traffic calming, as the four-way stop sign should adequately address residents’ concerns with speeding on the road.
Mr. Young said that traffic was timed at 38 MPH in a 25 MPH road. The road was designed as a main thoroughfare, but is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. He suggested that the Township should develop a policy as to when and where traffic calming speed bumps should be used. Temporary speed bumps can be moved to other locations. They cost about $3000.
Mr. Benchener said that the Board was very surprised by the appearance of the traffic calming. The goal had been safety, but the Board would like the measures to also be aesthetically pleasing to the residents. He suggested that before the Board chooses another traffic calming measure, the Wiltshire Walk Homeowners Association should be included in the discussion.
Dr. Ciervo asked what would be a good policy for installation of traffic calming.
Mr. Young said that he would review the reports on this traffic study, but some municipalities have set their policy at traffic traveling 15 MPH above the posted speed. He believed that was the policy in place in Doylestown. Mr. Young pointed out that speed bumps are usually placed about 150 feet from the intersection and that there could be some noise from breaking and from the bumping of traffic.
Mr. Calabro favored discussing this with the residents of Wiltshire Walk before investing more money or public works time.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that residents of Upper Silver Lake Road be included in the meeting, as they are the regular users of the road.
AT&T Lease Extension: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that the lease among the Township, County and AT&T on the cell tower had expired at the end of 2010 and had been extended on a month to month basis for an additional six months. The Township had also requested that a new sublease would split the rentals evenly between the County and Township rather than the previous lease’s 33 1/3% to the Township. The County is about to undertake major improvements to its E911 system and AT&T is intending to upgrade its technology as part of its 4G network. As a result, an analysis has been completed to the effect that the current tower will not support both of the initiatives and that certain structural improvements will need to be made to accomplish both County and AT&T upgrades. The County and AT&T have requested that the Township agree to a month to month extension but that the end of the arrangement be extended to a period of one year so that complete analysis of the structural integrity of the tower and the modifications that need to be made can be completed and the new lease negotiated. If the modifications are extensive, AT&T may not remain but could agree to the extension of the month to month at a 50/50 split of rent for the year.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the Township be given updates at four month intervals during the extension.
Mr. Schenkman said that if at the end of the period it is determined that no major structural investment will be made, the Township should receive 50% of the rent, retroactive to the expiration of the last lease agreement.
Mr. Garton said that he would convey this to the County and AT&T.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Bucksrocks LLC, 2950 South Eagle Road: Paul Pollock was in attendance to review this application for a variance for a commercial school in the PC Zoning District. He explained that the space is a free standing building. The walls will be insulated to prevent sound from traveling. The building is in a separate area of the shopping center with its own parking area. Performances will be given off-site.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Tsliya Mensh, 371 A Washington Crossing Road and Yelena Zusina, 371 B Washington Crossing Road: Felix Kremer, husband of Ms. Mensh, reviewed both applications for 7 foot high deer fencing around the two properties and a 6 foot high aluminum fence and gate in the front yard. Portions of the fences would cross wetlands, waters of the Commonwealth and waters of the United States. Dr. Kremer explained that the families wish to enclose the properties because herds of deer are in the yard close to the houses and they carry disease. He is concerned that his children and pets will be exposed to deer ticks and Lyme’s Disease.
Dr. Ciervo explained that the Supervisors consider whether to take a position at the Zoning Hearing Board. These properties are environmentally sensitive and fences are not permitted in wetlands. Usually when deer fences are installed, they are not expected to prevent disease, but to protect crops. This is not farmland. The Planning Commission did not support the applications as written, and had requested that the enclosures be smaller and brought in closer to the houses.
Mr. Schenkman said that there are State and Federal laws protecting the wetlands and floodplains. He suggested that Mr. Kremer might want to consult a land use attorney to help with any DEP permissions which might be required.
Mr. Gallagher said that he had some concern about safety on the roads if deer are forced out of their habitats.
After some further discussion, Dr. Kremer said that he would need guidance as to an acceptable compromise.
Mr. Garton suggested that he and Ms. Fountain could meet with the applicants to review the plans and offer some alternatives.
Jeffrey Patery, son-in-law of the applicants thanked Mr. Garton for his offer. He stressed that the proposed deer fence is almost invisible.
Municipal Pension System Act 44: Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2011-R-8, a resolution relative to the procurement of professional services for the municipal pension system sponsored by the Township based on requirements of Act 44 of 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Township Safety Manual: Mr. Czajkowski explained that the Township’s insurance carrier has recommended a manual for all employees to report accidents and to outline the safe operation of equipment. A committee, led by Fire Marshal Don Harris, with participation of department heads and representatives of each department participated in drafting the manual. They have met quarterly for a number of years, working with the insurance carrier. The draft has been reviewed by the Township Solicitor.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the Township Safety Manual. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski announced that Penns Trail would be closed on June 23 for repair of a traffic light.
Resident Rick Fuerman said that he appreciates the efforts of the Board to address the traffic issues on Penns Trail North. He asked that something also be done about Upper Silver Lake Road.
Dr. Ciervo asked when Upper Silver Lake Road will have permanent closure barricades.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township is investigating appropriate barriers which will prevent traffic from passing but will still allow emergency access.
Mr. Fuerman suggested that the police increase enforcement efforts in this area.
Resident John D’Aprile expressed some concern about the use of speed bumps in the Wiltshire Walk development, as residents might complain about the noise. He also expressed some concern about the cost of the bumps after the Township has already spent time and money on the other traffic calming devices. He suggested that rather than the Township continuing to spend money on traffic calming, the Homeowners Association be asked for a contribution. He expressed some doubt about the results of continuous traffic studies, as the traffic engineers can interpret results to give the Board “whatever it wants.”
Resident Jay Sensibaugh asked when the temporary chicanes would be removed. He said that if these can be placed elsewhere, will residents be notified before they are relocated.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the devices have already been removed. They will not be relocated as traffic calming elsewhere, but each year, the Township purchases these same reflective poles to warn motorists of hazards, etc.
Dr. Ciervo asked when and whether the Zoning Hearing Board would continue hearings on the Orleans plan for the Goodnoe property for 40 townhomes.
Mr. Garton said that there have been further appeals on this application. He also said that the Township has provided its comprehensive plan to Lower Makefield for its remanded hearings regarding Aria Hospital. The Court had remanded that case for Lower Makefield’s Zoning Hearing Board to consider certain traffic questions. The hearing has been tabled as responses from PennDOT and DRBC have not been provided.
Dr. Ciervo said that it is his understanding that remanded hearings on the Toll/FCO appeal are some months away as this has also been appealed.
The meeting adjourned at 11:00 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary