Board of Supervisors
Minutes of December 7, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on December 7, 2011 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener and Philip Calabro and Michael Gallagher, members. Also in attendance were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer and Amy Kaminski, Township Traffic Engineer.
Call to Order : Dr. Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:35 PM with a moment of silence. An invocation by Father John Atkins of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church and the pledge of allegiance followed.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of November 21, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $480,203.82. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $175,277.76. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo asked residents to participate in Project Blue Light, a program to recognize our law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. By placing a blue candle in the window, we remind our neighbors of the sacrifices made by our police.
Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that he had participated in Sunday’s Holiday Parade on State and Sycamore Streets. He thanked all of the many participants for a great success.
Reports of Officials
2011 Roadway Improvement Program Pay Estimate #3: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize pay estimate #3 in the amount of $252,226.47 to Mid-Atlantic Site Contractors. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Ms. Fountain confirmed that damage at Wrights and Eagle Road will be included in the punch list and will be repaired.
The motion passed 4-0.
Beneficial Bank, 34 South Sycamore Street – Conditional Use: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this hearing had been opened on November 16, 2011 and continued to November 21, 2011. The applicant has rested but the Intervenor’s counsel had requested additional time to review the information submitted by the Applicant and to review documents that the Bank’s counsel had agreed to provide. The Township’s traffic engineer is in attendance.
Attorney John VanLuvanee, representing Beneficial Bank, entered as Exhibit A-12 technical information provided by Traffic Engineer Jennifer Walsh of McMahon Associates and as Exhibit A-13 additional traffic count data requested by the Township.
Bradford Lare, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association, Deborah Manger, Vincent Lombardi, Shawn Ward and Frank Tyrol, called Philip Wursta. He entered Mr. Wursta’s curriculum vitae as exhibit P-2 and offered Mr. Wursta as an expert witness on traffic.
Mr. Wursta confirmed that he has been a traffic engineer for 26 years and had at one time been Newtown Township’s Traffic Engineer. He has reviewed over 500 applications for land development in his career. He was accepted as an expert.
In response to Mr. Lare’s questions, Mr. Wursta said that he has reviewed the Beneficial Bank application for conditional use and was in attendance for Ms. Walsh’s testimony. He subsequently reviewed the data she provided at the November 21, 2011 hearing. The analysis she provided had not been field verified. He had concerns about the queue lengths on both Newtown Richboro Road and Sycamore Street; he did not question the rates as provided by ITE Trip Generation, but did question the application of the data. He disagreed with taking credit for pass by trips in peak hours. Ms. Walsh shows credit for 38 of the 82 trips at afternoon peak. Mr. Wursta also questioned the maneuvering at the 7-Eleven entrance on Richboro Road, which should have been part of the plan. The 7-Eleven entrance is 60 feet from the proposed bank entrance, where up to four cars are stacked on a routine basis. Mr. Wursta said that in his opinion, the data provided by Syncro in Exhibits A-12 and A-13, which are computer generated projections of capacity and levels of service, should have been field verified.
In response to Mr. Lare’s further questions, Mr. Wursta said that he is familiar with the proposed Promenade development on Sycamore Street. He explained that when traffic engineers include background growth in traffic calculations, they are considering County wide traffic trends, which for Bucks County is between 1.5% and 2.4% growth. This does not include specific proposed future development plans. It is his understanding that the Promenade is to include 32 residential units, a 3200 square foot bank and 17,000 square feet of retail, which would impact PM peak traffic on Sycamore Street.
Mr. VanLuvanee objected.
In response to Mr. Garton’s questions, Mr. Wursta said that he did not know the specifics of the Promenade but had heard the number of residential units was around 30 and the retail is between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet.
Mr. VanLuvanee continued to object, but was overruled by Mr. Garton. Mr. Garton noted that the Promenade has been approved but the project has not yet been funded; no permits have been issued.
In response to Mr. Lare’s questions, Mr. Wursta said that the Promenade should have been included in the traffic calculations. Mr. Wursta is aware of plans for a development in Newtown Borough called Stockingworks II, which will have as many as 140 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail, possibly a supermarket. This development would be accessed on Centre Avenue. Both Promenade and Stockingworks II would impact traffic at the intersection of Richboro Road/Centre Avenue and Sycamore Street, bringing as many 250 Promenade peak trips and 300 Stockingworks trips, creating undue congestion. These projects should have been included in the background growth calculations.
In response to Mr. Lare’s further questions, Mr. Wursta said that he had reviewed the drive through /parking lot circulation patterns as shown in Exhibit A-5-a. He did have some concerns about the proximity of the drive through aisle to the Sycamore Street sidewalk. He said that the arrangement of the three lanes for the drive through were very tight and could be made better and safer; he did not think there would be adequate stacking in the three lanes. He also had some concern that bank customers entering the bank from the parking lot would have to walk in front of the drive through aisle.
Mr. Wursta reviewed the stacking of cars on Sycamore Street, pointing out that traffic will back up on Sycamore Street past the German Avenue entrance and past the Howard Avenue entrance on Richboro Road. When traffic backs up beyond the driveways, it creates a safety compromise. The queuing data does not consider Promenade or Stockingworks, which will also cause undue hazard and will be a detriment to the motoring public. The review should also have included the 7-Eleven entrance and the smaller driveways on Sycamore Street. The 7-Eleven entrance is about 60-65 feet from the proposed bank driveway, creating an offset intersection with conflict points in the turning movements. There is a high probability of compromising the safety of the motoring public.
Mr. VanLuvanee asked whether Mr. Wursta’s opinion is based on a review of Exhibit A-5 and the data provided by the applicant.
Mr. Wursta said that his opinion is also based on his own observations; he visited the location on six occasions between November 18 and December 7, 2011, although he did not keep notes or take photographs. He did not take his own traffic counts. Mr. Wursta said that he did prepare traffic counts for the Stockingworks II project, as he is the traffic engineer for that application. He did not recall whether he had been the Township’s Traffic Engineer at any time during the Promenade reviews. Promenade has been under consideration since the mid-1990’s. He knew it had been granted final plan approval at some point, but he did not know the specific density. He did not know whether necessary zoning changes had been enacted to allow Stockingworks II to proceed.
In response to Mr. VanLuvanee’s further questions, Mr. Wursta said that queuing is already part of the existing condition on both Sycamore Street and Richboro Road now and there are sometimes four car back-ups at the intersection. He understood that a car dealership had been at this site and is still a permitted use. He is aware that the applicant proposes to eliminate a curb cut on Richboro Road. The distance from the center line of the 7-Eleven exit to the bank exit center line is about 120 to 130 feet. He did not know the distance between the entrance to the bank and the entrances to Newtown Place residential development or the other shopping center west of the site on Richboro Road. He agreed that queues already extend on both Richboro Road and Sycamore Street and any use will exacerbate traffic. He would agree that the site should have two entrances so as not to put the entire negative impact on one street; he would leave the proposed Sycamore Street entrance but would suggest moving the Richboro Road entrance closer to Howard Avenue. He had not been in attendance to hear testimony about steep slope disturbance closer to Howard Avenue.
Mr. VanLuvanee asked Mr. Wursta about the circulation inside the parking lot and drive through aisle.
In response to Mr. VanLuvanee’s questions, Mr. Wursta said that the drive aisle is a greater distance from the Sycamore Street sidewalk and that cars on Sycamore Street pose a greater risk to pedestrians on the sidewalk than the drive through traffic would. As a traffic engineer, he tries to design projects to avoid additional unnecessary conflict. He has designed drive through aisles and it is possible to reduce conflict between drivers and pedestrians, however it is impossible to avoid all conflict between pedestrians and cars in parking lots. The goal is to minimize direct contact. He did not attempt to design an alternative plan. He agreed that the narrow drive aisle serves as a traffic calming method and that the lanes and driveways comply with the JMZO and SALDO. He agreed that the bank, proposed at 3136 square feet, is not the biggest bank and there is nothing about the bank or its size which will generate more traffic than other banks with drive through aisles. He did not compare the trip generation for this use with other drive through businesses.
Mr. Gallagher confirmed that Mr. Wursta would have included pass by traffic and the other driveways in the traffic study. He might have included an AM peak hour count. He would not have conducted a count during a school break. He would have spoken to PennDOT and the local police about reported accidents at the intersection. Pedestrians should have been included in traffic counts. He would have included Borough studies and the 7-Eleven. He might have made some changes to the design because of the inclusion of 7-Eleven.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the Board should require a right in/right out entrance on Richboro Road.
Mr. Wursta suggested that the driveway could be moved farther west instead and perhaps place conditions to restrict driveway access at a later date, should it become necessary, perhaps restricting access during peak hours.
Mr. Benchener asked whether Mr. Wursta thought this plan has met the conditional use requirements under 1301 (E) to not create undue congestions.
Mr. Wursta said that not enough has been done to eliminate undue congestion.
Dr. Ciervo asked about conflicts between exiting vehicles from the bank and 7-Eleven, where there are already stacking issues.
Mr. Wursta said that the 7-Eleven is unrestricted as will be the proposed bank exit but he could not determine the degree of conflict without traffic counts that include the 7-Eleven.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the internal circulation in the drive through aisles.
Mr. Wursta said that with two cars stacked in the drive aisle it would inhibit use of the by-pass lane. He also suggested that the aisles could be designed to reduce conflict with pedestrians. He did not favor only one access to the site because two accesses would better distribute traffic.
On redirect, Mr. Lare asked whether Mr. Wursta had considered data for Stockingworks II and whether he knew whether the Township was involved in Stockingworks.
Mr. Wursta said that he had considered Stockingworks when he prepared for this evening’s meeting. He believed that the Township might seek party status in the Stockingworks Conditional Use.
In response to Mr. Lare’s further questions, Mr. Wursta said that he thought the Richboro Road entrance to the bank could be safer if it were placed closer to Howard Avenue. He did not know whether moving the entrance would require variances for disturbance of steep slopes. He does not know what the average speed of cars in drive through lanes would be, but it might be about 5 MPH. As an engineer, he would try to minimize threats to pedestrian safety and would try to design a drive through that pedestrians would not need to cross to go into the bank.
Shawn Ward was sworn in. Mr. Ward confirmed Exhibit P-1, his letter authorizing Mr. Lare to represent him and confirming Sycamore Street Community Association’s status as a non-profit.
Mr. Lare entered as Exhibit P-3, the State Department’s letter confirming Sycamore Street Association’s non-profit status.
Mr. Ward said that he is co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant, LLC, the Green Parrot, at 240 North Sycamore Street and is the president of the Sycamore Street Community Association; he also serves on its government affairs committee. He works with applicants seeking to build or renovate on Sycamore Street. He will be testifying as both an individual business owner and on behalf of the Association. He is concerned about this application because it does not fit with the vision for Sycamore Street as a town center. It is a shopping center style design, not close to the sidewalk and its main entrance does not face Sycamore Street. The floor plan does not show teller windows, which makes the design function better as a drive through. The appearance is not in harmony with the rest of Sycamore Street. The Township has spent 13 years working on the design and vision for Sycamore Street as a pedestrian friendly town center.
Mr. VanLuvanee asked whether the bank is not an appropriate use for Sycamore Street.
Mr. Ward said that a bank is an appropriate use, but a drive through is not. There is no prohibition against a financial establishment. Although the Sycamore Street Association has participated in discussions about zoning in the TC district, the suggestions have not been made part of the Ordinance.
Dr. Ciervo asked if this use would be detrimental to surrounding properties.
Mr. Ward said that the plan would be detrimental because it does not fit in with the character of the street. It is not in the best interest because of the efforts of the Township to revitalize Sycamore Street.
Mr. Benchener asked whether Mr. Ward had been involved with the Sycamore Street Committee report.
Mr. Ward said that he was not on the committee when the report was completed because he had been appointed solicitor to the Township’s Zoning Hearing Board. He also served 12 years on the Township Planning Commission, but was not directly involved in writing the report. He confirmed that the Sycamore Street Community Association has 60 members, some voting and some associate non-voting members. He was not in attendance when Vincent Lombardi and Frank Tyrol testified.
Mr. VanLuvanee asked about the intended character of Sycamore Street.
Mr. Ward said that the vision had been established by a reconstruction committee but it has not been memorialized in the JMZO. There are two gas stations an auto body shop and a car dealership on Sycamore Street at this time. Not every existing use fits the vision. The committee always was cognizant of the existing uses and worked to protect them. It would not be a problem if Stockburger’s were to be re-opened as a dealership; it is only as properties are re-developed that the vision is to be in harmony with the historic town center.
Mr. Garton called Township Engineer Amy Kaminski.
Mr. VanLuvanee objected to the Township introducing witnesses.
Mr. Garton said that Ms. Kaminski is the Township Traffic Engineer who will answer the Board’s questions. He entered as Exhibit T-1, Ms. Kaminski’s curriculum vitae.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether Ms. Kaminski would have included other intersections in a traffic study for this project.
Ms. Kaminski said she would have included the two private driveways on Sycamore Street, the 7-Eleven entrance and intersection at Cambridge Lane and Richboro Road. She also thought an AM peak traffic count should have been included. The Saturday afternoon count was done after the start of the Council Rock spring break, which might have influenced the count. She would also have included any accidents at the intersection as well as pedestrian counts. She said that it is difficult to know whether a right in/right out on Richboro Road would be better but it should remain as an option.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the applicant has met the burden of proof that this is a suitable use under Section 1301 E.
Ms. Kaminski said she could not say with certainty.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether applicants typically contact the Township Traffic Engineer to discuss the scope of information the Township would like included in the application.
Ms. Kaminski said that she is often contacted by applicants’ engineers or traffic engineers, but not for this application. Because information on traffic at the 7-11 was not included in the study, it is difficult to predict whether there will be conflicts between the two entrances. She has not done a queuing analysis, but the Syncro report shows that the greatest queuing will occur at the PM peak. There is already queuing on Richboro Road up to 299 feet, which would be at the proposed bank entrance. This could cause traffic hazards.
Ms. Kaminski said that she had reviewed the internal circulation; if two cars are stacked in each drive through aisle, the pass by lane is not accessible. She did not attempt to design a better solution. She noted that in designing drive through aisles, it is best to avoid placing parking spaces where they would be in contact with drive aisles. She agreed with Mr. Wursta that two entrances would be better than one. He also agreed that if the entrance were limited to right in/right out, it could eliminate some conflicts.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that this project will require land development, at which time a traffic impact study would be seen. Ingress and egress would be part of land development. A formal study is not required for conditional use.
Ms. Kaminski agreed that she would expect to see ingress and egress discussed more during land development. In response to Mr. VanLuvanee’s questions, Ms. Kaminski said that if the ATM were walk up only, she would still not want parking in conflict with the drive aisle. She did not consult trip generation to compare a bank without a drive through to one with a drive through.
Mr. Garton asked the parties to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law by December 14, 2011. The record was closed at this point.
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the department has responded to 1104 calls in the last month, including 26 traffic accidents, 4 burglaries, 5 fraud investigations, and 18 thefts, 5 from vehicles. He reminded residents to lock their cars; in 2010 there were 51 thefts from unlocked cars, but in 2011, there have already been 91 thefts.
Renovations are underway at the police building and the Department is waiting for bids for the sallyport.
Bucks County 2011 Hazard Mitigation Municipal Resolution: Mr. Czajkowski explained that this resolution will allow Newtown Township to submit applications for relief from FEMA in the event of a disaster.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2011-R-11, the Bucks County Hazard Mitigation Plan. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Budget Discussion: Mr. Czajkowski said that the budget has been updated to include a contribution of 2.5% to the non-union pension fund, a 0% increase in CWA salaries and a reduction in the real estate transfer tax revenue to $500,000. Expenditures are now $10,874,759 with a reserve fund balance of $852,806. He explained that the change in the pensions will not affect the minimum municipal obligation until the following year.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he does not want to see the efforts made on Sycamore Street undone by the proposed bank project. The bank should face Sycamore Street and not have a drive through window.
Dr. Ciervo reminded the Board that they had discussed changing the retirement benefit offered to newly hired non-union employees from a pension to a 403 (B) defined contribution plan. The Board had not determined whether to require a minimum employee contribution, nor had it agreed on a Township match. As the Township may need to hire new non-union employees in the coming year, he would like the issue resolved.
Mr. Garton said that the matter would have to be advertised for a future agenda, so could not be resolved before the end of the year. Some employee contribution would be required to qualify for state aid.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the employee be required to contribute 4% with a township match of 4%. This would be a competitive rate.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has a 401K at his job, and employees can opt out. He does not favor forcing employees to contribute, but if a minimum is required, he would like to keep it very low.
Dr. Ciervo favored a high employee contribution so that the employee is funding his own retirement. He would also like this in place as the Township begins negotiations with the collective bargaining units; he wants all employees to make some contribution.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that there are other retirement options available, including the 457 plan.
Mr. Benchener said that there is no state aid for 457 plans; he favors the 403B plan which qualifies for some assistance from the state. He said that he favors requiring an employee contribution but some flexibility.
Dr. Ciervo said he would not favor a match unless the employee contributes the full 4% with the Township matching 4%, but not less; this will incentivize employees to save.
Mr. Calabro disagreed with forcing a full 4% but would prefer allowing employees to make their own decisions about how much to contribute.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the employees could contribute a low minimum percentage but that the Township could match 0.5% up to an 8% contribution.
Mr. Benchener said that his employer, Vanguard, has many retirement accounts; the most typical is a % to % match up to a certain maximum. There are less common 5 to ½% matches. He favors the % to % match as a more attractive option if the goal is to eventually convert union plans to similar plans.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the Board postpone a final decision until the Financial Planning Committee had reviewed the options. The plan does not have to be in place until the Township is hiring a new non-union employee, which might not be for a few months.
Mr. Benchener said that he would prefer to make the decision now so that the plan could be advertised for adoption in January.
Dr. Ciervo moved to advertise a 403B retirement plan for new non-union employees with a minimum employee contribution of 1% of salary, with the Township matching dollar for dollar up to 4%. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Gallagher voting nay.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board had met in executive session to discuss matters of personnel prior to the start of the meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 11:00 PM
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary