Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 28, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 28, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence. This was followed by an invocation by Monsignor Michael Picard of St. Andrew’s Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Jenn Dix said that the 2012 budget included a $1 million reserve fund, but it was later reported as $300,000. She asked for an update on the reserve.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the current reserve fund balance is $625,000. The final January number will not be confirmed until the audit is completed; revenues and expenses from the preceding year continue to be added. The audit should be complete in the next few weeks.
Ms. Dix asked if any current bills are not shown in the current bills list, including a balance due on Veterans Park.
Mr. Czajkowski said the bills list is complete. The Township has withheld payment of $207,000 for Veterans Park until it has been completed.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the MPC requires completion of audits by March 15. He has submitted a “right to know” request.
Mr. Czajkowski said that all paperwork on the audit should be included with his “right to know” request, but he suggested that he should reiterate his specific request to Ms. Tanner.
Lower Makefield Resident Sue Herman, representing Residents for Regional Traffic Solutions said that she has a number of concerns about the Stoopville Road improvement project, as it seems to be part of a northern bypass to connect I78 with I95. This would impact the rural quality of life of Bucks County Residents. She showed a number of maps created in 1988, when the northern bypass plan was first developed as well as a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission map showing traffic solutions involving road widening and signalization of Stoopville Road. She expressed concern that portions of the initially proposed walking path have been eliminated in favor of a traffic light at the Stoopville and Durham Road intersections which will greatly impact traffic. She questioned the reason for changing the original phase two portion of the plan.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Supervisors of the three Jointure municipalities of Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield had met some time ago to consider ways to improve safety along Stoopville Road. The traffic signal should address a number of safety concerns of the residents. The traffic study conducted for the project showed that one third of all southbound vehicles on Durham Road turn left at Stoopville, showing that a signal is warranted. The improvement is not part of a northern bypass; this Board has never supported a northern bypass plan. The portion of the walking trail which was eliminated will be part of the Toll Brothers development along Stoopville Road; the path will be part of that project’s land development.
Mr. Calabro said that the intersection of Durham and Stoopville is not in Newtown Township; Wrightstown did not want the signal. If the Howe Tract on Durham Road were to be developed as a school, a signal would be warranted and would be part of the school’s land development. He said that Federal money meant for Newtown has been forced on Wrightstown for an improvement that Wrightstown does not want.
Dr. Ciervo disagreed, noting that a meeting of Upper Makefield, Newtown and Wrightstown Supervisors had been held at which all three municipalities had voted to approve the changes to phase two, including the traffic signal. The changes benefited all three municipalities and included improvements in all three.
Mr. Calabro said that he did not recall any official vote, only informal discussion, but he did not think Wrightstown’s residents or Supervisors had supported the change.
Dr. Ciervo said that Wrightstown was represented and did participate in and was supportive of a vote to make the changes. He and Mr. Calabro continued to disagree on this.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that there had been residents at the earlier Stoopville Road meeting who had been concerned about safety and stormwater management issues.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Manager has been asked to work with PennDOT to address these concerns.
Newtown Borough resident Nancy Carroll said that she has been advocating for many years to make Goodnoe Elementary School smaller; the plans before the Board propose the addition of eleven new classrooms.
Mr. Gallagher said that the public comment portion of the meeting is used to address items not on the agenda. He suggested that Ms. Carroll reserve her comments until representatives of the School District present their application to the Zoning Hearing Board, at which time, public comment would be permitted before any decision is made by the Supervisors regarding the application.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he objects to the Board allowing nonresidents to attempt to influence the Township’s traffic decisions. He noted that while Federal money will be spent on a neighboring municipality, the improvement will benefit Newtown, as all traffic coming to or from the intersection of Stoopville and Durham Roads goes through Newtown.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its March 20, 2012 meeting, the Planning Commission reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications. Congregation Brothers of Israel, 530 Washington Crossing Road is asking for a special exception to continue the use of a temporary modular classroom. The applicant explained that the Congregation was originally granted a special exception for four years with a condition that after four years a permanent expansion would be built. The Congregation has not seen any growth, but continues to need the classroom. It is in very good condition and has been well maintained and is not visible from the road. The Commission members were in agreement that this application should be forwarded to the Supervisors without comment.
The Commission reviewed the application of Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane, for relief to erect a new playground closer to the street line than 200 feet, to allow parking closer than 100 feet from the street, to allow partial curbing in internal drives and parking aisles, and to allow one loading berth where three are required. The applicant explained that the parking is already less than 100 feet from the street and is an existing non-conformity. Eliminating some curbing will help with sheet flow of stormwater. The applicant is asking to postpone consideration of curbing until land development and would like the variance to allow for some flexibility in the plan. The playground is for kindergarten use and is being located nearest the kindergarten entrance and will be screened from the street. The current single loading berth will still be adequate, as there will not be an increase in deliveries with the expansion. The Commission was supportive of the application and recommended that the Supervisors also support it.
The Commission reviewed the application of Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, for four freestanding identification signs, all four larger than the permitted 16 square foot maximum, all higher than the 5 foot maximum and with more than one announcement board, each announcement board exceeding 12 square feet. The College intends to erect four brick entrance features, two at each entrance. The announcement boards are sized to accommodate the College’s already existing temporary announcements, such as Tyler Tasting, registration for classes and summer camp registration. The signs will be lighted from below. The Commission felt the signs were very sorely needed and would be an enhancement to both the College and the community and although not unanimous, recommended that the Supervisors support this application. One member felt the entrance features were too large, but our new Codes Enforcement Officer pointed out that our Ordinance is silent on sign supports and only restricts the size of the signs themselves. He suggested that when planning the lighting for the signs that lights focus on the lettering, not the entire support structures.
As initial discussion of the proposed zoning changes for Sycamore Street’s TC Zoning District took place in 2009, the Commission spent some time at this meeting reviewing the vision, the current zoning and the reasons for some of the proposed changes for the benefit of the four members who had not been part of the original discussion. All members were provided copies of the various charts, memos and minutes from our past meetings. Discussion will continue and we hope to have a recommendation to the Board after our April 3 meeting.
Following the meeting, the Commission’s consulting Planner, Engineer and Solicitor gave a brief training on zoning and planning, the duties and responsibilities of Planning Commissioners and engineering solutions to stormwater management.
Board Members’ Reports
Resignation of Manager: Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is sorry to announce the resignation of Township Manager Joseph Czajkowski, who has accepted a position in Lower Salford Township, closer to his home. He read aloud his reference letter for Mr. Czajkowski, praising his work through some difficult times in the Township. Mr. Czajkowski will be missed.
Mr. Czajkowski thanked he Board for its support and thanked the excellent staff and consultants for their help. He praised the work of our outstanding Park and Recreation Director and staff, the EMS Department and the Police, and particularly praised Ron Weaver, who has stepped up as interim Public Works Director. He is doing outstanding work and has proven himself a great asset to the community. He will miss Newtown, but is looking forward to working closer to his home and family.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to accept the resignation of Township Manager Joseph Czajkowski. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo moved to appoint Police Chief Henry Pasqualini as interim Township Manager. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bond Refinance: Mr. Benchener said that as the Board has been looking into refinancing the Township’s bond to take advantage of lower interest rates, it was hoped that the rate would bring a savings of about $300,000. The interest rate continues to drop and the Township is now able to lock into a rate which will bring a two year savings of $680,000. This will be reflected in a year end reserve fund balance for 2012 well above the 10% projected, and closer to 15%. The changed rate will reduce the amount of the debt service payment.
Mr. Calabro asked about repayment of the loan to the reserve fund from the TSA fund.
Mr. Czajkowski said that repayment is to be made from tax revenues which should arrive during the spring, through the end of June.
Other Board Members: Dr. Ciervo said thathe has been working on an effort to preserve the maze and barn play area in Tyler Park, which has fallen into disrepair. The State does not have funds to cover the needed repairs, but is trying to raise private funds through sale of commemorative benches for the playground area. Each bench is made of composite material with bronze legs and a bronze plaque to acknowledge the donor. The benches cost $5000. Tax deductible donations can be made to PA Park & Forest Agency. Any person of business wishing to make a contribution for a commemorative bench can contact Dr. Ciervo directly.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the American Legion Memorial Day Parade will take place on May 28, 2012. Marchers will assemble and the parade will begin at 660 Newtown Yardley Road at 9:00 AM.
Reports of Officials
Sandwich Board Ordinance: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that in 2008 it had adopted an ordinance permitting sandwich board signs provided the sign permits expired and would be renewed on an annual basis. The Board had previously granted extensions and is due to be extended through December 2012.
Mr. Benchener suggested that perhaps the extension should be granted every three or four years.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed.
Mr. Garton suggested this could be done next year, as it is on the agenda for a one year extension this evening.
Dr. Ciervo moved to extend Ordinance 2008-O-10 for one year. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Congregation Brothers of Israel, 530 Swamp Road: Mr. Garton said that, as outlined by the Planning Commission Vice Chairman, this application seeks to extend a special exception for a modular classroom.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this should be forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
The other Board members agreed.
Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road: Mike Davenport, landscape architect and Mark Grisi of Bucks County Community College were in attendance to review a Zoning Hearing Board application for four entrance signs for the two entrances to the College’s 197 acre campus. Only one sign is permitted and all exceed the permitted size of 16 square feet and permitted height of five feet. Mr. Davenport explained that the signs are to be mounted on brick entrance wall features. No electronic signage is planned. The signs will be lighted from the ground.
Mr. Grisi said that the additional message board area on the signs is for banners for the College’s special events such as summer camps, golf outings and Tyler Tasting.
The Board agreed that this application should be forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Council Rock School District/Goodnoe Elementary School, 275 Frost Lane: Attorney Michael Carr was in attendance to review this application for four variances. A new kindergarten playground will have a setback of 120 feet where 200 feet is required. An existing non-conformity for parking closer than 100 feet from the street will continue. Plans for interior curbing are not complete; the engineers would like some flexibility to work with the Township on curbing to help with sheet flow and stormwater management. No changes to the number or nature of deliveries are anticipated with this addition. The existing loading berth is adequate.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that School Board member Bernadette Heenan was in attendance at this evening’s meeting.
Dr, Ciervo asked about paths that do not appear on the plan.
Bruce Bechtel showed an existing asphalt path. He reviewed the impervious surface for the project, noting that the 8 existing modular classrooms, which measure 900 square feet, are to be removed. The plan shows and increase of 16,000 square feet of impervious surface, 11,500 square feet will be classrooms, 1000 square feet for an expanded entry area and 2000 square feet for a stage. The school will lose 9 modular classrooms and add 11 new permanent classrooms. The total impervious surface will be about 32%, which is below the permitted 35%.
Mrs. Carroll said that at the Planning Commission there had been some discussion of drop-off/pick-up traffic circulation and bus drop off.
Mr. Gallagher explained that developers frequently seek zoning relief before developing fully engineered plans. This applicant will return to the Planning Commission to review land development after it is known what zoning relief will have been granted. This evening’s meeting is for review of the zoning application, only.
Mr. Carr said that the plans will include curbing for all drop off areas; it is yet to be determined whether there will be curing throughout the parking areas. The parking lot will have 172 parking spaces.
The Board agreed to pass this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of March 14, 2012. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro noted that the Engineer’s Report on page #2 should read, “…bids will be open on April 4…”
Dr. Ciervo amended his motion to approve the minutes of March 14, 2012 as corrected. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $164,297.79. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro referred to the PECO bills for the two new buildings and asked if the Township has noticed any savings on energy for the LEED certified buildings.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the costs have been consistent since the new buildings have been occupied. He compared them to the costs for the old administration building, which is still in use. That building, though significantly smaller, has higher energy costs.
Mr. Calabro asked about using energy efficient light bulbs for streetlights.
Mr. Czajkowski said that some LED lights have been installed on a trial basis. All of the traffic signals are LED. LED bulbs are not available for the colonial style streetlights we have in many of the residential neighborhoods.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $180,000. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo asked for an update on Newtown Corporation.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would have a report ready for the next regular meeting. He would also ask Newtown Corporation to prepare a presentation for the Supervisors.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked the Board to send a letter of support to the Postmaster on behalf of the residents of The Villas. The Villas has one communal mail drop in the development and are asking for boxes throughout the development, as were included in the original plan.
The members agreed to support this request.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that while the Township is seeking a new manager, that Finance Director Elaine Gibbs be named treasurer so that she can sign checks during the business day. Mr. R. Gallagher would serve as assistant treasurer and secretary.
Mr. Benchener moved to appoint Elaine Gibbs as Township treasurer. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he recently spoke to the Music Director at the Community College about opening our meetings with a musical performance by some of the College’s musicians.
The Board agreed that this would be a very nice way to start the meetings.
Wrightstown resident Le Sheppard thanked the Board for working with Wrightstown on traffic issues at Durham and Stoopville Roads. The residents have wanted improvements to make this intersection safer and he thanked the officials of both Newtown and Wrightstown for working to reach a compromise to improve traffic safety.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board had met in executive session on Monday, Tuesday and Friday of last week and would remain this evening for executive session to discuss matters of personnel.
The meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary