Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 11, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on April 11, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini, Interim 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 Reverend Peter Naschke of Lutheran Church of God’s Love and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Presentation to D.A.R.E. Program: On behalf of First Night Newtown, Committee Chairman Paul Salvatore presented a check to Officer Shawn Pirog, Newtown’s Dare Officer, for $500 to support the D.A.R.E. program. Mr. Salvatore said that Office Pirog is a superstar among the children of the community, as he visits schools with the program.
Officer Pirog and Chief Pasqualini thanked Mr. Salvatore and the First Night Committee for their support.
Newtown Borough resident Paul Salvatore, speaking on behalf of Newtown Rotary, announced the annual wine pairing and tasting event, Hope on the Vine, at the Stockingworks on April 21, 2012. This is Rotary’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Rotary International had raised funds to eradicate polio worldwide. Through Rotary’s partnership with the Gates Foundation, polio has been eliminated from all but three countries, Pakistan, Afganistan and Nigeria. This year’s local fundraising will benefit Newtown Theater’s efforts to purchase digital equipment.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its April 3, 2012 meeting, the Commission reviewed a memo from Bucks County Executive Director Lynn Bush, outlining proposed changes to the TC zoning district ordinance. The members were in agreement to recommend to the Supervisors that an ordinance be drafted in accordance with this memo, with some minor issues resolved.
The Commission would like the Supervisors to consider leaving use E-4, financial establishment as a conditional use, with drive-through window either eliminated or restricted to behind the building, not visible from Sycamore Street. Uses E-10, Service Station and E-11, Automotive Sales, could be removed as permitted uses without impacting the existing businesses on the Street. It was our understanding that those could continue as existing non-conformities and could be expanded up to 25% without zoning relief. Eliminating the use would prevent new businesses from moving in. Parking Facilities, use E-21, should be more clearly defined and permitted as part of a mixed use development. The Commission did not think the use would be viable as stand-alone businesses.
The Commission discussed a fee in lieu of parking was not sure this would be appropriate unless there is a clear understanding that the fee collected would be saved toward eventual parking solutions. The members also had concerns about the ratio of parking spaces provided and fees collected. It was noted, for example, that New Hope Borough allows 100% fee in lieu of parking, which has added to parking problems.
Some clarification is needed on possible incentives for providing public amenities.
Our new Code Enforcement Officer, Martin Vogt, pointed out that there are sometimes enforcement issues when “mixed use” permits the combination of use E-5, eating place and residential use. He and member Peggy Driscoll noted problems in other municipalities where apartments over restaurants become boarding houses for restaurant kitchen workers. This could become burdensome to Newtown, as we do not have a large staff to enforce code violations. This is a very different view, as the Planning Commission had only considered the type of residential uses proposed by the Promenade plans.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that before an ordinance is adopted, each planning commission in the Jointure is given the opportunity to review and comment and make changes if appropriate. The Supervisors are eager to have an ordinance begin the review process. The issues discussed by the Planning Commission could be circulated along with a draft ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission is supportive of a new ordinance with changes to the current TC district; the members are eager to see a draft of the proposed ordinance.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Commission was in agreement to eliminate service station and auto sales.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Commission did not vote on each component but came to a consensus opinion. The members felt that service stations, or gas stations, would not contribute to the goal of creating a pedestrian friendly downtown. By removing service station and auto sales, the existing uses could remain. The members did understand that the Supervisors are not in favor of creating non-conformities.
Mr. M. Gallagher said the Supervisors had some concerns about re-opening a closed non-conforming business. This could be a hardship for property owners.
Mr. Garton said that generally if the business is closed and re-opened within a year, it is not a problem. The law is flexible, also, if an owner can demonstrate that he actively attempted sale of the property and the use.
Environmental Advisory Council: Dr. Ciervo moved to appoint Eric Korn to the EAC for a term to expire in 2014. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Sycamore Street TC Zoning Ordinance/ Authorization to Advertise: Mr. Garton explained that the Board has been provided with a draft ordinance for review. To adopt the ordinance changing the TC zoning, the draft must be advertised and circulated among the Jointure’s Boards of Supervisors for review and approval. Should the draft be changed substantially from what is originally advertised and circulated, the ordinance would be re-advertised for adoption. It appears that the other Jointure partners have been supportive of the vision for Sycamore Street and of the proposed ordinance changes.
Mr. M. Gallagher confirmed that Ms. Bush of the Bucks County Planning Commission has discussed the changes to the ordinance with Upper Makefield and Wrightstown’s Planning Commissions and they have not had objections.
Mr. Benchener said that he favors authorization to advertise this evening in order to start the process of adopting the ordinance. He suggested that the Board discuss the items of concern to Newtown’s Planning Commission and ask Mr. Garton to make any agreed to changes prior to advertising. He agrees with the Planning Commission’s suggestion that use E-4, financial establishment remain as a conditional use. This use should continue to require Board review. He also agreed with the recommendation to remove uses E-10 service station and E-11 automotive sales, as this is not in keeping with the vision for Sycamore Street and existing uses would not be adversely impacted.
Dr. Ciervo said that he agreed that he would like to authorize advertisement this evening. He also supported leaving financial establishment as a conditional use. He would like to eliminate drive through for any use, not just for financial establishment.
Mr. Benchener agreed with this.
Mr. R. Gallagher also agreed that drive through uses should not be permitted, as they are not in keeping with the goad of a pedestrian friendly downtown.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is reluctant to leave use E-11, automotive sales, as permitted because he has concerns about the existing auto sales lot remaining vacant for a long time, should the current owner decide to close. The other Board members agreed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that there are already a number of service stations on Sycamore Street, so he would not want to see any additional stations open. He would favor removing this as a permitted use, as long as existing stations could remain in place. His concern is that the current service station owners have voiced strong objections to this in the past.
Mr. Benchener and Mr. R. Gallagher said that they felt these service stations are protected as existing non-conforming uses. Both felt that more service stations are not part of the vision for the street.
Dr. Ciervo said that these are long standing businesses whose owners are active in the community. He favors leaving this use as permitted by conditional use.
Mr. Calabro said that he agreed with Dr. Ciervo that service station should remain as a conditional use. He felt EPA regulations would protect the Township from very large service stations but the use should continue to be provided as a convenience to the residents.
The members agreed that use E-10 should remain as permitted by conditional use.
The members discussed use E-21, parking facility. Mr. M. Gallagher said that he could envision the Township and Borough possibly partnering on a parking facility or a parking authority, so he did not want to prohibit the use.
Mr. Garton said that the ordinance could permit a municipally owned facility, but that facility might be operated privately, working as a public/private enterprise, should the Township not want to create a parking authority.
Mr. Garton noted that the wording of the draft ordinance allowed the Supervisors to address a fee in lieu of parking at a later time, “at the option of the governing body.”
Ms. Fountain noted that the Planning Commission had discussed this because at one time a fee had been collected to offset the costs of on-street parking when Sycamore Street was improved.
The Board agreed to leave this wording in place.
All agreed that the ordinance section on public amenities should remain as it appears in the draft.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that in past discussions of mixed use, all had envisioned developments like the proposed promenade, with large, upscale residential units above retail and restaurant uses. He had not considered that an apartment over a restaurant could become a boarding house for kitchen workers.
Mr. Garton said that this is not a far-fetched concern. In other municipalities he has seen this as a concern, as restaurant workers in multiple shifts will share space,
Mr. Benchener said that he did not think it would be appropriate to address an enforcement issue with a zoning remedy.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had some concern with the increased height permitted on the mixed use buildings, that population density could be increased. With taller buildings, there could be one level of retail with two levels of living space. He would like to place a percentage limit on the amount of residential space permitted. He said that the Promenade is a special situation, but he would not want to see Promenade style development up and down the entire street. He would favor limiting residential to 50% of the mixed use buildings, or a 60/40% ratio if office were combined with retail and residential.
Ms. Fountain noted that the garden apartment use would be limited to 6-16 units.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he would not want to see this percentage limit on smaller buildings; some of the older houses on the street might be converted to ground floor business use, with multiple residential units above, the mix should limit residential to 50%.
All of the Supervisors agreed to add office to the permitted uses in a mixed use.
Ms. Fountain said that in this ordinance use E-5, eating place is a conditional use and that outdoor dining is permitted. Drive through is a different use and is not permitted.
All agreed that outdoor dining should remain permitted.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance amending the TC zoning district as presented with the following changes to the draft:
Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked whether the service stations would still be permitted to sell cars.
Mr. Garton said that many service stations offer a few cars for sale as an accessory. This would still be permitted.
The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
2012 Roadway Improvement Bids: Ms. Fountain reported that seven bids had been submitted for the roadway improvements. CKS Engineering is recommending the Bray Brothers bid.
Dr. Ciervo moved to award the roadway improvement 2012 bid to Bray Brothers in the amount of $391.000. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Garton announced that the board held an executive session before the start of the meeting and would remain for an executive session after the meeting to discuss matters of litigation, Veterans Park and pending litigation.
Sign and Post Materials Bids: Mr. Benchener moved to award the sign materials bid to U.S. Municipal Supply of Huntington PA and the galvanized pre-punched posts to Garden State Highway Products of Vineland NJ. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Police Report: Chief Pasqualini reported that the department had responded to 1285 called last month, including 6 underage drinking arrests and 3 public drunkenness arrests. He urged parents to be aware of their own liability should underage drinking take place in their homes during the graduation/prom season.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of March 28, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the Stoopville Road Special Meeting of March 28, 2012. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Calabro abstaining.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $343,727.41. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher asked about a bill from Applied Micro Systems. He said he would like more information about this bill and would like input from both the financial planning and technology committees before submitting payment. If this bill is for changes to the accounting system, he would like to more closely examine the changes being made.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that the financial planning committee has discussed Applied Micro Systems in the past and would be interested in reviewing the bills.
Mr. Calabro noted a payment to Adams Bickel for $50,000 for Veterans Park. He asked whether Adams Bickel has been paid in full.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that as part of the agreement with Little League, which has agreed to maintain the skinned field, the Township has accepted that field, the parking area and restroom building. This is only a portion of the outstanding $205,000 balance owed for the park.
Dr. Ciervo questioned the payment to Gavin Construction for the police sallyport.
Chief Pasqualini said that this is the first payment for the work, which is proceeding on schedule and on budget.
Mr. R. Gallagher amended his motion to pay bills totaling #343,727.41 less $450 for Applied Micro Systems. Mr. Benchener amended his second and the amended motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $184,289.01. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has spoken to Borough Council about Newtown Corporation. The Borough is considering dropping out of Newtown Corporation and allowing it to become an economic development committee for the Township. The bylaws will have to be reviewed and possibly revised if this were to occur. He would like Newtown Corporation to use the Township’s office space, telephone and internet connection and to work with the Township’s accounting staff.
Dr. Ciervo said that while this is a move worth consideration, he would like Newtown Corporation to come to the Supervisors and give a presentation on its current budget and its plans for revised bylaws.
Mr. Garton suggested that the Supervisors wait until the Borough has responded to Newtown Corporation, then the Township can consider any adjustments to the bylaws and other arrangements. The Newtown Corporation should send letters to both the Township and Borough outlining its intentions.
Mr. Benchener said that he is supportive of working with Newtown Corporation on economic development.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain this evening for executive session to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.The meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary