Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 23, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on May 23, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, 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 Pastor John Stange of Core Creek Community Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. M. Gallagher asked that the Planning Commission Chairman give his report before the minor approvals.
Public Comment: Resident Joel Grosso invited the community to attend Council Rock Little League’s Memorial Day celebration game with Flemington’s old time 1910’s team at Pickering Field on Monday, May 28. Sale of hotdogs at the event will benefit “Noah’s Playground” at Veterans Park.
Mr. Grosso asked for an update on the status of Veterans Park.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Township’s Solicitor has met with attorneys for Gilmore and Associates to help resolve the outstanding issues and concerns. It is hoped that a resolution will be reached in the next few weeks. The Township is documenting current conditions before reaching an agreement.
Mr. Grosso asked that the area between the parking lot and the skinned field be mowed as children are using that field for tee ball.
Chief Pasqualini said that the Public Works Department was to have mown that field today. If it was not completed, it will be shortly.
Resident Jen Dix said that she was at the field with her son and it has not yet been mown. Ms. Dix asked about the current General Fund balance.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that throughout the State, municipalities are having cash flow problems as the State has changed the withholding practices for income taxes and has mandated under Act 32 that earned income taxes be collected by one agency per County. Bucks County has selected Keystone and has seen delays in receiving taxes. The transition has not run smoothly and Newtown Township, along with the rest of the County, has seen a six to eight week delay in receiving its tax money on the usual schedule.
Ms. Dix asked the current General Fund balance, noting that if the reserve fund had been higher, there would not be difficulty with cash flow.
Chief Pasqualini said that he did not have today’s balance but suggested that Ms. Dix contact the finance director in the morning for up to date information.
Ms. Dix asked when the loan the Township took from the TSA fund would be repaid.
Mr. Garton said that the loan has been repaid.
Planning Commission Report
Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its May 15 meeting the Commission voted to rescind its recommendation for approval of the Walsh Minor Subdivision Land Development application (385 Stoopville Road), as the Township Engineers discovered some discrepancies in the survey. The plan will need to be revised to show one non-conforming lot of less than 3 acres, which will require Zoning Hearing Board relief. The applicant will need to return to the Planning Commission with a revised plan.
The Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Gillespie, 626 E. Penn Street, which seeks a special exception, increased impervious surface and setback relief for a non-conforming lot. The applicant is planning to construct a 403 square foot kitchen addition. The Commission recommended that the Supervisors support this application, as the home predates the ordinance and the applicant intends to offset increased run-off by planting a rain garden.
The Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Mr. & Mrs. Anthony Meehan, 5 Hillview Drive, which seeks relief from Foxhall Estate’s final plan to install a swimming pool, spa, coping and decking, increasing the permitted impervious surface by 2117 square feet. The applicant has agreed to address additional run-off. The Commission passed this application to the Supervisors without comment.
The Commission reviewed the application of Attorney Ed Murphy on behalf of Meglio’s, 15 Swamp Road for zoning relief to construct a 2112 square foot restaurant and 960 square foot retail space in the CC Convenience Commercial District. Relief from parking, setback and impervious surface is sought. The Commission is supportive of the plan. The applicant has delayed proceeding with the plan while attempting to gain access to the property through the adjoining property to the signalized intersection, but indicated that it is unknown whether a condemnation proceeding will be successful. The Commission would urge the Supervisors to support the application, while continuing its efforts to gain an access easement to the traffic light at Swamp and South Eagle Roads. The applicant will also attempt to work with its easterly neighbor to improve the paper street Howard Avenue as an entrance drive. The Commission was supportive of this effort, as well. The Howard Avenue entrance would be right out, only, which should aid with traffic control.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the applicant is seeking parking relief to provide only 22 parking spaces where 55 are required. He asked whether the Commission had any concerns about this relief.
Mr. Fidler said that the Ordinance does not permit inclusion of on-street parking. This applicant would have available parking on Swamp Road and along the Howard Avenue entrance drive, which cannot be included in the calculations. The parking provided is similar to what is available to Meglio’s in its current location at Newtown Plaza Shopping Center and the applicant has indicated this is adequate. The new restaurant will have the same seating as the old one.
Carrie and Anthony Meehan, 5 Hillview Way: Mr. Garton explained that this is an application for Zoning Hearing Board relief for an increase in impervious surface of 2117 square feet for a pool, coping and decking.
Anthony Meehan was in attendance to review his application. He said that he has five children and would like to install a swimming pool in his rear yard.
Dr. Ciervo said that his development had been given significant zoning relief to build, subject to a condition that each lot be limited to 6000 square feet of impervious surface. His lot has only about 500 square feet remaining for outdoor amenities. The request seems excessive and the plan as currently shown seems to have significant paving. He would not be inclined to support the application unless the impervious were reduced.
Mr. Meehan said that he would have to speak to his landscaper. He based his design on other pools in his development; other neighbors have been granted zoning relief.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Zoning Hearing Board will make the final decision, but he did not think that Board’s members would support such a large increase. There is some concern that increased impervious surface can impact run-off and stormwater management.
The Board discussed the plans and agreed that they would not oppose Mr. Meehan’s application if the impervious surface were reduced so that only 1200-1500 square feet of relief is needed. This would still allow for the pool, spa and coping as designed, but would require replacement of the concrete patio with some kind of porous surface.
Mr. Calabro asked the Board whether Mr. Meehan would need to postpone his Zoning Hearing until this Board has had an opportunity to review revised plans or if the Board would support a plan with the suggested reduction.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that Mr. Meehan speak to his landscaper and submit a revised plan with the suggested reduction to the Codes Department. It could be recirculated among the Supervisors and Mr. Meehan would not need to postpone the hearing.
15 Swamp Road LTD, (Meglio’s) 15 Swamp Road: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this application for variances from parking, impervious surface, front yard setback, parking in the front yard, off street parking in right of way, and loading spaces in order to construct a 2100 square foot restaurant and 960 square foot retail shop in the CC Convenience Commercial Zoning District. Mr. Murphy reminded the Board that the applicants, Bob and Bill Delia, have presented a number of sketch plans for this project in the last two years. The Board and the applicants have all agreed that the best option for access to the site would be at the signalized intersection of Swamp and Eagle Roads, however the applicant has not been able to acquire an easement agreement with the owner of the adjacent property, Newtown Plaza Shopping Center. The Board had authorized the Township Solicitor to start condemnation proceedings to gain an access easement, but the applicant has already waited almost two years and is eager to start the project. This plan shows an access through the paper street Howard Avenue. If an easement is granted, the plans would be altered to access the signalized intersection.
Regarding the request for reduced parking, Mr. Murphy explained that the parking calculation includes ten spaces which would be required for the outdoor deck seating. At this time it has not been determined whether the deck will be built. The applicant does not anticipate additional business because of the deck, but hopes to retain business which is lost in summer months to restaurants that offer outdoor dining. The owners also anticipate some on-street parking on an improved Howard Avenue. The Planning Commission was supportive of this plan with the reduced parking.
Mr. Garton said that the Township Traffic Engineer is to be deposed in the condemnation proceeding, after which briefs will be submitted.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked when the applicant anticipated ground breaking.
Mr. Murphy said that the Zoning Hearing is June 7. If relief is granted, the plans would need land development and conditional use approval. It is hoped that groundbreaking might take place in September or October. If the access easement is granted, the plans will be revised. Howard Avenue will still be improved. It will be restricted to right out, only. Left turns into the site would be permitted.
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern about the deck seating, noting that although the plan shows only six tables and only seasonal use, the Township has seen other outdoor patios used almost all year, with more seats added. He is also concerned about the request for 63% impervious surface and parking for the retail space.
Mr. Murphy said that the impervious is not changing from current conditions.
Bob Delia said that he has envisioned a small retail shop whose hours will not conflict with the restaurant. He has spoken to Verizon about a retail shop, for example, which does not have heavy traffic. The current Meglio’s uses about 22-25 parking spaces. Business falls off sharply in the summer months and he hopes the deck will help keep the same level of business all year.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about employee parking.
Mr. Murphy noted that many employees are young and are dropped off by their parents. In addition, Mr. Delia has an agreement with Holland Flooring for some employee use.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the Board forward this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment. If parking is insufficient, the business will suffer.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Historical Architectural Review Board
Luna Chick, 10 Swamp Road: HARB member William Mahler was in attendance to review this application to move an existing sign. He said that while the HARB meeting lacked a quorum, those in attendance agreed to recommend Board of Supervisors approval. Members not in attendance were reached via e-mail and indicated their agreement with this recommendation.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Luna Chick, 15 Swamp Road, as outlined in a memo dated May 17, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Mahler said that some time ago, HARB had submitted a draft book of appropriateness for the Supervisors consideration. The Supervisors had suggested that HARB develop some kind of pamphlet with basic guidelines for renovations in the historic district. This pamphlet could refer to an on-line copy of the full book. HARB is ready to design such a pamphlet but had questions about costs associated with it.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that HARB does have money in the Township’s budget. He asked Chief Pasqualini to look up the amount available for HARB to develop and print the publication.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that this year’s Summer Camps are seeing record registration. While a few spots remain, he urged interested residents to register as soon as possible.
Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko has received a $5000 grant to renovate the basketball courts at Helen Randle Park from the Coca-Cola Company.
Mr. Levine said that the Park and Recreation Board has been working with Jason and Natalie Cohen on a design for a playground at Veterans Park. The Cohen family has raised almost $50,000 to build a playground in memory of their infant son, Noah, who died of SIDS two years ago. The Supervisors packets have graphics of the playground design. With the Supervisors’ approval of this preliminary design, the Park and Recreation Board would like to move forward with a grant application to Bucks County’s Municipal Open Space Program for a three to one match. He briefly reviewed the design, which is an inclusive playground with very active climbing equipment. The playground would have a section for 2-5 year olds and a separate section for older children. The budget is approximately $138,000, but would not cost the Township any money. The Cohens would donate their fund to the Township as the matching funds.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he was very impressed with the concept and with the generosity of the Cohen family.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that as the father of a three year old, he is very familiar with playgrounds and this one is very cutting edge. It would be unique in Bucks County.
Dr. Ciervo thanked the Cohens for their generosity. He expressed some concern with using money from the open space program, whose mission is to preserve open space. He also noted that he frequently visits playgrounds with his 3 and 6 year old daughters and knows that kids really like to use swings in combination with the other play events.
Mr. Levine pointed out that the design does have a few regular swings but also has a series of stand on swings, which are very popular with children. Regarding the County Open Space funds, the program does have a sunset date of December 31, 2014, and the Township would have to provide matching funds to use any of the $570,000 allocated to Newtown. The program does provide for enhancing or improving existing open space to provide access to the residents. Once this project has been completed, the Park and Recreation Board will begin to prioritize other projects to enhance and improve our open spaces to increase usage and accessibility.
Mr. Calabro commended the Cohens and the Park and Recreation Board for the work they have done to bring a state of the art playground to Newtown. This will be a beautiful addition to our parks.
Mr. Levine said that the Park and Recreation Board would recommend naming the playground “Noah’s Playground” and would like to place a sign indicating such at the playground entrance.
The Supervisors did not object to this recommendation, to the design and to seeking County funds.
Board Members’ Reports
Mr. M. Gallagher reported that he had attended the DARE graduation at Goodnoe Elementary School. He commended Officer Perog on the program and his efforts in the elementary schools. He also reported that he and Mr. R. Gallagher viewed a rocket launch of a satellite at Lockheed Martin. The satellite was manufactured entirely in Newtown and is now in space. He also attended the Newtown Business Commons Association’s quarterly luncheon, where former Philadelphia Flyer Bill Clement was the guest speaker.
Mr. R. Gallagher echoed Mr. M. Gallagher’s enthusiasm for the rocket launch. He was very proud of Newtown’s part in this satellite program.
Mr. Calabro said that he attended Welcome Day on Sycamore Street. It was a wonderful day, but he was frequently approached by residents and visitors about the old Acme site, which is an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful street. He would like to Board to work with the property owners to get the site cleaned up or perhaps screened.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the owners of the site will be presenting a revised plan for the Promenade to the Planning Commission on June 5 th. It will be before the Supervisors on June 13 for approval. The developers are eager to expedite the approval process and begin work. The Board can try to discuss screening at that time.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the fence could be screened in the meantime with some kind of slats woven into the chain link.
Mr. Calabro asked that we all remember those who have served our country on the upcoming Memorial Day.
D. Ciervo said that he attended the Police Memorial Mass at St. Andrew’s Church. He thanked Monsignor Picard and Chief Pasqualini for their efforts to honor Bucks County’s fallen Police Officers.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the second June Board of Supervisors meeting will be reschedule to June 21, 2012 at the Township building and it will be a joint meeting of Township Supervisors and Borough Council. Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush and the County Commissioners are also expected to attend.
Reports of Officials
Engineer’s Report: Ms. Fountain reported that the road program will begin next week in the Devonshire development.
Mr. Gallagher noted that in recent weeks, Northampton Township has been addressing concerns with cell towers on private properties. At this time Newtown is not seeing similar requests. There are two planned cell tower replacements on street light poles in the Newtown Crossing development.
Mr. Garton announced that the Board had met in executive session on May 9, 2012 to discuss personnel matters and prior to this meeting to discuss litigation matters regarding Veterans Park.
Comcast Lease: Mr. Garton explained that Comcast leases a parcel of land on West Road owned by the Township. The lease is about to expire. Mr. Garton was contacted by Binswanger Companies requesting that the Township make a proposal for a three year extension of the lease. Binswanger is also seeking a 6% commission, to be factored into any proposal. He provided the Board with a tax map with the parcel highlighted and suggested that the new lease provide a 3% per year increase.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would agree to the 3% escalator but questioned whether the Township should have to pay a commission.
The other Board members agreed to the 3% annual increase but also agreed that they did not want to pay a commission.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this is a unique parcel with a unique use; it would be difficult to determine a fair market value. He said that he would prepare a new lease for the Board’s consideration. Meanwhile the current lease would be extended on a month to month basis.
Gasoline and Diesel Bid: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to award the bids recommended by the Bucks County Consortium as outlined in a memo dated May 3, 2012 by Interim Public Works Director Ron Weaver for delivery of premium gasoline by Mansfield Oil Company at a fixed delivery fee of minus 0.0266 per gallon and of low sulfur diesel fuel at a fixed delivery fee of 0.1470 per gallon by Riggins, Inc. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Rod Materials Bid: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to award bids recommended by the Bucks County Consortium as outlined in a memo dated May 3, 2012 by Interim Public Works Director Ron Weaver for road materials. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Police Report: Chief Pasqualini reported that the Police Department responded to 1115 calls in the past month, including 4 burglaries and 14 thefts, 19 domestic calls and 35 traffic accidents. Two of the burglaries were solved in part because of phone calls from residents reporting suspicious circumstances. He urged residents to call the Department if they see something that looks unusual in their neighborhoods. He also urged parents to be aware of the dangers of underage drinking. This can have serious legal consequences for parents supervising young people as they celebrate graduations.
Chief Pasqualini said that in the coming weeks the Department will be stepping up its traffic enforcement on the streets in Newtown Grant, particularly North and South Drive. He is also looking into additional speed monitoring devices.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 25, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the work session meeting of May 14, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $282,625.62 for the week of May 9, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that these bills have been paid, pending certification by the Supervisors.
Mr. Calabro asked about the large payment to Northampton Township for streetlight repair.
Chief Pasqualini said that 26 lights were repaired; the bill includes over $2600 for materials, alone.
Mr. Calabro noted the near completion of the police sallyport. He asked if the project would come in close to budget.
Chief Pasqualini said that the project would come in within the budgeted amount.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $1728.91 for the week of May 9, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $282,327.61 for the week of May 23, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $530,000 for the week of May 23, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Dr. Ciervo reported that the joint Township/Leck & Son electronic waste recycling day last weekend brought in over 12000 pounds of electronics.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would like the Township to begin using electronic packets for the Supervisors meetings. This might save the Township a great deal of time and money for printing, packaging and delivery of the packets. It might be a good idea to start testing this over the summer when business tends to be a little lighter. If the pilot program with Supervisors proves successful, it could then be tested with other committees, boards and commissions.
Mr. Calabro said that he did not have any concerns with viewing the packet contents electronically at home, but said that the Supervisors would still need easy access to certain information during the meetings. He would like paper packets made available at the dais.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would like to try a transition to electronic packets, but this would not be a forced issue and paper would be provided as needed.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would be very supportive of this change. He has worked this way for other committees and found it very convenient. He has printed certain items to be used at meetings, but frequently has found that much of the paper he receives is not used during meetings.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he would be supportive and also asked whether there would be a way to archive past meetings’ packets for easy reference when certain topics from past meetings are revisited.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this could probably be accomplished; he would research this further. He noted that he has been receiving discs of packets and saving them for about a year. He has found it a convenient way to keep track of past meetings’ documents.The meeting adjourned at 10:25 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary