Board of Supervisors
Minutes of July 25, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on July 25, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener (late), Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, 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 Father John Atkins of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Promotions and New Hire, Township Police: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini announced that Officer Timothy Keegan had been promoted to Corporal and Danial Bell had been promoted to Sergeant and had been sworn in by Judge Nasshorn earlier today. New officer Frank Goodwin had also taken his oath of office before Judge Nasshorn. Officer Goodwin has joined the force after five years in Bristol Township and has already begun fielding calls. He congratulated Corporal Keegan and Sgt. Bell and welcomed Officer Goodwin. He also thanked the Board for its support in bringing the force back to 28 officers. The Command promotion to replace recently retired Lt. Forsyth will take place next year.
Police Report: Chief Pasqualini reported that the Department had responded to 1148 calls in the past month, including three burglaries. The detectives have been working with neighboring departments on burglaries and have had success through cooperation. He reminded residents that the Department depends on the reports from residents in solving crimes, so please if you “see something, say something.” The Department has also stepped up traffic patrols, issuing 168 tickets this month. There has been a decrease in speeding thanks to this effort.
Public Comment: Resident Shawn Ward, President of the Sycamore Street Community Association congratulated Corporal Keegan, Sgt. Bell and Officer Goodwin. He noted that Corporal Keegan has worked closely with the Sycamore Street Association on its many events. He said that Summer Fest was a big success. Tonight is a 5 K “Christmas in July” event starting at the Green Parrot for the benefit of Mary Kate’s Legacy. On behalf of the Association he welcomed Mr. Ferguson to the Township.
Resident Allen Fidler thanked Police Chief Pasqualini for stepping in as Township Manager, working two jobs, during the interim.
Mr. M. Gallagher echoed Mr. Fidler’s comments saying that the Township was very appreciative of the Chief’s willingness to help out until Mr. Ferguson arrived. He did an excellent job without expecting compensation.
(Mr. Benchener arrived at this point.)
Newtown Artesian Water Company, Proposed Well Site: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that Newtown Artesian had asked for a waiver of land development for a well site at the Tanner property on Washington Crossing Road. The Board had postponed consideration of the request until Newtown Artesian had determined the scope of zoning relief needed for the site. Newtown Artesian has prepared and submitted its Zoning Hearing Board application and is again asking for a waiver of land development.
Attorneys Carolyn Edwards and Brenden Brett represented the Water Company. Ms. Edwards said that the application to the Zoning Hearing Board seeks a special exception for the pumping station use in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District and four variances: a minimum lot area variance for 2.59 acres where 10 acres are required, a lot width of 199 feet where 200 feet are required and a building envelope of .805 acres where 2 acres are required, all existing non-conformities, and relief from the buffering requirement. The well site should not be buffered but should be visible from the street for security reasons. No variance is needed for impervious surface, as the Water Company will be removing some impervious and restoring it to grass.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had requested documentation notifying the property owners that this easement would have impact on the existing lots’ base site calculations. He also noted that the Board is considering two issues:
Mr. Garton also reminded the Board that the Township cannot regulate whether Newtown Artesian can drill a well. This is governed by State and Federal agencies including the EPA, DEP and DRBC.
Resident Peggy Driscoll said that she and her neighbors on Waterford Place are very concerned that the new pumping station will impact their well water. She noted that the entire area surrounding the proposed pumping station, the homes on Waterford, Washington Crossing, Stoopville and Linton Hill Roads, all in the Conservation Management Zoning District, are served by private well water. It is important to protect the land so that the aquifers are recharged. As part of the open space committee, she participated in the preparation of Newtown’s Open Space Plan, which recognized as a goal the protection of our open space. She urged the Board to require a full land development review for this project, noting that the proposed well will pump 96 million gallons per year. She asked whether the Water Company has explored other options for pumping stations.
Mr. Brett said that the Water Company has other stations in Newtown and has been asked by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to find another well to reduce dependence on Bucks County and Philadelphia Water and Sewer. The Water Company has been looking for other locations for 15 years. A number of other locations have not been viable. The Water Company will not get a permit from the DEP to drill unless the groundwater is protected.
Resident Elizabeth Shaney said that she has lived in Newtown for over sixty years. Her two properties back to the proposed pumping station. She does not want to be forced to use public water, as her well provides good, clean, healthy water. She urged the Board to protect the CM zoning district.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the Board of Health’s required protection zone will extend beyond the Tanner property.
Mr. Garton said that the protection area encroaches onto the Lavender Hall property, however the applicant has been granted an easement.
Resident Scott Burns said that he currently lives in Mardot Village but has lived elsewhere in the Township where public water is available. He did not recall ever having a very expensive water bill and wondered why the Water Company feels this new pumping station is necessary in order to save money. He also questioned the savings involved in the waiver of land development.
Mr. Gallagher said that there are costs associated with reviews for land development.
Mr. Brett said that the PUC determines water rates. During three to five year audits by consumer advocacy groups it has been determined that efforts should be made to find water of the best possible quality at the best rate.
Mr. Gallagher said that it was his understanding that there would be savings if the Water Company pumps rather than purchases water.
Mr. Brett said that Newtown Artesian currently purchases 57% of its water and has been asked by the PUC to find additional sources so as to have better control over pricing. To learn about the return on investment for drilling, he advised Mr. Burns to contact the Office of the Consumer Advocate; information on current rates is available at www.newtownwater.com. He expected to proceed to drilling sometime next year if all approvals are granted.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded those in attendance that the Supervisors can only address matters of zoning and land development; water regulations are not in the Township’s purview.
Mr. Benchener said that he does not think this is an appropriate case for the Board to consider a waiver of land development. The Board has only granted such waivers in cases where there is no impact on the community or if the project will have a positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood or occasionally when a non-profit is contemplating a very small improvement. He asked whether Newtown Artesian is run at cost of if there are profits.
Mr. Brett said that the PUC regulates Newtown Artesian; it determines the profitability. While there have been some profits gained, they are offset by the cost of improving and repairing the system. It is a regulated profit.
Mr. Calabro expressed some concern that the drilling will have some negative impact on residents. He asked whether the PUC would regulate drilling.
Mr. Brett said that the PUC determines the rates and the expenditures permitted; the DEP determines the acceptable quality of water and the DRBC determines where the Water Company can drill. The proposed well would be in the Core Creek aquifer, the least drilled aquifer in the region. Engineers have determined, after 72 hour testing, that there will be no impact on surrounding wells.
The Board was in agreement that the criteria for waiving land development are as Mr. Benchener had outlined.
Ms. Edwards discussed the pending application to the Zoning Hearing Board, noting that the well is a permitted use by special exception. She noted that the project will go through many reviews beyond the Township’s land development, including reviews by the DRBC and the Township’s Zoning Hearing Board. The Township does not have authority over water issues and there is no need for planning review because the project only involves a stone driveway and a small building. There will be no employees on the site.
The Board was in agreement that land development would not be waived, but a “preliminary as final” plan would be considered.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this could not proceed as a minor subdivision because of the easements involved.
Resident Sarah McLaughlin of 107 Winding Lane said that she is opposed to the well and fears that this will have an impact on the private wells in her neighborhood. She has concerns that she will be forced to connect to public water which will not taste as good and has additives.
Mr. Gallagher explained to residents in attendance that the Supervisors do not decide Zoning matters, but the members do review applications and consider whether to take a position at the Zoning Hearing Board to either support or oppose an application. This application only addresses lot size, buffering and the special exception.
Dr. Ciervo asked which wells were tested.
Scott Hughes, engineer on the project, said that the following wells were monitored: 14 Eldridge Place, the Roberts, Tanner and Wiggins properties on Washington Crossing Road, 360 Wrights Road, 373 Stoopville Road, the Kaiser property, Lavender Hall and the O’Roarke property. The properties are within ½ mile of the site. Representative locations were chosen; not all wells were tested.
Dr. Ciervo understood that new sources are needed but questioned whether there are any sites that would not need variances.
Mr. Hughes said that other sites have been investigated. The Wiggins property, for example, was considered but it had a low yield. He said that the Water Company has been searching for a site for ten years. Of 15 sites considered only this one met the DEP requirements. The DEP did not approve the Linton Hill Road site which had been considered a few years ago.
Mr. Calabro said that this well could prove a hardship for nearby residents. It is the Supervisors’ duty to represent the residents at the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Calabro moved to send the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose the application of Newtown Artesian Water Company. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that the use requires ten acres and the property is only 2.5 acres. This is a significant variance.
Mr. Burns asked whether he would be notified if he needed to connect to public water. He did not want to find himself without water.
Mr. Gallagher said that Newtown Artesian must monitor the surrounding wells.
Mr. Garton said that response to this is frequently complaint driven. He advised Mr. Burns to notify Newtown Artesian if he experienced a change.
The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that the Planning Commission reviewed the PRD Variance application of Edward and Anna Albert, 72 Greenbriar Lane for setbacks and increased impervious surface for a deck, porch and walkway in the Woods of Saxony development. The Commission passed this application to the Supervisors without comment, conditioned on compliance with the CKS review letter. The members felt the applicants have a hardship in dealing with a corner property with two front yards. The impervious increase is 1.64%, which is de minimus.
The Commission reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications. Dr. Joseph Jenci of 63 Harmony Way is seeking a rear yard setback variance for a patio. The Commission recommended that the Board not oppose the application. It was noted that the property backs to open space.
The Commission reviewed the application of the Rothman Institute at 2700 South Eagle Road for numerous sign variances including refacing of existing monument signs, a number of directional signs and two rooftop signs. The Commission recommended that the Supervisors not oppose the monument and directional signs, which are necessary to help patients locate the building and the appropriate parking and entrances. The Commission did, however, have concerns about the size of the rooftop signs and have asked the applicant to eliminate the signs entirely. The building has an elevation making it very visible from the roadways and the other signage features the name and logo and is sufficient for branding as well as identification and wayfinding.
The Commission reviewed the application of David and Geraldine Platt, 761 Newtown Yardley Road, for a use variance to permit use B-19, Transitional Residential Development, for a 64 unit townhouse development at the Newtown Swim Club location. The members spent considerable time discussing this application and the proposed use. Most of the concerns discussed dealt more with land development than with the use itself. Of concern is traffic, increased housing density, recreation facilities and open space. We voted 7-1 to pass this application without comment. The members did have lengthy discussion as to whether the B-19 use is appropriate for this location at all, as it was designed to be contiguous to Newtown Borough and POS and OLI zoning districts. The location is within walking distance to Newtown Borough and to Township owned parks but is not contiguous.
The Commission discussed the frequency with which we are asked to review applications for relief from certain sections of the Ordinance and discussed whether it is time to review the JMZO and SALDO for revisions to some of the ordinances. We have seen many residents and businesses come before us for relief from:
As time permits, the Commission would like to focus on a review of these provisions in our ordinance to make adjustments for the changes which have occurred in the community since the JMZO was adopted in 1983.
The Commission briefly discussed concerns with the proposal to add a Newtown Artesian well to the CM zoning district where it is surrounded by properties using private well water. The members had a number of concerns about the well’s impact on its neighbors for whom hook-up to public water, and the subsequent water bills, could prove a hardship. The members support the Board’s position regarding the waiver of land development, as it is important to monitor any changes in the CM district and to see that any restrictions the easements entail are carried forward by future owners of the properties.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Fidler why the Commission sometimes forwards Zoning Hearing Board applications with “no comment.”
Mr. Fidler explained that the members review each Zoning application and can either recommend to the Board that it support or oppose the application by sending the solicitor to the hearing or it can have no comment. In cases where there is no significant impact to the entire Township, the Commission members feel that providing a synopsis of the discussion is sufficient to guide the Supervisors in their review of the applications. Sometimes the Commission does not feel a formal motion is necessary to advise the Board to take action. As always the Commission members are available to the Supervisors to discuss the reviews. He urged Board members with planning concerns to contact the members directly.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he was in attendance at the last Planning Commission meeting and understood that the Commission carefully and seriously considered each application before forwarding the applications without recommendations. Mr. Gallagher also noted that he participated in discussions about review of certain provisions of the JMZO and SALDO. He is looking forward to hearing the Commission’s recommendations on frequently requested variances.
Reports of Officials
2012 Roadway Improvement Program, Pay Estimate #1: Ms. Fountain noted that this payment is for work on Sentinel Avenue.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize payment in the amount of $79,009.20 to Bray Brothers, Inc. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Corner Bakery Café, Amended Conditional Use: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that in October of 2011, the Board had granted conditional use approval for Corner Bakery Café at 3 West Road, however that approval precluded any outdoor dining. The applicant is seeking to modify the approval to include outdoor seating. This application has been duly advertised and notices have been mailed to the surrounding community. He asked if anyone in attendance wished to be party to this application. There was no response.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants. Jason Rose and Jeff Henley were sworn in.
Mr. Marshall explained that at the time of the original conditional use hearing the applicant had crossed out the request for the outdoor patio because it would require zoning relief. There were also some additional conditions regarding traffic safety and parking. The applicant has reached an agreement with the Township and funds have been escrowed to address this. The Zoning Hearing Board granted relief for a 539 square foot patio and sidewalks. The applicant would now like to use the patio. He noted that the CKS review letter references 40 seats on the patio, however there are 36 seats. He also noted that speakers on the patio have been removed and there will be no outside music. The Board has the right to require the property owner to install the parking currently held in green.
Mr. Rose said that this is the largest opening week any of his restaurants has seen. There was a lot of traffic and parking congestion throughout the week, but it is already beginning to slow down.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would work with the shopping center to dedicate reserved parking spaces for TD bank customers if necessary.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is supportive of the patio and outdoor dining. Residents want the patio. However he said that it appears that the raised crosswalk is necessary, as customers are walking from the parking field near The Gap. He asked where the crosswalk would be located.
Mr. Henley, director of construction for the Rose Group, said that the crosswalk would be placed near the Acme entrance and a speed table would be installed near the McCaffrey’s building.
Ms. Fountain said that the crosswalk location was changed because of a stormwater inlet. Police Chief Pasqualini has suggested adding a 4-way stop sign near McCaffrey’s. The combination of the stop sign and speed table should help to improve safety.
Mr. Rose said that he and the shopping center owners are supportive of the additional stop sign.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would also like the additional parking spaces installed.
Mr. Garton also suggested that the Board discuss the lights on the Café. They have been remaining lit through the night.
Mr. Marshall explained that the lights are on an automatic timer. It will be reset to extinguish the lights by 10:00 PM, effective immediately.
The members discussed whether to require the speed table and additional parking. The original decision had taken a wait and see approach to traffic and parking.
Mr. Rose said that he expected that the restaurant traffic would calm down significantly over the next month. Perhaps this could be revisited at a later date.
Dr. Ciervo said that he did not favor ongoing monitoring of conditions. He would prefer to install the stop signs and speed table now. He noted that this use has created some new conditions at the shopping center as customers are parking and crossing West Road to visit the restaurant. He would like assurance that the road would be made safer for pedestrians. He noted that the Café employees are parking in the other shopping center’s parking lot. He had concerns that there will be complaints.
Mr. Henley said that he thought the situation would have been monitored for a few months before a decision on traffic calming would be made.
Mr. Garton said that there was no specific time frame for addressing traffic calming; the situation was to be re-evaluated after the Café opened.
Mr. Ferguson said that he and the Police Chief have been monitoring the traffic every day. They both favor the stop signs as they have witnessed a few close calls between cars and pedestrians.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve an amended conditional use for the Corner Bakery Café, 3 West Road, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Penns trail Storage, 104 Penns Trail: Mr. Benchener moved to approve the maintenance agreement and to accept remaining funds in the amount of $27,000 in the letter of credit for Penns Trail Storage. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
PRD Variance, Ann and Edward Albert, 72 Greenbriar Lane: Mr. and Mrs. Albert were in attendance to seek a variance for a front yard setback of 37 feet, a side yard setback of 11.5 feet and an increase in impervious surface of 1.64% to repair an existing porch and walkway and install a patio. Mr. Albert explained that when he came to the Township building for permits for repairs he learned that the porch and walkway were not found on the record plans. They were installed by a previous owner without permits.
Mr. Calabro moved to grant a PRD variance for 72 Greenbriar Lane for a front yard setback of 11.5 feet, a side yard setback of 11.5 feet and an impervious surface ratio of 30.37%, subject to the condition that the applicant comply with the review letter of CKS Engineers dated July 11, 2012. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Application of David and Geraldine Platt, 761 Newtown Yardley Road: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this is an application for a use variance for use B-19, transitional residential development. The property is contiguous to the OLI zoning district but is not contiguous to POS or Newtown Borough, as required for the B-19 use. The Planning Commission passed this application to the Supervisors without comment.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants. Mr. Marshall pointed out the plan attached to the application, noting that it is not a fully engineered plan. The plan shows development of the 16.6 acre parcel for 64 townhomes in the R-2 zoning district. This property does not meet the criteria for the B-19 use because it is not contiguous to Borough and Township park and open space, however Mr. Marshall pointed out that only one property in the Township meets this criteria. The property would be eligible for use B-13, mobile home park, but the Platts would prefer a townhome development. They intend to continue as a swim club through the 2013 season, but due to Mr. Platt’s health, he is no longer able to work outdoors and he is attempting to plan for his family’s future. The plan attached to the application is otherwise a by right plan, except for the use.
Dr. Ciervo asked what acreage is required for a PRD rather than a townhouse use B-19.
Mr. Marshall said that the property is 16.6 acres; 25 acres are needed for a PRD. PRD’s also require a mix of types of housing, as, for example neighboring Wiltshire Walk, which has both townhouses and single family houses. Use B-19 and use B-13 require ten acres.
Dr. Ciervo discussed a single family cluster development, but realized that would yield fewer homes. The B-19 use was designed specifically as a transition from the Borough, which has greater housing density. The use would create too much density. He was also concerned about the loss of open space.
Mr. Marshall pointed out that the swim club is surrounded by townhouses at Headley and Wiltshire Walk.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the B-19 use was designed with specific properties in mind. It no longer makes sense to have this use. He asked whether the applicant had considered seeking a variance from the 25 acres for a PRD.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicants do not want to build the mix of housing and favor a townhouse development.
Mr. Benchener said that he would favor other options; mixed use would fit well in this neighborhood and would have less density.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that townhouses would be an appropriate use for the property; the area is surrounded by other townhouse developments. However he expressed some concern about the proposed density and the reduction of open space. He would be supportive if more surrounding open space were preserved and the density were reduced.
Mr. Calabro agreed that the proposed density of 64 townhouses would be too intense on the traffic and infrastructure of that part of the Township. He said that at one time a plan with 40 homes had been proposed for this property. He also felt that bringing up use B-13, mobile home park, sounds like a threat.
Mr. Marshall said that he had brought up use B-13 only to illustrate the permitted density in the R-2 district, not as a threat.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would favor a plan with reduced density such as a single family cluster development.
Mr. Benchener moved to send the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose the application of David and Geraldine Platt. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson reported that he plans to have a preliminary budget prepared by October 15, 2012. He has been meeting with department heads to review their budget needs and has met with the finance committee. He intends to present a budget with the current millage.
Mr. Ferguson reported that he has planned an informal pension committee meeting for August 15, 2012 for members of the Committee and the pension consultant and will also schedule a meeting with the union representatives. He is also preparing an inventory of all technology equipment and public works equipment. He will be reviewing the take home vehicle policy and is planning a report on project updates for the Township newsletter.
Mr. Benchener asked how the tax revenues are trending.
Mr. Ferguson said that the delays in the earned income tax receipts continue but are not as severe. This is due to changes in tax collectors. He will have a more comprehensive update shortly. Transfer and property taxes are trending as expected.
Mr. Calabro asked about roadwork at Short Lane in Tyler Walk.
Ms. Fountain said that the roads are being milled now and repaving will be coordinated after milling is completed. Eagle Road and Freedom Drive also involved in the coordination.
Mr. Calabro said that neighbors have reported that a dumpster has remained on East Park Road in Tyler Walk for a few years following a fire. He asked the manager to look into this.
Mr. Ferguson said he would investigate this. He reminded the Board that he is always available to help residents and urged anyone with issues to contact him directly. He has been trying to meet the residents every day.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of July 11, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $178.973.35. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $170,000. Mr. M. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that Township has a meeting scheduled with the DEP to address the issue of withholding of building permits due to sewer concerns. A number of Township projects were ready to pull permits and have been impacted by this delay, however the Township is working to resolve the issue.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Township has an update on Veterans Park.
Mr. Garton said that attorneys for the Township and Contractor have met with Superior Turf about bringing the fields to acceptable conditions and he hopes to have something for the next Supervisors agenda.
Mr. Calabro asked about the condition of traffic islands on Stoopville Road.
Mr. Ferguson said that they are being cleaned up and research is being done on appropriate low maintenance plants which will not impede sight lines.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has learned that the developers of the Stocking Works project have submitted an application for zoning relief in Newtown Borough. The Board had previously asked the solicitor to participate at Borough land development and conditional use proceedings. He believed the application was for a height variance to allow a 47 foot height and a length of 213 feet. The proposed structure would contain 19 residential units.
Mr. Garton said that the Township had been a party in the Conditional Use.
The members were in agreement that they would not become a party to the application but the Board would follow the hearing and keep the public up to date on the project.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded the Board that it had left open the questions of whether to require the Newtown Shopping Center to install reserve parking spaces to accommodate the Corner Bakery Café use and to require installation of the speed table.
Dr. Ciervo said that he favors requiring the 33 spaces near the Café, across from TD Bank and Applebee’s. He did not think the reserve parking near Piccolo’s should be installed at this time.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he agreed; with the installation of the crosswalk and speed table and stop signs, crossing to the Café will be made safer.
Dr. Ciervo moved to require the Corner Bakery café to install a speed table as presented in the Bohler Engineering plan. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo moved to contact Newtown Shopping Center’s owners to require installation of the 33 parking spaces held in reserve near TD Bank and Applebee’s. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Garton announced that the Board had met in executive session to discuss matters of personnel and would remain after the close of the meeting for an executive session to discuss matters of litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 10:40 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary