Board of Supervisors
Minutes of September 19, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on September 19, 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 (late), 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 Andrew Warren of Newtown Presbyterian Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
David Christopher Davis, Eagle Scout: Mr. M. Gallagher read into the record a proclamation congratulating David Christopher Davis for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. Mr. Davis worked with Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and the Park and Recreation Board to build and install safety signage and a spectator bench at Newtown’s Skate Park. Mr. Gallagher thanked Mr. Davis for his contribution to the community.
Mr. Davis thanked the Board for its recognition.
Resident Shawn Ward, speaking on behalf of the Sycamore Street Community Association, invited residents to attend the demolition of the old Acme on Sycamore Street on Saturday morning, September 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM.. Project developer Jim Worthington would be sponsoring a celebration at the demolition, including refreshments and a ceremonial wrecking ball.
Mr. Ward announced a “tribute to community leaders” event on Sycamore Street to honor Vince Lombardi for his many years of dedication to the Township as a supervisor, planning commission member, founder of the Acme Redevelopment Committee, the Sycamore Street Committee and now the Sycamore Street Community Association. The event will take place near the Green Parrot on October 11, 2012 from 7-10 PM. Tickets will be $75, and proceeds with go toward upkeep of the US flags along Sycamore Street.
Mr. Ward reminded the Board that it has discussed solar powered speed signs for Sycamore Street. He asked whether any progress had been made toward this purchase.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Public Works Director has been investigating this possible purchase.
Resident Mumtaz Pagdiwalla asked whether the Township could do anything to remove the new cell phone tower which has been placed directly in front of her house on Franklin Street in Newtown Crossing. She asked whether the Township had issued permits for this tower. She would like it moved to the open space near her home, rather than directly in front of it.
Mr. M. Gallagher explained that American Cell Tower had been given its permissions directly from the Public Utilities Commission. Rather than erect new towers, American has replaced existing street light poles with cell poles, affixing new streetlights to these replacements. The poles are in the public right-of-way, so he is not sure whether the Township has any say in this. He asked Mr. Ferguson to investigate this further and contact Mrs. Pagdiwalla directly with information of why the sites were chosen and whether anything could be done to change them.
Jim Worthington reiterated Mr. Ward’s invitation to the demolition party at the Acme Site on Sycamore Street. Corner Bakery Café will be supplying refreshments for the event. He thanked the Board and the entire Township for their support during this long process.
Historic Architectural Review Board
Burns Auto Repair, 19 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Ward represented the applicant. He explained that this would be a new double sided sign in front of the service station. It would be the same shade of red as the existing signage. Mr. Burns had met with HARB, which recommended approval.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to grant a certificate of appropriateness for Burns Auto Repair, 19, N. Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated September 14, 2012. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Public Hearing, Transfer of Liquor License to the Newtown Athletic Club: Mr. Garton explained that the State Liquor Control Board allows the inter-municipal transfer of liquor licenses, provided that the receiving municipality conducts a public hearing and the applicant can demonstrate that the receipt of the license will not adversely affect the health and welfare of the municipality or its residents. Mr. Worthington is seeking to transfer a license from Milford Township to the Newtown Athletic Club.
Mr. Garton asked whether anyone present wished to be party to this application. There was no response.
Attorney Matthew Goldstein represented the applicant. Mr. Goldstein explained that Jim Worthington, owner of Newtown Athletic Club, would like to transfer this license to the restaurant at poolside at the outdoor swimming pool at the NAC. The restaurant would operate seasonally.
Mr. Worthington was sworn in. He said that he owns this 4.5 acre aquatic facility, part of a larger athletic facility in Newtown Business Commons, an office park. He will employ about 75-100 employees at the pool. He has already paved 250 additional parking spaces. He expects that the sale of alcohol will account for about 15% of the restaurant business, with 85% from the sale of food. There will be no take-out service. The pool/restaurant will be primarily for family use; the pool will be open from May 1 through October 15, hours from 6:00 AM to 11 PM, with no food service until 7:00 AM. Employees will have RAMP training and customers will be identified with wristbands indicating their age for purchase of liquor. The bar area will only be open to those 21 and over. There are no plans for ongoing entertainment at the site, however there might be occasional special events with entertainment.
Mr. Benchener asked whether non-members of the NAC would be allowed to eat at the restaurant.
Mr. Goldstein explained that the license requires that the facility must be open to the public, however, the NAC can charge a “cover charge” which would be priced to discourage non-members from using the facility. The cover would include use of the pool.
Mr. Worthington said that he intends to make the cover charge very high for a day pass, possibly in the range of $25-$35. Perhaps there would be a different price for members’ guests, but the goal would be to provide a service for members.
Mr. Calabro asked why it is necessary to open to the public, when country clubs do have private club liquor licenses.
Mr. Goldstein said that this is a different type of liquor license for a restaurant; you must have a golf course to qualify for the club license Mr. Calabro referenced.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the license could be transferred to the inside snack area in winter months.
Mr. Goldstein said that the license is for year round use, however it is restricted to the outdoor facility and cannot be moved indoors. The license can be expanded by a permit for a special event or occasion indoors.
Mr. Ferguson asked whether alcohol will be sold the entire time the pool facility is open.
Mr. Goldstein said that the license permits sale of alcohol from 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM.
Mr. Worthington said that he did not intend to sell alcohol until after 11:00 AM and would close at 10:00 PM, with occasional special events until midnight.
Mr. Benchener said that he is very concerned about opening to the public. The pool facility had been presented as an amenity for club members, with no special pool membership or day passes. This will change the nature of the facility to a bar. While he trusts Mr. Worthington’s intentions, Mr. Worthington might not always be the owner and the license would remain. All approvals, including parking and traffic, had been based on this being a private club. He suggested that any resolution to grant the transfer specifically reference the entrance fee for non-members.
(Dr. Ciervo arrived at this point.)
Mr. Gallagher expressed some concern about over-regulating the liquor license.
Mr. Goldstein noted that the State Liquor Control Board and the State Police can enforce the license should the bar adversely impact the community or become a nuisance.
Mr. Worthington said that he has willingly accepted any restrictions the Township has placed on the club and the expanded pool use. He only wants the ability to serve wine and beer to club members at the pool, and fully intends to make admission unattractive to non-members.
Mr. Garton said that he is not sure whether the Liquor Control Board would accept restrictions on the resolution. He suggested that the hearing be continued so that he and Mr. Goldstein can discuss an agreement which would address the Board’s concerns regarding non-members, parking and traffic.
Mr. Worthington said that in addition to the parking spaces planned for the pool facility, he is installing 80 spaces for employees. He will also be limiting the number of people who can be at the pool at any one time.
Mr. Goldstein suggested that a condition be added to the resolution allowing the Township to participate at the Liquor Control Board hearing. He did not want to postpone the resolution because it is time sensitive.
Mr. Garton noted that the Board would next meet in two weeks.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2012-R-14, transferring Pennsylvania Restaurant Liquor License No. R.17071 from 1907 John Fries Highway, Quakertown, PA (Milford Township) to the property located at 120 Pheasant Run, Newtown PA. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Mr. M. Gallagher said that there are still further approvals to go through and Mr. Worthington has been amenable to working with the Township.
Mr. Garton suggested that the resolution be subject to the Township’s participation in the licensing process regarding traffic and parking.
Mr. M. Gallagher amended his motion to include as a condition that the Township can participate in the licensing process regarding the restaurant use, parking and traffic. Mr. Calabro amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Application of Jodi Specter, 373 Washington Crossing Road: Mr. Garton explained that the applicant is appealing the actions of the Zoning Officer, who has issued an enforcement notice regarding the keeping of two pigs and six chickens on a non-conforming lot in the R-1, medium density residential zoning district. The Planning Commission members have forwarded comments outlining their concerns regarding this application.
Attorney Scott McNair represented the applicant. He said that the property is 0.48 acres and is non-conforming for the keeping of pigs, which would be permitted on a conforming lot. Keeping of chickens requires 3 acres. Ms. Specter has lived at the property since 2000 and had had ten chickens the entire time. These chickens are considered pets, as are the pigs. Under the ordinance, pets are considered an accessory use, however Township staff has confirmed that there is no stand-alone ordinance regarding pets.
Mr. McNair said that he intends to present to the Zoning Hearing Board that the pigs are domesticated pets and should be permitted. If the Zoning Hearing Board does not agree, he will seek a variance, as this is a hardship. Ms. Specter did not create the nonconformity. The area is buffered and fenced. The chickens are kept in a clean coop and the pigs spend most of their time indoors. He will present evidence that the animals are less likely to spread disease than a dog.
Mr. Garton asked whether any of the chickens are roosters.
Ms. Specter said that there is one rooster. She has had the animals for more than ten years without any complaints from neighbors. The animals were adopted from the Ark Foundation. The chickens eat deer ticks.
Mr. McNair said that Ms. Specter would accept as a condition that she would be limited to two pigs and six chickens.
Dr. Ciervo said that he did not believe that pigs and chickens are pets; they are livestock. The original drafters of the JMZO were farmers and they understood the reasons for limiting the keeping of poultry and livestock to a specific lot size. However he favored not sending the solicitor, but leaving the matter to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The Board was in agreement to leave the matter to the Zoning Hearing Board and to not send the solicitor to formally oppose.
Dr. Ciervo reminded residents that the State has recently passed a voter id law, requiring voters to show photo id in order to vote this Election Day. Although the law is currently being challenged in court, if it stands, voters should come to the polls prepared to show either a Pennsylvania drivers License, US Passport, a PennDOT issued non-driver identification card, a US Military id, US Military dependent id, or an identification issued to employees of the Federal, State, County or municipal government. College and university student ids are also accepted, provided they show an expiration date. The deadline for filing for an absentee ballot is October 29.
Mr. Gallagher said that this information is also printed in the Township Newsletter, which all households received last week.
Roadway Improvement Program, Final Pay Estimate: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize payment in the amount of $19,029.88 to Bray Brothers for the fourth and final payment of the 2012 Roadway Improvement Program. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Ordinance Amending the 457 Deferred Compensation Plan: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this ordinance has been duly advertised. It will allow the Board to make contributions as part of the normal payroll process rather than quarterly.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Ordinance 2012-O-6, amending the 457 Deferred Compensation Plan. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Corner Bakery Café, Parking and Crosswalk: Mr. Garton explained that the owner of the Corner Bakery Café, through his attorney, Don Marshall, is requesting that the Board reconsider its decision to require a raised crosswalk and installation of parking held in green at Newtown Shopping Center.
Mr. Marshall explained that since the café first opened, business has leveled off considerably. The original conditional use had called for the installations if the Board deemed them necessary. A few weeks ago the Board had required installation in response to the heavy traffic at the location. This has since dropped more than 50% and the owners feel the traffic patterns are now a typical volume.
Jason Rose, owner of the Café said that in addition to a 50% drop in diners, he has reduced the staff by 1/3. Initially, during a training period, more employees were working every shift. In addition, traffic has been calmed and regulated by the addition of four-way stop signs at the entrance to the parking area.
Jeff Henley of the Rose Group said that the raised crosswalks would require milling for an additional 1500 square feet of new asphalt. The installation would cause severe disruption of traffic. It will also require removal of a section of sidewalk, as the crosswalk will need to be located nearer to the McCaffrey’s shopping center to avoid drainage issues.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini said that he and his department have been monitoring the café in the mornings and at lunchtime and would agree with the applicant’s assessment. Customers have gotten accustomed to the new stop signs and volume has dropped significantly from the opening weeks. He would support no longer requiring the crosswalk and parking.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that the installation of additional parking would remain the obligation of the shopping center owners, should the Supervisors decide it is needed at a later time.
Dr. Ciervo said that he agreed that the traffic has been reduced and the crosswalks might no longer be necessary, but he still strongly favors installation of the additional parking at this time. The additional parking will benefit customers of all of the businesses at that end of the shopping center.
Mr. Marshall said that the parking is an issue between the Supervisors and the shopping center owners. It had been the tradition of the Boards of Supervisors to hold parking in green to avoid unnecessary paving and preserve an appearance of lawns and greenery.
Mr. R. Gallagher agreed that conditions have improved. He suggested revisiting the question of parking in six months.
Mr. Benchener agreed that the crosswalk no longer seems necessary. The businesses in the shopping center would be impacted if parking were inadequate; the business owners would contact the Township if they felt the parking were necessary.
Mr. Benchener moved to amend the conditional use for the Corner Bakery Café to eliminate the requirement to install raised crosswalks and to withdraw the requirement to install parking currently held in green. Escrow for the crosswalk is to be released. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that he feels the additional parking is needed and for that reason will not support the motion.
The motion passed 4-1, with Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Police Report: Chief Pasqualini reported that the department responded to 1267 calls for service, including one instance of road rage involving display of firearm. He urged residents involved in instances of road rage to drive to the police station or phone the police, and not to confront the other driver.
Chief Pasqualini said that the Department is training officers on the use of Lojack to find people who have wandered off. This has been an effective method for tracking elderly people and handicapped children who leave their homes and get disoriented. Information on the system will be on the police department Web site.
Chief Pasqualini warned residents of scams his department has been investigating, including telephone calls from people claiming to be Microsoft Tech Support, asking to connect to residents computers. Another scam involves workers offering to seal driveways with “leftover” sealer from another job for a very reduced price. And there have been a number of reports of very authentic looking “lottery winner” letters, requiring that winners send a deposit or a check to cover handling. He advised residents that Microsoft does not call you, you have to call them, that lotteries will send you money, and that you should ask for solicitors’ permits from anyone offering a deal at your door. Legitimate businesses will have such identification.
Chief Pasqualini said that Newtown and Newtown Township will participate in a drug take back on September 29 in the lobby of the municipal building.
2012/13 Salt Bid: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the salt bid of International Salt Company, LLC for $51.20 per ton. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson noted that this is a decrease over last year’s price.
2013 Minimum Municipal Obligation: Mr. Ferguson reported that, according to the Township’s actuary, next year’s minimum municipal obligation will be:
The State aid will be about $350,000.
Mr. Ferguson reported that Township staff has met with Keystone Collections. Our earned income tax collections are up but the breakdown between non-resident and resident taxes reported is off and Keystone is trying to determine why. Overall, however, earned income tax collection county wide is up about 18%.
Other Business: Mr. Ferguson said that the staff is working to establish a policy to deal with signs placed in the rights of way. About 100 signs have been removed and the staff is drafting a courtesy letter advising those placing such signs that a permit is required.
As of today, the cash balance in the general fund is $1,286,942. This year’s minimum municipal obligation will be about $900,000.
Dr. Ciervo noted that this payment to our employee unions’ pension funds is about 10% of our annual budget. When pension investments do not make money, the Township is obligated to make up the difference with a cash payment for the defined benefit pensions. For this reason, he has advocated for a defined contribution plan, as defined benefit pensions are becoming too big a burden on taxpayers.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the work session of August 13, 2012. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of August 22, 2012. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $224,015.90 from the bills list dated September 5, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $182,484.96 from the bills list of September 5, 2012. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $170,881.66 for the bills list dated September 19, 2012. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked about a payment to Scrappy’s Auto Repair in Penndel. He said that he would want to see Newtown businesses used whenever possible.
Mr. Ferguson explained that this was a problem with the salt spreader, which other mechanics were not able to diagnose. The repair required an engine replacement which has a three year warranty.
Dr. Ciervo confirmed that Scrappy’s specializes in large vehicles.
Mr. Calabro asked about payments for the Terry Drive extension.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the survey work has been completed and the project is now in the design phase.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $199,564.92 for the bills list dated September 19, 2012. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Calabro said that a resident of Newtown Gate had inquired about possibly installing speed bumps or raised crosswalks on Fountain Farm Lane to reduce speeds and calm traffic.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he Township has avoided using speed bumps because they can damage the snow plows. He asked Mr. Ferguson to look into this.
Mr. Ferguson said that staff would investigate; perhaps increased police presences will help. He asked that the Board forward such inquiries to him so that he and the staff can attempt to address residents’ concerns in a timely fashion.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain for an executive session to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary