Board of Supervisors
Minutes of February 27, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on February 27, 2013 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 Phillip 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 Reverend Peter Naschke of Lutheran Church of God’s Love and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson announced that a three year maintenance agreement with Superior Turf and pitchers’ mound discussion have been added to the Manager’s Report.
Public Comment: Resident Austin Strauss of Villas at Newtown asked whether a date has been confirmed for developer John McGrath to appear before the Board to discuss unfinished public improvements at the Villas.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that Mr. McGrath and Mr. Flanagan have agreed to come to a meeting in late March or early April.
Mr. Ferguson confirmed this, noting that Mr. McGrath is preparing a presentation which will outline the status of the project and will hopefully answer the questions the Board and the residents have about the development.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded the residents of the Villas that the Township has held over $700,000 in escrow for completion of the public improvements. If the developer does not complete the improvements, the Township will bid out the work. Ms. Fountain, the Township Engineer, has assured the Board that the current escrow is sufficient to cover all outstanding work. Mr. Gallagher explained that the developer may come to the Board and ask to draw down on the escrow as aspects of the work are completed. Ms. Fountain inspects and confirms that work has been satisfactorily completed before any escrow is released.
Mr. Strauss asked who will follow up on maintenance of the public amenities if the developer goes into bankruptcy.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Township has funds to complete public improvements but the project has not reached the point where discussion of dedication of streets would be considered.
Resident Hal Fair asked that Mr. Ferguson keep the residents of the Villas informed when a date has been confirmed for Mr. McGrath to appear before the Board. He said that in meetings, Mr. McGrath has frequently stated that “the bank controls funds” for completion of the development. He suggested that representatives of the bank be included in the meeting. He also noted that the Township’s conflict attorney had written a letter suggesting that Mr. McGrath be compelled to set aside funds for homes yet to be built.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he did not know whether the Township could compel this. It would be investigated, but he did not think the Township could force the developer to agree to this.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Zoe’s Kitchen, 280 North Sycamore Street: Brian Weghalter of Zoe’s Kitchen presented an application for a certificate of appropriateness for signage, lights and awnings for the restaurant at Goodnoe’s Corner. He noted that he has agreed to HARB’s request for gooseneck lighting and signage colors, but feels that the proposed striped awnings are necessary for brand recognition. The Zoe’s chain is new to this area and the awnings will help establish brand identity. HARB favored a solid colored awning. Mr. Weghalter showed the Board photographs of the awnings at other Zoe’s locations.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that the applicant has complied with HARB’s requests regarding signage and lighting and is only asking for the striped awnings. The striped awnings look nice and are important to the applicant. He would be inclined to grant the certificate of appropriateness.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed.
Mr. Benchener said that he did not think the Board should question the business’s choice of brand identity and also noted that this is a new building and is not within the historic district but only visible from the historic district. The AT&T sign on the same building has a very modern appearance as well.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Zoe’s Kitchen, 280 North Sycamore Street for the HARB recommended signage and lighting and for striped awnings as presented this evening. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Freestyle Salon & Spa, 227 North Sycamore Street: Melva Torriano, owner of the Salon, explained that her sign has been regularly painted to match the siding on her building. Over time the siding has faded and the sign color has always been repainted lighter. Both the siding and the sign are HARB approved colors. After a recent accident which pulled the siding off, the building was resided with the same original color, but it appears considerably darker than the old siding and the sign. She would like to repaint the sign to match the new siding.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Freestyle Salon and Spa, 227 North Sycamore Street for a sign. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Kramer Kirsh Allstate Insurance. 15 Cambridge Lane: Greg Kramer explained that his business has moved to another location. The signage had already been approved for his location on Sycamore Street. The same signs will be placed at the Cambridge Lane location.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Kramer Kirsh Allstate Insurance, 15 Cambridge Lane for signage. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Secretary Peggy Driscoll reported that at its February 19, 2013 meeting the Commission reviewed a Zoning Hearing Board application for KVK Tech, 114 Pheasant Run for a reduction in parking to 34 spaces where 107 spaces are required for a 28,800 square foot addition for uses G-2 and G-3 research/warehouse and recommended that the Supervisors not oppose this application as the applicant has assured the Commission that the facility will have no more than 15 employees on site. The Commission did have concerns about the reduced parking should the current tenant or use change, and suggested that the variance be conditioned some way to assure that parking would not become a problem in the future.
The Commission reviewed the conditional use application of Smoothie King, 2112 South Eagle Road and recommended that the Supervisors approve this application for uses E-5 and E-6, eating place and eating place/take out for a Smoothie restaurant at Village at Newtown South, subject to certain conditions, including no outdoor seating. The members felt this would be a very good fit for the shopping center.
The Commission reviewed the conditional use application for Qdoba Restaurant at 2950 South Eagle Road and recommended that the Supervisors approve this application for use E-5 eating place at Village at Newtown Shopping Center subject to certain conditions.
The Commission reviewed the JMZO amendment to change Goodnoe Elementary School’s current zoning to make the entire parcel EIR. This amendment has been discussed and reviewed before as part of the recent land development project. The Commission voted to recommend that the Supervisors adopt this amendment.
The Commission reviewed a JMZO amendment which would change the minimum acreage required for a mobile home park from 15 acres to 25 acres. The Commission had concerns that this could be perceived as exclusionary zoning. There are only two parcels in Newtown impacted by the change and once adopted, there would be limited availability for the mobile home park use, only in Wrightstown. Our Planning Commission liaison to the Newtown Area Joint Planning Commission and Joint Zoning Council indicated that at its last meeting, Wrightstown’s representatives had some reservations about the change. The Commission recommends that the Board wait to see whether Wrightstown will support the amendment. If it appears that Wrightstown will support it, then the Commission urges the Board to ask our solicitor to research exclusionary zoning and the possibility that the change would expose the Jointure to a challenge. The Commission also would like information on the possible ramifications of a successful challenge. Ms. Driscoll noted that after the Commission reviewed this amendment it was learned that the question of exclusionary zoning has been reviewed by the solicitor and does not appear to be of concern.
Financial Planning Committee: Chairman Warren Dallas reported that at its January meeting the Financial Planning Committee set its priorities for the current year and is asking for input from the Supervisors. Goals include researching debt restructuring and service, capital planning review and review of current revenue sources. The members felt that working with the Municast program required expertise beyond the Committee’s scope.
Mr. Benchener said that in the past the Financial Planning Committee had offered guidance on capital spending for budget planning.
Mr. Dallas said that with the Board’s permission the Committee would consider capital planning pre-budget and long term.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that Bensalem Township had recently formed a committee of business leaders and residents who are investigating grant opportunities for public/private partnerships. He suggested that perhaps some Board and Financial Planning members could attend a meeting of this committee to learn more about such partnerships.
Chairman: Mr. M. Gallagher reported that he and Mr. Benchener had recently attended Printmail Systems’ 20 th anniversary celebration. Printmail has been quietly expanding its operations in the Business Commons and has been an important contributor to the community. It should be noted that our Business Commons has over 10,000 employees contributing to the Township’s revenues.
Board Members: Dr. Ciervo noted that yesterday was the 20 th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing. He asked that we remember those who were killed or injured or whose lives and businesses were so terribly impacted in that bombing.
Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane – Preliminary as Final Plan: Mr. Garton explained that the Board is to consider modifications to the preliminary as final plan of Council Rock School District, Goodnoe Elementary School, for additions totaling 16,924 square feet. The additions will include 12,092 square feet for eight classrooms, 1826 square feet for two additional classrooms, a 2034 square foot stage area addition and 972 square feet for a new entrance. Parking, playground and drive aisle configurations are redesigned. Existing temporary classrooms are to be removed. The 17.45 acre parcel is to be rezoned changing its current zoning consisting of EIR, POS and R-1 zoning into EIR zoning only. The plans include recently revised stormwater management.
Attorney Michael Carr represented the applicant. He thanked the Township staff and committees for their help through the review process. He said that he had been provided a copy of the conditions being recommended and the applicant would agree to them. The district does not contemplate new students with the additions, but only to improve conditions, improve safety and eliminate the temporary classrooms.
Mr. Garton explained that among the conditions agreed to is an agreement to provide $120,000 for repaving of Frost Lane from Dolington Road to Linton Hill Road and to install flashing school crossing signage in lieu of traffic impact and recreation impact fees and to pay to the Township $24,570 in impact fees if the population of the school increases to 850 students in the next ten years.
Dr. Ciervo asked how the Township will monitor school population.
Mr. Garton noted that the District publishes school populations on its Web site; it will be up to the Township to monitor this.
Mr. Carr said that the improvements are not changing traffic; if the population of the school exceeds 850 students, there would be a change in traffic impact that the Township would notice.
Dr. Ciervo asked why change would generate a fee only for the next ten years.
Mr. Garton said that it was agreed that this is a reasonable time for complete build-out. The entire county is seeing declining enrollments.
Dr. Ciervo said that the addition will bring the number of classrooms to 47. These rooms could all be used as traditional classrooms for up to 1100 students if the district were to move some of the special classes to other schools. While this seems a good compromise, he wanted to make the public aware of the impact of the agreement.
Mr. Ferguson said that the staff, including the Police Chief, has met with the District and reviewed the area and found that it is safe. There have been no accidents reported in the last five years. The current width serves as a traffic calming device and widening the road would not make it safer.
Dr. Ciervo moved to grant land development approval for Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane, Tax Map Parcel # 29-10-45-1, for construction of a 12,092 square foot classroom addition, 1,826 ad alternate classroom addition, 972 square foot entrance and 2034 square foot addition to the southwest corner along with revised parking and drop off areas, playground reconfiguration and associated stormwater management facilities. Plans prepared by Terraform Engineering, LLC dated September 14, 2012 and revised January 18, 2013 and stormwater plans dated September 14, 2012 and revised February 15, 2013 are approved subject to the following conditions:
Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that he would prefer that the period for payment of traffic impact fees be extended to thirty years.
Mr. Carr said that the applicant is not prepared to accept that condition. The applicant feels that the project will not have any impact on traffic.
Newtown Borough Resident Nancy Carroll said that the parking is not adequate. There are currently 121 staff members and with parent visitors parking is insufficient, leaving no parking at the adjacent playground. She also questioned whether the district had the option of paying $24,000 to add 50 or more students.
Mr. Garton said that the Township had no authority to dictate school district policy as to enrollment. It would collect the fee to address traffic increase if the enrollment increased. The proposed parking is in compliance with Township regulations.
The motion passed 5-0.
Conditional Use Hearings
Conditional Use, Qdoba Mexican Grill, 2950 S. Eagle Road: Mr. Garton said that this is a public hearing for approval of Use E-5, eating place at 2950 South Eagle Road, Tax Map Parcel #29-3-29-3 in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District. The application has been reviewed by the Township’s Planning Commission, which recommended approval. The hearing has been duly advertised. He asked if anyone wished party status. There was no response.
Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the applicant. He entered as exhibit A-1 a packet of plans and photographs of the location in Village at Newtown Shopping Center.
Jerry McMullen of ZRC, Newtown Village Plaza Associates and Joseph Dick were sworn in.
Mr. Dick said that he is construction manager for Qdoba. He reviewed the pages of Exhibit A-1:
Mr. VanLuvanee said that no parking or curbing would be disturbed for the outdoor seating area. The seats are to be placed on an already paved area.
Mr. Dick explained that Qdoba is a chain of over 600 restaurants for fast, casual dining. The restaurant will have no drive-through service. Hours of operation will be 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM seven days per week, with three shifts of 6 to 8 employees. A location is marked on the plan for a screened trash receptacle. Deliveries will be three times per week, during off-hours. Signage will comply with Township ordinances.
Dr. Ciervo asked the number of seats proposed.
Mr. Dick said that there will be a total of 90 seats, including 24 outdoor seats at six tables.
Mr. Calabro asked whether entrance to the restaurant would be through the outdoor patio area.
Mr. Dick said that the main entrance would be through the Durham Road side of the building, with an additional door on the patio side.
Mr. Calabro asked the distance between the edge of the patio and the road.
Mr. Dick said it was about four feet from the tables to the curb.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township has requested that applicants use gooseneck lights on signage rather than internally lit signs.
Mr. Dick said that the restaurant would use gooseneck lights if it were required to do so.
The Board members agreed that although this is not facing the Newtown Bypass, they would all favor the same gooseneck lighting as was required of Corner Bakery Café.
The members discussed the proposed awnings, noting that they had cactus designs, which might be considered additional signage. While this was the decision of the code enforcement officer, the Board members did not object to the cactus image on the awnings.
Mr. Garton said that as the cactus does not appear as part of the name logo and does not appear on the signage it could be considered a decorative element and not a sign. He noted however that the Board could not compel the zoning officer to consider this as a decorative element. He would communicate the Board’s opinion.
The Board did not object to the cactus and noted the applicant’s cooperation regarding lighting.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board had asked Corner Bakery Café to attempt to install a path from the Corner Bakery to this section of the Village at Newtown’s parking lot. No agreement has been reached between the two shopping centers, however Corner Bakery has placed a gravel path and stepping stones to the property line. He asked if Village at Newtown would consider extending the path on its portion of the lawn.
Mr. McMullen said he would visit the site and consider the Board’s recommendation.
Ms. Fountain agreed to forward an aerial photograph of the location to Mr. VanLuvanee.
Dr. Ciervo move to approve the conditional use application of Qdoba Restaurant, 2950 South Eagle Road, Village at Newtown, in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District for Use E-5 eating place, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked that some kind of fencing be placed around the outdoor patio similar to that around Corner Bakery Café as he was concerned about the safety of diners so close to drive aisles.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant would install fencing acceptable to the Township Engineer.
Dr. Ciervo amended his motion to include fencing around outdoor patio to the satisfaction of the Township Engineer. Mr. R. Gallagher amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Conditional Use, Smoothie King, 2112 South Eagle Road: Mr. Garton said that this is a public hearing for a conditional use E-5 eating place and E-6 eating place/take out in a 1600 square foot store at Village at Newtown South. The application has been reviewed by the Township’s Planning Commission, which recommended approval. The application has been duly advertised. Mr. Garton asked if anyone present wished party status. There was no response.
Kristen and Greg Lamb were sworn in. Mrs. Lamb said that after trying Smoothie King on a trip to Florida some years ago, she and her husband have wanted to bring the franchise to the Newtown area. They found a suitable location in Village at Newtown in a storefront which has been vacant for more than two years. The location is within walking distance of the high school. Smoothie King is a healthy snack alternative or a meal replacement, made with fresh fruit and protein and other dietary supplements. The Planning Commission recommended that they ask for maximum hours of operation, although they do not plan to open at 5:00 AM or remain open until 11:00PM very often.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve the application for conditional use for an E-5 eating place and E-6 drive-through/carry out eating place at 2112 South Eagle Road in the PC, Planned Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener welcomed Mr. and Mrs. Lamb to Newtown; he is pleased to see so many new businesses coming to the shopping district.
Dr. Ciervo asked how many tables the Smoothie King would have.
Mr. Lamb said there will be five tables, each with two seats.
Mr. Garton said the Sewer Authority dictates the number of seats based on the EDU’s.
Zoe’s Kitchen Conditional Use: Dr. Ciervo moved to execute the conditional use decision for Zoe’s Kitchen., 280 N. Sycamore Street. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
JMZO R-2 Amendment: Mr. Garton said that although this had not appeared on the published agenda, he would ask the Board to consider an authorization to advertise the JMZO R-2 amendment.
Dr. Ciervo explained that this amendment would change the minimum lot size required for a mobile home park PRD from 15 to 25 acres.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement of a JMZO amendment to the R-2 zoning changing minimum lot size requirement from 15 to 25 acres. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson announced that the pension audit should be completed by Friday. The Board may have to pass an amendment to the pension plans to address the killed in service benefit for police, which is governed by the State.
The General Fund audit is underway. The current projection for 2012 year-end balance is $950,000; the estimate had been $680,000. The year-end balance for 2013 is now expected to be $1,005,000. Healthy earned income tax revenues continue. The current cash balance is $1.2 million.
Stoopville Road Median Plantings: Mr. Ferguson reported thatPark and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko, working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Master Gardener Russell Strover, has recommended that the medians on Stoopville Road be planted with spreading junipers and bunny grass. These meet PennDOT guidelines and will help with weed control and should be easy to maintain by our public works department. The cost will be about $1200. Planting should begin in early spring. The Public Works Director is investigating reflectors for the medians, as suggested by Mr. Calabro.
The Board agreed that the selection of plants should help with the appearance of the road.
Veterans Park, Superior Turf Field Maintenance Agreement: Mr. Ferguson asked the Board to authorize a three year field maintenance agreement with Superior Turf at a total cost of $41,472, in three installments of $13,824, to begin in 2014. Mr. Ferguson discussed the agreement with Kevin O’Shea of Newtown Little League, who was in full agreement on the plan.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize a three year field maintenance agreement for Veterans Park with Superior Turf for $13,824 per year beginning in 2014. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson said that he, Mr. Gallagher and Mr. O’Shea had reviewed the plans for the infield and pitchers mounds and agreed that clay mounds and batters boxes may be safer and offer more durability. These would be an additional $2600 over the cost agreed to at the last meeting.
Mr. Benchener said that clay mounds would last longer and eventually “pay for themselves.”
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize an additional $2600 for clay mounds and batters boxes at Veterans Park. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson said that he will keep the Board up to date as he meets with Superior Turf and discusses the Township’s roll in the ongoing maintenance of the fields.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the meeting of February 13, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $166,793.87. Mr. Benchener seconded and motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $175,000. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that theBirches assisted living construction has been progressing quickly.
Dr. Ciervo asked the Board to consider ways the Township can contribute to school safety, noting that the District has been holding meetings in recent weeks to evaluate security at the schools. CR North has a resource officer full time, with the district and Township sharing the cost. It might be a good idea to consider adding resource officers to the middle school and the elementary schools. He noted the distance between schools and the difficulty police might face if asked to respond to calls in the Pineville area of Wrightstown if an emergency occurred at Goodnoe at the same time, for example.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested discussing this with Chief Pasqualini, who has been involved in the District’s planning.
Mr. Garton said that in Warrington, in Central Bucks School District, a resource officer has been added who shares his time among three elementary schools and a middle school. Central Bucks District and Warrington had felt that a full time police presence in the elementary schools would not be effective or efficient. Instead, the officer rotates and retains communication with the Police Department and the schools.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Police Chief and the Superintendent be invited to a work session to consider this or other ways to improve safety.
Resident John D’Aprile questioned why the Township must plant and maintain the beds in the Stoopville Road median, as this is a state road.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Federal funding for the improvements required that the Township maintain the medians.
Mr. D’Aprile said that he favors removing the medians entirely. He asked whether the Township must maintain the fields at Veterans Park. He questioned decisions to contract with Superior Turf.
Mr. M. Gallagher explained that the Township is responsible for maintenance of the fields, but has contracted with Superior Turf to step up the maintenance to bring the fields into playable condition. The Township performs routine maintenance on all Township fields, however the various sports leagues also help.
Mr. Garton said that the Board would remain for an executive session to discuss pending litigation.The meeting adjourned at 10:10 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary