Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 27, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 27, 2013 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 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 Sandy Rowshan of the Baha’I faith and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Park and Recreation Board: Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko introduced two Eagle Scouts who have volunteered to do Eagle projects at Helen Randle Park. Both projects have been reviewed and approved by the Park and Recreation Board and the work is very much needed and appreciated.
Peter Bachman Gregori explained to the Board that his Eagle project will involve placing a 35 foot flag pole near the snack shed at Helen Randle Park. He said that he has spoken to Rock Softball representatives, who have offered help; Public Works Director Ron Weaver has offered to use the Township’s equipment to help prepare the site area. He expects the total cost to be about $2100, with Rock Softball donating $500. He will also seek some support through his troop and through the other sports leagues that use the park.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the American Legion or Congressman Fitzpatrick might provide the flag.
All of the Board members thanked Mr. Gregori for considering the Township park for his project and unanimously approved it.
Zach Sabol explained to the Board that he would be building an extension to an existing retaining wall at Helen Randle Park to help prevent run-off and erosion. The wall will also provide a small paved area for gathering near the snack bar and proposed flag. He has spoken to an EP Henry paving supplier about matching the materials to the existing wall and has spoken to parents at Rock Softball who are in the landscape business and have agreed to lend their expertise.
Mr. Ferguson said that Ms. Fountain should review the plans and visit the site since it involves stormwater management and regrading.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked the Board to agree to a waiver of any permit fees which might be charged for the project.
Dr. Ciervo moved to waive permit fees for Zach Sabol’s Eagle Scout project at Helen Randle Park. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher again thanked both Boy Scouts for volunteering to work with our Park and Recreation Board and contribute to Township parks.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its March 19, 2013 meeting the Commission reviewed two Zoning Hearing Board applications. Barre 3, 2875 South Eagle Road is seeking relief to place seven signs where only three are permitted and for one sign at a height of 12 feet where 9 feet is the maximum and recommended that the Board not oppose the application. The Commission did not object to the vinyl lettering proposed for the windows as they seem a necessary part of marketing a franchise which is new to Pennsylvania, but suggested a condition that no other interior marketing displays be visible from the windows. The applicant agreed to research whether the height was necessary for the sign to be seen from the road, as the building is below the road grade and surrounded by vegetation. If the sign could be seen from 9 feet, the applicant would withdraw that portion of the request.
The Commission reviewed the application of NDFK, LLC 32-46 Blacksmith Drive, for zoning relief for reduced parking. This parcel contains two buildings, one being converted to NDFK dental offices and the other currently used for Lockheed Martin’s warehouse and off-site offices. If the uses in the second building remain as warehouse, the parking meets the Ordinance requirements. The application is seeking relief to meet the possible future need should the warehouse building be converted to offices. The applicant is seeking to provide 169 parking spaces (62 held in green) where 209 would be required for entirely office/dental office uses. The Commission recommended that the Board not oppose this application, however did have some concern about the future expansion of the dental practice, which currently has some square footage dedicated to play areas for the pediatric patients, and the use of the parking lot for overflow from the NAC. At this time the NAC overflow seems limited to Saturdays when the dental offices are closed, but there could be difficulties in the future should the dental practice change.
The Commission reviewed the final land development plan for Brookshire Estates phase II, which was granted preliminary approval in 2005. The development contains 8 lots in Phase II, with 7 in Lower Makefield and 1 in Newtown. The Commission recommended that the Board approve the plan subject to certain conditions including compliance with the Preliminary Plan approval and the most recent review letters of our professionals. The Commission discussed a few items yet to be resolved, including payment of a traffic impact fee. The preliminary plan required installation of a driveway apron on Washington Crossing Road at the Wiggins tract. The Commission did not think this was still desirable, as at the time of preliminary approval, the Wiggins tract had been considered for development as active recreation, however in the Open Space Comprehensive Plan, Wiggins in now passive preserved open space.
The Commission reviewed the latest draft of the JMZO amendment dealing with Solar Energy, which now only addresses solar panels as an accessory use, but leaves performance standards to be addressed in stand-alone ordinances in the individual municipalities. The Commission recommends that adoption of this new ordinance be postponed until a Newtown ordinance could be adopted simultaneously. The members favored the standards included in the most recent prior draft of the JMZO ordinance.
The members discussed some concern about addressing zoning issues through municipal ordinances rather than through the JMZO. It was felt that zoning issues should be addressed within the Joint Ordinance and that the municipalities should agree to the specifics rather than draft different ordinances for each Township.
Board of Supervisors Report: Mr. M. Gallagher announced that Action Karate is sponsoring a 5K Run to raise ALS awareness on April 7 at Tyler Park.
Mr. R. Gallagher announced that the Township and the EAC are co-sponsoring an electronic waste recycling event with Leck & Son at the Municipal Complex on Saturday, March 30 from 8:00 AM until noon. All electronic devices can be dropped off by residents free of charge. Additional information is available on the Township Web site.
2013 Roadway Improvement Program: Ms. Fountain said that the 2013 roadway improvement program is ready to be advertised for bidding. She and the Public Works director have prioritized the roads to be addressed this year, including Wrights Road to Eagle Road, Sequoia Drive/Tamarack Court/ Ebony Court, Fountain Farm Lane, Cloverlee Lane, North Skyview Way and Skyview Way, Parkview Way, portions of Twining Bridge Road and as an alternate add on Monroe Way. The total cost is $417,913, of which $399,093 is from liquid fuels funds. The general fund would be responsible for $18,840.
Mr. Ferguson said that if prices come in lower and funds are available, the list could be expanded. The roads have been grouped to facilitate staging of the work, which also impacts costs.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about Frost Lane.
Ms. Fountain said that this has been postponed until the Goodnoe expansion project has been complete, and will probably be included in the 2015 program.
Mr. Calabro asked how many miles of roadway are included this year.
Ms. Fountain said that some roads are not getting total overlay, but overall, the project includes about two miles.
Mr. Calabro noted that there are 80 miles of roadway in the Township and it will take 40 years to repave the whole town at the current rate.
Dr. Ciervo asked how many locations have been ranked, noting that only a dozen are included on the list to be bid.
Ms. Fountain said that about twenty areas have been placed on the list, but prioritized to keep within the budget. She agreed to provide an estimate for costs of the entire list, should funds become available.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of the 2013 roadway improvement program. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Delancey Court: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that Toll Brothers has completed purchase of Delancey Court from McGrath and must execute new Development and Stormwater Agreements and post new security. The wrought iron fence is part of the new agreement; stormwater management is the same as the prior agreement.
Mr. Ferguson said residents of Delancey Court had some concerns about the consistency of the appearance of the units with the change in builders. Today he confirmed with Toll Brothers that the buildings will be brick on front, sides and rears.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to accept the development and stormwater agreements for Delancey Court from Toll Brothers. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro noted that the advertising for this development mentions a long list of amenities to be provided. He asked whether they are listed in the agreement.
Mr. Garton said the amenities, including recreational facilities and clubhouse, are part of the record plan but are not enumerated separately in the agreement.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had wanted the developer to attend this evening to agree to a time line for completion of the amenities.
Mr. Garton said that the deadline for completion of the project is 18 months. He suggested that the Supervisors could add a condition to the agreement withholding certificates of occupancy for the last 15 units until the amenities are completed. He noted that the Township is not escrowing funds for the clubhouse.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that a specific deadline for completion also be added. He suggested June 1, 2014.
Mr. M. Gallagher amended his motion to add a condition that the amenities would be completed by June 1, 2014 and that certificates of occupancy for the last fifteen units would be held until amenities, including a clubhouse, have been completed. Mr. R. Gallagher amended his second and the motion passed 4-0.
Barre 3, 2895 South Eagle Road, Zoning Hearing Board Application: Mr. Garton reviewed this application for variances to install seven signs where only three are permitted and for one sign to be 16 feet high.
David Levy, architect on the project, explained that the height has not changed since the Planning Commission review and he was unaware of additional information to have been provided. He believed the 12 foot height mentioned was from the bottom of the sign and 16 feet is the top.
The Board members were in agreement that they did not object to the additional vinyl lettering on the windows, which are counted as three additional signs in the application. Dr. Ciervo said that he did object to the proposed “B” logo letter on the chimney. The shopping center has a number of chimneys and he did not want the buildings to be branded, especially in buildings with multiple tenants.
The other Supervisors agreed with Dr. Ciervo but did not wish to formally oppose the application. Mr. Gallagher noted that the Zoning Hearing Board might well have similar concerns about the “B” sign.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the department had responded to 1116 calls last month, including 73 medical emergencies, 11 harassment complaints and 44 reports of suspicious circumstances. He urged residents to continue to report these suspicious circumstances, which have in the past helped to solve crimes. The Chief noted that the Department is now working with Upper and Lower Makefield on truck details.
Chief Pasqualini said that the Department had just completed its mock accreditation review and passed with flying colors. He is very optimistic that the real review will have a similar result and after five years with the Department, it will be receiving its accreditation, which everyone has worked very hard to achieve. This has involved the Department becoming familiar with and following all new procedures and policies as they change in response to case law.
On behalf of the Board, Mr. M. Gallagher congratulated Chief Pasqualini on the accreditation. He asked whether this involved the discussed update of the administrative code.
Mr. Ferguson said that this is a separate matter. He and Mr. Garton, along with Department Heads and staff, have been reviewing the administrative code and will be putting together a list of areas to be addressed for revision and update.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he felt the Board should be involved in this review as well.
Mr. Garton said that the code, drafted in 1999, is very lengthy and cumbersome. He and Mr. Ferguson are attempting to create a recommendation for the Board to review rather than ask the Board to attempt to read the entire existing code. The code is over 400 pages and is not available electronically at this time.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the task should have Board involvement; it is the Board’s responsibility.
Mr. Garton said that he and Mr. Ferguson would prepare a section demonstrating suggested revisions for the Board. The Board members could then comment on how to proceed.
. Treasurer’s Update: Mr. Ferguson reported that the current cash balance is $1,699,551.96. He explained that he has been updating the treasurer’s reports and expanding them to show comparisons to the budgeted amounts and to last year’s amounts. He has also begun to separate collected current and collected delinquent earned income tax. This should help Board members better compare and incomes month to month and year to year and to make better projections of future income collections.
Other Business: Mr. Ferguson said that as funds permit he would like the Township to take on two projects: an update to the Act 537 sewer plan and repair of the dam at Silver Lake.
The Act 537 plan was last updated in 1993 and the DEP is asking that this be revised. He reminded the Board that DEP had placed a hold an issuance of new sewer permits last year throughout the County.
Ms. Fountain said that the Township is required to show how it would solve existing problems and how new development would be addressed as part of its comprehensive plan. She estimated that the cost might be about $50,000 but she would need to attend a pre-planning meeting with DEP to discuss the scope of work and to negotiate requirements with the DEP.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has been advocating for this for some time and is eager to start if funds become available.
Mr. Ferguson said that he would also like to address structural issues at the Silver Lake dam. He had intended to include these repairs in the 2014 budget, but both DVIT and DEP have asked that this be addressed right away. He is concerned that since DVIT, the Township’s insurance carrier, has pointed this out, there could be some liability not covered should the dam fail. Ms. Fountain has indicated that repairs would cost about $50,000.
Ms. Fountain explained that repair would involve removal of vegetation and replacement of crumbling concrete walls which are leaking. The dam is not yet failing but the repairs should not be indefinitely postponed.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has recently become aware of a Township benefit obligation fund with over $100,000 in it which could be transferred to the general fund to cover the costs of the two projects. He explained that in 1994 the fund was established to pay for an early retirement pension benefit for two former employees. In 2000, the State made a ruling that this benefit should be paid from the pension funds and the Township’s minimum municipal obligation payments were adjusted to pay the benefit. The benefit obligation fund was no longer needed but was not closed out. He recommended that the Board authorize transferring that fund to the general fund and then using the money to pay for these two projects.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the two former employees are still living and collecting the benefit.
Mr. Ferguson said that neither former employee, a former manager and a police officer, are still alive, but he was not sure whether either had a surviving spouse who still collects a benefit. He would research this.
Mr. Garton pointed out that the actuarial consequences of this benefit are calculated each year in the Township’s MMO.
Mr. R. Gallagher asked whether the original payment to the fund came out of the general fund.
Mr. Ferguson said that it had come from the general fund and would be returned to the general fund.
Mr. Garton noted that the Township would need to get bids for the dam repair. The DEP requires updates to the 537 Plan every ten years.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize Ms. Fountain to prepare specifications for a bid document for repair of the Silver Lake Dam. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize Ms. Fountain and Township staff to meet with the DEP to generate a scope of work for the Act 537 Plan update. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfer of $110,493 from the benefit obligation fund to the general fund. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Abandoned and Junked Vehicles/Nuisance Ordinance: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that he had asked Mr. Garton to provide language to better define “abandoned” and “junked” vehicles as described in the Township’s nuisance ordinance. He had forwarded some sample wording from Mr. Garton to the Supervisors for their consideration.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had reviewed the definitions provided by Mr. Garton and favored those of Lower Southampton. He had circulated his suggested wording among the Board, noting that it requires that to be considered abandoned or junked, a vehicle must be unable to move of its own power or have an expired inspection sticker and have at least one of a list of other defects, which list includes broken windshield, flat tires, missing doors or windows, broken head or taillights or exposed battery.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether “unable to move of its own power” alone would qualify.
Mr. Garton confirmed that as currently written, it would.
Mr. R. Gallagher and Mr. Calabro expressed concern that vehicles being restored on private property would be included in this ordinance.
Mr. Garton explained that the ordinance gives the police and code enforcement officer guidance to respond to complaints. They can issue violation notices if they find that a vehicle meets the definition, but the district court judge would determine if that were truly the case.
Mr. Calabro said that he would like the ordinance to make an exception for vehicles being restored. He also had some concerns about regulating behaviors on private properties.
The Board discussed whether to alter the ordinance, but felt that any owner of an abandoned vehicle might, when challenged, claim to intend to restore the vehicle.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Township does not send code enforcement officers out looking for violations; the definitions are being added because the officers must respond to complaints and need guidance to enforce any violation notice they may issue.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Ordinance could be adjusted to address vehicles kept in enclosed areas. He pointed out that there are genuine concerns about safety; there had been an instance where a child had died trapped inside an abandoned vehicle in nearby Camden.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement of an amendment to the nuisance ordinance with definitions of “junked” and “abandoned” vehicles, with an exception for vehicles kept in enclosed areas. Mr. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher noted a typo on page #2 of the minutes of March 13, 2013, where paragraph 8 reads, “Mr. Mr. Gallagher…” It should be changed to “Mr. R. Gallagher.”
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the minutes of the meeting of March 13, 2013 as corrected. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 3-0-1, with Mr. M. Gallagher abstaining.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $378,475.49. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro questioned the payment of a contribution to the Newtown Ambulance Squad.
Mr. Ferguson explained that this is 25% of the local services tax collected in 2012, as per resolution.
The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $175,000. Dr. Ciervo seconded. The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of Comcast bills totaling $1483.92. He noted that the bills arrived after compilation of the bills list and must be paid before the next meeting to avoid late fees. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Garton said that there would be no executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary