Board of Supervisors
Minutes of February 12, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Ryan Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Jennifer Dix, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager and Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence followed by an Invocation by Leo Fitzpatrick of Wrightstown Meeting and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that a sketch plan for Meglio’s Restaurant has been added to the agenda at the end, as the attorney for the applicant is at another meeting.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported on the meeting of February 4, 2014. Attorney Ed Murphy, Engineer Scott Mills and applicants Bob and Bill Delia were in attendance to review a sketch plan for redevelopment of the Dilks properties at 1 and 5 North Sycamore Street for a Meglio’s Restaurant. The plan includes joining the two tax map parcels into one, renovating the two existing buildings on the property and building a 2750 square foot addition to the #1 building. The existing apartments in building #1 will remain and its one office space will be converted to a third apartment. Building #2 will continue as two residential apartments. The addition will include a 2000 square foot restaurant with 50 seats and patio and a 750 square foot retail space. Our consultants have conducted a very preliminary review of the plan and pointed out some possible zoning relief that might be needed, including parking relief and use variances for the take-out component of the restaurant, the proposed combination of mixed uses and for some parking in the floodplain.The applicants are aware of the historic significance of the existing buildings and indicated a willingness to work with HARB on the appearance of the addition to building #1 as well as any renovations needed for the exteriors of the existing buildings. They are considering a possible public bench area at the corner of Washington Avenue.
The Commission members offered some suggestions for traffic flow and were very supportive of the plan, which is in keeping with the recently adopted TC Town Commercial zoning changes and the Township’s vision for Sycamore Street.
The Commission also voted to recommend that the Supervisors authorize advertisement of the amendment to the JMZO which corrects discrepancies, subject to the condition that additional corrections noted in Mr. Torrente’s letter dated January 15, 2014 be incorporated into the amendment.
Board Member Reports
Mr. R. Gallagher said that Newtown can be very proud of two residents competing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi; bobsledder Jamie Greubel and figure skater Nathan Bartholomay. He wished them luck in the games.
Mr. R. Gallagher noted that another winter storm is expected tonight and he urged residents to check on their elderly neighbors.
Mr. M. Gallagher reported that the Township is aware that the weather has been severe this winter causing many potholes. Our Public Works Department has been working round the clock on snow removal, but when the weather breaks will begin pothole repair. He reminded residents that another snow emergency has been declared for tonight. No parking is permitted on the street. He urged residents to move their cars to driveways or parking lots within their developments or they will be ticketed and towed. It is necessary to keep the roads free of cars to plow them
Mr. Ferguson said that during the snow emergency the Township will continue with emergency operations. In the event of power outages Crossing Community Church will serve as a warming center for the Township. The snow emergency will begin at 10:00 PM this evening until noon on Friday. Township administrative offices will be closed, although EMS, police and public works offices will be open. He noted that because of weather conditions in the southern states, salt suppliers have sent salt to states which had never purchased salt before, creating a shortage throughout the northeast. In an effort to conserve our salt, it will be mixed with gravel and used on through streets and intersections, but not on cul-de-sacs. These streets will be plowed, however.
Mr. R. Gallagher reminded residents that Park and Recreation Swim Programs will begin registration on Tuesday, February 18 at newtownfun.com or at the Township offices.
JMZO 2013-06, Wireless Communications: Mr. Garton reminded that Board that this amendment was drafted to address performance standards for cell towers in the public rights-of-way so that the Jointure will not face the same situations as recently occurred in Northampton. The ordinance has been duly advertised and a public hearing must be held.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to open the public hearing on wireless communications ordinance JMZO 2013-06. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Garton said that this ordinance will establish restrictions on tower based facilities and secondary facilities. It has been reviewed by the Township’s Planning Commission, which recommended adoption.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he attended the Jointure meeting at which this was reviewed. The Jointure partners had considered making some changes, but agreed that the changes could make the ordinance more difficult for Mr. Cohen, the attorney who drafted the ordinance, to defend if it is challenged. The ordinance presented is as was drafted by Mr. Cohen.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to adopt JMZO 2013-06. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
JMZO Amendment Correcting Inconsistencies: Mr. Garton explained that this amendment corrects inconsistencies between the ordinance and the table of permitted uses. It has been reviewed by Code Enforcement Officer Martin Vogt and Planning Commission Solicitor John Torrente, who outlined a few additional corrections in a letter dated January 15, 2014. Our Planning Commission recommended authorization to advertise with Mr. Torrente’s recommended corrections.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of the JMZO amendment correcting inconsistencies in the ordinance, subject to the condition that Mr. Torrente’s suggested corrections, as outlined in a letter dated January 15, 2014, be incorporated into the corrections. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Gardner, 4 Azalea Court: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that in November of last year, Mr. Scott Gardner appeared before the Board requesting permission to erect a fence in deed restricted open space on his property. In order to do so, Mr. Gardner would need permission of all residents of Eagle Pointe and of the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Gardner explained that the property belongs to him and he is responsible for its maintenance. He would like to move his fence to enclose the portion which is deed restricted. He would like the deed restriction removed.
Mr. Garton said that the deed restriction could not be removed; the Board can only consider granting permission to enclose the land within his fence.
Mr. Ferguson asked whether the permission from Eagle Pointe residents must be unanimous.
Mr. Garton said that all property owners and the Homeowners Association must agree. They have all purchased properties with the understanding that there is deed restricted open space within the development. The neighbors do not have any right to the property, however, and cannot use it.
Ms. Dix asked how many homes are located within Eagle Pointe.
Mr. Garton said there are about twenty in the Eagle Pointe section on Newtown Grant.
Mr. Gardner said that he did get permission from the Homeowners Association, subject to the condition that all neighbors and the Board of Supervisors approve.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is concerned that this would open the door for owners of other deed restricted properties.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that in planned residential developments like this the deed restricted areas are planned for a reason. This could impact the entire neighborhood.
Mrs. Dix said that while this particular property does not back up to a road, within this development some of the deed restricted properties do back directly onto roadways and if the same permission is granted it could create a row of fences destroying the open space view the residents currently enjoy.
Mr. Calabro asked whether it is known why the deed restriction is part of the development.
Mr. Garton said that it was done at the time of negotiations for land development. It provides more open space to offset intense development. It was not dedicated to the Homeowners Association or the Township, but it was part of the calculations for land development.
Mrs. Dix asked why Mr. Gardner wanted to erect the fence.
Mr. Gardner said that he still must maintain the land outside of his fence and he wants a larger fenced yard for his children and his dogs.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that while he is not opposed to fencing this small deed restricted land, he is opposed to granting the permission, which could open up the Board to similar requests throughout the Township.
Mr. Garton said that Mr. Gardner is still permitted to use the land for play and can erect volleyball nets, and other temporary equipment.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that in the last month the Department responded to 1450 calls, including 2 attempted burglaries, 9 thefts and 3 drug arrests. Officers are working with the Bucks County District Attorney on cases involving laced heroin.
The Chief reminded residents to report any suspicious circumstances to the Department. Such calls have been helpful in both preventing and solving crimes. He also urged residents to obey the snow emergency rules. The officers do not want to issue tickets or tow cars, but it becomes necessary if the streets are blocked from plowing.
During the snow emergency, the Police Department will be open. For emergencies call 911, for all other calls dial 215-968-2800, ext. 255.
Mr. Ferguson reported that the auditors will be in the office again, beginning on February 25.
Mr. Ferguson reported that the Township has spent $75,000 on rock salt this year. The Public Works Department is doing its best to evaluate potholes for repair, but it has been complicated by the frequent snow. Last year the Public Works Department and the Engineer prepared a priority list for the roadway program, but after the winter, that list will need to be re-evaluated.
Mr. Ferguson commended our Public Works Department and PennDOT for the excellent job they have been doing keeping the roads clear.
PECO has been having meetings today and he has been assured that the linemen from out of town will remain tonight in case of additional power outages.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of January 22, 2014. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve bills totaling $227,312.75. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $180,116.60. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that on Monday evening the Board conducted interviews to fill the supervisor seat vacated by Matthew Benchener’s resignation. Kyle Davis, former candidate for supervisor and current member of the technology committee and Planning Commission and former supervisor Jerry Schenkman were interviewed. Both applicants have given generously of their time to the Township and are very well qualified.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to appoint Kyle Davis to complete the unexpired term of Matthew Benchener as Township Supervisor. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher said that since he first ran for Supervisor in 2007, there have been ten different supervisors on the board. He feels that bringing new people on the board has been good for the Township. Mr. Davis has been an energetic member of the technology committee and although unsuccessful in his bid for supervisor in the last election, immediately submitted his name to volunteer for the Planning Commission. He has shown himself to be a valuable member of this community.
Resident Ed Lipski said that he is past chairman of the technology committee and has worked closely with Mr. Davis for a number of years. He has shown himself to be an excellent leader and will make and excellent supervisor.
The motion failed 2-2, with Mr. Calabro and Mrs. Dix voting nay.
Mr. Calabro said that he would like the Board to reconsider its roadway improvement budget to include more roads. He understands that until the weather improves we will not be able to fully evaluate roadway conditions, however he would like to see the Township add to the repaving program to keep up with needs. He urged the Board to consider this for future discussion.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed with Mr. Calabro that the roadway program will need to be re-evaluated in the spring and he would also like to expand the program, however the Township is also still evaluating the impact of the loss of Lockheed Martin and some Middletown residents’ earned income tax. He would like more information on income before considering an expanded road program. He asked Mrs. Fountain when a decision would need to be made.
Mrs. Fountain said that the Board would need to know the budget for roadway improvements before it is put out to bid. She hopes to be able to work with the Public Works Director on an updated evaluation of road conditions in about one month.
Mrs. Dix asked that the small area of Woodbourne Road just south of the Bypass but within the Township be evaluated for the road program. It is in very bad condition.
Mr. Calabro asked the Board to consider becoming pro-active in dealing with the loss of Lockheed Martin. He would like to know what Lockheed’s intentions are regarding the property and would like the Township to work with the County’s economic development program. Perhaps the Township should consider dividing the property for more than one use or tenant.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the County has been helpful to the Township in other matters, including the rezoning of our TC district. There are also state economic development programs. He has reached out to them and is eager to work with all who can offer guidance. He has spoken to Congressman Fitzpatrick as well. He understands that Lockheed intends to leave in stages, completing its move by late 2015. He agrees with Mr. Calabro that the Board should step up its discussions on possible new uses.
Dilks/Meglio’s 1-5 North Sycamore Street, Sketch Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy, Engineer Scott Mills, Bob Delia and Bill Delia were in attendance to discuss a sketch plan for redevelopment of these two properties on Sycamore Street. Mr. Murphy reminded the Board of the attempts made to move Meglio’s to a free standing building at 15 Swamp Road. These attempts were unsuccessful and the Delia’s are now considering the two parcels at 1 and 5 North Sycamore Street. They would combine the parcels, renovate the existing houses for apartments and build an addition onto #1 for a 2000 square foot restaurant with patio and a 750 square foot retail space. They have consulted with Jeffrey Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy and are aware that the two houses are of historic significance and will work with HARB on the appearance of the addition. Both CKS and Boucher and James have done preliminary reviews of the plans and have pointed out a few zoning issues. A new floodplain is to be adopted shortly and all buildings will be outside of the floodplain. Three variances have been identified; the plan will need parking relief for two spaces, for parking in the floodplain and for take-out service for the restaurant. While restaurant is a permitted use by right, take-out is not permitted in the TC zoning district. There will be no drive through service and take-out will be through the restaurant’s main entrance at the rear parking lot. The applicant will work with the Township to find a suitable retail tenant. The Planning Commission was supportive of the plan. An area near the corner of Washington Avenue is being considered for benches.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicants would like Board input before proceeding with the purchase.
In response to Mrs. Dix’s question, Mr. Mills reviewed the new floodplain. The property has not been fully surveyed yet, so this is an approximation.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is eager to see some elevations for the proposed addition. He also noted that he has some concerns about possible retail tenants because of certain businesses’ sign requirements.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he is eager to see this property redeveloped. He had envisioned redevelopment making better use of the corner location.
Mr. Murphy said that they would come back with elevations once they are assured that they have Board support for the concept.
Mr. Calabro asked about the required number of parking spaces and plans for traffic flow. He noted that the first curb cut is very close to the intersection.
Mr. Mills said that 49 parking spaces are required and 47 spaces appear on the plan. Right now the plan shows each entrance with two-way traffic. The Planning Commission has suggested one-way traffic circulating around the buildings. This could keep some of the parking spaces out of the floodplain.
Mr. Murphy said that they would work closely with the traffic engineer on this.
Mrs. Dix asked about seating and about parking at the existing Meglio’s.
Mr. Bob Delia said that the new restaurant will have fifty seats, the same as the current restaurant. The parking is shared with the entire shopping center; there are 75 spaces for the entire lot.
Mrs. Dix asked if renovations are planned for the existing buildings on the site.
Mr. Murphy said that the exteriors will be renovated and probably the interiors will need some updating.
The Board agreed that they are supportive of the concept.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he is disappointed with the Board’s 2-2 vote to appoint Kyle Davis as supervisor. He asked what will happen next.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that three votes are required to pass any motion. The Board has 30 days to pass a motion to appoint a new supervisor. If an agreement is not reached after 30 days, the vacancy board is convened, which consists of vacancy board chairman Patricia Bachtle and the four remaining supervisors.
Mr. D’Aprile said that he feels the Board is doing a disservice to the residents of the Township by not appointing a new supervisor this evening. Jerry Schenkman did have the option of seeking re-election but did not want it. He urged the Board to move forward so that Mr. Davis could take his seat sooner. He felt there is little doubt who the vacancy board will appoint.
Resident Jim Casey said that he is very supportive of Meglio’s plans and urged the Board to work with them to move to this new location. Meglio’s has been very supportive of the American Legion and veterans organizations and has provided employment to many of our young people.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would not remain for an executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary