Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 9, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 9, 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, Kyle Davis and Jennifer Dix, 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 and an invocation by Sandi Rowshan of the B’hai faith, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that discussion of Linden Avenue traffic remedies has been removed from the agenda.
Recognition of Nate Bartholomay, Olympic Skater: Mr. M. Gallagher read a proclamation honoring Nate Bartholomay, a Newtown resident and competitor in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in figure skating. Nate has been a participant in our Park and Rec and local sports programs since the age of 8. April 10, 2014 will officially be declared “Nate Bartholomay Day.”
Mr. Bartholomay thanked the Board for this recognition; it is particularly meaningful to be so honored by the Town where he grew up.
NBA Featured Business: NBA President Mick Petrucci introduced the NBA featured business of the month, Holland Flooring.
Roger Harnsbarger thanked the Board for honoring his family’s business. Holland Flooring has been in Newtown for many years, with a showroom at 35 Swamp Road and offices and warehouse in the Newtown Business Commons. He is very proud to be a part of the Newtown business community.
Mr. Petrucci announced upcoming NBA events, including April 11, 2014, the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Pickering Manor. The event begins promptly at 9:00 and is over very quickly, so be on time. This year there will be over 3,000 eggs filled with candy and prizes. All are welcome from toddlers to grandparents. NBA is also sponsoring Welcome Day on Sunday, May 4 from 10:00AM until 3:00PM on Sycamore Street. Over 235 member vendors will have tables at the event. Mr. Petrucci announced that the NBA Business Directory has been mailed to all addresses in the 18940 zip code. He has placed extra copies in the lobby of the Township Building and throughout the business community in member retail establishments. He urged residents to shop locally.
Resident Shawn Ward, President of the Sycamore Street Community Association, announced that the Green Parrot would be celebrating its five year anniversary on April 15, 2014. The celebration will run all weekend and the restaurant will introduce its new chef, Keith Puma. He thanked the Township staff, Police and Public Works for their support throughout the planning phase and through the five years since the opening.
Resident Karen D’Aprile said that she had watched the March 26, 2014 televised meeting and was very bothered by the tone of the Supervisors in discussing the appointment of a community volunteer to the Zoning Hearing Board. She urged the Board members who spoke against the nomination to apologize to the resident who sought the appointment.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its April 1, 2014 meeting, the Commission reviewed the final plan for land development for Newtown Townhome PRD, 761 Newtown Yardley Road for a 56 townhome development (use B-15) on 16.61 acres in the R-2 residential zoning district, with associated parking, landscaping, access roads and open space. The Commission reviewed the letters of our consultants, which the applicant agreed would be “will complies.” Of ongoing concern were the disturbance of a few steep slopes, landscape buffering, a community impact statement and traffic as affected by the proposed TIP project on Newtown Yardley Road. The applicant has stated that there are only a few small areas of steep slopes, all man-made. The Commission asked that these areas be calculated to determine whether they are less than 3000 square feet, which would not require zoning relief. The applicant has agreed to provide a landscape buffer adequate to create a visual barrier. This will be done after our Planner has met with the project’s landscape architect to determine how best to achieve the barrier without disturbing existing mature trees. The Commission would like to see and review the community impact statement before recommending approval of the plan. Our traffic engineer did not see the response from the applicant’s traffic engineer, but agreed to meet with the applicant’s traffic engineer and report to the Commission. There are some concerns about coordinating traffic improvements with the TIP project. The applicant has not yet seen PennDOT’s proposed plans. The Commission agreed to meet with the applicants again at our April 15, 2014 meeting to further discuss the outstanding issues before making a formal recommendation to the Supervisors.
The Commission will continue to discuss the Township’s sign ordinances on the second meeting of each month, as time permits. The Commission will be inviting representatives of the business communities, including Sycamore Street Association, Newtown Business Association and Newtown Business Commons Association to the May 20 meeting to participate in this discussion. The Code Enforcement Officer has been researching how other municipalities have addressed seasonal and temporary signs.
Mr. Ferguson said that he expects to have the professionals’ reviews of the Newtown Townhome PRD revisions ready tomorrow for the Planning Commission. The developer had met with Township consultants to review the TIP project for Newtown Yardley Road earlier this week.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. M. Gallagher reported that he recently attended a meeting of the Newtown Joint Municipal Authority to discuss the ongoing questions regarding changes to the DEP sewer moratorium. At this meeting the Authority suggested that a non-quorum meeting be held to discuss questions and concerns among the Township, Borough and Sewer Authority. He asked the other Supervisors to communicate their questions and concerns and for one volunteer to attend the meeting with him.
In response to the public comment earlier tonight about the last meeting, Mr. Calabro said that he was more emotional than he would have liked to have been, but felt that his job as a supervisor is to question the qualifications of those being appointed to positions before he votes. The position to be filled on the Zoning Hearing Board is a paid position and it is his duty, as it is the duty of each of the supervisors, to carefully consider the qualifications of those seeking appointments. He briefly discussed the positions of the other supervisors on this matter and on other past incidents.
Mrs. D’Aprile said that she did not think it appropriate for Mr. Calabro to continue to discuss the supervisors’ past behavior.
Mr. R. Gallagher noted that he is very concerned that the continued discussion of the matter of selection of candidates to fill the vacancy on the Zoning Hearing Board could possibly expose the Township to some liability. He urged his fellow Board members not to continue this conversation as this meeting is not an appropriate forum for personal or political attacks.
Meglio’s Sketch Plan, 1 & 5 North Sycamore Street: Attorney Ed Murphy, Heritage Conservancy President Jeffrey Marshall and Bob and Bill Delia were in attendance to discuss revisions to a plan to develop this property for a mix of restaurant, retail and residential uses.
Mr. Garton reminded the Board that when this plan was last discussed on February 12, 2014, the Board had favorable comments and were supportive of the plan, but wanted certain traffic and appearance concerns addressed.
Mr. Murphy said that the Board comments have been reviewed and addressed by this revised plan. The Delia brothers have consulted with Jeffrey Marshall and with an architect to develop a plan that will fit well with the vision for Sycamore Street and the requirements of the historic district. This plan shows a need for a parking variance for the first phase of development. The first phase will permit right out traffic only at the entrance nearest to Washington Avenue.
Mr. Marshall said that he is familiar with the requirements of the historic district as he made the original nomination to include Sycamore Street in the National Registry in 1982. He provided copies of sketches of the proposed facades and noted the importance of preserving the appearance of the existing building on the corner, #1 North Sycamore Street, and creating infill buildings of size, color and materials which reflect the surrounding buildings. The existing building at #1 North Sycamore Street has two street facing facades and the plan is to enhance the appearance of both and create a pedestrian friendly streetscape.
Mr. Murphy said that this project will involve some enhanced landscaping. The Delia brothers have also been talking to various bicycling clubs about providing a location for parking bicycles at the site so that the cyclists can stop to eat and walk around our historic district. The plan is attempting to address the bike parking, traffic and some access to the creek. Locating the restaurant at the center of the project, rather than at one side, works better for parking.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded all that the Township is very sensitive to signage in the historic district, where regulations are very strict.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he had hoped to see more development along the Washington Avenue side of the building. He asked whether the entrance would have right-in access only. He suggested eliminating that curb cut entirely and putting the new construction in that space and providing only one entrance farther from Washington Avenue.
Mr. Murphy noted the importance of preserving the historic building while enhancing the intersection. The entrance nearest Washington would be full access for entering but right-out only during phase I of the development. At phase II, the traffic patterns will be re-evaluated. The suggestion to eliminate the entrance and place the new construction there could involve a need for more parking. The owners are eager to build the new restaurant as phase I and will consider other options for phase II.
Mrs. Dix said that she also liked the idea of expanding the existing building and eliminating the first entrance. She asked about sight distances and about impervious surface.
Mr. Murphy said that the design meets sight distance requirements. The site currently has 39% impervious surface and will have 59% after completion of the project. The maximum impervious permitted in the TC zoning district is 80%. The applicants have considered reducing parking stall size, but would probably limit that request, since the spaces will be heavily used for in-and-out, short term parking.
Mrs. Dix said that she would support a reduction in parking or parking stall size to preserve green space, noting that there are a number of on-street parking spaces that are not used often. She also is supportive of the project generally and would be interested in creek access or a possible creek walk or pedestrian bridge to Newtown Borough.
Mr. Davis also expressed support for the design of the project, which will be an enhancement to the historic district.
Reports of Officials
Act 537 Plan Grant Application: Ms. Fountain asked the Supervisors to pass a resolution supporting her application for a sewage facilities planning grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority in the amount of $31,000. This is 50% of the cost of the project and the money would not be awarded until November.
Mr. Davis moved to adopt Resolution 2014-R-6, supporting a sewage facilities planning grant. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini presented the Board with his Department’s annual report, noting that crime is down in some areas, especially in burglaries and robberies. The Department has also had a very good solve rate. The biggest job of the Department continues to be traffic and truck enforcement. The report will be on the Department’s Web site tomorrow.
In the past month the Department has responded to 1805 calls, including 5 DUIs , 6 drug arrests, 1 robbery, 6 thefts and 5 fraud investigations and one fatal traffic accident on the Bypass, which appears to have been a medical issue.
Gasoline and Diesel Bid: Mr. Ferguson asked the Board only to act on the diesel bid this evening as there was some irregularity with the gasoline bid and it is to be re-bid.
Mrs. Dix moved to accept the diesel fuel bid of Superior Plus Services. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Treasury Report: Mr. Ferguson reported that the general fund balance is $2,407,633. All financial reporting for DCED and PennDOT has been completed. The audit process for the Township is completed and the auditors are now working on the Newtown Fire Association audit.
Newtown Creek Coalition Grant Proposal: Julia Waldorf, President of the Newtown Creek Coalition, explained that the Coalition is submitting a grant proposal for restoration of The Newtown Commons, a small parcel on Greene Street in Newtown Borough along Newtown Creek. This parcel is all that remains of William Penn’s original 43 acre Newtown Commons, which was mapped to provide all residents with access to the creek for watering of livestock. Much of the original land was sold off in 1796 to pay for the Centre Avenue Bridge. The Coalition is now planning to restore the creek banks and create a park like setting. As both sides of the creek are in Newtown Borough, it has been agreed that Newtown Borough’s Municipal Open Space Program allocation will be used for the match for the grant. She showed pictures of the concept plan to the Supervisors and asked for a letter of support from them, as part of the grant application. She pointed out that at one time there had been a pedestrian bridge at this location; the remaining footings are part of the restoration proposal, but there are insufficient funds to pursue restoration of that bridge.
Mrs. Dix asked whether the surrounding property owners are supportive of the plan.
Ms. Waldorf said that Fred Marshall, Newtown Bike Shop and District Court, the immediate surrounding neighbors, would not be directly impacted but have expressed support for the plan.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has seen construction equipment at this location now and asked if the project has begun.
Ms. Waldorf said that the equipment is in place to work on repair of a broken pipe. This plan will also involve some pipe repair and improvement to stormwater management.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether the property owners on the west side of the project, in Newtown Township, are supportive of the plan.
Jerry Schenkman, a member of the Coalition, said that the neighbors have not been contacted at this point.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked that the Township neighbors be included in discussion before construction begins.
Mrs. Dix asked about the bridge footings and the total cost of the project.
Ms. Waldorf said that the footings are covered by vines and are not visible at this time. The total cost of the project is $409,000, with a $182,000 County Municipal Open Space Program match and some private donations.
Mr. Ward, as President of the Sycamore Street Community Association, said that five members of the Association own properties adjacent to this project and are very concerned about it. They do not want to see creek access directly onto their rear yards because they fear it will be difficult to patrol and monitor. These are private homes and businesses whose owners do not want public access to their properties through the rear. While they do not object to the restoration of the Commons, they are very concerned about ongoing discussion of creek access through foot bridges and creek walks. He asked the Board of Supervisors to withhold a letter of support until the Township residents’ concerns have been addressed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Sycamore Street residents’ concerns are valid and he would like those residents to have input into the letter of support.
Ms. Waldorf said that the grant is to be submitted on Friday afternoon. There will be a fence around the western portion of the project. The bridge is not part of the plan and would not be constructed at this time. No actual work would begin until summer of 2015. She understands the residents’ concerns and the residents would be included in any future planning for creek enhancements. She showed an updated sketch to the Board.
Mr. Davis said that he is supportive of the concept of restoring the Newtown Commons, but the Township property owners should participate if a fence is to be installed or work is done on the western side of the creek.
Ms. Waldorf said that the plan would restore the creek bank on the west side, using native plantings. No benches or access to the creek is proposed on the west side. An access easement would be needed during the construction phase.
Mrs. Dix said that she sees no reason to delay support of the project. The Township residents’ concerns can be addressed as the project moves forward.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would like the Township to support the application but would like to write the letter after Mr. Ward and the Sycamore Street Association have had input.
Mr. Ward noted that his organization had only learned about the work on the west side of the creek this evening. The property owners thought all work would be on the Borough side of the creek in the Commons area. The Sycamore Street Community Association has always voiced opposition to any plans involving a pedestrian bridge or use of the old footings or any public access to the Township side of the creek. The only public access should be limited to public properties such as Carl Sedia Park and the points where the creek abuts the street. He asked the Board to hold a letter of support until the Sycamore Street property owners are assured that their private property rights are protected.
Ms. Waldorf said that what has been presented is all that is available at this time; it is a concept plan. The Newtown Creek Coalition has no intention of taking private property. This plan supports the Township’s vision for Sycamore Street and enhances the view from the Township to the creek. Restoration of the creek banks will have a positive impact on properties in the Township which abut the creek. A letter from the Township will enhance the application. She also said she would like to work with the Sycamore Street Association to create a letter indicating its support.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked Mr. Ferguson to work with both the Sycamore Street Community Association and the Newtown Creek Coalition to draft a letter of support that includes the Sycamore Street property owners’ concerns.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of March 26, 2014. Mr. Davis seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Dix noted that page five, vote on bills list should read, “… with Mr. Calabro voting nay.”
Mr. R. Gallagher amended his motion to include this correction. Mr. Davis amended his second and the amended motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve bills totaling $242,807.31. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $373,190.36, which includes two payroll cycles. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher announced that Monday afternoon would be the second annual “Touch a Truck” event at the Fire and Public Works buildings. This event is free but registration is required at www.newtownfun.com . April 26 is an Earth Day celebration at Core Creek Park. Our Park and Rec Board and EAC will be participating in this free County wide event. April 26 is also Special Olympics Day at Council Rock HS North.
Mr. R. Gallagher thanked CR ACHIEVE students for undertaking maintenance projects at Clark Nature Center, including care of the community herb garden. Their assistance is of great benefit to the Township.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that Mr. Lenihan has resigned his position on the Zoning Hearing Board and Mr. Davis has resigned his Planning Commission appointment. This leaves two vacancies. He asked Mr. Ferguson to please post these positions to seek applications. Interested residents should send letters or interest or resumes to Mr. Ferguson at the Township Building.
Mr. R. Gallagher noted that since Mr. Benchener has resigned, the Board needs to reorganize to fill the vacancy of secretary/assistant treasurer.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to appoint Mr. Davis as secretary/assistant treasurer. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mrs. Dix voting nay.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board had never selected liaison assignments at the reorganization meeting in January. He had created a list of assignments, using time commitment as a guide, trying to give each Supervisor an equal time commitment. He offered the following suggested assignments:
Bucks County Association of Township Officials, Mr. Calabro
Bucks County Community College, Mr. Davis
Community Service Organizations, all Supervisors
County Tax Board, Mr. M. Gallagher
EAC, Mr. Calabro
Economic Development Committee, Mr. R. Gallagher
HARB, Mr. Calabro
Homeowners Associations, Mr. Davis
Joint Zoning Council, Mrs. Dix, with all Supervisors as alternates
Newtown American Legion Ambulance Squad, Mr. Davis
Newtown Borough Council, Mr. M. Gallagher
Newtown Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority, Mr. M. Gallagher
Newtown Fire Association, Mr. R. Gallagher
Newtown Joint Historic Commission, Mrs. Dix
Newtown Joint Traffic Committee, Mrs. Dix
Newtown Traffic Committee, Mrs. Dix
Park and Recreation Board, Mr. R. Gallagher
Mr. Ward reminded the Board that some time ago he had requested the Township to investigate traffic calming on Sycamore Street, including prohibition of “right on red” at Sycamore Street and Durham Road and reduced speed limit at Washington Crossing Road beginning at Linton Hill Road and solar speed signs. He asked the Board to revisit this request.
Mr. Ferguson said that he would speak to the Police and Public Works Departments and forward information to the Supervisors.
Resident John D’Aprile urged the Board to stop making personal attacks. He also expressed support for the concerns of the Sycamore Street Community Association regarding creek access. He also expressed concern for traffic and safety in the Newtown Townhome PRD development. .
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would not be remaining for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 9:40 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary