Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 23, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Ryan Gallagher, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Kyle Davis and Phillip Calabro and Jennifer Dix, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner and Amy Kaminski, Township Traffic Engineer.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence and an invocation by Reverend Chris McCloskey of Grace Point Church, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Resident Mick Petrucci, President of Newtown Business Association, announced that Welcome Day will be Sunday, May 4 on Sycamore Street from 11 AM to 4 PM. He reported that the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Pickering Manor was a tremendous success with over 700 children participating.
Resident Jim Casey, Commander of American Legion Post 44, Newtown, urged everyone to attend the annual Memorial Day parade, which begins on Monday, May 26 at 9:00 AM at the Newtown Business Commons, through the Township and Borough to the American Legion Post on Linden Avenue. He invited the Board members to attend as special guests.
Linden Avenue Traffic Analysis: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that about one year ago, Monsignor Picard of St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, had asked for help to address some safety concerns at Linden Avenue and Swamp Road. Mr. Ferguson had then asked our Traffic Engineer, Amy Kaminski and Police Chief Pasqualini to review the intersection and make recommendations. Our Public Works Director, Ron Weaver, removed and trimmed some hedges at the corner to improve sight distances.
Ms. Kaminski reported that she had conducted some studies of conditions at Linden Avenue on school days. Many students walk in the street toward the high school, crossing Swamp Road at the intersection. Cars making turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road cannot see that there are school students walking in the street toward the school. There are no sidewalks at this location. To provide safety to the pedestrians and to cars heading toward Swamp Road from Linden Avenue, she suggested that turns onto Linden from Swamp be prohibited. She conducted a traffic count and found that the delays caused to those who want to drive down Linden from Swamp would be insignificant. These motorists would have to take Walnut Street instead, adding only a few seconds to their trips, but would provide safety for hundreds of school students. She suggested that in addition to prohibiting turns into Linden Avenue from Swamp Road, some signage be installed to alert motorists to the changed traffic pattern. To make this change would require passage of an ordinance.
Mr. Ferguson said that residents of Linden Avenue can still exit from their homes and go in either direction. It will not be a one way street.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether this will have an impact on Walnut Street traffic.
Ms. Kaminski said that this will add 4 trips at AM peak and 8 at PM peak. Most of the traffic is already on Walnut Street. Once drivers become familiar with the change they will probably use Richboro Road, avoiding Swamp Road entirely.
Mrs. Dix asked about the safety of students crossing Swamp Road.
Ms. Kaminski said that crossing is permitted and it is safe. There is clear visibility. The issue is that students cannot be seen by drivers making the turn into Linden Avenue.
Monsignor Picard said that he has been using this turn himself for many years and has seen high school students coming very close to oncoming cars, not having enough room to step out of the way. He said that while he agrees that the students can be seen as they cross Swamp Road to the school, additional signage marking the crosswalks would be helpful. He also thought a sidewalk along Linden Avenue might be safer for the students.
Mr. Ferguson said that in addition to trimming the bushes at the corner, he has asked the high school to increase the blinking lights at the crosswalk area. He believes that limiting the turns on Linden will be very helpful.
Chief Pasqualini said that he has visited the site on numerous occasions and has seen that the students congregate on Linden Avenue waiting for one another. Although there have been no accidents yet, it does seem dangerous and prohibiting turns onto Linden Avenue will be very helpful. He suggested prohibiting turns during the day on school days.
Mr. Casey said that he would like to see the prohibition of turns limited to school hours only. Prohibiting turns could be a problem for people looking for the Legion Hall, especially during evenings and weekends, although there are also some weekday classes at the Hall. He mentioned that this could put a burden on German Avenue. He agreed that the situation seems dangerous now and he favors restrictions during and after school hours. He also thought that adding sidewalks would be helpful. He did not favor extending the prohibition on evenings and weekends. He reminded the Board that there is no access to the Bypass from Swamp Road, so many cars do try to cut through to Richboro Road.
Ms. Kaminski said that limiting restrictions to certain hours, like at the start and end of the school day, can create difficulty with enforcement. She suggested prohibiting turns all day and placing some advance signage near the intersection.
The Board discussed possibly restricting turns in the morning and after school but after further consideration agreed that prohibitions from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday might be the best choice.
Mr. Garton said that the Board should authorize him to draft and advertise an ordinance restricting turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road during the agreed upon hours. The Board can evaluate the effectiveness and draft an adjusted ordinance at a later time if necessary.
Ms. Kaminski said she believed that the traffic counts were taped and she could review them to see the traffic patterns throughout the day.
The Board favored taking action this evening on a full day prohibition of turns. They agreed that the safety of the students was most important. This would be a good beginning to addressing ongoing concerns with traffic and safety near the high school
Mr. Casey was in agreement with the Board’s decision, but suggested asking the police to speak to the students at the high school about pedestrian and traffic safety.
Mr. Davis moved to direct the Township Solicitor to draft and advertise an ordinance prohibiting turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road between the hours of 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Flag Presentation: Mick Petrucci said that in 2008 the Township placed flags on half of the light poles on Sycamore Street but had not been able to provide flags for all of the fixtures. The NBA, Shawn Ward, The Sycamore Street Community Association, Jim McCaffrey and the American Legion have gotten together to purchase the remaining flags and have worked with Public Works Director Ron Weaver to purchase the flags at an excellent price from Cote’s Flags. Mr. Weaver has planned to have all of the flags installed by May 17, in time for Memorial Day. The flags will be removed for the winter months each year on November 11.
Messrs. Casey, McCaffrey, Weaver and Petrucci presented the flags to the Township, displaying them for the first time.
On behalf of the residents of Newtown, the Supervisors thanked the individuals and organizations who have worked to raise the money to raise the flags.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its April 15, 2014 meeting, the Planning Commission reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications. Mark and Heather Wildgust, 104 St. Andrew’s Place, are seeking a variance for increased impervious surface to install a swimming pool. The Commission recommended that the Board not oppose this application provided the conditions of Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton’s letter dated March 18, 2014 are met. The Commission suggested that if the applicant is unable to gain unanimous approval of the residents of St. Andrew’s Place, as required to transfer deed restricted open space on the Wildgust property, Mr. Wildgust could return to the Board of Supervisors to seek a waiver of this requirement. Joseph DeLong, 519 Grant Street, is seeking a variance for increased impervious surface of 19.29% where 13% is the maximum permitted, to install a vestibule at the front door of his home. The Commission recommended that the Supervisors support this application, as the increase is de minimis and the project will enhance the appearance and value of the home. Potential Inc., 170 Pheasant Run, is seeking variances to permit an outdoor play area in the front or rear yard, for a play area closer than 200 feet from the lot or street line and for parking relief for 40 spaces where 72 spaces are required to bring a special school for autistic students to a 12,500 square foot space in the LI, light industrial zoning district. The applicant explained that she is moving her facility to a larger location in anticipation of growth of the school. The commission had some concerns about parking as this building is shared with other tenants and the applicant is anticipating substantial growth as programs expand from elementary school only to pre-school and high school students and will offer regular supplemental therapy services and about drop-off/pick-up procedures as tenant cars, school buses and students are intermingled. We recommend that the Board not oppose this application subject to conditions including developing a drop off procedure satisfactory to the Township Engineer, designation of specific parking for the other current tenants of the building, a procedure for the Township to require installation of additional parking should it be needed because of growth of this business or needs of other building tenants (there is ample available space for increased impervious surface), and that the current parking lot be restriped.
.The Commission reviewed revisions to the final plan for land development for the Newtown Townhome PRD, 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 applicant had made the revisions in response to the Commission’s requests at the April 1, 2014 meeting. The applicant met with Township consultants and representatives of PennDOT and addressed the Planning Commission’s concerns regarding landscaping and traffic and has provided an updated community impact statement. Plans have been revised to coordinate with the proposed PennDOT TIP project to expand Newtown Yardley Road. Funds will be escrowed to provide additional landscape buffering as needed after completion of the project. The Commission recommended that the Board approve the final plan subject to conditions including compliance with the tentative approval and the reviews of the Township consultants. The Commission commended the applicant and the Township consultants for working so quickly and thoroughly to meet the Planning Commission’s deadline for the April 15 th meeting.
Regarding the Linden Avenue discussion, Mr. Fidler reminded the Board that some years ago the Township had received a grant for improvements to drainage in the German Avenue area. Some safety concerns had been reviewed at that time and it might be a good idea to revisit this area for sidewalks.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the Planning Commission invite Carl from Minuteman Press to attend the PC’s discussion of sign ordinance revisions.
Mr. Fidler explained that due to a conflict with the primary election, the Commission has postponed that agenda item to its second June meeting, but would extend the invitation.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the Board share the Planning Commission’s zoning recommendations to the Zoning Hearing Board solicitor. The members agreed to this.
Board of Supervisors Report
Mr. R. Gallagher announced that the Park and Recreation Department would be holding an herb sale; visit newtownfun.com to place orders. Cub Scout Pack 99 will hold a clean-up day at Clark Nature Center on May 3. The Township’s Park and Rec Department and EAC will have booths at Earth Day in Core Creek Park on Saturday, April 26. Congratulations to Council Rock for winning a green ribbon; CR is one of only nine schools to win this award. There will be a Parkinson’s Disease Walk at CR North on Saturday morning at 9:00 AM.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he recently attended the ceremony to rename Newtown Bypass in memory of Newtown Borough Officer Brian Gregg, who was killed in the line of duty in 2005. Newtown Township Police acted as color guard for the ceremony.
The Board extended its thanks to all who serve in the community as first responders.
Newtown Townhome PRD, 761 Newtown Yardley Road: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had granted tentative approval to this land development project for 56 townhomes on 16.61 acres in the R-2 zoning district. It has been reviewed by the Township Planning Commission, which has recommended final approval.
Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the applicant, County Builders. Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant and his engineers have met twice with the Planning Commission. The community impact statement has been revised to show that a fourth bedroom option is available and that 25% of the townhomes will have four bedrooms. The plans do not deviate from the tentative plan. All of the Planning Commission’s recommended conditions are acceptable to the applicant.
Mr. R. Gallagher noted that one condition recommended is a prohibition against conversion of the garage to living space. He questioned why this had been added; he objects to interfering with homeowners’ use of their properties.
Mr. Van Luvanee said that he believed this had been the recommendation of Township Planners, Boucher and James. He also believed it would be a restriction in homeowners association documents.
Mr. Garton said this condition could be removed if a majority of the Board members agreed.
The Board briefly discussed possible conversion of garage space, which could alter the community impact by increasing the number of bedrooms. It could also impact parking, as a converted garage could not be used for parking. It was agreed the condition would remain, enforceable through the homeowners association.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve the final plans of the Planned Residential Development (“PRD”) related to Bucks County Tax Parcel 29-10-52-2, for construction of fifty-six (56) townhouses. The plans were prepared by Tri-State Engineers & Land Surveyors, Inc. were dated February 17, 2014, and were last revised April 14, 2014. The plans consist of twenty-seven (27) plan sheets. Also approved was the post constructionstormwater plan narrative prepared by Hughes Cunningham Engineering dated February 17, 2014 and last revised April 4, 2014. The aforementioned approval was subject to the following conditions:
1. Conditioned compliance with the decision of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors related to the PRD tentative approval, except to the extent modified by the final approval;
2. Compliance with the CKS Engineers report dated April 10, 2014 with the following clarifications:
a. I. Zoning Issues (1). The excess impervious surface permitted on the site
shall be allocated to the Homeowners’ Association Open Space;
b I. Zoning Issues (4). The applicant shall provide calculations to
demonstrate that the disturbance of the site will not exceed permitted disturbance including disturbance of the net buildable site area;
c. II. Item (3). The applicant shall provide the names of the adjacent
Wiltshire Walk homeowners.
3. Compliance with the Boucher & James report dated April 11, 2014, subject to the following comments:
a. Item C (2). The Board of Supervisors granted a partial waiver from the
provisions of SALDO §530.2.A so as to permit the spacing of the street trees to exceed twenty-five (25) feet along the curve of the internal drive only. The number of street trees must meet Ordinance requirements;
b. The driveway apron shall serve as passing spaces and be designed in accordance with current requirements;
c. The Homeowners’ Association documents shall restrict the garage to non-habitable space and a note to the effect shall be added to the plan.
4. Compliance with the Gilmore & Associates, Inc. review letter dated March 17,
2014, except a waiver from the provisions of §505.5 of the SALDO was granted to provide for a 75 foot straight course (instead of 100 feet) prior to the intersection with Newtown-Yardley Road.
5. Compliance with the Bucks County Planning Commission letters dated June 3,
2013 and March 25, 2014.
6. Compliance with the Gannett Fleming letter dated April 14, 2014 related to sanitary sewer provided on behalf of the Newtown Joint Municipal Authority.
7. Applicant to pay a fee in lieu of recreation $8,070/unit or $451,920 for the total project in accordance with the requirements of the Township.
8. Unless inconsistent with the conditions of tentative and final PRD approval, applicant shall comply with the JMZO §803.B.15 and the Newtown Township Subdivision/Land Development Ordinance.
9. Compliance with any requirements imposed by the Newtown Emergency Services Department.
10. Receipt of all permits from any agencies having a jurisdiction over such matters including, but limited to, the Bucks County Conservation District, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
11. Funding and execution of a Development and Financial Security Agreements in the form satisfactory to the Township.
12. Applicant to execute for recording purposes a Unilateral Declaration of Restrictions and Covenants related to the Notes contained on the Plan, which said Declaration shall be filed contemporaneously filed with the final plans.
13. Applicant to reimburse the Township for any and all costs and expenses incurred by the Township in connection with the Application including professional services.
14. Applicant shall comply on all respects with its correspondence addressed to
Newtown Township dated June 28, 2013.
15. Applicant shall exclude the words “Newtown” and “Eagle” from the name of the Development.
16. Applicant shall comply with the Memorandum received from Amy Kaminski dated April 9, 2014.
17. Applicant shall comply with all of the terms of the letter agreement dated August 28, 2013 between the Applicant and the Wiltshire Walk Community Association.
18. Applicant shall execute a Stormwater Management Agreement to be recorded of record.
19. Applicant shall pay a traffic impact fee of $64,935 in accordance with the Township applicable rate schedule.
Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Davis commended the applicant and the Township’s consultants for working diligently to address all of the concerns of residents, Planning Commission and Supervisors.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded those in attendance that this project had already been granted tentative approval and the applicant is entitled to final approval if the plan does not deviate from the tentatively approved plan. This plan has been reviewed by our consultants, who found it satisfactory and compliant with our ordinances.
Mrs. Dix asked whether Mr. Garton had reviewed the letter agreement between County Builders and Wiltshire Walk.
Mr. Garton said this had been reviewed by the Wiltshire Walk Homeowners Association counsel; he has not seen it.
Mr. VanLuvanee explained that when Wiltshire Walk was developed, its stormwater management basins were designed to accommodate both Wiltshire Walk and the Newtown Swim Club property. The agreement states that this development will share 50% of the cost of maintenance and repairs to the stormwater basins.
Mrs. Dix said that throughout the letter agreement the word “reasonable” is used, but there is no definition of what reasonable means. She would prefer to see details spelled out and quantified.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that this is a private agreement between the two parties and the Township is not involved in enforcement. The word reasonable is used as a practical matter and issues are worked out between the parties.
Mrs. Dix asked why an expanded traffic study was no longer needed.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that Ms. Kaminski was provided with additional information and she came to an agreement on roadway improvements coordinated with PennDOT’s proposed improvements.
Mrs. Dix asked about estimates of number of school children stated in the community impact statement.
Engineer Robert Cunningham explained that he estimated the number of public school children based on a Rutgers University study; he estimated 0.22 children per unit, for a total of 18 children. This does not include private school students.
Mrs. Dix said that she expected the townhomes to be similar to Wiltshire Walk’s townhomes. There are 104 public school students in that development of 100 townhomes. She believes a truer estimate would be 1 student per household. This will have an impact on the school district. She also felt the contribution to the local services tax has been overestimated.
Mr. Cunningham said that he has used accepted industry standards to make these assumptions.
Mrs. Dix said that she wishes the Platt family well; the community will miss Newtown Swim Club. She said that she agrees with residents who were opposed to granting of zoning relief to this developer. The planned development will burden the school district and have a negative impact on current and future residents. She will not vote in favor of this plan.
The motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Calabro and Mrs. Dix voting nay.
Resident Christine Shoenwalt said that the speed limits on Newtown Yardley Road are not consistent and asked whether this would be addressed either by the roadwork for the townhome project of the TIP project. She said that the speed changes from 45 MPH from the Bypass to 35 MPH at Terry Drive to the Borough where it drops to 25 MPH while heading west, but heading east, signs only indicate the 35 MPH speed when leaving the Borough. She would like the speed limit to be 35 MPH in both directions.
Mr. Ferguson said that he would review the speed signs and correct inconsistencies.
Resident Geraldine Platt, owner of Newtown Swim Club, said that she has had a business in Newtown for more than thirty years and commended the Township’s employees, especially Police and EMS for their kindness when responding to her family’s and her business’s emergencies. She has also worked closely with the Park and Recreation department, whose employees have been wonderful to her.
Resident John D’Aprile said that the Township was forced to approve the townhome development; he believes that parking will be a problem and he is certain that people will convert garages into additional bedrooms. Regarding the Linden Avenue discussion earlier in the evening, he agreed that sidewalks should be added for student safety.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 9, 2014. Mr. Davis seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Dix noted that the list of liaison appointments should have, “All Supervisors” assigned to the Joint Zoning Council.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the minutes accurately reflect his suggestions at the April 9 meeting. The list will be changed on the Web site and all Supervisors will serve as liaisons to the Zoning Council.
The motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Davis moved to approve bills totaling $122,631.12. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. Davis moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $176,875. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board had met in executive session prior to the opening of this meeting to discuss matters of personnel.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he had discussed forming an economic development committee with seven members. Letters of interest were submitted by many qualified and interested residents and he would like to expand the number of committee members to nine.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to expand the economic development committee to nine members. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. R. Gallagher said that the nine members would consist of one Newtown Business Association member, one Newtown Business Commons Association member and seven other residents/business owners. No supervisor would occupy one of the seven seats.
The other Board members agreed to this clarification.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to appoint Richard Weaver, Mick Petrucci, Karen Miller, Brian Jeter, Jack Brod, David DePetris, George Beuschold, Gerry Couch and John Coffman to the newly formed economic development committee. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Calabro and Mrs. Dix voting nay.
Mr. R. Gallagher thanked all who expressed interest in the committee and thanked the appointees, who will be providing a very valuable service to the Township.
Mr. Ferguson said that he would contact the new members to determine a meeting day and time.
Mrs. Dix said that she would like the Board to begin considering projects for the Municipal Open Space Program, as plans must be in place by the end of the year. She understood that the Park and Recreation Board hopes to be awarded some of the Township’s allocated $570,000 for Noah’s Playground in Veterans Park, but she would like to move forward on other ideas, especially now that the Township will be seeing some developer recreation fees coming in. She said that the County prioritized its projects as first acquisition and preservation of open space, then trails and last, enhancements to existing open space. Because the playground project is an enhancement to existing open space, she would like to seek the funds for the first two priorities.
Mr. Garton said that the funds can be used for conservation easements if outright purchase is not feasible.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has reviewed the Open Space Plan with Park and Recreation Board Chairman Andrew Levine. In the plan, a number of properties were identified for possible conservation easements, however, the property owners were not interested.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he had been on the committee that drafted the open space plan and can confirm that every effort was made to acquire either through outright purchase or conservation easements, however these efforts were unsuccessful. The funds allocated by the County are not sufficient for the purchase of open land in Newtown.
Mrs. Dix suggested that perhaps the Township could consider expanding the trail system.
Mr. Garton said he would share information about a recent presentation in Doylestown Township on trails along the Neshaminy Creek.
Mr. Davis said that he would be supportive of trail expansion projects.
Mrs. Dix said that moving forward, she would favor any old business which will require votes to be listed on the agenda. All of the Board members agreed to this suggestion.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded residents that the Township is seeking applications for the Zoning Hearing Board and the Planning Commission. Letters of interest should be sent to the Township Manager by May 14, 2014.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would not be remaining for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 9:50 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary