Board of Supervisors
Minutes of June 25, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Ryan Gallagher, and Phillip Calabro 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 Reverend Peter Naschke of Lutheran Church of God’s Love, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda
Mr. Ferguson reported that consideration of an escrow release for Foxhall Estates and consideration of a waiver for rip-rap for the Promenade have been removed from the agenda.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its June 17, 2014 meeting, the Commission reviewed three applications to the Zoning Hearing Board. Doctors Margiotti and Kroll requested relief for parking setbacks and configuration to convert the old Newtown Veterinary Hospital at 671 Newtown Yardley Road to a pediatric medical office. The Commission was supportive of the project and pleased to see the site being redeveloped with a permitted use.
Attorney Don Marshall and Club owner Jim Worthington were in attendance to review an amended sign variance application for Newtown Racquetball Club at 120 Pheasant Run. This application included the full signage package, including seven signs, three of which are on Penns Trail. The members were concerned that all of the new signs had been installed without first seeking zoning relief. The members understood the need to identify the different businesses within the club complex and to direct users to the appropriate parking areas, but agreed that not all of signs are needed. The “NAC” letters on the water tower bucket were not included in the signage application, but the members felt that it does constitute an eighth sign. Mr. Worthington apologized for mistakes make in the approval process and agreed to remove the letters from the bucket and one of the monument signs at the Pheasant Run intersection. He will also be removing all of the temporary signs and banners and will reduce the lettering on the original building by 40%. If the applicant agrees to remove the monument and bucket signs and reduce the sign on the original building, which is a permitted sign, the Commission agreed that the Township should not oppose the application but leave it to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Marshall and Mr. Worthington also presented an application for a patio 8.5 feet from the ultimate right of way where a 75 foot setback is required at Newtown Athletic Club. Our code enforcement officer confirmed that the Township’s concern is with the patio setback and not the retaining wall, as the ordinance does not specifically address commercial fences and retaining walls. After lengthy discussion, the members agreed that if the wall is not in any way a danger to motorists, the Supervisors should not oppose the application but leave the matter to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The Commission reviewed the land development application of John McGrath for a minor subdivision at 162 Durham Road, a 2.5 acre parcel, creating two building lots in the R-1 Zoning District. The Commission recommended that the Supervisors grant final plan approval subject to certain conditions, including compliance with the consultants’ review letters. The Commission also voted to authorize the Chairman to sign the planning module for this subdivision.
The Commission voted to recommend that the Supervisors advertise amendments to the JMZO dealing with wineries, wireless communications and inconsistencies in the use tables for adoption.
The Commission continued its review of current sign ordinances. Shawn Ward, Vince Lombardi and Candis Krazyck, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association participated in the discussion. They suggested that the ordinance should provide for both a blade or monument sign and a fascia sign in the TC zoning district. This recommendation will be included when the Commission is ready to make a proposal for all of the commercial zoning districts. The Commission plans to include representatives from the shopping centers, the Newtown Business Association and the Newtown Business Commons Association in future discussions on the second meeting of each month.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked Mr. Fidler for his efforts to include representatives of the Township’s various business organizations in the discussion of signage.
Mr. Calabro asked whether it was permissible for Mr. Ward, a member of the Zoning Hearing Board, to participate in sign discussions.
Mr. Fidler said that Mr. Ward did not participate in discussion of current sign Zoning Hearing Board applications, but spoke as an owner of a business on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Calabro asked what was meant by “a danger to motorists” in discussion of the retaining wall at the NAC and whether he knew whether the new patio was being used while the Zoning application is pending.
Mr. Fidler said that our code enforcement officer had said that the ordinance is silent on retaining walls and fences on commercial properties and that the wall does not pose an obstruction to motorists, but the patio needed a variance to be located within the setbacks.
Mrs. Dix confirmed that as a member of the NAC, she has used the new patio.
Univest Bank and Trust Co., 15 Swamp Road, Conditional Use: Mr. Garton explained that this is an application for approval for a 2200 square foot bank, use E-4, which is permitted in the CC Convenience Commercial Zoning District. The application has been advertised on June 8 and 15, 2014. The application and advertisement are incorporated into the record. The Planning Commission has reviewed this application and recommended approval.
Mr. Garton asked if anyone wished party status in this application. There was no response.
Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant. He reminded the Board that this property has been the subject of lengthy redevelopment discussions with the Township. The Township had requested that access to the parcel be gained through the adjacent shopping center and the signalized intersection at Swamp and Eagle Roads. An access easement for this applicant has been granted by the adjoining shopping center owner. The applicant accepts the conditions as recommended by the Planning Commission and Mr. Garton.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to grant conditional use approval to Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, Tax Map Parcel 29-11-98, in the CC Convenience Commercial Zoning District for Use E-4, Financial Establishment, subject to the following conditions:
Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Univest Bank and Trust Co., 15 Swamp Road, Preliminary as Final Land Development: Mr. Murphy represented the applicant. He explained that as with conditional use, the biggest issue for this applicant has been access to the site. The applicant has been successful with gaining an easement from Luk Oil for access to the paper street Howard Avenue for a right in/right out access onto Swamp Road. The sidewalk will be extended from the parcel to connect through the Luk Oil property to Sycamore Street.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to grant preliminary as final land development approval to Univest Bank for its property located at 15 Swamp Road, Newtown, tax map parcel no. 29-11-98, consisting of twelve (12) pages, prepared by Van Cleef dated April 7, 2014, subject to the following conditions:
Mrs. Dix seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. R. Gallagher asked about the plans for Howard Avenue if Luk Oil were sold and its property were redeveloped or if Howard Avenue were to be opened as a street.
Mr. Murphy said that half of Howard Avenue belongs to Univest. The easement is for access to the Luk Oil half. Luk Oil or a future owner could still submit a plan using the shared access.
Ms. Fountain noted that the proposed curbing is depressed and full access is still possible. The curbing extends only a short distance.
Mr. Garton noted that this is a reciprocal easement.
Mr. Murphy said that the property owners behind Luk Oil and Univest still have private access to Howard Avenue. This will not prevent future use.
Mr. Calabro asked about a left turn out of the Howard Avenue access point.
Mr. Murphy said that it will be a restricted access.
Mr. R. Gallagher asked if Howard Avenue is wide enough for two-way traffic.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that it is 38 feet wide and would accommodate two-way traffic.
The motion passed 4-0.
162 Durham Road, Minor Subdivision: Mr. Murphy represented the applicant. Engineers Heath Dumack and applicant John McGrath III were in attendance.
Mr. Murphy explained that this is an application to subdivide a 2.5 acre parcel into two building lots. Zoning Hearing Board relief has been granted subject to conditions to address the concerns of neighbor Wendy King regarding stormwater issues. Mr. McGrath has met with Mrs. King and he believes all issues have been resolved to her satisfaction.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to grant approval to the final plan for Minor Subdivision located at 162 Durham Road, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel Number 29-4-39 prepared by Dumack Engineering, last revised may 21, 2014 with stormwater plan last revised May 21, 2014, subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Resident Wendy King of 158 Durham Road said that she is very worried about increased stormwater run-off on her property. She had submitted a series of photographs of flooding to the Zoning Hearing Board. This flooding is the result of other recent subdivision on Durham Road. She has regraded her property three times and would like assurances that she will have recourse if the situation worsens. She said that she believes that if stormwater issues are not addressed, 162 Durham Road will not be suitable for building, as it, too, is frequently flooded.
Ms. Fountain confirmed for the Board that she had visited the site and met with the engineer on the project. The plans have been revised to include the conditions imposed by the Zoning Hearing Board, which include installation of swales and berms to protect the King property. Water flows onto the King property now, and this will be reduced. The property will be inspected to confirm that the swales and berms are effective.
Mr. Garton said that the applicant must meet the standards set in the development agreement; Mrs. King would have recourse if these standards are not met.
Mr. Calabro asked whether requiring 15 inch pipe instead of granting a waiver would help.
Ms. Fountain said that a 15 inch pipe would release too fast.
The motion passed 4-0.
Villas of Newtown Certificate of Completion #14: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $142,887.20 to Villas of Newtown. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Treasury Report: Mr. Ferguson reported that the current cash balance is $3,598,501. Collection of earned income tax, local service tax and real estate tax are doing well.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of May 28, 2014. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve bills totaling 188,823.87 for bills list dated June 11, 2014. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $256,780.98 for June 11, 2014. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve bills totaling $189,093.52 for bills list dated June 25,, 2014. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $187,600 for June 25, 2014. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Calabro apologized for not wearing a tie to the meeting as he had assumed that business casual dress would be observed during the summer months, as had been the Board’s tradition.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the Board adopt business casual for the remainder of the summer meetings.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to send the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to uphold the actions of the Zoning Officer in the NAC patio application. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked for clarification, questioning whether Mr. M. Gallagher was also opposing the application for a variance for the patio.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that in the past, the Township has sent the solicitor to defend the actions of the zoning officer. He would like to do so in this case.
Mr. Garton said that the zoning officer had issued a violation notice to the NAC for the patio. He would defend Mr. Vogt’s actions in issuing the notice.
Mr. Calabro said that he agreed in defending Mr. Vogt but did not want to formally oppose the patio application.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mrs. Dix said that the property adjacent to the Promenade property to the north is very overgrown. She asked whether this property is part of the Promenade land.
Mr. Ferguson said that he would follow up to have it maintained. He believed it belongs to Village at Newtown Shopping Center.
Mrs. Dix said that she has seen that the DVRPC TIP list includes three projects in Newtown Township:
Mrs. Dix said she would like to know the scope of the Stoopville Road improvements, which she understands includes work being done in Wrightstown and Upper Makefield as well as Newtown. She also questioned why the Swamp Road project remains on the TIP when so many residents have opposed the project.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Township has asked our State Senator and Representative to remove the Swamp Road project from the TIP.
Mrs. Dix asked whether the funds for the Swamp Road improvements could be moved to the Terry Drive extension project.
Mr. Gallagher said he would look into moving funds to the Terry Drive project.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize the Township Manager to pursue removal of project #64781, Swamp Road improvements, from the TIP. Mrs. Dix seconded
Discussion of motion: Resident John D’Aprile said that all of the roads in Newtown need improvement and the Township should not turn down state funding. Swamp Road is no longer a country road and improvements are needed there.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. D’Aprile said that he was pleased to see so many unanimous votes this evening and urged the Board to continue to seek compromise when addressing business development.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board not remain for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary