Board of Supervisors
Minutes of July 9, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, July 9, 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 and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda
Mr. Ferguson reported that consideration of an amended certificate of appropriateness for The Promenade has been added to the agenda.
Resident Dennis Fisher thanked the Board for its recent letter to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission regarding improvements to the Tamara Farm Bridge on Swamp Road, asking that it be removed from the PennDOT TIP. He asked whether the Township has had a response to the letter.
Mr. Ferguson said that he expects a response shortly, as he had recently discussed this matter with Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush, who was following up on the letter.
Mr. Fisher said that the Swamp Road Residents Group had also spoken to State Senator McIlhinney and Representative Santarsiero, who have agreed to see that the project would not be funded. He asked where he could locate copies of the plans for the improvements.
Mr. Ferguson said that he was not sure the plans had ever been drawn; they may appear on budgets only as a place holder. If plans exist, PennDOT would have them.
Mr. M. Gallagher confirmed that the Board has asked repeatedly over the course of many years that this improvement project be removed from the TIP; it will continue to do so.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board of Supervisors: Mrs. Dix reported that she has spoken to Newtown Artesian Water Company about its recent request that ratepayers attempt to conserve water. She learned that this request will be lifted on Friday.
Mr. Garton said that Newtown Artesian has switched suppliers to Forrest Park Treatment Plant in Chalfont and there had been delays in switching pipelines.
Mrs. Dix reported that the Joint Historic Commission has received a demolition permit application for a farmhouse on Upper Silver Lake Road. She and Mr. Davis will speak with representatives of the Villas about the proposed demolition, with the Board’s consent.
All agreed that Mrs. Dix and Mr. Davis should participate in the meeting.
Mr. R. Gallagher thanked the many volunteers who worked to make the First Fourth a tremendous success. He thanked Piccolo Trattoria for donating the fireworks to the event. He also reported that the Park and Recreation Board will be reviewing the Township’s trail system and considering possible future extensions to the trail. Residents are welcome at the September Park and Rec Board meeting to participate in discussion. He also reminded residents that the Park and Recreation Department is selling discount tickets to local amusement parks again this summer.
Mr. M. Gallagher reported that Travel & Leisure Magazine has voted Newtown the fourth best place in America to celebrate Independence Day. This is high praise for our First Fourth events, the highlight of which is the Township’s reclaiming of the annual softball trophy. The Township beat the Borough with a score of 16 – 11.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that he and Mrs. Dix had met with Newtown Sewer Authority to discuss future sewer connections and avoiding sewer moratoria. He hopes the Sewer Authority will attend the Board of Supervisors Work Session meeting to discuss this further.
Mr. Ferguson said that he is scheduled to attend the next Sewer Authority meeting about new connections.
Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, Approval of Conditional Use Decision: Attorney Ed Murphy represented Univest.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve the Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, conditional use decision. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, Development Agreement: Mrs. Dix moved to approve the development agreement with Univest Bank. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Promenade, 200 North Sycamore Street
SALDO Waiver: Mr. Murphy reminded the Board that this project would require a stormwater easement on the east side of Sycamore Street. This would involve installation of riprap at the creek. The property owners on the east side of the street are not amenable to signing an easement agreement. He has met with the Township and is asking, instead, for a waiver of the requirement. He confirmed that he had spoken with the owners’ attorney about this matter. It is one property with multiple owners represented by one attorney.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the Township Stormwater Ordinance allows for waivers if the riprap cannot be installed.
Mrs. Dix asked about responsibility for future erosion if the riprap is not installed.
Ms. Fountain explained that there will always be some erosion. The applicant’s engineer has satisfied her that the volume of water will not increase with this project. The new project will reduce the amount of impervious surface.
Mr. Murphy also noted that the project will include on-site stormwater management.
Mrs. Dix asked if Newtown Borough has been notified of this request, as it also abuts the Creek.
Mr. Murphy said that the project is in Newtown Township, as is the dental office where the riprap was to have been installed. He has not spoken to Newtown Borough.
Mr. Calabro asked if the owners of the other property had been incorrectly informed that a condemnation proceeding might be involved in the stormwater easement.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Township administration has attempted to assuage any concerns about this project’s impact on stormwater.
Mr. Garton said that he has spoken to the owners’ attorney and assure him no condemnation proceeding is contemplated.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked Mr. Murphy if he would consider approaching the property owners again for a stormwater easement, postponing the waiver for 90 days.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicants are eager to start the project, which has been delayed for a long time.
Mr. Garton asked when the riprap would have been installed if an easement were granted.
Ms. Fountain said this would be done at the back end of the project.
Mr. Garton suggested to the Board that they approve the waiver if no easement has been granted after 90 days.
Mr. Davis moved to grant waivers from the SALDO requirement to install riprap, effective in 90 days, if an easement is not granted from the property on the east side of Sycamore Street. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Traffic Resolution: Mrs. Dix moved to adopt a resolution to submit an application for a traffic signal for the Promenade project. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Promenade Development Agreement: Mr. Garton presented a development agreement for the Promenade, noting that the Park and Recreation fee in lieu of open space for this project is $250,000, with $10,000 going to The Newtown Library Company and an additional $5000 from the developer to the Newtown Library Company. The traffic impact fee is approximately $119,000.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize signing of the development agreement with the Promenade. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Promenade Historical Architectural Review Board Certificate of Appropriateness: HARB Chairman Bill Mahler said that HARB has voted to recommend approval of an amendment to the certificate of appropriateness for the Promenade. The approval involves a list of twelve changes and does not include any signage. There are also a few items still to be finalized at the August HARB meeting, but HARB recommends conditional approval so the project can move forward.
Architect Brian Mann showed a rendering of the Promenade with some of HARB’s requested changes already incorporated into the project, including a stone façade on the smaller, stand-alone building.
Mr. Mahler said that a few detail colors will be reviewed by HARB in the field, as appearances can be different in daylight on the actual materials than they appear in paint chips. These include the accent colors for the dentil moldings and the window trim. The balcony railings are to have added ornamentation and the roof shingles for the stand alone building have not yet been chosen. HARB will also need to see samples of the lighting proposed.
Mr. Davis moved to approve an amended certificate of appropriateness for The Promenade, as outlined in a memo dated July 9, 2014. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Ordinance Restricting Turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had authorized drafting an ordinance prohibiting turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road between the hours of 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday. The ordinance would also authorize posting of appropriate signage. The ordinance has been duly advertised for a public hearing.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to adopt Ordinance 2014-O-1, restricting turns onto Linden Avenue from Swamp Road. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Resident Phil Neuhardt said that he is a resident of German Avenue. He noted that when this ordinance was discussed at the April 23, 2014 meeting, Jim Casey had stated that this could be a burden for residents of German Avenue. Je asked how residents are notified about such changes so that they can participate in discussions.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that in some instances, such as zoning matters, residents within 500 feet are notified by mail. In cases such as this, the matters are placed on the Supervisors’ agenda and are posted on the Township Web site, the television channel and the ordinances themselves are advertised in newspapers. Newspapers also cover the meetings and write articles.
Mr. Neuhardt said that sometimes residents bring matters to the Supervisors and they take action right away.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this and past boards have made a policy of not taking votes on matters not already posted and published on the agenda.
Mr. Ferguson said that if the Board would like to establish a policy on notifying residents in instances like this, a notification policy similar to zoning notification could be adopted and implemented.
Mr. Neuhardt said that the concerns about safety have existed for decades; he asked why, now, the Board is acting on this. He felt the restrictions would create difficulties for deliveries, postal service and trash pick-up as well as for residents of the area. Perhaps rather than limit traffic, enforcement of speed limits and other restrictions should be enforced. He was concerned that the restrictions would cause additional cut-through traffic on German Avenue.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board felt the situation was dangerous, particularly for students walking to school and this solution will make the area safer. The measure will be evaluated for possible other measures.
Mr. Neuhardt suggested that German Avenue be marked as private property to prevent cut-through traffic. He was particularly concerned that trucks will be forced to drive all the way around Newtown to get up Linden Avenue.
Mr. Ferguson said that the goal is to create a safer situation for students who congregate at the corner to walk to school. The Township will be watching to offset new problems which could develop with changes to traffic patterns. Trash haulers, the Post Office and other services will be notified of the change. Police will be enforcing speed limits. Our traffic engineer has studied the traffic patterns and recommended this change.
Mr. Calabro said that he agrees with Mr. Neuhardt that the change could cause new problems. He suggested tabling this discussion and studying it further. School is not in session right now so it will be difficult to evaluate whether it is working successfully.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the Township has been studying this intersection for more than a year and had already worked to improve sight distances by trimming hedges on the corner. Gilmore & Associates studied the situation during the school year and considered other options, including creating a one-way street, but felt that could be a burden to residents. This recommendation will cause some change in traffic patterns, but motorists who travel there regularly will adjust quickly.
Mr. Calabro said this measure will only be as good as the enforcement of it.
Mr. Ferguson said he will notify the police department to step up enforcement as the change is implemented.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Penns Trail/Pheasant Run Traffic Control: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that it had authorized a traffic analysis at the intersection of Penns Trail and Pheasant Run. Copies of a report of the analysis are in the Board packets for consideration.
Mrs. Dix noted that she had been eager to see traffic counts after completion of the NAC expansion, as previous counts had been done in 2011, prior to the NAC pool expansion.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he has also noted backed up traffic at certain times of day and agrees with Gilmore’s recommendation of a four way stop at the intersection.
Mrs. Dix agreed, noting that other suggested traffic calming such as a roundabout or traffic light would be costly.
Township Traffic Engineer Damon Drummond said that he had observed backed up traffic coming from the Bypass trying to turn onto Pheasant Run. A four-way stop will alleviate this back-up. He also suggested better signage in the immediately surrounding area.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether stop bars could be made more prominent.
Mr. Calabro asked about installing crosswalks, which would also serve as stop bars.
Mr. Drummond said that crosswalks would require installation of sidewalks and would also require ADA compliance on the corners.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that crosswalks are required to meet with ADA compliant sidewalks and curb cuts. There are no sidewalks near this intersection.
Mr. Davis moved to authorize a four way stop sign at the intersection of Pheasant Run and Penns Trail. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of June 25, 2014. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Davis abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Davis moved to approve payment of bills totaling $317,167.22. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro explained that he is not opposed to paying the Township’s bills but has voted nay on this motion in the past and will continue whenever payment to certain banks appear on the list. He strongly favors supporting local community banks, rather than large, multinational banks and he urges the Township to close out accounts with these large banks.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he agrees with Mr. Calabro’s concern but has found that based on the volume of the Township’s business, the large bank offers the most favorable rates. He is concerned that to switch to a local bank would be time consuming and expensive.
Mr. Calabro said that this could be done in much the same way that individual accounts move from bank to bank, weaning one account while opening another. He objected to using a bank headquartered in Canada.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. Davis moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $250,460.44. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded residents that the Township softball team beat the Borough softball team with a score of 16 -11 at the annual 1st Fourth celebration.
Mrs. Dix asked for an update on the Township Roadway Improvement Program.
Ms. Fountain said that the preconstruction meeting will be held shortly and agreements will be signed. Work will begin very soon and will be completed within 60 days of start. Some areas will be done simultaneously or will be grouped for easier staging.
Mr. Calabro asked whether there is another opening on the Planning Commission for a new member.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that a member had resigned due to business commitments. The Township will accept letters of interest from residents to finish the unexpired term.
Resident John D’Aprile said that safety should always come first and although some residents may not like changes made in the name of safety, they will get used to it. He also objected to residents saying they were not informed of certain agenda items. It is up to residents to educate themselves on the Township’s ongoing business. The agenda is on the Web site and on the television station. It is our own responsibility to keep ourselves informed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board not remain for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary