NEWTOWN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
LUNCHEON MEETING AT GOODNOE FARM DAIRY BAR
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2002
APPROVAL OF THE MAY MINUTES: Mr. Roberts moved to approve the minutes of June 6, 2002 as presented. Ms. Buras seconded; the motion carried.
Present: Hal Roberts, Tom Harwood, Marge Fredericks, Doug Terry, Don Harris, Judy Setar, Linda Mitchell, Nancy Goracy, Lisa Kruse, Bob Pellegrino, Jim Worthington, Belinda Buras, Dr. Mlkvy, Bill Messick, Stephen Schreiber (Law School Admissions), Winslow Mason (Courier Times).
CALL TO ORDER
In the absence of the chairman, Mr. Harwood called the meeting to order.
Ms. Mitchell distributed a recently adopted resolution from the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce (LBCCC) regarding its position on gifting land by municipalities. She reviewed the resolution, read several sections (starred on attached), and asked that the documents be entered into the minutes. She clarified that her particular interest in this resolution is related to the issue of the YMCA.
CODES DEPARTMENT BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT REPORT
Mr. Harwood distributed and reviewed the report for May 2002. He noted that a new upscale tearoom is coming to the shopping center, and that the Fire Company wants to expand out the back and south side. In addition, the preliminary plan for Durham Associates is being evaluated.
APPROVAL OF THE MAY MINUTES: Mr. Terry moved to approve the minutes of May 2, 2002 as presented. Ms. Mitchell seconded; the motion carried.
LOWER BUCKS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Ms. Kruse distributed a flyer of LBCCC events, and noted the events below:
Percolator Program & General Membership Meetings 8:00 AM 2nd Thursday
Thursday, July 11 @ BC Community College, Newtown
Thursday, August 8 @ Holiday Inn Select, Bensalem
Business Card Exchange 4:30 – 6:30 PM
Wednesday, July 24 @ The Holistic Success Center, Morrisville
Wednesday, August 21 @ First County Bank, Newtown
Sharpen Your Edge Business Technology Seminars 8:00-9:00 AM
Wednesday, June 26 “Volunteerism - How It Leads to Business Growth for You”
Presented by Dec Sce (The M & D Group, Inc.); James W. Sutton Esq. (James W. Sutton, Jr., P.C.);
and Michael B. Connor (DocuTrac)
JOINT DOWNTOWN NEWTOWN CORPORATION
Ms. Kruse, a JDNC board member, described the calendar website, www.newtowncalendar.com, which hopes to be a comprehensive listing of events in Newtown. They are looking for events to post; anyone interested can submit an event by either filling out the submission form online or mailing a copy of the completed form to the calendar. Criteria for submission is listed on the website. Ms. Kruse said they are interested in receiving events well in advance of the happening date.
Ms. Kruse said that a flyer is being developed to publicize the website and calendar. It will be distributed by hand rather than just left around; a media day will be held as well. Ms. Mitchell said that she, as president of Newtown Business and Professional Association, has posted information on the website, and said that BDC should become aware of the calendar and help to promote it.
Mr. Harwood announced that a state grant for $1.2M has been approved for street enhancements. Reconstruction is scheduled to begin in March of 2003. There is a temporary paving plan being developed for Sycamore Street.
Ms. Mitchell announced that a press conference would be held at the Newtown Athletic Club to honor the sponsors from last year’s First Night. The business community will be invited.
SUBCOMMITTEE Concerned with a YMCA in Newtown - Doug Terry, Chair
Mr. Terry reported that the committee is on hold until the YMCA issues the results of its study. Mr. Worthington said he had spoken with Garth Lor, president of the YMCA Board of Directors, who said that the study has been completed. They will meet at the end of the month to make a decision of whether to move ahead with a YMCA. Mr. Lor had clarified to him that the YMCA was originally approached by Supervisor Scott Harp.
Ms. Mitchell said that the NCCA (Newtown Community Center Alliance) had recently formally requested the formation of a committee to investigate the feasibility of a community center in Newtown, to include a supervisor as liaison. The Board voted against the request 3 to 2, saying that their participation on the committee would imply support, and citing the issue of cost pertaining to support of a community center. Ms. Mitchell said she felt the vote sent a negative message to the business community, who only wishes to explore the issue of a community center. She said that NCCA believes there is a need for a community center, noting the need of the township’s Park and Recreation Department to expand as well. Ms. Buras and Ms. Mitchell felt it was important to have BOS involvement in any community center committee, to give valuable input and help guide the committee’s work.
Mr. Terry said that the vote was a slap in the face of the Ad Hoc Community Center Committee, and said the BDC should send a letter to the BOS expressing their disappointment in the vote against supervisor participation in a committee to investigate a community center. Mr. Roberts agreed, and suggested that the BDC respond in a way that does not create an adversarial relationship with the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Worthington said it was difficult to be a part of the NCCA to try to raise funds for a community center when the Board of Supervisors is not interested in being involved; he found it frustrating and disappointing.
Mr. Terry suggested the BDC send a letter asking the Board of Supervisors, from a business standpoint, to reconsider their decision against board involvement in NCCA and their recent decision against the Law School Admissions expansion. He said the message is being sent that Newtown is not business friendly. Mr. Harwood said that these issues are not related and that the BDC should make clear distinctions between the issues.
Mr. Terry moved to authorize a letter opening up a dialogue with the Board of Supervisors, and outlining the issues of concern: BOS involvement with the NCCA and the Law School Admissions decision. Ms. Frederick seconded.
There was further discussion of the issues. Mr. Terry opened discussion regarding the Law School Admissions decision. He said that the vote against LSA sent a clear message that it is tough for businesses to develop in Newtown. He said that the ordinance allows a 50 ft high building and LSA proposed expansion was to be 42 feet high. LSA had proposed an 85,000 sq. ft building; the ordinance allowed 100,000 sq. ft. Mr. Terry also noted that LSA had spoken with neighboring residents concerning their issues. Mr. Roberts said that LSA was already a good neighbor in Newtown, and that the decision was shocking.
Mr. Messick said that the BOS seemed very conscious of the public vote and seemed to involve residents more than businesses. Ms. Mitchell said she had seen a lot of inconsistent voting regarding office development. She said that the Board approved the township’s largest office complex near the large development of Newtown Grant, but voted against Law School Admissions, also near a large development - Newtown Gate.
Stephen Schreiber, of Law School Admission, said that LSA has been a part of the community since the 1970’s. He said that they bought the current property in 1982 and the land across the street for expansion in 1984. LSA has 216 employees, thirty to forty of whom live in Newtown. He said that they have never played hardball with the township, and was frankly shocked at the decision against them; he said LSA has always felt they contributed to the community. He noted that LSA contributes $100,000 in property taxes and considerable income taxes. Since there is no cafeteria at LSA, employees eat and shop in Newtown. Their employees are highly educated, with proportionately elevated payroll, generating high income taxes.
Mr. Schreiber said that LSA feels that they belong in the community, but they need to expand; they will need to move to another location if they cannot expand. He said LSA filed plans in November and met with the BOS in January, at which time the BOS asked them to meet with residents. They made some concessions to address the residents’ concerns, including agreeing to turn off lights at 8 pm and adding an additional 5’ of berm with trees, and still their expansion was denied.
Mr. Worthington cited what he saw as inconsistent decisions. He said that when Upper Silver Lake development was discussed, the BOS responded to comments that business development was preferable to residential development, saying that property owners had the right to develop their land. He said that the LSA had the right to develop their land and they were denied by the BOS.
Mr. Schreiber said that LSA had filed an appeal on Friday. Mr. Roberts said that money that would be spent in the appeal by the township was a waste of taxpayer money. Mr. Harris said he had spoken previously about the need to expand the Business Development Council membership to build unity in the business community. He said that residents are already speaking out, and the business community needs to become more involved. Mr. Terry said there is an attempt to bring the Industrial Park businesses together again.
The motion was amended and seconded to add a request in the letter that the BOS reconsider its vote on the Law School Admission expansion. The motion carried unanimously. Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Dunleavy will draft the letter and circulate it for suggestions and final approval before sending it to the Board.
Ms. Mitchell invited Business Development Council members to the next breakfast meeting of the NBPA on June 25, with the intention of presenting information to the NBPA members about the Council. She plans to send invitations to BDC members. The Council approved Ms. Dunleavy giving the BDC mailing list to Ms. Mitchell.
Ms. Kruse suggested that the BDC might wish to reconsider its meeting time, suggesting that perhaps an early morning meeting might be better attended. The issue will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. Dr. Mlkvy said that the BDC needs an excited and enthusiastic member of the business community to chair the group, and that more structure and organization of the group would be beneficial
Mr. Terry moved to approve the resolution by the Board of Supervisors changing the membership structure of the Council to an open membership rather than by appointment. Mr. Worthington seconded; the motion carried unanimously.
The July meeting is cancelled, as the meeting would fall on the July 4 holiday. The next luncheon meeting is scheduled for August 1, 2002 at the Goodnoe Farm Dairy Bar at 12:00 PM. The cost is $10; please RSVP by July 24, 2002 to the recording secretary (contact information is included on the attached agenda).
ADJOURNMENT: On motion by Mr. Terry, and without objection, the meeting adjourned at 1:15 pm.
Leslie P. Dunleavy, Recording Secretary