Summary of February 26, 2020, BOS Meeting: Toll Bros Hearing, Bomba & parking, Love is Love Day resolution shot down, More...
The following is a brief summary of the February 26, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Dennis Fisher, Secretary John Mack, member David Oxley, and member Kyle Davis. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis, Township Solicitor David Sander, and Township Engineer Leanna Colubriale.
Love is Love Day Resolution: Mr. Mack explained the Love is Love Resolution which Senator Santarsiero brought to the floor of the Senate to recognize February 15 as Love is Love day for LGBTQ youth (read "State Senator Steve Santarsiero's 'Love Is Love Day' Proposal Shot Down in PA Senate"). Mr. Mack read an email from Senator Santarsiero and added that Newtown was the first to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance (read "Newtown Becomes the FIRST Township in Bucks County to Pass an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance That Protects the Rights of the LGBTQ Community").
Mr. Davis supports the notion of supporting a group that may be marginalized; however, he is not in favor of having a specific day for a specific group. Mr. Oxley stated love is something you share with all neighbors not just one particular group; he added there are other groups that suffer as well. Mr. Fisher said he supports this resolution and feels like we need to make a statement of support. Mr. Calabro suggested amending without having a particular day with the understanding that there are people out there that need love.
Resident Joe O’Neill, who is also [a former member of] the Human Rights Commission, read about the challenges of LGBTQ youth and stated that we have a duty to improve the lives of these young people.
The discussion continued around the day, inclusiveness and compromise. Mr. Mack said this resolution is specific to LGBTQ youth as they don’t have legal protection in Pennsylvania, and he wants to keep the resolution as written. The motion failed 3-2 with Messrs. Calabro, Davis and Oxley voting nay. [View the video below to hear comments from several residents spoke up in favor of the resolution.]
[My motion: As many of you may know, State Senator Steve Santarsiero proposed to designate the day after Valentine's Day – February 15 – as "Love is Love Day" in Pennsylvania in support of local LGBTQ youth. His resolution never made it to the floor for a vote. Consequently, I am proposing that Newtown Township approve its own “LOVE is LOVE DAY” resolution inspired by the one proposed by Sen. Santarsiero and the one recently passed by Newtown Borough Council unanimously.
I would like to read Sen. Santarsiero’s personal communication to me in support of this resolution:
“As joyful and meaningful Valentine's Day can be, it can be equally painful for those without a partner or apart from their love. My heart goes out to those who struggle during this time.
“While Valentine's Day does celebrate love, Love is Love Day celebrates the love that has long been oppressed, attacked, and pushed out of view. For generations, our children, our siblings, our friends who love differently than us have been told to live and love in silence or not at all. This has of course led them to suffer in silence as well. LGBTQ members of our society have significantly higher rates of suicide rates compared to the general population. LGBTQ youth have the highest rates of suicidal activity in the nation. The attacks on who they are and the love they share has caused extreme pain and taken lives. “As acceptance of LGBTQ people and their love has grown in our culture and law, suicide rates have similarly dropped. A nationwide study by the American Medical Association from 1999-2015 showed a reduction in suicidal attempts by all high school students of 7% and 14% among LGBTQ students as states adopted same-sex marriage policies. Establishing a culture of acceptance is a universal good.”
“The celebration of any group in a multicultural society does not detract from another. It only adds to us as a whole. Our community, Commonwealth, and country is blessed with diversity, and that is cause for celebration. As long as we approach our distinctions with acceptance and appreciation, we will only grow together as a community. That is the message of Love is Love Day, and why, I believe, it deserves this recognition.”
According to the PA Second Class Township Code, Township Supervisors are “charged with the general governance of the township and the execution of legislative, executive and administrative powers in order to ensure sound fiscal management and to secure the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the township.” It is completely appropriate, therefore, that we pass this resolution, which doesn’t cost the Township a single penny.
Therefore, I make a motion that we adopt the “LOVE is LOVE DAY” resolution as proposed.]
UPDATE: A revised "Love is Love" resolution was passed by unanimous bipartisan 5-0 vote at the March 11, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting (read "Newtown Township Passes Revised Love is Love Resolution").
Bomba Taco’s and Rum Public Hearing: Attorney Joe Blackburn represented the applicant seeking E-5 and E-6 eating place conditional use for an approximate 3,990 square foot tenant space at 2930 S. Eagle Road in the Village of Newtown Shopping Center in the PC planned commercial district.
Mr. Blackburn said the restaurant offers a Caribbean and South American inspired menu with an open kitchen concept. He then addressed the January 13 planner’s letter stating the total sitewide ratio of restaurants with this addition totals 30.08% falling within the 45% maximum restaurant ratio.
Mr. Mack expressed hope that parking is relieved as the center is completed and that Brixmor will come back with a traffic study; Mr. Blackburn said that they would. Resident Patricia Curran asked what happens if after the shopping center is complete and they do their study and find out there isn’t ample parking. Mr. Blackburn replied the return visit is ... more geared to traffic and the parking is in strict compliance with the relief granted. He added it is an active construction zone right now and traffic and parking will be adequate in the end.
Mr. Calabro expressed his concerns about the outdoor seating and asked if ten seats could be removed. Mr. Blackburn replied Bomba is by far the smallest sit-down restaurant and they cannot afford to lose any seating. There was a discussion about what constitutes seasonal seating, heaters and what has been approved for other establishments. Mr. Mack said he did not have a problem with outdoor seating, weather permitting and added since a timeframe was not specified for the others, we should be fair in this case.
Resident Frank McCarron suggested having more than 13 employees so as not to limit success. Mr. Calabro said the Township doesn’t limit the employees; this is the number that was requested and if the applicant would like to change this number they can do so now. Mr. Hopkins requested the number of employees be changed to 20. Mr. Sander amended to increase the total employees to twenty. Mr. Calabro asked now that employees increased does that effect parking. Mr. Blackburn stated it won’t affect the calculation of space required and verbiage is being worked into leases requiring employees park along the perimeter.
Toll PA XVIII, L.P. Public Hearing: Mr. Sander explained the conditional use application to operate a use B-12 cluster development at 435 Durham and 107 Twining Bridge Roads where the combined parcels are 158.07 acres located in the CM Conservation Management district. He added the BOS is not approving the development of this property this evening as that discussion would come during land development if approved; tonight’s proceeding is to determine whether this cluster development raises any concerns unique to this site as this use B-12 is permitted in the CM district by conditional use.
Mr. Davis asked about the old farmhouse and springhouse on the property and Mr. Barnett said it was an abandoned home and spring house near the existing driveway on Twining Bridge Road. Mr. Davis asked how old the house was and Mr. Barnett did not know, however added that a historic resource survey form was completed as part of the planning module and the response from the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission did not have any comments that it was historical in nature. Mr. Davis requested a copy of the letter.
Mr. Mack asked what would prevent homeowners from disturbing the agricultural soils on their lots by installing a shed. Mr. Adelman said this is why they offered the alternative buffer plan in order to create a physical demarcation so landowners would know which area is not to be disturbed; deed restrictions would also be put in place which would give the Township and the HOA the ability to ensure it remains undisturbed. Mr. Mack expressed his concerns about homeowner compliance with the rules. Mr. Adelman said the details will be included in the HOA declaration which also allows enforcement power to the Township; any HOA declaration is subject to Township review. Mr. Adelman added it will be noted in the deed restriction and the homeowner will be required to sign a plot plan with their agreement of sale that specifies what they can and can’t do. Mr. Lewis asked if the applicant would be amenable to putting an easement on those lots and Mr. Adelman said they would. Mr. Sander added that the HOA members will be their own police force and discussion ensued on how to enforce that the soils are not disturbed, and the buffers not encroached.
Newtown resident Eric Pomerantz told the Supervisors to abide by the "spirit of what conservation management is all about" and consider that when making a final decision. More information about that plan can be found here.
There was no motion from the Board. Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Sander what the legal ramifications were if a decision was not made tonight. Mr. Sander said the Board can deliberate in private and will then have 45 days from today if the hearing is closed to deliver a written decision to the applicant. Mr. Sander asked the BOS to decide and provide him with enough time to prepare a written response. He added that the decision would have to be made at a public meeting. Mr. Calabro announced due to lack of a motion and a second, there is no decision made tonight.
Emergency Services Department Report: Chief Forsyth reported there were 140 calls for service during the month of January. There were five building fires, five dwelling fires, one brush fires and 87 EMS calls. The fire association completed 22 safety inspections in the Township and two in the Borough. Emergency service staff completed annual testing of ropes on apparatus in January. The department assisted Northampton Township FD with a working fire and responded to two auto extrications; they also assisted the police department with lockdown drills in the schools.
SAFER Grant Discussion: Mr. Lewis stated the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant was coming up and both he and Chief Forsyth recommend the Township move forward and apply for the grant which will provide the Township with additional funds for hiring more staff. He said the Township is looking to expand the department to 7 days/12 hours this grant would greatly help that effort.
Mr. Mack questioned needing five additional staff to cover two additional days and Mr. Lewis explained four fighters per truck is required and shifts and vacation time must be taken into consideration. Mr. Mack expressed concern that the Township would be committed to the full salaries after three years and this is something the consultants for the five-year plan should be involved in. Mr. Lewis stated the fire study will be shared with the consultants. Mr. Fisher confirmed the application fee is $900. Chief Forsyth added as a result of the fire study in 2018 and the volunteer staff being so short, he proposed this grant to plan and prepare for the future. The consensus of the Board is to move forward with the grant application.
[From my notes composed prior to the meeting: “The grant is a three (3) year grant that would cover the salary of the firefighter and the benefits. The contribution from the township would be a matching 25% the first year, 25% the second year, and the final year would be a 65% contribution by the township. The numbers that we would request will need to be calculated with the assistance of the Township Manager and the Finance Director.”
QUESTION: Where do the matching funds come from? This cost can be substantial, especially in year #3.
QUESTION: Hiring 5 new staff firefights will be easy the first year, but without being certain where the money will come from to keep them employed – especially after the first two years – this seems more like a request to hire new firefighters since it will be extremely difficult to lay them off if funds are not available (they are union members, BTW).
QUESTION: We have hired ESI Consultants to develop a 5-year budgeting plan. Shouldn’t this wait until we have that input?
What I am saying is that we are putting the cart before the horse. We first need to understand what the cost will be down the road and how we will cover that cost. This is what long-range fiscal planning is all about.]
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Brixmor Property Group for Ulta Beauty, 2914 S. Eagle Road - The applicant is seeking additional relief to install a wall sign for Ulta Beauty which does not comply with the height restrictions granted by the ZHB. They are requesting a 22’ 2.5” high façade sign on the front of the building facing the parking lot of building 9. The consensus of the Commission was to support this request however advised the decision is ultimately up to the ZHB.
Planning Commission: Bomba Tacos and Rum, 2930 S. Eagle Road - The Commission reviewed the application for Conditional Use for a proposed E-5, E-6 eating place which will be in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center. The Commission agreed to recommend approval for this application. [See "Development".]
Planning Commission: Newtown AOP (Toll Brothers) Durham and Twining Bridge Roads - The Commission reviewed the proposed subdivision and application requesting Conditional Use approval to allow a use B-12 single family detached cluster development on approximately 158.07 acres located in the southwestern corner of the intersection of Durham and Twining Bridge Roads within the CM Conservation Management District. The proposal is for a 45-lot residential community. There was a lengthy discussion on the details along with public comments. The Commission moved to recommend the Conditional use application subject to the conditions read by Mr. Schenkman 3-1-1.
Newtown Fire Association (NFA): Mr. Mack reported he attended the Newtown Fire Association meeting and there is a new probationary member who is a high school student. He said they also discussed continuing work on apparatus needing repair as well as replacement and upgrades to make the trucks useful; the NFA is also preparing for brew fest in the spring.
Votes on Motions
Not all motions may be included.
Posted on 16 Mar 2020, 01:50 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes