13 October 2021 BOS Meeting Summary
Reports from Planning Commission, Technology & Communications Committee and Environmental Advisory Council; Engineer's update: PennDOT Multimodal Transportation Fund Grant, MS4 Annual Report; Legal Action Agains KVK Tech; Weed Ordinance; Police Report; Hybrid Meetings; LED Streetlights; More...
This is my personal summary of the October 13, 2021, meeting of Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS). This is not a complete summary.
- Public Comment
- Reports of Committees
- Reports of Officials
- Bills List
- Old Business
- New Business
- My Personal Notes
Resident Frank McCarron, who resides in Delancey Court, criticized Newtown Township's lack of transparency regarding its discussions with Toll Brothers. At issue is the proposed settlement with Toll to develop 45 single family homes on property located along Twining Bridge Road near its intersection with Durham Road (S.R. 413). The settlement plan calls for an access road via Municipal Drive. Mr. McCarron pointed out that residents first heard of this plan via a letter sent to a subset - not ALL - of Delancey Court residents who use the same intersection with Durham road as does Municipal Drive. There were at least two Executive Sessions where the supervisors discussed this settlement, but - as Mr. McCarron points out - no public statement was made notifying residents of the topic as has been the case with other Executive Sessions.
"By asking Toll Brothers to send a letter to residents rather than the Board discussing this as a public agenda item, does it really surprise you that residents of Delancey Court are alarmed that perhaps all this time, there has been a deliberate effort to keep the discussion of Municipal Drive out of the public eye? The process has gone awry," said Mr. McCarron.
Mr. McCarron suggested that there be a public meeting of all interested parties to discuss the settlement and all the possible Durham Road access alternatives - including North Drive. "Who decided to bypass North Drive in favor of Municipal Drive?," asked Mr. McCarron. "That's the elephant in the room," he said.
At the October 5, 2021, Newtown Planning Commission (NTPC) meeting, members discussed the Bucks County Planning Commission's (BCPC) September 10, 2021, revised proposal for services related to the creation of an Overlay District in the LI/OLI zones. The purpose of the overlay is to allow new permitted uses that will benefit local businesses.
Summary of the discussion:
- It was noted that the new proposal includes meeting with both the EDC and the NTPC and has included the Newtown Business Commons Association in its considerations.
- NTPC Chair Allen Fidler asked: Can the township provide the BCPC with any meeting minutes of the Planning Commission, Economic Development Committee, etc. where this was discussed? He was fearful that this process could extend “well into the New Year.” I pointed out that (1) the BCPC process can be slow if evidence from its work on the Comprehensive Plan revision is any indicator, and (2) to implement the final plan requires approval of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC) after all three JZC member PC’s (Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield) review the plan.
- The NTPC would like some information on a timeline, or an estimate of time involved to complete the meeting and drafting process.
- Getting parties together at a BOS Work Session
NOTE: The BOS unanimoisly (4-0) approved the revised Bucks County Planning Commission proposal for Planning Services for the OLI/LI Zoning Districts Revised Proposal. For background, read "Newtown Economic Development Committee Discusses LI/OLI Overlay Zoning and New Uses for the Business Commons Area".
Technology & Communications Committee Report
At the September 27, 2021, Technology & Communications Committee (T&CC) meeting, members reviewed the Newtown website Google analytics provided by Beth Leone, Newtown Township Technology Director. It was a very thorough report of key analytics between April 1, 2021, and September 20, 2021.
One important piece of information is the number of views of committee web pages. For example, the BOS page received about 28 page views per month, the EAC 4 pages per month, and the Planning Commission less than 1 page per month (see table on left for the complete set of data).
For more details, read: “The First View of Newtown Township Website Analytics!”
Environmental Advisory Council
The EAC met on October 11, 2021. The major item for discussion was the development of an ordinance to ban the use of single-use plastics by businesses in Newtown Township. The EAC intends to present a draft ordinance to the BOS at a future date. This ordinance would encourage Newtown Township businesses and residents to limit or ban the use of single-use plastic bags, single use plastic straws and Styrofoam containers that are all unsuited for existing recycling processes and end up as trash. EAC representatives would like to come before the BOS at a Work Session – possibly in November – to present its draft ordinance and answer questions from the supervisors and the public. Newtown Borough reached out to partner with the Newtown EAC and also would like to attend the work session. I have distributed to the supervisors a “fact sheet” on single-use plastics prepared by the EAC.
Joint Zoning Council
At the October 7, 2021, Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner, Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC), presented an analysis of the recently released 2020 U.S. Census Redistricting Data Summary Files related to the "Jointure" townships (Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield).
Her analysis, which will be incorporated into the updated Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan, covers population trends from 1950 through 2020, population change from 2000 to 2020, population by race, and housing data.
Multimodal Grant Discussion
From the October 7, 2021, Monthly Engineering Report PennDOT Multimodal Grant Program: RVE provided the Township with information pertaining to the grant on 9/28/2021. RVE is seeking a consensus from the Board to proceed with an application for sidewalk connections within the Business Commons*. RVE will work with Township Staff on the project scope. PennDOT Multimodal Transportation Fund – Deadline 11/5/2021
*Sidewalks in the business commons have often been discussed, but a plan has never been approved. I am all in favor of improving pedestrian conditions within the Business Commons as recommended by the 2006 Newtown Business Commons Streetscape Master Plan.
“Current pedestrian conditions within the Business Commons include a haphazard collection of disconnected concrete sidewalks,” notes the Master Plan. “There are no crosswalks within the Business Commons, and limited handicap accessible curb cuts. Sidewalks and curb cuts are now required as properties are being developed or redeveloped…. Pedestrians have been observed walking along the roadside and entering the Business Commons at the Penn's Trail entry. They are often forced to dodge traffic and balance on the curb as the rush hour traffic enters or exits the complex."
My understanding – after discussing this with Bruce White, Chair of the Newtown Business Commons Association - is that it might be difficult to add sidewalks as most of the land needed for sidewalks is privately owned.
It was decided that the Engineer should draft the grant application. The Supervisors will get a chance to review the application before voting on approving it at the next BOS meeting.
Authorization to take further legal action against KVK Tech for zoning violations
KVK Tech has not removed the trailers from 110 Terry Drive in accordance with the Notice of Violation, nor have they appealed the Violation to the Zoning Hearing Board. We will document the non-compliance with date stamped photographs.
The Solicitor noted that a court order will be sought and if KVK Tech refuses to comply with the order, fines could be levied up to $500 per day.
The BOS approved this motion unanimously 4-0.
Authorization to draft and advertise amendment to the Township’s weed ordinance in accordance with EAC recommendations
The EAC submitted a proposed amendment to the "Weed" ordinance Newtown Township Code of Ordinances regarding vegetation health and safety. For more information on this, see my Notes from 22 September 2021 BOS Meeting. The BOS authorized the Solicitor to draft the amendment, which will be presented to BOS at the next regular public meeting at which time the BOS will vote to advertise the amendment.
September 2021 Police Report
Statistics for the Month of September 2021 according to the September 2021 Monthly NTPD Report : “Auto v. Deer”; 18 incidents - up 157% compared to August. The total YTD is 96. Usually, the number of struck deer incidents peak in October, November, and December. There were 6 “Hit and Run” incidents in September for a YTD total of 29 vs 31 for the whole of 2020. DUI arrests totaled 122 to date compare to 84 for all of 2020. Fraud also is a problem: 199 YTD vs 156 for all of 2020.
October 13, 2021, Bills List totalling $976,275.46.
COMMENT ABOUT A BILL: Page 10, WEATHER WORKS LLC. for DPW FORECAST/STORM ALERT SERVICE: $332.50 and 1/1/22-10/31/22 STORM ALERT SERV: $1,662.50
I suppose this service alerts the township of very local conditions to help PW and police deal with road closures, etc. The Township Manager, Micah Lewis, sent out text notices to supervisors during the storms on September 1, 2021. An example message: “The severe weather/tornado threat has moved east. Widespread, dangerous flash flooding is ongoing. Heavy rain continues through 10 PM before beginning to shift east. Flooding will worsen through the evening as streams, creeks, and rivers continue to quickly rise.” It’s a shame that the township has no way of similarly notifying citizens although it was mistakenly claimed that Police social media was posting updates as the storms progressed. I did not see any notices posted to Police Twitter or FB accounts. In any case, I doubt many citizens follow these accounts.
Planning Commission Appointment Terry M. Christensen, PhD
See Mr. Christensen's CV. The BOS unanimously approved 4-0 Mr. Christensen’s appointment to the Planning Commission. Mr. Christensen will fulfill Andrew Jacobs' unexpired term, which expires on December 31, 2021.
Hybrid and/or Streaming Meetings
Consideration of Video Gold Proposals
The #09212021-12 proposal states:
“The zoom incorporation means that we need to augment the existing equipment to be able to transmit the three cameras and a separate zoom input to and through the switcher and then make sure audio is sent to the zoom portion of the meeting. This also means we have to resolve the audio issue down on the dais for either the chairman or vice-chairman to hear the zoom participants and be able to answer any of the questions asked while not creating feedback in the room. This means that during the public comment and during public input into an issue, someone on the dais will have to address that participant in some form or communication from the video booth to someone on the dais will have to occur.”
The total fees are for equipment, installation and yearly fees: $4065.00
QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: There is no mention of what “augment the existing equipment entails.” There is no mention, for example, of a large-screen monitor in the meeting room (see photo) so that supervisors and people in the audience can see AND hear comments/questions from the Zoom participants directly.
It appears that what Video Gold is proposing is wholly inadequate and not competitive with solutions offered by other municipalities.
My simple, inexpensive solution: A large screen computer monitor can be setup in the meeting room displaying the Zoom participates (see photo from Middletown). The camera can show this screen to the Cable TV audience much like it does with displays on tripods or large boards brought in to the meeting by applicants. We'll need a "Producer" that can help connect the participants online with those in the room. Whether the producer is a professional AV company, a township employee, or a volunteer (as suggested by Dan Williams in a public comment), logistically it's necessary to have a functioning meeting. My suggestion is the "producer" should be the Assistant Manager as volunteers may be difficult to find and assure that they will be at every meeting.
Whatever the solution, I think we have to limit this to BOS meetings in the first phase.
Mr. Lewis agreed to contact Middletown to learn how they do hybrid meetings and the costs involved.
Peter Gilles of the EAC notified me that he spoke with Frederick Herb, Division Manager, Armour & Sons, about LED lighting and was told that Newtown is the last township to get started installing LED streetlights. I contacted Mr. Herb and learned that he is working with the DVRPC on the third phase of their funding program, with pricing to be held until June 2022. Mr. Herb said that 20 townships participated in the first round and 16 are now installing LED’s. Some specific townships/boroughs he mentioned that Armour did the work for were Middletown, Langhorne Borough, Bristol, Bensalem, Lower Southampton, Morrissville, Falls.
He suggested that the township contact Keystone Lighting Consultants, who are now taking more townships into the DVRPC funding program. Mr. Fuller can explain the whole process. Keystone does the whole audit, all the PECO work, get the rebates, negotiate prices for fixtures, which they order in bulk to get the best prices. Mr. Herb emphasized to get in touch with Keystone ASAP because they are getting townships ready for phase 3 now.
Mr. Lewis agreed to contact Keystone Lighting Consultants about participating in the DVRPC third phase.
Embedded below are my notes from the meeting. You can also download the PDF file