23 March 2022 BOS Meeting Summary
Piccolo Trattoria, Economic Development Committee, NAC Event-Style Shows Variance, Sycamore Street LED Lighting Upgrades, Live Stream Video, Hiring Township Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer/Consultants, Villas of Newtown, ARP Funding of Lower Dolington Road Trail, Fire Services Agreement with Borough Update, Russian Stock Divesture, More...
This is my personal summary of the March 23, 2022, meeting of Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS). This is not a complete nor an official summary. See my meeting notes for more details.
Access the 2022 BOS Voting Record (UNOFFICIAL).
- Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
- Public Comment
- Engineer's Report
- Manager's Report
- Old Business
The applicant wishes to expand the restaurant into the adjacent storefront, formerly Dogs and Cats Rule, and to build a patio in the grassy area along the side wall of the building. This will involve a very small increase in impervious surface of 0.22% and will require some relocation of reserve parking within the shopping center. There are 169 spaces currently held in reserve. This shopping center has already been granted parking variances.
The Planning Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors support this application. The restaurant end of the shopping center has adequate parking and the other businesses at this end are closed in the evening. We have asked that an effort be made to relocate the trees if possible, otherwise they will be replaced. More details…
COMMENT: The applicant noted that there has always been more than adequate parking at the location of Piccolo Trattoria. This nevertheless could be a sticking point given the increased number of potential customers due to the expansion of the restaurant plus patio seating. While the 2,212 sq.ft. patio could seat 112 additional customers, the application did not indicate how many additional seats would be available in the planned 2,000 sq.ft. expansion.
I responded to a resident's question and explained the intent is of the 5G Wireless Facilities Newtown Area Ordinance.
Wrightstown, Upper Makefield and Newtown townships have drafted this ordinance, which needs to be approved by all three municipalities before the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) can be updated to include it. The ordinance attempts to provide reasonable design requirements for these installations, so as not to become an eyesore. Access the JZC Wireless Facilities Ordinance Databank for the draft ordinance and the 5g Design Manual.
To upgrade the existing incandescent street lighting to include brighter LED light bulbs with a 54 Watts equivalent on Sycamore Street. RVE performed a review of the existing lighting system to review pole types, fixture types, and other general observations. Based on the review, the 54-Watt lighting will provide the best lighting for the Sycamore Street in the area of Silo Drive. This is part of the series of improvements approved by the BOS: view video clip "Newtown Supervisors Act To Improve Pedestrian Safety”.
As stated in the March 11, 2022, Letter of Recommendation, “It is our understanding that the Township would like to upgrade the existing LED light bulbs on Sycamore Street between the Newtown Bypass and Durham Road.” The winning bid was for the replacement of 100 bulbs for $175 per bulb ($17,500 total) Awarded to Amour & Sons.
The JZC has been using Zoom as an additional platform for its meetings to provide a hybrid environment for members of the council. The JZC had previously voted to increase its budget to provide for a videographer to handle the setup and recording of meetings. The cost would be $250/meeting with a maximum cost of $3000/year. The ultimate cost breakdown per township is as follows: Newtown 47.17%, Upper Makefield 37.82%, Wrightstown 15.02%. There will be no additional costs for software or hardware as these are already being provided by Wrightstown Township. Because this is a slightly different professional service, the JZC is asking if the Board of Supervisors agrees with the proposal. NOTE: On March 21, 2022, Wrightstown Township at a public meeting approved the increased budget for the Jointure to provide for the hiring of a videographer for future jointure meetings.
I NOTED THAT THIS MONEY IS ALSO TO BE USED TO RUN HYBRID MEETING (WITH A ZOOM OPTION). THE REQUEST WAS APPROVED 5-0 BY THE BOS.
As part of the Lower Dolington Trail project, the Township is required to provide a match (pay) for approximately $550,000 of the project, with the remaining $602,000 coming from grants. This currently is budgeted to be paid for from the Recreation Capital Fund, which is solely funded from developer contributions. Given the newly available American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds being eligible for "grant match" funding, and the diminished developer contributions into the fund, the Township Manager is recommending assigning ARP funding for the Township's portion in order to preserve the fund balance of the Recreation Capital Fund for future years.
COMMENTS: I objected to depositing $550,000 into the Parks capital fund. First, this is much more than what was recommended previously ($125,000); second, there is no discussion and agreement what these funds would be used for, but they cannot be used for anything other than Parks capital projects.
Also, $550,000 is a substantial portion of the ARP funds, meaning much less can be spent on other needed projects such as road work. As I have previously stated, the recommended amount for additional paving in 2023 - $429,500 – will pave only about 1.76 additional miles of roads. I would like to see more money from ARP – maybe $600,000 – devoted to road repaving. We would then have about $1,270,000 – enough to pave 5.2 miles of roads (assuming the budget includes $300,000 and we get the same liquid fuels money as in 2021).
Therefore, I would have preferred a lesser amount – say $250,000 – for the Parks Capital fund AS LONG AS we also establish a DEDICATED ROAD IMPROVEMENT FUND so that the $600,000 ARP funds can ONLY be used for roadwork and any money left over stays in the fund to be used for the next year rather than being siphoned off into the General Fund to pay for other, perhaps less important, things.
THE BOARD’S CONSENSUS WAS FOR THE TOWNSHIP TO PURSUE THIS PLAN.
Viz-a-viz the Economic Development Committee, the number of official members is said to be 7, 9, and 11, depending on where you look. The 2022 Re-organization document and the website indicate 7 members; the “Summary of committee membership vacancies as of 3/21/22” indicates 9 members; and the ordinance governing the Establishment and Composition of this committee (§ 1-431) indicates 11 members! Therefore, it is impossible to know how many members constitute a quorum; is it 4, 5, or 6?
The current number of voting members is 5, not 6 as indicated in the “Summary.”
The Committee recommends having 7 voting members and 2 alternate members. Alternates participate in all meetings and vote when a regular EDC member is unable to attend. This approach provides a better chance to fill all the chairs during a meeting, so the alternates really help keep things in balance
I requested that a decision on whether or not Newtown pension funds should dump Russian funds be made at the next BOS meeting (April 13, 2022). I also requested that a representative from the pension fund management company be present to answer questions from the BOS and the public. #StandWithUkraine
The fund in question is Aberdeen Emerging Stock Fund (ABEMX), which has holdings in Russian stocks (see table below). The total holdings of ABEMX fund stock in Newtown Township pension funds is $2,227,507. In fiscal year 2021 ABEMX lost 4% of its value whereas the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 18.73%.
My Opinion: Let's NOT wait for Russia to fully open its stock market! Let's rid our pension funds of ABEMX stock NOW! Not only does it hold stock in Russian (and Chinese) companies, it also lost value before Russia invaded Ukraine!
Breaking News: On Thursday, March 24, 2022, NYC Fire Pension Fund Voted to Divest Russian Securities in Support of #Ukraine. The NYPD and other NYC pension funds already dumped their Russian securities.
Disclaimer: This is not an official Newtown Township survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue.
Embedded below are my notes that I prepared before the meeting. It includes questions and links to background information and other details. You can also download the PDF file.