Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors Work Session

Minutes of September 14, 2009

 

Members Present: Robert Ciervo, Chairman; Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman;

Matt Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer; Jerry Schenkman, Member; Phil Calabro, Member and Michele Fountain, Engineer.

Also Present: Planning Commission members Allen Fidler, Brandon Wind, Peggy Driscoll, Sue Beasley and Dennis Fisher; Township residents Pam Fitzpatrick, Karen Katz, Mary Donaldson and Harriet Beckert; Members of Sycamore Street Community Association Frank Tyrol, Shawn Ward, Vince Lombardi, Melva Vittoriano, Dave Burns and Rosemary Wuenschel ; Borough residents Bob Walker, John Burke, Warren Woldorf and Paul Salvatore.

Call to Order: Chairman Ciervo called the meeting to order at 7:34 P.M.

Community Comments

Chairman Ciervo updated the public on tonight’s discussions regarding the Planning Commission’s discussions of the TC Zoning District and requested the public to make their comments at this time. He thanked the members of the Planning Commission for all the time they have taken discussing the subject of Sycamore Street.

Mr. Schenkman suggested also having community comments at the end of the meeting.

Mr. Burke commented with regards to the Borough working with the Township’s Planning Commission on the matter of the TC Zoning District. Mrs. Driscoll advised that the Planning Commission’s meetings are open to the public. Chairman Ciervo discussed meeting with Borough Council and the Borough Planning Commission to have discussions before making any changes. Mr. Benchener commented with regards to the two municipalities partnering together.

Mr. Tyrol suggested that the Board hear community comments again once the discussions regarding the TC Zoning District have finished.

Mr. Walker commented with regards to the Stockburger properties on State and Sycamore Streets being developed correctly.

Mr. Ward also suggested that the public be allowed to comment once the TC Zoning District discussion between the Board and Planning Commission is complete.

Mrs. Beasley commented on the Township’s noise ordinance and advised that LaStalla is keeping residents in the area awake due to noise.

Mr. Lombardi updated the Supervisors on the history of Sycamore Street. He discussed the grants that the Township has received for the street, the condition of the street and the Board of Supervisors’ vision for the street was to protect residents, improve properties and to protect/improve businesses. He also discussed the Acme site, the existing zoning and the Acme Visioning Committee.

Mrs. Beckert commented with regards to there being historical buildings on both sides of the Sycamore Street.

Discussion

Planning Commission Discussion of the TC Zoning District

Chairman Ciervo requested the Supervisors to discuss their vision for the future with regards to Sycamore Street.

Mr. Schenkman advised on his vision. He discussed Goodnoe’s Corner and the Promenade and the Township needing to have more control and tightening their ordinances. He discussed Stockburger going out of business. He advised that he feels that the Township is on the right track and that he would like to see mixed use on Sycamore Street. He discussed businesses prospering and honoring the history of the town. He also discussed infill and reported that many years ago State Street looked like Sycamore Street. He advised that he likes the Planning Commission’s discussions with regards to planned commercial development for the larger parcels of two acres or more and that the large parcels are designed to enhance the community. His vision is that the Township should look to the future while respecting the past and try to be sensitive to where the Township is going and where they want to be.

Mr. Gallagher commented on balancing the present and future zoning and property owners’ rights. He discussed two big issues being traffic and parking. He also discussed the work being done by the Planning Commission on this issue.

Mr. Benchener advised that he is excited about the possibilities. He discussed partnering with State Street and creating a downtown center. He reported on discussions he has had with members of the community. He commented on keeping the small town charm while creating a downtown center. He also discussed the income the Township receives from businesses.

Mr. Calabro advised that he has no problem with how Sycamore Street is currently. He reported that he does not want to see anything changed to non-conforming use and that he does not want to see owners’ property rights hampered with. He would like to see the street become the vibrant center to the Township as State Street is to the Borough. He commented on parking issues and traffic.

Chairman Ciervo advised that he is unhappy with what has happened to the Acme site. He discussed the review of the TC District and advised that he is happy with the approach that the Planning Commission has taken for their review. He commented with regards to zoning and making changes to the TC District. He discussed the Planning Commission’s recommendations. He commented with regards to retail size and advised that he does not want the size to be too big and would like to reduce the retail size. He discussed offering bonuses to developers.

With regards to residential uses, he is not in favor of adding residential uses. With regards to front yard setbacks, he favors the businesses being closer to the street. With regards to building height, he advised that in the TC District it is 30 feet and he is fine with that. He likes the idea of additional uses and suggested that they include small athletic facilities. As far as eating facilities, he suggested the need to limit the square footage. He favors E-9 entertainment use. He discussed the Planned Commercial Development (PDC) and adding uses. He requested to hear from the Planning Commission members.

Mr. Fidler thanked the Township’s professionals (Recording Secretary, Engineer, and Solicitor) for the work that they have done. He discussed the Planning Commission’s approach to reviewing the TC Zoning District and advised on Planning Commission needing to know the Supervisors’ vision for the street. He commented on Sycamore Street being a transition area and on the large parcels on the western side of the street. He discussed offering incentives to the developers and meeting with Lynn Bush from the Bucks County Planning Commission. He also discussed the control factor with regards to the Township’s zoning ordinances and code enforcement officers. He thanked the Supervisors for spending the money on this matter. He reported that the members of the Commission were not unanimous with regards to all of the proposed uses.

Mrs. Beasley commented with regards to the length of Sycamore Street and advised that most of the discussions centered around Goodnoe’s Corner to the high school. She also commented with regards to high-end retail and feels that not everyone in the community wants that. She suggested getting the real history of the street and advised that Sycamore Street was known as the workers’ street. She reported that she likes the idea of pocket parks and having some open space on the street.

Mrs. Driscoll advised that she likes what Mrs. Beasley is saying and that she is against having big box stores on the street. She discussed the Township’s Comprehensive Plan, the surplus of multi-family housing and the impact of additional housing to the schools. She advised that she likes the way the street looks without infill.

Mr. Wind commented with regards to traffic, parking and the research done by Ms. Fountain. He discussed centralized parking, the need for entertainment and business closing early. He advised that he would like to see something for people to do on the street after they’ve eaten. He commented with regards to having indoor entertainment, the Township’s noise ordinance and keeping to scale.

Mr. Fisher advised that he feels that there is plenty of parking on Sycamore Street and that he would like to see some type of connection from the parking area to where the shops are. He suggested when planning, making it a walkable area and tying into the creek and the Borough.

Mr. Wind commented on making a pedestrian path across the creek near Greene Street. Mr. Schenkman advised that he thinks that the Newtown Creek Coalition is working on that.

Mr. Burns advised on his concerns with regards to a creek walk, vandalism and there being no police presence.

Mr. Fidler suggested making the current vehicular bridges more pedestrian friendly and offering incentives to applicants who plan to develop a PCD if they could help support/finance pedestrian enhancements. He emphasized that if the Township creates a good plan it may deter the applicant from going to the Zoning Hearing Board.

Mrs. Beckert reported on the research she has done. She advised that current problems for residents include noise, odor and light pollution. She advised on her concerns with regards to infill and that she prefers side yards. She would rather see the Township plan and perhaps ask for something in return (examples: pocket park, park along creek). She commented on the upcoming HARB presentation before the Supervisors. She discussed the Township’s historic significance and how changes could impact to HARB. She commented on her research on residences in a Historic District. She reported that HARB encourages a streetscape. She commented on being impressed by the work being done by the Planning Commission. The Supervisors agreed that they couldn’t do it without them.

Chairman Ciervo questioned Mr. Fidler with regards to changes to the TC District and the next step. Mr. Fidler commented on getting input from Lynn Bush and that if the uses and vision of performance standards in the PCD is consistent with the Supervisors’ vision the next step would be to go to a professional planner and let them know what the Township wants. Once that assessment has happened he suggested that Ms. Fountain, a planner and the solicitor begin creating an ordinance. The Commission would be glad to help assist in the process, but feels that it is time to pass the matter off to the Supervisors for discussions.

Mr. Schenkman commented on the Supervisors still wanting advice from the Planning Commission.

Ms. Fountain suggested that the next step be for a planner and the solicitor begin developing an ordinance.

The Supervisors discussed where things stand with Lynn Bush from the BCPC. Mr. Fidler advised that Ms. Bush did offer to come to a work session. He also commented with regards to getting input from a professional planner.

Chairman Ciervo commented that the Commission has done a great job with regards to uses. He questioned the specifics with regards to setbacks. Mr. Fidler advised that the Planning Commission focused on uses and developing a criteria of performance standards in a PCD.

Chairman Ciervo commented with regards to changing the setbacks on any parcels outside of the PCD. Mr. Fidler advised that if that is the Supervisors’ charge the Commission would look into the matter once they have finished with the Promenade.

Mr. Ward suggested calling it Planned Town Commercial rather than Planned Commercial Development. He likes the idea of incentive zoning.

Mr. Benchener advised that he is against restrictive zoning.

Mr. Lombardi commented on setbacks and advised with regards to the eastside of the street and setbacks.

Mr. Gallagher agrees with the Planning Commission with regards to this being the right time for the Supervisors to take the ball. He commented with regards to incentives for developers, the discussions regarding the two plus acre parcels and needing to have more discussions regarding the small parcels.

Mr. Fidler suggested that the Board utilize Ms. Fountain’s knowledge.

Mr. Schenkman commented with regards to parking and the need to have discussions regarding a parking lot/garage.

Chairman Ciervo commented with regards to parking being tied to the use. Mr. Fidler suggested that with regards to parking the Township have a fee in lieu of parking and that those fees would go into a fund to create a common parking area.

Mr. Lombardi commented with regards to when the Village of Newtown was developed and the drainage basins being used for future parking needs.

The Supervisors discussed the current SALDO with regards to a fee in lieu of parking. Ms. Fountain advised that in TC District a fee in lieu of parking is allowed.

The Supervisors discussed structuring ordinances so that the fees stay in the districts where the fee was incurred.

The Supervisors discussed parking and having some type of public transportation system and working with the Borough with regards to parking.

Mr. Fidler suggested that the Supervisors relax on some of the building setbacks.

Mr. Benchener commented with regards to parking relief and other possible incentives to entice developers.

Mr. Fidler discussed retail space and possible uses. He commented with regards to mixed uses attracting more professions and creating a higher tax income to the Township.

Chairman Ciervo commented that the Supervisors need to make a decision on how to proceed and requested the public to make any additional comments at this time.

Mr. Tyrol advised that an important concern based on the JDNC is the traffic. He suggested that the Township work with the Borough on the issue of planning how the street develops in the future. He suggested that the Township look on the street for potential parking sites. He questioned if the vision changes if parking is not an issue.

Mr. Ward requested a copy of the Planning Commission’s synopsis. Mrs. Donaldson advised that information is available on the Township’s website. Chairman Ciervo suggested that the other information provided by the Planning Commission for tonight’s discussion also be put on the website with a disclaimer noting that they are working documents and that there may be changes.

Mr. Ward suggested that the Supervisors take the time to walk the street before making any decisions and to review tonight’s minutes for common grounds. He discussed the comments made tonight regarding the Borough and State Street and advised that he feels that the improvements to Sycamore Street should benefit the Township.

Mrs. Beckert commented that she agrees that the Supervisors should walk the street.

Mrs. Katz commented that she has attended a few of the Planning Commission’s meetings and on the great work that they are doing. She advised the Supervisors that the results of the Newtown Planning Survey would be released soon. Chairman Ciervo questioned how the Township would get the results. Mrs. Katz advised that the survey results would be given to the Township via a compact disc and that she would like to be scheduled to appear before the Supervisors and give a presentation.

Mrs. Beasley encouraged the Supervisors to hire a professional planner.

Mr. Walker commented with regards to the proposal for the Stockburger property in the Borough and encouraged the Township to hire a professional planner.

Mr. Lombardi suggested that the Township be careful when in comes to infill due to fire problems.

Mr. Woldorf advised that the infill that happened in the Borough was prior to zoning. He commented on the wonderful opportunities for Sycamore Street.

Mr. Salvatore commented on the Borough and Township working together and advised that he feels that the Township is doing a great job.

Chairman Ciervo agreed that the Township and Borough should work together.

Mr. Gallagher advised that he was glad to see Borough representatives at tonight’s meeting.

Mr. Benchener agreed that the Township and Borough should work together and commented on Sycamore and State Streets enhancing one another.

Mr. Woldorf commented with regards to pedestrian bridges, Mr. Burns’ concerns, the current vehicular bridges and their walkways.

Mr. Tyrol commented on the difficulty in controlling businesses that are attracted to the area and suggested working with the JDNC. He offered reasons why people should walk through the Township and Borough.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick advised that she likes the ideas heard at tonight’s meeting. She commented with regards to having a unified front and upholding the ordinances.

Chairman Ciervo thanked everyone for their comments; he also thanked the members of the Planning Commission for their work. He advised that this would be an ongoing process and welcomed any input from the Planning Commission.

New Business

None.

Old Business

None.

Other Business

None.

Adjournment

Without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 9:53 P.M.

 

Respectfully Submitted:
Christy Holley, Recording Secretary

 

Attest:

Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager


Robert Ciervo, Chairman

Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman

Matt Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer

Philip Calabro, Member

Jerry Schenkman, Member