NEWTOWN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
LUNCHEON MEETING AT GOODNOE FARM DAIRY BAR
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Terry moved to accept the minutes of Thursday, February 5, 2004. Mr. Worthington seconded and the motion passed 10-0.
Present: Chairman Richard Weaver, Tom Harwood, Hal Roberts, Jim Worthington, Dan McCloskey, Marge Frederick, Steve Schreiber, Mark Byelich, Allen and Jane Kleibert, Sue and Bob Allen, Denise Walsh, Shannon Wilson, Sue Britsch, Miguel Sison, Clare Shaw, Paul Salvatore.
Call to Order: Chairman Weaver called the meeting to order at 12:05 PM.
Public Comment – None
Codes Department Business Development Report
Mr. Harwood distributed and reviewed the report for January 2004.
Approval of the Minutes
Mr. Byelich moved to approve the minutes of the January 15, 2004 meeting as presented. Mr. Roberts seconded; the motion carried unanimously.
Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce
Ms. Frederick noted that the Chamber’s upcoming Business Card Exchange and Annual Expo is scheduled for March 24, 2004, 3:00 - 7:00 pm, to be held at King’s Caterers; anyone interested in exhibiting should contact the Chamber. Information is available on the website: www.lbccc.org.
Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation
Ms. Dunleavy reported that they are still awaiting the Main Street grant application approval. Mr. Salvatore announced that the JDNC would host a meeting for local retailers, professionals and business owners at the
Temperance House on March 2, 2004, with light refreshments at 6:30 and a speaker from 7:00-8:00 pm. The speaker will be the West Chester Main Street Project Manager.
Newtown Business and Professional Association
Economic Development Commission
Mr. Weaver reported that the Commission’s recommendations have been drafted in an ordinance and sent to the Planning Commission and Joint Planning Commission. He said that this evening he would find out how fast the adoption of the ordinance will proceed, and said that the Planning Commission was OK with the use by right section of the drafted ordinance.
Mr. Weaver said he has been asked by the new owners of the Zaner property, at 15 Terry Drive, to hold an event there for anyone interested in development in the Business Commons; this should provide an opportunity to show how buildings in the Commons could be rehabilitated, upgraded and converted from manufacturing to other uses. He said he has seen the architect’s rendering and that the result should be a marquis building. Mr. Weaver said that they are waiting to set the date for the meeting, either at the end of February or beginning of March. The meeting will be probably be scheduled from 5:00-7:00 pm, and the speaker will probably be Mark Schweiker, former PA governor and CEO & President of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Weaver said that he and Bob Pellegrino have been visiting other townships to look at municipal buildings and industrial parks/business commons; he said that the Newtown Business Commons are very attractive compared to many others. He said that the township is receiving calls from interested persons.
Mr. McCloskey asked how the Planning Commission felt about the Economic Development Commission’s recommendations. Mr. Weaver said that they were considering one last item, zoning changes related to uses and uses by right. He said hadn’t heard any opposition to the recommendations, and had heard a few suggested changes, such as a 50/50 split between varied parking space sizes. Mr. Byelich said a PC member told him that they had approved the drafted ordinance 8-1 at their meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Harwood clarified that the PC was not in total agreement, but was in favor overall of the proposed changes. He said they addressed conditional uses, and support the continuation of the conditional use process as it exists. Mr. Worthington noted that it would be nice to announce the adoption of the Economic Development Commission’s recommendations at the meeting being planned. Mr. Weaver reminded the Council that the Jointure is OK with the proposed changes, since Newtown is the only municipality with a business commons.
Mr. Worthington asked about the adoption process for the proposed ordinance; Mr. Weaver said that they are awaiting a response from the Joint Planning Commission before it is sent to the Jointure. If the Jointure approves, as expected, there should be no delay; Mr. Weaver said he hoped the ordinance is adopted by the end of the month. Ms. Allen said she had been frustrated by the delay. Ms. Kleibert said that they hoped things were resolved soon, as they are waiting to move into the Business Commons and need to take care of many issues, such as printing of stationery and business cards and inclusion in the new phone book; Mr. Weaver said was confident the situation would be resolved very soon. Mr. Worthington said there are almost 30 businesses in the same situation, and noted that the Economic Development Commission, under Mr. Weaver’s leadership, has tried to facilitate the process. Mr. McCloskey said that Newtown’s reputation has been that the township is difficult to move into, but felt that this impression was slowly being turned around.
Mr. Worthington said that Ms. Mitchell has laid out the map and is in the process of defining pricing and other details. He said she should be able to report the map’s status at the next meeting.
Mr. Gorski introduced himself as an engineer and builder, saying that his company practices “constructioneering” in Southeast PA. He said he reviewed information about the Business Commons and the township that he had received from Ms. Dunleavy, and felt that that the township was headed in the right direction. Mr. Gorski noted that there are significant vacancy rates throughout the state. He said that the Newtown Business Commons was well situated, the buildings are in good condition, and that the area would support office use. He said it was unusual to see so much masonry in a business park, making it very attractive. He said that there are lots of industrial building available, but not much demand now for industrial use, and that other uses being considered were athletic organizations and specialty schools. He said that efficiency of use was an issue for the use of the buildings; usage in some buildings is low by today’s standards. Mr. Gorski said that truck accessibility was also a big factor, especially since today’s trucks are larger.
Mr. Gorski noted that developers are building a lot of parking now as buildings move from industrial to office use. He noted that other municipalities have impervious surface allowances greater than 60%, and suggested that the study of overall watershed conditions may result in new ways to allow greater impervious surface. He said that new water management methods are being used, such as porous paving, underground storm water management, and the use of water as a landscape feature such as a pond. He suggested that conducting a comprehensive water study of the entire watershed area, including everything upstream, could help evaluate the situation. Mr. Harwood noted that new water management standards would be adopted soon. Mr. Worthington suggested that a study of watershed/storm water management be done to determine the maximum amount of impervious surface that could be supported in the Business Commons; Mr. Harwood said that each project gets individual assessment as part of the land development process.
Mr. Worthington raised the issue of traffic impact. Mr. Gorski said that office use generates more traffic during peak hours, but doesn’t impact traffic greatly overall. He said that medical use generates a more consistent traffic flow, complimenting and balancing out traffic in the Business Commons. Ms. Kleibert said that the position of the Business Park near the Bypass shouldn’t impact traffic in the borough. Mr. Gorski said that access to the Business Commons is good. He said that increasing impervious surface could help motivate development. He said that Perkioman Township had reviewed the conditional use process to facilitate developers, and specified as high as 80% - 85% impervious surface allowances in developed areas.
Mr. Harwood noted that the land development time line was about 3 months; Mr. Gorski said that was reasonable. Mr. Schreiber suggested that the public needed to be educated, so that projects that township officials approve are not delayed. Mr. Harwood noted that commercial development near residents usually takes longer and has more opposition. Mr. Worthington said he thought that the public wasn’t aware of the resources generated from development, such as park & recreation fees, traffic impact fees, and school taxes; he suggested speaking with the school district for support. Mr. Byelich reminded Council members that the development process is much better than it had been, and said that more representation was needed from the business community.
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 4, 2004.
Without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 1:30 pm.
Leslie P. Dunleavy, Recording Secretary