Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

February 6, 2001


MINUTES OF 2/6/01:  Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of the 2/6/01 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously with Mr. Baldwin abstaining. 


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, February 6, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Paul Kester, Vince Lombardi, Frank Mendicino, Sue Beasley and Jack Bowen (late).  Also in attendance were:  Township Planner Mike Frank and Township Public Works Director Thomas Harwood.

Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.   

MINUTES OF 1/16/01:  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of 1/16/01; the motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  None. 

REVIEWS: 

CONDITIONAL USE - 413 OFFICE CENTER - AUTUMN LEAF DEVELOPMENT INC - TMP# 29-3-34:  Deferred to next meeting.

MINOR SUBDIVISION - SEGAL AND BRILLIANT - 391 EAGLE ROAD - TMP#29-3-55:  Dina Brilliant and Manfred Heinrici of Heritage Surveyors and engineers were present to discuss the application to divide a 7.10 acre property in the Conservation Management District into two lots. Mr. Heinrici stated that the applicants are not seeking a recommendation on this subdivision tonight, and will return at a later date.

Mr. Frank’s letter of 12/21/00 was reviewed.  Mr. Heinrici agreed to revise the plan to show how lot 1 complies with D-1 zoning, which is permitted by an earlier Zoning Hearing Board decision.  He also agreed to increase the area of lot 2 to at least three acres.  Mr. Heinrici will provide photos of the woodlands and show larger trees on the plan. 

The applicants will bring a written list of waiver requests when they return.  The requests will include waivers from requirements for curbs, sidewalks and road widening.  Mr. Heinrici said that neither adjoining property has a sidewalk, but several members of the Commission stated they would like to see a sidewalk along Eagle Road to connect with future sidewalks in the area, particularly since there is a school and a development nearby.  Mr. Lombardi suggested asking the applicants to provide an easement for a future sidewalk rather than requiring sidewalk construction now.  

Mr. Frank asked the applicants if they could connect with public water and sewer services.  Ms Brilliant stated she inquired about this and was told the cost was prohibitive, at least $100,000.  Mrs. Doorley suggested the applicants obtain this estimate in writing.  Mr. Heinrici stated that the septic system for the new lot has been approved by the County.  Ms Brilliant stated that there is a natural buffer between the proposed dental office and the residential lot; this will be shown on the revised plan.

 

The Carroll Engineering letter of 12/18/00 was briefly reviewed.  There was no representative of Carroll Engineering present, and Mr. Heinrici stated he would prefer to address engineering issues when the applicants submit a revised plan for the subdivision.  He said the applicants question the assessment of a traffic impact fee.   This will also be addressed when a revised plan is submitted and the Township Engineer is present.

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:

a.       BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Mr. Mendicino reviewed the 1/24/01 Board of Supervisors meeting.  The Commission discussed the Board of Supervisors’ consideration of the Pheasant Pointe application to the Zoning Hearing Board.  This led to a general discussion of the Planning Commission’s role in the Zoning Hearing Board application process which continued under New Business (below).  Mr. Mendicino also mentioned the conditional use approval of LaStalla Restaurant, the Swamp Road Traffic Study, the cost estimate for a pedestrian bridge over Route 413 and the approval of additional engineering services for the Sycamore Street project.

b.       JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION:  Mr. Kester reported the Commission will meet nest week. 

c.       JOINT ZONING COUNCIL:  No report. 

d.       SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE:  Mr. Lombardi reported that PennDOT will be meeting with the committee and the engineers to “scope” the site.   Mr. Harwood asked Mr. Lombardi for a copy of the plans to see how the improvements can be maintained.

e.       HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: No report.

f.        RECREATION BOARD:  No report.

g.       TRAIL COMMITTEE:  No report.

h.       PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: No report.

i.         COMMUNITY CENTER COMMITTEE:  Mrs. Beasley reported that the committee was recently asked to rate several parcels of land in the Township for their suitability as a community center site.

j.         PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  None to be addressed. 

OLD BUSINESS:  None. 

NEW BUSINESS:

ZONING HEARING BOARD:  Mrs. Doorley said she is concerned that the Zoning Hearing Board is making planning decisions without Planning Commission input, and the Board of Supervisors is is not well informed when they make decisions about whether to oppose ZHB applications.  Mrs. Doorley said the Segal/Brilliant subdivision plan reviewed earlier tonight is an example of this problem; the ZHB permitted a D-1 office use without any review of this issue by the Planning Commission.

Mr. Frank read an excerpt from the Municipalities Planning Code that requires the ZHB to notify the Planning Commission and other parties regarding upcoming hearings.  In another section the MPC requires that the Planning Commission review all matters of a planning or zoning nature.  Mr. Mendicino noted that applicants sometimes go through the review and approval process with the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors and then go to the ZHB to ask for changes in the approved plan.

Mr. Kester moved to request the Board of Supervisors to have the Solicitor prepare an ordinance amendment to require that applications to the Zoning Hearing Board must be reviewed by the Planning Commission before they are heard, and that once a plan is reviewed and approved the applicant can not go to the Zoning Hearing Board for relief of a requirement in the approved plan.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Mendicino and Mrs. Doorley said they understand that the Solicitor disagrees with this proposal.  Mr. Harwood said he prepares a worksheet with his comments on each application before the ZHB and provides it to the ZHB secretary and the Board of Supervisors.  Mrs. Beasley suggested the Commission could schedule a discussion of an application and notify the applicant that he or she can attend, thus addressing the problem within the current structure.  Mr. Harwood was not sure there would be time for a Planning Commission review in the present procedure, since the “clock starts” on an application when he receives it and requires only that the application be advertised for two consecutive weeks.  He added that the law allows the process to take up to 60 days.  Mr. Kester said the MPC gives the Township the right to establish procedures.  Mr. Harwood suggested the Commission ask Mr. Harris to meet with them to discuss this issue, as there may be a way to resolve this without seeking an amendment.

Mr. Kester withdrew his previous motion. 

Mr. Kester moved to respectfully request that the Board of Supervisors consider the possibility of amending the ordinance to require a review of Zoning Hearing Board applications by the Planning Commission, and to prohibit applicants from seeking relief from the Zoning Hearing Board from conditions of final plan approval.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley.

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Frank and several Commission members said that the Township can not prevent applicants from seeking relief from the ZHB as described in the second half of the motion.  Mrs. Doorley said she did not want to ask the Board of Supervisors to amend the ordinance.

Mr. Kester withdrew his previous motion.

Mr. Lombardi moved to respectfully request that the Board of Supervisors establish a procedure that requires that applications coming before the Zoning Hearing Board be reviewed first by the Planning Commission.  The Commission also requests that Township Solicitor Steve Harris and the Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor meet with them to discuss this issue and possible solutions.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously with Mr. Mendicino abstaining.

Mrs. Doorley noted that the Commission is not suggesting that reviews by Heritage Conservancy and Carroll Engineering be required for this process. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION:

TOPP21 CONFERENCE:  Mrs. Doorley asked that any Commission members who want to attend this conference on 3/24/01 get in touch with her. 

PARKING AT VILLAGE AT NEWTOWN:  Mr. Kester expressed a concern about frequent parking in fire lanes at the Village at Newtown.  

ADJOURNMENT:  Mr. Kester moved to adjourn.  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 9:50 PM.

 

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,

 

 

______________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary