Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

February 20, 2001

MINUTES OF 2/20/01:  Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of the 2/20/01 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr, Kester and passed unanimously with Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Mendicino abstaining.

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, February 20, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Paul Kester, Vince Lombardi, James Baldwin and Sue Beasley (late).  Also in attendance were:  Township Planner Mike Frank, Township Engineer Ken Yerger and Township Public Works Director Thomas Harwood.


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


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING:  A quorum of members was not present at the time the minutes were scheduled for review.




CONDITIONAL USE - 413 OFFICE CENTER - AUTUMN LEAF DEVELOPMENT INC. - 398 DURHAM ROAD - TMP# 29-3-34:  Attorney Frank Dillon and Engineer Wayne Johnson were present to discuss Autumn Leaf Development’s application for mixed uses D-1, Professional Office, and D-2, Medical Office, in two proposed buildings on this property in the PS-2 District.  Mr. Dillon agreed that the medical use would be confined to the larger building in the front of the property, and would be no more than 8,000 square feet of the building.


Mr. Dillon said that the last time a sketch plan for this project was considered by the Commission the main concerns were the links with the properties to the north and the south, and access to Route 413.  At this time the applicants are not proposing to reduce the size of the parking stalls.  Mr. Lombardi stated that he thought the only way to ensure that the three properties are linked is to have an easement in the Township’s favor.  Mrs. Doorley said she would prefer to see the plan show the link as a road to be constructed, not as an easement.  Mr. Dillon said he is willing to work out a plan for the access road with the Township Solicitor in a way that is satisfactory to the Commission.


Heritage Conservancy’s 2/8/01 letter was reviewed.  Mr. Dillon agreed that conditional use applications should be submitted by users of the building as they are identified.  Mr. Dillon also stated that a variance will be sought to permit only one loading berth instead of the four required.  Details regarding employees, hours of operation, hazardous materials, etc. will be dealt with when specific users submit conditional use applications.  Questions raised by the Heritage Conservancy letter about fire lanes and sewer and water services will be addressed during the plan approval process.  Mrs. Doorley noted that only the conditional use application was under consideration tonight, and only for the buildings in general.


Mrs. Beasley joined the meeting during the discussion described above, and a quorum of members was present to vote on the following motion.


Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application for uses D-1 and D-2 regarding the buildings only.  The D-2 Medical Office use is limited to 8,000 square feet in the larger building in the front.  Conditions of use will be met by tenants as they are identified.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.


CONDITIONAL USE - MCBRIDE MOTORS/STOCKBURGER INC. - 4-8 SYCAMORE STREET - TMP# 29-11-106:  Attorney John VanLuvanee and Engineer Wayne Johnson were present to discuss the applicants’ proposal to change the uses of this property in the Town Commercial District in two phases.  In the first phase, parking areas will be realigned and additional paving will be installed.  In the second phase, when current tenants’ leases have expired, the building at 4 Sycamore Street will be razed and the building at 6-8 Sycamore Street will be reduced.  The building will be used for administrative functions related to the automobile sales use E-11.  Mr. VanLuvanee stated that the proposed changes bring the site into compliance with the ordinance. 


Mr. VanLuvanee said that the plan was reviewed with the Sycamore Street Committee, and no problems were identified.  He stated that if the Township needs additional right of way on Sycamore Street there is sufficient buffering on the property.  Mr. Lombardi estimated that the Township will need about 30”.  


Mrs. Doorley expressed a concern about trees that will need to be removed for the project.  Mr. Frank said the ordinance generally prohibits the removal of mature trees.  Exceptions can be made depending on the girth of the trees, and he suggested that the plan show details of the location and girth of trees to be removed.


The Heritage Conservancy review letter of 2/5/01 was discussed.  Mr. VanLuvanee said the applicants do not expect to generate any additional traffic.  Mr. VanLuvanee agreed to amend the conditional use application to show a maximum of 10 employees on site.  He also agreed to amend the application to show the same hours of operation as the existing auto sales office:  9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday through Friday, and 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday.  Mr. Johnson said that the ordinance requires 21 parking spaces; he displayed a sketch to show where they might be located.


Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application, subject to the Heritage Conservancy’s 2/5/01 review letter, and with the understanding that the ordinance requirements regarding tree removal will be dealt with during the plan approval process.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.


SIGNAGE PLAN - NEWTOWN SHOPPING CENTER - DURHAM ROAD AND 413 BYPASS - TMP# 29-3-12-1 & 29-3-24:  Jack Loew and Timberlake Townes of J. Loew Associates were present to discuss a plan for signage on individual businesses and at the entrance to the shopping center.  They displayed a sketch showing the signage preferred by the applicants, and a sketch showing what is permitted by the ordinance.  The applicants stated they wanted all the signs to go through the approval process together for efficiency as well as to ensure a unified appearance.


Mr. Loew reviewed his 1/22/01 letter to Mr. Harwood and Kristie Kaznickie’s 2/15/01 memo to Mrs. Doorley.  He highlighted five ways in which the applicants’ preferred plan differs from ordinance requirements: 

1.      The signs for the smaller businesses would be five feet higher than permitted by the ordinance.  Mr. Loew stated he thought the signs look better in the suggested location.

2.      The height and size of the signs for the large anchor stores (Acme, Staples and Bed, Bath & Beyond) would exceed what the ordinance permits.  Mr. Loew stated this would be consistent withsigns permitted by variance on similar stores elsewhere in the Township. 

3.      The light source for the signs would be neon gas.  Although the ordinance prohibits “inert gas or any form of exposed tubes”, Mr. Loew stated he believes the proposed signs are acceptable because the neon tubes will be inside the “channel” letters of the signs.

4.      The signs face the Bypass.  Mr. Loew said that until recently the applicants understood that the Bypass ends at the traffic light at the entrance to Tyler Park.  He said that most signs in the shopping center will face the center’s entrance; if the Township considers this part of the road to be the Bypass, the applicants will seek a variance.

5.      The monument sign at the entrance is proposed to be 95 square feet instead of the permitted 28 square feet, and also faces the Bypass.


Mrs. Doorley questioned the necessity of making the entrance sign this large.  She asked about the colors of the signs; Mr. Loew responded that he prefers a variety of colors, although other municipalities have sometimes limited them to three or four colors.  Mr. Loew stated his belief that Bed, Bath & Beyond and Staples do not face the Bypass; Mr. Harwood responded that “face” means “is visible”, and therefore he considers that they do face it.  Mr. Harwood stated that the Bypass begins at the intersection with Durham Road.  He said that the present sign code was created with local stores and local patrons in mind, not a regional shopping center.


Mr. Loew said that he is aware that recommending changes to or variances from the ordinance is not within the Planning Commission’s jurisdiction.  Nevertheless, he said he was hoping the Commission would state that the proposed signage plan is attractive and has merit.  Mrs. Doorley and several other members responded that the Commission can not make any recommendations on this plan since it is clearly not in compliance with the ordinance..





a.      BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: No report.


b.      JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION:  Mr. Kester reported the Commission met on 2/15/01. 


c.       JOINT ZONING COUNCIL:  No report.


d.      SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE:  Mr. Lombardi reported that the Committee walked the site with PennDOT, which has made some recommendations.  The Committee also reviewed the McBride/Stockburger plan with Mr. Frank.


e.      HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: Mr. Baldwin reported that HARB will meet 2/21/01.


f.        RECREATION BOARD:  Mr. Baldwin reported that the Board met on 2/7/01.  Mr. Lombardi had some questions about the Board’s Comprehensive Plan.  Mrs. Doorley proposed that the Commission ask the Board to come to a meeting and present the Plan, and several members expressed an interest in this.


g.      TRAIL COMMITTEE:  No report.


h.      PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: No report.


i.         COMMUNITY CENTER COMMITTEE:  Mrs. Beasley reported that the Committee will meet on 2/22/01.  She also reported that there was much discussion of the Acme property at the Board of Supervisors’ work session on 2/19/01, and it is possible that the Township will focus on that property as the site of a community center.


j.         PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  None to be addressed.





FINANCIAL INTEREST FORMS:  Commission members received Financial Interest Forms in their packets and were asked to complete and submit the white copy to the Administrative Office.








ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS FOR 3/1/01:  Mr. Harwood provided background materials for four hearings scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting on 3/1/01:


1.      Brandywine Realty Trust - Newtown Office Commons, Route 332 Bypass and Lindenhurst Road, TMP # 29-1-81 & 29-10-81-1.   The applicant requests to erect three signs on a property in the Office Research District  within 1,000 feet of the Bypass, facing the Bypass.  Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this application.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.


2.      JAM Enterprises, Inc. - Lot 12, Cloverlee Lane, TMP# 29-4-28.  The applicant requests to construct a single family dwelling on a nonconforming lot in the Residential Medium Density District.  Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this request, provided that the applicant meets prevailing impervious surface standards.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.


3.      Debra Sparks Dance Works - 36 Newtown-Richboro Road - TMP# 29-11-47.  The applicant is seeking permission to allow a C-3, Commercial School use and relief from parking standards on this property in the Convenience Commercial District.  Mr. Baldwin moved to advise the Board of Supervisors that the Commission find the proposed uses too intense for this site.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.


4.      Elliott Building Group - Pheasant Pointe - Eagle Road - TMP# 29-3-27, 29-3-28.1 & 29-4-33.  The applicant is appealing a decision of the Zoning Officer rejecting a building permit for lot #5.  The applicant is requesting to exceed the impervious surface permitted in the R-1 District, in which this lot lies.  Another portion of the development is in the Conservation Management District.  Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors defend the ordinance regarding this application.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.


JMZO AMENDMENT - CANAL SETBACK:  Deferred to the next meeting on 3/6/01 due to the late hour.




BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ MEETING:  Mr. Lombardi agreed to report to the next Board of Supervisors’ meeting on 2/28/01 in Mrs. Doorley’s absence.



ADJOURNMENT:  Mr. Kester moved to adjourn.  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:15 PM.








Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary