Planning Commission Minutes
April 3, 2001
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/3/01): Deferred until a quorum is present (see later).
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 3, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Vince Lombardi, Paul Kester, James Baldwin and Allen Fidler. Also in attendance were: Township Engineers Ken Yerger and Jeff L’Amoreaux, 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 PREVIOUS MEETING:
MINUTES OF 3/20/01: Mr. Baldwin moved to approve the minutes of the 3/20/01 meeting with one change. Under the Joint Planning Commission, a sentence should be added to Mr. Kester’s report: “Mr. Kester also reported that the Commission discussed the possibility of having joint meetings about the Melsky Tract with Upper Makefield, and continues to work with Mike Frank”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously, with Mr. Fidler abstaining.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:
TRAFFIC OPERATIONS CHANGES: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that installing the wickets at the intersection of Penns Trail and the Dunmore Corporation driveway will begin soon.
NEWTOWN CBD CLOSED LOOP: Mr. L’Amoreaux said that Carroll Engineering will soon be having a scoping meeting with the Borough, the Township and PennDOT’s project manager for the closed loop system.
TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM: Mr. L’Amoreaux said that it is time to update the Township’s TIP list. He will discuss this with the Commission on 5/1/01. At the request of the members, Mr. L’Amoreaux will send each one a copy of the current TIP list.
NEWTOWN TRAFFIC SIGNAL SPECIFICATIONS: Mr. L’Amoreaux displayed an “autoscope”, which is a device that detects approaching traffic. It is an interim measure when a traffic signal is under construction.
PRELIMINARY PLAN - WILTSHIRE WALK (TRAFFIC ISSUES) - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD AND UPPER SILVER LAKE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-52, 29-10-52-2, 29-10-52.1, 29-10-52.2, 29-10-52-10: Attorney Ed Murphy, Mike Vesey of Orleans Homebuilders and traffic engineer Andy Heinrich were present to discuss traffic issues related to their plan for Wiltshire Walk. Mr. Murphy said that the traffic study (included in members’ packets for the 3/20/01 meeting) addressed traffic generated not only by Wiltshire Walk but also by the Penns Trail office project, the Newtown Rental project, the Brandywine Realty Trust project and the CAU project. Mr. Heinrich stated that the study was designed in consultation with the Township Traffic Engineer. Penns Trail will be extended to Upper Silver Lake Road as “Penns Trail North”, and it will be realigned and widened at the intersection with Newtown-Yardley Road. Elsewhere, Penns Trail North will be 32 feet wide and no parking will be permitted along the road.
Mr. Heinrich said that three scenarios for the development of the OR District were considered in the traffic study: 1) if all future development is residential; 2) if there is a mix of residential and office development; and 3) if all development is offices. According to Mr. Heinrich, the study indicates that the improvements being proposed by the applicant will be adequate to handle the traffic generated by scenarios #1 and #2, but not #3. Mr. Heinrich said that if the OR District is built out with offices there will need to be another access to the bypass in addition to Penns Trail North. Mr. Heinrich suggested that such an intersection should be a condition of plan approval for development of either the Roberts Tract or the Heston Tract. Mr. Murphy commented that current discussions about the development of these tracts do not indicate that the third scenario will be realized.
Mr. Kester raised a concern about the traffic impact of the Wiltshire Walk development on Newtown Borough. Mr. Heinrich estimated that a quarter of the traffic generated by the development will go into the Borough. Mr. Lombardi asked about the new driveway to be shared by the Lutheran Church and the bank. Mr. Heinrich said plans were not definite yet because the bank’s plans are not clear yet. Mr. Frank noted that the Land Use Assumptions Report projected 90 more housing units on this property than the applicant is proposing.
Mr. Lombardi asked how Orleans plans to acquire the right of way necessary for the improvements to the intersection of Newtown-Yardley Road and Penns Trail. Mr. Vesey said Orleans will try to purchase it, but may have to ask the Township to condemn the required land. He added that Orleans has not yet contacted the owner of the property.
Mr. Heinrich said that having Upper Silver Lake Road closed or open does not impact traffic on Penns Trail significantly, and neighboring residents seemed to favor the proposal to close Upper Silver Lake Road between Penns Trail and Vera Avenue.
There were several local residents present at the meeting. Tony Passello of Kirkwood asked how much pass-through traffic is anticipated. Mr. Heinrich said the study estimated 2½% growth in pass-through traffic for the next five years, and Mr. L’Amoreaux said this is consistent with DVRPC projections. Mr. Passello said he heard at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting that there is a proposal to build age restricted housing on the Heston Tract, and to provide access to the bypass through the development. Mrs. Doorley said that no plans have been submitted for the property yet.
Rich Tomlinson, a neighboring resident, said that Upper Silver Lake Road must be closed if there is a connection between Penns Trail and the OR District, since the traffic situation is bad now. Gail Laughlin suggested prohibiting left turns at the intersection of Newtown-Yardley and Upper Silver Lake Roads. Dave Jones, a resident of Vera Avenue, was concerned about Vera Avenue becoming a short cut to Upper Silver Lake Road. Mr. Murphy said the applicant is proposing to eliminate a section of Vera Avenue, which will prevent this. Linda Scott, a resident of Upper Silver Lake Road, said she feels the development will be acceptable, and she is looking forward to having present flooding problems solved. She is in favor of closing a section of Upper Silver Lake Road because traffic is heavy in this area right now.
Mr. Kester reiterated his concern about traffic impact on the Borough, and commented that traffic fees paid to the Township will not help the Borough.
Commission members decided to change the schedule for continuing their review of this plan. Stormwater management issues will be discussed on 4/17/01 and zoning issues will be discussed on 5/1/01.
SKETCH PLAN - MCLAUGHLIN TRACT - TOLL BROTHERS - STOOPVILLE ROAD - TMP# 29-7-5: Attorney Ed Murphy and Mike Palmer of Toll Brothers were present to discuss their proposal to build 60 age restricted village homes on a 38.09 acre property in the Conservation Management District. Mr. Murphy stated that Toll Brothers met with the Board of Supervisors and discussed improvements to Stoopville Road, including straightening the road and improving the intersection with Linton Hill Road. The applicant is seeking to have the zoning of this property changed from Conservation Management to R-1, to permit the density indicated on the proposed plan. Mr. Lombardi said that the Township has made this type of zoning change only when forced to by the courts. He asked why the applicant needed to build 60 homes on this parcel. Mr. Murphy responded that it is necessary to enable the applicant to make the improvements to Stoopville Road discussed above.
Mr. Lombardi asked if any other development in the area was to be considered with this one, and Mr. Murphy responded that this is a “stand alone” project. Mr. Palmer added that it is feasible to link this development with projects planned for the Gray and Melsky Tracts.
Mr. Lombardi and Mr. Fidler stated they oppose changing the zoning for this property. Mr. Fidler said he feels the Commission can not review this project until the zoning issue is settled, since it is so clearly out of compliance with CM ordinance requirements.
Scott Petrie, Solicitor for Upper Makefield Township, asked to speak to the Commission. He introduced several members of Upper Makefield’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, as well as Walt Wydro, Chairman of the Joint Planning Commission. Mr. Petrie provided annotated copies of excerpts from the Joint Municipal Comprehensive Plan which indicated the participating municipalities’ concern for protecting water resources, and their intention that the Conservation Management District provide open space for recharging the aquifer of the area. Mr. Petrie stated that Toll Brothers is currently developing several other properties in the area, and their plans need to be reviewed together in terms of their impact on the region, including all three municipalities in the Jointure. Mr. Petrie invited Township Planning Commission members to work with Upper Makefield officials on this review. Mr. Lombardi said he favors the development of sewers when the density of a region hits a certain level, but he supports the concept of joint planning.
Walt Wydro, Chairman of the Joint Planning Commission (now known as the “Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission”), stated he is a long time resident of the Newtown area who is concerned about the impact on the area of the developments being planned for the Melsky Tract, the Gray Tract, the Hibbs Tract and the Toll Brothers plan for the McLaughlin Tract. Mr. Wydro said that Newtown Township now obtains between 30% and 50% of its water from wells, so the protection of the watershed is critical.
Betsy Falcone, Chairperson of the Upper Makefield Board of Supervisors, stated that her township would like to be part of the discussion. She suggested that, if Newtown Township approves sewers for the McLaughlin Tract, the approval should be for only enough sewer capacity to handle this development.
Jeff Stout, a resident of Stoopville Road, proposed an alternate realignment of Stoopville Road that he said would improve sight distances from the intersection with Linton Hill Road. He provided a sketch of his proposal (attached to minutes). Mr. L’Amoreaux said he will consider Mr. Stout’s idea.
Dave Kulick, a member of the Upper Makefield Planning Commission, stated he supports Mr. Wydro’s remarks.
Mr. Kester said he feels these four properties can not be considered separately, and he supports joint review of the plans.
Mr. Kester moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that Newtown Township accept Upper Makefield’s offer to work with the Township on planning for this area, and to investigate bringing Wrightstown Township into this process as well. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.
REVISED SKETCH PLANS: 413 OFFICE CENTER - 398 DURHAM ROAD - TMP# 29-3-34; AND DURHAM ROAD OFFICES - 416 AND 434 DURHAM ROAD - TMP# 29-3-35 AND 29-3-36-2: These two sketch plans for adjoining properties in the PS-2 Professional Service District were considered together. Attorney Frank Dillon and engineer Wayne Johnson were present to discuss the 413 Office Center; architect Rene Hoffman was present to discuss the Durham Road Offices project. Mr. Dillon stated that the developers of the two properties met with Township consultants and resolved the problems with internal circulation and access to Durham Road which were the major concerns of the Planning Commission during previous reviews. Mr. L’Amoreaux said the biggest change made was moving the northernmost access road to the south of the outparcel. He stated that the revised access appeared to be safer. Mr. Johnson said the 413 Office Center plan will require a variance regarding loading docks, a special exception regarding a stream crossing and a permit to remove certain trees. Mr. Frank noted that the Durham Road Associates plan will require variances regarding the impervious surface ratio, parking space dimensions and loading berths.
Mr. Yerger asked if a sidewalk or trail is planned. Mr. Hoffman said the applicants favor a rural appearance without sidewalks. Mr. Fidler suggested extending the sidewalk along the access road to provide pedestrian access to Durham Road, in case public transportation services become available on Durham Road. Mr. Johnson added that improvements to the intersection of Municipal Drive and Durham Road may affect pedestrian access to the area.
Mr. Lombardi asked if there are any stormwater management concerns. Mr. Johnson said that the Municipal Complex drains onto the 413 Office Center property. Mr. Harwood asked if the internal road is to be public or private; Mr. Dillon said it will be private. Mr. Harwood asked if left turns will be permitted out of the north access drive; Mr. Johnson said they will be permitted. Mr. Harwood suggested the applicant consider restricting left turns at that intersection; Mr. L’Amoreaux said he will study this as well.
Mr. Harwood said these plans should be reviewed by the Fire Marshal as soon as possible, since the internal road configurations appear to be difficult for emergency vehicles. Mr. Dillon said the applicants have no problem with this.
MINOR SUBDIVISION - KRAMER - WRIGHTS ROAD - TMP# 29-19-1-1, 29-19-1-2, 29-19-1-4, 29-19-1-5, 29-19-38 AND 29-19-38-2: Robert Kramer and engineer Nicholas Rose were present to discuss their proposal for a minor subdivision in the Conservation Management District. Mr. Harwood explained that this plan was listed as a tentative agenda item, and materials related to the plan were not included in the packets because certain fees had not been paid at the time the packets were prepared on 3/30/01. However, the fee issue has been resolved since then and he provided copies of the plan and the reviews tonight.
Mrs. Doorley said that she is aware that there are neighbors with concerns about this plan who want to participate in the discussion, and they were not notified. A resident who was present affirmed Mrs. Doorley’s comments, and added that the neighbors have not been updated on the status of this plan for a long time. He said that the neighbors’ concerns included aesthetics, soils and floodplain issues, He stated that the plan will require many waivers regarding wetlands.
Mrs. Doorley said the Commission can not consider this plan tonight because the neighbors have not been notified and Commission members have not had a chance to review the plan and the consultants’ review letters. She said that Mr. Kramer’s plan will be the first plan to be reviewed at the next meeting on 4/17/01.
ZONING HEARING BOARD - AMENDED VARIANCE APPLICATION - SUN COMPANY - WASHINGTON AND ELM STREETS - TMP# 29-10-45-2: Mr. Harwood summarized the issues and history of this amended application for variances to allow an increase in the signage, regarding both number and size of signs, at the Sunoco gas station. This property recently became zoned O-LI, Office Light Industrial District. Mr. Harwood said that previous variances regarding lighting and the installation of a canopy were granted on this property, and the applicant is still not in compliance with those requirements.
Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Board support the denial of this amended application. The Commission also recommends that the applicants be required to restore the wooden colonial roof and reconfigure the lighting to diminish the impact on neighboring properties. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:
a. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: No report.
b. JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Kester reported that the Commission will meet on 4/19/01 at the Upper Makefield firehouse for further discussion of the village concept as it relates to Buckmanville, Brownsville and Dolington.
c. JOINT ZONING COUNCIL: No report.
d. SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE: Mr. Lombardi reported the Committee will meet next week.
e. HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: Mr. Baldwin reported that HARB met on 3/21/01 and discussed putting an historic plaque on the Mobil station. They are also reviewing the Tyrol property.
f. RECREATION BOARD: Mr. Baldwin reported that the Recreation Board will meet 4/4/01.
g. TRAIL COMMITTEE: No report.
h. PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: No report.
i. COMMUNITY CENTER COMMITTEE: Mr. Fidler reported that the Committee is preparing its final report, which they plan to present to the Board of Supervisors in May or June of 2001.
j. PLAN EXPIRATIONS: None to be addressed.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
NEW BUSINESS: None.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: None.
ADJOURNMENT: Mr. Kester moved to adjourn. With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:00 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary