Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

April 17, 2001

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/17/01):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of 4/17/01 with one correction.  Under Final Plan - Minor Subdivision - Kramer (page 2),  the paragraph beginning “Robert Smith…” should be followed by a paragraph stating:  “Mr Kester stated that the reason he objects to the plan is that the Zoning Hearing Board and the courts made their decisions based on a plan that was different from the one reviewed tonight.”  The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously.

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 17, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Vince Lombardi, Paul Kester, James Baldwin and Jack Bowen (late).  Also in attendance were: Township Engineer Ken Yerger, 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 (4/3/01):  Deferred until a quorum is present (see later).


FINAL PLAN - 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 architect Nicholas Rose were present to discuss their plan to subdivide a 6.4 acre property in the Conservation Management District into three lots.  Mr. Rose summarized the history of this application, which has been the subject of a zoning hearing board decision and a Superior Court decision.  Mr. Rose stated that the Zoning Hearing Board decision granted a variance from the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) to allow the Kramers to subdivide their property into three lots. 

Mr. Rose stated that the ZHB decision, as upheld by the court, supersedes requirements in the JMZO and the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance to provide open space (401 B), to have a minimum lot width of 200 feet (401 C), and to provide site capacity calculations (902).  Commission members questioned this interpretation of the ZHB and court decisions.

According to Mr. Frank, the written ZHB decision stated that lot #2 could have a minimum width at the building setback line of 190 feet; the plan shows the width to be 180 feet.  Mr. Kramer said that the ZHB decision was based on a sketch plan, and when the actual plan was drawn up the lot widths were not exactly the same.  He said that the intent of the ZHB was to allow him three lots, even if the lots did not meet all the ordinance requirements.

Mr. Kramer stated that Township Engineer Bob Larason informed him that Mr. Harris, the Township Solicitor, had agreed with the Kramers’ interpretation of the ZHB decision in a telephone conversation.  Mr. Kramer did not have this statement in writing, and Mr. Yerger said he did not have any information about this from Mr. Larason.

Commission members also questioned the accuracy of the floodplain lines shown on the plan.  The Carroll Engineering review letter of 2/22/01 states that “the plan appears to be on a different datum from the Flood Study”.

Mr. Rose stated the applicant will comply with all points in the review letter except for the waivers requested.  The applicant is requesting waivers regarding the plan scale, street improvements, stormwater management, street trees and open space improvements.

Mr. Harwood asked about the paper street, Alto Road, shown on the plan.  Mr. Kramer said a legal suit is pending regarding the street, which is on his lot, not the two new lots.  Mr. Harwood suggested that the Planning Commission recommend that this street be “quieted”, as were other paper streets in the area.

Carl Koenig spoke for a group of nearby residents who were in attendance.  He presented a petition to the Commission signed by twenty neighbors.  They are opposed to granting any waivers or variances on this plan because of concerns about floodplain areas, lot width at building setback lines, the impact of the paper street, open space requirements and the impact of the plan on the rural appearance of Wrights Road.  Several neighbors also complained that they were not notified about any reviews or hearings during the five year history of this plan until this meeting.  Mr. Koenig said that Mr. Kramer argued at the Zoning Hearing Board that relief should be granted based on hardship.

Ken Beck, a neighbor, said he attended the Zoning Hearing Board meeting and felt the ZHB intended the minimum relief (not relief from all zoning requirements).  He stated that the biggest issues for him are the floodplain lines and the wetlands.

John Mangano, a neighbor, asked the Commission to hold Mr. Kramer to the same standards as everyone else. 

Mr. Kramer stated that his issue has always been equity, not hardship.  He said that he only wanted what was granted to the large developers in the same zoning district.

Robert Smith, a neighbor, asked why he and other neighbors have never been notified about this land development plan.  Mr. Harwood said they should have been notified at each stage in the review process.  He said that the applicant failed to send the required notifications about tonight’s meeting, so the Township sent notices and will bill the applicant for the costs involved.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this plan, subject to the 2/28/01 Heritage Conservancy review letter and the 2/22/01 Carroll Engineering review letter, with the following exceptions:

·         The issue of whether the floodplain lines on the plan are accurate needs to be resolved before the subdivision can go forward.  The applicant needs to demonstrate that the building footprint is not in the floodplain.

·         The Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors grant a waiver of section 404 1 A regarding the plan scale.

·         The Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors grant a waiver of sections 504.8, 516 and 517 regarding street improvements to preserve the rural character of Wrights Road.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowen and passed 3-2, with Mr. Kester and Mrs. Doorley voting “nay”.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant a waiver of section 521, but not waive the requirement for a detention basin.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously with Mr. Kester abstaining.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors require the applicant to conform to section 530 1 A 3 regarding street trees, which should be planted in a scattered pattern to preserve the rural appearance of the road.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowen and passed unanimously with Mr. Kester abstaining.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the question of whether this plan is subject to the open space requirements in section 401 B be clarified by the Solicitor.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously with Mr. Kester abstaining.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Board accept the lot widths as proposed in the plan.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and was defeated 2-3, with Mrs. Doorley, Mr. Kester and Mr. Baldwin voting “nay”.

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors and the property owner work together to remove the right of way for the paper street, Alto Road.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.

PRELIMINARY PLAN - TYROL’S SYCAMORE - SYCAMORE STREET - TMP# 29-12-20:  Attorney Don Marshall, engineer Paul Wojciechowski and Frank Tyrol were present to discuss their plan to reuse an existing building and construct additions for D-1 Office Use on a property in the Town Center District.  Mr. Marshall noted that this will be the first project approved under the new TC District requirements.  He said that the applicant has discussed the plan with the Park and Open Space Committee, which recommended an easement for a walking path instead of a fee in lieu of open space.  This is agreeable to the applicant.

Mr. Marshall stated the applicant will seek a variance to permit 9’ X20’ parking stalls, and seek conditional use approval for the D-1 Use and for locating the driveway in a floodplain.  Mr. Marshall described the project as office space designed to present a “streetscape” appearance.

Mr. Marshall said the applicant is requesting eight waivers, regarding: the plan scale, required features on the plan (an aerial photo was supplied), parking less than 20 feet from the building, curbs and drainage improvements on internal drives and parking areas, parking in a Water and Sewer Authority easement, stormwater management requirements, screening of the parking lot, and the fire lane (subject to approval from the Fire Marshal).  Mr. Wojciechowski explained that the plan includes a detention system in the underground pipes which falls slightly short of ordinance requirements.  The applicant will clean it out periodically to control sedimentation.

There are two additional issues on which the applicant may need relief.  According to Mr. Marshall, 31 parking spaces are required, and the plan shows 22.  There are two spaces on the street, and the applicant is asking for a credit of two spaces for offering to enter a shared parking agreement with the adjoining property owner.  Mr. Marshall also proposed that the applicant make a contribution to the Township’s Parking Fund in lieu of the remaining five required spaces.  He said that Carroll Engineering quoted a rate of $3,000 per space; Mr. Lombardi thought it was $1500 per space.  The second issue for which relief might be needed is for parking within five feet of a building, which would be necessary for a joint parking arrangement.

Melba Vitoriano, the adjoining property owner, was present and asked several questions about the plan.  She said she is concerned about access to her property from Mr. Tyrol’s property, the shortfall on the parking spaces provided and what kind of tenants will come into the building.  Mr. Tyrol agreed to leave an unpaved buffer area where the two properties would connect if there is an agreement on shared parking, and to block access from his property to that of Ms Vitoriano.  He also assured her that he is planning D-1 Use only.  He pointed out that a contribution to the Parking Fund supports additional parking facilities on Sycamore Street.  Ms Vitoriano asked to be notified about the next steps in the approval process, and Mr. Marshall gave her a copy of the preliminary plan.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this preliminary plan, subject to the 3/7/01 Heritage Conservancy review letter and the 3/21/01 Carroll Engineering review letter.  It is also recommended that the requested waivers be granted.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.

PRELIMINARY PLAN - WILTSHIRE WALK (STORMWATER 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 and engineer Larry Young were present to discuss the stormwater issues related to this preliminary plan (review continued from 4/3/01).   Mr. Murphy stated that the problem that has been identified in this area is flooding around Upper Silver Lake Road, Vera Avenue and Old Frost Road.  He said that Orleans Homebuilders plans to install two large detention basins.  Mr. Young explained that the first basin, adjacent to the church property, will handle not only much of  the runoff generated by the Wiltshire Walk development, but also the water from Headley, the Ridings, the Platt property, the bank and the church, including planned development at the latter three sites.  The second, near Upper Silver Lake Road, will handle the remaining runoff from the Wiltshire Walk development, plus the overflow from Kirkwood and from the PECO property.  The water will discharge from the second basin along Upper Silver Lake Road through underground pipes into a creek.  This will eliminate the need for an existing ditch along Upper Silver Lake Road.  The pipes along Upper Silver Lake Road will be elliptical to minimize interference with the sewer line. 

Several neighbors of the site were present and asked questions about the maintenance of the drainage system, the water table in the area, and whether the drainage pipes will interfere with their ability to connect with the sewer line.  Mr. Young said that the Wiltshire Walk Homeowners’ Association will be responsible for maintaining the drainage system. He stated that the plan presented tonight is conceptual and the details need to be worked out.  Mr. Yerger said he has not yet reviewed the drainage plan.  It was agreed that the neighbors’ ability to connect with the sewer system will be looked at closely when the detailed plan is submitted.

Zoning issues will be reviewed at the 5/1/01 Planning Commission meeting.


VARIANCE REQUEST - REAR YARD SETBACK - RONA WATERS - 4 HOLLY CIRCLE:  Commission members observed that the figures are reversed on the Public Works summary.

Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this application, with the condition that the applicant provide written approval of this application from the adjoining property owner.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.

VARIANCE REQUEST - SIGNAGE - NEWTOWN SHOPPING CENTER - DURHAM ROAD AND THE BYPASS:  Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this application, with the exception that the size of the freestanding sign should be re-examined.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed 4-1 with Mr. Lombardi voting “nay”.

VARIANCE REQUEST - CONSTRUCTION OF SWIMMING POOL AND PATIO - 30 SIBELIUS ROAD:  Commission members agreed they could not make a recommendation on this application because the materials provided by the Public Works Department because the figures in the documentation provided appear to be incorrectly calculated and stated. 


Due to the late hour, most of the reports were deferred. 

PARK AND RECREATION BOARD:  Mr. Baldwin announced that the Skateboard Park will be located at the Swamp Road Athletic Area. 

MINUTES OF PRECIOUS MEETING (4/3/01):  Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of the 4/3/01 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously.  


UPPER MAKEFEILD:  Mrs. Doorley noted that the Upper Makefield Planning Commission has invited the Newtown Planning Commission to participate in their review of the Gray Tract development at their next meeting on 4/25/01.   None of the Commission members present can attend.  Commission members would like to set a mutually convenient date for the two Commissions to meet.

SWAMP ROAD STUDY:  Mrs. Doorley announced that Wrightstown Township has asked that a member of the Planning Commission be appointed to the Swamp Road Study Citizens’ Advisory Committee.  Jack Bowen agreed to read the materials provided and consider accepting the appointment.




ADJOURNMENT:  Mr. Kester moved to adjourn.  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 midnight.




Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary