Planning Commission Minutes
May 1, 2001
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/1/01): Deferred until a quorum was present (see later).
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, May 1, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Vince Lombardi, Paul Kester, James Baldwin, Frank Mendicino, Sue Beasley, Allen Fidler, Bonnie Kelly and Jack Bowen (late). Also in attendance were: Township Engineers Ken Yerger and Jeff L’Amoreaux, Township Solicitor Dave Sander, 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 (4/17/01): 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.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT
TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM: Commission members received copies of the Township’s 1999 Traffic Improvement Program submission to the Bucks County Planning Commission in their packets. The Commission reviewed the13 projects listed, to determine which ones have begun, which should appear on this year’s submission, and which should be dropped. Preliminary recommendations are as follows:
1. Stoopville Road, 413 to 532 - shoulders, superelevation - keep
Stoopville Road & Linton Hill Road - realignment, signalization - keep
Stoopville Road & Eagle Road - signalization - this intersection is shared with Upper Makefield, and Mr. L’Amoreaux will discuss the proposed signal with their traffic engineer
2. Sycamore Street, 532 to 41 - curbing, drainage, sidewalks - in progress
3. Washington Crossing & Linton Hill Roads, 532 - intersection warning system - in progress
4. Newtown-Yardley Road and Penns Trail - widening, signalization and interconnect - in progress
5. Newtown Rail Line, Bypass, park and ride lot - electrification and ROW upgrade - keep, but not a top priority
6. Swamp Road, Bypass to BCCC entrance - widen, intersection improvements - keep - possibly include in Urban Swamp Road study? Mr. L’Amoreaux will research this.
7. Swamp Road & Twining Bridge Road - alignment and reprofiling - possibly include in Urban Swamp Road study? Mr. L’Amoreaux will research this.
8. TEA-21 Recreational Trail #2, Tyler State Park, Swamp Road Park to Schofield Covered Bridge - keep
9. Newtown-Yardley Road at Terry Drive - lane and signal improvements, interconnect - keep
10. Swamp Road & South Eagle Road - geometric improvements - keep - possibly include in CBD closed loop system project? Mr. L’Amoreaux will research this.
11. Durham Road & North Drive - signalization - keep this and/or another signal project on Durham Road (Stoopville Road, Municipal Drive, Wrights Road).
12. Newtown-Yardley Road & Bypass - add double left turn land on Newtown-Yardley approach - keep
12. Lower Dolington Road, Upper Silver Lake Road to Twining Road - cartway improvements, drainage improvements and widening - keep
Possible additions to the list are:
13. Durham Road and Wrights Road, or Municipal Drive - signal (a developer plans to signalize the Municipal Drive intersection)
14. Bypass intersections with Route 532, Richboro Road and South State Street - grade separation - Mr. L’Amoreaux will research this.
The Commission will discuss these projects further at their 6/5/01 meeting when Mr. L’Amoreaux will be present again.
PRELIMINARY PLAN (ZONING ISSUES) - WILTSHIRE WALK - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY 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 Mike Vesey of Orleans Homebuilders were present. Mr. Murphy stated that this is the fourth meeting at which this preliminary plan has been discussed. After tonight’s meeting, the applicant will revise the plan for review by the Township’s consultants and return to the Planning Commission, hopefully in June.
Mr. Lombardi asked about potential problems with residents of Upper Silver Lake Road connecting with the sewer line, which was discussed at the 4/17/01 meeting. Mr. Vesey responded that he was told by his engineer that it will not be a problem. Mr. Yerger said he met earlier today with the applicant’s engineer, and he believes the connections will work. Mr. Vesey said that he will confirm this when the plan is before the Commission again.
Mr. Murphy explained that the site consists of portions of six different tax map parcels and involves a land swap between the applicant and the Lutheran Church of God’s Love. The church will acquire more depth for their lot, which will enable them to expnad their parking lot. Orleans will acquire the land for one of the proposed two detention basins.
The church also plans a land swap with the First National Bank, and will build a shared access to Newtown-Yardley Road. Mr. Murphy explained that the land swap with the church is part of the Wiltshire Walk submission, but the bank’s plans are not. There was some confusion caused by the fact that the bank’s plans appear on the Wiltshire Walk plan, although Mr. Murphy said that there was a note on the plan saying that the bank’s plans are not part of the submission but are there for information purposes only. Mr. Vesey stated that the bank knows their plans are step two. He said that he can ask a representative of the bank to come to a Planning Commission meeting before this plan receives final approval. Mr. Frank suggested that the bank property be taken off the Wiltshire Walk plan to make the submission clearer.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will need to go to the Zoning Hearing Board for relief on three aspects of the church’s proposed parking lot: the front yard setback, the location of several parking spaces and the impervious surface limit. Richard Walker and another representative of the church were present. Mr. Walker stated that the church’s plans are contingent on getting permission to raise the impervious surface ratio to 60%. Mr. Murphy said that there are no Zoning Hearing Board issues for the Wiltshire Walk development.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant has begun the process of acquiring the right of way for about 4/100 of an acre needed for the improvements to the intersection of Newtown-Yardley Road and Penns Trail.
Richard Tomlinson, a neighboring resident, asked if there are any further zoning issues. Mr. Murphy said that there are no outstanding zoning issues now. Recent changes in the zoning ordinance permit village housing. Wiltshire Walk is a PRD, which means the applicant is permitted to blend the requirements of the R-1 and R-2 Districts. Mr. Murphy stated that the plan now meets buffering requirements, but it may be possible to provide even more buffering between the development and homes on Upper Silver Lake Road if the applicant is able to purchase some land from PECO.
Mr. Tomlinson asked why the applicant is not proposing a wet basin, to help recharge the aquifer. Mr. Fidler said that the USDA is now recommending against wet basins because of the threat of the West Nile virus.
Mr. Lombardi asked if there are any more questions from the public. A resident asked about the proposed closing of Upper Silver Lake Road. Mr. Murphy responded that this will be addressed in detail at the next Commission meeting, after the plan is revised.
Mr. Mendicino asked about the width of the proposed internal roads; Mr. Murphy responded that they will be 32’ wide, with parking on one side only. The driveways will be a minimum of 34’ long. Mr. Harwood noted that there are four cul-de-sacs on the plan, and asked if the applicant would consider linking them for easier snow removal. Mr. Murphy said that turning the cul-de-sacs into loop roads would mean putting the houses closer to existing homes on Upper Silver Lake Road, and increasing impervious surface. Mr. Vesey stated that easements will be provided for snow removal.
Mr. Murphy said the applicant plans to initiate the Zoning Hearing Board application before approval of the plan, although the ZHB’s decision will not be known by the time the Commission is making its recommendation.
CONDITIONAL USE - TOPPERS SALON AND HEALTH SPA - NEWTOWN SHOPPING CENTER - TMP# 29-3-12-1 & 29-3-24: Patricia Smith, property manager, was present. TimTownes of J. Loew Associates, was also present for all the Newtown Shopping Center tenants. The applicant is seeking Use E-3, Service Business, for 5,000 square feet in Unit F in the Shopping Center. Ms Smith stated that the spa will offer makeup, skin care, massage, manicures and pedicures. There will be some retail sales. No hairdressing services or artificial nails will be offered. Only step van deliveries are expected. Between 15 and 20 employees will work two shifts. The hours of operation will be 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM seven days a week. There will be no hazardous materials or noxious environmental effects, and refuse storage is provided for in the approved plan for the shopping center.
Mr. Townes said that each tenant of the shopping center will be required to fill out a form to be filed with the Township. The form will identify the owner and manager of the business and provide contact information.
Mr. Fidler moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve this application, subject to the Heritage Conservancy review letter of 4/24/01. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
Conditional Use - Blockbuster Video - Newtown Shopping Center - tmp# 29-3-12-1 & 29- 3-24: Laurie Manson, Area Real Estate Manager, was present. The applicant is seeking Use E-1, Retail Shop, for 5,000 square feet on Pad #4 in the Newtown Shopping Center. Ms Manson stated that the store will rent videos, DVDs, laser disks, etc. There will be some retail sales of licensed products and prepackaged snacks. There will be no adult video section. The store expects only step van deliveries. An average of six and a maximum of ten employees will work two shifts. Hours of operation will be 10:00 AM to midnight seven days a week. There will be no hazardous materials or noxious environmental effects, and refuse storage is provided for in the approved plan for the shopping center
Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve this application, subject to the Heritage Conservancy’s 4/19/01 review letter. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
Signage Plan - Blockbuster Video - Newtown Shopping Center - tmp# 29-3-12-1 & 29- 3-24 : Mr. Townes stated that Blockbuster plans two signs, on the east and west sides of the Building. The signs will require variances regarding their size, height and their position in relation to the Bypass. Mr. Townes stated that the design is consistent with the overall plan discussed previously with the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Several Commission members expressed concerns that the signs will be visible beyond the shopping center, and will exceed what was agreed on in Mr. Loew’s discussion with the Board of Supervisors about signage in the center. Mr. Mendicino said Mr. Loew had agreed that there would be no signs on the back of buildings.
Conditional Use - Longhorn Steakhouse - Newtown Shopping Center - tmp# 29-3-24: Jerry Johnson of Rare Hospitality, Inc., was present. The applicant is seeking Use E-5, Eating Place, for 5,089 square feet on Pad #1 of the Newtown Shopping Center. Mr. Johnson stated that the restaurant will serve standard steakhouse fare, and will have no outdoor dining or music. They are planning to serve alcoholic beverages. The restaurant expects eight to ten truck deliveries a week, all before the lunch hour. An average of 25 and a maximum of 30 employees will be on site. Hours of operation will be 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM Monday through Thursday, and 10:00 AM to midnight on Friday and Saturday. There will be no hazardous materials or noxious environmental effects, and refuse storage is provided for in the approved plan for the shopping center. The utility areas will be enclosed by a brick wall and will be landscaped.
The site plan submitted did not fit the pad as shown on the approved plan for the shopping center. The applicant stated the site plan will be reconfigured to fit. He also agreed to consider relocating the entrance so it does not face the Bypass. Commission members were uncertain about the impact of new legislation regarding liquor licenses on this application, since the applicant stated his plans depended on obtaining a license.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they deny this application, because there is not enough information about how the new liquor license legislation will affect this business. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and was defeated 2-7.
Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve this application for a restaurant use, subject to the 4/18/01 Heritage Conservancy review letter. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed 6-3, with Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Kester and Mr. Mendicino voting “nay”.
Conditional Use - Bed, Bath and Beyond - Newtown Shopping Center - tmp# 29-3-24: No representative of the applicant was present. Mr. Harwood explained that the applicant wished to correct a statement about anticipated truck deliveries that was included in the 1/10/01 Board of Supervisors approval of their previous application for Use E-2, Large Retail Store. Everything else in the present application remains the same. Instead of one large truck delivery a week, the applicant states that approximately ten large truck deliveries are anticipated each week. The trucks will be tractor-trailers about 45 feet long. No trucks will arrive after operating hours. The trucks will not be left there for long periods of time, since the store will be receiving only a portion of their load.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application, subject to the Heritage Conservancy’s 4/18/01 review letter. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
Conditional Use - Manhattan Bagel - 31 Swamp Road - tmp# 29-11-83: No representative of Manhattan Bagel was present. Mr. Harwood explained that the applicant was asked to submit another application to change the approved E-15 use to E-5, Eating Place, because he is planning to have seven tables for eat in customers. Mr. Harwood stated that the new application is otherwise the same as the approved one.
Mr. Mendicino moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application, subject to the 4/18/01 review letter of Heritage Conservancy, and provided that the presence of the seven tables is the only change from the recently approved application. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Harwood stated that the E-5 use allows alcoholic beverages; however, the approved operating hours end at 4:00 PM. It also changes parking requirements, but the approved application already provides for sufficient parking spaces.
Mr. Mendicino’s motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Harwood said he would notify the applicant regarding the Commission’s recommendation.
Conditional Use - Soil Stripping - Pheasant Pointe - tmp# 29-3-27, 29-3-28.1 and 29-4-38: Bernie Sauer of the Elliott Building Group was present. The applicant is requesting permission to move approximately 10,000 cubic yards of rock and fill dirt to a site outside the Township. Mr. Sauer stated that the material is not topsoil.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application, provided it does not involve the removal of topsoil. The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously.
Conditional Use - Soil Stripping - Newtown Office Commons - tmp# 29- 10-81: Mark Beatty and Charles Criscenzo of R. J. Kroener were present. The applicant is requesting permission to move approximately 11,100 cubic yards of soil from the Newtown Office Commons site to a site outside the Township. It was suggested that the soil could go to Swamp Road Park, and Mr. Beatty stated he is willing to consider this.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application to move topsoil from this site to a site outside the Township. The motion was seconded by Mr. Baldwin and passed unanimously.
PLAN FOR ROBERTS RIDGE AND SWAMP ROAD PARKS - NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT: Bill Wert, Township Director of Parks and Recreation, and Russ Strover, member of the Township Park and Open Space Committee, were present to discuss their proposal to use two recently received grants totaling $4,000 for trees at the Roberts Ridge and Swamp Road Parks. They provided copies of a seven page proposal describing the trees selected and their proposed locations.
Roberts Ridge Park: Mr. Wert said that the proposal for Roberts Ridge Park includes a request for permission to plant eight trees that are not specifically mentioned in the ordinance. All the trees will be permanently labeled so that users of the park can learn about them. Mr. Strover added that the trees will be mulched four feet around to protect them from damage by mowing machines.
Mr. Kester moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve the proposal for planting trees in Roberts Ridge Park. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously.
Mr. Mendicino thanked Mr. Wert and Mr. Strover for their work, and asked if the Recreation Board has reviewed the plan. Mr. Wert said the Board has seen the conceptual plan for the layout of the trees.
Swamp Road Park: Mr. Wert said the tree planting may help to minimize erosion of the topsoil in the park. He agreed to contact R. J. Kroener, the company removing the topsoil from the Newtown Commons site, regarding the possibility of acquiring the topsoil for the Swamp Road Park. He will work through Mr. Harwood if this can be worked out.
Mrs. Beasley said that a member of the Park and Open Space Committee was concerned that the proposed location of the trees in Swamp Road Park would obscure the view from the road, creating a security problem. Mr. Wert said that the view is obscured by the topography of the land until an approaching car reaches the top of the hill. He said the proposed trees are canopy trees and would not screen the view of the ground. Mrs. Beasley also asked that the trees be planted in a more random, spread out fashion, rather than in a straight line along Swamp Road. Mr. Wert said that was possible, as long as the trees do not interfere with the recreation uses.
Mr. Baldwin moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve the proposal for planting trees in Swamp Road Park. The Commission recommends that the trees be planted in a random fashion, not in a straight line along the road. The motion was seconded by Dr. Kelly and passed unanimously.
Mrs. Beasley commented that Mr. Strover and Sue Sutton do a great job on the Shade Tree Committee of the Park and Open Space Committee.
SWAMP ROAD STUDY: Bill Peterson, a resident of Swamp Road in Wrightstown Township, asked to speak about the Swamp Road Study Citizen Advisory Committee. He said that he would like to see Mr. Mendicino appointed as the Commission’s representative. Mr. Lombardi said he received an e-mail message from George Van Der Horn also asking for Mr. Mendicino’s appointment. (See item below under Old Business).
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:
a. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Mr. Mendicino apologized for not being able to attend several Planning Commission meetings recently. He summarized the highlights of the 4/25/01 Board of Supervisors meeting.
b. JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Kester reported that the Commission met on 4/19/01 at the Upper Makefield firehouse and discussed the village concept as it relates to Buckmanville and Dolington. The Bucks County Planning Commission made a presentation on the village concept. Mr. Mendicino asked if the Joint Planning Commission has reviewed the Wiltshire Walk plan again; Mr. Kester said it has.
c. JOINT ZONING COUNCIL: No report.
d. SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE: Mr. Lombardi reported that work on the street will start on 5/7/01. He noted that the work will take place at night to minimize disruption of businesses along the street.
e. HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: No report.
f. RECREATION BOARD: Mr. Baldwin reported that the Board will meet 5/2/01. However, since he submitted his resignation from the Commission tonight he will not be able to attend as the Commission’s representative. Mrs. Doorley said the appointment of a replacement for Mr. Baldwin will be on the agenda for the next meeting.
g. TRAIL COMMITTEE: No report.
h. PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: Mrs. Beasley said the earlier discussion of the tree planting proposals is the substance of her report. In addition, she reported that the Committee participated in an Arbor Day celebration on 4/18/01, when a tree was planted at the Municipal Complex. Mrs. Beasley also reported that a Committee member expressed her displeasure about plans for Roberts Ridge Park at the Committee’s most recent meeting, and the rest of the Board agreed with her.
i. COMMUNITY CENTER COMMITTEE: Mr. Fidler reported that the Committee will meet on 5/10/01 to review the final draft of their report to the Board of Supervisors.
j. PLAN EXPIRATIONS: None to be addressed.
RESIGNATION - JAMES BALDWIN: Mr. Baldwin submitted his resignation from the Planning Commission, effective tonight. He explained that he is moving out of the Township. Mrs. Doorley thanked him for his service on the Commission, and all wished him well in his new home.
REPRESENTATIVE TO SWAMP ROAD STUDY CITIZEN ADVISORY COMMITTEE: (See comments prior to Subcommittee and Liaison Reports.) Mr. Bowen said he could not take on this responsibility at this time. Mr. Mendicino said he is willing to serve if the Commission wishes to appoint him. He stated that Mr. Jirele has been appointed as the Board of Supervisors representative, and he is clear that, if appointed, he will be representing the Planning Commission.
Mr. Lombardi moved to appoint Mr. Mendicino as the Planning Commission’s representative to the Swamp Road Study Advisory Committee. The motion was seconded by Dr. Kelly and passed unanimously.
NEW BUSINESS: None.
SCHEDULED 5/15/01 MEETING: Mrs. Doorley stated the 5/15/01 meeting will be canceled; the next meeting will be 6/5/01.
VACATION SCHEDULES: Mrs. Doorley asked Commission members to let her know of their vacation schedules. She stated she will be gone for the month of June. Mr. Kester said he will not be able to attend the 6/5/01 and 7/17/01 meetings. Mrs. Beasley said she will not be able to attend the 6/5/01 meeting and will be away at the end of July.
ADJOURNMENT: Mr. Kester moved to adjourn. With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:15 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary