Planning Commission Minutes
June 5, 2001
APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (6/5/01): Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of the 6/5/01 meeting with one change. Under “Conditional Use - Rimon Jewish Day School”, the second sentence of the second paragraph should begin “Mr. Smolow recommended…”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowen and passed unanimously, with Mr. Kester, Dr. Kelly and Mrs. Beasley abstaining.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, June 5, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Vince Lombardi, Frank Mendicino, Allen Fidler and Jack Bowen (late). Also in attendance were: Township Engineers Ken Yerger and Jeff L’Amoreaux, Township Planner Mike Frank, Township Public Works Director and Interim Township Manager Thomas Harwood and Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission Chairman Walt Wydro.
The May 15, 2001 meeting was canceled because of conflict with the primary election.
Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/1/01): Deferred until a quorum was present (see later).
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:
CLOSED LOOP SYSTEM: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that the low bidder for the Closed Loop System project is apparently Armour and Sons Electric at a price of $838,000.
TRAFFIC SIGNAL PREEMPTION: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that a device that detects an approaching emergency vehicle has been installed at Buck and Richboro Roads.
TRAFFIC SIGNAL - DURHAM AND WRIGHTS ROAD: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that Carroll Engineering is designing a signal for this intersection.
TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM: Mr . L’Amoreaux presented a prioritized list of eight projects, based on the Commission’s discussion at the 5/1/01 meeting. He reported that the grade separation projects at the Bypass intersections with Buck Road, Richboro Road and South State Street discussed at the 5/1/01 meeting are not being proposed at this time.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the list of eight projects in Mr. L’Amoreaux’s report. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously by the four Commission members present.
CONDITIONAL USE - AXCELL BIOSCIENCES - 826 NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD - TMP# 29-10-86: Attorney Don Marshall, and Dr. Carter of Axcell Biosciences, were present to discuss
the proposal to use 4500 square feet of an existing office building in the O-LI District for Use G-2 Research, and 1180 square feet for Use D-1 Office. Mr. Marshall explained that this is an expansion of existing uses at this site, which involve research and development for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Mr. Marshall stated that about 10 small truck deliveries a week, and an occasional large truck, are expected. There will be a maximum of 50 employees working from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, although some employees may occasionally work a flextime schedule.
There will be some hazardous materials on site; Dr. Carter stated that employees are trained to handle them, there will be no effects on the environment, and hazardous waste will be picked up by a special contractor. A letter from Dr. Carter which accompanied the plan gave details of the operations and handling of hazardous materials. Mr. Fidler suggested that the Emergency Services Department should have on file the locations where this material is stored; Mr. Harwood said this is required by state law. Dr. Carter said he will provide such a floor plan. He also said he had discussed the hazardous material with the Fire Marshal, who was comfortable with how they will be handled. He stated there will be no biological hazardous materials.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the calculations for parking requirements and demonstrated there is adequate parking on site.
Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application of Axcell Biosciences, subject to the Heritage Conservancy’s 5/21/01 letter, and provided that the applicant submit to the Township Emergency Services Department a floor plan showing where hazardous materials are stored. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/1/01): Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of 5/1/01; the motion was seconded by Mr. Bowen and passed unanimously.
CONDITIONAL USE - RIMON JEWISH DAY SCHOOL - 35 SWAMP ROAD - TMP# 29-11-80: Attorney Ron Smolow and Project Coordinator Al Greenman were present to discuss their proposal to use an existing building in the R-2 District for Use C-2 School. Mr. Smolow stated the school has purchased land in Buckingham Township and plans to move there in two years. He said there will be seven full time and eight part time employees working from 8:15 AM to 3:15 PM Monday through Friday. The school will serve grades one through three this year, one through four next year, and possibly add grade five and/or kindergarten in the future. Mr. Smolow stated that the proposed use is a continuation of the previous day care center use by Kindercare. He noted that the hours will be shorter, there will be fewer children and the use will be less intensive than the day care center use.
Mr. Smolow said that about half the students will arrive in buses from several area school districts and be dropped off at the front of the school. Mr. Frank recommended that the buses drop the children off in the rear, since access for buses is difficult in the front. Mr. Fidler said his primary concern was the safety of ingress and egress; Mr. Bowen stated he was concerned about how close the school is to Swamp Road.
The Heritage Conservancy review letter of 5/15/01 pointed out that the previous approved use was a day care use, not a school use, so the proposed use can not be considered a continuation. The letter listed at least six criteria in the ordinance which the proposed use would not meet. Mr. Frank said the applicants would have to seek relief from the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny this conditional use application on the grounds that it does not meet ordinance standards for the proposed use, as described in the Heritage Conservancy letter of 5/15/01. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
SKETCH PLAN - PARKING LOT EXPANSION - GOODNOE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Tom Ames of the Council Rock School District presented the District’s plan for expansion of parking facilities at the school. He stated that the District’s goals were to separate bus and parent traffic and to provide sufficient parking, particularly for Goodnoe School staff. The plan showed an access driveway from Frost Lane to the Preston property, and additional parking on the Frost Lane side of the school and next to a playground on the east side of the school. Mr. Ames said that buses will now drop children off at the gym entrance in the back of the school. Mr. Lombardi asked why the additional parking could not be put behind the school to minimize the impact on neighbors on Frost Lane. Mr. Ames said the District wants to put parking near the main entrance to the school. Mr. Mendicino stated that all doors at the school seem to be open all the time, so parking could be placed anywhere. He was in favor of keeping the parking away from the playground in the back of the school.
Commission members were also concerned about the effectiveness of the District’s efforts to separate bus traffic from parents dropping off their children. They also noted that about 40 to 50 students walking to school will have to cross the path of the buses. Several residents were present and participated in the discussion. Mr. Clark, who lives across Frost Lane from the school, presented an alternative sketch plan showing the bus drop off point on the Frost Lane side of the school. Mr. Ames stated this plan has been reviewed by the District, which determined that Mr. Clark’s plan would cause a dangerous traffic situation.
Commission members suggested that some of the parking spaces on the Frost Lane side of the school be moved to behind the building, and that the access driveway for the Roberts Ridge park and the Alternative School be moved so that it goes behind the Preston property.
FINAL PLAN - MINOR SUBDIVISION - PAUL ALLEN - PEPPLEMAN TRACT - DURHAM ROAD AND SOUTH STATE STREET - TMP# 29-10-20: Paul Allen and attorney Bill Benner were present to discuss their proposal to subdivide the 1.68 acre property, in the TC-2 District, into two lots, one of which would be partially located in Newtown Borough. The Heritage Conservancy review letter of 4/18/01 points out that the plan does not meet or does not address several ordinance requirements. These requirements relate to rights of way, lot areas, site capacity calculations, natural resource restrictions and variances needed. Mr. Benner stated the applicant is not presenting plans for developing this property; therefore these requirements do not need to be met by a plan for a simple subdivision. They will be addressed later, when the property is developed. Commission members stated their belief that these issues need to be addressed now.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not approve this plan on the grounds that it does not meet the requirements of the ordinance. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously.
SKETCH PLAN - HESTON TRACT - TOLL BROTHERS - 208 UPPER SILVER LAKE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-77: Mike Palmer of Toll Brothers was present to discuss a sketch plan for building 24 single family homes on a 77.3 acre property in the OR District. Mr. Palmer stated he does not presently anticipate the need for variances or waivers. He expects to bring a preliminary plan to the Township within six months.
Mr. Palmer said that an existing farmhouse and barn on the property will remain. Mr. Frank suggested that the applicant ask the Newtown Joint Historical Commission to evaluate the buildings and provide a recommendation to the Planning Commission.
The Heritage Conservancy review letter of 5/30/01 also recommended that the applicant discuss the proposed open space, including access, parking, and other requirements, with the Park and Open Space Committee.
Mr. Lombardi asked that the applicant try to have the internal roads match up with existing intersections, to avoid difficult traffic situations. He also asked that cul de sacs be avoided.
A neighboring resident was concerned that the proposed development would add to the traffic and water runoff on Upper Silver Lake Road. Mrs. Doorley said that this one of the factors being considered in the Commission’s review of the plan for Wiltshire Walk. She also stated that the proposed development of 24 houses is much less intense than it could be.
Mr. Lombardi called the proposed development a positive concept, and said it should solve some traffic problems in the area.
REVISED PRELIMINARY PLAN FOR MAJOR SUBDIVISION (PRD) - WILTSHIRE WALK - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD AND UPPER SILVER LAKE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-52, 29-10-52-2, 29-10-52.1, 29-10-52-2 AND 29-10-52-10: Mike Vesey of Orleans Homebuilders, Jim Tambourino of Tri-State Engineers, and attorney Ed Murphy were present. This was the fifth Planning Commission meeting at which this plan was discussed. Several area residents were present and participated in the discussion.
Richard Tomlinson, a neighboring property owner on Upper Silver Lake Road, stated he opposed the plan to grade his land and put storm sewers across his property. Mr. Vesey said that Orleans had agreed to purchase Mr. Tomlinson’s property for the fair market value, but they could not agree on the price.
The Heritage Conservancy and Carroll Engineering letters were reviewed, and a number of remaining issues were identified. Mr. Mendicino said he did not want to recommend approval of the preliminary plan with so many questions remaining, particularly the issues concerning Mr. Tomlinson’s property, but other members said they felt the plan should move to the next stage of the review process.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant preliminary approval to the Wiltshire Walk plan, based on the review letters of Carroll Engineering (5/31/01) and the Heritage Conservancy (5/25/01), and with the following comments:
a. The requested waivers listed on pages one and two of the Carroll Engineering (CEC) letter should be approved.
b. The variances needed for the development of the church property should be applied for and approved (CEC points A2, A3 and A20).
c. Matters related to the subdivision of the Platt property should be resolved as noted in CEC point A4, including the required setback between suggested recreation areas and the property lines (ordinance section 803 C-6.3).
d. Matters related to the blending of PRD standards should be resolved with the advice of the Township Solicitor.
e. The applicant will provide a parking plan (CEC A14) to ensure that requirements are met.
f. The Board of Supervisors should obtain the Township Solicitor’s opinion on the requested waiver related to driveway distances (CEC B2).
g. Alternatives were presented for road connections with Vera Avenue. The Commission recommends that Alternative #4 be considered, and that the applicant provide a connection between the Township Trail and the cul de sac.
h. The Board of Supervisors should resolve issues regarding the grading, right of way, deceleration lanes and the status of Upper Silver Road improvements related to Mr. Tomlinson’s property.
i. Residents of Vera Avenue should be provided sewer connections via gravity feed.
Mr. Lombardi’s motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed 3-2, with Mr. Bowen and Mr. Mendicino voting “nay”.
MINOR SUBDIVISION - PLATT PROPERTY - ORLEANS: Mr. Murphy said that Orleans has filed a proposed minor subdivision plan for a section of the Platt property that would be added to the Wiltshire Walk property. He stated that it would be helpful if this minor subdivision is approved. Mr. Platt will need to withdraw his 1998 plan because it would put the impervious surface ratio above the maximum on his now reduced lot. Mr. Mendicino said he would like an opinion from the Township Solicitor before acting on this request.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the minor subdivision of the Platt property, provided that the plan filed by Mr. Platt in 1998 for his property is withdrawn, and subject to any additional conditions required by the Board. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed 4-1, with Mr. Mendicino voting “nay”.
ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS - 6/21/01: Commission members reviewed the four applications and agreed to make a recommendation regarding one.
VARIANCE REQUEST #485-01 - PAUL ALLEN - PEPPLEMAN TRACT: The four Commission members present agreed to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they oppose this variance request because the plan previously reviewed by the Commission does not match this request.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS: Due to the late hour, Subcommittee and Liaison Reports were deferred to the next meeting.
LOT 21 - HIDDEN LAKE: A 6/4/01 letter from attorney Morris Kaplan regarding Lot 21 of Hidden Lake was distributed to those present.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION: Walt Wydro, Chairman of the Regional Planning Commission, was present. He spoke briefly about the draft Charter for the Regional Planning Commission which was circulated to Township Planning Commission members in their last packet. Mrs. Doorley said the Commission will discuss the Charter at their next meeting on 6/19/01.
Mr. Wydro also said that the Regional Planning Commission plans to discuss the Toll Brothers plan for the McLaughlin Tract at their next meeting, which will be on 6/27/01. Future discussions of this plan will alternate with the Township Planning Commission.
COMMISSION VACANCY: Mrs. Doorley asked members to encourage suitable candidates to apply for the vacancy on the Commission.
CHAIRPERSON’S ABSENCE: Mrs. Doorley announced that Vice Chairman Allen Fidler will report to the next two meetings of the Board of Supervisors, and will chair the 6/19/01 Planning Commission meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn. With no objections the meeting was adjourned at 12:15 AM 6/6/01.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary