Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

July 3, 2001

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (7/3/01):  Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of 7/3/01 with two changes: On page 1 in the second paragraph under Conditional Use - Council Rock School District, the phrase “…to Mr. Ames…” should be deleted; and on the 4th page in the 5th paragraph under Conditional Use - Frank and John Tyrol, the first sentence should read “…zoning board for 9’ X 20’ parking spaces…”.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously by those members present.  It was noted that the minutes could be approved without a quorum because a majority of members present at the 7/3/01 meeting were present tonight. 

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, July 3, 2001, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman, Karen Doorley; Vice Chairman, Allen Fidler; Secretary, Vince Lombardi; members Paul Kester, Bonnie Kelly, Sue Beasley, and Jack Bowen. Also in attendance were Fire Marshall Don Harris, and Township Planner Mike Frank.


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


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (6/19/01 Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously with Mrs. Doorley abstaining.






Charles Lange and Thomas Ames of Council Rock School District were present to discuss the conditional use of the Preston Property as a location for the alternative school.  Mr. Ames showed a sketch plan, pointing out that there had been changes made, as requested at the last meeting, in the Goodnoe/Preston property parking arrangement. A portion of the Frost Lane parking had been eliminated, some parking had been moved to behind the building, and some landscaping had been added to the East lot facing Roberts Ridge Park and Frost Lane.


Mr. Frank suggested that he would like to begin the discussion by addressing the points he had raised in his letter to Mr. Ames dated June 18, 2001. Mr. Ames had answered the letter on July 3, 2001. Copies had been provided to the attendees at the start of the meeting.


The first point of the letter asked for additional information about the proposed uses and activities at the Alternative School. Mr. Lange provided a summary packet of the program’s make-up, goals and other statistics. He first explained the numbers of attendees at the alternative school. He said that the number of enrollment changes month to month. For the school year 98/99 there were 28 enrolled, for 99/00 there were 32, and for 00/01 there were 13. He projects that although there are only 11 students enrolled for the start of the 01/02 school year, the number would probably increase as students were evaluated and referred to the program. He also stated that in 2002, when the second high school opens, the grade configuration of high school would change so that the 9th grade would be included in the enrollment. That would increase the high school enrollment by about 900, and the alternative school referrals may also increase. At this time the program is made up almost entirely of juniors and seniors.


The district is requesting 16 parking spaces. They currently need 4 for staff, and six for students. Should the enrollment increase, the staff and student need would increase. Mr. Lange explained that the students are bussed from the High School by shuttle, and that the students are given parking permits as a privilege earned. There is a lottery held among those who have earned the privilege, as at the high school.


There were questions from the commission as to the make-up of students in the program. Mr. Lange referred to the packet he provided and explained that the program is made up of students who, for a variety of reasons were not succeeding in the high school. Many in the program had truancy problems. Some have had drug use problems. No students who have violated the zero tolerance weapons policy or drug trafficking policy are in the program. The students are not violent. Mr. Kester asked about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) among the students. Mr. Lange explained that the alternative school was not designed for the treatment of ADD, and that the school district uses very careful criteria to evaluate and diagnose ADD. While there may be some students with ADD in the program, that is not a reason for referral.


Dr. Kelly questioned the wisdom of placing these students in close proximity to Goodnoe Elementary School. She asked about any history of violence at the program. Mr. Lange assured her that the students are not violent, in most instances they are the opposite, very passive students. The students in the program are not disruptive at the program, although some had been so at the high school. Mr. Lange explained that while at the Welch Elementary School, the alternative school students did not interact with the elementary students at all.


Mr. Lombardi questioned whether the program is opened to other than Council Rock students. Mr. Lange said no, that it is Council Rock only.


Mr. Kester stated that it was not the Township’s place to question the methods of the school district’s education policies, but only the use of the property, and to that he asked about the numbers of enrolled. Mr. Lange again explained that the numbers vary; that students are added and removed throughout the school year, and that in addition, not all enrolled attend at the same time. Some students attend morning Tech School, some go in afternoon, and some are involved in work-study programs.


Mrs. Beasley asked then if the enrollment in the program and the occupancy of the building differ. Mr. Lange said that it does; that while enrollment has been as high as 32 in the past, there were not 32 in the building at the same time.


Mr. Lombardi asked about the ratio of adults to students. He wanted to put in a fixed ratio of students to teachers. Mr. Lange explained that the district could not be pinned down on that, as the make-up of students’ changes, the needs change. When the enrollment has been at twenty in the past year, there were two certified special education teachers, one therapist and a clerical/aide. At different times a behavior modification specialist better addressed the student needs.


While Mr. Kester felt that the township should not “second guess” the district staffing policies, Mr. Fidler felt the conditional use needed to address the maximum occupancy and ratio of students to adults. Mr. Lombardi also asked if the occupancy met the fire marshal standard. Mr. Ames said that since they had only recently gained access to the building it had not been evaluated by the fire marshal. He stated that the 4000 sq. ft size referred to in the application would be after an addition was put on the building.


After some additional discussion of the changing enrollments and the changing staffing needs, it was agreed to refer to building occupancy by students and staff, rather than by enrolled children and teachers. 


The second point of Mr. Frank’s letter questioned hours of operation. Mr. Ames said the school followed the CRSD calendar with the staff attending from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Students are dismissed at 2:15 PM. There are no after school activities, only an occasional parent teacher conference. There are occasional visits by Mr. Lange, the Superintendent, counselors, special teachers, probation officers and parents.


The parking changes had already been shown at the start of the meeting.


There are no outdoor recreation areas, no hazardous materials stored, no refuse storage.


Mr. Ames agreed to contact the Park and Open Space Committee to coordinate tree planting with the Roberts Ridge Park plantings.


After some additional discussion of the ratio of adults to students it was agreed that occupancy would be limited to 40 people with a ratio of 10 students per teacher, plus support therapeutic staff as needed.


The structure must be approved for this occupancy by the fire marshal.


Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use as per the conditions outlined in Mr. Frank’s letter of June 18, 2001 and Mr. Ames’ letter of July 3, 2001 with the stipulation that occupancy be limited to 40 people with a ratio of 10 students per teacher plus therapeutic staff as needed. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.




Mr. Fidler moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the application be denied because the Messrs. Tyrol did not appear. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.


Mr. Lombardi stated that there had been some incorrect information disseminated at the meeting of April 17, 2001 regarding the Tyrol parking spaces. It seems that the adjoining property owner, Melba Vitriano, is not in agreement with Mr. Tyrol to share her parking spaces. Ms. Vitriano was in attendance, and explained that she not only was not in agreement to share her spaces, but that the Tyrol application would take away two parking spaces currently allotted to her business. She would be losing two street parking spots as well.


Ms. Vitriano said that she had asked to be notified of any pending decisions regarding the Tyrol Variance request, but had not been notified. She said that although the Tyrol matter had not been on the Supervisors agenda, when Ms. Doorley gave her Commission report to the Supervisors, she referred to the Tyrol matter. At that time, Mr. Tyrol was permitted to present his application to the Board of Supervisors and it was approved.


Ms. Vitriano then asked about the conditional use of the Tyrol property. She was told that it has a D-1 use, which is office other than Medical offices. Ms. Vitriano asked if that would include massage therapy. Mr. Frank explained that businesses that serve customers with heavy traffic visiting such as her beauty salon must have E-3 use, and the Tyrol building does not.


The Tyrol building is applying to the zoning board for 12X18 ft. parking spaces rather than 10X20 ft. The smaller spaces are permitted for businesses where employees arrive and stay, not where customers come in and out all day.


Ms. Vitoriano asked how occupancy would be monitored once a building is completed. Mr. Frank explained that each tenant would have to apply for conditional use permits, and that these are checked by the fire marshal.




a. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS –Mr. Fidler reported Heston Tract and Alternative School plans reviewed. Mr. Fidler gave his report on the Community Center.


b. JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION– Mr. Kester reported that they have been invited to a Newtown Borough Planning Meeting as they are discussing rejoining the jointure.




d.  SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE – Mr. Lombardi reported that the Sewer work has been completed and that Water work begins on July 9, 2001. This should take about three weeks with an additional week to clean up. Peco is anxious to get started, but has been put off until the completion of the water company work. The water company is installing a “ball” water main. Individuals wishing to tie into the main will need to use their own plumbers. Step 9 was unofficially approved by PENNDOT.






g.  TRAIL COMMITTEE: Mr. Fidler reported that the trail is almost completed.




i.  COMMUNITY CENTER: Mr. Fidler has given his report to the Supervisors.


j.  PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Longhorn Steakhouse seems to have withdrawn it’s application. There is some question about the availability of a liquor license.








A letter from Representative David Steil was read. All agreed that it needed some clarification




Mr. Frank reported that he had revised the Draft of the JMZO Amendment regarding signs along the Bypass.


Mr. Lombardi recommended that the Supervisors approve the revised draft. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and carried unanimously.




Draft Charter – Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission – Mr. Kester reported that there is some confusion about the way the votes are currently counted. Each municipality has two members, and changes will have to be made if new municipalities are added. One municipality can currently block decisions. Mr. Kester would like Mr. Frank to review the charter.


Mr. Lombardi moved that the discussion be tabled until Mr. Frank had reviewed the draft. The motion passed unanimously.




Mr. Lombardi asked whether the properties along Durham Road opposite Village at Newtown and the new shopping center should be considered for commercial use. He thought the current property owners may be interested in TC-2 Zoning.  Ms. Beasley questioned what is included in TC-2 zoning. Mr. Frank said that it did not include convenience stores and gas stations, or large structures. It did include small businesses and shops, childcare and schools, and transportation centers such as park and ride lots. Since these properties adjoin D. Kelly’s property, she will speak to the homeowners about meeting with the planning commission.




Mr. Lombardi moved to adjourn. With no objections the meeting adjourned at 10:55 PM.







Mary Donaldson, Acting Recording Secretary