Planning Commission Minutes
August 7, 2001
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (8/7/01): Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of 8/7/01 with two changes to the item “Discussion of Rezoning of Eagle and Durham Roads Area”. The last sentence of the second paragraph should read “Medical offices would also be included…”. The last sentence of the fourth paragraph should read “…although Mr. Hinterlang stated he is opposed…”. The motion was seconded by Dr. Kelly and passed unanimously, with Mr. Ward abstaining.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, August 7, 2001, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, Vice Chairman Allen Fidler, Secretary Vince Lombardi, Paul Kester, Bonnie Kelly, Frank Mendicino and Sue Beasley (late). Also in attendance were: Chairman of Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission Walt Wydro, Township Engineers John Barbaz and Jeff L’Amoreaux, Township Planner Mike Frank and Township Public Works Director and Interim Manager Thomas Harwood.
Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (7/17/01): Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of 7/17/01 with two changes. On page 2, the first paragraph under Revised Sketch Plan - Newtown Commons Expansion should read “Mr. Fidler said he will be abstaining from the discussion because he represents the interests of the owner of the property…”. On page 3, the second paragraph should read “He said that five parking spaces per 1000 square feet are being provided, which exceeds the applicant’s anticipated needs”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously, with Mr. Kester and Mr. Mendicino abstaining.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:
NEWTOWN BYPASS CLOSED LOOP SYSTEM: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that Carroll Engineering has submitted a report to PennDOT on the work needed to add emergency vehicle preemption to the project, and he is hopeful that this will be done. He said that the preemption system gives opposing traffic the normal yellow light warning before turning red when an emergency vehicle is approaching.
WASHINGTON CROSSING AND LINTON HILL ROADS: Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that PennDOT has determined that the fiber-optic Active Warning Device planned for this intersection is too costly. Mr. L’Amoreaux recommended that the Township ask PennDOT to do a signal warrant analysis at this location as soon as school starts in the fall.
ROUTE 413 AND THE BYPASS: Mr. L’Amoreaux said that reflectors have just been installed on the traffic lanes at this intersection, and he encouraged Commission members to drive through and see if the reflectors make the intersection less confusing.
AGENDA: Mrs. Doorley announced that the Conditional Use application regarding the McLaughlin Tract has been removed from the agenda at the request of the applicant. Also, items 4b and 4c will be reversed, and Correspondence will be addressed before Subcommittee and Liaison Reports.
FINAL PLAN - NEWTOWN JOINT MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY - POLE GARAGE - FREEDOM DRIVE AND 413 BYPASS - TMP# 29-9-5-1: Mark DiPasquale of Gannett Fleming was present to discuss the Authority’s plan to expand the existing parking area and erect a pole garage on their 9.1 acre property in the TC-2 District. The Carroll Engineering letter of 7/31/01 was reviewed.
Under Zoning Ordinance, the first point states that no storage is permitted in an F-1 use (utility operating facility). Mr. DiPasquale said that the Authority was granted an H-5 Special Exception by the Zoning Hearing Board on 6/21/01 to allow it to expand an existing nonconforming use on this site. Regarding the 50 foot buffer yard, Mr. DiPasquale said the existing buildings do not conform to this requirement. However, the proposed pole barn can be moved to conform. Regarding parking, Mr. DiPasquale said that the ordinance requires one space for each employee. There will be four employees, and five spaces are provided. Regarding natural resource protection, Mr. DiPasquale stated that the applicant will provide the requested information. Regarding screening of the parking lot, Mr. DiPasquale stated the applicant will request a waiver since the parking lot exists now and it is unlikely that the adjoining area will be developed for residential use.
Regarding the points under the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, Mr. DiPasquale stated that the applicant will provide signature blocks on the plan, documentation of the Fire Marshal’s review of the plan, and information about paving materials. He indicated that the applicant will seek waivers of the details required on the plan and of the required stormwater management plan. Mr. DiPasquale stated there are no stormwater problems on the property now, and the proposed improvements do not increase the impervious surface. He also indicated the applicant will seek a waiver of the required paving materials, since the plan proposes to use a superior type of material.
Mr. Kester said that it would be helpful if applicants provide copies of Zoning Hearing Board decisions for Planning Commission reviews.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this final plan, subject to the Heritage Conservancy review of 6/22/01 and the Carroll Engineering review of 7/31/01, The Commission further recommends that waivers be granted for requirements relating to plan detail, stormwater management, buffering of the parking lot and paving materials. The applicant agrees to provide appropriate signature blocks, add a note about natural resource protection, and conform to any requirements set by the Fire Marshal. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Harwood asked that the plan be identified as a final plan rather than a sketch plan when submitted for final approval. Mr. DiPasquale said this will be done.
Mr. Lombardi’s motion passed unanimously.
DISCUSSION - REZONING OF EAGLE AND DURHAM ROADS AREA: Approximately twenty residents of Eagle and Durham Roads discussed a proposal to create a new zoning classification, TC-3, for several properties, identified as: TMP# 29-6-5-2, 29-6-5-1, 29-6-2, 29-6-3, 29-6-4, 29-6-5, 29-6-6, 29-6-7, 29-6-8, 29-6-9, 29-6-10, 29-6-11, 29-6-12 and 29-6-13. Commission member Bonnie Kelly, one of the property owners, participated as a private citizen. Copies of the proposal were distributed earlier to Commission members and is attached to these minutes.
Mrs. Doorley said that rezoning is a long, involved process. She said the Commission is interested in hearing the residents’ concerns tonight as the first step.
A map of the parcels involved was displayed. A letter from Mr. and Mrs. Matuza requesting that their property, TMP# 29-003-030, be included in the discussion was provided (attached). During the discussion several other nearby residents indicated they would like their properties to be considered in the discussion.
A resident stated that the development of the new shopping centers across Durham Road has hurt the value of their properties. They are proposing a modification of TC-2 because they do not want microwave antennas or a terminal transport in the area. Medical offices would also be excluded; Dr. Kelly said she has been granted a variance for hers.
Todd Robinson asked if the area might be designated an historic district. Mr. Lombardi said that HARB had investigated the buildings in the area and found a few Sears Roebuck homes, which are considered historic. Scott Stubbins said that he has such a home. Mr. Fidler said that there is a difference between designating a building as historic and creating an historic district.
Another resident stated that he is interested in selling his property because he now looks at a dumpster across Durham Road. He sees rezoning as a way to increase the value of his property. Several other residents indicated their agreement with these statements, although Arlen Eckert and Mr. Hinterlang stated they are opposed to more commercial development.
Mrs. Doorley commented that the Township needs to assess whether rezoning is in the ultimate interest of the whole community, not only the interests of certain residents.
Mr. Lombardi commented that the TC-2 District was created to eliminate uses such as gas stations and car dealers, which were allowed in TC-1. He suggested that Mr. Frank present a seminar for the residents, as well as Commission members, about zoning options for this neighborhood, procedures involved and possible consequences.
Mr. Fidler explained that changing to an existing zoning would be easier than creating a new district. He suggested that residents consider all their options.
Mrs. Beasley asked Mr. Frank about the consequences of spot zoning. Mr. Frank responded that the impact on the surrounding area needs to be looked at closely. He also noted that rezoning increases the chances of further expansion of the rezoned area.
Mrs. Doorley asked the residents to return to the 10/2/01 Planning Commission meeting to continue the discussion. At that meeting the Commission will also discuss setting up an informational seminar on zoning issues.
Mr. Mendicino observed that a few of the residents involved have rather large parcels, which will complicate the discussion. There may also be other property owners who want to be involved.
Mr. Lombardi said that it is possible that properties on Eagle Road should have different zoning from those on Durham Road.
PRELIMINARY PLAN - PLATINUM EXECUTIVE SUITES - 12 PENNS TRAIL (NEWTOWN INDUSTRIAL COMMONS) - TMP# 29-10-87: Attorney Don Marshall, engineer Heath Dumack and principal Karen Miller were present to discuss their proposal to construct a two story addition to an existing one story building on a 2.298 acre parcel in the LI District. The use will be D-1 Office. Mr. Marshall stated that the Commission previously reviewed a sketch plan for this project which included a basement; the basement has been removed from the plan. This change nullifies several comments in the Heritage Conservancy letter of 6/29/01. The remainder of the letter was reviewed.
Mr. Marshall stated that Platinum Executive Suites will be the sole tenant of the entire building. He stated that the applicant believes a traffic study is not required because the project includes less than 10,000 square feet of new leasable office space. He also said that conditional use applications for D-1 use and to permit an impervious surface ratio of 60% will be filed soon. Mr. Marshall provided a copy of the utility easement on which the applicant plans to construct parking.
Mr. Marshall said the applicant will comply with all the points in the Carroll Engineering letter of 7/31/01 except for the following items, for which the applicant requests waivers: required loading berths, the scale of the plan, features to be shown on the plan, the traffic study (if it is determined to be required), parking 15 feet from the wall of the building and parking within a utility easement.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this preliminary plan, subject to conditional use approval, and subject to the 6/29/01 Heritage Conservancy letter and the 7/31/01 Carroll Engineering letter, with waivers granted as described above. The motion was seconded by Dr. Kelly.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Kester commented that on principle, he will not approve of increasing the impervious surface when the applicant’s conditional use application is considered.
Mr. Lombardi’s motion passed unanimously.
LETTER FROM REPRESENTATIVE STEIL REGARDING TRAFFIC ISSUES (/24/01): Commission members noted that Roadway A has been approved on the preliminary plan for Wiltshire Walk. Roadways B and C have been seen on sketch plans reviewed by the Planning Commission. Mr. Lombardi commented that he believes that Lower Makefield has made Roadways A and B a condition of their constructing Roadway D, which is the loop ramp at the intersection of I-95 and the Bypass.
Mr. Mendicino stated he did not want to see Roadway B connect with Roadway A at Silver Lake Road. He said that he believes this will bring too much OR District traffic into residential areas.
Mrs. Beasley moved that the Commission state that Roadway A is on an approved preliminary plan, and Roadways B and C appear on sketch plans reviewed by the Commission. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Doorley, Mr. Fidler and Mr. Mendicino abstaining.
LETTER FROM WALT WYDRO REGARDING VILLAGE STUDY (7/27/01): Mr. Wydro, Chairman of the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission, was present. The Village Study report was previously circulated to Commission members. Mr. Wydro said that the report discussed land development and roadway improvement plans for tracts in Newtown and Upper Makefield Townships, and the possible application of village planning in these areas. He said he is working on developing a chronology of events related to these tracts. Mr. Wydro said that he was distressed to hear that Toll Brothers had submitted a conditional use application for the McLaughlin Tract to Newtown Township after agreeing to participate in joint planning with Upper Makefield.
LETTER FROM WALT WYDRO REGARDING ACT 515 AND ACT 319: Mr. Wydro provided copies of an announcement he has sent to owners of properties in the Jointure which are currently protected under Act 515 (attached). He stated that Bucks County has recently terminated the use of this assessment and is recommending that landowners apply for assessment under Act 319. The announcement invites these landowners to a meeting with the County Commissioners at the Grange Fair on 8/15/01. Mr. Wydro said there are some reasons that property owners may not want to apply under Act 319.
LETTER FROM TOWNSHIP SOLICITOR REGARDING THE CANAL OVERLAY DISTRICT (8/2/01): The Commission reviewed a letter from Mr. Harris which questioned the Commission’s earlier unfavorable opinion of the JMZO amendment proposed by Upper Makefield regarding setbacks and a buffer yard along the Delaware Canal. The letter included some materials that were previously missing from the proposal.
Mr. Wydro explained that the amendment was drafted by residents along the canal. It would apply only to Upper Makefield..
Mr. Kester moved that the Commission comment that clarification is needed on two points. In Section C-1, it is unclear why the setback stops at Taylorsville Road. In Section D-6, it is unclear why restrictions are proposed on private landowners regarding lighting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:
a. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: No report.
b. NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Kester reported that he met with Mr. Frank to clarify voting procedures in the NARPC charter.
c. JOINT ZONING COUNCIL: No report.
d. SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE: Mr. Lombardi reported that there have been problems with the water company’s contractor. PECO is expected to begin work on 9/9/01.
e. HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: No report. Mrs. Beasley agreed to serve temporarily as liaison to HARB.
f. RECREATION BOARD: No report.
g. TRAIL COMMITTEE: No report.
h. PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: No report.
i. PLAN EXPIRATIONS: None to be addressed.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
DVRPC DRAFT PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PLAN: Mrs. Doorley received a copy of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Draft Public Participation Plan. She said the Township should have representation at a meeting on 9/4/01. Mr. Kester agreed to represent the Township. Mr. Lombardi also expressed an interest in attending.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT: Mr. Frank said that the Township is receiving $51,000 in CDBG funds for improvements to the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Swamp Road. The bids are lower than expected and the Township is receiving additional funds. Mr. Frank said that a proposal to use the additional $15,000 in CDBG funds needs to be developed by the end of September. He said he and Mr. Larason will draft a proposal for discussion by the Planning Commission on either 8/21/01 or 9/4/01.
Mr. Lombardi suggested proposing a traffic study on Swamp Road near the high school. Mr. Frank said he will discuss this idea with Mr. Larason.
DRAFT CONSOLIDATED NEWTOWN AREA JMZO: A copy of this document was distributed to the Commission in their packets. Mrs. Doorley asked Commission members to bring any comments on the draft to the 8/21/01 meeting. Mr. Lombardi said he liked the running head format, which makes it easier to find information in the document.
APPOINTMENT: Mrs. Doorley noted that Shawn Ward has been appointed to the Planning Commission to fill the vacancy left by James Baldwin’s resignation.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MEETING 8/8/01: Mr. Fidler will report for the Planning Commission at tomorrow night’s Board meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: Mrs. Beasley moved to adjourn. With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:10 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary