Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

October 2, 2001


MINUTES OF 10/2/01: Mr. Frank's 10/12/01 letter to Mrs. Doorley suggested that a sentence be added to the minutes regarding the discussion of rezoning the Eagle and Durham Roads area.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, October 2, 2001, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Paul Kester, Vince Lombardi, Bob Dieterle, Bonnie Kelly and Jack Bowen (late).  Also in attendance were: Township Engineers Jeff L’Amoreaux and John Barbaz, 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.  Approval of the minutes was deferred until there was a third member who had been present at the 9/18/01 meeting (see later). 

The Commission welcomed new member Bob Dieterle, who was appointed on 10/1/01. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  

NEWTOWN BYPASS CLOSED LOOP SYSTEM:  Mr. L’Amoreaux reported that all fiber-optic cables will be underground.  PennDOT has denied emergency vehicle preemption because the Township raised the issue too late in the process.  Mr. L’Amoreaux estimated it would cost $70,000 to $80,000 for the Township to undertake this project on its own. 

BYPASS AND 413 AND ACME DRIVEWAY:  Mr. L’Amoreaux reported he has not heard from PennDOT about the highway occupancy permit process.

TRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM COMPETITION:  Mr. L’Amoreaux said that the application for this program is due at the end of October.  He will apply for funds for Newtown Trail #2. 

ROUTE 413 CORRIDOR:  Mr. Kester said that the Bucks County Planning Commission will be studying the Route 413 corridor.   Mr. L’Amoreaux said he will check on plans for that project. 

REVIEWS: 

PRELIMINARY PLAN - 413 OFFICE CENTER - DURHAM ROAD - TMP #29-3-34:  Attorney Tom Hecker, engineer Maryellen Saylor and Paul Allen were present to discuss their plan to construct two office buildings on a 11.30 acre parcel in the PS-2 District.

Mr. Hecker said that the buildings will include approximately 40,000 square feet of office space.  About 8,000 square feet in the front building will be D-2 Medical Office Use, and the remaining space will be D-1 Professional Office Use.  Approval for these conditional uses was given by the Board of Supervisors on 2/28/01.

Ms Saylor said that 213 parking spaces are required, and 215 are provided.  A detention basin is planned on the northern side of the property.  An access road is shown along the front of the property, parallel with Durham Road.  The road will connect this property, and those to the north and south, to a driveway leading to Durham Road at a signalized intersection opposite the entrance to the Municipal Complex.  

Mr. Hecker displayed an architect’s rendering of the smaller building.  He stated that the facade will face Durham Road.

Mr. Kester noted that the application was not signed by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Lyons, but by the equitable owner, Mr. Allen.  Mr. Harwood said the applicant can submit a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lyons endorsing the plan.  Mr. Hecker said this will be done. 

Mr. Hecker stated that the plan will require two variances, to waive the required number of loading docks and to reduce the depth of 23 parking spaces from 20 feet to 18 feet.

Ms Saylor said that the plan needs a waiver of the 35 foot maximum width of the driveway.  She said the driveway is shown as 43 feet wide on the advice of PennDOT, because it leads to a signalized intersection and provides access to the neighboring properties.

Mr. Hecker stated that additional waivers are needed to allow the applicant to submit an aerial photograph in lieu of details on the plan; to use a different paving material in the parking area; and to omit sidewalks and curbs along Durham Road.  The applicant will comply with all other points in the Heritage Conservancy and Carroll Engineering letters.  Mr. Hecker also said that the applicant will be meeting with the Park and Open Space Committee, and will provide a letter from the Fire Marshal, as well as a letter from the Water and Sewer Authority regarding public services.

Mr. Frank asked if the 22 foot height of the parking area lights could be reduced and/or shielded from the neighboring properties.  Mrs. Doorley suggested the outdoor lights be timed to go off at night.  Ms Saylor said she will investigate these suggestions. 

Mrs. Doorley asked what was planned for the area of the conservation easement.  Mr. Hecker said the only disturbance will be the installation of sanitary sewer lines.  He said he is discussing the easement with the Township Solicitor. 

Mr. Barbaz recommended that the applicant block access to the two dead-ends of the access road until the properties to the north and south are developed.  Mr. Harwood suggested a sign reading “Not a Through Road”. 

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this preliminary plan, subject to the Heritage Conservancy letter of 8/3/01 and the Carroll Engineering letter of 8/31/01, with four waivers granted: To allow a 43 foot wide access driveway, to allow the applicant to submit an aerial photograph in lieu of details on the plan; to use a different paving material in the parking area; and to omit sidewalks and curbs along Durham Road.  The applicant will obtain the two variances needed to waive the required number of loading docks and to reduce the depth of 23 parking spaces from 20 feet to 18 feet.  The applicant will also provide a letter from the Fire Marshal, a letter from the Water and Sewer Authority and a letter endorsing the plan from the owners.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously. 

MINUTES OF 9/18/01:  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 9/18/01 meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowen and passed unanimously, with Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Dieterle and Dr. Kelly abstaining. 

PRD VARIANCE - THOMAS LEVIEN - 30 CHATHAM PLACE - TMP 29-4-207:  Attorney Thomas Walsh and applicant Michael Hutchinson were present to discuss their request for a PRD variance to allow the owner of the property to build a garage as an addition to his house.  A variance is necessary to allow a 30 foot front setback instead of the required 50 foot front setback. 

Mr. Hutchinson provided documentation showing that the Durham Lea Homeowners Association and his immediate neighbors have no objection to his plan.  He stated that the applicant proposes to remove some paving, so the impervious surface coverage will stay the same.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this variance request.  The motion was seconded by Dr. Kelly and passed unanimously.

A resident present at the meeting asked if the variance would be denied if the Homeowners Association had not supported it.  Mrs. Doorley responded that the Township would take that into very serious consideration, but that each case is considered individually. 

DISCUSSION - REZONING OF EAGLE AND DURHAM ROADS AREA:  Mrs. Doorley announced that the Commission would consider this item next, in view of the number of residents present for this item.

Dr. Kelly stated she was stepping out of her role as Planning Commission member for this discussion.  She said that she and the other homeowners seeking rezoning had considered the merits of TC District zoning and VR-4 District zoning, and agreed that they preferred the VR-4 zoning because there is a greater variety of uses allowed, including medical office use.  Dr. Kelly stated that there is only one area in the Jointure with VR-4 zoning, and that is Carousel Station in Wrightstown Township.

Several residents expressed concerns about how a change in the zoning of this area might affect the adjacent areas and the Township as a whole.  They asked for clarification of what properties were being considered and what process would be followed.  Mr. Kester responded that approximately 12 property owners came to a Commission meeting in August 2001 and asked the Commission to consider a change in the zoning of their properties, which are now in the R-1 Residential District.  He said that this group felt that the value of their properties has been lowered by the development of the Newtown Shopping Center, and they are seeking rezoning as a way to make their properties more valuable. 

Mr. Frank read the list of permitted uses in the VR-4 District as stated in the JMZO.

Several residents of the Cliveden development said that traffic in the area had increased with the development of the shopping center, and allowing commercial uses in the area in question will make it even worse.  Michael Jaffe, a Cliveden resident, said that rezoning will lower the value of adjacent properties.  Steve Callahan, a Cliveden resident, said that the VR-4 zoning is too inclusive.  Another resident expressed concerns about drainage problems on Eagle Road.  Several residents asked for more information about the rezoning process.  Mr. Lombardi suggested to Dr. Kelly that the residents who initiated this discussion should develop a plan and identify the specific properties under consideration, so that the Commission and others in the Township can see what is being proposed.

Mrs. Doorley said that the Commission’s role is to listen to residents’ concerns, consider them in light of the needs of the Township as a whole, and advise the Board of Supervisors.  She asked the residents to provide their names and addresses so that the Township can notify them of future discussions or workshops on this subject.  Fran Poole, president of the Cliveden Homeowners Association, asked that the Township notify him so that he could notify Cliveden residents.  Mrs. Doorley said the Commission will make plans for further consideration of these issues, but it will not be at the next Commission meeting.

RESOURCE PROTECTION LINE - 21 MILLSTONE DRIVE - JOHN WES GREEN:  Mr. Green was present to explain his request to move the resource protection line on his property back to the line of trees it was intended to protect.  His property is part of the Penns Preserve development, and a change to the line will involve an amendment to the final plan for the development.

Mr. Green stated there are no trees between the resource protection line and his property line, although there are trees on the adjacent property.  He would like to erect a fence on his property, and he can not do so with the resource protection line in its present location.  He stated that the adjacent property owner has erected a fence on her property along the tree line.

Mr. Lombardi asked if the two fences will create a “no man’s land” which no one will maintain.  Mr. Green stated he will maintain the space between the fences.  Mr. Harwood said there is a sewer easement in the area, and there needs to be sufficient access for maintenance.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they revise the final plan of Penns Preserve to move the natural resource protection line on lot #11 to where the existing trees are.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously. 

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS: 

a.      BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:  No report. 

b.      NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION:  No report.

c.      JOINT ZONING COUNCIL:  No report. 

d.      SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE:  Mr. Lombardi reported that PECO has suspended their work because of the poblems encountered by the water company.  The Committee will meet again on 10/9/01.

e.      HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD:  No report.

f.        RECREATION BOARD:  No report.

g.      TRAIL COMMITTEE:  Mrs. Doorley reported that she and others walked portions of the Trail on 9/20/01 with local and state officials.  They discussed landscaping and the placement of benches and maps.  On 10/15/01 the Trail will be officially turned over to the Township.

h.      PARK & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE:  No report. 

i.         SWAMP ROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT:  Mr. Bowen reported that there will be a public meeting on 10/3/01 at the Lingahocking Fire House.  There are concerns that there will be a major increase in traffic on the road as soon as the culvert is repaired.  Mr. Bowen said it is hoped the study will be finished in December. 

j.         PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  None to be addressed. 

ADJOURNMENT:  There were no further items to be considered.   Mr. Kester moved to adjourn.  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:45 PM. 

 

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,

 

 ______________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary