Planning Commission Minutes
January 15, 2002
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING 1/15/02: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of 1/15/02 with one correction: The Sycamore Street liaison appointment should read “Mr. Ott and Mr. Bowe agreed to serve as liaisons.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowe and passed unanimously, with Mr. Dieterle abstaining.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, January 15, 2002, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Allen Fidler, Vince Lombardi, Paul Kester, Sue Beasley, Jay Sensibaugh, Jim Ott and Jim Bowe. Also in attendance were: Supervisor Tom Jirele, Township Engineers John Barbaz and Gerald Smith, Township Solicitor David Sander, Township Planner Mike Frank, and Township Public Works Director Thomas Harwood.
Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM. She welcomed newly appointed members Jay Sensibaugh, Jim Ott and Jim Bowe to the Commission.
REORGANIZATION - 2002:
CHAIRPERSON: Mr. Lombardi moved to elect Mrs. Doorley Chairperson; the motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
VICE CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Doorley moved to elect Mr. Fidler Vice Chairman; the motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
SECRETARY: Mrs. Doorley moved to elect Mr. Lombardi Secretary; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (12/04/01): Mr. Lombardi moved to approve the minutes of the 12/4/01 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously, with Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Ott and Mr. Bowe abstaining.
Note: The scheduled 12/18/01 Commission meeting was canceled for lack of agenda items.
CONDITIONAL USE - LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS COUNCIL - PENN STREET AND PHEASANT RUN - TMP# 29-10-33: Attorney Don Marshall, and Stephen Schriber of the Law School Admissions Council, were present to discuss their request for approval of D-1 Office Use with accessory G-3 Warehouse Use for an 85,000 square foot building to be constructed on a 7.09 acre site in the LI District. Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is now in an existing building in the Newtown Industrial Commons and would like to consolidate the organization’s office and warehouse functions in the new building. He stated that approximately 68,000 square feet of the building will be devoted to Office Use, approximately 13,000 square feet will be devoted to the accessory Warehouse Use, and approximately 4,000 square feet will be used for mechanical systems for the building. Mr. Marshall stated that the applicant is also seeking conditional use approval for up to 60% impervious surface.
Mr. Marshall said that 366 parking spaces will be provided, 54 of which will be employee parking under the building. Hours of operation will be from 8:30 AM to 4:45 PM, with a few employees on flextime staying as late as 8:00 PM. The applicant anticipates 219 employees, plus up to 60 seasonal temporary employees. One 18 wheel truck and eight UPS-type trucks will arrive daily.
Mr. Frank said that the designation H-5 Non-Residential Accessory Structure, Building or Use would be more appropriate as an accessory use, and Mr. Marshall agreed to amend the application accordingly.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the Law School Admissions Council’s conditional use application for D-1 Office Use and H-5 Non-Residential Accessory Structure, Building or Use, and that the Board approve the conditional use application to increase the impervious surface ratio up to 60%. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
PRELIMINARY PLAN - LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS COUNCIL - PENN STREET AND PHEASANT RUN - TMP# 29-10-33: Mr. Marshall and Mr. Schriber also discussed the preliminary plan for the project described above. Wayne Johnson of Pickering, Corts and Summerson was also present for this discussion.
The Carroll Engineering letter of 12/27/01 was reviewed. Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is currently planning to put some parking spaces in reserve, rather than seeking a conditional reduction in parking. He stated that waivers of the required plan scale and existing features will be sought. Other waivers sought include: the required traffic study, the relationship of the underground parking to fire lanes and outside walls of the building, and construction of the parking areas.
Mr. Marshall stated that the applicant will take into consideration the Township Engineer’s recommendation that traffic flow in and out of the underground facility be reversed. The Engineer also recommended that the handicapped parking be located in the underground area, but Mr. Marshall said that only employees will be permitted to park in that area.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant met with the Park and Recreation Board on 1/14/02, and the Board recommended a fee in lieu of open space. Mr. Marshall stated that the applicant will comply with all other points in the Carroll Engineering letter.
Mr. Fidler asked if traffic flow on the site would be improved by providing only one entrance and one exit, instead of the proposed two way access points. Mr. Johnson explained that the proposed design is necessary to accommodate the anticipated truck traffic.
Several additional points in the Heritage Conservancy letter of 11/26/01 were discussed. Mr. Marshall indicated that the applicant will comply with all points. He stated that an additional waiver will be requested to allow fewer but larger street trees.
Several adjacent homeowners were present and expressed concerns about buffering, aesthetics, lighting and noise. They asked if the applicant will install berms. Mr. Johnson said that the area is very flat, and berms could cause backup of stormwater on the residential properties. It could also be detrimental to the buffer plantings. Mr. Johnson said that the landscaping buffer will be very thick, with Norway Spruce and Serbian Spruce trees instead of the usual White Pine. There will also be a tier of Burning Bush. He stated the trees will be 15 to 18 feet tall within five years.
Mr. Marshall said the applicant will work with the neighbors to develop a satisfactory landscaping and lighting plan. He suggested that the lighting could be zoned, so that sections could be dimmed or turned off at night.
Mr. Fidler said he is not in favor of waiving the traffic study, since this project will add considerable traffic to the area. Mr. Lombardi said he favors a waiver as long as the applicant is willing to pay the appropriate traffic impact fees. Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will pay the fees as long as the calculations are correct. He said that the applicant will also comply with the Conservation District letter and the Bucks County Planning Commission letter, except for point #4 regarding parking. Township Commission members also disagreed with point #4.
Mr. Marshall agreed that signage would be reviewed and permitted separately from the preliminary plan.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve the preliminary plan for this project, subject to compliance with Carroll Engineering’s letter of 12/27/01, the Heritage Conservancy’s letter of 11/26/01, the Conservation District’s letter of 1/4/02 and the Bucks County Planning Commission’s letter of 12/26/01. The Commission also recommends that the Board approve waiver requests described in Carroll’s letter of 12/27/01 in points B2 (plan scale), B3 (existing features), B6 & B7a (fire lanes) and B7b (construction of parking lot). In addition, the Commission recommends approval of the applicant’s request to provide fewer but larger street trees. The applicant agrees to work with the neighboring residents on a buffering plan, addressing needs for a berm, fencing, landscaping, noise abatement and lighting protection. The applicant agrees that the signage shown on the plan must be separately permitted. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
Mr. Lombadi moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they support the applicant’s request for a waiver of a traffic study, with the understanding that a traffic study will be done prior to issuing a certificate of occupancy for the building the applicant is vacating. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed 7-1, with Mr. Fidler voting “nay”.
ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS: The Commission reviewed four requests scheduled before the Zoning Hearing Board, and commented on the following application:
Variance Request #520-02 - Douglas & Kathleen Campbell: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they oppose Variance Request #520-02 because it is excessive, but support the special exception request. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Mrs. Doorley asked several people present at the meeting if they were waiting to make comments or to ask questions.
Chris Kennedy, a resident of Newtown Grant, asked about the progress of the Bypass Light Synchronization project. Mrs. Doorley explained that the Traffic Engineer attends the first meeting of the month and can give the latest update on this project.
Ms Kennedy also asked about the status of the Toll Brothers plan for the McLaughlin Tract. Mrs. Doorley said the Planning Commission has seen only sketch plans, and no new plan has been submitted for review. Ms Kennedy questioned the concerns expressed about the safety of Stoopville Road, and said the bend may be beneficial and slow traffic down.
Richard Tonge asked about the status of the Swamp Road Study. Mr. Jirele said that the Board of Supervisors just received a draft of the report and expect the final report very soon.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON APPOINTMENTS for 2002:
SYCAMORE STREET: Mr. Ott and Mr. Bowe agreed to serve as liaisons, since they are already members of the Committee.
TRAIL COMMITTEE: Mr. Jirele said there is no longer a Trail Committee, since Trail #1 was completed. No committee has been appointed to address Trail #2.
PARK AND RECREATION BOARD: Mrs. Beasley agreed to serve as liaison.
NEWTOWN AREA JOINT PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Kester and Mr. Sensibaugh agreed to serve as liaisons. Mrs. Doorley asked that a letter be sent to Ethel Hibbs informing her of these appointments.
HISTORIC & ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COMMITTEE: Mr. Lombardi agreed to serve as liaison.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mrs. Doorley said none needed to be addressed.
LAVENDER HALL PROPERTY: Mrs. Doorley received correspondence indicating that a Montessori School with 138 students may be interested in purchasing the Lavender Hall property. The school requested informal comments from the Commission. Mrs. Doorley noted that the school would need a special exception. Mr. Lombardi said the school would generate a great deal of traffic. He also commented that the Code requires a minimum of 25 acres for a school; the Lavender Hall property is only 17 acres, and is bisected by a road.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
JMZO AMENDMENT - HOME OCCUPATIONS IN THE VR-1 DISTRICT: Mr. Frank distributed copies of a JMZO amendment proposed by Wrightstown Township. Mr. Frank stated that Newtown has no VR-1 Village Residential/Low Density District currently. Wrightstown has four small areas zoned as VR-1.
Mr. Lombardi moved to report to the Board of Supervisors that the Commission has no objection to the proposed amendment. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Mr. Sander suggested that a “Public Comment” item be listed routinely on the Commission’s agenda. Mrs. Doorley said the Commission has always invited and allowed public comments or questions about items on their agenda. Mr. Sander said he will research requirements and get back to Mrs. Doorley.
TRAINING SESSION FOR NEW MEMBERS: Mr. Fidler suggested that Mr. Frank be asked to provide a training session in planning issues for the new members of the Commission. Several other Commission members said they would like to attend such a session as well. Mrs. Doorley asked Mr. Frank to schedule a training session, perhaps the hour before a regular Commission meeting. Mr. Sander commented that members should not discuss Commission business during a closed session, as that would be a sunshine law violation.
ADJOURNMENT: Mr. Kester moved to adjourn. With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:02 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary