Planning Commission Minutes
February 5, 2002
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (2/5/02): Mr. Ott moved to approve the minutes of 2/5/02 with the following corrections: the third sentence of the motion regarding the final plan for the 413 Office Center should read “The issue of installing an interconnect conduit to the Durham-Wrightstown intersection…”; the same motion was seconded by Mr. Bowe; the last sentence in the first paragraph under Discussion - Linton Hill Road should read “Gloria Hall said the residents are also interested…”; and the last paragraph under the same heading should read “One resident asked if the speed limit on Linton Hill Road could be reduced…”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Doorley, Mr. Fidler and Mr. Kester abstaining.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, February 5, 2002, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Secretary Vince Lombardi, members Sue Beasley, Jay Sensibaugh, Bob Dieterle, Jim Ott and Jim Bowe. Also in attendance were: Township Engineers John Barbaz and Gerald Smith, Township Traffic Engineer Phil Wursta, Township Solicitor David Sander, Township Planner Mike Frank, and Township Public Works Director Thomas Harwood.
Secretary Vince Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM. The Traffic Engineer’s report was deferred until after the plan reviews.
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.
LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS COUNCIL: Frank Mentrikowsky, a neighbor of the site, asked to make a report on the applicant’s meeting with a group of approximately 100 neighbors on 2/4/02. Mr. Mentrikowsky said that the Law School presented their plan for berming and drainage, but the neighbors did not agree with the proposal and no agreement was reached. The neighbors were particularly concerned to hear the building is 52 feet high and will face their back doors. Another meeting with the applicant will be scheduled.
FINAL PLAN - 413 OFFICE CENTER - 398 DURHAM ROAD - AUTUMN LEAF DEVELOPMENT, INC. - TMP# 29-3-34: Attorney Frank Dillon, architect Maryellen Saylor and Paul Allen of Autumn Leaf Development, Inc., were present to discuss the plan to build two office buildings on an 11.3 acre site on Route 413 in the PS-2 District. Mr. Dillon noted that a basement has been added to the plan since the last review.
A resident of Newtown Grant, Mr. Rudnick, stated that he and his neighbors would prefer that a traffic light be installed at North Drive instead of Municipal Drive so that left turns out of his development would be safer. Mr. Lombardi asked the applicant to address this concern.
Ms Saylor stated that the plan includes two office buildings totaling 40,000 square feet of office space, of which 8,000 will be medical offices. There is another office complex being proposed for the adjacent property to the north which will take access at the Municipal Drive intersection, and together they meet warrant requirements for a traffic light. Mr. Dillon said that the applicant was asked to install the light at Municipal Drive by the Township as a result of the applicant’s traffic study. Mr. Rudnick maintained that the North Drive intersection needs a traffic light right now.
Phil Wursta, Township Traffic Engineer, said that Pennoni Associates is just beginning to study this area, but he is aware of the problems. He agreed to notify Mr. Rudnick when he is ready to report on this intersection. Mr. Wursta commented that the permit for a traffic light at Durham and Wrights Roads will be issued shortly.
Mr. Allen explained that the basement was added to the plan to accommodate mechanical systems for the building. Mr. Frank said that the parking requirements for the plan would be increased if the basement is used for anything else.
Ms Saylor explained that the applicant is seeking a special exception and two variances; these requests are scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board on 2/7/02. The special exception concerns permission to cross floodplains and wetlands with a sewer. The first variance concerns reducing the requirement for four loading berths to two loading zones, since the approved uses will require only small truck deliveries. The second variance concerns reducing the size of 23 spaces in the employee parking from 10 feet by 20 feet to 10 feet by 18 feet. Mr. Allen agreed to identify these spaces as “for sedans only”. Ms Saylor commented that this change will enable the applicant to straighten out the internal road connecting the adjacent properties, and will bring the impervious surface ratio down.
Mr. Dillon said that the applicant will comply with all points in the 1/10/02 Carroll Engineering letter. Ms Saylor said that four waivers were already approved at the preliminary plan stage; an additional one is being requested to allow parking within 20 feet of the building. She explained that the building footprint has been slightly altered so that some parts are recessed, and some parts are two to four feet closer to the parking areas. She stated that the overall square footage is the same. Ms Saylor said she discussed this change with the Fire Marshal, who said he is not concerned about it.
Mr. Dillon said that this applicant and the developer of the parcel to the north will share in the cost of installing the traffic light at Municipal Drive.
Mr. Sander noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 1/14/02 raises the issue of tree protection. The plan indicates that construction activity will come within 15 feet of the tree trunks. Ms Saylor stated that the applicant’s landscape architect said the trees will not be harmed, but the applicant is prepared to replace any tree that is damaged or dies within 18 months after construction. Mr. Frank suggested a note to this effect be placed on sheet #6 of the plan. Mr. Sander said that this will require a waiver request.
Mr. Frank raised an additional issue concerning the lighting plan. Ms Saylor said that 15 foot tall light standards are proposed, in accordance with the ordinance. Mrs. Beasley asked if some of the lights could be turned off at night. Mr. Allen said most of the lights could be turned off after 10:00 PM.
Mrs. Beasley moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for the 413 Office Center, contingent on compliance with the Carroll Engineering letter of 1/10/02, the Heritage Conservancy letter of 12/17/01, and all conditions of the preliminary plan approval of 10/17/01. Further conditions recommended are: the basement is to be used only for utility systems, the architectural drawings are to be amended to confirm the square footage of the building, the plan will be revised to show the actual footprint of the building, the outer lights will be turned off at 10:00 PM nightly, and the issue of the trees at the driveway entrance will be addressed by the Board of Supervisors. The issue of extending the internal connector road to Wrights Road (Carroll Engineering letter (page 5, point 5c) should also be addressed by the Board of Supervisors. Approval of the waiver request regarding parking within 20 feet of the building is recommended, subject to written approval from the Fire Marshal. The Commission recommends the applicant obtain the special exception and two variances described in Carroll Engineering’s letter (III A 1-3). The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed 5-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay”.
PRD VARIANCE - MR. & MRS. COHEE - 266 STANFORD PLACE - TMP# 29-28-308: Gregory and Jennifer Cohee were present to discuss their request for a variance that would allow them to build an addition on the side of their house in the Country Bend development. The addition would change their impervious surface ratio to approximately 31%, whereas the maximum permitted by the ordinance is 25%. Mr. Cohee stated that there is open space behind their property, and the neighbors have no objection to their plan.
Mr. Ott said the calculations on the plan seemed to be in error. His calculations indicated that the addition will result in 34.6% impervious surface. Mr. Cohee agreed to discuss this apparent discrepancy with his surveyor and provide correct calculations when the request is presented to the Board of Supervisors on 2/27/02.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve the variance requested by the Cohees, with the conditions that the impervious surface be no higher than 34.6%, correct figures are presented to the Board to document this ratio, and a revised final plan for the Country Bend PRD is submitted. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously.
DISCUSSION - LINTON HILL ROAD: Approximately 40 residents of Linton Hill Road were present and asked to express their concerns to the Commission. Their spokesperson, Tammy Mantegna, stated that the residents read in the newspaper that 400 houses are planned for the Stoopville and Linton Hill Roads area, and they are concerned about increased traffic and unwanted improvements to Linton Hill Road. They do not want the road to be widened. Ms Mantegna said she will present a petition on this issue to the Board of Supervisors. She said the residents are also interested in looking into getting their area designated an historic neighborhood, to include the Peter Taylor homestead as the centerpiece.
Mr. Sensibaugh commented that the Newtown Area Joint Planning Commission is also concerned about the impact of potential developments along Stoopville Road.
Mr. Frank said that the residents were most likely reading about the Gray Tract, which is in Upper Makefield Township. He said that current proposals are for 124 townhouses on the Gray Tract, and 35 houses on the McLaughlin Tract, which is in Newtown Township.
Residents had several questions about traffic studies and road improvements already planned for the area. Mr. Sander said that the Township plans to repair a culvert on Linton Hill Road. Mr. Wursta said that the Township is moving ahead on planning a traffic light for Linton Hill and Washington Crossing Roads.
Mr. Lombardi said that the Planning Commission will notify Ms Mantegna when it will review a proposal for the McLaughlin Tract. Mrs. Beasley said she is a resident of Linton Hill Road and shares the concerns expressed by the group. She said she will abstain from any votes relating to these issues.
One resident asked if the speed limit on Wrights Road could be reduced to 25 MPH; Mr. Wursta said he will look into this. Other residents complained of speeding on Linton Hill Road; Mr. Lombardi suggested the residents contact the Police Department regarding this problem.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Mr. Wursta provided an overview of fifteen traffic engineering projects under way in the Township. Commission members asked questions about the first seven projects, and agreed to review the last eight at the next meeting Mr. Wursta attends.
Mr. Lombardi asked if there are traffic calming methods that could be used on Linton Hill Road. Mr. Wursta responded that it might be possible to use humps or roundabouts. The first step would be to assess the nature and severity of the speeding problem. Mr. Wursta said he would like to see a light at Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads. Several Commission members commented on how dangerous this intersection is.
The Commission also discussed the problems at the intersections of the Bypass and Buck Road, and the Bypass and Richboro Road. Mrs. Beasley suggested that when the scheduled improvements are being done, a trail be built to provide access to a nearby junior high school. Mr. Wursta noted that the project has already been funded by PennDOT in its present form, and it would be difficult to change it now.
Mr. Dieterle asked that Mr. Wursta discuss the intersection of Route 413 and the Bypass at the entrance to the Newtown Shopping Center at his next meeting with the Commission.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS: Commission members agreed to defer these reports to the next meeting due to the late hour.
NEW MEMBER TRAINING: Mr. Frank suggested that the training session for new members be scheduled for 7:00 PM before the next Planning Commission meeting on 2/19/02. The Commission decided to schedule two additional sessions at 7:00 PM on 3/5/02 and 3/19/02.
NEW BUSINESS: None.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: None.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, Mr. Lombardi adjourned the meeting at 11:15 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary