Planning Commission Minutes
April 2, 2002
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/2/02): Mr. Ott moved to approve the minutes of the 4/2/02 meeting with two changes: In the Traffic Engineer’s Report, the first sentence under the Durham Road and the Bypass item should read “…the road surface on Durham Road approaching the Bypass near the entrance to the Newtown Shopping Center”, and the next item should read “ Eagle Road and Stoopville Road: Mr. Ott asked …”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 2, 2002, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Allen Fidler, Paul Kester, Bob Dieterle, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh and Jim Bowe. Also in attendance were: Supervisors Anne Goren and Tom Jirele; Township Engineers Gerald Smith, Phil Wursta and John Barbaz; 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.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (3/19/02): Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 3/19/02 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Mr. Wursta updated the Commission on 12 current traffic projects.
SIGNALS AT DURHAM ROAD AND NORTH DRIVE, DURHAM ROAD AT MUNICIPAL DRIVE: Commission members discussed proposals for traffic signals on Route 413 at these two intersections. Mrs. Doorley said that the Commission has reviewed two plans with the understanding that there will be a signal at Municipal Drive, but now it seems this intersection will not meet warrant. Mr. Wursta said that a signal is planned for Durham Road at Wrights Road, and it is likely that a signal is warranted at North Drive. These signals will create gaps in traffic that will facilitate left and right turns out of the access driveway planned for the Municipal Drive intersection. He said he did not expect stacking problems on the access driveway. Mr. Wursta said that the applicant’s traffic study, which indicated a signal could be installed at Municipal Drive, was wrong. However, he said the applicant will be asked to escrow funds for a future light at this intersection. Mr. Bowe asked if the signal at Wrights Road will be part of the Closed Loop system; Mr. Wursta said this is not clear.
WASHINGTON CROSSING AND LINTON HILL ROADS: Mr. Bowe brought up Mrs. Beasley’s concern about poor sight distance at the intersection of Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads. Mr. Wursta said a flashing warning sign can be installed to warn approaching drivers if it is necessary.
DURHAM ROAD AND THE BYPASS: Mr. Dieterle asked if anything will be done to improve the road surface at the entrance to the new Acme. Mr. Wursta said he will look into this situation.
EAGLE ROAD AND LINTON HILL ROAD: Mr. Bowe asked if a signal is planned for this intersection. Mr. Wursta said he will look into this issue as well.
PLANS FOR ROBERTS RIDGE PARK PLAYGROUND: Andy Levine, Vice Chairman of the Township Parks and Recreation Board, and Bill Wert, Township Director of Parks and Recreation, were present to discuss plans for playground equipment for the Roberts Ridge Park. Mr. Levine displayed an updated sketch of the entire park and distributed detailed sketches of the proposed equipment from the Little Tikes company. Mr. Levine stated that the Parks and Recreation Board was asked to study a proposed gazebo/band shell structure and a proposed “Kids’ Castle” type of playground. They found that the costs of the gazebo with electrical service were prohibitive, so they focused on the playground. Other municipalities advised them to stay away from wooden structures, and to not make it a community construction project. A separate facility is planned for smaller children, and all equipment is ADA compliant. Mr. Levine said that the Board would like to install a water fountain and a restroom, probably at the same time. Four benches are also planned.
Commission members asked if 32 parking spaces are sufficient. Mr. Jirele said that the School District has agreed to make the parking lot at Goodnoe Elementary School available during nonschool hours. Mr. Bowe asked if the School District would agree to install a water fountain outside the Preston House; Mr. Levine said he will look into this.
Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the plan for playground equipment, and that the Township coordinate the installation of a water fountain with the School District. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele said he will bring the question of the water fountain to the School District. Mr. Jirele also asked about the path through the park. Mr. Wert said a path crosses near the playground area, and an additional loop is planned through the trees in the park. Mr. Wert stated that the gazebo and the restrooms are the only additional structures being discussed. Mr. Fidler said that people sometimes drive golf balls at the park, and this would not be an acceptable activity near a playground. He also suggested that the trees be pruned regularly to prevent branches falling on children. Mr. Wert said that the playground will be at least 40’ away from the trees.
Mr. Kester’s motion passed unanimously.
SKETCH PLAN - NEWTOWN COMMONS EXPANSION - Upper Silver Lake Road - TMP# 29-10-76: Tony Rimikis of Brandywine Operating Partnership, Attorney Mike Coughlin, and engineers Jeremy Maziarz and Mark Roth were present to discuss their plan to build five commercial office buildings on a 58.77 acre tract in the Office Research District. The Commission has discussed the plan several times since the plan was submitted in December 2001. At the 3/5/02 meeting the applicant agreed to meet with adjoining property owners to address concerns about buffering, traffic and stormwater management. Mr. Rimikis stated that no residents contacted him for a meeting.
Mr. Maziarz said that some revisions have been made in response to comments made by Commission members and neighbors at the applicant’s last Planning Commission appearance. The alignment of the access road to Newtown-Yardley Road was improved; an existing farmhouse will not be demolished; 199 parking spaces are shown in green, resulting in an increase in the buffer between the site and residential neighbors of approximately 20 feet; and some internal circulation problems have been corrected.
Mr. Rimikis stated that the three story buildings are approximately 37 feet high, which complies with the ordinance. Mr. Maziarz said the applicant will coordinate the curbing and widening of Upper Silver Lake Road with the developer of Wiltshire Walk.. He stated that about 50% of the existing trees will be removed, which is permitted in the ordinance, and that many more trees will be planted.
Mr. Rimikis said that no plans have been made yet for the farmhouse, but it will not be demolished during the construction of this project.
Many local residents were present and expressed their concerns about the impact of the traffic generated by this project. Barbara Leighton, Oscar Stavisky, Barry Hertzberg, Bill Reedy and others spoke about their concerns for the safety of children and the impact on residential streets, particularly in Kirkwood. Mr. Rimikis said that very little traffic will go onto Upper Silver Lake Road, but the majority of residents felt that the Bypass is already at or beyond capacity, and the traffic from this project will end up on local roads. Several residents expressed opposition to the plan to cut off Upper Silver Lake Road at Penns Trail Extension.
Residents also questioned whether another office complex is needed in this area, when many units in the Newtown Industrial Commons are vacant. Mr. Rimikis said that Brandywine believes this is a viable project, and office space contributes tax income to the Township without adding children to the school system.
Paul Sterling asked if anyone has looked at all the developments in the area together. Mrs. Doorley said the Commission considered other developments when reviewing the Wiltshire Walk plan. Mr. Sterling said that residents do not understand what the impact of the closing of Upper Silver Lake Road will be on their properties.
Mr. Kester asked how traffic projections were developed. Mr. Roth responded that previous studies indicated that there will not be significant impact to the residents or the Bypass. He said that the Bypass carries about 43,000 cars a day, and this project will add about 1800 trips per day.
Paul Beckert, a resident of Lower Dolington Road, suggested that left turns be prohibited onto Upper Silver Lake Road during peak hours, to ensure that traffic moves the way Brandywine anticipates it will move. Mr. Wursta said this would need to be supported by a traffic study.
Mr. Fidler commented that the main cause of traffic problems on the Bypass is the lack of a cloverleaf at the intersection of the Bypass and Route 95.
Mr. Rimikis said that the OR District was designed for this use, and that one way to lessen commuter traffic is to put workplaces near residences. He said that traffic on the Bypass will be a problem whether or not Brandywine builds this project. The traffic light at the access to the Bypass will be installed with the first phase of the project.
Mary Labraska asked why the decision to close Upper Silver Lake Road was made. Mrs. Doorley explained that this was part of the Wiltshire Walk plan approval. Another Kirkwood resident said that this was done in secret. Mrs. Doorley said the closing was discussed openly at several meetings.
Mr. Rimikis offered to meet with the residents to continue to address their concerns. Mr. Stavisky and others said they are interested in meeting with Brandywine.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:
a. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: No report.
b. NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Sensibaugh said the Commission was interested in the Disclosure Ordinance, and will send comments to Mr. Sander. There are several other ordinances being sent to the Township for review.
c. JOINT ZONING COUNCIL: No report.
d. SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE: No report.
e. HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: No report.
f. PARK AND RECREATION BOARD: No report.
g. SWAMP ROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT: Mr. Ott said the Advisory Committee met on 3/20/02. The draft plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors and posted on the Township website.
h. PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mrs. Doorley noted that Durham Road Associates granted an extension at the 3/27/02 Board of Supervisors meeting.
JMZO AMENDMENT - CELL TOWERS IN UPPER MAKEFIELD: Mrs. Doorley received a 3/27/02 letter from Terry Clemons, the solicitor for the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission, asking for comments on a proposed amendment to the JMZO which would permit a communications tower on TMP# 47-008-055 in Upper Makefield Township. Commission members were not aware of the location of this parcel. Mr. Sander agreed to determine its location and contact Mrs. Doorley.
Mr. Kester moved to recommend approval of this amendment, but to reserve the right to revisit the issue before a letter is sent if the parcel is located on the border with the Township. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed 6-1, with Mr. Bowe voting “nay”.
IMPERVIOUS SURFACE ORDINANCE - LOWER MAKEFIELD: Mr. Frank provided copies of a Lower Makefield ordinance which sets aside some impervious surface in residential developments for the future use of the homeowner. He said that Bucks County Planning Commission staff indicated to him that there have been some problems with its implementation, and they recommended that the portions reserved for the homeowners be larger.
Mr. Kester moved to refer this issue to the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission for a uniform approach. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked if Mr. Sander could draft an ordinance for consideration by the Regional Planning Commission. Mr. Sander said he would need engineering input to do so.
Mr. Kester’s motion passed unanimously.
REVIEW OF OR DISTRICT USES: Mrs. Doorley said the Board of Supervisors has requested that the Planning Commission review the uses that might go into the remaining undeveloped land in the OR District, and make a recommendation to the Board by 6/1/02. Mr. Sander said that there are only three parcels left. He suggested that the Commission look at possible uses and their impact on traffic and the tax base. The Commission might consider whether the ordinance should be amended to remove residential uses, or if an expert should be engaged to do a study. Commission members agreed to address this issue at their next meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, Mrs. Doorley adjourned the meeting at 11:00 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary