Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

June 4, 2002

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (6/4/02):  Mr.Bowe moved to approve the minutes of the 6/4/02 meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously, with Mr. Kester abstaining. 

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, June 4, 2002, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were:  Chairperson Karen Doorley, members Allen Fidler, Bob Dieterle, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Vince Lombardi, Sue Beasley and Jim Bowe.   Also in attendance were: Township Engineer 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.



MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/7/02):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 5/7/02 meeting with one correction:  The last sentence of the first paragraph under Conditional Use - McLaughlin Tract should read “…Mr. Frank questioned whether the log house lot will be included as open space.”  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.


Note: The Planning Commission meeting scheduled for 5/21/02 was canceled for lack of urgent business.



TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Commission members received a written report from Mr. Wursta in their packets.  Discussion of the report centered on Stoopville Road and its intersection with Linton Hill and Creamery Roads.  Mrs. Beasley asked what was the origin of the recommendation for widening Stoopville Road.  No one present had a definitive answer; Mr. Fidler said this project has been on the Township’s TIP list for years.  Mrs. Beasley asked if the curves should be left in the road to slow traffic.  Mr. Smith said that PennDOT will determine what improvements should be done.  Mr. Lombardi said the traffic should be slowed by enforcing the speed limit, not by making the road unsafe.  Mr. Ott suggested that if speed limits along Stoopville Road were more consistent, traffic would flow more safely.





SKETCH PLAN - NEWTOWN FIRE COMPANY ADDITION - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE - TMP# 29-3-18-2:  Engineer Heath Dumack, attorney Ed Murphy and a Fire Company representative were present to discuss the proposal to build a 2500 square foot addition to the Fire Company’s building in the MS District.  Mr. Murphy stated that the purpose of the building is to shelter some Fire Company equipment which now is left outside.


The Heritage Conservancy letter of 5/20/02 was reviewed.  Mr. Murphy said that the present building is approximately 4100 square feet.  He said that a special exception was granted by the Zoning Hearing Board on 1/30/92 to allow the use of the property for emergency services when the property was zoned CM.  It has since been zoned MS, Municipal Services, which requires a conditional use approval for this use.  Mr. Murphy said he will research the language of the special exception decision and apply for a conditional use approval if necessary.  He added that it seems the project does need to go through the land development process.


Mr. Murphy said that a variance is not needed for the rear yard setback, since the line in question is a lease line and not a property line.  Regarding the steep slope of the manmade berm adjacent to the site of the proposed building, Mr. Dumack said drains will be installed to prevent problems.  He noted that the berm is needed as protection from the shooting range.


Regarding trees to be relocated, Mr. Murphy said that two trees with a girth greater than ten inches will be relocated on the property.  A third tree will be removed, but he stated that another tree can be planted to replace it.


Mr. Murphy said it is likely that the plan will not need any waivers.  He expects to come back to the Planning Commission with a request for preliminary as final approval.


Mr. Bowe asked about underground cables in the vicinity.  Mr. Dumack said he is aware of their presence, and he is talking to Comcast about a possible conduit.


CONDITIONAL USE - GARDEN TEA, INC. - VILLAGE OF NEWTOWN SHOPPING CENTER - 2852 SOUTH EAGLE ROAD - TMP# 29-3-24-6:  Maryanne C. Staubach, owner, was present to discuss the request for Use E-1, Retail Shop, and Use E-5, Eating Place, for 1800 square feet of currently vacant space in the Village of Newtown Shopping Center in the PC District.  The Heritage Conservancy letter of 5/16/02 was discussed.


Ms Staubach stated that she intends to serve snacks and meals, as well as offering teas and related products for retail sale.  She anticipates only UPS type delivery trucks which will deliver before the restaurant opens at 10:00 AM.  After discussing possible expansion of hours and services in the future, Ms Staubach asked to amend her conditional use application to show hours of operation from 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily, and a maximum of 15 employees.  She stated she does not anticipate having any hazardous materials on site or producing any noxious environmental effects.  The restaurant will share an existing dumpster with two other businesses.


Mr. Fidler advised the applicant to check with the property owner to see if additional fees must be paid because of the Eating Place Use.


Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use request for E-1 and E-5 Uses for Garden Tea, Inc., subject to the Heritage Conservancy letter of 5/16/02, and with the application amended to show hours of operation from 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily and a maximum of 15 employees.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.





a.      BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:  No report.


b.      NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION:  Mr. Sensibaugh said several items will be addressed later in the agenda tonight.


c.      JOINT ZONING COUNCIL:  No report.


d.      SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE:  Mr. Lombardi reported that the Committee will meet on 6/11/02.  The Enhancements Committee is exploring materials and design for street enhancements.  The Committee favors planting sycamore trees.  Mr. Fidler said this tree does not make a particularly good street tree.


e.      HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD:  Mr. Lombardi said the Board approved all the improvements to the Tyrols’ Sycamore Street office building.


f.        PARK AND RECREATION BOARD:  Mrs. Beasley reported that a subcommittee of the Board met on 5/31/02.  They discussed improvements to Hidden Lake with a number of residents who do not want the area developed. The Board will meet 6/5/02.


g.      SWAMP ROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT:  Mr. Bowe said the report is now available on the Township website.


h.      PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Mrs. Doorley noted that extensions are needed on plans from Durham Road Associates, 413 Office Center, Newtown Corporate Center and Tudor Square.  Mr. Harwood said his office will follow up on these.








BUFFER STANDARDS:  Mr. Frank provided a report, dated 5/20/02, on current buffer standards.  He noted that the zoning ordinance refers only to commercial and industrial districts and intensive agricultural uses.  Mr. Frank suggested new language for the zoning ordinance that would provide for substantial buffering between residential areas and other uses, and between high and low density residential areas. 


Several Commission members said the vagueness in the current ordinance has enabled the Township to negotiate with developers on individual land development projects.  Mr. Lombardi asked if buffering could be addressed in the conditional use process.  Mr. Sander suggested that the Planning Commission could include a condition regarding buffering in their recommendation on conditional use applications.  He said a drawback would be that the Commission would have no leverage on projects that involve uses by right.  Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Commission also recommend conditions regarding setbacks.  Mrs. Beasley expressed concern that the Township is being divided up into little squares by requiring so much buffering. 


Commission members agreed to ask Mr. Frank to look at the subdivision and land development ordinance and make a recommendation about putting buffer language there instead of changing the JMZO.


JMZO ORDINANCES ON SWIMMIING POOLS, RESIDENTIAL ACCESSORY STRUCTURES, AND TEMPORARY MOTOR VEHICLE SALES:  Mr. Frank provided a report, dated 5/20/02, summarizing proposals sent to the Commission in a 5/2/02 memo from Pat Scully, Solicitor for the Regional Planning Commission.  Commission members were generally in agreement with the ordinance regarding swimming pools.  Members felt the ordinance on garages is exclusive zoning; it was suggested that Wrightstown Township put these provisions in their subdivision and land development ordinance instead of amending the JMZO.


The ordinances regarding barns and temporary motor vehicle sales also seemed to members to be exclusionary zoning.  Members expressed an interest in learning the purposes behind these proposed ordinances.  Mr. Sander agreed to invite Pat Scully to the next Planning Commission meeting on 6/18/02.


OR DISTRICT ZONING - REMAINING PARCELS:  Mr. Sander said the Board of Supervisors is seeking a recommendation on whether to change permitted uses in the OR District.  He read the current list of uses permitted by right, as a conditional use and by special exception.  He noted that B-1 is the only permitted residential use.  Mr. Sander also read the statement in the JMZO that outlines the purpose of the OR District, and noted that it does not include residential purposes.  He stated that if residential use is taken out of the ordinance, the existing residential developments would become nonconforming.  He said the law generally favors eliminating nonconformity.


Mr. Sensibaugh commented that he prefers any use that generates a lower volume of traffic.  Commission members noted that the La Salle study of the OR District focused on tax generation and did not take into traffic generated by different uses.  Mr. Sander suggested that the Commission gather information on traffic generated by different uses as well as the tax revenue generated by different uses.  He also suggested looking at the locations of the remaining parcels and assessing how they would access I-95.


Mr. Frank said all the traffic information was collected by the Traffic Impact Committee.  He agreed to pull this data together for the Commission.


Mr. Fidler commented that bringing employers into the Township also brings a demand for local residential development.


Bill Sterling, a Township resident, asked that he be notified when this subject is taken up again by the Commission.











ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:45 PM.








Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary