Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

July 2, 2002


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, July 2, 2002 in the Newtown Township Municipal Building. In attendance and voting were: Karen Doorley, Chairman; Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman; Vince Lombardi, Secretary; Sue Beasley, James A. Bowe, Bob Dieterle, Paul Kester, James Ott, and Jay Sensinbaugh, members. Also in attendance were Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer; Mike Frank, Planning Consultant; David Sander, Solicitor; and Phil Wursta, Traffic Engineer.


Mrs. Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM


Mrs. Doorley noted that Pat Scully, Esq., would discuss the JMZO Amendments proposed by Wrightstown before the new business.


Mr. Sensinbaugh moved to accept the Minutes of June 18, 2002. Mr. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 6-0, with Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Lombardi abstaining.


JMZO Amendments proposed by Wrightstown

Pat Scully, Esq., of Terry Clemmons & Associates appeared representing Wrightstown. Ms. Scully explained that Wrightstown had four proposed Amendments that they would like to add to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance.

Ms. Scully explained that the first proposed amendment would clarify vague wording in the Ordinance as regards setbacks for swimming pools. Wrightstown and Upper Makefield would like to amend Section 803 (H)(8)(1)(b), so that the ten and fifteen foot minimum setbacks for pools include all appurtenances, such as filter housing, copings, pool decks and pool patios.

There was some discussion about whether the Ordinance currently allows front yard pools. Mr. Harwood said that it does allow front yard pools, if there is sufficient space to meet setback requirements. He said that there have been requests for variances for pool fences, as front yard fences are restricted to a height of three feet.

Ms. Scully agreed that the current Ordinance does not prohibit front yard pools. The proposed amendment would not change that.

The Commission discussed possibly amending the Ordinance to prohibit front yard pools. Ms. Scully said that if front yard pools are prohibited, corner lots and lots that have roads behind them would need variances, as these homes are considered to have two front yards.

Ms. Scully said that Wrightstown had not discussed the issue of front yard pools and that she would bring this suggestion back to Wrightstown for their consideration.

Mr. Sanders said that he thought that the prohibition would be a hardship for property owners with corner lots.

Mr. Harwood said that the variance process addresses this problem.

Mr. Sensinbaugh moved that the Planning Commission recommend accepting the proposed amendment clarifying the language on setbacks for swimming pools, with the condition that front yard pools be prohibited. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Ms. Scully explained that the second proposed amendment to the JMZO dealt with fence heights in front yards. Currently the JMZO allows three foot fences in front yards. The proposed amendment would allow four foot high post and rail or post and board fences with 50% open area between the boards and rails.

Mr. Harwood explained that the current Ordinance was in place to help insure a uniform appearance on front yards along major thoroughfares.

Ms. Scully said that there have been a number of requests for variances for four foot fences in front yards in Wrightstown, and they thought that the Ordinance should be amended to eliminate the need for a variance.

The Commission discussed the appearance of higher fences on smaller lots. It was agreed that a four foot fence would be unsightly on a small lot. The Commission also felt that post and board fences on small lots would be unattractive.

Mrs. Doorley asked Mrs. Scully to suggest to Wrightstown that they consider changing their proposed amendment to four foot fences in front yards with frontages of 300 feet or greater, and only post and rail fences with 50% open area between rails.

Mrs. Scully agreed to discuss this with Wrightstown.

The next proposed amendment would limit the number of garages permitted on a property. Ms. Scully said that there have been a number of "monster garages" built in Wrightstown, some for car collections, some for commercial purposes. She said that the amendment would put a limit on the number of outbuildings permitted.

Mr. Fidler said that he thought that the current Ordinance already limited buildings by limiting the impervious surface. Mr. Fidler felt that it was very important to allow agricultural based businesses to remain viable.

The Commission agreed that the impervious surface ratio already prohibited excessive building, and that the Ordinance already dealt with buildings used for commercial purposes. There was agreement with Mr. Fidler's concern that limiting the number of outbuildings would be a hardship for those involved with farming.

Ms. Scully said that Wrightstown would not designate "barns" as accessory residential structures. She said that Wrightstown was particularly addressing what they refer to as "monster garages", large pole barn like metal structures on concrete slabs.

Mr. Harwood said that the Ordinance could require that accessory buildings be compatible with surrounding architecture.

The Commission agreed that barns should remain as accessory residential structures and that the impervious surface ratio should remain the deciding factor in limiting the number of accessory buildings.

Ms. Scully said that the fourth proposed amendment would address the sale of cars from residential property. She said that the amendment would limit cars placed for sale facing the road to two cars per year. Each car could be placed for sale for 30 days, and must be owned by a resident of the property.

Mr. Sanders explained that there are currently no regulations addressing this issue. The proposed amendment would create restrictions.

Mrs. Doorley asked if this were a problem in Newtown.

Mr. Harwood said that there have not been many problems with this in Newtown, and that the prohibition of commercial use of residential property could be enforced a property owner was offering cars for sale all the time.

Mrs. Beasley said that she felt that the restrictions were too confining and that it was a matter for code enforcement of "residential zoning" if a property owner was doing this too often.

Mr. Harwood said that there was also a safety issue involved as cars driving by stop to look at the car for sale and then pull back into traffic.

The Commission agreed that they felt that the amendment was too restrictive and that existing prohibitions of commercial use of residential property addressed the problem.


Phil Wursta presented a printed report to the Commission. He said that work continues on the closed loop for the By-pass. He explained that timing devices had been installed and that monitoring the traffic would be an ongoing process, with back-ups reported to Penn Dot. As data is collected and analyzed, the timing would be adjusted. Three programs will be used in the timing, AM rush hour, PM rush hour and non-rush hour traffic.

Bids will be advertised for the traffic signal at Linton Hill and Washington Crossing Roads. The signal will be equipped with an Emergency Pre-Emption device that can be used by police, fire and ambulance.

Mrs. Beasley asked whether a "signal ahead" sign would be used. Mr. Wursta said that the lights would be high enough to be visible from the dip in the road and that the "signal ahead" would not be necessary, however the intersection will be monitored and adjustments could be made should they prove necessary.

Mr. Bowe asked whether Wrightstown would be starting work on Swamp Road.

Mr. Wursta said that the work on Swamp Road is not progressing at this time, and that it is funded to mesh with work to be done in Newtown.


Verizon Sketch Plan

Ms. Kathy Ward representing Verizon, along with Mr. Tom Casserta of Verizon and Allen Hays presented the sketch plan for a replacement generator for one destroyed in a traffic accident on Washington Crossing Road.

Ms. Ward said that the original generator had been given a special exception in 1975 and that the replacement generator does not violate that special exception. She stated that all conditions were met and she provided a copy of the resolution.

Ms. Ward assured the Commission that the existing buffering would remain. She further explained that the five criteria for the special exception were still the same: that the installation is essential; that they do not conduct public business; that there is no outside storage or public visits; that it does not occupy more than 10% of the property; and that a 50 foot buffer is provided.

Mr. Casserta said that there are already nine parking spaces and that no additional spaces are required. There is no change in the plant at all. Bucket trucks come in during the day to do work, but are not stored on the property.

Mr. Bowe questioned the presence of a 1000 gallon oil tank so near the flood plain.

Mr. Casserta said that the tank is 10 feet higher than the flood plain.

Mr. Bowe asked if there was a wetlands study.

Ms. Ward said that there is a wetlands study and that she would make it available to the codes committee.

Mr. Harwood said that the new generator would create a 1/2% increase in impervious surface, and that he thought that the procedure had changed on handling this matter.

Mr. Sanders said that he would look into any changes in the procedure for approving this sketch plan.

Mr. Sensinbaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the Verizon Sketch Plan, with the condition that the Wetlands Study be provided to the Codes Committee. Mr. Kester seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Newtown Corporate Center Preliminary Plan

Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Fidler advised the Commission that they would not participate in this matter as they have conflicts of interest.

Mr. Michael Coughlin of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter and Stein, Mr. Tony Remikis of Brandywine Associates, Mr. Chris LeStrange of Nave Newell and Mr. Mark Rothman, Traffic Engineer presented the Preliminary Plan for the Newtown Corporate Center to the Commission.

Mr. Remikis said that he had recently met with residents of Upper Silver Lake Road, Kirkwood Development and Norwalk Development and that they had discussed traffic, buffering and lighting.

Mr. Coughlin suggested that the Commission begin discussion with a review of the Carroll Engineering letter dated June 14, 2002. Brandywine Associates will comply with the letter except on items 4, 9, 10, 14, and 16, for which waivers will be requested. For item two, a roadway crossing of the floodplain, a Special Exception is being sought from the Zoning Hearing Board. A decision is expected at the July 11, 2002 meeting.

Mr. Remikis explained he wanted to seek a waiver for item 4, 207 parking spaces held in reserve, in order to provide additional buffering. This reserve area would be graded and seeded. He is willing to add berms with 3to 5 foot trees to this buffering.

Mr. Remikis said that the proposed buildings would be office buildings, and as such would only have UPS type deliveries and that he would not need loading berths for every building.

On item 6, lowering of lights to 16 feet, and reducing illumination at 10:00 PM, Mrs. Beasley questioned whether the lowering of illumination would be a safety issue for employees.

Mr. Remikis assured her that there would be very few employees working late, and that the lowered illumination would still be very bright in an empty parking lot.

On item 23, Mr. Remikis explained that Brandywine had submitted a plan to the Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board for a walking trail that would run through the wooded area of the property and connect with the Newtown Trail going to Silver Lake Park. The Park and Rec Board had voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept this trail as satisfaction of any open space requirement.

Mr. Remikis further explained that he would continue to work with neighboring residents to create an attractive landscape buffer including both pine trees and deciduous trees. He would preserve the farm house and the large beech tree on the property and would leave a number of wooded areas intact. In addition, the islands in the parking areas will have trees. The area along Core Creek will remain wooded.

Mr. Harwood said that he was concerned that the addition of a berm along the trail would make snow plowing difficult.

Mr. Remikis said that Brandywine would maintain the portion of the trail that runs through its property, including snow removal. He would provide any signage the Township would require for the trail, such as "no bicycles" signs.

Mr. Coughlin asked the Commission to review the Heritage Conservancy letter dated May 29, 2002.

Mr. Coughlin stated that the applicant will comply with the Heritage Conservancy letter.

Mr. Fidler expressed concern that pedestrians would have to cross traffic if a sidewalk is only provided on one side of Penns Trail North.

Mr. Remikis agreed to provide sidewalks on the west and south of the road running through the development and on both sides from Upper Silver Lake Road to the third intersection into the development.

In answer to Mr. Ott's question about a SEPTA route through the complex, Mr. Remikis said that the roads could accommodate a bus route, but that any bus route decisions would be up to SEPTA.

Mr. Kester expressed concern about the placement of a bridge within the floodplain.

Mr. Remikis said that three different engineers, representing Brandywine, Newtown Township and the neighboring property owners, had all agreed that the bridge would not cause flooding. The matter is before the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board at this time, and a decision is expected at their next meeting.

Mr. Ott asked if there had been any further discussion about a "no right turn" sign at Upper Silver Lake Road.

Mr. Wursta said that at a meeting with residents of Kirkwood Development it was decided to "wait and see" if there were problems with right turns. It is estimated that only about 10% of traffic would be using this road, and it would be local traffic, not through traffic. The "no right turn" sign would affect Kirkwood residents.

Mr. Wursta said that estimates of traffic patterns are based on 2001 data. Estimates of traffic from the Wiltshire Walk Development were included in the projections. He said that the roads would continue to be monitored and adjustments would be made as needed.

Mr. Sanders suggested that as a condition of approval, Brandywine could be required to put money in escrow for possible traffic calming devices.

Mr. Remikis said that he would agree to a fixed amount, but could not agree to an open ended promise to address the problems. Mr. Remikis reminded the Commission that the road had been recommended to the Township by an earlier traffic study to alleviate traffic on Lindenhurst Road.

Mr. Remikis told the Commission that the road and bridge would be constructed as part of the first phase of building. He said that Brandywine intended to complete about one building each year, and expected the entire project to take 5 to 8 years.

Mr. Lombardi asked if Brandywine had discussed the letter of John Hitchner dated June 24, 2002.

Mr. Remikis said that he would agree to construction of water lines to the homes along Upper Silver Lake Road, as requested, but that the homeowners would be responsible for fees from the water company. He said that the matter of buffering had been satisfactorily dealt with during his recent meetings with the neighbors.

Mr. Sterling, of 274 Upper Silver Lake Road, stated his concern that all of the development proposed in his neighborhood, including a Toll Brothers Development, Wiltshire Walk and the Brandywine complex, will produce a great deal of traffic. He hoped that all of the traffic studies being discussed were considering the entire area, not just the Brandywine complex.

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the revised preliminary plan of Newtown Corporate Center subject to the following conditions:

1. Compliance with the Carroll Engineering letter dated June 14, 2002, including support for all of the waivers requested therein, with the following specific conditions arising out of this letter:

a. the applicant shall provide a buffer area between the parking lot and the rear of the Norwalk development, which will include an increased berm with appropriate planting;

b. the applicant shall not use any up-lighting on the buildings;

c. the applicant shall use box-lighting fixtures in the parking areas, and the lights shall be turned off at 10:00PM, except for necessary safety lighting;

d. the applicant shall submit a lighting plan to the Township before final plan approval;

e. the applicant shall revise its plan to show the trail as approved by the Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board. Where the trail borders adjacent residences on the Heston Tract, the trail will be constructed inside the property line and inside the berm to provide privacy to the Heston Tract homeowners from foot traffic;

f. the applicant shall work with the residents to create a landscape buffer, with Township having final approval thereof;

g. the applicant shall maintain the walking trail, including snow removal, and shall place appropriate signage on the proposed bridge prohibiting rollerblading and requiring bicycles to be walked across the bridge; and

h. the applicant shall construct a public water supply to the four property owners located on the west side of Upper Silver Lake Road, immediately north of Vera Avenue if those homeowners pay all connection fees associated with the public water tie-in.

2. Compliance with the Heritage Conservancy letter dated May 29, 2002, with the following specific conditions arising out of that letter:

a. the applicant shall construct a sidewalk on the west and the south sides of the road running through the development, and shall construct sidewalks on both sides of the road from Upper Silver Lake Road to the third intersection into the development;

b. Buffering shall be carried through the area of the boulevard connecting the two groups of buildings on the property; and

c. in order to provide for additional on-site traffic improvements which may become necessary as a result of greater traffic volumes than are projected, the applicant shall post a cash escrow in an amount agreed upon by the applicant and the Township Traffic Engineer, which escrow shall not exceed $10,000.00.

3. Compliance with the Pennoni Associates, Inc. letter dated April 2, 2002.

Mrs. Beasley seconded and the motion passed 5-2-2, with Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Fidler abstaining and Mssrs. Kester and Sensinbaugh voting nay.

General Discussion

Mrs. Doorley suggested that the Commission continue to discuss the request from the Board of Supervisors to consider and make recommendation as to changes in the current zoning of the OR Office Research District.

Mr. Kester read aloud from the minutes of the meeting of June 4, 2002, when this matter had last been discussed.

Mr. Frank said that he had located the data prepared for the Traffic Impact Committee by Carroll Engineering, but had not had a chance to study it and prepare a report.

The Commission discussed the remaining undeveloped parcels in the OR District. Mrs. Beasley stated that she felt that the properties had been zoned as Office Research for a long time, and any changes in the zoning could have a negative impact on those properties' values. Mr. Lombardi agreed with Mrs. Beasley, commenting that there are very few parcels still undeveloped. He felt that any changes in the zoning would have traffic impact.

Mr. Kester said that he felt the Commission did not have a clear idea of what changes, if any, should be made to the current zoning.

Mr. Ott moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the OR Office Research District remain as currently zoned. Mr. Dieterle seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Due to the late hour, Mrs. Doorley suggested that Subcommittee and Liaison Reports be deferred to the next meeting.


Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 11:35 PM. Mr. Dieterle seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


Respectfully submitted


Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary