Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

October 15, 2002


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (10/15/02):  Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 10/15/02 meeting with three changes:  Mr. Ott’s name should replace Mr. Sensibaugh’s name on the sixth bullet under the Traffic Manager’s Report, in the first sentence in the discussion of the motion on AstaTech, and in the first sentence of the third paragraph under Law School Admissions Council.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Lombardi abstaining.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, October 15, 2002, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were:  Vice Chairman Allen Fidler; members Jay Sensibaugh, Jim Ott, Sue Beasley, Bob Dieterle, Paul Kester and Jim Bowe.  Also in attendance were Township Planner Mike Frank, Township Engineers Phil Wursta and Gerry Smith, Township Solicitor Dave Sander and Director of Public Works Tom Harwood. 

Vice Chairman Allen Fidler called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM. 

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (9/17/02):  Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of the 9/17/02 meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed unanimously, with Mr. Bowe, Mr. Fidler and Mr. Kester abstaining. 

Note:  The scheduled 10/1/02 Planning Commission meeting was canceled for lack of agenda items. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Mr. Wursta provided copies of a 9/26/02 overview of Township traffic projects, and commented on these and other traffic issues as follows: 

·       Closed Loop Traffic Signal Systems: Over the next three years the first set of traffic responsive programs will be developed.  The Township will monitor the flow of traffic and will request changes from PennDOT as needed.  The system will be able to adapt to fluctuations in traffic caused by development, and has backup power in case of a power failure,

·       Swamp Road Corridor Study: Recommended improvements are safety related, not capacity related.  Pennoni is looking into previous reports on the condition of the culvert.

·       CBD Signalization: Further funding for this project may be available from PennDOT.

·       Traffic Signal at Durham Road and North Drive:  To be bid in November.  This signal and the signal at Wrights Road are expected to create gaps in traffic along Durham Road.

·       Pedestrian Crossing Signals at 1) Hemlock Drive and Stoopville Road, and 2) Richboro Road, West Hanover Road and Mill Pond Road:  Mr. Wursta said the flashing light activates only if a pedestrian pushes a button, and drivers are supposed to yield to pedestrians.  Several Commission members said they have seen signs with that message in other municipalities but not in the Township.

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors look into posting signs saying “motorists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks” at all pedestrian crossings marked with flashing lights.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowe. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Sander said that the Township can erect such signs on Township roads, but must ask permission on state roads. 

Mr. Kester’s motion passed unanimously. 

·       School Bus Stops on Stoopville Road:  Mr. Bowe asked Mr. Wursta to look into getting signs posted on Stoopville Road where school buses stop.

·       Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads Traffic Signal:  Armour Electric won the contract for installing the signal.  No reconstruction of Linton Hill Road is anticipated.

·       Swamp Road Community Development Project:  There has been little action on this project.  Mr. Harwood said it is not an active project.

·       Four Way Stop Sign at Stoopville and Linton Hill Roads: This is part of the McLaughlin Tract development.  There will be no change in the right-of-way that will affect residents on the south side of Stoopville Road.

·       Left Turns at Entrance to Newtown Shopping Center:  The timing of the signals will be changed to eliminate simultaneous double left turns.

·       Overlay at Entrance to Shopping Center:  Mr. Sander said this was discussed but was never made part of the final plan for the shopping center.  Pennoni is in touch with PennDOT about this.

·       Sycamore Street:  Mr. Bowe asked if there is any word on the plans for Sycamore Street, which were submitted in September.  Mr. Wursta said the funding has been secured, but the awarding of the project has been held up.  He will get an update on this for Mr. Bowe.

REVIEWS 

CONDITIONAL USE - ASTATECH, INC. - 47 FRIENDS LANE - TMP# 29-10-92:  Paul Guo, president of AstaTech, was present to discuss his request to continue the present D-1 Office Use and G-2 Research Use in 4,000 square feet of space in an existing building in the LI District. 

The 9/12/02 Heritage Conservancy letter was reviewed.  Mr. Guo stated that his company is a provider of services and products for the pharmaceutical industry, and their activities are research based.  He said all deliveries are by UPS and Fedex, there is an average of 15 and a maximum of 20 employees on site who work a single shift from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday.  Mr. Guo said that sometimes people have to work other hours, and he agreed to amend his application to include occasional Saturday hours. 

Mr. Guo said that all the chemicals he works with are hazardous, but there are no biohazards used.  He said he has not yet met with the Fire Marshal to discuss the hazardous materials.  He stated that the company uses very small quantities of the chemicals, and has equipment to prevent accidents.  AstaTech employs qualified waste disposal and cleanup companies when necessary.

Mr. Sensibaugh asked if an explosion is possible.  Mr. Guo said there is a possibility.

Mr. Sensibaugh said he would like the Fire Marshal to review the handling and storage of hazardous materials before making a recommendation on the conditional use application.  Mr. Fidler said the recommendation could be conditioned on the applicant complying with any requirements set by the Fire Marshal, and with all local, state and federal codes. 

Mr. Guo said his company is learning about all the codes with which they must comply, because the EPA shut down their operations at their present site in Philadelphia the previous week.  Mr. Guo provided a copy of an EPA Administrative Order describing the EPA’s findings and compliance requirements. The Order stated that the Philadelphia Office of Licenses and Inspections found that AstaTech was operating “in such a manner as to create an imminent threat to themselves and surrounding occupancies.” 

Mr. Sander suggested that the Commission could recommend a continuance of the public hearing scheduled for the Board of Supervisors meeting on 10/23/02 to allow the Fire Marshal time to study and comment on the application.

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose this request unless the applicant demonstrates to the Board that the items in the EPA document will be corrected. 

The motion failed for lack of a second. 

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application with the following conditions:

1.      The Board will require the applicant to demonstrate compliance with applicable local, state and federal regulations

2.      compliance will be monitored by the Fire Marshal, or by some person or agent he designates

3.      compliance with the Heritage Conservancy letter of 9/12/02

4.      the application is amended to reflect hours of operation from 8:30 AM to 10:30 PM, with occasional hours on Saturday

5.      the applicant will meet with the Fire Marshal to discuss use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials, and protocols in case of fire or explosion

6.      the applicant will comply with any requirement set by the Fire Marshal

7.      the applicant will comply with all applicable codes, including BOCA, NFPA and EPA

8.      the applicant will contract with and use an authorized hazardous waste disposal company

9.      there will be no biohazard materials on site

10.  all MDS forms will be completed and filed with the appropriate authorities

11.  standard operating procedures for spills will be utilized, including installation of showers, eyewashes, etc.

The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Sensibaugh asked how frequently this company will be inspected.  Mr. Harwood said it will be once a year.  He said the Fire Marshal keeps track of the inventory of chemicals through the MDS sheets.  Mr. Harwood explained that the company will have to submit an MDS sheet whenever they change the quantity of chemicals.  Mr. Sensibaugh asked Mr. Guo if he has told the EPA that he will comply with the Administrative Order, and Mr. Guo said he did. 

Mr. Kester’s motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Sensibaugh abstaining. 

CONDITIONAL USE - WIDE BAND SYSTEMS - DEFENSE SYSTEM DIVISION - 107 PENNS TRAIL - TMP# 29-10-95:  Howard Gilson and Fred Ilsemann of Wide Band and Douglas Terry were present to discuss the request for D-1 Office Use, G-1 Manufacturing Use and G-3 Warehouse Use in approximately 10,000 square feet of an existing building in the LI District.  Mr. Terry said that no research use was being proposed.  Mr. Ilsemann said his company uses coaxial cable and low power.  There will be no use of or interference with the cell tower adjacent to the building. 

The 10/2/02 Heritage Conservancy letter was reviewed.  Mr. Ilsemann said the company assembles electronic warfare systems, such as sophisticated radar detectors, and creates software applications for the military.  Mr. Terry noted that the plan that was submitted related to the present uses, which are somewhat different, although the building itself remains the same.  Mr. Harwood recommended that the plan be revised to reflect the proposed uses, the correct parking calculations and the layout. 

Mr. Ilsemann said that the company anticipates one or two visits a month from three or four customers.  Hours of operation will be 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Saturday, with occasional after hours work.  He said that an average of 10 and a maximum of 20 employees will be on site, and he agreed to amend his application to reflect this.  One delivery via an 18 wheel truck will occur every three months, and he expects that unloading will take about 15 or 20 minutes.  There are two loading docks. 

·       Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the request for D-1 Office Use, G-1 Manufacturing Use and G-3 Warehouse Use, contingent on the following:

·       compliance with the Heritage Conservancy letter of 10/2/02

·       the application will be amended to show occasional after hours activity, and an average of 10 and a maximum of 20 employees on site.

·       the applicant will provide written calculations for parking and show these on the plan, and will revise the plan to reflect the actual uses on the site. 

The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously. 

FINAL PLAN - LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS COUNCIL (LSAC) - PENN STREET AND PHEASANT RUN - TMP# 29-10-33:  Steve Schriber of LSAC, attorney Donna Wengiel and architect Wayne Johnson were present to discuss the final plan for an 85,000 square foot office building in the LI District.  Ms Wengiel said that conditional use approval for D-1 Office Use was granted on 1/23/02; on 5/2/02 the Zoning Hearing Board granted a variance to allow five 18 foot deep parking stalls; on 5/8/02 the Board of Supervisors denied approval of the preliminary plan; the denial was appealed; and on 7/17/02 the Court of Common Pleas approved a Settlement Stipulation and granted preliminary plan approval. 

Mr. Kester said he would like to have had these documents in his packet.  Ms Wengiel said the Settlement Stipulation includes the agreements previously made between LSAC and the neighbors regarding berms, plantings, stormwater management, lights and construction traffic. 

Mr. Sensibaugh said the berm has a very steep slope, and he asked if it will hold together and if the trees planted on top of it will survive.  Mr. Johnson said a material called “geotex” will hold the berm together.  Ground cover will be planted on the berm so that it will not need to be mowed.  Mr. Johnson also said that if the drains next to the berm should clog, water will go into the basin, not into neighbors’ back yards. 

The 10/9/02 letter from Pennoni Associates was reviewed.  Ms Wengiel said two waivers are requested.  The first is regarding the parking lot materials; Mr. Johnson said the proposed materials are superior to the Township requirement.  Mr. Fidler noted that the Township has approved similar waivers in the past. 

Ms Wengiel said the second waiver request refers to the requirement for a traffic impact study.  Her understanding is that LSAC’s previous study did not include a wide enough area.  Mr. Fidler said one alternative would be to require a traffic study once LSAC’s old building is occupied.  Mr. Smith said that it was Mr. Wursta who recommended that LSAC pay a fee in lieu of doing a traffic study, and that the fee could be used for traffic calming measures in the area.  Mr. Kester said he is concerned about the lack of attention being paid to the traffic impact on the Borough. 

Regarding trees, Mr. Johnson said that LSAC is proposing fewer but bigger trees to enhance the appearance of the basin.  Mr. Frank said this should also be a waiver request. 

Mr. Sander noted that the 10/11/02 letter from the Bucks County Conservation District had two comments.  Ms Wengiel said the applicant agrees to comply with these. 

The 9/23/02 Heritage Conservancy letter was reviewed.  Mr. Frank said that the loading dock for this building appears to be adequate for this use. 

Mrs. Beasley wondered if a five foot high berm would be dangerous for children in the neighborhood.  Mr. Fidler said he has seen higher berms, and this was what the neighbors wanted. 

Mr. Harwood asked about screening for rooftop equipment.  Mr. Johnson said the roofline was designed so that equipment will not be visible. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan, provided that: 

·       the applicant complies with the applicable Zoning Hearing Board decisions, the 7/17/02 Settlement Stipulation, the 10/9/02 Pennoni Associates letter, the 9/23/02 Heritage Conservancy letter, and the 10/11/02 Conservation District letter; and

·       waivers are granted to allow the specified parking lot materials instead of the materials required by the ordinance, and to waive the requirement for a traffic study

The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed unanimously. 

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS:  The Commission reviewed seven applications scheduled before the next meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board, and had no formal recommendations. 

There was some discussion of Variance Request #575-02 from Newtown Center Associates, Inc, in the Village of Newtown Shopping Center.  Mr. Fidler said it relates to a concern the Commission has discussed before, regarding the incremental increases in impervious surface in a development and the need to eventually increase the stormwater capacity of drainage systems. 

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:  Tabled to the next meeting. 

OLD BUSINESS 

JMZO - RIPARIAN CORRIDOR:  Mr. Harwood asked in his 10/10/02 memo that the Commission consider favorably the recommendation of the Bucks County Planning Commission not  to exempt the Newtown Creek from buffer zone control.  He suggested that the creek might have its own standards to protect it.  Mr. Fidler said he feels each municipality should be able to set its own requirements for its waterways. 

Mr. Sander said that Mr. Harris originally recommended exempting Newtown Creek for the sake of the Sycamore Street project.  According to Mr. Sander, Mr. Harris thought it would be best not to require large buffers for the creek. 

Mr. Kester said he agrees with Mr. Fidler’s earlier comment.  Mr. Sensibaugh said perhaps a minimum standard ought to be required.  Mr. Frank suggested a 10 or 20 foot buffer. 

Commission members agreed to table this issue until Mr. Lombardi, who is Chairman of the Sycamore Street Committee, can be present for the discussion. 

NEW BUSINESS 

JMZO ORDINANCES 

USE E-16 IN TC DISTRICT:  Mr. Sander said this proposal was developed in response to a discussion at the 9/17/02 Planning Commission meeting.  He proposes that an E-16 Commercial Conversion be made a permissible use in the TC District, and that the list of specific uses be eliminated.  Mr. Frank suggested that that the conversion be limited to uses currently permitted in the District. 

LIGHTING:  Mr. Sander said this ordinance was proposed by Upper Makefield.  Mr. Frank suggested some minor changes to include other uses.  He said he will get his comments to the Upper Makefield solicitor. 

FORESTRY:  Mr. Sander said this ordinance was proposed by Upper Makefield as well.  He said it generally makes forestry a permitted use by right in all districts.  Mr. Frank suggested that the table of uses in the back of the JMZO be amended to be consistent.  He said he will communicate this suggestion to Upper Makefield as well. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend approval of the Forestry, Lighting and E-16 Use ordinances with minor changes suggested by Mr. Frank, who will communicate his suggestions to the appropriate municipalities.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Kester and passed unanimously. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  None. 

ADJOURNMENT:  With no objection, Mr. Fidler adjourned the meeting at 11:15 PM. 

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

 ____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary