Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

February 18, 2003


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (2/18/03):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 2/18/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed 4-0, with Mr. Ott, Mr. Sensibaugh and Mrs. Beasley abstaining.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, February 18, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley; members Bob Dieterle, Paul Kester, Vince Lombardi, Allen Fidler and Shawn Ward.  Also in attendance were Township Planner Judy Goldstein, Township Engineer Chris Walker and Township Solicitor Dave Sander. 

Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.  She announced that the Szarko conditional use application was postponed at the applicant’s request. 

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (2/4/03):  Mr. Ward moved to approve the minutes of the 2/4/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously, with Mr. Fidler abstaining. 

REVIEWS 

SKETCH PLAN FOR MINOR SUBDIVISION - D’ARCANGELO - WASHINGTON CROSSING ROAD - TMP# 29-10-13.1:  Michael D’Arcangelo and engineer Robert Pelke were present to discuss their sketch plan to subdivide an 11.372 parcel in the CM District into two lots, each of which will contain one dwelling unit.  

Mr. Sander asked if the applicant would consider a deed restriction that would prohibit further subdivision of this property; Mr. D’Arcangelo said he would. 

Ms. Goldstein reviewed her letter of 1/28/03.  The applicant indicated he will comply with most comments; several points were discussed. 

Point G suggests that alternate locations for the driveways be considered because of the limited sight distances.  Mr. Pelke said the driveways can be moved to the south and the orientation of the houses can be reconsidered. 

Point H notes that the plan does not comply with Ordinance Section 508.5 regarding frontage.  Mr. Pelke said this will probably be a waiver request.  Ms Goldstein said the applicant might consider a shared driveway to minimize the access points, or a reconfiguration of the lots so that both driveways are on Linton Hill.  Several Commission members commented that shared driveways often cause problems between the two neighbors later, and they expressed a preference for two driveways. 

Point J concerns the water and sewer systems.  Mr. Pelke said that public water service is proposed.  Regarding sewers, he said that compliance with Ordinance Section 525, which requires connection with a public sewer if it is within 1000 feet of the subdivision, would be difficult and expensive because the connection would have to go twelve or fifteen feet down to avoid several gas lines.  He said an on-site septic system is feasible, and the applicant will probably seek a waiver of this requirement. 

Mr. Sander said that the following conditions would be in a motion if the Commission were to make a recommendation now: 

·         Compliance with the Judy Goldstein letter of 1/28/03

·         A note will be on the plan and a deed restriction prohibiting further subdivision of the property

·         A waiver granted for Section 508.5 regarding frontage

·         Perhaps a waiver granted regarding connection to public sewers

·         Perhaps a waiver granted regarding curbs and sidewalks

·         A recommendation to have two driveways rather than a shared one 

CONDITIONAL USE - PRYDA LLC - 159 N. SYCAMORE STREET - TMP# 29-12-15:  Applicant Thomas Crawford was present to discuss his plan to use an existing 2,900 square foot building, on a 11,057 square foot lot in the TC District, for D-1 Office Use.  An existing garage and driveway would be removed, eight parking spaces would be constructed, and two additional spaces are shown on Sycamore Street. 

Mr. Sander noted that the applicant met with the Planning Commission on 1/21/03.  On 2/12/03, the Board of Supervisors opened the hearing on this application and continued it to their 2/26/03 meeting.  This is the last Commission meeting before the 2/26/03 meeting. 

Mr. Crawford said a 2/18/03 letter from his engineer, Jeffrey Skinner, was faxed to Mrs. Doorley and Ms Goldstein today in response to Ms Goldstein’s 1/27/03 review letter.  He distributed copies of the letter to members.  

Ms Goldstein reviewed her 1/27/03 letter, noting that she had not studied Mr. Skinner’s 2/18/03 response yet.  Her letter raised the following concerns: 

·         Point 2 notes that there is no room for Federal Express trucks to make a delivery without backing out onto Sycamore Street or Jefferson Street.

·         Point 7 questions if the right-of-way on Sycamore Street is correct, and states that setbacks need to be revised based on the correct right-of-way.  Mr. Fidler commented that a waiver will be needed to permit parking in the ultimate right-of-way.

·         Point 8 states the ordinance requires 15 parking spaces, and the plan shows eight on the property, plus two on Sycamore Street. Ms Goldstein said that, if the applicant leases spaces from a neighboring property owner, the agreement should not jeopardize the neighbor’s compliance with ordinance requirements.  Mr. Crawford said he has not yet resolved this issue.  He suggested that the Township could require him to provide a lease agreement or pay a fee in lieu of the five parking spaces as a condition of conditional use approval.  Mrs. Doorley said the issue of parking should have been resolved since the last meeting. 

Mr. Sander said the applicant has stated he plans to request a waiver of land development approval, but there are many land development issues in Ms. Goldstein’s letter that need to be addressed.  Mr. Sander suggested to Mr. Crawford that he bring his engineer and his attorney to a future meeting with the Commission and provide answers to the concerns raised in Ms. Goldstein’s letter.  Mr. Kester suggested that he bring a revised plan as well. 

Mr. Crawford said that he did not feel he needs to add anything to the existing buffer between his property and the street, and he would prefer not to put in buffering between his property and the neighbor’s because it would look better without buffering.  Ms Goldstein said he is required to put a shrub buffer along the Newtown Creek, which is adjacent to the southern property line. 

Mr. Sander said he will notify the Township Manager that another continuance is necessary for this application. 

INFORMAL DISCUSSION - SKETCH PLAN - NEWTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB - MULTIPURPOSE FIELD COMPLEX - BLACKSMITH ROAD - TMP# 29-10-161:  Architect Gerald Higgins was present to discuss the applicant’s plan for a multipurpose athletic field, Use C-6, on a 2.6136 acre site in the LI District.  The field will be covered six months of the year by an air-supported structure.  A 1,500 square foot permanent building for storage is also planned, and 57 parking spaces.  Mr. Higgins distributed sketches of the proposed project with and without the cover.  He also displayed samples of the ground surface of the field and the material to be used in the cover. 

Mr. Higgins said that the field would be used primarily for the children’s sports activities at the Newtown Athletic Club, although it is possible that it will be rented occasionally to outside groups.  He said a door from the permanent building is proposed, as well as a larger access for vehicles.  Ms. Goldstein said that this type of cover often needs a superstructure to hold it up, and multiple accesses. 

Mr. Fidler asked if the 57 parking spaces shown on the sketch would be adequate for the proposed use.  Mr. Higgins said the ordinance requires over 1000 spaces, which would be impossible to provide.  However, he stated that this is not a permanent structure and therefore the parking requirements would be less.  He said that with the cover on the field, the impervious surface ratio would be 70%; with the cover down, it is 23.1%. 

Ms. Goldstein asked about stormwater management for this type of structure.  Mr. Higgins said there would be an underground drain designed to release water slowly, so that peak levels are not exceeded.  Mr. Walker commented that this would probably be acceptable. 

Mr. Fidler expressed concerns about the safety and the appearance of the structure, which will be located adjacent to the Bypass.  He said there seemed to be many technical questions about this proposal that engineers would need to resolve. 

Mr. Higgins said there is nothing in the ordinance referring to air supported structures, so it is difficult to know how the ordinance would be applied.  He suggested that Commission members might want to visit a similar structure in Cherry Hill, at the intersection of Routes 295 and 73.  

Ms. Goldstein said it seems that the proposed plan would need variances on parking, minimum lot size, setbacks and possibly other requirements. 

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS 

1. Variance Request # 585-03 - Zook’s Crafts - 2150 S. Eagle Road:  Mrs. Doorley said Mr. Harwood told her he has no concerns about this application.  The applicant is seeking a variance to permit outside storage and display of retail crafts. 

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose the application of Zook’s Crafts.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward and passed unanimously. 

2. Variance Request # 584-03 - Robert and Tammy Sutton - 86 Vera Avenue:  The applicants are seeking a variance and a special exception to allow an addition to their house. 

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose the application of Mr. and Mrs. Sutton.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS 

a.      Board of Supervisors - no report 

b.      Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission - Mr. Kester said the Commission will meet 2/20/03. 

c.      Joint Zoning Council - no report. 

d.      Sycamore Street Committee - Mr. Lombardi said the Committee met on 1/29/03 and heard presentations about the committee’s role during the forthcoming construction phase, the street lights design and the Acme Site Visioning Committee. 

e.      Historic Architectural Review Board - Mr. Lombardi said HARB met recently and approved the roof on his property. 

f.        Park and Recreation Board - Mr. Dieterle said he and Mr. Ott attended the most recent Board meeting.  The Board reviewed two plans, discussed girls’ softball activities at Helen Randle Park, and discussed activities at Chandler Field. 

g.      Plan Expirations - Mrs. Doorley said the 413 Office Center and the Szarko Subdivision will expire soon after the next Board of Supervisors meeting.  She asked that the Township Manager, Solicitor and Engineer be alerted to these expirations. 

CORRESPONDENCE 

SEMINAR ON STORMWATER MANAGEMENT:  Mrs. Doorley discussed an announcement she received of a program called “Better Stormwater Management Through Site Design”, offered by the Bucks County Planning Commission and Northampton Township on 3/4/03, 3/5/03 and 3/8/03.  Ms. Goldstein and Mr. Fidler said they have registered for several sessions. 

OLD BUSINESS:  None. 

NEW BUSINESS

PROPOSED REZONING - ROBERTS NURSERY SITE - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD:  Allen Fidler removed himself from the Commission during the discussion of his proposal for a new TC-3 District for three parcels along Newtown-Yardley Road which are currently zoned R-2 Residential.  Engineer Rob Dusek Jr. was also present to discuss the proposal. 

Gail Laughlin, a Township resident, asked if any of the neighboring property owners were notified that a discussion of a rezoning proposal was scheduled for the Planning Commission.  Mrs. Doorley said the Commission’s agenda is on the Township website and on cable TV.  Mrs. Laughlin said the location to be discussed was not included on the agenda posted on the cable TV station.  Mrs. Doorley noted that there is no notification requirement for scheduled discussions of informal proposals like this one, or of sketch plans. 

Mr. Fidler explained that his family has operated the Roberts Nursery site since 1951, and they would like to continue operating the nursery with more opportunity to directly market its products to Newtown area residents.  This is essential to keep the nursery a financially viable business.  He said that purely agricultural businesses cannot survive without a retail component.  He also said that a retail food outlet in this location would be good for area residents.  

Mr. Fidler said that he has been searching for a way to include retail uses in the nursery operation since 1999, but the present zoning of the area, R-2 Residential, prevents the establishment of an agriculturally based retail center.  In recent conversations with Township officials he was encouraged to propose a new zoning district, TC-3.  After discussing it with the Board of Supervisors in January 2003 he was asked to bring it to the Planning Commission for their comments. 

The new district would include the Roberts property, the Newtown Veterinary Hospital site and Steele’s service station.  Commission members received copies of a schematic plan and an initial draft ordinance creating the proposed TC-3 District in their packets. 

Mr. Kester suggested making the conditional uses mentioned in the draft ordinance special exceptions instead.  He noted that whatever is proposed will be applied throughout the Jointure, not just in Newtown. 

Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Lombardi said they were concerned about the list of permitted uses in the draft ordinance.  

Ms. Goldstein suggested that the Township consider creating a new use rather than a new zoning district in order to make Mr. Fidler’s plan feasible.  She said it might be possible to create an A-7 “Agricultural-Retail” Use.  This might be more acceptable to the Jointure.  Mr. Fidler said he was willing to pursue this, as long as the new use would allow large retail space on his property.  Mr. Sander said Mr. Fidler could also propose a new H “Accessory to Agriculture” Use. 

Mr. Dusek said he would like to see agricultural uses be considered commercial activities in the Jointure, not residential uses.  

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  None. 

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

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary