Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

April 1, 2003

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/1/03):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 3/18/03 meeting with one change:  in the second paragraph under Discussion of Proposed Rezoning of Roberts Nursery Tract, Mr. Dusak should be identified as an architect and planner, not an engineer.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 1, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley; members Bob Dieterle, Paul Kester, Allen Fidler, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Vince Lombardi, Shawn Ward and Sue Beasley. Also in attendance were Township Fire Marshal Don Harris, Township Planner Judy Goldstein, Township Engineers Chris Walker and Phil Wursta, Township Solicitor Dave Sander and Township Public Works Director Tom Harwood.


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

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (3/18/03): Mr. Ott moved to approve the minutes of the 3/18/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously, with Mr. Ward abstaining.

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Mr. Wursta provided a written update of traffic-related engineering projects in the Township. He asked for comments about the newly installed traffic signal at Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads, which is controlled by a sensor in the roadway. Several Commission members said they had experienced delays at this intersection, and Mr. Wursta said he will investigate.

Mr. Wursta also said work will begin shortly on the traffic signal at Durham Road and North Drive. The contractor for this project is TechnaPro.

FIRE SAFETY CODES: Don Harris, Township Fire Marshal, introduced himself and said he would like to explore ways in which the Commission and his office can work together. He said he would like to avoid having plans go to the Board of Supervisors before he sees them.

Mr. Harris said he usually sees plans at the preliminary plan stage. He suggested that he could send his reviews directly to the Planning Commission to ensure that they have his reviews as they discuss a preliminary plan. Ms. Goldstein asked that he send his reviews directly to her also.

Mr. Lombardi asked Mr. Harris to explain his concerns about cul-de-sacs. Mr. Harris said that emergency vehicles cannot access the end of the cul-de-sac if something is blocking the roadway at any point. Adequate turning radius for emergency vehicles is also important.

Mr. Harris also said that emergency access roads need to be well maintained, wide enough and have surfaces that can support an emergency vehicle. Mr. Fidler suggested that the Fire Marshal and the Engineer develop some specifications for emergency access roads.

Mr. Sensibaugh said the Commission has also been concerned when applicants are using or storing hazardous chemicals on their property. Mr. Harris said the Commission should require such an applicant to submit to the Fire Marshal a list of the hazardous chemicals to be used on the site. He said that applicants may not have construction drawings when they submit the list, but his office can review the list and provide basic guidelines. When construction drawings are developed, the Fire Marshal will review them as well.

Mr. Lombardi asked if the Commission can assume an activity is safe if an applicant states the business complies with OSHA regulations. Mr. Harris said this is not sufficient.

Mr. Lombardi asked Mr. Harris to discuss what “homeland security” measures are being put in place in the Township. Mr. Harris said the Township is an unlikely site for a terrorist attack, although it does have important highways and water systems that need to be protected. His office is assessing risks for schools, colleges, pipelines, waterways and other systems, and creating emergency management plans for them. Mr. Harris said that the risk of airborne problems from a disaster in Philadelphia is low because the prevailing winds are from the north-east.

Ms. Goldstein asked to whom and when an applicant submits a list of hazardous chemicals. Mr. Harwood said this usually happens with a conditional use application. He said he will require that applicants proposing the use of hazardous substances have the list reviewed by the Fire Marshal before coming to the Planning Commission.

DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED REZONING OF ROBERTS NURSERY TRACT - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD: Mr. Fidler removed himself from the Commission for this discussion, as he is the owner of the Roberts Nursery property.

Mr. Fidler and engineer Rob Dusak, Jr., distributed copies of a revised proposal for TC-3 zoning for the Roberts Nursery Tract, which was first discussed with the Planning Commission on 2/18/03. Mr. Fidler said he met with Mr. Pellegrino and Ms. Goldstein and developed a proposal for an A-7 Agricultural Retail Use in the proposed TC-3 District which will allow him to develop an agriculture-centered business. He said he sent over 150 letters to nearby property owners inviting them to the meeting tonight. There were about a dozen neighbors in attendance. He said about eight people telephoned him in response; most of them were in favor of having a retail business in this location.

Mr. Fidler said the proposed A-7 Use addresses the question of what happens if the property is sold, because it requires that the agricultural component continues. The Veterinary Hospital is still part of the proposal, but the gas station is not.

Mr. Lombardi asked how the proposal would prevent a situation like that of the Yamamoto property, where the farm was discontinued but the accessory use is still there. Mr. Fidler said this is covered by the provisions of A-7.2, which requires open space or agricultural use on at least 50% of the area in conjunction with the agricultural retail use,

Mr. Lombardi said that once a commercial use is established it takes on a life of its own. He said he would like to see the Township help farmers without creating a new commercial zone. After the agricultural uses are gone, he would like to see the area be used for residential purposes, not commercial. He said he preferred to see the retail use be accessory to the farm.

Mr. Ott said he would like to see limitations on the building height added to the proposed zoning.

Mr. Fidler said that the Jointure will not accept the A-7 Accessory Use in an R-2 District, and the Planning Commission seems unfavorable towards a TC-3 District.

Mary Jane Hegin said she lives across the road from Mr. Fidler’s property. She said the neighbors are not opposed to a farm market, but they do not want high density housing there because it will worsen existing drainage problems. Mr. Sensibaugh said that the proposed development calls for higher density than a residential development. Mr. Fidler said stormwater management would be part of the land development process.

Mr. Kester said this proposal could be considered spot zoning, and has a long range potential for less desirable activities, such as a pig farm.

Frank Mendicino, a Township resident, said he is not in favor of this proposal because it encourages commercial development.

Wayne Buck, a Newtown Borough resident, said he does not want to see more townhouses on this property, and he would like to keep Mr. Fidler there if possible.

Gail Laughlin, a Township resident, said the Commission should help Mr. Fidler but not introduce commercial zoning in this area. She asked Mr. Fidler to notify the residents of the Headley development when this proposal is discussed again.

Mr. Fidler said his property is a commercial property, and R-2 zoning does not allow him to carry out his plan.

Jim Bowe, a Township resident, said he also fears the eventual consequences of allowing commercial uses on this property.

Mr. Sander said the two options discussed so far are: change the zoning as Mr. Fidler is proposing, or try to add an accessory use to R-2, which the Jointure will not approve. He said a third option might be to create a new residential district which permits the accessory use. The Jointure would not object because no other municipality would have this district. The new district would be similar to R-2, but include agricultural retail use as an accessory use for a farm.

Ms. Goldstein said an accessory use must be subordinate to the main use, which may present problems in this situation. Mr. Sander noted that the legal meaning of “subordinate” is “less intensive”.

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose the zoning change described in Mr. Fidler’s proposal.

Discussion of motion: Mrs. Doorley said this is an informal discussion and a formal recommendation is premature.

Mr. Sensibaugh withdrew his motion because this is a discussion.

Mr. Fidler said he is willing to keep working with Ms. Goldstein, Mr. Sander, the Commission and others to develop a proposal that is satisfactory to all.


a. Board of Supervisors - no report

b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission - Mr. Kester said the Commission met recently and heard several government officials speak on land use legislation. Mr. Sander said he attended this meeting as well.

c. Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council - No report.

d. Sycamore Street Committee - Mr. Lombardi said the Committee held several meetings on PS&E with Pennoni Associates, which is now responsible for this aspect of the project.

e. Historic Architectural Review Board - Mr. Lombardi said HARB reviewed and revised their bylaws, which date from 1983.

f. Park and Recreation Board - Mr. Ott said the Board will meet on 4/2/03.

g. Plan Expirations - Mr. Sander said he will contact the attorney for Pryda again and request an unlimited extension.




NEXT MEETING: Ms. Goldstein and Mr. Sander said they will not be able to attend the 4/15/03 Planning Commission meeting.

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


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary