Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

May 6, 2003

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/6/03):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 5/6/03 meeting with two changes:

1)      Under Proposed Rezoning of Roberts Nursery Tract, the third sentence of the first paragraph following comments from the public should read: “… Mr. Fidler disagreed with Mr. Mendicino’s comments, and said anyone would receive the consideration given to him tonight.”  A fourth sentence should be added reading “Mr. Kester said he strongly disagreed with Mr. Mendicino’s comments; he said Mr. Fidler was being treated like any other applicant, and the Commission has great integrity.”

2)      Two paragraphs later, the vote on Mr. Kester’s motion to table should read ”…passed 6-2 with Mr. Dieterle and Mr. Lombardi voting ‘nay’.”

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

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, May 6, 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, Shawn Ward and Vince Lombardi.  Also in attendance were:  Township Engineer Chris Walker, Township Solicitor Dave Sander, Township Planner Judy Goldstein and Township Public Works Director Tom Harwood.

Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.  She announced that three Zoning Hearing Board applications will be added to the agenda.

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/15/03):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 4/15/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously, with Mr. Ward abstaining.

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  The Commission reviewed a 5/2/03 report from Pennoni Associates on current traffic-related projects.  Commission members asked Mr. Walker about the concerns they had raised at the 4/1/03 meeting regarding the timing of the new traffic signal at Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads.  Mr. Walker explained that the timing has not been changed because a permit from PennDOT is needed to change it.

Mr. Ott asked about the status of the Stoopville Road Safety and Engineering Study.  Mr. Walker responded that Pennoni has requested a copy of the study from PennDOT.  He said he will bring some information about this to the next Commission meeting.


PRD VARIANCE - THOMAS AND BRONWYN DROTAR - 20 CHURCHILL LANE - TMP# 29-30-7:  Mr. Drotar and attorney Don Marshall were present to discuss Mr. Drotar’s request for relief to allow construction of an addition on his home in the R-1 District that would result in a 24.2 foot rear yard setback where a 30 foot setback is required by the ordinance.

Mr. Marshall explained that the property is part of the Newtown Crossing PRD.  He said that both adjacent neighbors have no objections to Mr. Drotar’s plans, and the back yard abuts an open space area.  Mr. Marshall said a fence has been built in the open space, but Mr. Drotar is willing to move it to his property.  Mr. Marshall noted that the proposed addition does not exceed the maximum impervious surface allowed in PRDs under Section 803 of the JMZO.

Mr. Drotar said the Newtown Crossing Homeowners Association has not yet reviewed his plan.  Mr. Harwood said they will be notified of the hearing before the meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Mr. Drotar’s request for a PRD variance to allow a 24.2 rear yard setback where a 30 foot setback is required, provided that the Homeowners Association does not object to the plan, the applicant provides letters from the adjacent neighbors stating that they do not object to the plan, and the applicant moves the fence currently in the open space area onto his property.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.

PROPOSED REZONING OF ROBERTS NURSERY TRACT - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD:  Commission member Allen Fidler removed himself from the Commission for this discussion, as he is the applicant in this matter.  Attorney Don Marshall was also present for the discussion.

Commission members received a revised proposal from Mr. Fidler in their packets.  Mr. Fidler stated that this proposal provides for an accessory agricultural retail use H-15, and a modification to the R-2 Zoning District.  The modification creates an R-2A District that would be unique to Newtown Township.

Ms. Goldstein noted that Mr. Fidler’s cover memo erroneously states that she was involved in drafting this revised proposal.  Mr. Fidler  said he did discuss it with Mr. Pellegrino, Mr. Sander, Mr. Marshall and Mr. Dusak.  He said that Mr. Pellegrino suggested the concept of a new district unique to the Township.

Several Commission members expressed dissatisfaction with this concept.  They said that reducing the R-2 zoning may make the Township vulnerable to a challenge from a developer who wants to build high density housing elsewhere, and may impact on the other municipalities in the Jointure.  Several members also said a new zoning district should not be created for a single property owner. 

Mr. Ott noted that the revised proposal does address the concerns raised at the last Commission meeting about building height and impervious surface. 

Mr. Fidler said the alternative to creating a new zoning district is to convince the other municipalities in the Jointure to approve adding the agricultural retail accessory use to the R-2 District throughout the Jointure, and he has heard informally that this is not likely to be approved.

Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that Mr. Fidler present the concept to the other municipalities and find out if they would accept it.  Mrs. Doorley said the appropriate process would be for the Commission to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who will decide if the proposal should be forwarded to the Jointure.  Mr. Ward suggested that the matter be tabled so that Commission members can study the proposal, and perhaps talk with Mr. Pellegrino about his views. 

Ms. Goldstein said she had several technical comments on the proposal:

1.      Section 407 B 1 - Use H-15 should not be listed as one of the principal uses.  It is also not clear if the 10 acre minimum lot size stands alone or is in addition to the minimum lot size required for the principal use.

2.      Section 407 C 2 - Contains a typo.

3.      Section 407 H - The same clarification regarding minimum lot size noted above is needed here.

4.      Section 407 H 2 - The statement does not match the stated intention of the proposed ordinance and needs to be reworded.

5.      Section 407 H 3 - This section leaves open the question of requirements for structures of less than 10,000 SF.

6.      Section 407 H 7 - This statement should refer to the ultimate right-of-way, not the legal right-of-way, and should include a setback requirement.

7.      Section 407 H 9 - This section should refer to “the agricultural retail site”, not just “the site”.

Mr. Fidler said he will comply with all of Ms. Goldstein’s points.

Mr. Ward moved to table the consideration of Mr. Fidler’s proposal; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and failed 3-4, with Mrs. Doorley, Mr. Kester, Mr. Ott and Mr. Dieterle voting “nay”.

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they oppose Mr. Fidler’s proposal in the form presented tonight.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward.

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Dieterle asked why the proposal should be tabled or opposed.  Mr. Ward said he wanted to see the proposal revised in accordance with tonight’s discussion before voting on it.

Mr. Fidler said he is willing to submit another revised proposal with Ms. Goldstein’s comments incorporated and with the agricultural retail accessory use proposed as an amendment to the existing R-2 District.  He noted that he will be presiding at the 5/20/03 meeting due to Mrs. Doorley’s absence, so he will bring a revised proposal to a later Commission meeting.

Mrs. Doorley asked if Mr. Sensibaugh and Mr. Ward would withdraw the motion and second.  Mr. Sensibaugh declined to withdraw the motion, but Mr. Ward withdrew his second and no other member seconded the motion. 

Mr. Sensibaugh’s motion failed for lack of a second.

Mrs. Doorley asked if the public had comments or questions.

Frank Mendicino, a Township resident, said Mr. Fidler’s proposal is getting special consideration because of his membership on the Commission.  He asked the Commission not to set a dangerous precedent by changing the zoning.

Michael Piazza, a Township resident, agreed with Mr. Mendicino’s comments.  He said he does not want to see retail uses at this location because the traffic is already heavy.

Bernard Bires, a Township resident, said he asked for a copy of Mr. Fidler’s letter to the neighbors at the 4/1/03 Commission meeting and did not receive one.  Mr. Fidler said anyone can obtain a copy of the letter at his garden center.

Mary Jane Hegin, a resident of Frost Lane, said she and her neighbors oppose high density housing and support Mr. Fidler’s proposal.  She said she prefers to see commercial uses at this site rather than high density housing.

Mr. Sensibaugh said that commercial uses generate more traffic than residential uses.  Mr. Ott commented that residential uses add children to the schools.  Several Commission members agreed with Mr. Mendicino’s comment that Mr. Fidler has received special consideration because he is a member of the Commission; several said they did not agree. 

Mr. Lombardi said he is concerned that the latest revision of the proposal refers to “structures” rather than “a structure”; he said that what Mr. Fidler is proposing is a shopping center.

Mr. Kester moved to table consideration of Mr. Fidler’s proposal until he can provide the Commission with a version that is revised in accordance with tonight’s discussion.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward and passed 6-1, with Mr. Dieterle voting “nay”.


LETTER FROM ABRAHAM LEVINE - PEDESTRIAN CROSSING ON EAGLE ROAD:  Abraham Levine, a Township resident, was present to discuss his 4/17/03 letter to Mr. Pellegrino.  Commission members received a copy of the letter in their packets, with copies of the 3/12/03 Tentative Approval of the Hoffa Tract PRD and a 4/24/03 letter from Mr. Pellegrino.

Mr. Levine said he objects to the pedestrian crossing because the location is dangerous for pedestrians and in a difficult place for drivers to react to the flashing lights in time.  He said the flashing lights will be a nuisance for him and his neighbors, and will lower their property values.  He also said that the trail is so close to Eagle Road in some places that it will be impossible to erect the “trail protection” referred to in the Tentative Approval.

Mr. Lombardi pointed out a sentence in the Tentative Approval which indicates that the flashing lights will be installed only if they can be pedestrian activated.

Mr. Levine asked why the trail does not continue down the west side of Eagle Road to Durham Road.  Mr. Walker said the crossing is necessary to avoid having to acquire some right-of-way and some easements.  He said the final plan has been submitted and is being reviewed now.  He expects that it will come before the Commission within a month.

Mrs. Doorley invited Mr. Levine to attend the meeting at which the final plan for the Hoffa Tract is reviewed.  Mr. Levine said he will watch for this to appear on the agenda on Channel 23.


a.      Board of Supervisors - no report.

b.      Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission - Mr. Kester said the Commission will meet on 5/15/03.

c.      Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council - No report.

d.      Sycamore Street Committee - Mr. Lombardi said the Committee will meet on 5/13/03.  He said the Sycamore Street project must start by 10/23/03, but he expects it to begin sooner.

e.      Historic Architectural Review Board - Mr. Lombardi said HARB has passed a new set of bylaws.

f.        Park and Recreation Board - Mr. Ott said the Board will meet on 5/7/03 but he will not be able to attend.  Mr. Dieterle said he will attend.

g.      Plan Expirations - Mrs. Doorley said an extension on the 413 Office Center may be needed.  She noted that the Szarko subdivision plan will be heard by the Board of Supervisors on 5/14/03.


NEXT MEETING:  Mrs. Doorley polled the members about attendance at the scheduled 5/20/03 meeting, which falls on Primary Election Day.  Mr. Ward, Mr. Fidler, Mr. Kester, Mr. Sensibaugh and Mr. Lombardi said they will attend the meeting.  Mrs. Doorley said that the Commission will meet as scheduled, since a quorum of members will be present.

LIAISONS:  Mr. Ott noted that the review of Mr. Fidler’s proposal, like several other matters, might have been easier if the Commission had a liaison from the Board of Supervisors.

RESIGNATION:  Mr. Kester said his last Commission meeting will be on 6/17/03, as he is moving out of the Township at the end of June. 


ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS:  Mr. Harwood distributed information about three Zoning Hearing Board applications:

·         Moorhead - 165 Durham Road

·         Fels - 10 Crocus Lane

·         Cestero - 128 Stoopville Road

Commission members had no comments on these applications.

ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:15 PM.


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary