Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

May 6, 2003

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (5/20/03):  Mr. Kester moved to approve the minutes of the 5/20/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Doorley, Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Dieterle abstaining. 

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, May 20, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Vice-Chairman Allen Fidler; members Paul Kester, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh 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. 

Vice Chairman Allen Fidler called the meeting to order at 8:22 PM. 

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. 


SKETCH PLAN - NEWTOWN FRIENDS VILLAGE - 331 LOWER DOLINGTON ROAD - TMP# 29-10-69-5-1:  Architect Constance Lezenby and engineer W. Moonlight Tong were present to discuss the plan to expand the existing Friends Village facility in the R-1 District with a 3,200 SF addition that will contain three two-bedroom units and five additional parking spaces.  The project will also include the replacement of the patios for all the existing buildings. 

The 4/28/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Ms. Goldstein said the current use was not specified on the sketch plan, but Use B-17, Elderly Housing, seemed to be the most appropriate.  She said this use is not permitted in the R-1 District and is therefore a nonconforming use; the applicant can expand a nonconforming use up to 25% by special exception.  Ms. Lezenby said she was confident that the expansion would not exceed 25%.  Mr. Sander noted that application to the Zoning Hearing Board must be made by the first of the month previous to the meeting.  He also said it will be important for the applicant to demonstrate that the expansion is not over 25%. 

Mr. Lombardi recalled that when the current facility was proposed there was some opposition from neighboring residents.  He advised the applicant to develop the plan in such a way that the impact on the neighbors is minimal.  

Ms. Lezenby said that the walkway will not meet ADA standards regarding slopes, as noted in the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 5/15/03.  She said the letter was written with the assumption that the current use is Nursing Home, Use C-12, and the standards for exercise trails are different from walking paths.  Ms. Goldstein said this can be researched on the ADA website. 

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS:  The Commission reviewed two applications scheduled for the next Zoning Hearing Board meeting: 

1.      #593-03 - Sparkle Car Wash - Swamp Road and Walnut Avenue - The Commission had no comment on this application.

2.      #595-03 - Newtown Racquetball Association - 209 Penns Trail - Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose this application, because the impervious surface ratio is excessive, the parking is inadequate, the setback is too small, and a loading dock is needed.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed unanimously. 

FINAL PLAN - MAJOR SUBDIVISION - MCLAUGHLIN TRACT - STOOPVILLE ROAD - TMP# 29-7-5:  Michael Palmer of Toll Brothers and attorney Edward Murphy were present to discuss the proposal to build 35 village homes on a 38.39 acre tract in the CM District.  The plan received preliminary approval on 2/12/03.  Extensive improvements to Stoopville Road are being proposed as part of this project and will be reviewed separately at a later date.  Stoopville Road will be realigned, and the neighboring residents on the south side of the road will be given some land back.  Mr. Murphy said the applicant is working closely with the neighbors and has developed individual plans for each property.  He summarized the plans for installing water and sewer lines in the proposed development and along Stoopville Road, and stated that five fire hydrants will be added along the road. 

Mr. Murphy said the applicant will comply with all review letters, but he asked the Commission to discuss the Fire Marshal’s recommendations regarding an emergency access driveway.  The 3/25/03 letter states that the driveway must be 20 feet wide and have a paved surface, and Mr. Murphy said this is unnecessary.  Mr. Palmer added that this large area of paving could attract skateboarding and other activities.  Mr. Sander noted that no ordinance provision was cited in this recommendation.  Mr. Murphy said that an additional issue is that the preliminary approval required that a five-foot wide macadam trail be built along the emergency access driveway. 

Commission members generally agreed that they preferred grass pavers to pavement, and that a width of 12 feet would be sufficient for emergency access and to serve as a trail. 

Mr. Fidler asked why the trail goes around the wetlands rather than cross them near Stoopville Road.  Mr. Murphy said the permit to build the trail across the wetlands is very difficult to obtain and success is not assured. 

Mr. Ott asked if a traffic light is planned for the intersection of Stoopville Road and Linton Hill Road.  Mr. Murphy said it is not planned now, but it can be accommodated in the future. 

Regarding the old log house, Mr. Murphy said this issue was deferred to final plan stage.  The Board of Supervisors is no longer interested in it for public use, and it seems it can be rehabilitated for a low impact commercial use.  He said that Toll Brothers is working with Jeff Marshall on plans for the log house. 

Mr. Ott asked if the existing right of way on Stoopville Road will change.  Mr. Murphy said it will not.  He added that the sewer line will run along the south side of the road.  Mr. Harwood noted that the Township requires that anyone living within 150 feet of a sewer line must hook up with it. 

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for the McLaughlin Tract, subject to compliance with the Boucher and James letter of 4/9/03, the Pennoni Associates letter of 4/29/03, the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 4/15/03, the Conservation District letter of 5/13/03, and the Fire Marshal’s letter of 3/25/03 (the Commission recommends that the emergency access driveway be 12 feet wide and the surface be grass pavers).  The Commission strongly recommends that the applicant not be required to construct a macadam trail along the emergency access driveway, and that the Township support the applicant in seeking a permit to allow the trail to cross the wetlands.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

REVISED PRELIMINARY PLAN - DURHAM ROAD ASSOCIATES - 416 & 434 DURHAM ROAD - TMP# 29-3-35 AND 29-3-36-2:  David Pinchuk of Durham Road Associates, attorney John VanLuvanee and engineer Maryellen Saylor were present to discuss the plan to build three office buildings on a 13.85 acre site in the PS-2 District.  

Mr. VanLuvanee said the plan has been reviewed and revised many times over the last two years, and the delays have been expensive for the applicant.  Therefore, he is seeking approval of the preliminary plan as a final plan. 

The Commission reviewed the 5/15/03 letter from Pennoni Associates. Mr. VanLuvanee indicated that the listing of variances obtained and waivers sought in Section II is accurate, and that the applicant will comply with nearly all points. 

Regarding point III A 1, Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant has been working with the neighbors on planning the buffering.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that the existing trees be left in place, but that some understory plantings be added. 

Regarding the outside lighting, Commission members said their main concern is avoiding “uplighting” of buildings at night;  Mr. VanLuvanee said this will not be the case. 

Regarding point III B 13, Mr. Sander said the applicant will need to request a partial waiver if curbs are not planned for the northern section of the site. 

Point III B 14 refers to the requirement of sidewalks.  Mr. VanLuvanee said a waiver is being requested; otherwise, the applicant will have to seek a variance for additional impervious surface. 

Point III B 15 refers to a drainage easement benefiting adjacent property owners.  Mr. VanLuvanee said the plan shows a blanket easement for the Township, and he was unwilling to give an easement to private property owners.  Mr. Harwood said that he prefers not to have an easement benefiting the Township, since it implies responsibility for maintenance and liability.  Instead, he asked that the applicant give the Township the right to come onto the property in the maintenance agreement for the detention basin and stormwater management system (point III B 17).  Mr. Sander noted this will be a waiver request as well. 

Regarding the traffic comments (Section III C), Mr. VanLuvanee said PennDOT will determine what is required in many areas.  He agreed the applicant will give up the right to make left turns onto Durham Road if a traffic light is installed at Municipal Drive and the interconnecting driveway is built.    

The 4/3/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Point A 5 refers to the prohibition in the ordinance against parking in the front yard.  Mr. VanLuvanee said there are many buildings in Newtown where there is parking in the front yard.  He said the alternative would be to put the buildings much closer to Durham Road, which the Township does not want to do.  Commission members agreed that the intent of the ordinance was met by locating the parking lot more than 400 feet away from Durham Road. 

Point A 7 refers to the lighting along the access driveway.  Ms. Goldstein suggested the lights be placed on the other side of the driveway so they would shine away from the neighboring property.  Mr. VanLuvanee agreed to ask the neighbors what they preferred. 

Point B 4 states that the ordinance requires that parking lot islands be at least 10 feet wide.  Mr. VanLuvanee said the applicant will request a waiver to allow one island to be seven feet wide. 

Commission members agreed to recommend approval of the preliminary plan as final, in view of the cost of the extensive delays and revisions experienced by the applicant. 

Mr. Kester moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the preliminary plan for Durham Road Associates, subject to compliance with the Pennoni Associates letter of 5/15/03, granting the five waivers listed in Section II of the Pennoni letter, plus a partial waiver of the requirement for curbing, a waiver of the requirement for a drainage easement, and a waiver of the minimum width of the parking lot island.  The applicant has agreed to supplement the buffering with understory plantings.  The Commission further recommends that there be no blanket stormwater easement; instead, the applicant should give the Township the right to enter the property as part of the stormwater system maintenance agreement.  The applicant agrees that, if the traffic light at Municipal Drive and the interconnector road are built, the access driveway intersection will become right-in, right-out.  The lighting along the driveway will be discussed with the adjacent property owner, and a fee in lieu of dedicated recreation space will be paid.  The Commission further recommends that the preliminary plan be approved as a final plan, in view of the delays and expenses incurred by the applicant.  The Commission will provide a separate letter with a recommendation on the issue of front yard parking, reflecting their opinion that the intent of the ordinance was met by locating the parking lot more than 400 feet away from Durham Road.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Ott said he does not agree with the decision to send a separate letter about the front yard parking, but he will support the motion to expedite the agreement. 

Mr. Kester’s motion passed unanimously. 

REVISED FINAL PLAN - VILLAGE AT NEWTOWN SOUTH, PARCEL A - SOUTH EAGLE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-85 & 29-10-85-5:  Attorney John VanLuvanee and engineer Maryellen Saylor were present to discuss the applicant’s plan to amend the 5/29/96 final plan of the Village at Newtown Shopping Center and construct a retail building and drive-through bank.  This project was discussed at the Commission’s 4/15/03 meeting, and the applicant was asked to research the history and status of the land development and Zoning Hearing Board approvals on this site since the original plan was submitted.  

Mr. VanLuvanee distributed a document titled “Chronology - Village at Newtown Shopping Center” which summarized the history that he was able to determine from Township records, beginning with a Zoning Hearing Board decision on 1/9/84.  He said that every approval he was able to find stated that the property was being developed under the previous Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, except for the stormwater management systems.  He said a major issue is the impervious surface.  The approved plan had an overall impervious surface of 50%, and the current proposed plan has less than that.  However, no one is certain if the existing shopping center was built according to the approved plan. 

Mr. Sander said the major question is whether the existing stormwater management system can handle the additional runoff from the current proposed plan.  Mr. VanLuvanee said that Item #9 in his Chronology refers to a 5/30/91 letter from MGL which states that a 1988 study of the stormwater system found that it was adequate.  The 1988 report was not in the Township files.  Mr. VanLuvanee said that Item #11 should have stated that the required number of parking spaces was reduced from 5.5 spaces per 1,000 SF, not 6.5 spaces. 

Mr. VanLuvanee said the applicant will provide an as built plan and do all the necessary engineering studies.  He said there are still $300,000 to $400,000 in escrow funds for the completion of the basin. 

Mr. Fidler commented that various amounts of building area were added and subtracted throughout the history of this plan.  He asked if the 38,250 SF added in the seventh revised approval ( Item #10) remains for the current proposed plan.  Mr. Harwood said that the 38,250 SF was part of the impervious surface calculations, and therefore it seems that the basin was designed to handle the runoff in the current proposed plan as long as it does not exceed 38,250 SF. 

Mr. Fidler noted that Condition 4 on the 7/22/91 plan approval, which is the most recent revision, states that no permits will be issued for the last 27,700 SF of floor area in the entire Village at Newtown until a community center was built and conveyed to the Township.  Mr. VanLuvanee said the applicant will need another revised approval, since the Township is no longer interested in building a community center. 

Mr. VanLuvanee said the bottom line is that the current proposed plan has no additional square feet of building area compared to the approved plan, it has the same use as the previous plan, and it reduces the impervious surface from what was previously approved.  Mr. Walker commented that the applicant must complete the detention basin.  

Mr. Sander said his office may have some relevant documents on this plan.  He suggested that the applicant grant an extension on the plan, which expires on 6/2/03, and that Mr. VanLuvanee meet with Mr. Harris and himself to research the Solicitor’s files and develop a consensus about the square footage available for the current proposed plan.  Mr. VanLuvanee agreed with this suggestion, and said he would like to meet with the Commission again on 6/17/03. 

Mr. Kester moved to table consideration of the revised final plan for the Village at Newtown South until 6/17/03.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.  


PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Ms. Goldstein said the Township will need to act on the Szarko subdivision and the 413 Office Center plans. 


ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:20 PM.


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary