Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

June 3, 2003

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (6/3/03):  Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of the 6/3/03 meeting with one change.  Under General Discussion, Mr. Kester’s Retirement, the last sentence should read “There was general support for this suggestion.”  The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed unanimously. 

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, June 3, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley; members Allen Fidler, Paul Kester, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Bob Dieterle, Sue Beasley, Vince Lombardi and Shawn Ward (late).  Also in attendance were:  Township Engineers Chris Walker and Matt Johnston, 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 agenda item 4a, Zoning Hearing Board Applications, will be heard after item 4d. 

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. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Mr. Johnston distributed a report dated 6/3/03 on current traffic-related projects, and highlighted a few items: 

·         #1 - The Closed Loop Maintenance Agreement was finalized by Pennoni Associates and is being reviewed by Township staff.

·         #19 - Orleans is overlaying the intersection of Newtown-Yardley Road and Penns Trail before installing the traffic light.

·         #9 - Pennoni Associates is putting together a memo for the Township regarding the dip in the intersection of Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads.  Several Commission members said the timing of the traffic light at this intersection causes significant delays for cars on Linton Hill Road, and the width of the intersection makes it difficult to make turns safely.  Frank Mendicino, a Township resident, suggested “straight-timing” the traffic light.

·         Stoopville Road Traffic Study - Mr. Johnston said he will obtain a copy of PennDOT’s 2000 traffic study of Stoopville Road for the Commission.  Mr. Ott said there is a lot of speeding on this road, and little enforcement; also, the speed limits vary too much along the road.   


FINAL PLAN - HOFFA TRACT - 90 EAGLE ROAD - TMP# 29-3-28, 29-3-28-3, 29-4-42, 29-4-44:  Michael Palmer of Toll Brothers, engineer James Tambourino and attorney Edward Murphy were present to discuss their proposal to subdivide a tract of 27.9394 acres in the R-1 District into 40 single-family lots.  Mr. Murphy said that Toll Brothers just received a letter from the Cliveden Homeowners Association which stated that Cliveden residents are not in favor of building a trail along the east side of Eagle Road.  They prefer to see it go down the west side; if it is on the east side, they prefer that the Township use the existing trail through Cliveden instead.  They also suggested that the pedestrian crossing be located further north, near Kuhar Way. 

Mr. Murphy said that the preliminary plan approval requires Toll Brothers to install a pedestrian-activated flashing light at the pedestrian crossing.  However, PennDOT has said it will not approve such a light.  PennDOT recommends striping of the road and signage. 

Abraham Levine, a resident of Cliveden, asked why the Township wants the trail on the east side.  Mr. Murphy said he believed the decision was made because of problems with right-of-way acquisition, grading, and drainage problems on the west side.  Mr. Levine asked who will maintain the trail; Mrs. Doorley said it will be the Township. 

Mr. Fidler said there are problems with installing the trail whether it is on the east side or west side of Eagle Road.  He said he has seen people walking on the shoulder of the road now, and he asked if pedestrians will take a trail that wanders through the Cliveden development. 

Mrs. Doorley said striping and signage are inadequate to protect pedestrians crossing Eagle Road, so she is not in favor of putting the trail on the east side.  Mr. Lombardi said the problems on the west side include the negative impact on three properties, as well as major drainage problems. 

Nancy Crescenzo, a Township resident, said she does not want to see the trail go through Cliveden because of liability concerns and problems with maintenance. 

Mr. Jirele said there are many destinations on the west side of Eagle Road, especially with the development of the Wohl Tract, and most of the people are on the east side, so a crossing makes sense. 

Mr. Tambourino said the present location of the crossing, at the entrance road to the proposed development (Alyssa Drive), is best because the sight distances are sufficient, and it is generally safer to cross a road at an intersection.  Mr. Ott suggested crossing Eagle Road below Alyssa Drive.  Several members said cars will be going faster at that point and will not be expecting pedestrians crossing the road. 

Mrs. Doorley asked if there are any other issues to be discussed.  Mr. Murphy said that the Boucher and James letter questions the use of Norway Maples and suggesting Red Maples or Sugar Maples instead.  Mr. Murphy said the applicant will comply with this recommendation.  

Mr. Murphy also said the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 5/6/03 asks for details of the railings to be installed between the trail and the road.  He said the applicant will comply with this and all other points in all the review letters. 

Mr. Ott asked for clarification of Item III E 13 in the Pennoni Associates letter, which recommends that the stop sign adjacent to the Alyssa Drive and Julianne Court street sign be removed.  Mr. Walker said there is adequate sight distance there and a stop sign is unnecessary.  However, the issue can be revisited before dedication. 

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for the Hoffa Tract, contingent on compliance with the Boucher and James letter of 5/13/03, the Pennoni Associates letter of 5/27/03, the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 5/6/03, and the terms of the preliminary plan approval of 4/24/03.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Lombardi suggested that the motion should reflect the Commission’s extended discussion of the trail issue.  Mr. Fidler said the synopsis and report to the Board will indicate what was considered in the discussion and the fact that the majority of the Commission felt the trail’s present location is the best of the options considered.  Mr. Sander said it should be clear that this is not being recommended as a condition of approval.  Mr. Kester said the motion should be amended to say the discussion was held, several options were considered, and the present location seems to be the best. 

Mr. Ward and Mrs. Beasley amended their motion to reflect members’ comments. 

Further Discussion:  Mr. Sensibaugh said he wants the trail to go down the west side, stop before the Milnor property, and connect with the Cliveden trail.   Mr. Sander said the substance of the discussion should be passed on to the Board of Supervisors; the Board needs to know the Commission discussed the impact on neighboring properties, safety issues, etc.    

Mr. Ward’s motion passed 8-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay”. 

REZONING PROPOSAL - ROBERTS NURSERY TRACT - NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD:  Mr. Fidler removed himself from the Commission for this item, since he is one of the applicants.  He and architect/planner Rob Dusak discussed their revised proposed JMZO amendment that would allow an accessory agricultural retail use (H-15) in the R-2 District. 

Mr. Fidler said the latest revision does not allow intensive agriculture.  Ms. Goldstein said the JMZO includes greenhouses in both A1 (Agriculture and Horticulture Use) and A2 (Intensive Agriculture Use).  Mr. Fidler noted that his greenhouses are not permanent structures, so he does not consider them intensive agriculture. 

Mr. Lombardi questioned the inclusion of the veterinary clinic as a new conditional use in the R-2 District.  Mr. Sensibaugh said he would prefer a revision that addresses only one use.   He said that taking references to the veterinary clinic use out will also eliminate all the issues about setbacks.  Mr. Fidler agreed to remove that element of his proposal. 

Ms. Goldstein asked if the agricultural portion of Mr. Fidler’s property will meet the requirement of no more than 35% impervious surface shown in the table in Section 405 B.  Mr. Fidler said that one SF of crushed stone is counted as .7 SF of impervious surface; the agricultural portion of his property will be 27% impervious. 

Mr. Lombardi referred to the same chart and asked about the 10 acre minimum gross site area specified.  He asked if the 10 acre minimum referred to the entire property, or just to the portion devoted to the accessory use.  Mr. Fidler said his intention was that the minimum refer to the entire property.  Mr. Sander referred to Section 405 H 2, and pointed out that a literal reading of the text indicates that the accessory use can be larger than the principle use.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that the last sentence be reworded so that the H-15 area cannot exceed 50% of the principle use.  Mr. Lombardi observed that this minimum required acreage will keep owners of small parcels from the agricultural retail use. 

Mr. Sander and Ms. Goldstein suggested several other changes in the wording of Section 405 H which would clarify and limit the definition of the H-15 Agricultural Retail Use, and Mr. Fidler agreed to make the changes.  Mr. Fidler stated that his intention is to sell lawn and garden supplies and equipment, to have a small café or snack bar in the garden center (not as a separate building), and to display some items directly in front of the building (not near the road frontage). 

Nancy Crescenzo said she would like to see the Township support family businesses like Mr. Fidler’s. 

Mr. Kester moved to table the issue of the proposed rezoning of the Roberts Nursery Tract until the applicant can return with a clean copy that reflects tonight’s discussion.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Dusak said he will confer with Mr. Sander and Ms. Goldstein before submitting the final revision to the Commission. 

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

INFORMAL DISCUSSION - STOCKBURGER PROPOSAL - BYPASS BUSINESS SITE:  George Stockburger IV and two associates were present to discuss their proposal to move the Stockburger auto dealership to an 11.5 acre site at Upper Silver Lake Road and the Bypass in the OR District.  Mr. Stockburger said his proposal would involve a revision of the ordinance to allow auto dealerships (Use E-11) in the OR District as a conditional use. 

Mr. Stockburger said he recently acquired the property on Sycamore Street on which his dealership is now situated.  His proposal includes demolishing the existing buildings on the Sycamore Street site and constructing new retail buildings.  His dealership would move to the Bypass property.  He said there has been a lot of emotional discussion in the community about his proposal, and he wanted to present the facts tonight. 

Mr. Stockburger distributed some materials, including sketches showing how the new buildings might look at both sites.  Commission members had some questions about how drainage and utility easements will be handled on the Sycamore Street site, and whether improvements could be coordinated with the Sycamore Street project.  Mr. Lombardi noted that the Sycamore Street project will begin within 90 days, so coordination with any improvements on the Stockburger site is unlikely. 

Mr. Stockburger said the two auto manufacturers he deals with require that he have separate showrooms, service departments, and other operations for each make of automobile.  He said permitting his dealership at this location will not turn the Bypass into Route 1, as many critics have said, because each franchise has a territory and other dealerships cannot trespass on it.   

Mrs. Doorley asked if a used car dealer could move onto the Bypass.  Mr. Stockburger said there is no more land available on the Bypass, but Mrs. Doorley said an existing business could fail; also, she is aware of other properties that are available.  Frank Mendicino said he knows of other dealerships which are interested in moving to the Bypass if this proposal is accepted.   Mr. Stockburger responded that the Board of Supervisors could control the influx of dealerships through the conditional use process which he is proposing. 

Mrs. Beasley said she would like to have all the facts before considering a recommendation about Mr. Stockburger’s proposal.  She asked that the Commission receive copies of all the court documents from 1998, when Mr. Stockburger appealed a Zoning Hearing Board decision which rejected a similar proposal.  She said she would like to see sketch plans for the proposed buildings.  She also said the neighboring communities should be involved in discussing this proposal as well. 

Mr. Ward said this proposal would lead to more dealerships on the Bypass, and he agreed with Mrs. Beasley’s request for the documents relating to legal decisions in 1998.  Mr. Sander said he will provide these documents, with a cover letter, to the Commission. 

Ms. Crescenzo said this is also a family-owned business, and she protested the unfair political lobbying about this proposal that occurred during the recent primary election. 

Mr. Fidler encouraged the Commission to look at all the facts carefully, since the Stockburger proposal may benefit the Township in some ways.  He assured Mr. Stockburger that he will get the same consideration from the Commission as Mr. Fidler has regarding his rezoning proposal discussed earlier tonight and at previous meetings. 

Mr. Stockburger asked if the Commission would like to see a draft ordinance as well as a sketch plan.  Mr. Sander said this would help the discussion.  Mr. Sander observed that Mr. Stockburger is not seeking a zoning change, but inclusion of a use that is described and provided for elsewhere in the JMZO. 


a.      #598-03 - FRIENDS VILLAGE - 331 LOWER DOLINGTON ROAD - TMP# 29-10-69-5-1:  Mr. Kester said he will abstain from voting on a recommendation on this application because of his close ties with Friends Village.  Commission members agreed they had no objection to the request for a special exception to expand a nonconforming use, but several members raised concerns about the request to permit 69 parking spaces where 79 are required.  The applicant stated in the request that many residents do not drive, but several members questioned this statement and also noted that visitors need parking as well.

      Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose the Friends Village request for relief of parking requirements.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed 4-3, with Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Ott and Mr. Fidler voting “nay”, and Mr. Kester abstaining.  

b.      #597-03 - WENHUA WANG & LIPING ZHOU - 329 CRITTENDEN DRIVE - TMP# 29-23-84:  Commission members agreed to make no comments on this application. 






MR. KESTER’S RETIREMENT:  Mr. Fidler suggested that the Commission request that the Board of Supervisors issue a proclamation honoring Mr. Kester for his service to the Township.  There was unanimous support for this suggestion. 

PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Mrs. Doorley said that the Durham Road Associates plan and the Hoffa Tract plan will need to be heard at the next Board of Supervisors meeting unless extensions are received. 

ADJOURNMENT:  Without objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:05 PM. 


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary