Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

August 19, 2003


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, August 19, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Vice-Chairman Allen Fidler; members Frank Mendicino, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Bob Dieterle, Sue Beasley, Shawn Ward and Vince Lombardi.  Also in attendance were:  Township Engineer Chris Walker, Township Solicitor Dave Sander and Township Planner Judy Goldstein. 

Vice-Chairman Allen Fidler called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.  Mr. Fidler announced that Supervisor Raymond Goodnoe, recently appointed as liaison to the Planning Commission, had an unexpected medical procedure this afternoon and is not able to attend the meeting tonight. 

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (8/5/03):  Approval was deferred to the next meeting to allow time to consult tapes (if possible) or notes from the meeting.  Questions were raised about Mr. Fidler’s statements about the Park and Recreation Board, the discussion of Commission members’ comments at meetings of the Board of Supervisors, and how a liaison with the Board of Supervisors was requested.  The recording secretary will research these questions and bring the results to the next meeting. 

PRELIMINARY PLAN FOR MINOR SUBDIVISION - D’ARCANGELO - WASHINGTON CROSSING ROAD - TMP# 29-10-13.1:  Michael D’Arcangelo and engineer Robert Pelke, PLS, were present to discuss their proposal to subdivide an 11.4 acre parcel in the CM District into two residential lots.  The property has no existing buildings or improvements.  Lot 1 will be three acres, and a 4,800 SF dwelling will be constructed on it.  Lot 2 will be 4.7987 acres, and a 2,400 SF dwelling is to be constructed on it.  The property fronts on Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads. 

Mrs. Beasley noted that a resident, Mr. Kotay, had asked earlier to be kept informed of the review process for this project.  Mrs. Beasley said she spoke with him recently, and he is satisfied with the information the applicant has provided to him. 

Mr. Pelke said four utility easements will cross the property; with the proposed subdivision, all four will be on Lot 2.  He said that both houses will be located north of the easements, and that public water service and on-site septic systems are planned. 

The Pennoni Associates review letter of7/23/03 was reviewed.  The applicant agreed to comply with or to seek waivers for most points; the following issues were discussed in detail: 

Point III A 1:  Mr. Walker explained that the project does not fit the definition of a minor subdivision in either the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) or the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SLDO) because there is a new easement across Lot 2 for water service.  Mrs. Beasley said there is a public water line along Washington Crossing Road that would eliminate the need for the easement; Mr. Pelke said this water line did not appear on the map he consulted.  He agreed to research this question. 

Point III A 2:  Mr. Walker said the base site area calculations did not include the area of the Sun Oil Company easement.  Mr. Pelke explained that Sun has a blanket easement on the property, and the dimensions of the easement are not stated anywhere.  He has been trying to get such a statement from the company, with no success so far.  Ms. Goldstein said that if the easement runs over the whole property, the applicant theoretically has hardly any buildable area.  Mr. Sander said the applicant may need Zoning Hearing Board relief if this cannot be resolved. 

Point III A 15:  Mr. Walker noted that the applicant is requesting a waiver from the requirement for sidewalks on Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads.  Mr. Lombardi suggested that the applicant provide easements to the Township along those roads so that sidewalks can be built in the future if the Township deems them desirable; Mr. Pelke agreed with this suggestion. 

Point III A 18:  Mr. Walker said the applicant has submitted a planning module for the sewage systems.  He suggested that the applicant research alternative sites for the sand mounds in case the ones shown on the plan are not suitable. 

The 7/8/03 review letter from Boucher & James was reviewed.  Mr. Pelke said the applicant will comply with all points in the letter.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that she meet with the applicant at the site and determine whether the small area of trees referred to in Point A 2 a qualifies as woodlands. 

Mr. Pelke stated that the applicant will comply with the 7/9/03 Bucks County Planning Commission letter and the 8/7/03 Bucks County Conservation District letter. 

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant preliminary plan approval for the minor subdivision, subject to the following conditions: 

1. Compliance with the 7/23/03 Pennoni Associates letter, with the following comments:

·         Regarding III A 1 - If possible, the applicant will eliminate the easement needed for accessing public water by connecting with a water line on Washington Crossing Road.  If this is not possible, the Commission supports the granting of a waiver of the definition of a minor subdivision in the ordinance.

·         Regarding III A 2 - The applicant shall obtain a right-of-way agreement with the Sun Oil Company, describing the dimensions of their easement in order to calculate the base site area.

·         Regarding III B 9 - The applicant will show trees near the basin and the blanket easement for the pipeline as part of the existing features on the plan. 

·         Regarding III B 15 - The applicant will provide an easement to the Township along Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads for future sidewalks. 

2. Compliance with the 7/8/03 Boucher & James letter. 

3. Compliance with the 7/9/03 Bucks County Planning Commission letter. 

4. Compliance with the 8/7/03 Bucks County Conservation District letter. 

5. Further, the Commission supports granting the following waivers:

·         Section 504.17 - Road improvements on Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads

·         Section 516 - Curbs on both roads

·         Section 525.2 - To allow on-site septic systems instead of connecting with an existing sewer line within 1,000 feet of the site

·         Section 517  - Sidewalks along street frontages

·         Section 402 b & c - To allow an aerial photo in place of existing features on the plan

·         Section 508.5 - Relief from the requirement that all lots abutting collector streets have frontage on a marginal access street

·         Section 519.4  - To allow lot lines not at right angles to the street line 

The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh. 

Discussion of motion:  Roger Taylor, a resident of Washington Crossing Road and an engineer, was present and asked to comment.  He said he is concerned about whether there is adequate sight distance where a driveway enters Washington Crossing Road.  Mr. Walker said that the applicant must prove the sight distance is adequate in order to comply with several points in his review letter.  He said that the applicant will also need to prove this in order to obtain a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT. 

Mr. Taylor also raised a question about the detention basin.  He suggested that more of the property would drain into the basin if it were located somewhat west of its proposed location.  Commission members said this move would disturb more woodlands and possibly interfere with the Sun Oil pipeline.  Mr. Walker noted that the basin may have to be enlarged to comply with his review letter (Point III A 22). 

Mr. Ward’s motion passed unanimously. 

DISCUSSION - WOLL TRACT - DURHAM ROAD:  Joel Grasso and Michael Clancy of the Park and Recreation Board were present to discuss the planning process for a new Township park on the 37 acre Woll Tract on Durham Road.  They provided a draft timeline and some background information on the proposed park, including relevant excerpts from the Recreation and Open Space Master Plan.  Mr. Fidler said the issue of the access road onto Durham Road, which was discussed at the last Planning Commission meeting, was clarified by Mr. Pellegrino’s 8/13/03 memo. 

Mr. Clancy said he and Mr. Grasso asked to meet with the Commission to bring members up to date on preliminary plans for the park, and to get advice on when the Commission should be involved with the planning process.  He said the Park and Recreation Board intends to make this a first class recreational facility for Township residents. 

Several Commission members suggested the Board bring a sketch plan to the Commission before substantial expenditures for engineering services are made.  They mentioned that the Commission will be interested in looking at such issues as the intensity of development, access, lighting and the facilities to be installed.  Mr. Fidler suggested that Commission members be invited to attend the Park and Recreation Board meetings at which plans for the park are reviewed; when a sketch plan is developed, the Board should bring it to the Planning Commission.   

Mr. Lombardi asked about the status of the access to the Woll Tract from Eagle Road; he recalled that it was part of a stipulation agreement with Elliott Building Group.  Mr. Sander said he will research the stipulation and report to the Commission.  Mr. Clancy said his understanding has always been that the access from Eagle Road is for emergency use only. 

Mr. Mendicino said he is concerned about having regular traffic on the access between the two nearby schools during school hours, because this might provide easy access to the school children for a predator.  Mrs. Beasley said the same situation exists at Roberts Ridge Park; Mr. Mendicino said he was not happy about that situation either. 

Mr. Fidler said the Commission does not want to micromanage the project, but to participate in planning discussions.  He stated it would be good for the Planning Commission to have input before a lot of money is spent on consultants.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that when the Board brings a sketch to the Commission it should be more of a workshop meeting than a review. 

Mr. Grasso said the Park and Recreation Board has been uncertain about where the Planning Commission fits into the planning process.  He asked if the Park and Recreation Board should meet with the Commission before meeting with the Board of Supervisors.  Several Commission members said they should. 

Mrs. Beasley suggested that the Park and Recreation Board look into other municipalities’ experience with lighting issues, as this is often a major concern of nearby residents. 

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS:  The Commission reviewed three applications scheduled for the next meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board.  Mr. Fidler said that the Board of Supervisors asked that the Commission comment only on those applications that they think relate to major issues.  

Petito - #595-03:  No comments. 

Wahrhaftig - #609-03:  The applicant, Eric D. Wahrhaftig, was present for this discussion.  He indicated he was not sure the use he is requesting is appropriate.  His request to the Zoning Hearing Board is to allow a C-3 Commercial School Use, which is not permitted in the PC District.  Mr. Sander asked if Athletic Facility Use, which is permitted by conditional use, would be more appropriate.  Mr. Sander agreed to find out what uses similar facilities like the Little Gym and the Center Club have, and to get back to Mr. Wahrhaftig as soon as possible. 

Newtown-Yardley Road Associates - #608-03:  Several members said they feel the relief sought in this application is excessive, and the applicant is creating the hardship because he is planning too many buildings for the site.  

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose this application, on the grounds that the relief sought is excessive and the applicant has created the hardship, and to recommend that the Board send the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board meeting to defend the ordinance.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh. 

Discussion of motion:  Mr. Ott said the Board of Supervisors is not willing to send the Solicitor in most cases, and he felt the Zoning Hearing Board can handle this issue.  Mr. Mendicino said the applicant is a major political contributor.  He said he feels the Commission should go on record as saying that they feel the relief being sought is excessive, regardless of whether the Board chooses to oppose it or not.  Mr. Sensibaugh and Mrs. Beasley said it should not matter who the applicant is.  

Mr. Dieterle said there is no objective definition of what is excessive relief, and he feels the Commission is sometimes inconsistent.  Mr. Ward said he does not remember ever supporting an increase in impervious surface of this size, especially in a highly visible location like Newtown-Yardley Road. 

Mr. Ward’s motion passed 6-2, with Mr. Dieterle and Mrs. Beasley voting “nay”. 


BUCKS COUNTY TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM:  Traffic Engineer Phil Wursta was present to discuss the recommendations of the subcommittee appointed by the Commission at the 8/5/03 meeting. 

Mr. Fidler said the subcommittee met twice.  Richard Brahler of the Bucks County Planning Commission advised them to propose a maximum of three projects, since funding is very tight this year for the TIP. 

Mr. Wursta explained that each municipality submits several projects to the Bucks County Planning Commission, which ranks them and submits a list to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which in turn sends its recommendations to PennDOT.  Mr. Wursta said the Bucks County Planning Commission  expects that only three projects will be funded in all of Bucks County.  Mr. Brahler recommended that the Township offer local matching funds to make the projects more competitive, and that the Township look to other funding sources for small projects (under $200,000).

Mr. Wursta said the subcommittee developed three lists: 

1.      A list of Township projects that have been funded, through the TIP or by some other means.

2.      The previous County TIP list which they pared down to four projects.

3.      A running list of capital improvement projects that don’t fit TIP specifications but are good ideas and should be kept in mind.  He added that this list is different from the Traffic Impact Fee Committee’s capital improvement program. 

Commission members were provided with copies of the three lists in their packets.  Mr. Wursta said the four projects proposed for submission to the County are not in priority order.  He and others commented on them as follows: 

1.      Stoopville Road Rehabilitation – Safety improvements along the length of Stoopville Road, realignment of the intersection of Stoopville Road and Route 532.  Mr. Wursta said standard PennDOT safety improvement measures would be recommended, to dovetail with the improvements being made by the McLaughlin project.  He would like to see right turns from Route 532 onto Stoopville Road slowed down.  Some intersections will eventually warrant a signal; the intersection with Eagle Road seems adequate now with a flashing light.  Mr. Ott mentioned that he received a copy of the wrong PennDOT study for Stoopville Road; he had requested the Stoopville Road Safety and Engineering Study done in 2002.  He asked Mr. Wursta to look into this request.

2.      TEA21 Recreational Trail #3 – Construction of recreational trail connecting the Neshaminy Creek Dam area of Tyler State Park with the BCCC, Swamp Road Park and the Schofield Covered Bridge to the north.  Mrs. Beasley said there is a Trail #2 on the trail map but not yet funded or built.  Mr. Fidler said the advantage of the Trail #3 proposal is that it goes through a state park, which is more attractive to state funding sources.  Mr. Ward suggested adding Trail #2 to the local TIP list.

3.      Newtown-Yardley Road Corridor Improvements – Widen Newtown-Yardley Road to a five-lane cross-section to provide better access to and from the business park.  Mr. Lombardi said this will facilitate access to and awareness of the Newtown Business Commons, and involves more than just intersections.  Mr. Fidler said the Township could ask the Economic Development Committee and the Redevelopment Authority to support this project.  Mrs. Beasley asked if the same kind of project could be proposed for Penns Trail.  Mr. Lombardi said there does not seem to be enough room where Penns Trail meets the Bypass to do anything substantial.

4.      Newtown Rail Line Reactivation – Rehabilitation and electrification of the R8 line portion in Bucks County, furnishing of rolling stock, and construction of a park near the Newtown Bypass.  Mr. Wursta said light rail service, not a real commuter train line, is envisioned.  He said it is important to keep this concept before the state so that the right-of-way is not lost to trails or some other use.  Mr. Sensibaugh asked if reactivation could benefit the Newtown Business Commons.  Ms. Goldstein said it could if there was a shuttle from the train to the Commons. 

Mr. Fidler said this list needs to be referred to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration.  He suggested that the Commission review the local TIP list developed by the subcommittee at the first meeting in September.  Mr. Lombardi noted that the Commission should also look at whether traffic impact fees need to be evaluated this year. 

Mr. Mendicino said it will be important to have Township representation at meetings of the Bucks County Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission at which the TIP is discussed.  Mr. Wursta said he will provide the Commission with the schedule of meetings. 

Mrs. Beasley said the intersection of Route 532 and Stoopville Road referred to in Project #1 is in more than one Township.  Mr. Fidler said Mr. Brahler felt that was not a problem.  Mrs. Beasley also asked that the church near the intersection be notified of possible major road improvements there; Mr. Fidler said he will speak with the Pastor. 

Ron Thornburg, a resident of Eagleton Farms, asked for details about Project #1, and how it addresses Eagleton Farms’ request for traffic-calming measures.  Mr. Wursta said details are not usually provided in a TIP submission, so that the Township will not be locked into specifics.  He said PennDOT is more likely to fund safety improvements like traffic signals than traffic-calming measures like humps or narrowing.


Sue Herman, a resident of Lower Makefield and president of Residents for Regional Traffic Solutions, said she is concerned about the vagueness of the Project #1 description.  She said it sounds as if the Township is encouraging speeding and truck traffic.  She complained that the Township is not listening to the residents, and has not responded to the Eagleton Farms resolution presented several weeks ago to the Board of Supervisors.  

Mr. Lombardi asked if some general language about traffic-calming could be added to the description of Project #1.  Mr. Wursta said this can be done, as long as humps and other specific measures are not mentioned. 

Mrs. Beasley moved to accept the recommendations of the subcommittee regarding the Township’s TIP submission, and to recommend that the Township have representation at meetings of the Bucks County Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission at which the TIP is discussed.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously. 

PENNDOT DETOUR SIGNS:  Mr. Sander noted that Andrew Warren will be attending the next Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss PennDOT’s placement of detour signs in the Township.  

LOWER MAKEFIELD TOWNSHIP COMPREHENSIVE PLAN UPDATE:  Commission members received copies of Ms. Goldstein’s report in their packets.  Due to the late hour, discussion of the report was postponed to the next meeting. 


PLAN EXPIRATIONS:  Mr. Sander said there are no plan expirations needing to be addressed by the Commission. 

TOLL BROTHERS PLAN FOR FROST-WATSON SITE (NEWTOWN BOROUGH):  Mr. Fidler said he attended Toll Brothers’ presentation to the Borough on 8/18/03 about their proposed condominium community on the Frost-Watson site.  He reported that no formal recommendation was made.  The Borough Planning Commission requested a copy of the Wiltshire Walk traffic study that was submitted to the Township. 

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


Respectfully Submitted,



Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary