Planning Commission Minutes
September 2, 2003
APPROVAL OF MINUTES - MEETING OF 9/2/03: Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 9/2/03 meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, September 2, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley; Members Allen Fidler, Frank Mendicino, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Bob Dieterle, Sue Beasley, and Vince Lombardi. Also in attendance were: Supervisor Raymond Goodnoe, Township Engineers Chris Walker and Phil Wursta, Township Solicitor Tom Smith, Township Planner Judy Goldstein, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood.
Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM. Mrs. Doorley announced that the Traffic Engineer’s report will be presented with the discussion of the Regional and local TIPs under Old Business.
MINUTES - MEETING OF 8/5/03: Mr. Ott moved to approve the minutes of 8/5/03 with the following amendments:
1. Under Park and Recreation Board liaison report, the second paragraph should read: “Mr. Fidler expressed concern that the Commission had not heard from the Park and Recreation Board about any plans for the Woll Tract. With further discussion it was ascertained that Public Works had activated the temporary construction access from Route 413. Mr. Ott said…”
2. Under Member Comments, the first sentence of the fourth paragraph should read: “Mrs. Doorley said that she reported to the Board of Supervisors that a resident asked the Commission to discuss a possible Board liaison to the Commission, and she asked Mr. Ward to apologize for his comments following her report, which he did.”
3. Under Member Comments, the second and third sentences of the fifth paragraph should read: “It was agreed that a Commission member speaking about a matter discussed at a Commission meeting should identify themselves as a Commission member and should note if their opinion is different from the majority opinion on the issue. A member expressing a personal opinion about any matter should identify themselves as a Township resident.”
4. Mr. Sander’s name is misspelled in several places.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
MINUTES - MEETING OF 8/19/03: Mr. Ott moved to approve the minutes of the 8/19/03 meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
PRELIMINARY PLAN - FRIENDS VILLAGE - 331 DOLINGTON ROAD - TMP# 29-10-69-5-1: Attorney Don Marshall, Engineer W. Moonlight Tong, Architect Constance Lezenby and Will Bowers of Friends Village were present to discuss their proposal to build a 3,200 SF three-unit multi-family building for elderly housing on a 7.02 acre parcel in the R-1 District. There are four existing buildings on this parcel. Several other changes to the site are proposed, including a perimeter walking path, additional parking, a stormwater seepage pit, and replacement of the patios for most of the existing buildings.
Mr. Marshall stated that Friends Village has obtained a special exception to expand the nonconforming use and a variance to allow 69 parking spaces instead of the required 79 spaces. He said the average age of the residents is 85; very few of them drive, and there are seldom more than 20 cars in the parking lot.
The 7/29/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed. Mr. Marshall said the applicant will comply with all points except the following:
A 6 b - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will request a waiver of the requirement for curbing in the parking lot area.
A 6 c - Mr. Marshall said parking in the front yard is an existing nonconformity, so no variance is required, according to Section 1208 B of the ordinance. This section states that a nonconforming structure may be extended along the existing nonconforming building line as long as the extension is no closer to the side, rear or front boundary line than the existing nonconforming structure. Ms. Goldstein questioned whether a parking lot is a structure. She said the applicant is adding two spaces, and therefore increasing the nonconformity.
Several Commission members said they did not object to the location of the parking lot, but they asked for a clarification of the ordinance from the Solicitor. Mr. Smith said the Solicitor does not have an adjudicatory role. He said Mr. Harwood should make a determination of whether a parking lot is a structure; if the applicant disagrees with his opinion they can appeal it to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Harwood said a parking lot is a structure as defined by the ordinance. Mr. Marshall said that when the ordinance is ambiguous, decisions should favor the applicant.
B 2 b - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will seek a waiver to allow an aerial photo instead of showing existing features on the plan.
B 2 f - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will seek a waiver of the required traffic study, since there will be very little traffic impact from this project.
B 6 - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will seek a waiver of the requirement for curbing along Lower Dolington Road.
B 7 - Mr. Marshall said the perimeter path satisfies the requirement for sidewalks. He agreed that the public will be allowed to access the path, and openings in the fence will be added to the plan.
B 10 - Mr. Marshall said the Park and Recreation Board recommended a waiver of fees if the perimeter path is open to the public.
The 7/30/03 letter from Pennoni Associates was reviewed, and the following issues not covered in the review of the Boucher and James letter were discussed:
III A 1 - Mr. Walker said the plan calls for the removal of several large pine trees. He said this may make the proposed new lighting unnecessary, but also may make it necessary to shield the existing lights. Ms. Tong said she will look at saving at least some of the pine trees.
III A 7 - Ms. Tong said the buffer between the parking lot and the street will be augmented while still providing clear sight triangles. Ms. Goldstein suggested the applicant try to save some of the trees and put denser plants in the buffer. Mr. Marshall said these issues will be addressed.
III B 16 - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will seek a waiver to allow a parking lot within 20 feet of Building C.
III D 45 - Mr. Marshall said the applicant will seek a waiver to allow a building length to height ratio greater than 5:1.
III E 50 - Mr. Marshall said the plan will show concrete stop bumpers in the parking lot.
Mr. Lombardi asked what the Fire Marshal’s concerns were. Mr. Harwood said he will discuss this question with the Fire Marshal.
Mr. Walker distributed copies of an 8/13/03 letter from the Country Bend Homeowners Association which was faxed to his office today. The letter asked that the buffering of the new building and the parking lot be augmented, that a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the property be replaced or eliminated, and that the applicant agree to rectify any damage done to the properties in the Country Bend development during construction. Bonnie Larzelere and Steve Seltzer, officers of the Homeowners Association, were present and asked to have their concerns addressed. Mrs. Doorley said the concerns in the letter are not within the purview of the Planning Commission. Mr. Marshall said he will meet with the Homeowners Association and resolve the issues, but he could state immediately that the applicant will comply with the third request.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the preliminary plan for Friends Village, subject to compliance with the 7/30/03 Pennoni Associates letter, the 7/29/03 Boucher & James letter, the 8/6/03 Bucks County Planning Commission letter, the 8/13/03 Conservation District letter, and the 8/4/03 Fire Marshal letter. Further, the Commission recommends granting of the following waivers regarding the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance:
1. Section 402 3 b & c - to allow an aerial photograph instead of showing existing features on the plan
2. Section 516 - to waive the requirement for curbing and curb gutters on Lower Dolington Road
3. Section 535.7 - to allow a building length to height ratio other than 5:1
4. Section 402.5 - to waive a traffic study
5. Section 514.9 - to allow parking within 20’ of Building C
The Commission further recommends that a waiver of Section 517 (sidewalks) be granted, provided that notes are placed on the plan granting access easements to the Township for the perimeter walkway and permitting public access.
The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously.
REGIONAL TIP SUBMISSION: Mr. Fidler said the Board of Supervisors asked the Commission to prioritize the four recommended projects, to discuss how language about traffic-calming can be added to the Stoopville project, and to clarify the reference to “construction of a park” in the rail revitalization project.
Sue Herman of Residents for Regional Traffic Solutions was present and gave Mr. Lombardi some materials about traffic-calming from a PennDOT publication. Mr. Lombardi said Lower Makefield made some recommendations for traffic-calming measures on Lindenhust Road; he suggested the Township could use similar language regarding Stoopville Road.
Traffic Engineer Phil Wursta said that in general, PennDOT is not receptive to proposals for traffic-calming measures, particularly for roads like Stoopville Road, where the state does not want a 25 MPH speed limit. PennDOT’s priority is to move traffic over roads efficiently. Mr. Wursta said that once the project is accepted, specifics can be added; if they are added now, they will only give PennDOT more reasons to reject the proposal.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked if rumble strips would be appropriate on Stoopville Road; several members said there would be problems with noise in residential areas. Mr. Lombardi asked if narrowing lanes with painted lines could be considered. Mr. Wursta said paint and the addition of street trees can be helpful “safety improvements.” He added that he will contact Lower Makefield to find out what they are proposing for Lindenhurst Road.
Mr. Mendicino said in his experience, Mr. Wursta is right about not putting too many specifics in the TIP proposal. Mr. Wursta said the proposal could be submitted with references to some standard PennDOT design practices, such as lane delineations, raised pavement markers, and pedestrian crosswalks.
After some discussion, Commission members prioritized and clarified the recommended projects as follows:
1. Safety Improvements to Stoopville Road (could include measures that have a traffic-calming effect under “safety improvements”)
2. Newtown-Yardley Road Corridor Improvements
3. TEA21 Trail #3
4. Newtown Rail Line Reactivation (should refer to “construction of a park and ride lot”)
Mr. Fidler said there were no Planning Commission members present when the Board of Supervisors discussed the Commission’s recommendations for the TIP. He suggested that the Board’s agenda might be reconfigured so that items on which the Commission might have some helpful input, including land development items, are taken up at the time of the Commission’s report.
Mr. Wursta agreed to present the Commission’s TIP recommendations and to answer questions on them at the 9/10/03 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Commission members agreed that it will be very important to have Township representation at state and local meetings on the TIP. They recommended that this include a Supervisor, an administrative staff person, the Traffic Engineer, and two members of the Commission (one of whom is a member of the TIP subcommittee). Mr. Wursta recommended that the Township coordinate with other municipalities with related proposals. For instance, the Township should make sure that the realignment of the Washington Crossing and Stoopville Roads intersection is also on the Lower Makefield TIP. He also said the Township will have very little time to present each of their projects to the State Transportation Commission, so preparation is important.
Regarding the TEA21 Trail #3 proposal, members suggested that the proposed route be expanded to include some of the proposed route of Trail #2 (which was never built). Mr. Wursta observed that PennDOT is more interested in trails that connect state parks and rail hubs than in trails that connect neighborhoods.
LOCAL TIP: Mr. Wursta said the subcommittee that met in August recommended development of a local TIP list that includes projects that do not fit the criteria for the Regional list but are important to keep in mind. He pointed out that two of the projects are included in Regional TIP Project #2, Corridor Improvements on Newtown-Yardley Road. Mr. Ott noted that one local project, Improvements to Lower Dolington Road, is already being addressed by the Township Engineer; Commission members agreed this project also can be removed from the local TIP.
Mr. Harwood suggested putting improvements to Wrights Road and Twining Bridge Road on the local TIP list. Mr. Wursta said that there are other sources of funds for road maintenance projects like the repairs needed on Wrights Road. Commission members agreed to add Improvements to Twining Bridge Road to the local TIP list, since that involves more than routine road maintenance.
The two projects remaining on the list are:
1. Swamp Road and Eagle Road Intersection Improvement - new curbing, drainage and channelization, removal of right turn lane on Swamp Road.
2. Improvements to Twining Bridge Road.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the Commission review the local TIP list every six months and update it with new ideas and with information from the Public Works Department. He said he will ask the Economic Development Committee for suggestions of projects.
Mr. Lombardi said the annual meetings of the Traffic Impact Fee Committee are an opportunity to discuss Township roads and intersections. He asked if a new Traffic Impact study will be done in 2004. Mr. Fidler said the Board of Supervisors will determine this.
LOWER MAKEFIELD COMPREHENSIVE MASTER PLAN UPDATE: Ms. Goldstein reviewed her 8/11/03 memo, which had been distributed prior to the 8/19/03 meeting. She said she focused on the areas of Lower Makefield that border the Township, where much of Lower Makefield’s developable land is located. Some of this land is labeled as “Agricultural Security” areas, but the term is not defined.
Ms. Goldstein said she found the Plan Update generally consistent with Newtown Township’s Comprehensive Plan. One inconsistency is in the area north of the Bypass along Lindenhurst Road, where the Newtown Township part is zoned Office Research and the Lower Makefield part is Low Density Residential/Farmland Preservation.
Ms. Goldstein said that the most important areas in which Newtown and Lower Makefield should coordinate their planning are trails and traffic issues.
NEWTOWN BUSINESS COMMONS ZONING AMENDMENTS: Commission members received copies of an 8/26/03 memo from Mr. Pellegrino which included some recommendations for zoning amendments regarding parking requirements and impervious surface in the LI and O-LI Districts from the Economic Development Committee (EDC). Ms. Goldstein said the EDC is also discussing some recommendations regarding permitted uses in these districts. Mr. Fidler said he has some concerns about the impact of increased impervious surface ratios on stormwater management. Ms. Goldstein noted that the increase would be permitted only if all other zoning requirements are met.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS
PARK AND RECREATION BOARD: Mr. Ott said there was a long discussion at the last Park and Recreation Board meeting about the planning process for recreational facilities. There were three Supervisors present at the meeting. Mr. Ott said the Park and Recreation Board may appoint a liaison to the Planning Commission, although he does not feel that is necessary. Mrs. Doorley said it would be helpful for the Commission to receive a letter from the Park and Recreation Board when they make a recommendation about a land development plan.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mrs. Doorley said the 413 Office Center plan will expire at the end of September, and the D’Arcangelo subdivision is scheduled for the next Board of Supervisors meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:05 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary