Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

November 18, 2003


APPROVAL OF MINUTES - MEETING OF 11/18/03:  Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of the 11/1803 meeting with one correction.  The following sentence should be added at the beginning of the first paragraph under Sketch Plan - Newtown Corporate Center:  “Mr. Fidler asked Secretary Vince Lombardi to chair this portion of the meeting because of a possible conflict of interest.”  The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Doorley, Mr. Ott and Mr. Dieterle abstaining.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, November 18, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: Vice-Chairman Allen Fidler; members Jay Sensibaugh, Frank Mendicino, Shawn Ward, Sue Beasley, and Vince Lombardi.  Also in attendance were:  Supervisor Raymond Goodnoe, Township Engineer Chris Walker, Township Solicitor Dave Sander, Township Planner Judy Goldstein, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. 

Vice Chairman Allen Fidler called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.  He announced that the preliminary plan and conditional use applications for Tudor Square Phase III, the preliminary plan for the Newtown Office Park, and the conditional use application for Pryda LLC were removed from the agenda at the request of the applicants. 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES - MEETING OF 10/21/03:  Mr. Ward moved to approve the minutes of the 10/21/03 meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously. 

Note:  The scheduled 11/4/03 meeting was canceled because of Election Day. 

REVIEWS 

PRD VARIANCE - CREIGHTON - 4 WILLOW COURT - TMP# 29-11-109:  Mr. and Mrs. Creighton and attorney Don Marshall were present to discuss their request for relief from the maximum impervious surface ratio and the minimum side yard setbacks.  The applicants propose the construction of a 26’ by 14’ two-story addition to their home in the R-1 District. 

Mr. Marshall explained that the final plan for the Newtown Crossing PRD was approved under the previous ordinance and required a maximum 30% impervious surface and a minimum 15’ side yard setback (minimum aggregate side yard setback of 30’).  He noted that the JMZO requires a maximum impervious surface of 25% and a minimum side yard setback of 15’ (no aggregate). 

Mr. Marshall stated that the Creightons’ property abuts an open space area and is on a narrow lot, so there is nowhere else for them to build the addition.  He said the request for 30.7% impervious surface assumes that an existing shed will be removed.  Mr. Marshall provided photographs of the existing house and letters from the three closest neighbors and the Newtown Crossing Homeowners Association stating that they have no objection to the variance request.  Mr. Sensibaugh said he lives a block away from this property and also has no objections to the request. 

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the Creightons’ PRD Variance request, subject to the condition that the applicants will provide documentation that the neighbors and the Homeowners Association do not object to the variance.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

SKETCH PLAN - NEWTOWN CORPORATE CENTER - BRANDYWINE REALTY TRUST - UPPER SILVER LAKE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-76:  Tony Rimikis and attorney Michael Coughlin were present to discuss their sketch of an alternative plan for an office complex on a 58.77 acre parcel in the OR District.  Mr. Coughlin explained that their original plan received preliminary approval and relief was obtained from the Zoning Hearing Board to allow a loop road through the complex to cross a floodplain on a bridge.  However, the Zoning Hearing Board decision was appealed by several nearby residents, and Judge Rubenstein reversed the decision.  Brandywine Realty Trust has now appealed the judge’s decision.  Mr. Coughlin said that the Board of Supervisors is also discussing amending the ordinance to allow some types of construction in a floodplain, although the Board voted to join the neighbors in upholding the present ordinance and opposing Brandywine’s appeal of Judge Rubenstien ‘s decision. 

Mr. Coughlin said that the alternative sketch plan complies with the present ordinance.  It eliminates the loop road and the bridge, and adds a cul-de-sac and two additional access driveways onto Upper Silver Lake Road. 

Mr. Sander said he drafted the ordinance referred to by Mr. Coughlin and sent it to FEMA for their review.  It has not been reviewed yet.  Mr. Coughlin commented that if Judge Rubenstein’s decision stands, it would prevent anyone from obtaining relief to build anything in a floodplain in the Township. 

Mr. Coughlin said the neighbors appealed the Zoning Hearing Board decision because they wanted a bridge that spanned the entire floodplain, which would have been too large for the site.  The neighbors claim that the bridge would cause flooding on their properties.  He said that Brandywine prefers the original plan and the loop road with the bridge, which he stated would not affect the neighbors adversely.  He said he expects that either Judge Rubenstein’s decision will be reversed or the ordinance will be amended, but Brandywine wanted to explore the alternative shown on the sketch plan.  Traffic studies have not been done yet. 

Several Commission members said they prefer the original plan and do not like the alternative plan, because the traffic impact of the three driveways accessing Upper Silver Lake Road will be significant. 

John Hitchner and Karen Zagnit, residents of Upper Silver Lake Road, were present and stated they opposed the design of the sketch plan because all traffic to and from the office complex will be accessing Upper Silver Lake Road.  Barry Hertzberg, president of the Kirkwood Homeowners Association, said his organization would actively oppose the sketch plan. 

Mr. Rimikis said the sketch plan conforms to the ordinance and the property is zoned for office use.  He explained that if Brandywine proceeds with this alternative plan, residents near the property will be notified of hearings and be given several opportunities to comment on it. 

Steve Goodman, a potential purchaser of a home on Autumn Drive, said he is concerned about the proximity of the access road to Autumn Drive.  Mr. Coughlin said that aspect of the sketch plan is the same as the plan which has received preliminary approval. 

Another resident of Upper Silver Lake Road expressed a concern that the additional driveways would cause flooding.  Mr. Rimikis said the development will improve existing problems with flooding in the area. 

Al and Susan Iazzatti and Mike Stanfield, residents of Upper Silver Lake Road, also stated their opposition to the sketch plan and their concerns about traffic problems associated with the access drives on Upper Silver Lake Road. 

Mr. Sander commented that if a plan meets all requirements of the ordinance the Township must approve it.  

CONDITIONAL USE - SOIL STRIPPING - PLATINUM EXECUTIVE SUITES (K.J. MED LLC) - 12 PENNS TRAIL - TMP# 29-10-87:  Karen Miller and general contractor Tom Borghese were present to discuss their plan to remove approximately 1,600 cubic yards of topsoil in conjunction with the construction of an addition to an existing building on a 2.298 acre parcel in the LI District. 

The 11/11/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Mr. Borghese stated that approximately 85 truck trips would be required.  There will be two employees per truck, and the hours of operation will be from 7:00 AM to dusk.  No hazardous materials or potential noxious environmental effects will be present.  Mr. Borghese stated that the project will comply with all requirements in the Boucher and James letter. 

Mr. Lombardi asked if the topsoil could be used by the Township.  Ms. Miller said she contacted Mr. Harwood and he declined the offer.  Mr. Harwood confirmed this. 

Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the G-15 conditional use application to remove approximately 1,600 cubic yards of topsoil, with the following conditions: 

·         Compliance with the 11/11/03 Boucher and James letter

·         There will be approximately 85 truck trips, with two employees per truck

·         Hours of operation will be 7:00 AM to dusk

·         The applicant will provide copies of the deed, the seeding and planting plan, and the Bucks County Soil Conservation District permit 

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

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIASION REPORTS 

·         Board of Supervisors - Mr. Goodnoe said the Board is considering the proposed 2004 budget.

·         Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission - Mr. Sensibaugh said the Regional Commission will meet 11/19/03.

·         Sycamore Street Committee - Mr. Lombardi reported that the Committee is waiting to hear about state funds for the balance of the overage on the bidding.

·         Historic Architectural Review Board - Mr. Lombardi reported that HARB met 11/11/03 and had a lengthy discussion of the Pryda project.

·         Plan Expirations - Mr. Fidler said attorney Don Marshall will provide extensions on the Newtown-Yardley Road Associates plans, and Mr. Sander said Pryda LLC has provided an extension to 12/10/03.  Mr. Harwood confirmed that there are no plan extensions requiring Township action. 

CORRESPONDENCE:  

PRIOR TO THE MEETING: In addition to the items discussed at the meeting, Commission members received copies of a 11/7/03 memo from Mr. Pellegrino regarding the TIP program and a 10/29/03 memo from Mr. Pellegrino inviting members to the 11/11/03 meeting of the Economic Development Commission. 

DISTRIBUTED AT THE MEETING:  Commission members present received copies of the minutes of the Park and Recreation Board’s 10/1/03 meeting and 12/3/03 agenda. 

OLD BUSINESS:  None. 

NEW BUSINESS 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ZONING CHANGES IN THE LI AND O-LI DISTRICTS:  The Commission discussed Mr. Pellegrino’s 11/13/03 memo on the recommendations at length.  Several members of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) were present and participated in the discussion.  Mr. Fidler, who is also on the EDC, said that several Planning Commission members attended the 11/12/03 EDC meeting at which the recommendations were approved.  Ms. Goldstein said she gathered data and attended two meetings of the EDC; her memos of 11/10/03 and 11/11/03 are attached to Mr. Pellegrino’s memo. 

Mr. Mendicino said he is interested in exploring some innovative stormwater management techniques that were mentioned at the EDC meeting.  Mr. Fidler said he recently attended a seminar on this subject.  Ms. Goldstein described some of the techniques and said they are intended to retain water on site longer than more traditional ways of handling stormwater. 

Mr. Ward asked about new types of pervious paving.  Mr. Fidler said it is not affected by cold weather, but regular cleaning is very important.   Mr. Lombardi commented that none of these ideas are incorporated in the EDC recommendations. 

Jim Worthington, a member of the EDC, said the EDC considered these recommendations to be just a beginning, but they are interested in taking action as soon as possible.  

Mr. Ward said he is concerned about the traffic impact of the proposed maximum impervious surface of 65%.  He asked if municipalities with higher maximum impervious surface ratios tend to be close to major highways; Ms. Goldstein said there did not seem to be a correlation. 

Mr. Mendicino said he is concerned because there is no plan for dealing with the impact of the recommendations.  Mr. Fidler said he empathizes with the property owners, but feels that traffic impact and stormwater management needs to be studied. 

Douglas Terry, a member of the EDC, presented some preliminary data about the O-LI and the LI Districts.  He said that the O-LI District is just under 24 acres.  His analysis indicates that if it is built out for office use with the present 50% impervious surface limit about 126,000 SF can be built on.  If it is built out with 65% impervious surface an additional 25,000 SF could be built on and 101 parking spaces would be added.  He said the LI District is about 246 acres.  If it is built out for office use with the present 60% impervious surface about 1,404,000 SF can be built on.  If it is built out with 65% impervious surface, an additional 66,000 SF could be built on and 270 parking spaces would be added. 

Mr. Mendicino said permitting medical uses in the LI District would be a problem because they generate a high volume of traffic and require more parking.  Mr. Terry said some space in the LI is devoted to warehouse use, which has low traffic and parking impact, and this will balance out the medical uses.  He said that approximately 400,000 SF of space in the LI District is currently vacant. 

Gail Laughlin, a Township resident, asked how much green space would be lost if the recommendations were implemented.  Mr. Terry said about 19 additional acres would be covered. 

Mr. Fidler said he would like to see a more comprehensive analysis of the impact of these recommendations, and he did not believe that the Planning Commission can made a recommendation without such an analysis.  Other Commission members agreed with this statement. 

Mr. Worthington said his understanding from discussions at the EDC meetings was that the Township wanted to act quickly on these recommendations, and he was disappointed by the Planning Commission’s response.

Mr. Fidler said Planning Commission members agreed with the need to act expeditiously, but an in-depth study would be the next step.  He suggested that the Planning Commission meet at 7:00 PM before their next three regular meetings to consider each recommendation, and that the Engineer and the Planner be asked to gather and analyze information for the Commission.  The parameters of the study would be set at the first meeting.   

Commission members agreed with Mr. Fidler’s suggestion.  Mr. Sensibaugh said he would like to see an analysis of the benefits of each recommendation as part of the process.  Mr. Lombardi commented that other studies have already collected much of the data needed for this process.  Mr. Terry said he will attend the meetings and will provide further data to the Commission.  The meetings will be 12/2/03, 12/16/03, and 1/6/04. 

Mr. Goodnoe said many properties in the Newtown Business Commons have no stormwater management facilities at all, so the situation will be improved on those parcels. 

Mr. Fidler said he will ask the Board of Supervisors to support the Commission’s plan and to fund some consultation by the Planner and the Engineer when he reports at the Board’s 11/19/03 meeting.  He noted that the Chairperson is out of the country and will need to concur with this plan. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  None. 

ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:05 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

 ____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary