Planning Commission Minutes
December 2, 2003
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (12/2/03): Mr. Ward moved to approve the minutes of the 12/2/03 meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, December 2, 2003, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairperson Karen Doorley; members Allen Fidler, Jay Sensibaugh, Frank Mendicino, Shawn Ward, Sue Beasley, Bob Dieterle, Jim Ott, 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.
Chairperson Karen Doorley called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM for a special session to discuss the recommendations of the Economic Development Commission.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ZONING CHANGES IN THE LI AND O-LI DISTRICTS: Douglas Terry, a member of the Economic Development Committee (EDC), provided several pages of data on existing vacancies, parking facilities and impervious surface in the LI and O-LI Districts. He stated that there are six vacant parcels in the LI District. With the present 60% impervious maximum (by conditional use), 128,724 SF of office space can be built; changing to a 65% maximum would allow an additional 5,843 SF to be built. If the additional space is half general office use and half medical office use an additional 33 parking spaces would be required, and the additional peak hour traffic generated would be nine or ten cars.
Mr. Terry also stated that there are two vacant parcels in the O-LI District, and plans have been submitted for both parcels that will result in an additional 104,304 SF with the present 50% impervious maximum. If the maximum is changed to 65%, another 21,152 SF of office use can be built. If the office use is half medical and half general, another 176 parking places will be required, and the additional peak hour traffic generated would be 33 to 36 cars.
Mr. Wursta said that he can analyze the data provided by Mr. Terry to project traffic impact for several scenarios involving different mixes of uses. Ms. Goldstein suggested looking at the worst case scenario by calculating the peak traffic generated by each possible use. Mr. Wursta said he felt his approach would yield more realistic projections, since there will be an unpredictable mix of uses.
Mr. Sensibaugh said he would like to know the specifics of the impact of the zoning changes on such factors as tax revenue, elimination of green space, increased patronage of local businesses, and stormwater management. Ms. Goldstein added that some of the proposed changes would enable developers to avoid some or all of the land development and conditional use processes.
Mrs. Beasley said the Township has permitted parking stall size reduction in the 413 Office Center. She said there is a need for more medical office space in the Township. Mr. Mendicino said he is concerned about the cost to the taxpayer of road improvements needed to handle the traffic that would be generated by medical uses.
Mr. Ott asked how the EDC developed its recommendation of 65% impervious. Jim Worthington, another member of the EDC who was present, responded that the EDC surveyed surrounding municipalities and found that 65% was a typical maximum. He also commented that his business has had smaller parking stalls for years, and no patrons have complained.
Nancy Crescenzo, a Township resident, said the vacancies in the Newtown Business Commons are hurting the tax base. She said the EDC’s recommendations are not excessive.
Mrs. Doorley said it is clear that the Planning Commission needs to look at all of the EDC’s recommendations together. She asked Mr. Wursta, Mr. Walker, and Ms. Goldstein to analyze Mr. Terry’s data and report on their findings at the 12/16/03 meeting.
Mr. Fidler asked if the Township’s stormwater ordinance conforms with Act 161; Mr. Walker responded that it does.
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.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Mr. Wursta provided a written progress report on traffic-related engineering projects in the Township.
Mrs. Beasley asked Mr. Wursta to discuss the results of the TIP hearing and the next steps in the process. Mr. Wursta suggested that the Township’s #2 project may have been selected by the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) over the Township’s #1 project because it seemed to be more of a regional project benefiting several municipalities. He said the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission will be holding hearings on the TIP, most likely in April 2004. Mr. Wursta said the Township’s presentation to the BCPC was very well done.
CONDITIONAL USE - PRYDA LLC - 159 N. SYCAMORE STREET - TMP# 29-12-15: Attorney Douglas Maloney and engineer Jeffrey Skinner were present to discuss this application, which had been added to the agenda on 12/1/03. Mr. Sander explained that the Board of Supervisors continued their hearing on the application to 1/14/04, and the Township received an extension. Ms. Goldstein said she received the paperwork today and has not had an opportunity to review it. Mr. Sander suggested the Commission continue their review to 1/6/03. Mr. Maloney agreed to this suggestion.
SKETCH PLAN - PICKERING MANOR - 226 N. LINCOLN AVENUE - TMP# 29-12-41: Administrator Donna Clark and engineer James Hanson were present to discuss their plan to enclose an interior courtyard within an existing building, creating an additional 1,700 SF of indoor common area for the residents of the nursing home. The 6.2 acre site is in the R-2 District.
Ms. Goldstein noted that the applicant will need to obtain a special exception to expand a non-conforming use. She also recommended that the applicant request a waiver of the land development process, subject to the Engineer’s review, since the project will have little impact on the site. She said that no real problems were noted in her 11/21/03 review.
Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the applicant apply for a waiver of the land development process because the nature of the propose improvement is de minimus. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.
CONDITIONAL USE - OVERLOOK (FORMERLY HOFFA TRACT) - 90 EAGLE ROAD - TMP# 29-3-28: Glenn Sharko was present to discuss the conditional use application for G-15 Soil Stripping on a 27.9 acre parcel in the R-1 District. Mr. Sharko said the builder proposes to remove between 15,000 and 20,000 cubic yards of topsoil from a construction site.
Mr. Walker and Mr. Harwood confirmed that the Township currently cannot use the topsoil.
Mr. Walker said the Township should require that the applicant obtain a permit for the construction entrance. Ms. Goldstein said this is included in her review letter, with which Mr. Sharko said Toll Brothers will comply.
Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application, subject to compliance with the 11/21/03 letter from Boucher and James. The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously.
Mrs. Beasley asked to discuss another issue related to the Overlook development. She said an old springhouse on the property was torn down with no discussion by the Commission or the Board of Supervisors. She asked how similar occurrences can be prevented in the future.
Mr. Harwood said the approved plan included the demolition of the existing structure, but there was no discussion of this during the land development process. Mr. Harwood suggested asking the Commission’s consultants to involve the Joint Historic Commission in assessing the historical value of existing structures as part of their preliminary plan review. Mr. Goodnoe added that the Codes Department cannot turn down an application for a demolition permit based on an assessment from the Joint Historic Commission, so their input needs to be given early in the process.
JMZO 2002-09 - RESIDENTIAL DISCLOSURE ORDINANCE: Mr. Sensibaugh said this was discussed at the most recent meeting of the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission, and their position now is that each municipality should create its own stand-alone ordinance on this issue. He said Wrightstown and Upper Makefield already have their own ordinances.
Mr. Sander reviewed the history of the ordinance. It was advertised in 2002 and adopted by Wrightstown and Upper Makefield, but Newtown Township’s Board of Supervisors asked that several changes be made. The ordinance was redrafted and sent out again for review in September 2003. The Bucks County Planning Commission has recommended approval.
Mr. Lombardi asked what the purpose of the ordinance is. Mr. Sander said there have been instances when purchasers of new homes are not aware of all the aspects of their property and those around them, and conflicts have resulted.
Mrs. Doorley said most of the requirements of the ordinance are unnecessary or irrelevant. Mr. Ward asked what the impact of the ordinance would be on the Codes Department. Mr. Harwood said he has calculated that it will take about three staff hours to process this paperwork, for which his office would bill the developer. He said it will probably make the land development process even longer for a builder. He said there have been a few situations in which this ordinance possibly would have made a difference, but he questioned whether this much effort on every residential development is worthwhile. He said this seems to be more of a consumer protection issue.
Mr. Sander said the Commission should make a recommendation on the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Lombardi moved to forward JMZO 2002-09, the Residential Disclosure Ordinance, to the Board of Supervisors without comment. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward and passed unanimously.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS
CHRISTMAS PARTY: Mrs. Doorley announced that the Commission’s annual party will follow the 12/16/03 meeting.
PLANS FOR NEXT DISCUSSION OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (EDC) RECOMMENDATIONS: Mr. Mendicino said he would like to have more specific plans for studying the EDC recommendations. He asked that the Engineer look specifically at whether the Newtown Office Park complies with the stormwater ordinance. Mr. Ward said that he would like more specific information on the impact of the increased impervious on stormwater management.
Mr. Walker offered to write a memo with the pre-discharge and post-discharge calculations for the Newtown Office Park plan. He said that the plan appears to improve the stormwater situation on that parcel. Mr. Ward said he would like to see where all the problem areas are in the Newtown Business Commons.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 9:50 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary