Newtown Township

Planning Commission Minutes

January 6, 2004


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (1/6/04, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (EDC)-RELATED ONLY):  Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the EDC-related minutes from the 1/6/04 meeting with one change: In the 4th paragraph, Mr. Ward’s 5th point should read “Could proportioned limitations on certain uses…”.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (1/6/04):  Mr. Fidler moved to approve the 1/6/04 minutes with the following changes:  The first sentence of Mr. Ward’s motion on the Pryda LLC conditional use application should read “Mr. Ward moved for discussion purposes to recommend that…”, and the last sentence should read “The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler for discussion purposes and failed…”.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously, with Ms. Sanderlin and Mr. Piazza abstaining.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, January 6, 2004, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were: members Shawn Ward, Allen Fidler, Jay Sensibaugh, Frank Mendicino, Bob Dieterle, Vince Lombardi, and Sue Beasley (late).  Also in attendance were:  Supervisor Raymond Goodnoe (late), Township Engineers Chris Walker and Phil Wursta, Township Solicitor Dave Sander, Township Planner Judy Goldstein, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. 

CALL TO ORDER:  Vice Chairman Allen Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM. 

2004 ORGANIZATION 

OFFICERS:  Mr. Fidler asked for nominations for Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Secretary. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to elect Shawn Ward as Chairman; the motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously. 

Mr. Mendicino moved to elect Vince Lombardi as Vice-Chairman; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously. 

Mr. Mendicino moved to elect Allen Fidler as Secretary; the motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

LIAISONS:  Mr. Ward appointed the following liaisons: 

·         Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission:  Jay Sensibaugh and Vince Lombardi

·         Park and Recreation Board:  Frank Mendicino and Allen Fidler

·         Sycamore Street Committee:  Shawn Ward (two more will be named later)

·         Historic Architectural Review Board:  Vince Lombardi

·         Board of Supervisors:  Shawn Ward 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (EDC) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ZONING CHANGES IN THE LI AND O-LI DISTRICTS:  Mr. Wursta distributed trip generation data for the LI and O-LI Districts.  He compared existing traffic patterns with projected traffic patterns, with the EDC recommendations in force, and looking at three scenarios: 

1.      If both Districts are 100% General Office Use

2.      If both Districts are 100% Medical-Dental Use

3.      If both Districts are 50% General Office Use and 50% Medical-Dental Use 

Mr. Wursta noted that the scenario showing 100% General Office Use would generate the most additional peak hour trips, although 100% Medical-Dental Use would generate the most total daily trips.  He felt the most realistic scenario would be a mixture of uses (#3).  Mr. Wursta said the most important thing his analysis showed is that the roads and intersections in the Newtown Business Commons area are already fairly heavily used, and any increase in traffic would strain them.  He recommended that the Township begin planning how these improvements can be funded and implemented. 

Several Commission members expressed the opinion that the changes in permitted uses would have more impact than increases in impervious surface.  Some members suggested that permitting increased impervious on parcels that are already developed would be an incentive for adaptive reuse of these buildings.  Members also considered the possibility that there could be different standards for existing and new construction, and that there could be limits on certain uses in certain parts of the Newtown Business Commons. 

Mr. Ward summarized the discussion as follows: 

1.      For any changes, the Township needs to lay the groundwork for road improvements.

2.      The Commission needs to look at how the proposed changes will affect current vacancies.

3.      Can changes in marketing strategies and rental rates affect the vacancy rate?

4.      What incentives for adaptive reuse can be put in place?

5.      Could selective limitations on certain uses improve the economic situation without necessitating major road improvements? 

Members agreed that the Commission needs more time to look into these points, and that an interim report should be made to the Board of Supervisors on 1/14/04.  Mr. Fidler said there has been no formal response to the Commission’s letter requesting an extension of the reporting deadline.  He said that Mr. Weaver indicated to him recently that the Board would like an update, but would probably allow the Commission to make their recommendations in early February as the letter requested. 

Commission members agreed to add a meeting at 8:00 PM on 1/13/04 to their schedule in order to continue their work on this issue, and to develop an interim report for the Board of Supervisors.  Mr. Lombardi said the lower level meeting room will be available because the Sycamore Street Committee meeting scheduled there has just been canceled.  Mr. Wursta said he will write a memo summarizing his data and recommendations, although he will not be able to attend the 1/13/04 meeting.  Mr. Sander agreed to advertise the meeting. 

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (12/16/03):  Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 12/16/03 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

REVIEWS 

FINAL PLAN - FRIENDS VILLAGE - 331 LOWER DOLINGTON ROAD - TMP# 29-10-69-5-1:  Will Bowers, attorney Don Marshall, and engineer John Genovesi were present to discuss the plan to construct three residential units and other improvements at an elderly housing facility in the R-1 District.  Mr. Sander read a 1/2/04 memo from Mr. Harwood asking that approval by the Bucks County Conservation District be recommended as a condition of plan approval.  This was acceptable to the applicant.  Mr. Sander noted that there were no changes recommended in the 11/19/03 Bucks County Planning Commission letter and the 8/4/03 Emergency Services letter. 

The11/20/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Mr. Marshall said the applicant will comply with all points except for those relating to waiver requests.  He noted that the plan has been reviewed by the Park and Recreation Board, which recommended a fee in lieu of recreation space. 

Mr. Lombardi said the landscaping on the site needs to be upgraded in general.  He is concerned particularly with the buffering along the Everett Drive side.  Mr. Bowers said an architect has been hired to enhance the landscaping on the whole property. 

Mr. Lombardi also said the aerial photo submitted with the application in lieu of showing existing features on the plan is illegible.  He said this has been a problem on other applications as well.

The 11/24/03 Pennoni Associates letter was reviewed.  Mr. Marshall said the applicant will comply with all points except for those relating to waiver requests.  Mr. Walker noted that a waiver is being requested to allow a de minimus increase in the amount of stormwater runoff in the northwest corner of the site, and he would support the waiver. 

Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this final plan, subject to the following conditions: 

1. Compliance with the Boucher and James letter of 11/20/03 and the Pennoni Associates letter of 11/24/03

2. Compliance with the preliminary plan approval of 9/10/03

3. Granting of four additional waivers:

a.      Section 514.11 - to allow less than 5’ radius of curvature in the driveway area

b.      Section 521.5.B - to use existing site conditions to be used in runoff calculations

c.      Section 521.2.C - to allow de minimus stormwater runoff in the NW corner of the site

d.      Section 517.8 - to allow a 4’ sidewalk near the parking lot

4. The plan is found acceptable by the Bucks County Conservation District

5. Improved landscaping will be added along the Everett Court side. 

The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously. 

CONDITIONAL USE - TONG - JAPANESE AND CHINESE TAKE-OUT - 2106 S. EAGLE ROAD - TMP# 29-10-85-005:  Hai Ying Tong was present to discuss the request for 1,550 SF of E-6 Eating Place Use in an existing building in the PC District.  Mr. Ward noted that the plan submitted with the application was inaccurate.  Ms. Goldstein said she also noticed discrepancies; they are discussed in point #10 in her review letter.  Mr. Lombardi commented that this is also happening with other applications, and makes the Planning Commission’s job more difficult.  Mr. Tong said he recently became aware of this problem and will provide a correct plan to the Township. 

The 12/2/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Mr. Tong stated that all business will be take-out, deliveries will be via small refrigerated trucks delivering to the back door, an average of three and a maximum of five employees will be present, hours of operation will be 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily, no hazardous materials will be used or stored on the premises, there will be no adverse environmental effects, and trash will be disposed of in a dumpster at the rear of the building. 

Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application conditioned on compliance with the 12/2/03 Boucher and James letter.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously.

CONDITIONAL USE - PRYDA LLC - 159 N. SYCAMORE STREET - TMP# 29-12-15:  Tom Crawford, attorney Douglas Maloney, and engineer Jeff Skinner were present to discuss the request for 2,900 SF of D-1 General Office Use on a property in the TC District. 

Mr. Fidler said there is a structure on the site that is not shown on the plan.  Mr. Crawford explained that the structure is an egress from the basement designed to look like a “cold house”, but it is just a set of steps. 

The 12/22/03 Boucher and James letter was reviewed.  Commission members also received copies of a 12/30/03 response to this letter from Mr. Maloney. 

Mr. Maloney said the application is for D-1 General Office Use on the first and second floors of the existing building.  The applicant plans to use the basement for storage and utilities, and will not use the attic for anything.  He said ten parking spaces are provided (15 are required), and the applicant is interested in paying a fee in lieu of the five remaining spaces.  Mr. Maloney said the applicant has been granted variances regarding dimensions of parking stalls.  Mr. Sander commented that the variances were conditioned on the applicant obtaining D-1 conditional use approval. 

Mr. Fidler asked if the improvements done on the site during the time the applicant was proposing Residential Use would need to conform to ordinance requirements for D-1 Use if the applicant now obtains approval for D-1.  Mr. Harwood said all improvements were done at the applicant’s risk; if they do not conform to D-1 requirements they will have to be changed or removed.  Mr. Ward commented that this applicant has not followed many of the Township’s procedures and requirements.  

Mr. Maloney said the applicant is aware that the improvements were done at the applicant’s risk.  He said that permits were obtained for the improvements pursuant to residential use at the insistence of the Township.  

Mr. Maloney said that overall, the applicant is proposing to take a dilapidated building on a difficult site and turn it into an attractive and useful building.  He pointed out that the applicant has been working with HARB to ensure that the project will harmonize with the Sycamore Street streetscape.  Mr. Harwood said that a Certificate of Appropriateness was approved, but the recent improvements were not part of the plan reviewed by HARB. 

Ms. Goldstein said that in her opinion, the Pryda project requires land development review and approval.  She said the problem is that land development happened in this case before the conditional use process. 

Mr. Sander said that in January 2003, Mr. Crawford told the Commission that he would seek a waiver of land development.  Mr. Sander said the land development process is required whenever the footprint of a nonresidential property is changed.  Mr. Crawford said the changes are de minimus. 

Mrs. Beasley said it appears that the concrete in the parking spaces next to the creek hangs over the creek, creating a dangerous situation for children and causing erosion of the creek.  Mr. Fidler said he is concerned about the lack of a barrier between the parking area and the creek, and the possibility of pollutants from the parking lot washing into the creek.  

Mr. Crawford asked that the Commission consider only the use issue, since the other issues being brought up are land development issues.  He said that D-1 Use is the only viable use for this property. 

Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this conditional use request with the following conditions: 

·         Only the first and second floors will be used for offices; there will be storage and utility equipment in the basement and no use of the attic

·         Ten parking spaces will be provided, with fees paid in lieu of five spaces

·         Compliance with the 12/22/03 Boucher and James letter

·         Only Fedex deliveries will be made to the site

·         A maximum of nine employees will be on site

·         Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with occasional Saturday hours

·         No hazardous materials will be stored or used on the site

·         No adverse environmental effects will be caused on the site

·         Land development approval will be obtained, or a waiver of the land development process

·         The amount of office use will be reduced to the level appropriate to the amount of parking provided 

The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and failed 0-7. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny this application on the grounds that the property does not meet conditional use requirements, the appropriate permits and approvals have not been provided, improvements were made without approval or documentation, there appears to be an infringement on a waterway, and the Commission cannot recommend approval without a plan showing all existing features.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed unanimously. 

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATION # 622-03 - BEISSER - 15 PROVIDENCE COURT - TMP# 29-37-21:  The Commission had no comment on this application. 

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS 

a.     Board of Supervisors:  Mr. Goodnoe reported that the Board held its organization meeting on 1/5/04 and failed to pass a number of motions.

b.     Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission:  Mr. Sensibaugh said the Commission has not met yet this year.

c.     Joint Zoning Council:   No report.  Mr. Ward asked that this item be dropped from future agendas.

d.     Sycamore Street:  Mr. Lombardi said the 1/13/04 meeting has been canceled because committee members were not approved at the Board of Supervisors organization meeting.  He said that the contractor will start work on the project on 2/27/04.

e.     Historic Architectural Review Board:  Mr. Lombardi reported that HARB met with Mr. Crawford about the Pryda project.

f.       Park and Recreation Board:  No report.

g.     Plan Expirations:  No report. 

CORRESPONDENCE:  None. 

OLD BUSINESS:  None.

NEW BUSINESS:  None. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION 

NEW MEMBER TRAINING:  Mr. Fidler suggested that the Commission offer training to new members that are expected to be appointed at the 1/14/04 Board of Supervisors meeting.  Ms. Goldstein said she could provide the training.  She also recommended that all members have a pamphlet on the role of the planning commission which was published by the Governor’s Center.  Ms. Goldstein offered to obtain copies for members. 

RECOGNITION OF PAST MEMBERS:  Mr. Ward said he would like to see Mrs. Doorley’s and Mr. Ott’s service on the Commission recognized.  Mr. Goodnoe suggested that Mr. Ward request that the Board of Supervisors honor their service when he reports to the Board on 1/14/04. 

PACKET MATERIALS:  Mr. Lombardi said there was something wrong or missing on every application in the Commission’s packets, including poor aerial photographs and inaccurate plans.  Mr. Harwood said his office can ask a developer for an original photograph which he could bring to the meeting so that there will be at least one clear photograph for Commission members to examine. 

ADJOURNMENT:  With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 10:50 PM.

  

Respectfully Submitted,

  

____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary