Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

April 6, 2004


DRAFT - SUBJECT TO AMENDMENT BY PLANNING COMMISSION UNTIL APPROVED


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 6, 2004, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Shawn Ward, members Bob Dieterle, Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Frank Mendicino, and Sue Beasley. Also in attendance were: Supervisor Skip Goodnoe, Warren Gormley of the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority, Kenneth Finger of Gannett Fleming, Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Chris Walker, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood.

CALL TO ORDER:  Chairman Shawn Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.  

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (3/16/04):  Mr. Mendicino moved to approve the minutes of the 3/16/04 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously, with Mrs. Beasley abstaining. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Members received the Pennoni Associates April 2004 Traffic and Transportation report in their packets.  Members agreed to table the Traffic Engineer’s report to the next meeting when Mr. Wursta can be present. 

REVIEW 

REVISED FINAL PLAN – LOT 21, NEWTOWN BUSINESS COMMONS – 111 PHEASANT RUN:  Attorney Don Marshall and engineer Curt Rittler were present to discuss the proposal to construct a 24,640 SF two-story office building on a 3.91 acre site in the LI District.  The plan also includes a one-story pole barn, parking areas, drop-off areas, and an underground stormwater management system. 

Mr. Marshall stated that conditional use approvals for D-1 Office Use and H-5 Accessory Building, and for up to 60% impervious surface, were granted on 8/13/03.  The plan received preliminary approval on the same day.  He noted that the current plan shows 56.5% impervious surface. 

The 3/12/04 Boucher and James letter was reviewed, and the applicant agreed to comply with all points except those for which waivers are requested.  The following points were discussed: 

·         A2a – Site Capacity Calculations:  Mr. Marshall said he believes the applicant is not required to net out an easement with development potential; Mr. Harris concurred.

·         A2b – Tree Removal:  Mr. Marshall said the JMZO section cited applies only to residential lots; Mr. Harris concurred.  Mr. Marshall provided a list of recommendations from Keystone Tree Experts for the care of the four large trees; Mr. Harris suggested that the Commission recommend that the applicant provide a unilateral declaration that would incorporate these recommendations.  Mr. Marshall said this is agreeable to the applicant.

·         A4 – Parking:  Mr. Marshall said the applicant is seeking a waiver of Section 520.5 to allow some of the reserve parking on the utility easement.

·         B4 – Park and Recreation Improvements:  Mr. Marshall said the Park and Recreation Board recommended a fee in lieu of improvements; the applicant will comply with whatever the Board of Supervisors prefers. 

The 3/29/04 Pennoni Associates letter was reviewed, and the applicant agreed to comply with all points except those for which waivers are requested.  The following points were discussed: 

·         IIIA1 – Parking:  Mr. Sensibaugh asked if the parking requirements will change if the use of the pole barn changes.  Mr. Marshall said there will be a note on the plan restricting its use to storage.  Mr. Harris suggested this restriction be added to the universal declaration. 

·         IIIB2 – Distance of Building from Parking Area:  Mr. Marshall said the location of the pole barn was changed and an additional waiver will be requested from Section 514.9 to allow the barn to be less than 20’ from a parking area.

·         IIIB6 – Park and Recreation Fees:  Mr. Marshall said he disagrees with the method used to calculate the fees; Pennoni used the total floor space of the two-story building, but he feels the footprint of the building should be used.  This would result in fees that are 50% less than Pennoni’s figure.  He said, however, that the applicant will comply with the decision of the Board of Supervisors. 

The 3/10/04 Pennoni Associates Traffic Engineer’s report was briefly discussed.  Mr. Walker stated that the letter addresses traffic issues in several areas, and concludes that access for Lot 21 is adequate.  He added that the applicant has subsequently submitted the items noted as missing in the letter. 

Mr. Fidler moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that final approval be granted for this plan, subject to the following conditions: 

The Commission also recommends that the Board of Supervisors grant the following additional waivers: 

·         Section 514.9 – to allow a building within 20’ of the parking lot

·         Section 520.5 – to allow reserve parking on the 100’ utility easement

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

OLD BUSINESS 

ACT 537 PLAN REVISION:  Warren Gormley of the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority and Kenneth Finger of Gannett Fleming were present to discuss the proposed revision of the Act 537 Plan, as described in the Manager’s 2/24/04 memo.  Tom Ames, a resident of Gaucks Lane, was also present and participated in the discussion. 

Mr. Harris explained to the Commission that the revised plan was prepared by Gannett Fleming for the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority.  The Authority is an independent public body that is separate from the Newtown Artesian Water Company, which is a private company authorized to provide water to the Newtown area. 

Mr. Finger referred to plate 10 in the Revised Plan which shows proposed sewer lines in red and a larger area outlined in green where sewers may be needed in the future.  He said the Authority has received numerous complaints of failing septic systems and unhealthy conditions from residents of Winding Lane, Wrights Road and Mardot Village.  The County Department of Health has concluded that the problems in these areas endanger public health.  Mr. Finger said these homes cannot be served with on-lot septic systems; the only way to alleviate the problem is with public sewers. 

Mr. Gormley supported these statements.  He said there have been instances of sewage overflowing into the street in the area outlined in red on plate 10.  He said that residents cannot sell their homes because of these conditions. 

Mr. Finger said the residents who returned the questionnaires were evenly divided between those who wanted sewers and those who did not.  He said many of the “no”s were from people who said they recognized that sewers were needed but would not or could not pay the costs of connecting their homes. 

Mr. Gormley said the current connection fees are $3,850, plus a $50 permit fee.  In addition, the cost of running the pipes from the right-of-way to the home is about $20 per foot, and the Bucks County Sewer Authority assesses a fee of approximately $1,000.  Mr. Gormley said the Newtown Authority will try to have the County fee waived. 

Mr. Finger said the area outlined in red, where sewers will be installed immediately, contains about 54 homes.  The proposed pumping station would have a much larger capacity because more homes might be served in the future (in the area outlined in green) and the Department of Environmental Protection requires enough capacity to handle peak flows. 

Mr. Ames asked why he did not receive a questionnaire although his street was included in the study.  Mr. Finger said that the study area was expanded when a pumping station was shown on the preliminary plan for the Yamamoto Tract and the Sewer Authority saw a potential for cooperation with this project. 

Mr. Ames asked if homeowners are required to connect with the sewer line.  Mr. Finger said it is required if the home is within 150’ of the line. 

Mr. Mendicino asked if all homeowners in the area outlined in green have been notified of this proposed plan; Mr. Finger responded that they have not.  He said it is the Township’s obligation to notify residents by advertising the plan for public hearing at the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Mr. Harris said the Township is required to place a legal advertisement for the public meeting.  He suggested that the Commission’s recommendation to the Board of 4/24/04 should include a suggestion that the Board notify all residents about the proposed plan. 

Mrs. Beasley asked if Orleans, the developer of the Yamamoto Tract, will help with the cost of the pumping station.  Mr. Wormley said the Authority is discussing this with Orleans. 

Mr. Fidler asked if a property owner must give an easement to the Authority for the connection; Mr. Harris said the Authority has the right of condemnation if the easement is not provided. 

Mrs. Beasley said the 93 houses planned for the Gray Tract should be connected to public water and sewers at the same time the Authority’s work is done, to minimize the disruption and cost.  Mr. Harris noted that there is no requirement that homeowners connect with public  water service. 

Mr. Sensibaugh asked how the current moratorium on sewer hookups will affect this plan.  Mr. Finger said areas determined to be health hazards are exempted from the moratorium. 

Mr. Goodnoe said he agrees that it is the Township’s responsibility to notify residents and to coordinate the work of the Water Company and the Sewer Authority. 

Mr. Fidler asked if there is a cost estimate for serving the areas outside the red line on plate 10.  Mr. Finger said the $1.9 million figure covers the areas outlined in red and orange, but not the entire area of the study. 

Mr. Dieterle moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the Act 537 Plan Revision with two conditions: 

·         That the Board of Supervisors notify all residents of the areas to be served; and

·         That the Township coordinate the work of the Sewer Authority with the work of the Newtown Artesian Water Company 

The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed 5-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay”. 

JMZO 2004-10 – TODS SIGN ORDINANCE REVISION:  Mr. Harris said this ordinance allows Tourist Oriented Directional Signs, like those PennDOT erects on state roads, to be installed on Township roads.  He said it does not obligate the Township to install or maintain them. 

Mr. Sensibaugh said he opposes this ordinance because it will lead to a proliferation of signs on Township roads.  Mr. Mendicino remarked on the number of ordinances of all types being proposed recently. 

Mr. Ward asked if the definition of a TODS is spelled out.  Mr. Harris said the term is defined in great detail in a PennDOT manual which he displayed. 

Mr. Mendicino moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt this ordinance.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed 5-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay”. 

JMZO 2004-11 – AGRICULTURAL SOILS AND OPEN SPACE BUFFER:  Mr. Harris explained that this ordinance changes natural resource calculations, aggregates Class 1, 2, and 3 soils, adds stricter regulations on how buildings are clustered, and requires that open space is laid out so that agricultural protection zones on adjacent properties will be contiguous.  

Mr. Fidler said that this ordinance does not address its stated purpose of preserving agricultural uses.  He said the real purpose of this ordinance is to preserve agricultural soils for aesthetic enhancement of residential developments and to preserve residents’ views, and he doubted if any farmers were consulted.  

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt this ordinance.  The motion failed for lack of a second. 

Mr. Sensibaugh said the Regional Planning Commission had discussed a specific parcel where the developer agreed voluntarily to place the open space so that it was contiguous with another parcel of open space, and this enabled a farmer to continue farming the land.  The Regional Planning Commission wanted to give municipalities the authority to require such cooperation. 

Mr. Fidler said the increased buffering would inhibit farming; as a recent example, he said the buffering required between the Heston Tract and a farm prevented the farmer from using some of his land.  He said he would like to see the Regional Planning Commission consult with farmers and revise the ordinance to address the preservation of agricultural uses. 

Mr. Ward said he will take these concerns to the Joint Zoning Council, and he suggested the Commission table the ordinance.  Mr. Harris suggested the Commission make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors so that the review process can continue. 

Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors send this ordinance back to the Regional Planning Commission for revision, as the provisions do not address its stated purpose.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed 5-1 with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay”. 

JMZO 2004-12 – AMENDING JMZO USE A-6:  Mr. Fidler said he has the same concerns about this ordinance that he expressed about JMZO 2004-11.  He said he believes that the ordinance is being proposed by Wrightstown to deal with a specific situation with a contractor, and the provisions do not promote agricultural uses. 

Mr. Harris noted that #2 under Section 02 regarding sales of produce and associated items (a current provision) is very difficult to enforce.   Mr. Ward said the ordinance is being revised, and he suggested the Commission table it. 

Mr. Fidler moved to table this ordinance pending its revision.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and passed unanimously. 

SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIASION REPORTS 

 a. Board of Supervisors:  Mr. Goodnoe reviewed the major decisions at the 3/24/04 Board of Supervisors meeting. 

b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission:  Mr. Sensibaugh said the Regional Planning Commission is working on a comprehensive plan survey; he will provide a draft to Commission members. 

c. Sycamore Street Committee:  No report. 

d. HARB:  No report. 

e. Park and Recreation Board:  Mr. Mendicino said the Board will meet on 4/7/04. 

f. Plan Expirations:  Mr. Harwood said there are no plan expirations requiring the attention of the Commission. 

NEW BUSINESS 

JMZO 2004-6 – RIPARIAN CORRIDOR BUFFER:  Mr. Harris said the Commission reviewed an earlier version and recommended that all of Core Creek be exempted from the buffer requirement.  However, the new version does not do this; it exempts Newtown Creek and Core Creek within the TC District, but parts of Core Creek are outside the TC District. 

Mr. Ward said he did not have a chance to study the ordinance; Commission members agreed to table this item to the next meeting.  Mr. Harris said he has two memos from Wrightstown on this ordinance and he will distribute them to the Commission. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION 

FLOWERS-MADANY TRACT (LOWER MAKEFIELD):  Tom Ames said Lower Makefield will soon be reviewing a plan for an Elliott Building Group residential development that will add seven homes in the vicinity of Gaucks Lane.  Commission members agreed to write to Lower Makefield to request timely notification of this review. 

ADJOURNMENT:  Without objection the meeting was adjourned at 10:25 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

  

____________________________
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary