Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

June 1, 2004

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (6/1/04):  Deferred to end of agenda as members received them tonight. 

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, June 1, 2004, in the lower level Township meeting room.  In attendance were:  Chairman Shawn Ward; members Allen Fidler, Jay Sensibaugh, Bob Dieterle, Beth Sanderlin, Sue Beasley, Frank Mendicino, Mike Piazza, and Vince Lombardi.  Also in attendance were:  Supervisor Skip Goodnoe, Solicitor Dave Sander, Engineers Chris Walker and Phil Wursta, Planner Judy Goldstein, 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 (5/18/04):  Mr.Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 5/18/04 meeting.  The motion was seconded by Mr.Sensibaugh and passed unanimously. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Deferred until Mr. Wursta could be present (following Reviews.) 


SKETCH PLAN – MAJOR SUBDIVISION – ROBERTS TRACT – 611 NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD – TMP# 29-10-55:  Mike Palmer of Toll Brothers and architect David Minno were present to discuss their plan to subdivide a 27.43 acre property in the R-2 District for 102 carriage house type dwelling units under the B-17 Elderly Housing provision.  Mr. Fidler said he will not participate in the review because he is directly related to the present owner of the property. 

Mr. Minno described the development envisioned for this site as an upscale, traditional neighborhood, with considerable open space and several small parks.  Garages are behind the houses and will be accessed from alleyways.  There will be a boulevard-type entrance from Newtown-Yardley Road and another entrance from Dolington Road.  Both entrance roads will terminate at small parks.  Mr. Minno displayed an artist’s rendering of how the streetscape might appear, with varied architectural styles and details.  There will be 36.6% impervious surface, and Toll Brothers does not intend to reopen old Newtown-Yardley Road. 

Mr. Minno said the R-2 zoning permits 117 units.  Mr. Palmer said the houses will be priced at the high end, perhaps $700,000 or more, because of the location and the internal and external design details.  The homes will have three bedrooms and an average of 2,700 SF of living space.  

Mr. Minno said that the development has been designed to B-17 standards but Toll Brothers does not intend to have an age restriction.  Mr. Palmer said it is “age-targeted” because it is designed to attract older buyers who can afford the prices, but Toll wants flexibility in marketing them.  He said that many homes are designed with a master bedroom on the first floor, which is more attractive to older buyers. 

Mr. Palmer asked for the Commission‘s guidance for the best way to achieve the design and the flexibility that Toll Brothers is seeking.  He said Toll could seek a variance for B-17 so that age restrictions are not required, or pursue a B-15 PRD plan.  A PRD would require a mix of housing types.  Mr. Palmer said the price of the houses will restrict who buys them, but there will be more of a mix than in age-restricted communities.  Ms. Goldstein commented there still would not be much of a socio-economic mix.  Mr. Palmer said the value of the homes would probably be lowered if there is an age restriction. 

Mr. Sander said this project was discussed at a Board work session.  He recommends that the Township consider creating a new transitional traditional neighborhood zoning district.  He said this site is a logical place for such a zone because it is adjacent to Newtown Borough.  He said it would be difficult to obtain a variance from the requirement to age-restrict the development since the restriction is the basic element of the B-17.  He also said a traditional neighborhood development (TND) usually includes some commercial uses. 

Ms. Goldstein said performance standards could be written into a new transitional district that would encourage high-end developments like this one; she has experience with writing similar TND ordinances.  Mr. Ward commented that he generally liked the design and favored investigating the creation of a new zoning district.  Mr. Palmer said he will work with the Township, the Solicitor, and the Planner on this.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that the ordinance would go through the review process faster if it is written so that it does not affect the other two municipalities in the Jointure.  

Mr. Lombardi said this project will enhance the value of the older residential neighborhoods in the area because of its upscale features.  He cautioned that Toll should allow at least a year for the review process if a new zoning district is proposed.

Mr. Sensibaugh asked if a use was envisioned for the existing barn.  Mr. Palmer said there has been no decision about it, although it might be used as a community center.  A homeowners association and a condominium arrangement are planned, and residents will need a meeting place.  Mr. Fidler commented that the barn is structurally sound, but it would be expensive to renovate it for such a use.  He also noted that it is close to residential neighbors, so some uses would generate too much noise. 

Mr. Minno said Toll could pursue a B-15 PRD plan and seek a waiver of the requirement for a mix of building types.  Mr. Lombardi recalled that something similar was done with the Hoffa Tract project. 

The 5/11/04 Boucher and James letter was reviewed and the following points were discussed: 

·         A 2 – Use:  Ms. Goldstein noted that many comments in her letter were based on her assumption that the development would be age-restricted.  

·         A 6 – Open Space:  Mr. Palmer said the project is scheduled for review by the Park and Recreation Board soon.  He noted that the open space on the plan is adjacent to Roberts Ridge Park, and the Township might want to take space instead of assessing fees.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that some walking trails, gazebos, and other amenities could be installed in the open space. She also suggested that a walkway could connect the development with the park. 

·         A 7 – Buffering:  Mr. Minno asked if buffering was necessary between the open space and the park.  Ms. Goldstein said she will research this question. 

·         A 8 – Parking:  Ms. Goldstein said she is concerned about visitor parking, particularly if there is a large social event.  

·         B 4 – Lighting:  Mr. Minno said carriage lights are planned for the alleyways.  Mr. Mendicino suggested the adequacy of these lights be discussed with Chief Duffy. 

·         B 5 – Fire Lanes:  Ms. Goldstein recommended that the plan be reviewed by the Fire Marshal as soon as possible.  

·         B 6 – Curbs:  Mr. Palmer said there will probably not be curbs on the alleyways. 

Mr. Walker raised a concern about the access roads, and asked if the entrance on Dolington Road could be aligned with Stanford Road.  Mr. Palmer said Toll will consider this; he noted that it might be necessary for the Township to provide some land to make this possible.  Mr. Sander said there was discussion earlier about moving the Newtown-Yardley Road entrance closer to Dolington.  Mr. Fidler commented that the old Newtown-Yardley Road was abandoned in 1977; he can provide the documentation. 

Mr. Harwood asked if Toll intends to offer any of the roads for dedication.  Mr. Palmer said the through road, the boulevard road, and the cul-de-sac will be offered.  Mr. Harwood said he would not be in favor of accepting them, as they would be difficult to maintain.  Mr. Sander said this seemed to be the preference at the work session discussion as well. 

Mr. Harwood also said it seemed difficult for cars to pull out of the garages into the alleys.  Mr. Minno said the space behind the garages was minimal to discourage parking there, but cars can pull out safely.  Ms. Goldstein suggested that Toll provide photographs of similar developments to demonstrate how cars would pull out. 

Mr. Harwood also asked where trash cans will be kept.  Mr. Minno said they should be kept in the garages, and put at the edge of the garage apron for pickup.  

Mr. Mendicino said he disagreed with Mr. Minno’s statement that the high price of the houses will discourage young families from purchasing them.  He said the proximity of Roberts Ridge Park and the minimal exterior maintenance will attract people with children.  Mr. Minno said a similar Toll project with about 100 homes has only four school-aged children. 

PRD VARIANCE – BECKSTED – 35 HIGH STREET – TMP# 29-5-11:  Owner Howard Becksted and attorney Wayne Cordes were present to discuss their request for a variance to allow 42.94% impervious surface where the maximum is 30% on a 10,243 SF parcel in the R-1 District.  Mr. Sensibaugh said he is an adjacent neighbor and will recuse himself from any votes.  He moved to the audience. 

Mr. Cordes explained that a crushed stone driveway extension was built on the side of the house in 1997 on which Mr. Becksted parks his motor home.  Recently Mr. Becksted acquired a larger motor home and had to make some repairs to the retaining wall which supports the driveway.  At that time Mr. Harwood said a variance was necessary because the impervious surface exceeds the maximum permitted by the Newtown Crossing approved plan.  Mr. Cordes said there have been no problems with flooding or increased runoff during the seven years the crushed stone has been there.  Mr. Cordes displayed some photographs of the driveway to Commission members. 

Mr. Fidler noted that the stone parking area is considered a structure, and he is concerned about the side yard setback encroachment.  A 15’ setback is required, and there is little or no space between the driveway and the property line. 

Mr. Sander said the side yard is not the subject of the variance request.  He and Ms. Goldstein were uncertain as to whether relief from the side yard setback would require a Zoning Hearing Board decision or a PRD variance.  Mr. Sander said he will research this question. 

Mr. Mendicino said the applicant should provide letters from the immediate neighbors stating they have no objection to the variance.  Mr. Sensibaugh asked to comment as a member of the audience and an adjacent neighbor of the applicant. 

Mr. Sensibaugh said that seven years ago the crushed stone covered a smaller area, but the area was enlarged when Mr. Becksted acquired a larger motor home.  He said the area is elevated about two feet above his property.  He said that the motor home could be opened to extend over the property line.  His objection is that if the variance is granted, there will be a structure sitting on his property line.  He has not observed any runoff problems, but he is concerned about the setback. 

Mr. Sander asked what the position of the Homeowners Association (HOA) is regarding the parking of motor homes.  Mr. Becksted said it is permitted by the HOA.  Mr. Sander said there probably would not be a problem with the setback if the motor home was parked on the grass.  Mrs. Beasley said she prefers to see the crushed stone rather than mud and ruts. 

Mr. Mendicino asked if the recent repairs to the driveway were necessitated by the increased weight of the new motor home.  Mr. Becksted said that was a factor, but the main problem was carpenter ants in the railroad ties supporting the driveway. 

Mrs. Beasley moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this variance request to allow a 42.9% impervious surface ratio on the property.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Dieterle and failed 2-6, with Mr. Sensibaugh abstaining. 

Mr. Fidler moved to forward this request to the Board of Supervisors with no recommendations, but with comments about the Commission’s concerns about the side yard setback, the objections of a neighbor, increased impervious surface, and the need to clarify the Homeowners Association’s rules about parking motor homes.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Piazza and passed unanimously, with Mr. Dieterle, Mrs. Beasley, and Mr. Sensibaugh abstaining. 

REQUEST TO WAIVE LAND DEVELOPMENT – OMNIPOINT – 403 FREEDOM DRIVE:  Christopher Milotich of Omnipoint Communications Enterprises was present to discuss his request to waive the land development process for the co-location of a second antenna and related equipment on an existing communications tower.  He said that a concrete 10‘ by 20’ pad will be constructed within the fenced-in compound to support the additional equipment.  The compound is located on the Sewer Authority’s property. 

Mr. Harwood said a permit is required for this project.  He said he does not object to this waiver, although it technically requires land development approval. 

Mr. Walker and Ms. Goldstein stated they did not have any concerns about the waiver request. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this waiver request.  The motion was seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed unanimously. 

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:  Mr. Wursta provided a written summary of current traffic-related projects and commented on several as follows: 


a.      Board of Supervisors:  Mr. Goodnoe reported on the 5/26/04 meeting, at which the Kosacci plan was continued, the Twining subdivision was tabled, an ordinance prohibiting parking on Durham Road near North Drive was approved, an ordinance on sidewalk and  driveway maintenance was approved, dedication of improvements in Pheasant Pointe was continued, and a traffic signal application for Brandywine Boulevard and the Bypass was approved. 

b.      Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission:  Mr. Sensibaugh said a questionnaire designed to gather information for the Jointure’s review of the Comprehensive Plan will be ready soon.  The Commission also reviewed the status of proposed ordinances.  

c.      Joint Zoning Council:  Mr. Ward said the Council will meet on 6/3/04. 

d.      Sycamore Street Committee:  Mr. Lombardi said the Committee will meet on 6/8/04.  

e.      HARB:  Mr. Lombardi said HARB will meet on 6/8/04. 

f.        Park and Recreation Board:  Mr. Fidler said the Board will meet on 6/2/04. 

g.      Plan Expirations:  Mr. Sander said there is some question about the status of the Pryda application.  He has a call in to the applicant’s attorney. 


5/24/04 MEMO FROM THE MANAGER REGARDING THE TIP HEARING:  See discussion under Traffic Manager’s Report. 

NEWTOWN AREA REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION REPORT FOR 2003:  Commission members received copies of this report in their packets. 



JMZO 2004-14 – COMMUNICATIONS TOWERS, AQUACULTURE, AND MINIMUM LOT WIDTHS:  Mr. Sander said this is a revised version of JMZO 2003-1, which the Commission reviewed last year and recommended for approval.  He said the ordinance has provisions on diverse subjects and is intended to make “housekeeping” corrections. 

Mr. Lombardi said there are substantive provisions in the ordinance that will have consequences for the Township.  He suggested eliminating subsections c and d of Section 14 because it will be very difficult for the Township to comply with them. 

Ms. Goldstein said the lot width requirements present a hardship for lots on the inside of a turn; the impact would be greater in Newtown than in other municipalities.  Mr. Sander said it would make many existing lots in the Township nonconforming.  Mr. Walker said that lots in PRDs would be governed by the ordinance in effect when the PRD was approved. 

Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this ordinance with the following changes: 

·         Delete Sections 02 and 03

·         Delete subsections c and d from Section 14

·         Revise the title of the ordinance accordingly 


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


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary