Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

September 21, 2004

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (9/21/04): Ms. Sanderlin moved to approve the minutes of the 9/21/04 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh.

The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, September 21, 2004, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Shawn Ward; members Allen Fidler, Jay Sensibaugh, Frank Mendicino, Mike Piazza, Sue Beasley, Beth Sanderlin, and Vince Lombardi. Also in attendance were: Solicitor Dave Sander, Engineers Chris Walker and Matt Johnston, Planner Judy Goldstein, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. Excused: Bob Dieterle.

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

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (8/17/04): Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of the 8/17/04 meeting; the motion was seconded by Mr. Piazza and passed unanimously.

Note: The meeting scheduled for 9/7/04 was canceled.

TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Matt Johnston distributed and reviewed the most recent report from Pennoni Associates on traffic-oriented engineering projects in the Township. The following projects were discussed:


SKETCH PLAN – MINOR SUBDIVISION – JANSEN – 110 STOOPVILLE ROAD – TMP# 29-1-20: Tor Jansen and his two sons were present to discuss their plan to divide his four-acre property in the CM District into two lots. The first lot would be three acres and eventually contain a new dwelling, and the second lot would be one acre and contain the existing residence. No improvements are proposed at this time.

Mr. Jansen stated the property has been in the family for 13 years. One of his sons lives in the existing residence. There is currently a driveway along the eastern border. Lot 1 would be a flag lot.

Mr. Ward suggested the applicant consider a shared access for the two lots to minimize curb cuts on Stoopville Road. Mr. Jansen said this is possible.

Mr. Piazza asked about the two existing structures on lot 2. Mr. Jansen said the coach house is being used for storage and the barn is being used as a garage and a workshop.

Ms. Goldstein said the major point of her 6/28/04 review letter is that the applicant will need Zoning Hearing Board relief regarding the lot area and width. She recommended that the applicant also do the calculations required to address the other points in her letter, so that any other requests for relief could be incorporated in the application to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fidler advised the applicant to retain a good engineer and a good lawyer.

Mr. Jansen asked if two houses could be built on the property if he is not successful with the proposed subdivision. Mr. Sander said he would still need variances; he recommended that the applicant pursue the relief required for the subdivision.

Mrs. Beasley said she was surprised to read in Ms. Goldstein’s Point 3f that the ordinance limits the amount of woodlands on a single family lot. Ms. Goldstein said she will research the section (401.C.5) and report to the Commission.

ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATIONS FOR 10/7/04: The Commission reviewed the following applications:

#663-04 - Sharon Ricca, 149 Eagle Road: This is a request for a variance to permit construction of an eight foot high double gate where the maximum fence height is three feet. The Commission had no comments on this application.

#662-04 – Anthony Sylvan Pools/Feliciano, 8 Devon Road: This is a request for a variance to permit the construction of a pool, deck, and equipment area that will exceed the side and rear setback requirements of the ordinance. The Commission had no comments on this application.

#661-04 – Larry Fyock, 45 Autumn Drive, and Arthur Micchelli, 51 Autumn Drive: Challenge to the Validity of the Zoning Ordinance: This is a challenge to the validity of JMZO 2004-13, which allows permanent structures in the floodplain that do not increase flood levels more than 12”.

Mr. Sander explained that the applicants are alleging that the Township adopted this ordinance solely to accommodate Brandywine Realty Trust (“zoning by contract”.) He said the ordinance was developed when Brandywine Realty Trust proposed a bridge and a public road across the floodplain; the ordinance amendment is good planning and is on solid legal ground. He said the ordinance applies to the entire Jointure, and addresses concerns in other municipalities as well as in Newtown.

Several members asked if Brandywine will be a party to this challenge and defend the ordinance. Mr. Sander said he doubted if they will. Members then discussed whether the Solicitor should be sent to this hearing.

Mr. Ward polled members on whether they favored recommending defending the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. Mrs. Beasley, Mr. Mendicino, Ms. Sanderlin, Mr. Lombardi, and Mr. Piazza said they were in favor of this recommendation; Mr. Fidler and Mr. Sensibaugh said they were not sure. Mr. Ward said he has a business relationship with one of the applicants and would not be voting.

Mr. Piazza moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors send the Solicitor to defend the ordinance at the hearing on Mr. Fyock’s and Mr. Michelli’s challenge. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously, with Mr. Fidler and Mr. Ward abstaining.


  1. Board of Supervisors: No report.
  2. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Commission discussed the Comprehensive Plan, the three ordinances on tonight’s agenda, and a request regarding new zoning for the Roberts Tract.
  3. Joint Zoning Council: No report.
  4. Sycamore Street Committee: Mr. Lombardi reported on the progress of the Sycamore Street project.
  5. HARB: Mr. Lombardi said HARB discussed the church prayer garden and the Pryda project.
  6. Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Fidler said the Board discussed the possible uses of the Woll Tract Park at their most recent meeting. A special meeting has been scheduled for 9/29/04 for the public to discuss lighted playing fields, which is a major issue. Several athletic organizations have stated they want facilities that would accommodate regional tournaments.
  7. Plan Expirations: Mr. Harwood said there are no expiration dates to be addressed.
  8. Regional Agricultural Committee: Mr. Sensibaugh reported on this ad hoc committee, which is developing a draft ordinance regarding accessory agricultural uses. He said there will probably be at least one more meeting, and he expects this to be a long process.


VILLAGE AT NEWTOWN SOUTH: Mrs. Beasley said she recently observed that there is a parking area behind the shops near Pizza Hut but it has become a dump and a hangout for young people. Mr. Harwood said he will see that the area is inspected.

Mr. Ward said he reported at the last Board of Supervisors meeting on the Commission’s request to have the reserve parking in the shopping center triggered, but he is not aware that any action has been taken. Mr. Harwood said he will ask the Manager to bring this to the Board’s attention.


JMZO 2004-17 – DELETION OF MID-RISE APARTMENT: Mr. Ward said Mr. Sensibaugh e-mailed him a more recent version of this ordinance dated 9/13/04; the one that was distributed is dated 7/14/04. Members agreed to table consideration of this ordinance until the 9/13/04 version can be distributed. Mr. Sander said he will ask Mary Eberle, the Jointure’s solicitor, to e-mail new versions of ordinances directly to the Recording Secretary for distribution to Planning Committee members.

JMZO 2004-18 – GASOLINE SALES AS ACCESSORY USE: Mr. Sensibaugh said there is also a more recent version of this ordinance. Members agreed to table consideration of this ordinance as well.

JMZO 2004-19 – GROUP HOME REGULATIONS: Mr. Sander said Group Home Use is Use B-18. Present provisions in the ordinance are not in compliance with federal legislation, and this ordinance is intended to bring them into compliance. Members asked Mr. Sander what changes were made to the existing ordinance. He responded that the ordinance was totally rewritten and it was difficult to ascertain what substantive changes were made. He said Use B-18 is permitted by special exception in the CM, R-1, and R-2 Districts in Newtown.

Mr. Ward said this ordinance was generated by the Bucks County Planning Commission at the request of the Joint Zoning Council.

Mr. Mendicino moved to table consideration of JMZO 2004-19 until a list of changes made to the existing ordinance is obtained from the Jointure’s solicitor. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley.

Discussion of motion: Members discussed the merits of having the Solicitor analyze and report on the changes instead of requesting a list from Mary Eberle.

Mr. Mendicino and Mrs. Beasley withdrew their previous motion.

Mr. Mendicino moved to table consideration of JMZO 2004-19 until the Solicitor studies and reports to the Commission on changes made to the existing ordinance. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Beasley and passed 7-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting “nay.”

Mr. Mendicino stated he hopes the entire JMZO review process will be improved, as the present system involves much wasted time.


ADJOURNMENT: Without objections the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 PM.


Respectfully Submitted,


Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary