April 5, 2005
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (4/5/05): Mr. Fidler moved to approve the minutes of 4/5/05; the motion was seconded by Mr. Wilson and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, April 5, 2005, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Shawn Ward; members Jay Sensibaugh, Jim Bowe, Mike Piazza, Beth Sanderlin, Shannon Wilson, Allen Fidler, and Frank Mendicino. Also in attendance were: Solicitor Dave Sander, Engineers Chris Walker and Matt Johnston, Planner Judy Goldstein, and Public Works Director Tom Harwood.
Excused: Vince Lombardi.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Shawn Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (3/1/05): Mr. Mendicino moved to approve the minutes of 3/1/05; the motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed unanimously, with Mr. Ward, Mr. Fidler, and Mr. Wilson abstaining.
Note: The scheduled 3/15/05 meeting was canceled for lack of agenda items.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Mr. Johnston distributed his April 2005 report on traffic-related engineering projects and highlighted the following items:
Mr. Wilson asked about the no turn on red signal at the Bypass and Richboro Road; Mr. Johnston said he agrees it should not be there and will bring it to PennDOT’s attention.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to ask the Chairman to write a letter, to be drafted by the Engineer, to the Board of Supervisors asking that they request that PennDOT remove the eastbound “no turn on red” signal from the intersection of Richboro Road and the Bypass. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wilson and passed unanimously.
PRD VARIANCE – SHARON KRIMM – 343 WEXLEY DRIVE – TMP# 29-13-161: Ms. Krimm was present to discuss her request for relief from side and rear yard setback requirements in order to construct a two-story addition to her home in the Country Bend development in the R-1 District. The applicant previously received variances to allow the present encroachment into the side and rear yards; the proposed addition will not alter the existing footprint. Country Bend’s approved final plan requires 15’ side yard setbacks; the existing setbacks are 9.74’ and 13.88’. The minimum rear yard setback is 30’, and the existing setback is 18.86’.
Members discussed what kind of relief the applicant needs, since the proposed expansion will not change the footprint of the house. Mr. Harwood cited the Municipalities Planning Code provisions on PRDs and said they require that a variance be obtained for a modification of “bulk.” Mr. Sander said the advertisement for the public hearing before the Board of Supervisors refers only to the side and rear yard setbacks. Mr. Sander and Mr. Harwood agreed to research this further before the public hearing, which is scheduled for 4/13/05.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant the requested relief if the Solicitor and the Zoning Officer determine that it is required. The motion was seconded by Ms. Sanderlin and passed unanimously.
PRD VARIANCE – JUSTIN AND MARY LOU SNARPONIS – 21 WARWICK COURT – TMP #29-45-109: Justin Snarponis was present to discuss his request for relief from impervious surface and side yard setback requirements in order to construct a patio in the rear of his home in the Wiltshire Walk development in the R-1 District. The maximum impervious surface is 3,099 SF and the applicant proposes 3,151 SF. The required side yard setback is 15’ and the applicant proposes a 9.2’ setback.
Mr. Ward said the impervious surface relief is not a concern, but the side yard encroachment might be a concern for the owner of the adjacent lot (Lot 11) or the Homeowners Association. Mr. Snarponis stated that both the neighbor and the Homeowners Association do not object to the proposed patio.
Mr. Piazza moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant the requested relief, subject to the condition that the applicants provide letters from the owner of Lot 11 and the Country Bend Homeowners Association documenting that they do not object to the proposed patio. The motion was seconded by Ms. Sanderlin.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked if any temporary portable structures will be placed on the patio; Mr. Snarponis said only a table and chairs will be placed there.
Mr. Piazza’s motion passed unanimously.
RE: AMENDED ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATION – EMILY ANN RIDDELL AND MICHAEL SNEED – 130 WRIGHTS ROAD – TMP# 29-19-38: Engineer Curt Rittler was present to discuss the applicants’ request for relief from side yard setback requirements and permission to build in a floodplain in order to construct a garage and replace a culvert with a bridge on their property in the CM District. The minimum side yard setback is 50’ and the applicants are proposing a 30’ setback at the left corner and a 35’ setback at the right corner. The ordinance does not permit structures in the floodplain except by special exception. Members received copies of a floodplain study performed by Rittler Engineering.
Mr. Rittler said the applicants hired his firm to study an existing culvert, which currently handles runoff from surrounding areas into Newtown Creek. Water frequently overruns the culvert, causing flooding and erosion. He said his studies indicated that the proposed bridge would have a beneficial effect on the floodplain widths and elevations and would more closely resemble an unobstructed condition regarding floodplain width.
Mr. Ward asked if the bridge would have adverse effects on other properties upstream or downstream. Mr. Rittler said he expects that flooding will be reduced. He added that the neighbors support this special exception.
Mr. Mendicino moved to make no comments on this application. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wilson.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ward said he would prefer to recommend that the Board not oppose the application.
Mr. Mendicino’s motion passed 5-2, with Mr. Ward and Mr. Piazza voting “nay” and Mr. Sensibaugh abstaining.
Several members observed that only a portion of the application had been discussed before the motion was made and voted on.
Mr. Mendicino and Mr. Wilson withdrew their motion.
Mr. Sander said the proposed garage does not exceed the maximum impervious surface. Mr. Sensibaugh asked how far away the adjacent neighbor is; Mr. Rittler estimated the distance is at least 100’. Mr. Rittler said he was aware that one neighbor has spoken with the applicants, possibly about the need for buffering.
Mr. Mendicino moved to make no comments on this application; the motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh suggested the Commission state that it is in favor of the proposed bridge. Mr. Ward said he would prefer to recommend no opposition because the bridge makes good planning sense.
Mr. Mendicino’s motion failed 4-4, with Mr. Piazza, Mr. Ward, Mr. Sensibaugh, and Ms. Sanderlin voting “nay.”
Mr. Ward moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this application. The motion was seconded by Mr. Piazza and passed 6-1, with Mr. Fidler voting “nay” and Mr. Mendicino abstaining.
ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATION – CRAIG SMALL – 5 MADISON COURT – TMP# 29-49-25: The applicant is seeking relief to permit construction of a fence within a storm sewer easement on his property in the R-1 District. The ordinance prohibits fences in storm sewer easements.
Mr. Sander said if the applicant is permitted to build the fence in the easement it will be at his own risk and he will have to provide access. If he has to remove the fence it will be at his own cost.
Mr. Harwood said he is not in favor of this variance because it may mean that residents of this development will erect fences in different places, creating an unattractive “sawtooth” appearance. Mr. Ward said he does not agree with this view.
Mr. Wilson moved to make no comment on this application. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sensibaugh and passed 5-2 with Ms. Sanderlin and Mr. Ward voting “nay” and Mr. Piazza abstaining.
ZONING HEARING BOARD APPLICATION – GREGORY MANNING – 291 YORKSHIRE DRIVE – TMP# 29-33-23: The applicant is seeking relief to erect a fence that is four feet high where the maximum height is three feet. Members agreed to make no comments on this application.
SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS
INVITATION FROM LOWER MAKEFIELD TO 4/20/05 LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR: Members received this invitation in their packets. It was suggested that Mr. Sensibaugh pass this on to the Environmental Council as the Commission’s appointed liaison. Members discussed the need to have Mr. Sensibaugh’s status as liaison recognized, and asked the Chairman to bring this to the attention of the Board of Supervisors in his report.
FINAL PLAN APPROVAL – TELETRONICS: Members received copies of the final plan approval for Teletronics in their packets.
LETTER FROM DON MARSHALL RE: JMZO 2005-01 AGRICULTURAL SOILS PRESERVATION ORDINANCE: Mr. Ward noted that Mr. Marshall’s letter suggests adding a definition of “developed” to the ordinance; he agrees with the need for a definition but not with Mr. Marshall’s suggested definition. Ms. Goldstein said she will work with Mr. Sander on a proposed definition.
Bill Sterling, a Township resident, was present and asked to comment on this ordinance. He said he does not favor it because he is afraid that it will lower the value of his land by reducing the portion that can be developed.
Mr. Sander said the ordinance was discussed and supported by the Commission previously, and it is scheduled for enactment by the Board of Supervisors on 4/13/05. Ms. Goldstein said that the ordinance could help or harm Mr. Sterling depending on the mix of soils on his land.
Mr. Fidler observed that the effect of the ordinance is to make properties with very good agricultural soils less profitable to develop, which is probably the intent of the ordinance. He said the ordinance is most likely good for the rest of the Jointure but may not be good for Mr. Sterling.
Mr. Sterling did not know the soil composition of his land. Mr. Walker said this information is available on the internet.
Members discussed the possibility of amending the ordinance to exclude Mr. Sterling’s property. Mr. Sander said a new amendment would require that the Jointure and the Bucks County Planning Commission review the ordinance again. He said the Township can also propose an amendment after it is enacted.
Mr. Mendicino moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not enact JMZO 2005-01 unless it is amended to exclude Mr. Sterling’s property. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Bowe noted that the Commission does not know whether the ordinance will affect Mr. Sterling adversely, and he suggested the Commission ask for more time to research its impact on all properties in the CM District. Mr. Walker and Ms. Goldstein agreed to work on this analysis.
Mr. Sander said that if Mr. Sterling’s property is excluded there would have to be another ordinance developed to regulate his property.
Mr. Mendicino and Mr. Fidler withdrew their motion.
Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not enact JMZO 2005-01 until further review and recommendations from the Commission regarding its actual impact on properties in the CM District. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fidler and passed unanimously.
PARK AND RECREATION BOARD MINUTES AND AGENDA: Members received copies of the 4/6/05 agenda and minutes of the previous meeting in their packets.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
JMZO 2004-15 – ACCESSORY CONTRACTOR OR TRADE USE: Mr. Sander explained that the ordinance creates a new accessory use in zoning districts that permit residential uses. It would permit the limited use of a residential property by the proprietor of a business. He noted that several officials within the Jointure have expressed disapproval of this ordinance; Supervisor Anne Goren has commented that she does not want this to apply to the R-2 District.
Mr. Ward said he is in favor of this ordinance because he feels a business owner should be able to park his truck on his property.
Mr. Harwood said he does not support Provision #11 in Section 01 which states that the Homeowners Association rules take precedence over the ordinance. He said this has always been an assumption, but if the statement appears in this ordinance and not in others it may be questioned. He also suggested that if the proposed accessory use is permitted it should be by conditional use, not by right.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not approve JMZO 2004-15 unless it is amended so that:
- the accessory use is not permitted in the R-1 and R-2 Districts in Section 03
- the use is permitted by conditional use and not by right in Section 04
- provision #11 is removed from Section 01.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Bowe and passed 7-1 with Mr. Ward voting “nay.”
COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS: Mr. Bowe expressed a concern that the Commission has been inconsistent about recommending the condition that applicants for variances provide documentation that neighbors and Homeowners Associations do not object to their plans. Mr. Sander said that neighbors are notified of variances heard by the Zoning Hearing Board and the Board of Supervisors and have an opportunity to object.
Members agreed to use the phrase “as long as no one objects” when making recommendations for granting relief.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections the meeting was adjourned at 10:20 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary