August 2, 2005
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: The minutes of the previous meeting on 8/2/2005 were not available to the Planning Commission to review. They will be reviewed at the next meeting.
The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, August 2, 2005 in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Shawn Ward; members Vince Lombardi, Beth Sanderlin, Shannon Wilson, Allen Fidler, Jim Bowe, and Frank Mendicino. Jay Sensibaugh and Mike Piazza were excused. Also in attendance were Solicitor Dave Sander, Engineers Chris Walker and Matt Johnson
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Shawn Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.
The Chairman welcomed the public and introduced the Planning Commission plus the Solicitor, Engineers and Recording Secretary.
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (7/19/05): Mr. Fidler made a motion to approve the minutes of the July 19, 2005 meeting; Mr. Bowe seconded the motion and passed unanimously.
TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT: Matt Johnson gave a synopsis of his report dated 7/28/05 and highlighted the following items:
Swamp Road and South Eagle Road A proposal was received by the Township to engage an engineering firm to study the area with regard to access and the shopping centers. The proposal was for the engineering firm to study and make recommendations for improvements. Mr. Johnson stated he was not aware if the Township had acted upon this proposal.
Newtown Bypass (413) Buck Road/Richboro Road Improvement Project A 30 day test is still in progress with regard to the closed loop system and the signals. Mr. Johnson raised the issue of designating a right turn lane off of Richboro Road off of the Bypass going south. PennDot has observed how the traffic uses the shoulder for the right turn. PennDot demanded that “Keep off the Shoulder” signs be instituted and they were. Mr. Johnson stated that they looked into making the shoulder into a right turn lane and designating it as such. The current issue is the shoulder is not a full depth shoulder and would need modifications for large vehicles to use the lane. The Commission expressed concern with this issue and the beginning of the school year, which means an increase of traffic in the area. Mr. Johnson recommended that the Township pursue some type of right turn lane.
Overlay at the intersection of Durham Road/Newtown Shopping Center The purpose is to eliminate a dip in the roadway. It is schedule for later this month to be done. The Commission expressed concern with the overlay and the lane markings. Mr. Lombardi expressed concerned for the roadway area at Sycamore and Durham Roads. Mr. Lombardi raised the issue of having Sycamore Street designated as Business Route 532.
Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Mr. Johnson stated that every 2 years PennDot updates the TIP and solicits projects from the townships and the planning commissions. Mr. Johnson stated that currently they are working with Township staff on the process. Mr. Johnson stated that there is a hearing on August 18th with the State Transportation Committee. Mr. Johnson stated that they were preparing correspondence to the Township asking if the Manager wanted to attend the hearing or send a representative. Mr. Johnson stated that the August 18th meeting was the first meeting, that applications need to be submitted to the Bucks County Planning Commission later in September but that date had not been established.
Mr. Bowe made a motion for the Planning Commission to form a traffic subcommittee consisting of Mr. Ward, Mr. Fidler, Mr. Lombardi, and Mr. Wilson for the purpose of evaluating and making recommendations with regard to TIP to the Board of Supervisors by the August 10th meeting of the Supervisors or their August 15th work session. Ms. Sanderlin seconded.
Mr. Mendicino expressed his concern with regard to the Township not informing the Planning Commission prior till this night with regard to TIP.
Mr. Ward called the question. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.
Reviews: There were no reviews brought before the Planning Commission at this meeting.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports: The Chairman suspended the reports to allow more time for New Business.
Correspondence: No correspondence was discussed.
Comprehensive Plan Update: Land Use Review: Mr. Sander, Solicitor gave a brief history of the project. The last update was 1997. Each township was given a map of the township color coded for existing land uses. Each township was instructed to have their respective Planning Commissions and Board of Supervisors to review the map to make sure that the existing land uses are properly labeled on the map. Ms. Lynn Bush, AICP, Executive Director of the Bucks County Planning Commission explained the purpose of updating the Plan and gave background of where the funding was received for this review.
Ms. Bush discussed the Community questionnaire results. Ms. Bush also stated that certain sections of the Comprehensive Plan are in the process of being prepared. Ms. Bush stated that in 2000 the Municipal Planning Code was changed. Ms. Bush stated that some of the areas that were under consideration for The Plan were environmental, traffic, transportation, and recognition of the Delaware River, Washington’s Crossing, Upper Makefield and the importance that has gained. Historic Preservation has taken on a bigger priority.
Ms. Bush stated that their staff prepared a map based on available information to them on existing land uses. Ms. Bush stated the importance of having an accurate map with a visual picture of what is happening in Newtown but also a quantitative assessment of how much land designated for each category. Ms. Bush requested that the Planning Commission go over the current land use map as presented and provide the Bucks County Planning Commission with any corrections. Ms. Bush stated that the major question as to what date the map represents with regard to the land use status stated it would be where the township is currently, August-September, 2005.
Mr. Fidler suggested to the chairman that the traffic subcommittee review the map with regard to the land use color code.
Mr. Lombardi made a motion that the Planning Commission’s traffic subcommittee review the map and make any recommendations for changes needed with regard to the color coded land use. Mr. Wilson seconded the motion. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.
Mr. Mendicino asked Ms. Bush if anyone had introduced the Stockburger issue to generate some response. Ms. Bush stated that the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan was to give each township the opportunity to see where commercial expansion was possible or not possible in the future. Mr. Mendicino asked if the County had supply supporting financial data with regard what is the best revenue generator when the township starts looking at these modifications. Ms. Bush stated that she was not aware of what current data existed but was willing to obtain data that would be helpful.
Mr. Mendicino made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors to request the Bucks County Planning Commission to assist in providing any type of financial information with regard to adding uses or removing uses in zoning districts so that we can have an idea of what the best possible uses would be in those areas as we look at this Comprehensive Plan now. Ms. Sanderlin seconded the motion.
The Planning Commission had a lengthy discussion with regard on the decisions of zoning uses and how to make them with the best information available to them. Ms. Bush expressed her understanding of the importance of the decisions that the Planning Commission is required to make on a regular basis.
The Commission voted unanimously for approval of Mr. Mendicino’s motion.
Mr. Bowe asked a question regarding the survey and how the top five answers were scored. Mr. Lombardi asked if Ms. Bush would review the survey with the Planning Commission. Ms. Bush reviewed the information with the Planning Commission and reminded them that this survey was of the 3 townships.
Mr. Ward read the correspondence from the Township Manager dated August 1, 2005 for the benefit of the public. The Planning Commission decided to take the requests in the order stated in the correspondence.
1. Re-Zoning of portion of the Sterling Farm from OR to R-1 or CM: The Board of Supervisors requested that the Planning Commission begin discussion and make a recommendation to determine if the portion of the Sterling Farm presently zoned OR (Office Research) should be re-zoned to either CM (Conservation Management) or R-1 (Residential-Medium Density). The property in questioned is bordered on three sides by residential uses, and the adjacent portion of the Sterling Farm to the north is zoned CM.
Mr. Sterling and his brother were present. Mr. Ward asked the Commission for comment. The Commission responded that they wished to here from Mr. Sterling. Mr. Sterling stated his opposition to any changes in the zoning. Paul Sterling gave a history of his ownership of the property in question and stated his opposition to any changes in the zoning. The Planning Commission discussed the possible reasons for the request to change the zoning.
Mr. Lombardi made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Planning Commission find no compelling reason to make changes in the current zoning of the Sterling Farms. Mr. Wilson seconded the motion.
Mr. Ward opened the question up to discussion. The Planning Commission expressed their support for Mr. Sterling and his brother’s opposition to any zoning changes.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.
2. Evaluation of Residential Uses in the OR Zone: The Board of Supervisors requested the Planning Commission begin discussion and make recommendations to determine the appropriateness of eliminating uses in the OR (Office Research) District. Single Family homes are presently a permitted use.
Mr. Ward asked for comments from the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission expressed that there was no compelling reason to make any changes. The Planning Commission expressed their concern on the reasons why this issue was raised at this time and the importance of having the financial information needed to make zoning decisions. Mr. Ward asked for comments from the public. Ms. Jennifer R. Dix, a Newtown resident, submitted correspondence dated 8/2/2005 that stated her concerns and opposition to any zoning changes. Mr. Robert Ciervo responded to Ms. Dix’s correspondence with regard to financial data referred to in the letter and express concern for any changes in the zoning.
Mr. Mendicino made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Planning Commission finds no compelling reason to recommend any changes in the OR zone. Ms. Sanderlin seconded the motion.
Mr. Ward asked for any discussion. Mr. Wilson expressed his dismay over some of the language used in Ms. Dix’s correspondence. Mr. Bowe expressed his appreciation over the public’s input in this matter and how important it is for the Planning Commission to have reliable financial data before making any zoning changes. Mr. Ward expressed his dismay over the tone of Ms. Dix’s correspondence.
Mr. Ward called the question.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously for approval of the motion.
3. Evaluation of Existing Sycamore Street Right of Way: The Board of Supervisors requested the Planning Commission to review and make recommendations with regard to evaluating the need to adjust the right of way along Sycamore Street to minimize its impact on existing structures and to conform to the existing street improvements. The right of way varies along the street and may be of such a width to include portions of buildings. An ideal right of way would extend five feet beyond the back edge of the sidewalk permitting sufficient space for utilities and other public improvements and provide enough space to accommodate any future construction.
Mr. Lombardi gave a brief history of the problem. Mr. Lombardi stated that the changes were needed more on the East side than the West side. There was a general discussion on the length of the right of way and the highway classification map. There was a discussion by the Planning Commission on the length of the right of way increase.
Mr. Lombardi made the motion to table this evaluation to give the Township Engineer time to study the issue and provide the Planning Commission a report of his findings at the next meeting. Mr. Wilson seconded the motion. The Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of this motion.
4. Evaluation of CC District Zoning and street access for commercial uses: The Board of Supervisors requested the Planning Commission to review and recommend any changes to determine the appropriateness of requiring non-residential uses in the CC (Convenience Commercial) to front on a major or minor arterial, collector, or feeder street as opposed to a local street or private lane. The recent conditional use application for the Soccer and Lacrosse with frontage on German Avenue raised this question.
Mr. Ward gave a brief history of the German Avenue issue with regard to Soccer and LaCrosse placing its business in a building that would require access on to German Avenue. The Planning Commission discussed the German Avenue situation with regard to size and access. Mr. Lombardi gave some brief history of the German Avenue zoning.
Ms. Sanderlin made a motion to table this evaluation until the next meeting of the Planning Commission. Mr. Lombardi seconded the motion. The Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Mr. Ward suspended Old Business and General Discussion on the agenda.
Mr. Wilson moved for adjournment.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:22 p.m.
Marian Stroup, Recording Secretary, Newtown Township Planning Commission