Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

December 6, 2005


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: The minutes of the previous meeting on 12/06/05 were presented and reviewed. There were no changes. Mr. Sensibaugh made a motion to approve the December 6, 2005 minutes as presented and the November 15, 2005 minutes with the following correction: page 1, under Woll Tract Master Plan, 4th line from the bottom – change to “…requested Mr. Levine look at the placement of the Babe Ruth field.” Mr. Piazza seconded the motion. The motion passed with Mr. Bowe abstaining.


The Newtown Township Planning Commission met on Tuesday, December 6, 2005, in the lower level Township meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Shawn Ward, Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi, and members Jay Sensibaugh, Mike Piazza, Allen Fidler, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe and Beth Sanderlin. Frank Mendicino was excused. Also present were Solicitor Dave Sander, Engineer Chris Walker, Planner Judy Goldstein and Public Works Director, Tom Harwood.

CALL TO ORDER: Mr. Ward called the meeting to order and introduced the Planning Commission members and support staff to the public that was present.

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: The minutes of the previous meeting on 11/15/05 were presented and reviewed. There were no changes. Mr. Fidler made a motion to approve the minutes as presented. Mr. Piazza seconded the motion. The motion passed 5 to 0 with Mr. Bowe and Ms. Sanderlin abstaining and Mr. Mendicino not present for this vote.

Mr. Ward asked the public to reserve their comments until after the Commission had discussed the issues. He noted the professionals did not have a vote.

1. Township Engineer’s report

Matthew Johnston reviewed his report and reported that the Newtown Bypass (413)/Buck Road/Richboro Road Improvement Project was basically complete; final asbuilt traffic plans were being prepared. He said that Swamp Road is in the design process and that it was likely the closed loop system would be finished by June 2006. Mr. Johnston said Durham Road would be paved from Washington Crossing to the Acme; Washington Crossing Road is scheduled to be repaved next year. He noted that Stoopville Road traffic calming issues would be discussed at the January Board of Supervisors work session.

Mr. Johnston reported that PennDOT did not approve re-signing Sycamore Street to Business 532. Mr. Sensibaugh said he had heard that a “no u-turn” sign would be warranted on Mill Pond Road at Buck Road and asked how the township could get one posted. Mr. Johnston said the township would need to request such a sign and a traffic engineering study would be required.

Mr. Sensibaugh made a motion to recommend that the Board authorize the township engineer to perform the required traffic study to warrant a “no u-turn” sign on Mill Pond at Buck Road. Mr. Bowe seconded the motion. The motion carried 7-1, with Mr. Lombardi voting nay.

2. REVIEWS:

a. Final Land Development Plan: Newtown Corporate Center (Brandywine)

The applicant is seeking conditional final land development plan approval for the construction of five (5) buildings with approximately 414,000 of office space, associated parking areas and a stormwater management area. The existing farmhouse is proposed to remain. A variance was granted from JMZO Section 905 Exhibit B.5 by the Zoning Hearing Board on August 1, 2002 and September 12, 2005 to permit a bridge crossing. Attorney Michael P. Coughlin and Anthony Rimikis and Craig Bryson of Brandywine were present.

Mr. Coughlin said they would be going before the Board of Supervisors next week and requested a decision at this meeting for conditional final approval; they did not wish to grant an extension. Mr. Bowe noted that the applicant had committed in writing to compliance with all comments in the review letters received relative to the project. Mr. Ward said he had never seen this many comments in review letters and said he would like to see more plan revisions. Mr. Piazza was concerned with any approval of revised bridge plans that the township engineer had not reviewed. Mr. Lombardi said there were many issues to consider, including engineering, planning and conservation, and said that Brandywine had not made any revisions to their plans reflecting the numerous comments in submitted review letters. Mr. Lombard said that the project was not ready for final review and approval.

Mr. Coughlin said they had addressed each comment in the Harris letter of 2/03 and all additional letters, as well as all additional comments since the preliminary plan approval in February 2003. He said the comments represented minor engineering issues. He noted they had attended 10 Zoning Hearing Board hearings for special exception and been granted zoning relief in September for the bridge crossing, and said they were here tonight for final approval. Mr. Coughlin cited review letters from Boucher & James dated 11/9/05, Pennoni and the Bucks County Planning Commission dated 11/17/05, and Suburban Lighting dated 12/3/05, and said they had submitted detailed responses to each point and that they would comply with all points. Mr. Coughlin said it was usual to ask for conditional final approval, and noted that if they did not comply with requested revisions they would not be granted building permits.

Mr. Fidler said he felt the Commission was adequately familiar with the project. It was clarified that the bridge revision increased the length of the bridge from 125’ to 150’, and that full construction documents had been submitted on 12/2/05 to the engineer; the engineer has not completed his review. Mr. Ward noted that a project of this magnitude has a large impact on the community and the surrounding area and needed careful consideration.

Ms. Goldstein said that the magnitude of changes and cumulative effect of all the changes were significant, and said she would like to review the changes further. The Planning Commission voiced reluctance to support a conditional final plan approval without seeing the plan revisions that included compliance Brandywine has agreed to, and without further review of such revisions by township professionals.

Public Comment:

Steve Goodman questioned how the township would maintain the bridge, noting that the engineer had not reviewed the revised plans, and said additional feedback was needed from Pennoni. Jennifer Dix of Wiltshire Walk asked why the applicant would not grant a plan extension. It was clarified that the plan expiration date was in the first week of January. Mr. Coughlin said the project had been going on for five years, with six months of ZHB hearings, and that time was of the essence. Larry Fyock of Autumn Drive noted that there have been other legal issues and court cases during that time, and asked the Commission to listen to the residents and to review the project carefully. Ms. Crescenzo of the township said she felt that some members of the Commission had treated Brandywine’s representatives harshly, and cited other instances when conditional final approvals had been granted to developers, saying that the burden to comply lies with Brandywine. Sue Hermann of Lower Makefield Township said she hoped the Commission would heed Ms. Goldstein’s advice for further review of the project.

Jonathan Dix suggested that an updated traffic study be done, as there have been changes in roads and development in the township. It was clarified that the project would generate $737,000 in traffic impact fees. Christine Whalen of Wiltshire Walk said residents had requested that their development streets be utilized for emergency access only. Mr. Coughlin said that the extension of Penn Street was designed as a boulevard style road so no driveways would enter onto the road, and that if it were to be made a cul de sac they would lose their highway occupancy permit from PennDOT; Ms. Hermann said a cul de sac would be safer for residents. Mr. Coughlin noted that Brandywine Boulevard would be a dedicated road after completion, and that the township could add traffic calming measures or even make it a cul de sac at that time. He noted that they have agreed to donate $10,000 to study Brandywine Boulevard post-construction. It was clarified that the township had agreed to take dedication of the road as a condition of preliminary approval.

Mr. Sensibaugh made a motion to recommend denial of the applicant’s request for conditional final land development plan approval, as plan revisions in response to review comments had not been made and reviewed by the township professionals. Mr. Lombardi seconded the motion. The motion carried 7-1, with Mr. Fidler voting nay.

b. JMZO Amendment – Zoning Change PS-2 to R-2

Mr. Sander said that the proposed amendment would eliminate almost all PS-2 areas in the Jointure and that the change to R-2 would allow an age restricted development to be built in the McGrath property along Route 413. He recommended that the Commission enact the new amendment and approve a B-17 use. Mr. Sander noted that Wrightstown Township Supervisors have expressed concern that when the senior citizen population decreases age restricted developments would revert to typical developments and impact township services. Mr. Sensibaugh said he did not believe that there was sufficient age restricted housing presently in the community. It was clarified that no uses would be eliminated in the township as a result of this amendment; Mr. Sander noted that there are two parcels that would remain PS-2. Ms. Goldstein clarified that the adoption of the amendment would not set any precedent, and noted that changes in the Newtown Business Commons have opened up additional office space in the township. It was clarified that the residents in Newtown Grant supported the zoning change; Mr. Sander said he thought that the Master Board and several HOA’s in the Grant had been contacted.

Mr. Ward made a motion to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the JMZO map amendment changing PS-2 to R-2 and recommend to the Jointure that the amendment be advertised and enacted upon as presented. Ms. Sanderlin seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by the Commission.

Ms. Crescenzo asked if children were allowed to reside in an age restricted development. Ms. Goldstein clarified that the developer has stated that they would comply 100% with the age restriction, and noted that there is no Earned Income Tax on Social Security and that traffic would have less impact zoned as residential than as office development. Ms. Crescenzo said she thought the zoning change should be discussed with all residents of Newtown Grant.

c. JMZO Amendment – Group Homes

Mr. Piazza made a motion to table the amendment pending further review. Mr. Bowe seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by the Commission.

d. JMZO Amendment – Accessory Contractor or Trade Use

Mr. Lombardi made a motion to table the amendment pending further review. Ms. Sanderlin seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by the Commission.

3. SUBCOMMITTEE & LIAISON REPORTS:

  1. Board of Supervisors – No report was given, as the BOS liaison was not present.
  2. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission – No report was given.
  3. Joint Zoning Council – No report was given.
  4. Sycamore Street – No report was given.
  5. Historic Architectural Review Board – No report was given.
  6. Park and Recreation Board – No report was given.
  7. Environmental Advisory Council – Ms. Crescenzo reported that the committee had completed a letter to Newtown Borough including them in the EcoStar award, which they hoped would encourage environmental practices. She said they had taken part in the Riverkeepers and were awaiting a plan that would enable them to do their own analyses. Ms. Crescenzo said they were looking forward to working with the Park and Recreation Board and to mapping the township’s open space, and that they had discussed looking at submitted plans to determine environmental impact. She noted that the council felt it was important that they take an active role in environmental issues in the township. Mr. Sensibaugh said he supported the suggestion that the Environmental Advisory Council receive copies of submitted plans to review for environmental impact.
  8. Plan Expirations – Mr. Sander reviewed the plan expirations.

4. CORRESPONDENCE: No correspondence was discussed.

5. OLD BUSINESS: No old business was discussed.

6. NEW BUSINESS: No new business was discussed.

7. GENERAL DISCUSSION: Mr. Ward announced that there would be a holiday celebration after the next Commission meeting on December 
    20. He noted that thus far there was only one agenda item for that meeting, a sketch plan review of the Salvatore property at 11 Friends Lane.  
    Mr. Ward thanked Mr. Sander for his years of service to the township and on the Planning Commission.

8. ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned at 9:55 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by:

 

_____________________________________
Leslie Dunleavy, Acting Recording Secretary