Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

February 21, 2006


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – 02/21/06:  

        The following changes were made to the minutes of the February 21, 2006 meetings:

1              Item 3.b. is amended as follows:

                     i.     First paragraph last sentence is amended to read “Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors, Shannon Wilson made said motion and Mike Piazza seconded it”; and

                    ii.     Second paragraph, last sentence is amended to replace Shannon Wilson with Paul Beckert who questioned Mr. Tomlinson on the availability of veteran parking.

2              Fifth paragraph, first sentence, item 6.a. is amended to read, “Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors…” 

        Jay Sensibaugh motioned to approve the minutes with the changes shown above. Mike Piazza seconded the motion that was unanimously approved, with the exception of Beth Sanderlin and Jim Bowe, who abstained.


Present: Chairman Shawn Ward, Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Shannon Wilson, Frank Mendicino, and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert, Traffic Engineer Christopher Fazio, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. Members Alan Fidler, Jim Bowe and Beth Sanderlin were excused from attendance.

1. CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.

2. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – 02/07/06: Chairman Ward opened the meeting by asking if there were any changes or corrections to the minutes of the previous meeting and when no issues were brought to the table, all members approved the minutes, with the exception of Shannon Wilson who abstained.

Chairman Ward made the following changes to the Agenda for this meeting:

3. LAND DEVELOPMENT

b. Veterans Association, Linden and German Avenue – Minor subdivision

The Veterans Association has entered into an agreement of sale for the land they have used as a parking lot, to Brian D. Tomlinson. Mr. Tomlinson is asking for a minor subdivision/lot consolidation plan to subdivide the property into 2 separate lots and convey each lot to adjacent parcels. No construction is proposed with this subdivision. Some plan revisions were requested by Judith Stern Goldstein in her letter to Tom Harwood dated February 2, 2006, regarding use, building setback lines for the consolidated lots, square footage, measurements to title lines and the removal of existing parcel lines that will be eliminated. A waiver was requested and given on Item 4. requiring topography to be determined by on-site survey and Item 5. Plan scale of Tom Harwood’s letter dated February 2, 2006. Mr. Edward F. Murphy, Attorney for Mr. Tomlinson noted that everything else would be complied with. Paul Beckert motioned to approve recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and Mike Piazza seconded.

Tom Harwood raised the question of reserving the public’s right on the storm sewer that runs inside the property lines, but Christopher Fazio noted that the easement was dedicated. Further the maintenance of the storm sewer is the responsibility of Newtown Township. Jay Sensibaugh was concerned about parking requirements for Veterans using the Association’s facilities, noting that on occasion the parking lot is full. Shannon Wilson questioned Mr. Tomlinson about the availability of parking for veterans in these lots when needed and Mr. Tomlinson advised that it would be permissible.

Chairman Ward called for a vote and everyone approved the motion.

4. (5.a.) SKETCH PLAN – FIRST EVERGREEN, 828 NEWTOWN-YARDLEY ROAD

Daniel J. Cohen, CFO of First Evergreen has submitted a proposal to develop 20.8818 acres of property at the southwestern corner of Newtown-Yardley Road and the Newtown Bypass, across from Upper Silver Lake Road. The property will be subdivided into 2 lots. Construction of a 32,000 sq. ft. medical office with parking lot and storm water management facilities will occur. Attorney Edward F. Murphy, of Murphy and McBride remarked that this is the former PECO property and noted that the principle concern of the Bucks County Planning Board is with the awkward access to the property coming in off of Newtown-Yardley Road. The Board commented on the lack of definition in the parking lot, allowing motorists to drive in any direction and the parties to this proposal agreed. In an effort to address this problem, the proposing parties have developed a new, more defined configuration to the parking lot, including a new, more defined entrance off of Newtown-Yardley Road. Restripping of the lot will eliminate any motor vehicle conflicts; Judy Stern Goldstein recommended green with curbing vs. stripping.

Mike Piazza asked if the entrance was directly opposite Upper Silver Lake Road, essentially a four-way intersection and Mr. Murphy responded that the location of the entrance was not being changed. Mr. Murphy further noted that this proposal was to change the layout of the parking lot, not sacrificing any parking spaces. Mary Ellen Saylor, P.E. of Pickering, Corts and Summerson, Inc. noted that this proposal meets the parking ordinances.

Chris Fazio, Traffic Engineer asked that the proposal team pay particular attention to storm water management. The plans indicate where the proposed basin will be situated relative to the sewer easement and sewer mantle. Mr. Murphy noted that this was all a part of the continuing conversation with PECO.

Further to the parking lot reconfiguration, Judith Stern Goldstein recommended that one small parking area be designated one-way only with appropriate islands and curbing. Chairman Ward asked if there would be adequate parking for a medical facility and Mr. Murphy confirmed there would be.

Chairman Ward noted that it was the general consensus of the Board that they would forward this to Board of Supervisors with the comments regarding the reconfiguration and allowing for a turning lane.

6. LAND DEVELOPMENT

a. COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION REALTY (CAR), INC., 2 CAUFIELD PLACE – Revised final plan for land development

These plans propose to revise the location of Cricklewood Green and the size of a barn meeting house which is a part of the previously approved office park development consisting of 5 separate office buildings (2 of which already exist on the property).

Mr. Don Marshall, Esq., Attorney for CAR, described the intent of this proposal, as shown above. Frank Mendicino recalled this being tabled previously awaiting more information on the proposed kitchen facility on the premises. Mark Blasch, owner of the property, elaborated on the use of the facility, stating that the intent of this development was to preserve the property as it was. They refurbished the farmhouse, but the barn was found not to be structurally sound. Therefore, they decided to design a barn similar to the construction of the farmhouse. From a commercial standpoint this is a not-for-profit operation, using the farmhouse as a training facility. The intention of the kitchen facility is to have a conference center on the first floor of the building and an area where people could sit and eat lunch on the second floor – a commercial cooking facility is not being contemplated at this time. When questioned by Mike Piazza whether there would be a working kitchen, Mr. Blasch mentioned that it might be set up to do that some time down the road, but there were no immediate plans to do so.

Frank Mendicino raised the issue of parking since building a bigger facility, would appear to mean there would be more people attending. However, Mr. Blasch assured Mr. Mendicino that parking was not an issue, stating that the number of participants in the training sessions probably would not increase – this was merely to make the facilities more comfortable for the participants since they were currently in very cramped quarters. Vince Lombardi asked if there were overnight accommodations and Mr. Blasch confirmed there were in the farmhouse. Mr. Blasch noted that one of the buildings contained a number of small offices and that the parking now there, would be adequate to handle it. Shannon Wilson again questioned the kitchen facilities, so noting that the potential for someone preparing food on the premises could arise. Mike Piazza confirmed with Mr. Blasch that he would be agreeable to the approval being subject to a condition that it would service his employees and tenants only; it would not be used for outside services. Paul Beckert mentioned that using the kitchen facilities on a retail basis would require a different use approval. Vince Lombardi recommended that the board grant the kitchen facility as accessory use by Mr. Blasch’s employees, tenants, clients and employees thereof.

Don Marshall noted that the revisions to the plans requested by Suburban Lighting Consultants would be complied with, Bucks County Conservation District has issued an acceptance letter and the Newtown Emergency Services Department has approved the final plan. He requested a waiver for the Traffic Impact Fee, advising that there is no additional traffic impact. The members of the board supported the waiver. Further, waivers were requested on the Storm Management Ordinances, items. 8 and 9 of Christopher S. Walker, P.E., Township Consulting Engineer’s letter dated February 1, 2005. Chris Fazio recommended waiving these items since the property was already developed and due to that fact, compliance with these items would be impossible. Further, from a flood management standpoint, changes would be immeasurable.

Hal Holden, Project Manager advised that his architect spoke with Mr. Smith of Suburban Lightning Consultants today, who advised that the changes in the plans had been accepted and another letter would be sent to the Planning Commission. Mike Piazza asked if there were any changes being made to the lighting and Mr. Blasch confirmed there was not.

Paul Beckert recommended approval to the Board of Supervisors for the enlargement of a barn and meeting house at Cricklewood Green from 3,265 sq. ft. to 4,355 sq. ft., a court area from 7,153 sq. ft. to 9,800 sq. ft., an increase to the overall impervious cover from 455,681 sq. ft. to 464,056 sq. ft. and 14 additional packing spaces, pending completion of the items in the Boucher and James letter of January 9, 2006 and recommending the waivers of the traffic impact fee, Stormwater Management Ordinance (SWMO) 220 and SWMO 223. Additionally, subject to the a condition so noted on the plan, that any services provided would be accessory to the owner, tenants, clients and employees thereof only, including catering, outside conferences or outside rental. Mike Piazza motioned and Shannon Wilson seconded. All members approved.

7. ORDINANCES

JMZO 2006-09 VR-1/VC-1 – Revising Impervious Surface Limitations and Dimensional Criteria

Chairman Ward opened the discussion by saying that this issue deals strictly with members of the Jointure, outside Newtown Township. He saw no reason not to approve it.

Paul Becket gave a dissenting opinion, stating that it is an increase in the required lot size of the Village Residential area and a decrease in the amount of buildable land, trying to create more open space; his concern was with the affect it would have on the entire area. Jay Sensibaugh added that it was shifting the density per acre from Upper Makefield to Newtown Township. Shannon Wilson saw it that if you own land in Upper Makefield right now, this ordinance said that you were no longer wanted in the area nor could you build anything that was as large as the other properties already in existence. Judith Stern Goldstein tried to clarify the ordinance stating that it was providing for areas where smaller lot sizes and fewer setbacks are required now, intensifying the density if the owner has public water and sewer. Shannon Wilson added that it appeared to create more open space for the Upper Makefield area and more potential for development in the Newtown and Wrightstown area; if Newtown is going to be in a jointure there has to be more of a fair share.

Shannon Wilson motioned not to approve the ordinance and Frank Mendicino seconded the motion.

Tom Harwood asked if an evaluation of the impact on the entire jointure has been made on this. Frank Mendicino stated that the townships were evaluating a comprehensive plan, but it appears that with piecemeal ordinances over the past year and a half, Upper Makefield is not letting the process get completed. Vince Lombardi mentioned that they are attempting to bring together the zoning ordinances so they all read alike.

Chairman Ward called for a vote on the motion and all members approved with the exception of Jay Sensibaugh.

b. JMZO 2006-11 – Accessory Landscape Contractor

The Ordinance creates a new Accessory Landscape Contractor Use as a use accessory to a residential dwelling unit permitted by conditional use approval in the CM. Chairman Ward noted that it requires a 5-acre lot minimum, which eliminates anyone in Newtown Township.

Mike Piazza recommended that the Commission reject this as being too restrictive and it would affect too many small businesses in Newtown Township. Paul Beckert noted that there would be a pre-existing use, but then there would be a limitation on expanding the use and people would have to keep coming to the board for approval. He questioned why the ordinance was so restrictive and Frank Mendicino advised that there was a problem already in existence and they were trying to solve it. Vince Lombardi mentioned people with large lots that are renting space to other contractors for storage; there are some differences of opinion among neighbors as to what should and should not be permitted. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that the area was set up for residential use and that is why the ordinance states that the accessory contractor must be accessory use to the residence; this eliminates the problem of someone renting out land for the storage of another contractor’s equipment.

Judith Stern Goldstein noted that this was a brand new ordinance and if the Commission wanted to wait until the first provision is drawn up, it could be sent back with comments. Vince Lombardi recommended buffering. Chairman Ward added that the lot size should be decreased to 3 acres with front yard and side yard setbacks for that particular accessory use. Vince Lombardi added that the perception of 3 acres to the Planning Commission was very different from that of the other townships and makes it more difficult for this board to understand.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to invite someone from Wrightstown to come down and talk with the Planning Commission about this ordinance. Shannon Wilson seconded the motion and all members approved.

8. ZONING BOARD APPLICATIONS

a. Dean Harley, 95 Richboro Road

The applicant is seeking to construct an in-ground swimming pool with adjacent patio, surrounded by a 6’ fence. This exceeds the maximum allowable impervious surface ratio requirement and the fence exceeds the front yard minimum fence height requirement. There was no comment by the Commission on this application.

b. 11 Friends Lane LLC, 11 Friends Lane

The applicant is seeking variances in connection with revising and enlarging parking areas for the existing building, with existing parking areas. They are requesting relief on 77 parking spaces for a total of 155 spaces. Mike Piazza noted that the parking would be very cramped. Paul Becket questioned how much of the space would be used all the time as opposed to allocated use; however, Chairman Ward advised that you could not look at it in that manner. Frank Mendicino felt that the way the parking area was set up now was gracious enough and for someone to come in and reconfigure it for the purpose of obtaining more parking spaces was simply abuse. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that there had been a change in use of the building; now, it is intended to be a medical facility, requiring the additional parking.

Frank Mendicino motioned that the Board of Supervisors send a solicitor; this is abusing the changes and Newtown Township needs to be very careful as to not set precedence in this area. It should be made clear for the Zoning Bureau members that they understand the issue completely. Mike Piazza seconded the motion.

Chairman Ward noted that the use of the building has to be restricted in some way to reduce the parking requirement and put the motion to a vote. All members approved the motion.

c. Richard and Laura Tomlinson. 145 Upper Silver Lake Road

The applicant is seeking relief to construct a front porch, 2.5 car attached garage w/link, a front walk and driveway area. This exceeds the impervious surface ratio for the subject property. There was no comment by the Commission on this application.

d. Steven Partridge, 77 Gettysburg Lane

The applicant is seeking relief on the erection of a 6 ft. fence in the backyard on a reverse frontage lot along Mill Pond Road. The maximum allowable height is 3 ft. There was no comment by the Commission on this application.

9. OLD BUSINESS – PC-2006-01 Policy/Procedure for Plan Review

Chairman Ward advised that he had spoken with Jim Bowe regarding the use of Electronic Media and the proposal will be amended to include the provision that an Electronic submission will be accepted in lieu of numerous copies of the plan(s). Jay Sensibaugh asked that his previous request to have preliminary plans corrected before they go to final plan review be included in the revision. Chairman Ward agreed to redraft the proposal.

Jay Sensibaugh recommended that the issue be tabled for the next meeting until the proposal could have the above revisions incorporated into it. All members agreed.

10. NEW BUSINESS – Upper Makefield Resolution on Zoning Districts

Chairman Ward advised that at the Regional Planning Commission on Thursday, February 16, 2006, the Upper Makefield contingent introduced a resolution whereby the Joint Planning Commission would approve the change in the zoning districts for various tracts i.e. the Melsky tract and the Veterans Cemetery. Chairman Ward told them that he did not feel it was appropriate to do so until he came back to discuss it with this Planning Commission. Vince Lombardi advised that they tried to get the board to go against the decision made by the three townships, the Veterans Administration, 2 State Senators, 3 or 4 State Representatives and our Congressmen about bringing in a 200-acre Veterans Cemetery. Toll Brothers was to sell 200 acres to the Veterans Administration and the $7 million sale price would be used to buy the Melsky tract. The zoning on the Melsky tract and the White tract would be changed from CM to R-1. On January 7, 2006 there was a press release from Upper Makefield announcing that the Department of Veterans Affairs had selected this site for the development of a National Cemetery; opening in 2008. Further that Toll Brothers would be developing the Melsky site to include 235 homes with a portion of the property retained by the Council Rock School District for future educational development. However, in a letter dated February 1, 2006 from Edward Murphy, Solicitor for Toll Brothers to John Rice, Solicitor for Upper Makefield, Mr. Murphy advised that the negotiations between Toll Brothers and Department of Veterans Affairs have not been concluded; further negotiations were necessary and needed to be completed by March 1, 2006. The $7 million sale price appears to be significantly lower than the fair market price for the property and it was Toll’s understanding that with such a deeply discounted sale price, there would be a provision allowing for Toll’s ability to develop the remaining Dollington property along with other potential sites included within the Jointure. Mr. Lombardi continued to note that the people in Upper Makefield were now uncomfortable with the arrangement that had been made and were looking for a provision from the Joint Planning Commission against the approved zoning change, thereby sabotaging the deal. Paul Beckert understood that there had been numerous discussions about the site and originally three potential sites had been determined. Further, he understood that nothing had been agreed to by anyone and they were going to file a petition for re-zoning; everyone is still waiting for the actual petition for re-zoning and the actual submission of plans. There is still litigation pending since 1988 on the Melsky tract; the School District is reserving the right to build a high school there. Chairman Ward mentioned that Toll Brothers was going to give the$7 million to the School District for the Melsky property less the 40 acres for a new elementary school and it will be rezoned so the School District cannot sell it for future development. The Melsky property is located in both Newtown and Upper Makefield and the agreement discussed last fall was that whatever the density was it would be applied across both townships. Chris Fazio added that in Newtown there would be pure open space. Chairman Ward confirmed that no one has agreed to anything at this time.

Jay Sensibaugh was 100% in agreement with bringing the Veterans Cemetery to this area. However, Upper Makefield spoke for Newtown Township in the press release, which was wrong and Newtown Township should have the right to look at any zoning changes and make decisions based on the interest of the township. Frank Mendicino said that he was looking at the zoning changes from the standpoint of Newtown first and Chairman Ward reminded everyone that it was a Jointure. Mr. Mendicino continued that Upper Makefield is looking out for its own interests and Newtown Township should do the same.

Chairman Ward advised that he had brought a resolution from Upper Makefield to the meeting and asked what the Planning Commission wanted to do. Vince Lombardi recommended tabling the whole idea until the Supervisors commit themselves to it.

Frank Mendicino brought up the traffic impact that the cemetery and an additional 235 homes would bring to Newtown. Judith Stern Goldstein advised that the Veterans Association has been looking at the traffic impact and considering bringing it in from River Road. Vince Lombardi recalled a previous situation with Lockheed-Martin and advised the Board of Supervisors had instructed Newtown Township to abide by the plans that were presented. Therefore, the board should not act prematurely.

Frank Mendicino motioned that the Planning Commission should not make a decision at this point. Chairman Ward tabled the issue until the next meeting with approval by all members.

11. GENERAL DISCUSSION - None

12. ADJOURNMENT – All members approved adjournment of the meeting at 10:35 p.m.

 

_______________________________
Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary