Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

March 21, 2006


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – Allen Fidler requested that the following change be made to the minutes:

Page 2, paragraph 1, second to the last sentence is corrected to read: “He added, that in his opinion, as long as the lounge in the hotel remained a guest use lounge only, the Township would not have a problem with it.”

Jay Sensibaugh motioned that the Minutes be approved with the above correction; Allen Fidler seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved, except for Shawn Ward and Frank Mendicino, who abstained.


Presen: Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe, Beth Sanderlin and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein, Planning Board Engineer Edward Koehler, P.E. and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. Shawn Ward and Frank Mendicino were excused from the meeting.

1. Call to Order – In Chairman Shawn Ward’s absence, Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:05 p.m.

2. Minutes of Previous Meeting – Jay Sensibaugh motioned to accept the minutes of the March 7, 2006 meeting as written; Jim Bowe seconded the motion. Vince Lombardi and Allen Fidler abstained.

3. Land Development and Subdivisions

a. Homewood Sales (Cameron Triolo), 104 Pheasant Run – Final Plan for Land Development

This application is for the Final Land Development for the proposed D-1 Use, Office; E-4 Use, Financial Establishment; E-5 Use, Eating Place; and E-22 Use, Executive Inn/Conference Center. The plan proposes to renovate an existing vacant industrial warehouse to include office space, a bank and a café. Additionally an Executive Inn/Conference Center will be constructed on the site.

Don F. arshall, Esq. of Stuckart and Yates introduced himself, Cameron C. Triolo and Traffic Engineer Frank Sabawski of FAZ Associates, advising that the only thing left open in the Final Plan is the Traffic Study, which has been submitted and reviewed by the Newtown Township Traffic Engineer. The only issue yet to be resolved is the Traffic Impact Fee which is being computed to take into account the fees for previous use and once calculated, the applicant will make payment.

Shannon Wilson raised the issue of the café, which Paul Beckert noted that a new Conditional Use has been filed on. Mike Piazza questioned Mr. Marshall as to the number of parking spaces. Mr. Marshall responded that the number of spaces is really going to decrease since the office space is less than originally anticipated, the Conditional Use application on the café does not anticipate any additional spaces being required and the number of rooms in the hotel is 107 vs. the 120 originally proposed. The final plan indicates 483 spaces.

Paul Beckert referred to page 4, item 11 of the Pennoni letter dated January 12, 2006 regarding a waiver that was granted for parking, a gazebo, a stormwater basin, electric and other miscellaneous utilities being located in an easement on the south side of the site. His concern was with the gazebo. Mr. Marshall advised that the easement was the general utilities easement and any additional items, i.e. the gazebo would be a separate waiver. Mr. Beckert then referred to page 5, item 18 of that same letter regarding wet ponds and the applicant’s intent to provide for public health and safety. Mr. Marshall noted that with regard to the Storm Water Management issues, the only waivers the applicant was looking for were: #20 – Grading in the basin at 3:1 vs. the required 4:1 slope; #22 – Proximity of the detention basin to the property line; and #27 – The basin detain a one (1) year flow vs. the two (2) flow required. Mr. Beckert confirmed that no other waivers were being requested.

Mr. Beckert then raised the issue of alcohol sales in the hotel lounge, noting that a hotel liquor license applied when there were more than 10 hotel rooms. This is different from the restaurant liquor license. Jim Bowe was under the impression that there would be a small breakfast area, but Paul Beckert clarified that that would be the café, previously anticipated. Jay Sensibaugh mentioned that it was understood by the Commission that there would be no eating facilities in the hotel and a lounge was not originally noted. Don Marshall advised that the proposed ancillary services to the hotel were an exercise room, a notions shop, a breakfast service and a lounge – not open to the public. Jim Bowe restated that this was the first time he had heard about liquor sales. Mike Piazza counter stated that the lounge had been mentioned before. However, Judy Stern Goldstein referred to page 3, item e. of the Boucher and James letter dated December 14, 2005 that makes no mention of a lounge. Vice Chairman Lombardi then referred to page 3, item d. of that same letter which notes that “alcohol beverages be incidental to the sale and consumption of food…” He stressed that he wanted the applicant to be very clear as to what exposures would be included in the hotel facility. Paul Beckert noted that under the circumstances the Commission could make a recommendation to the Board that liquors sales would not be included as a use without further application. He further noted that the zoning takes precedence over the Liquor Control Board. Surprised by this, Jim Bowe advised that he was concerned over changes popping up at the last minute and this should have been mentioned in the very beginning; Shannon Wilson concurred, adding that he would like to see the entire Conditional Use on this site before making any decisions. Don Marshall advised that what was before the Commission now was nothing different from what was approved before. He assured everyone that the alcohol issue had been discussed, but since the hotel was not expected to open for another 18 months, it could be resubmitted at a later date. Vice Chairman Lombardi added that the Planning Commission could make their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, who could make the final decision about it. Paul Beckert made everyone aware that Section E22, Paragraph 11 of the Conditional Use Approval states that cocktail service may be provided. Mike Piazza restated that he recalled mention of a lounge in the hotel before and that it was not to be a club, but rather a facility for guests only to use. Don Marshall reviewed his notes concerning the original proposal to the Board of Supervisors in which a lounge was mentioned and noted that the minutes of a previous meeting mentioned no liquor sale in the café, but made no reference to the hotel lounge. Allen Fidler noted that the Commission’s fear appears to be that it starts out as a lounge and becomes a hot spot for 20 year olds, creating a use that was not intended. He added that as long as the lounge in the hotel remained a guest use lounge only, that the Township would not have a problem with it. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that the Commission would reserve the issue of alcohol sales to their approval and recommendations to the Board.

Allen Fidler then raised the issue of the Fire Marshall’s rejection of the plans and Don Marshall stated that, after revision, they now had an approval by the Fire Marshall on a “will comply” basis pending a request to the Board of Supervisors on one fire hydrant location.

Vice Chairman Lombardi then moved the conversation to the Traffic Impact Study. Chris Walker of Pennoni Associates advised that the study had been reviewed and there were no issues with the report. The Applicant is due some credit for the prior use and they are recalculating the fee. Vice Chairman Lombardi mentioned that the hotel use was anticipated to create some traffic problems. Mr. Walker advised that there was a slight degration at the intersection of Terry Road and Pheasant Run, but it was okay; the level of service summary shows the impact remains at level C. Jay Sensibaugh asked how long of a delay was involved at level C and Mr. Walker responded, 25 to 35 seconds. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked if there was a better signalization at that intersection than a four way stop and Mr. Walker advised “no”. Jay Sensibaugh asked how many cars would be stacked up at the intersection and Frank Zabawski advised there could be 4 to 5 cars stacked up during peak hours, due to traffic from adjoining buildings and offices; however, the average number of cars in an hour was 2 to 3. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked if there was any accident information and could this be a dangerous intersection? Chris Walker advised that he did not have any knowledge of that and Frank Zabawski added that a four way stop was safer than a two way stop or a traffic signal. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked if a traffic signal would be warranted at some point in time, but Mr. Zabawski noted that a traffic signal requires maintenance and development of this site, with three driveways, does not create a major impact on the intersection; it becomes a discretionary question to the township. Mike Piazza mentioned a hotel shuttle service and Don Marshall advised that due to the hotel’s location, car rental was more likely. Allen Fidler, comfortable at this point with the four way stop, advised that the traffic impact fee should take into consideration a charge for signalization if needed. Jay Sensibaugh suggested a four way flashing light that could be converted to an actual traffic signal at a later date.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval for the Final Land Development plan of March 18, 2005, last revised on November 4, 2005, to the Board of Supervisors noting that the applicant will comply with:

Subject to the following additional provisions, which are to be added to the plan:

The following additional waivers are to be granted:

Mike Piazza stated that he would prefer to see the exclusion of liquor sales in the hotel deleted from the motion, noting that nothing should be included in the motion that will detract from the success and attractiveness of the Executive Inn/Conference Center. Jim Bowe agreed except that it could present a problem for other businesses and become something other than the intended use. Mr. Piazza argued that if it had limited hours of operation without live entertainment the intended use would not change; however, he advised that he would be opposed to it under adverse circumstances noted by other board members. Jay Sensibaugh noted that he had not heard any testimony to the size or anything else relating to the plans for the lounge because at the preliminary meeting there was nothing mentioned. Don Marshall advised that the Conditional Use Approval already allows for it.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend approval excluding a liquor license consideration to the Board of Supervisors. Beth Sanderlin seconded the motion. The motion was approved by a vote of 4 to 3.

b. Delancey Court (formerly Lafayette Quarters), 398 Durham Road – Preliminary Plan for Major Subdivision

This application is for Preliminary Land Development for proposed B-17 Use, Elderly Housing. The plan proposes to consolidate Tax Map Parcels 29-3-33-1, 29-3-34, 29-3-35 and 29-3-36-2. 120 age-qualified residential townhouse units will be constructed on the consolidated site.

Judith Stern Goldstein opened the discussion by noting that the issues for this Preliminary Plan are basically the same as discussed previously with the Conditional Use request. Tom Hecker, Esq. of Begley, Carlin and Mandio advised that everything is a “will comply”.

Christopher S. Walker, P.E. of Pennoni Associates advised that there would be a significant reduction in traffic impact with the B-17 use vs. the PS-2, Office Use. Further he added that he was in support of all of the waivers listed in his letter of March 16, 2006 and was satisfied with the applicant’s “will comply”.

Paul Beckert raised the issue of the bi-section of open road; however, Chris advised that was a Board of Supervisor’s issue. Mr. Beckert questioned the Lot 1 use and Judith Stern Goldstein advised that the plans needed to show the swapping of land. Edward Koehler advised that everything would be taken care of in the re-sketch meeting. Mr. Beckert’s request to review the by-laws of the community was agreed to and Tom Harwood noted that there was noting in the plans regarding the use of the community center.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors for McGrath Home’s application for Preliminary Land Development dated July 6, 2005 and revised on February 2, 2006, for proposed B-17 Use, Elderly Housing consolidating Tax Parcels 29-3-33-1, 29-3-34, 29-3-35, 29-3-36-2 and a portion of 29-3-36, to construct 120 age-qualified residential townhouse units presently within the PS-2, Professional Service District, subject to the following conditions:

Shannon Wilson motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors with the conditions framed by Mr. Beckert; Mike Piazza seconded the motion. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the motion, except for one member who abstained due to a conflict of interest.

4. Conditional Use

a. Sloan School, 661 Penn Street

This application is for Conditional Use Approval for a proposed C-2 School Use, as permitted by ZO Section 702.A.3, as Accessory Use to the Principal Use of Office in the LI Zoning District. No exterior improvements are proposed to the existing building.

Tom Ames, former Supervisor of Operational Services for the school district, introduced himself and Bob Schoch, Business Administrator for the school district. The Sloan School supports both Council Rock North and South, and the proposal is to move the school from its current location on Preston Lane to 661 Penn Street. The school will occupy a portion of the former Law School Admissions Council. It was originally the intent of the school district to either expand the Preston House location or construct a new building behind it, with additional parking. However, with the vacating of the Law School Admissions Council, it became evident to the school district that the Penn Street location might serve to provide expansion for the Sloan School, among other benefits. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked what other occupants would be in the Penn Street Building and Bob Schoch advised that it would be general office space and the use of the warehouse space in the rear of the building. Mike Piazza asked if the other uses would be by the school district and Mr. Schoch advised it would. Tom Ames added that approximately 60% of the building would be leased out. Vice Chairman Lombardi then asked if any of the other occupants would be compatible with the school use and Mr. Ames advised that the building was already zoned B-1 which allows for general office use. Mike Piazza asked how many students would be enrolled in the school and Mr. Ames advised 20 students at the present time, possibly expanding to no more than 65 students, as limited by the Superintendent of Schools. However, Mr. Ames added that 65 students would not be at the alternative school all day, some attending the Council Rock School(s) and traveling to the alternative school during the day. Mike Piazza asked if there was a security issue with problem students and the corporate occupants and Tom Ames advised, “Not really, because the corporate sector has their own access requirement … the Sloan School would be access restrictive”. Vice Chairman Lombardi was concerned about the Penn Street location’s proximity to residential areas, but Mr. Ames assured everyone that this location was actually further from residential areas than the Preston Lane location and with corporate offices in the surrounding area, a synergy might evolve between the school and the availability of work for these students. Jim Bowe commented that he saw the move as a very positive change, moving students into more of a work environmental area. Tom Ames advised that there would be no physical classes at the school, i.e. gym, and no recess. The school district has yet to determine if a cafeteria would be provided, but if it were, there would be no food preparation involved there. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that the school would have to be zoned as an Accessory Use because it did not meet the zoning requirements for a school, requiring 15 acres. Allen Fidler described Accessory Use as 30% of the first floor area, which this location meets; it is not based on the number of students, but on area. When Paul Beckert asked about deliveries to the school, Mr. Ames advised that minimal amounts of school supplies would be made during the year. Allen Fidler noted that a Traffic Impact study did not appear to be needed because of the previous law school occupancy; however, Tom Harwood added that any change is subject to a traffic impact fee, up or down. Mr. Harwood advised he would look into it.

Paul Beckert framed a motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors to grant a Conditional Use exposure to the Council Rock School District for a C-2 School Accessory Use to the Principal Use of Office within the LI District at 661 Penn Street for 4,155 sq. ft. of 48,135 sq. ft. office, warehouse and related use for the Sloan School subject to the following conditions:

Jim Bowe motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors as Mr. Beckert had framed it; Allen Fidler seconded the motion. The Planning Commission unanimously approved it.

b. Delancey Court (formerly Lafayette Quarters), 398 Durham Road

This application is for Conditional Use Approval on item 3.b. above. Additional improvements include the construction of a clubhouse, new roads and stormwater management facilities.

Judith Stern Goldstein requested the applicant to elaborate on their plans to meet the requirements of ready access to the existing commercial and professional areas. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that without access you couldn’t have the requested use. Tom Hecker, Esq. of Begley, Carlin and Mandio advised that they were aware of those requirements and it has been added to their identification of variances that have to be dealt with. He added that when variances are involved in a request for changes in zoning, there is a problem of the cart before the horse. The Zoning Hearing Board solicitor advised Mr. Hecker, technically, that you couldn’t obtain variances from sections of the zoning classifications if you didn’t have approval on the use. He further added that due to the location of the proposed site, they could not supply ready access reasonably. In the development of other similar communities, the clubhouse has been found to become the focal point of many activities, right within the community. Judith Stern Goldstein advised that the ready access required in the B-17 Use referred to facilities not usually included within a clubhouse, i.e. drug stores, doctor’s offices, supermarkets and the errands/places that people need to get to. She further mentioned the use of shuttle buses, but Mr. Hecker did not recall that in the proposal. Allen Fidler recalled mention of public transportation and the ability for turn around service in the clubhouse area. Jay Sensibaugh wanted to hear testimony about the ready access and was concerned about how the applicant was going to get this through the Zoning Board without it. Paul Beckert advised that there was a pending appeal for denial of the Conditional Use based upon the ready access and the cul-de-sac issues; he was not comfortable with variances approved months later on the same issues denied in the first place. Judith Stern Goldstein again raised the question of shuttle buses or other forms of transportation, noting that ready access did not have to be pedestrian access. Tom Hecker noted that the average age of this type of community is 62 to 64 years, most of which operate motor vehicles. With that, Judith Stern Goldstein brought up the issue of parking and with the width of the roads, noted that the plans did not indicate any provisions for on-street parking. She asked the applicant to elaborate and Tom Hecker advised that there would be parking restrictions on the residents; garages could not be used for storage. He added that parking was on one side of the street only; however, Ms. Goldstein advised that that was not clear in the plans. John J. McGrath of McGrath Homes noted that the units had 2 car garages that were oversized, allowing for some storage in the rear and handicap accessible.

Judith Stern Goldstein raised the issue of the length of the cul-de-sac and the fact that there was no access to the rear of the cul-de-sac in the proposal. Allen Fidler asked if there was an Emergency Access path on Durham Road and Tom Hecker advised that he had met with the Fire Marshall about it; however, the Fire Marshall preferred that the path be black-topped. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that there were wetlands in the area, which do not allow for connection of roadways and create environmental problems. Allen Fidler mentioned that cul-de-sac waivers have been granted in the past; however, it might be found that the Township is super-sensitive to granting any additional waivers. Judith Stern Goldstein suggested a round table discussion with the Department of Environmental Protection to allow any crossings. Maryellen Saylor of Pickering, Corts and Summerson, Inc. advised that an individual permit might be required and noted that the Fire Marshall hasn’t raised the safety issue of an access road. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that the waiver was not an issue for the B-17 Use.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked how many waivers had been requested on this site and Mr. Hecker advised 19, with 6 variances. Mr. Hecker added that the B-17 Use, age qualified, was better than the current PS-2 Use. He advised that studies have been done and one showed where there would be $1.3 million net revenue resulting. He also confirmed to Vice Chairman Lombardi that there would be a reduced traffic impact vs. the impact that would occur with Professional Offices. Mr. Hecker has many letters of support from the community for age-qualified residences vs. offices. Judith Stern Goldstein asked that a review of services for elderly residents be specifically included in the plans and that the community would be 100% age restrictive. Mr. Hecker advised that the age restriction was mandatory and they would comply with the Commission’s requests.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors for McGrath Home’s application for Preliminary Land Development dated July 6, 2005 and revised on February 2, 2006, for proposed B-17 Use, Elderly Housing combining Tax Parcels 29-3-33-1, 29-3-34, 29-3-35, 29-3-36-2 and a portion of 29-3-36, to construct 120 age-qualified residential townhouse units presently within the PS-2, Professional Service District, subject to the following conditions:

and subject to approval for waivers and variances proposed as a part of the Preliminary Land Development Plan.

Mike Piazza motioned to recommend approval. Jay Sensibaugh seconded the motion with exception for the emergency access and the cul-de-sac issues. The motion was unanimously approved except for Allen Fidler who abstained due to a conflict of interest.

5. Zoning Hearing Board

a. Keith Smith, 148 Durham Road

The applicant/owner is seeking relief to construct a fence around the entire property due to medical complications with one of the residents. The fencing along the front of the property exceeds the 3 ft. standard.

Tom Harwood advised that the applicant was looking to extend the fence on the property up to the right of way on Durham Road. The fence would be 4 and ½ feet high, along with 2 gate columns. Jim Bowe mentioned that another piece of property at Twining Bridge and 413 had received relief for a similar fence. Mike Piazza mentioned that that due to the medical complications with one of the residents, this might be a hardship case, but Allen Fidler noted that that was something that would have to be demonstrated. Vice Chairman Lombardi preferred not to see Durham Road with a lot of fences.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to make no comment at this time.

b. Applegate Wood Floors, 8 Pheasant Run

The applicant/lessee is seeking relief to permit an 800 sq. ft. retail showroom in the existing building. The property is located in the LI, Light Industrial District that does not allow for retail use.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked Tom Harwood for his opinion. Mr. Harwood advised that the closest operation to this applicant was Direct Buy on Blacksmith Road. However, Direct Buy requires a membership, which made its use eligible. This one is strictly a retail operation and when Vice Chairman Lombardi asked about Sir Speedy, Mr. Harwood advised that the they were a G-5 permitted use in the LI and O-LI districts. He just signed the certificate of occupancy for Sir Speedy but there will have to be an inspection of the premises to determine if there are actual retail sales there.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend opposing this request to the Board of Supervisors and have the solicitor represent the township in this matter. Shannon Wilson seconded the motion and the Planning Commission unanimously approved it.

6. Subcommittee and Liaison Reports

a. Board of Supervisors – – No report

b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission – Vice Chairman Lombardi advised they were still working on the Comprehensive Plan and it is progressing well.

c. Joint Zoning Council – No report

d. Sycamore Street – Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that the Committee is working on plans for 3 open areas to be improved.

e. Historic Architectural Review Board – Vice Chairman Lombardi wanted to acknowledge Eleanor Campbell for her work on the entire historical district and the success she had on the Newtown Presbyterian Church. They are thinking about a memorial across the street from the church and some iron fencing along the creek on Sycamore Street.

f. Park and Recreation Board – No Comments

g. Environmental Advisory Council – No Comments

h. Plan Expirations – Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that everything looked okay.

7. Correspondence

a. Newtown Rental Center, Inc. – Vice Chairman Lombardi advised this was not relevant to the business of the Planning Commission

b. Resource Protection Line – 5 Millstone Drive, Newtown, PA (Lot #3, Penn’s Preserve)

Mark and Sandra Weidling are seeking relief from the Resource Protection Line that crosses the backyard of their property. The Planning Commission decided to refer this issue to Tom Harwood and he agreed to contact the applicants.

8. New Business – Jay Sensibaugh requested that a discussion item be added to the Planning Commission’s agenda – Section 245A to modify the language to allow 50% impervious and 50% non-impervious swimming pools to be considered pervious.

9. Adjournment – Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi adjourned the meeting at 11:35 p.m.; members unanimously approved the adjournment.

 

Submitted by: _______________________________
                       Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary