April 4, 2006
MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – 04/04/2006 – Mike Piazza motioned to accept the Minutes without any changes; Allen Fidler seconded the motion that was unanimously approved, except for abstentions from Jim Bowe and Shannon Wilson.
Present: Chairman Shawn Ward and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Frank Mendicino, Beth Sanderlin and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert, Engineer Edward F. Koehler, Traffic Engineer Matt Johnson, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein and Public Works Director Tom Harwood. Jim Bowe, Shannon Wilson and Vince Lombardi were excused.
1. CALL TO ORDER – Chairman Shawn Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.
2. 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.
3. TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT – Matt Johnson handed the April Traffic Engineer’s Report to everyone; going forward these reports will be included in the meeting packages provided to the membership and others prior to future meetings. He noted the following items:
3. The Traffic Department had inquired as to the status of the TIP program and had been advised that due to financial restraints no new projects, for all townships, would be included in the 2007 update. An increase in funding has been requested for the Newtown-Yardley Road, Friends Intersection.
5. Regarding the Newtown Bypass, the Township has contacted Precision Electric to install the right turn signal at Richboro Road; no schedule has been put forth yet. Mr. Johnson also noted that the Traffic Department has made a request for a right turn signal from Buck Road onto the Bypass. Allen Fidler raised the issue of traffic response sequencing of lights going north on Buck Road; it appears that only 4 vehicles can cross the Bypass onto Sycamore Street at any one time. This was witnessed between 5 and 7 p.m. and Mr. Fidler noted that while it facilitates traffic on the Bypass, it is causing backup on Buck Road. Mr. Johnson advised that in an effort to balance all traffic movement some areas would not be as good as others. Beth Sanderlin asked Mr. Johnson if he foresaw any affect on any of the current projects due to the financial issues and he responded that he did not.
Jay Sensibaugh inquired into the installation of no U-Turn signs and Paul Beckert advised that the Board of Supervisors had decided not to do a piece-meal traffic ordinance. One omnibus traffic ordinance would be drafted to meet all of the traffic issues, including parking and non-parking area signs, adjustments in speed limits and additional stop signs along Sycamore Street. This traffic ordinance will not address the Jake Brake issue. Mr. Beckert foresees this traffic ordinance being drafted sometime in May 2006.
4. LAND DEVELOPMENT – The Rose Group, 29 Friends Lane
Applicant is proposing to reconfigure the parking lot around the building and to accommodate 54 parking spaces with appropriate handicap parking and a delivery van area. Existing pavement where not required for the reconfiguration will be removed. No new public improvements are proposed nor any changes in the impervious coverage on the property.
Don Marshall, Esq. introduced himself, Henry Lieberman, Esq., one of the principals of the Rose Group, and Dominick Marziana, Architect on the project. He advised that this is Parcel No. 29-10-102-1 in the Newtown Business Commons, LI District, currently owned by the Bucks County Environmental Development Corporation. It is a 1-story, 10,580 sq. ft. building, half of which is office use and the other half, research and development. The Rose Group intends to occupy this building for their own office use and in this respect is looking to reconfigure the parking lot from the current 39 parking spaces to 54 parking spaces. In doing so, the same amount of impervious coverage will be eliminated and installed for the additional parking. Since this change deals only with the parking area, the applicant is looking for a waiver of the Land Development; however, no waiver from the financial aspect of this change is being requested, i.e. traffic impact fees if warranted. Further, there is no zoning relief being requested.
Mike Piazza asked if there was any change contemplated in the access to the property and Mr. Marshall advised no; the only change other than the additional parking spaces would be the elimination of the manufacturing style loading dock there now, making it a van delivery area by the front door instead. Judith Stern Goldstein asked Mr. Marshall to confirm no land disturbance issues were involved and he did so, noting that the more sensitive area in the rear would be better protected after the change. Jay Sensibaugh felt that it was a very positive approach to constructive re-use in the area.
Chairman Ward mentioned that he did not believe the Township Engineer had had the opportunity to review these plans and Edward F. Koehler confirmed this. Mr. Koehler asked about storm water management and Mr. Marshall responded that since the impervious coverage was not changing, it had not been anticipated. Mr. Koehler advised that if some efforts toward BMPs were made and the impervious coverage remained the same, it would be an improvement to what was there now. Judith Stern Goldstein recommended that there be a site plan review done and Mr. Marshall thought that was perfectly reasonable. Mike Piazza asked about additional lighting and Dominick Marziana noted that the existing lighting from the building appears to be adequate. Paul Beckert asked if there was adequate capacity for emergency service vehicles and he was assured there was by Mr. Marshall, who noted that with the reconfiguration there was more circulation around the building. Mr. Marshall added that there was a fire hydrant right next to the building and with the change in occupancy, the fire exposure might be lessened.
Tom Harwood was concerned with the time frame proposed to make this change, noting that there were going to be numerous informal professional reviews done. The standard timing for doing a straight building permit is 30 days vs. land development being 90 days; getting all the reviews done and fees calculated, if necessary, would be cutting it very close to a 30 day time frame. Chairman Ward asked Mr. Harwood what time was reasonable in this situation and he replied 60 days. Henry Lieberman advised that 60 days would present a very real problem to the Rose Group since they had a tenant who would be taking over their lease in September 2006 and they were anticipating 3 months of construction time. Their goal would be to have a building permit by May 15, 2006 and any consideration would be greatly appreciated. Don Marshall agreed to the 15-day extension (45 days in all of the review) proposed by Chairman Ward. Frank Mendicino was concerned about finding something that was not up to par and Mr. Marshall assured him that the applicant would comply with any recommendations needed.
Allen Fidler then proposed a streamlining of the process addressing land development issues such as this. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that Doylestown Borough already has an adaptive re-use process in place, with fee schedules and time frames; she would get more information about it.
Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval of a Land Development wavier to the Board of Supervisors subject to:
● Land Development Process be substituted with a Site Plan Review on a 45 day schedule issued upon plans being submitted, sufficient to be reviewed:
ü By the Township Planner for Zoning;
ü By the Township Engineer for Stormwater Management and related issues;
ü For landscaping, lighting, EMS;
● Without waiver for administrative or review fees; and
● Payment of Park/Rec fees and Traffic Impact fees as required.
Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors as framed by Mr. Beckert and Mike Piazza seconded the motion. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the motion.
5. CONDITIONAL USE – Rockfactory Ltd., LLC, 3 Cambridge Lane
Applicant is proposing a C-3 Commercial School Use for a private music lesson studio in the TC - Town Commercial District. No improvements are proposed for the exterior of the building, which is currently vacant.
Nick Antonaccio and Peter Baltes introduced themselves as the applicants in this proposal. The location of the studio will be located in the shopping center behind the 7-11; previous occupant was a karate school. Acoustic guitar is primarily the instrument that will be taught and there should not be any problems with the noise ordinance. The applicants have spoken with the surrounding occupancies and there appears to be no dissention; Frank Mendicino recommended that they obtain letters confirming this. Chairman Ward asked what the hours of operation would be and Mr. Antonaccio responded they would be open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; the morning hours will be left open for sessions with children and their mothers and small groups. Mr. Antonaccio advised that there would be a maximum of 8 people on staff, but the normal would be 2-3. Paul Beckert ran through the following items: No truck traffic, no change to the impervious coverage, no exterior building changes, no hazardous, flammable or explosive materials and no noxious or hazardous impact. He further added that the zoning ordinance requires a parking calculation to be made. Mr. Antonaccio then passed out a map of the property noting the available parking spaces and Judith Stern Goldstein noted that the parking requirements were 1 space for each faculty member/employee and 2 spaces for every 3 students. Edward F. Koehler calculated the number of spaces required would be 11 based on an average of 7 students, which is met by the current configuration of the parking lot. Tom Harwood confirmed that there was nothing from Codes to Chairman Ward.
Allen Fidler moved to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors; Frank Mendicino seconded the motion. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the motion.
6. ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS
- JMZO 2006-__ - Amendment to Article X, Section 1000.E.1.
Deletion of the provision in the JMZO that permits certain parking areas in the front yard within the OR - Office Research, LI - Light Industrial and OLI – Office Light Industrials Districts because it is inconsistent with certain enacted Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances; and other provisions relating to off street parking.
Paul Beckert opened the conversation by stating that this was an old ordinance dating back to 2005. It appears there is a requirement under the Newtown Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance that parking in the front yard in these districts is not permitted, but not in the Zoning Ordinance. Chairman Ward asked if it wasn’t supposed to be that way, so the Zoning Department can grant relief to it; Tom Harwood responded that he did not “recall that being the intent”. Frank Mendicino mentioned that there were already front yard parking areas in the districts and questioned why there was a need to make this change now. Chairman Ward advised that he was in full support of eliminating the front yard parking for aesthetic reasons. Mike Piazza asked for the definition of “front yard” and Tom Harwood advised that the front yard ran from the building line to the right of way line. Jay Sensibaugh noted that a corner property actually had 2 front yards and therefore, would require a variance. Frank Mendicino mentioned that there was a lot of adaptive reuse in that area and agreed with Chairman Ward that front yard parking should be on a case-by-case basis. However, he noted that he wanted to provide applicants with the opportunity to ask for a variance; not to completely preclude them from the front yard parking. Chairman Ward noted that by deleting this from the ordinance applicants would not need a zoning ordinance, they would only need a waiver. His concern was that if it were permitted, everyone would do it. Tom Harwood noted that the ordinance said that all off-street parking would be on the side or in the rear of the building; thereby, excluding front yard parking. Further, he noted that if an applicant received a waiver from the Planning Board they did not have to appear before the Zoning Board. It takes the issue of front yard parking out of the matter of right and the applicant would have to get a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board. Judith Stern Goldstein advised that existing non-conformities would be okay. Jay Sensibaugh thought this was just adding another roadblock for constructive re-use, but Chairman Ward advised that the applicant could always seek relief.
Beth Sanderlin motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors and for lack of a second, Chairman Ward so motioned. The motion was put to a vote and a majority declined. Frank Mendicino then motioned to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the ordinance not be changed and Mike Piazza seconded the motion. When put to a vote, Mr. Mendicino and Mr. Piazza approved, while Chairman Ward said nay. When asked, Allen Fidler advised that he was abstaining from the vote feeling that there was a need to redraft the ordinance; it was not fair to applicants in the adaptive re-use sector to have to approach the Zoning Hearing Board every time, when the parking fields in the district had been exhausted. Paul Beckert suggested that he would speak with Bob Pellegrino and try to clarify the intent of the ordinance with Judith Stern Goldstein and Tom Harwood’s assistance. Allen Fidler recommended establishing a specific zone for adaptive re-use so that other applicants could not take advantage of the ordinance. Judith Stern Goldstein noted that the formal process for anyone was a waiver of land development, so the issue would come before the Board regardless of the location of the property; it could be restricted to the LI - Light Industrial and OLI - Office Light Industrial Districts.
The issue was tabled.
- JMZO 2006-__ - Allowing Elderly Housing the in the PS-2 Zoning District
Reflecting the need for elderly housing within the Townships, the participating municipalities wish to allow elderly housing to be permitted as a conditional use in the PS-2 Zoning District.
Chairman Ward noted that the Zoning District involved in this ordinance was the OR – Residential District in lieu of the PS-2 Zoning District; Paul Beckert confirmed this.
Paul Beckert explained the background of this issue. Brandywine Realty approached the Township considering the possibility of abandoning their office plan and selling the property for residential use. They feared they would not be able to get an equitable price from a prospective buyer due to density issues and therefore, requested this change; the Board advised they would remain open on this issue. As a result of that, there was a meeting with the representatives of McGrath Homes, their attorney, a representative from Brandywine, Supervisor Schenkman, Supervisor Weaver and Mr. Beckert to discuss the fact that Brandywine and McGrath have entered into an agreement of sale, for an elderly housing restrictive use. It was thought that the addition of a B-17 Use – Elderly Housing to the OR Zone would be a better method than to rezone the district, since it was site-specific. The proposal submitted by McGrath is for 172 2-story homes, approximately 2,800 sq. ft., approximate sale price of $550,000 with sufficient buffering.
Allen Fidler noted that the parties involved appeared to intend to build out the property to R-2 density of 3.9 to the acre. Having wetlands and woods, the buildable area appears to be 40 acres and the OR District permits R-1 density of 1 to the acre. He asked what benefit this was to the Township and Jay Sensibaugh advised that he saw it as a benefit from the tax revenues; the financial impact is better with residential property vs. the business impact level. Frank Mendicino asked where the financial studies were and Jay Sensibaugh advised that McGrath had presented them comparing the earnings from the residential development to the office use. Paul Beckert noted that the only recommendation being asked is to move the proposal along to the Supervisors, to move it along to the Jointure, to bring it back to the Planning Commission for review on the area level and to the Bucks County Planning Commission; after those reviews it again comes back to the Planning Commission for a decision. Frank Mendicino noted that the Commission had previously decided not to add something to a zoning district just to accommodate someone coming in to develop a parcel and now it appears that this is what is being requested. However, Paul Beckert advised that there is a pending approval and appeal as to the office-use in question; the difference is comparing “no use” to the uses proposed by the issues. Allen Fidler advised that in his opinion, 2 different uses were being compared; the permitted residential use, being intensified to a higher density, takes the option of a business park off the table. He again asked what was in it for the Township. Jay Sensibaugh responded that with an R-1, the Township would get an increase in the school impact and financially nothing. Allen Fidler noted that, in his opinion, it was too great a density for the site.
Jay Sensibaugh noted that the Planning Commission would see this proposal again and motioned to move forward with this for distribution; however, the motion was not seconded. Allen Fidler recommended that a synopsis of this discussion be presented to the Board of Supervisors and if there were a consensus by the Board, the Planning Commission would have the opportunity to look at this again before it went to the Jointure. Chairman Ward agreed to include his notes in the report to the Board and advised that no action would be taken at this time.
7. SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS
- Board of Supervisors
- Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission – No report
- Joint Zoning Council– No report
- Sycamore Street– No report
- Historic Architectural Review Board– No report
- Park and Recreation Board– No report
- Environmental Advisory Council– No report
- Plan Expirations– Chairman Ward advised that he had reviewed the report and that everything appeared to be okay.
9. NEW BUSINESS - None
10. OLD BUSINESS - None
10. GENERAL DISCUSSION
Jay Sensibaugh mentioned the recommendations that the round table made in Upper Makefield regarding the Melsky property in Newtown Township. Paul Beckert adding that assuming Upper Makefield passes on the round table discussion, Mr. Murphy and Toll may be at the work session with a concept plan for where Melsky stands right now.
11. ADJOURNMENT – Chairman Ward adjourned the meeting at 9:27 p.m. with unanimous approval.
Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary