Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

April 18, 2006


2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting on April 18, 2006 – The following correction is made to the Minutes:

Alan Fidler motioned to approve the Minutes with the above correction and Mike Piazza seconded the motioned. The motion was unanimously approved with Frank Mendicino and Vince Lombardi abstaining from the vote.


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

1. CALL TO ORDER – Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:08 p.m.

2. 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.

3. LAND DEVELOPMENT – Fidler Tract, Newtown-Yardley Road – Preliminary Plan for Major Subdivision

Allen Fidler advised that he would not be participating in the discussion of this item, due to a conflict of interest.

Ed Murphy of McBride and Murphy opened the discussion by requesting that the issue be tabled to a later date, noting that the applicant was not aware of a new policy in which letters of intent must accompany revised plans. Vice-Chairman Lombardi asked Mr. Murphy to confirm that all of the items in the various professional reviews of the original proposal would be complied with and Mr. Murphy so confirmed. Chairman Ward agreed; however, he thought it was possible that the new policy had not been adopted prior to the request for plan revisions and therefore, might not apply. Chairman Ward asked for a show of hands from the public who had attended this meeting in respect of this issue and approximately 18 people so acknowledged their attendance. Vice-Chairman Lombardi then suggested that Mr. Murphy give an overview of the proposed development, along with comments from Judy Stern Goldstein, Ed Koehler and Matt Johnston, for the benefit of those members of the public.

Mr. Murphy opened the discussion by identifying the property as the Fidler-Roberts Tract, bounded by Newtown-Yardley Road, Dollington Road and Roberts Ridge Park, consisting of 28 acres. The site is slightly larger than 28 acres and is zoned R-2, High Density. Toll Brothers is looking to construct 102 townhouses in TND -Traditional Neighborhood Design with garages attached to the rear of the units and connecting alleyways. There will be 2 principle means of access to the site off of old Rt. 332 and across from Stanford Drive. A portion of Roberts Ridge Park will be acquired to meet the suggestion of the Township to have the access to the property aligned with Stanford Drive for better traffic circulation and safety. The site will include an extension of the Newtown Trail, village greens, open space and stormwater detention areas. The roads will be owned and maintained by the Homeowners Association.

Mr. Murphy advised that there is an amendment pending to add to the R-2 Zoning District, B-19 Use – Traditional Neighborhood Design; there is currently no ordinance allowing for this type of use. However, there are other ordinances in effect that allow for high-density development and this amendment would not create any more of a density than is already allowed. Zoning amendment is currently being reviewed by the Jointure.

Chairman Ward broke to introduce the members of the Planning Commission to the public along with the professional consultants and recording secretary in attendance. A member of the Public asked if any of the members resided in the area in which this proposed development would occur and Chairman Ward assured the Public that all members resided in Newtown and sat on the Commission for the benefit of the community as a whole. He noted that there would be no vote on this issue, pending receipt of revised plans from the applicant, based on previous review letters.

Judith Stern Goldstein advised that there were a lot of very specific detailed items in her review letter that would have to be dealt with, but the most important thing at this time is the re-zoning; without the re-zoning, the property cannot be developed as proposed. Chairman Ward clarified Ms. Goldstein’s statement advising that it is not actually a “re-zoning”, but an amendment to the ordinance since the property is already zoned residential. Ms. Goldstein continued stating that a B-19 Use would mimic a B-17 Use (55 and older) except that it would not be age-restrictive. Further, more open space would be required and less impervious cover would be permitted. Chairman Ward noted that there were a lot of technical issues with the original plans and asked Mr. Murphy to confirm that the developer would resubmit technically compliant plans, which he did. Judith Stern Goldstein continued noting a problem with pedestrian and vehicle circulation; some of the alleyways end abruptly and she would wait to see the resolutions in the revised plans. Further, she noted that the open space was not yet satisfactory, citing problems with Parcel B and the area around the detention basin closest to the barn. She felt that area should be functioning more like a town or village green and encouraged the applicant to develop it in the TND concept with appropriate landscaping and less like a storm water management facility.

Chairman Ward asked if the corner near Stanford Drive was going to be a direct acquisition from the Parks Department and Mr. Murphy advised that there was still discussion going on about this. However, he added that Township Supervisors had recommended that it be an outright acquisition since that area of the park was not being used at this time. Chairman Ward then asked if there was any intent to construct homes in that area and Mr. Murphy advised there would not be. Judith Stern Goldstein added that she believed it was not the intent to use any of the Township parkland in the calculations for density and asked that the applicant confirm that.

Judith Stern Goldstein mentioned an issue regarding the Newtown Trail, advising that in her meeting with the applicant it appeared that the intent was to use the existing roadbed from a previous road and turn it into an extension of the trail. From a planning perspective she preferred to see it come along Yardley Road as well, to create the opportunity for a continuous pathway. Currently it appears the existing roadway is being used and she requested that the revised plans show exactly how this would be accomplished to prohibit vehicular traffic on the trail. Allen Fidler explained that the property is aligned along the south side of the old Newtown-Yardley Road and actually part of the nursery tract; when the property conveys to Toll Brothers, anyone using the road will have to establish a new relationship with the developer. Ed Murphy noted that it was intended that all but a small portion of the road would be removed for the purpose of the trail. Mike Piazza asked that since the trail currently comes down Lower Dollington Road and crosses Stanford Drive, would there be parallel trails from that point south? Mr. Murphy confirmed there would, if the Township prefers. Allen Fidler expressed a concern about pedestrians using the trail and having to cross Newtown-Yardley Road without a traffic signal. Mr. Murphy advised that the Township Parks/Recreation Department would govern the layout of the trail and Chairman Ward noted that Matt Johnson, Traffic Engineer was at the meeting to address such issues.

Judith Stern Goldstein mentioned that there was a need to see how mailboxes and refuse collection would also be handled. Mr. Murphy noted that they would be shown on the revised plans.

Edward Koehler advised that the applicant has done a fairly good job in providing for storm water management and quality; 2 of the 3 ponds have 4 bays in them which will be wet water planted and double serve as amenities. His only concern was with the waiver that the applicant has requested for turning radius, noting that fire trucks, moving vans and such, would require the ability to move within the development with little or no difficulty. Chairman Ward asked Mr. Koehler to comment on the movement of water, noting that he understood it would flow across into the industrial park. Mr. Koehler advised that after the stormwater is captured the release rate would be 75% of the pre-development release rate; after a rainstorm 25% of the water will be held and there would be less water released. Chairman Ward advised that the concept of release rate was that the closer property is to waterway, the quicker the release rate is. A member of the Public asked if the pond that was on the site would be left there and Mr. Murphy confirmed it would.

Chairman Ward noted that the plans showed a green perimeter around the property and asked about it being a buffer/setback. Mr. Murphy advised that the narrowest area from the sidewalk to the edge of the property was 75 ft., planted and landscaped.

Chairman Ward introduced Matt Johnson, Traffic Engineer. Mr. Johnson advised that the Traffic Engineer’s concern was with the access, circulation and traffic impact that the development would have on the area. He noted that several items were being worked on, such as improvements along Newtown-Yardley Road, relocation of the access at Stanford Road and left-turn lanes into the development. A member of the Public asked if Dollington Road would be widened and Mr. Johnson advised it would, providing for a left-turn lane. Another member of the Public asked why the access road had to be opposite Stanford Road. Chairman Ward advised that the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission felt it would be prudent to have one 4-way intersection as opposed to 2 3-way intersections. Jim Bowe added that it was a safety issue. Chairman Ward added that from a planning view it made more sense and used less open land. A third member of the Public asked if there would be a traffic light at Stanford Road and Mr. Johnson advised there would be a stop sign.

A member of the Public asked how an additional 200 vehicles would be handled in the area. Matt Johnson responded saying that calculations had been done showing approximately 52 additional vehicles during the morning peak hours and 61 additional vehicles during the evening peak hours; the proposed right and left turn improvements would handle this. When asked by the Public how this was determined, Mr. Johnson advised that it was general engineering practices.

Jim Bowe asked how the applicant planned to curtail variance requests from homeowners such a decks and patios. Mr. Murphy advised that the way the units were constructed up front, was the only way they would be constructed; they would be deed restrictive. Mr. Bowe, concerned about other developments that were restrictive in this manner and homeowners now requesting variances, asked if all the ground was common ground? Mr. Murphy responded that the Condominium Association owns all the ground.

A member of Public again raised the issue of the roadways and Matt Johnson advised that the way the roadways have been designed is to deter cut-through. Mr. Murphy emphasized that all the roadways within the development are privately owned. In light of the private ownership, Jim Bowe discussed the possibility of installing speed bumps. When asked by the Public, Judith Stern Goldstein confirmed that all garages were in the rear of the units.

A member of the Public asked that they be given a description of the units and Greg LaGreca of Toll Brothers advised:

Concerned about traffic, a member of the Public again asked about the impact and Matt Johnson advised that it was estimated to be 600 vehicles per day, entering and exiting the development. Based on Mr. Johnson’s answer, the member of the Public mentioned that drivers might look to other routes though side streets i.e. Frost Lane and the Industrial Park, along with an increase on Dollington Road. Mr. Johnson replied that those issues are being looked at to make sure there are adequate site distances, the entrances are safe and that they can accommodate the traffic.

Chairman Ward noted that this was a preliminary plan and changes would be made to it. Further, he advised that Mr. Murphy had heard the comments of the Public, Mr. Beckert had written them down and the recording secretary would include them in the meeting minutes. He then invited the Public back when the plans were revised and resubmitted for their comments. Mr. Murphy noted that revisiting this issue would probably not be for another 45 to 60 days.

A member of the Public again raised the issue of roadways, noting that she knew of 2 accidents that have occurred along Newtown-Yardley Road where a new doctor’s office has been built. The intersection is dangerous and there is a trench along one side of the road that has been left open. When asked who damaged the road, she responded the “developers’. Matt Johnson advised that additional improvements were required and would be done at that location, including a traffic light. Chairman Ward added that the entire stretch of road at that location was still under construction.

Another member of the Public asked “how much influence does the Public have over decisions” made by the Planning Commission. Chairman Ward replied that the Planning Commission is an Advisory Board, advising the Board of Supervisors regarding issues presented by applicants, including the Public’s view on them, if any. The ultimate decision is up to the Board of Supervisors.

Lastly, a member of the Public asked if they might consider lowering the number of homes and Chairman Ward advised that that has already been done; the original submission was for 120 homes. It is unlikely that any further reductions will occur.

4. McGRATH/BRANDYWINE SITE

Chairman Ward noted the correction to the Agenda regarding this item, advising that Tom Hecker of Begley, Carlin and Mandio vs. Tom Harwood, would make the presentation.

Chairman Ward advised that discussions regarding this site had been a topic of the Board of Supervisors Work Session last week and in discussing it with Paul Beckert, it would be beneficial to the Planning Commission to hear what had occurred. This is just a discussion item.

Mr. Tom Hecker of Begley, Carlin and Mandio advised that there has been a formal agreement of sale between McGrath Homes and Brandywine Realty for this property. McGrath Homes is looking to develop 58 acres into a residential multi-plex quad-type age-restrictive site consisting of +/- 172 units. He then introduced Wayne Johnson of Pickering, Corts and Summerson, Inc. Mr. Johnson provided a conceptual layout for the Planning Commission. He advised that it was proposed to leave the OR Zoning District alone and add the B-17 Use – Residential Age-Restrictive, to it. He added that it was still very early in the development plans. The site was located in a heavy wooded/wetlands area; the majority of the land fairly graded. There would be a single access point with one emergency exit, similar to Delancey Court with one main entrance and an emergency exit onto 413. Within the development there would be one driveway for each quad-plex. Each owner would have approximately 3,500sq. feet of land in fee simple ownership; all other land is common space of the homeowners association. They are looking at one large detention facility with the possibility of a wet pond. When asked, Tom Hecker noted that a gated community was not as important with a single access road, as with multiple access roads. Mr. Johnson continued that the base site area was approximately 3 dwelling units per acre.

Chairman Ward asked if anyone had done an economic loss report; Mr. Hecker advised they had and would provide the report to everyone. He handed out a Traffic and Fiscal Impact Comparison based on 400,000 sq. ft. of office space vs. 172 AQC Units. The comparison showed a fiscal impact of $733,683 from the office vs. $1,591,163 from the AQC. Further, page 2 of the comparison showed the traffic impact from the office being far greater than from the AQC. Vince Lombardi asked him for an assessed value of the property and Mr. Hecker, referring to page 2 of the comparison, noted that the AQC was slightly higher than the office.

Allen Fidler, referring to the discussion at the Joint Zoning Council meeting, mentioned that with age-qualified development there was no school impact. The comparison report showed “0”; however, people relocating within the Jointure to an age-qualified development, can cause an impact on the schools when selling their previous residence to a young family with children. Therefore, a school impact can indirectly occur with age-qualified development, which is an argument that is being raised in the Jointure. Chairman Ward asked John McGrath if there had been any analysis done at McGrath Homes’ other developments in respect of this issue. Mr. Hecker advised that the applicant has been before the Bucks County Planning Commission on 2 occasions to address issues, such as this, that have been raised and the Planning Commission will be able to see the numbers in the report from Dennis Glacko.

Chairman Ward noted that some questions had been raised about existing structures on this site. John McGrath advised the possibility of carving the farmhouse out of the development, rehabbing it and selling it apart from the development.

Paul Beckert raised a concern from neighbors along Silver Lake Road, noting that the road had been closed to avoid traffic along Brandywine; the essential configuration of the road, in other than ideal weather conditions, is mud. There appears to be a general consensus to reopen the road, since the traffic impact would be minimal and there would be no disturbance in any of the Core Creek area. He then asked the applicant, since the lots are fee simple, were they up to the maximum of impervious cover and the response was “no – it is actually less than the maximum for the site”. Chairman Ward noted that one of the problems the Commission runs into is that developers come in with a proposal and once the development is built, individual homeowners make application for variances. He asked the applicant for a description of the units which Wayne Johnson gave ...

Chairman Ward asked about storm water management and Mr. Johnson responded that one pond was proposed.

A member of the Public, Mark Maskara, asked if there were any improvements proposed for Upper Silver Lake Road. Chairman Ward advised that the plans were preliminary and conceptual at this point. If approved, the applicant would have to submit plans that would comply with the Township’s ordinances, which may or may require improvements to surrounding roads. Mr. Maskara’s concern was with disturbance of the woods and John McGrath advised that they would save as much of the wooded area as possible.

Paul Beckert advised that this issue would now go to the Jointure and be reviewed within the next 30 days. The ordinance to add the B-17 Use to the OR District is at the Bucks County and Newtown Area Planning Commissions.

Jim Bowe advised that he had a concern with the use because in the future there may be a decrease in the demand for it. As the decrease occurs, there may be a demand from homeowners to turn it over into a standard residential neighborhood. Vince Lombardi liked what he had heard and Mike Piazza agreed. Paul Beckert noted that approximately 20 to 25 members of the public attended the Board of Supervisors Work Session on April 10, 2006 and had raised questions regarding the traffic impact, wooded area, density, storm water, buffering, etc. Chairman Ward noted his discomfort with the issue going directly to the Board of Supervisors since it was the Planning Commission’s job to review this first. Allen Fidler noted his concern with the ordinance amendment, advising that other OR Districts could then be developed in the same manner. Paul Beckert advised that the amendment was district specific, not site specific. Tom Hecker advised that as a result of the work session, the applicant has and will continue to contact all residents that had concerns with the changes. Chairman Ward reiterated that the Planning Commission was not considering this as a development plan, but considering a zoning change only.

5. ZONING HEARING BOARD

a. Beth and Michael Lapat, 5 Delancey Drive – Applicant is seeking relief to construct a paver patio with walkway and 18” high sitting walls on their property that exceeds the minimum rear yard setback requirements. Vince Lombardi motioned that no comments be made regarding this issue and it was unanimously approved.

b. James and Ann McKenzie, 406 Merion Drive – Applicant is seeking relief to construct an in-ground swimming pool, pool decking, driveway enlargement and walkway that exceeds the impervious surface ratio allowable; request is for 23.55% vs. 12% allowable. Vince Lombardi motioned that the Planning Commission recommend non-approval of this request to the Board of Supervisors, noting that the request is excessive. Chairman Ward so noted the comment and advised he would present it to the Board as such.

c. KC Sign Co. c/o Council Rock, 62 Swamp Road – Applicant is seeking relief to install a baseball and soccer scoreboard on behalf of Council Rock High School at 62 Swamp Road. The scoreboards will be within 1000 feet of the Newtown Bypass, will be in addition to the existing CRHS signs, will be greater than the size allowance and exceeding the height allowance. Shannon Wilson motioned to recommend approval to the BOS; Jim Bowe seconded and it was unanimously approved.

6. SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS – Due to the length of the meeting Chairman Ward recommended that reports be waived and all members concurred.

7. ADJOURNMENT – Chairman Ward adjourned the meeting at 10:13 p.m.

 

Respectively submitted by:

 

__________________________
Susan M. Dalman – Recording Secretary