Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

May 2, 2006


Minutes of Previous Meeting: Vice Chairman Lombardi asked for any comments/changes to the Minutes and being none, Jim Bowe motioned to approve and Frank Mendicino seconded. Members unanimously approved to accept the Minutes, with Shannon Wilson abstaining from the vote.


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

1. Call to Order – In Chairman Ward’s absence, Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:09 p.m.

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.

3. Traffic Engineer’s Report

Matt Johnston noted the following items on the Pennoni Associate’s traffic report for May 2006:

Jay Sensibaugh asked about the Jake-brake restrictions noted in Item 11 of the report. Mr. Johnston advised that a township wide restriction, in Pennoni’s opinion, would be unacceptable to PennDOT. He added that it might be acceptable on specific roads, i.e. Swamp Road, where there is a hill. Mr. Sensibaugh noted that in speaking with a quarry employee/driver, the use of the Jake-brake was primarily on hills. Frank Mendicino added that the Jake-brake is designed for safety reasons and because of that, a restriction on it might cause problems. Jim Bowe then raised the question of the noise being generated by the use of the Jake-brake, coming under an excessive noise ordinance; Judy Stern Goldstein noted that it would be difficult to enforce. Vice Chairman Lombardi questioned Mr. Johnston as to why the issue had been raised and Mr. Johnston did not know. Jerry Schenkman offered a situation whereby someone who was terminally ill had complained of the noise and the Township was looking to accommodate its residents. Mr. Sensibaugh then asked if there was anyone at PennDOT who could be asked about the Jake-brake situation and Mr. Johnston advised he would look into it.

Frank Mendicino asked Mr. Johnston what Item 3. PennDOT Liaison was and Mr. Johnston responded that it is just a general category for information regarding TIPs.

4. Land Development – Final Plan for Minor Subdivision – Mastromarco Minor Subdivision, 135 Swamp Road

The applicant proposes to subdivide TMP 29-3-6 into 3 lots. The existing house will be demolished and 3 single family dwellings will be built. The existing swimming pool will remain on Lot 2 after the lot division. Access will be off Swamp Road and each lot will be provided with public water and sewer.

Vincent Fioravanti, representing Frank Mastromarco (Applicant) presented an overview of the project, including an exhibit showing the lot layout:

Mr. Fioravanti advised that there were a lot of drafting type comments in the Remmington, Vernick and Beach letter that they would be addressing; however, he had some questions about the review letters of Boucher and James, as well as the Bucks County Planning Commission, that he needed answers to before the final plans could be completed.

Regarding the Boucher and James letter most of the items are a “will comply” issue. With respect to Page 2, Item 4. – Dimensional Requirements, the issue of impervious surface has been rectified by the revised driveway layout and no variances will be needed. Mr. Fioravanti advised that there appears to be a requirement of a minimum of 3,000 SF per lot set aside for open space and requested a clarification from the Planning Commission on how to handle “open space” in reference to Items 4.b., 8 and 3 (under the General Comments). Judy Stern Goldstein noted that there was a need to clarify the 80% of open space indicated in the applicant’s original plans. Mr. Fioravanti advised that it was the percentage left after the percentage of impervious coverage was determined (20% impervious cover; 80% open space). Ms. Goldstein advised that the standards were different when looking at the requirements of Park and Recreation Space vs. Open Space, and not to confuse the two. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that “open space” was everything that was not the building and impervious cover. Mr. Fioravanti felt sure that the plans would meet the requirements.

Regarding the Boucher and James letter, Mr. Fioravanti advised that Item 5. – Parking Requirements appeared not to be an issue with the size of the driveways. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that he also needed to take into consideration adequate turn-around areas.

Regarding the Boucher and James letter Page 3., Item 7 – Landscaping, Mr. Fioravanti asked if the existing trees along Swamp Road could be used as “street trees”. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that was permissible and that no waiver was required. Mike Piazza noted that the existing trees could not impair the sight along the driveway.

Paul Beckert asked Mr. Fioravanti about B. General Comments, Item 2 – Lighting and Mr. Fioravanti advised that they have not heard anything from the Lighting Consultant. Allen Fidler did not think that the minor subdivision into 3 lots required a streetlight plan. Judy Stern Goldstein preferred to see a letter from the Lighting Consultant, noting that the likelihood of any issues was minimal. Mr. Fioravanti advised he would check with them.

Regarding the Bucks County Planning Commission letter Page 2, Item 3. – Sidewalks, Mr. Fioravanti asked if a waiver was appropriate or if the township had the right to suggest the sidewalks be put in without a formal waiver. He did not see the need for sidewalks since the surrounding area was open, but if the township required it they would comply. The consensus of the Planning Commission was that with no pedestrian traffic, there was no need for sidewalks; however, Paul Beckert advised that it might be a requirement of the Board of Supervisors since they had required sidewalks and curbing in the past.

Allen Fidler noted that the owner of the property, shown in the Remmington, Vernick and Beach letter was not his wife, Elizabeth Fidler.

Judy Stern Goldstein made mention of Item 6, Page 4 of the Boucher and James letter, asking if any discussions had taken place with the adjoining property owners. Mr. Fioravanti advised that they believed they had the right of way; however, Ms. Goldstein noted that the plans did not indicate a dedicated right of way and that needed to be shown.

Mr. Fioravanti asked if there were any type of paving that was not considered impervious. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that any driveway material on packed stone was considered impervious.

Regarding the Remmington, Vernick and Beach letter Item III – Subdivision and Stormwater Ordinance, Mr. Fioravanti advised the soil is moderately well drained and asked if a soil testing report was necessary. Ed Koehler advised that there would be no problem if the information the applicant provided was on the conservative side of the published data and the engineered signed off on it. Mr. Fioravanti added that they plan to have their engineers meet and review everything before the final plans are submitted.

Paul Beckert asked the applicant about Item 8. – Minor Subdivision in the Bucks County Planning Commission letter. Mr. Fioravanti responded noting that a shared driveway would be between only 2 lots, so there would be only 2 accesses. Mr. Beckert questioned a shared driveway making this proposal a Major Subdivision and Jim Bowe asked why a shared driveway was being proposed at all. Ed Koehler noted that the shared driveway saved on the impervious surface and Allen Fidler added that 2 accesses onto the road, from a safety standpoint, were better than 3. Mr. Fidler recommended addressing the issue of shared driveways since there would probably be more of them contemplated in the future. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised the applicant to ask for a waiver on this. Frank Mendicino noted that the shared access was quite close to the island in the road and that it might be unsafe. Mr. Fidler proposed removal of the island and Jim Bowe recommended a meeting with PennDOT.

Paul Beckert asked if the applicant had submitted anything to the Conservation District and Mr. Fioravanti advised they had not, waiting to finalize the plans and submit it once.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked the applicant what they were seeking from the Planning Commission and Mr. Fioravanti advised they were looking for approval in compliance with the letters. Paul Beckert asked if the applicant wanted the Planning Commission to send this on to the Board of Supervisors with the intent to comply or to go back through the review process? Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested that the applicant come back to the Planning Commission with the final plans first. Jay Sensibaugh proposed that this review be continued at a later date and it was agreed by all that the review would continue at the June 20, 2006 Planning Commission meeting. Paul Beckert noted that the application expired on June 19, 2006, so an extension would need to be granted by sending a letter to the Board of Supervisor’s manager and Mr. Fioravanti agreed.

5. Conditional Use – Carlucci’s Express Café, 104 Pheasant Run

The applicant is requesting approval to amend the Conditional Use granted on August 24, 2005 as follows:

Don F. Marshall, Esq. introduced Cameron Triolo, Neil Capuano of Carlucci’s Express and Dr. Bill Mlkvy of the Newtown Business Commons Association. He then listed what had been approved in the Conditional Use granted on August 24th, including:

He noted that the Conditional Use that was approved was granted as a part of the overall conceptual operation of the site and now, Carlucci’s has expressed an interest in entering into a lease with Mr. Triolo to operate this café. Due to this, he listed the modifications to the original Conditional Use Approval that Carlucci’s was looking for:

Mr. Marshall added that the number of employees would not change, along with all the other conditions stated in the original Conditional Use Approval. Referencing the Boucher and James letter of April 10, 2006, Item 2. – Employees would be changed to reflect 2 shifts instead of 3 shifts in the final plans.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked if there were any comments from the members of the Planning Commission. Mike Piazza questioned the need to extend the hours past 7 p.m., particularly on Saturday and Sunday, to service an industrial area. Mr. Marshall noted that when the original Conditional Use was submitted, there were plans to provide a dinner service in the adjacent hotel, which has since been decided against. Mr. Piazza noted that with limited clientele, it seemed inappropriate to stay open. Jay Sensibaugh asked if the applicant expected to have support from the businesses within the district or others within the community, in the evening hours. Mr. Capuano responded “both” and Mr. Marshall noted that there are businesses within the Commons that are open until 10 p.m., i.e. the Racquetball Club.

Frank Mendicino advised that he was against this from the beginning because the original application was not submitted to the Planning Commission as a “conceptual plan” and for the owner to go out and secure a tenant now, did not sit well. It was stated to the Planning Commission that the concept was only to service employees in the LI, Light Industrial District, locally. He noted that the applicant had to show the Planning Commission how the modification was going to service the members of the LI District first and foremost. He added that referring to the racquet club was not servicing members of the district, but rather bringing in customers from outside the district. The primary goal was to provide a lunchtime facility; now the applicant is proposing late dinners and weekends. Don Marshall responded by saying that he did not recall making any such presentation and that the Board of Supervisors had required an eating establishment. When asked by Frank Mendicino “who made that request?”, Mr. Marshall advised that it was the Business Development Council, when they were talking about building the hotel. Mr. Mendicino asked if it was Supervisor Weaver and Mr. Marshall advised he did not know, adding that Mr. Triolo would be glad to develop the location for office use, if the Board did not like the application. Mr. Marshall added that in their opinion the people in the Commons wanted to have the café available to them. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that it appeared to him that Carlucci’s wanted to provide a full service restaurant and Mr. Capuano described Carlucci’s Express as being a quick service restaurant including delivery, catering and provided food at dinner meetings. Jim Bowe asked what type of service they intended to provide and Mr. Capuano responded that it would be a buffet-type self-service operation, including delivery to homes and room service for the hotel. Frank Mendicino advised that the type of operation described here belonged in the retail zoned district and in his opinion, when the Planning Commission granted the original Conditional Use application, the door was opened to allow operations in the LI district that were not intended to be there. Jay Sensibaugh thought that members had originally perceived the café being closer to the hotel, servicing the hotel and other businesses in the Commons during the day. Mr. Marshall added that he did not disagree with Mr. Mendicino point and the question was whether the Planning Commission wanted the café or not.

Dr. Bill Mlkvy advised that he was at the meeting representing the Newtown Business Association, on the Board of Directors. He distributed a letter from Douglas P. Terry, President of the Newtown Business Commons Association in favor of the application. Mr. Terry’s letter advised that the zoning had been previously changed to allow hotel and restaurant operations and it would be a great asset to the park. Mr. Mlkvy added that there is a strong income derived from the Commons and when there were a lot of vacancies, the zoning was changed to uplift the Commons, as well as, the income to the Township. He spoke of his own business, at times, having 30 technicians and not having a place to put them. In his opinion, denying Carlucci’s would have a negative impact on the Business Commons. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the issue was with the nighttime and weekend hours and Mr. Mlkvy responded by saying that from a business standpoint, you can’t expect a restaurant to operate on limited hours. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that it appeared that the additional hours were necessary for the restaurant to be successful and Mr. Mlkvy agreed.

Frank Mendicino expressed his concern that Mr. Mlkvy had indicated that the members were not in tune with the operations in the Business Commons and Mr. Mlkvy apologized for the inference. Mr. Mendicino added that the Economic Development Committee discussion had made a lot of people aware of the revenues generated by the park. He noted that the letter from Mr. Terry had some items that were contradictory, i.e., traffic flow within the park only and light traffic after 6:00 p.m. which would indicate there were no business open in the Commons after 6:00 p.m. Further, Mr. Mendicino advised that as a resident he was clearly aware of the revenues generated by the park and that it was very expensive to operate a business in the Commons. He noted that a lot of new buildings with 60% of impervious cover have been constructed in the park, while the older buildings are still vacant due to the cost to occupy them. He requested that the discussion deal with the heart of the issue only. Don Marshall noted that the hotel was a good example of the constructive reuse of the buildings and while Jay Sensibaugh agreed with him, he noted that the issue was not to allow retail use in the LI, Light Industrial District; he did not see a restaurant with extended hours being a true support of the businesses in that district.

Paul Beckert asked Mr. Marshall whether this was E-5 or E-6 Use, noting that E-6 Use was primarily for consumption off premises. Mr. Beckert advised that E-5 Use was eat-in only and as the operation was being described it appeared to be E-6 Use which was not permitted in the LI district. When Vice Chairman Lombardi asked it the applicant had ever had the restaurant ordinance explained to them, Mr. Marshall advised they had not.

Dr. Mlkvy requested that the Planning Commission give them some consideration with the application and Jim Bowe responded that the Township has agreed to a number of issues with the Business Association. Mr. Bowe felt that Dr. Mlkvy was implying that the Planning Commission was not helpful. Mr. Bowe added that he thought a café was needed in the Commons, but that this request was over the top.

Mike Piazza wanted to come to an agreement, restating that the prime issue was with the extended hours and the weekends; allowing service for the hotel, but not open to the public. Allen Fidler added that it appeared that the business liability was driving the application; he felt that a food service business connected with an eat-in conference center was a logical inclusion. Frank Mendicino added that if the café was for the hotel and the park, it should have been located within the hotel. Mr. Fidler noted that having the café close to the hotel, providing service for the Business Commons could be an economic incentive to an operator, but that was between the tenant and the property owner; the nature of the Business Commons would change in spite of this applicant or not. Dr. Mlkvy noted that change needs to happen and Mr. Fidler added that change should be shaped to meet the needs of the community and he would support the application with some modifications and changes, but it was the decision of the Board of Supervisors.

Frank Mendicino reiterated that a restaurant operation, such as this, belonged in the Retail District. For years it has been the intent to bring people into the community by developing areas such as Sycamore and State Street with retail and restaurant business. The Business District has been developed to bring revenue into the Township. Jay Sensibaugh added that State Street has gone through, and is still going through, some difficult times; allowing a restaurant in the LI district could detract from the area where the use is intended to be. Don Marshall advised that some years ago changes were made to revitalize the Business Commons by developing a centerpiece to make the rest of the park attractive. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the adaptive reuse of the area has not materialized; instead new buildings have taken advantage of the new zoning. When Mr. Marshall noted that applications for adaptive reuse have been presented more often to the board lately, Mr. Mendicino suggested allowing people to visit Sycamore and State Streets for the retail and restaurant operations it is zoned for. Mr. Marshall felt that not approving this application meant that the Planning Board had gone only halfway in the revitalization of the Business Commons. Jay Sensibaugh asked Mr. Marshall what type of food service was provided in the hotel and he responded saying breakfast and cheese in the afternoon.

Paul Beckert advised Vice Chairman Lombardi that the Conditional Use allowable in the LI district is E-5, catering to employees. Mike Piazza noted for the record that the vote was not against Carlucci’s, but against the extended hours.

Mike Piazza motioned to deny the use for Carlucci’s based on the extended hours, additional days and inconsistency with the zoning. Jim Bowe seconded the motion. Frank Mendicino advised that the Planning Commission needed clarification on how the business would be run. Mr. Piazza added the option to return with a clarification of the operation and compromise. Don Marshall noted that a compromise was not the issue since the original Conditional Use had already been granted and if the applicant operated under the terms of that approval, the point was mute. The motion was approved on a vote of 4 to 1.

6. Subcommittee and Liaison Reports

a. Board of Supervisors – No Report

b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission

Jay Sensibaugh reported that Planning Commission had prepared a number of maps regarding the comprehensive plan – areas served by public water and areas served by public sewers, in the Township. He advised that Stan Aramis had made a presentation dealing with the concept of the VA Cemetery, the White parcel and the Melsky property. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that he had suggested that 3 members from the 3 municipalities review the comprehensive plan, but that would be delayed until sometime in June.

c. Joint Zoning Council – Alan Fidler noted that there would be a meeting soon, but with respect to the issue with the Wineries, it appeared that any ordinance would be specific to the municipality involved. Vice Chairman Lombardi added that it appeared that discretionary items involving Land Development Ordinances were reverting back to the individual townships; this did not appear to be a good direction in his opinion.

d. Sycamore Street – Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the date has not yet been set.

e. Historic Architectural Review Board – No Report

f. Park and Recreation Board – No Report

g. Environmental Advisory Council

Jay Sensibaugh noted that they were moving forward with Ecco Star. Additionally, the flood elevation ordinance appeared to be excessive.

h. Plan Expirations – No Report

7. Correspondence

a. Community Association Office Park (Cricklewood Green)

b. Veterans Association of Newtown – Minor Subdivision/Tomlinson Minor Subdivision Lot Consolidation Plan

Paul Beckert noted that both of the above items were for information purposes only and the Planning Commission agreed that there was nothing to discuss.

8. Old Business

Frank Mendicino asked about the sketch plan for Eagle Rock and Paul Beckert advised that no preliminary plans have been filed yet. Mr. Mendicino also asked if the “Governor’s Growing Greener” issue would come to the Planning Commission first and Mr. Beckert advised it would go to Park and Recreation.

9. New Business – None

10. Adjournment – Vice Chairman Lombardi adjourned the meeting at 10:00 p.m. All members approved the adjournment.