Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

May 16, 2006

Minutes of Previous Meeting – 05/16/2006 – Unanimously approved.

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

1. Call to Order

Vice Chairman Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:20 p.m. noting that due to Election Primaries, some of the members would be arriving late. A quorum was lacking and Vice Chairman Lombardi rearranged the agenda until members arrived; Jay Sensibaugh arrived at 8:25 p.m. and Allen Fidler arrived at 8:30 p.m. establishing the quorum.

2. Zoning Hearing Board

e. Steven DiMeglio, 150 Wrights Road

Paul Beckert advised that this item was being removed from the agenda.

a. Ken and Lisa Rentz, 176 Durham Road

The applicant is seeking relief to extend a 6’ high fence along the front of his property; the maximum height is 3’. When asked by Vice Chairman Lombardi if he had any comment on this issue, Tom Harwood advised “no comment”.

b. John V. George, 6 Harding Court

The applicant is seeking relief to construct a 17’ by 17’ sunroom in the rear of his home. This request exceeds the 30’ minimum rear setback required by 15.1’. Edward F. Koehler noted that there were some problems with the plans and Jim Bowe felt that the area was very tight. Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested that the Planning Commission pass this along to the Board of Supervisors noting hat there was not enough information in the application to make a determination on the issue. All members agreed.

Vice Chairman Lombardi returned to the proposed agenda since a quorum had been established at this point in the meeting.

3. 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.

4. Land Development – Tudor Square Phase III, Newtown-Yardley Road – Final Plan

Applicant is proposing the construction of a 3-story office building of approximately 45,456 SF, next to two existing buildings, with frontage on Newtown-Yardley Road. Associated parking areas, drop-off areas and a stormwater management area is included in the plan. The applicant provided the Planning Commission with a letter outlining their responses to the preliminary plan reviews and Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that this was the first letter the Planning Commission had received in accordance with the new procedures. He thanked Don F. Marshall, Esq. counsel for the applicant, for their compliance and advised that in the future there needed to be more elaboration in the letter regarding reasons for compliance, etc. Mr. Marshall noted that the additional requirements in the Conditional Use Approval were no longer required since a) the D-1 Use is now permitted and b) the applicant is now in compliance with the impervious cover ratio. He further advised that the applicant would comply with all of the issues raised by the Boucher and James review letter, as well as the letters from Remington and Vernick Engineers, the Bucks County Planning Commission, the Newtown Emergency Services Department, the Bucks County Conservation District and Suburban Lighting.

Regarding the Boucher and James letter, Item 3. Environmental Performance Standards, Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant needed to remove the trees across the rear of the property in order to construct the stormwater basin. He advised that it did not appear that the property was subject to the tree removal ordinance since it was commercial property and the ordinance applies to residential lots. Jay Sensibaugh asked why Mr. Marshall thought the ordinance applied to residential lots only, he responded citing the definition in the ordinance, Section 280, for wooded lots applying to single-family residential lots.

Regarding the Boucher and James letter, Item 5. Buffering and Landscaping, Mr. Marshall advised it was his understanding that Curtis A. Rittler, P.E., of Rittler Engineering, Inc. and Judy Stern Goldstein, had agreed to the landscaping shown in the plans. Ms. Goldstein noted that the ordinance requires 4’ of height in the planting with a two-year grace period for the planting to achieve that height.

Frank Mendicino asked about the lighting issue marking the entrance way and Mr. Rittler advised that a light fixture is proposed for the driveway and on the divider island. Mr. Marshall noted that the four items in the Suburban Lighting letter of March 30, 2006 are a “will comply”. When Vice Chairman Lombardi asked why the letter said the design was unacceptable, Mr. Rittler advised that they needed details on the fixtures and lighting on the building. He further advised Mr. Lombardi that the information would be provided to Suburban Lighting and if any of it was non-conforming or not to his satisfaction, the applicant would comply.

Paul Beckert returned to the issue of the trees, asking how the removal would be handled and Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant would do whatever the Commission requested. He requested a recommendation from the Planning Commission, due to the discrepancy in the ordinance. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that the trees acted as a buffer between the applicant’s property and the parking lot; however, that was not required. Allen Fidler advised that shrubbery with the 4’ height requirement and professional maintenance would provide the same, if not better, buffer. Ms. Goldstein noted, in her opinion, that the planting would be better closer to the parking area.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to approve the final plan subject to compliance with the review letters of Boucher and James dated April 19, 2006, the Remington and Vernick Engineers letter of March 28, 2006, the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of April 7, 2006, the Bucks County Conservation District letter of May 8, 2006, the Suburban Lighting letter of March 30, 2006 and the Newtown Emergency Services Department letter of May 4, 2006, with a waiver granted to allow the removal of the 31 pine trees replaced with appropriate planting. Jay Sensibaugh moved to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors as outlined by Mr. Beckert and Shannon Wilson seconded the motion.

When asked for comments, Frank Mendicino asked if the stormwater basin was wet or dry. Curtis A. Rittler responded, advising that it was a wet basin with a normal water level of 4 to 5 feet. Mr. Mendicino then asked if the basin would be secured and Don Marshall advised it was a shelf basin sloping from a normal pool level to 1’. Mr. Mendicino was concerned with the exposure to children as an attractive nuisance, but the area surrounding the basin is industrial including a cemetery. Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant would look into the cost of fencing.

Jay Sensibaugh added a comment to the Board of Supervisors regarding the fencing to his motion. The motion was approved by a vote of 5 to 1.

4. Conditional Use

Philly Crab Express, 2102 South Eagle Road, Village at Newtown

The applicant is proposing an approximate 2,000 SF Take Out Restaurant, E-6 Use replacing an E-3 Business Service Use in the Village of Newtown with frontage along South Eagle Road. No change is proposed to the outside of the building.

Steve Clark, owner/applicant, advised that he currently operates 3 restaurants (2 eat-in and 1 take-out in Gwynedd) and is proposing this operation as a strictly take-out venture. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that she had one problem with the square footage of the location, stating that one portion of the application showed 1,600 SF and another indicated 2,000 SF. Mr. Clark advised that there would be no change on his part of the size of the premises and Frank Mendicino added that the stores in the center were not uniform along the rear causing discrepancies in the square footage. Paul Beckert confirmed with the applicant that he was just occupying whatever space there was, not making any changes. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked the applicant how many employees there would be and Mr. Clark responded there would be a maximum of 10; 5 employees in two shifts. When asked about the hours of operation and some discussion regarding the value of presenting the maximum hours to avoid re-application to the board, Mr. Clark advised they would be 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. Regarding deliveries Mr. Clark advised the food is prepared at his other restaurant and delivered in small-refrigerated vans. Vice Chairman Lombardi raised the issue of parking and Judy Stern Goldstein advised that since the location was in a mixed use shopping center and the requirement was 5.5 spaces per 1,000 SF of overall center, it did not seem to be a concern. When Vice Chairman Lombardi questioned the handling of trash, Mr. Clark advised it would the same as everyone else in the center and if need be, a receptacle would placed in front of his store.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval subject to the following conditions:

When Vice Chairman Lombardi asked for comments, a member of the public noted that traffic was a problem and that the Board of Supervisors appeared not to be concerned, having raised this issue on several occasions. Frank Mendicino noted that the discussion had no bearing on this applicant.

Allen Fidler motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors as framed by Mr. Beckert; Jim Bowe seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.

b. PetSmart, 2600 South Eagle Road, Village at Newtown

The applicant is proposing to operate an E-2 Large Retail Store and E-20 Veterinary facility in a building to be constructed in the Village of Newtown with frontage along South Eagle Road. Adam Laver, Esq., counsel for the applicant along with Mike Darden, a manager with PetSmart and Rena Burnett, in charge of professional relations in respect of the veterinary facility, made the presentation. Mr. Laver advised the following:

Mr. Laver advised that no spaces that are not available to PetSmart are shown in the plans. Allen Fidler noted that since PetSmart was occupying one-half of the building, the real problem would be when a tenant was found for the other half. Edward Koehler advised that there were 154 parking spaces including 8 handicapped spaces and the PNC Bank parking. Mr. Fidler then noted that the township needed to calculate the number of spaces remaining for the last tenant and generally it was determined to be approximately 50 spaces. Frank Mendicino mentioned that when the building was first proposed, the owner/applicant felt they could pull spaces from the other side to make the numbers work and the board felt it would not work; now the problem was becoming real. Mr. Laver added that PetSmart’s policy was not to allow employees to park in the front of the store, inconveniencing customers. However, Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that employees of the old shopping center had been parking in what would now be PetSmart’s area. Additionally, Mr. Laver noted that 4 of the 8 handicapped spaces referred to previously, were included in PetSmart’s plans.

Jay Sensibaugh asked if there would be any housing of animals overnight and Mr. Laver responded “no”. Paul Beckert questioned Mr. Laver about any site improvements and he responding saying that all improvements would be inside only and there would be no outdoor runs for the animals.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked for any comments from the members and Frank Mendicino raised the parking issue again. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that when the original land development was proposed, the parking space issue met with the proposed square footage for the center. Paul Beckert added that parking at a distance from the stores is a problem in every shopping center.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to approve the Conditional Use to the Board of Supervisors and Shannon Wilson seconded it. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked for comments. Allen Fidler suggested that the Board of Supervisors be reminded that they were going to have to face the parking situation when the last tenant came in and overall, the parking scenario was not going to be sufficient. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that there were “reserve” parking spaces in the rear that the Township did not want to make available. Mr. Fidler noted that all the Planning Commission could do was to express their concerns. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that there appeared to be no grounds to deny this applicant.

Paul Beckert framed the motion to recommend approval for the PetSmart Inc. Conditional Use with the following conditions:

5. Ordinance Review – National Veteran’s Cemetery Amendment; Melsky Rezoning Amendment – Change to Zoning Map and Ordinance

Upper Makefield Township is proposing a zoning amendment to accommodate the National Veterans Cemetery on the Dolington Tract and to rezone the Melsky Tract. To new Classes of Districts are proposed - HPO – Historic-Patriotic Overlay and VR-2 – Village Residential/Medium Density. The HPO District is an overlay zone upon the Conservation Management District to accommodate the National Veteran’s Cemetery in Upper Makefield Township and the existing Historic Village of Dolington. It permits larger lot sizes together with the creation of National Veterans Cemetery as an open space buffer to the Historic Village of Dolington. The VR-2 District is intended to provide detached single-family dwelling units on smaller lot sizes where public water and sewer are available.

Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that he and Jay Sensibaugh had heard a lot about both the Melsky and White Tracts, but there was nothing in the amendment concerning the White Tract. Frank Mendicino asked if the Planning Commission was making comments on this to go to the Jointure or to the Newtown Board of Supervisors. Vice Chairman Lombardi suspected that it was going to the Newtown Board; however, at the Jointure they had discussed the 2 tracts together. He added that at the last meeting, they had spoken of the White Tract being more valuable than the Melsky Tract since the Melsky Tract would be taking 15,000 SF lots and the White Tract would be taking 20,000 SF lots. There was also discussion about dividing the units equally between both tracts, but that doesn’t appear to have gone anywhere with receipt of this ordinance from Upper Makefield. Paul Beckert confirmed that the ordinance provided for the 15,000 SF on Melsky and the 20,000 SF on White, so Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that no zoning change was proposed for the White Tract, only for the Melsky Tract. Judy Stern Goldstein apologized for only have a few hours to review this, having received the information at 2:00 p.m. today. However, she noted that both the Melsky Tract and the White Tract were subject to the HPO zoning. Paul Beckert advised that his understand of the Board’s view is that they will deal with it after Upper Makefield makes their decision.

Jay Sensibaugh advised, from his point of view, there were a few items that he would comment on regarding the Newtown Planning Commission’s review of the plans. He understood that the Planning Commission had an application/submission including the Melsky Tract. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that the application/submission was received along with the sketch plan, but there had been no time to review it.

After much discussion, Jay Sensibaugh motioned that the Planning Commission table the issue until the next meeting. Shannon Wilson seconded the motion and members unanimously agreed.

Frank Mendicino excused himself from the meeting at 10:10 p.m.

6. Zoning Hearing Board

c. Jeff Barris, 28 Claire Drive

Applicant is seeking relief to erect approximately 900 linear feet of 4.5’ fencing on the Upper Silver Lake Road frontage; it exceeds the standard by .5’. Members unanimously agreed to pass this along to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.

Jim and Lori Gavaghan, 21 Autumn Drive

Applicant is seeking relief to install a 10’ by 14’ storage shed that exceeds the impervious surface ratio by .38 percentage points. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that the applicant had originally received a variance for 17% and now they wanted 17.38%. Members unanimously agreed to pass this along to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.

Keith and Annemarie Smith, 148 Durham Road

Applicant is seeking relief to construct an 866 SF in-ground swimming pool with 1,200 SF of decking and 132 SF of coping in the rear yard that exceeds the impervious surface ratio by 8 percentage points. Members unanimously agreed to pass this along to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.

7. Subcommittee and Liaison Reports

Due to the length of the meeting, Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested that the reports be passed over and no one attending objected.

8. Correspondence – None

9. New Business – None

10. Old Business

Jim Bowe advised that in discussing the Jake-brake issue a couple of weeks ago, it has come to his attention that some municipalities in the area have this restriction in place; Dublin Borough for example. Judy Stern Goldstein added that Quakertown had it along Rt. 413 and Jay Sensibaugh asked if it could be used as a model for Newtown. Allen Fidler noted that the caveat might be that it was applicable in higher density areas. Paul Beckert advised that he would look into it.

11. Adjournment – Vice Chairman Lombardi adjourned the meeting at 10:20 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by:


Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary