Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

June 6, 2006


DRAFT - SUBJECT TO AMENDMENT BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION


Present: Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Jim Bowe and Beth Sanderlin. 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 and Shannon Wilson were delayed arriving at approximately 9:00 p.m. Frank Mendicino and Mike Piazza were excused.

1. Call To Order – Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.

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

3. Traffic Engineer’s Report

Matt Johnston, Traffic Engineer, passed out the June Township Engineer’s Report and advised that everything is satisfactory.

Regarding item #10 of the report, Mr. Johnston advised that the safety approval from PENNDOT was still pending. This includes 2 left turn lanes on Newtown-Yardley Road, signal updates and the installation of a traffic signal at Penn Trail and the Newtown Bypass. Construction is expected to begin in 2007.

Vice Chairman Lombardi mentioned that there is a problem on Jefferson Street with right turns. A “no right turn on red” sign has been installed facing Sycamore Street. It is creating chaos and backing traffic up into the 4-way stop sign. Beth Sanderlin added that in her opinion, it was the left turn that was causing the problem because motorists had a tendency to enter too far into traffic and cut the turn to closely. Mr. Johnston advised that he had also seen the problem and felt a meeting with the Township staff, including Chief Whitehead, was needed. The “no right turn on red” sign cannot be removed – that is up to PENNDOT.

Jay Sensibaugh asked about item #1 on the report – Closed Loop Traffic Signal System (Rt. 413 and Durham Road to I-95). Mr. Johnston advised that it was a regional planning item and would incur no cost to the Township; completion expected in June, 2006. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked for an explanation at the next meeting.

4. Conditional Use Applications

a. Oishi Japanese Restaurant, 2817 South Eagle Road

Harold Lichtman, AIA, of GLP Architects represented the applicant and advised that Oishi Japanese Restaurant, Inc. was proposing to increase the size of the existing restaurant by assuming the previous GNC premises next to the applicant’s restaurant. Regarding item #4 of the Boucher and James, Inc. review letter, he advised that there were no hazardous, flammable or explosive materials in the restaurant. Jay Sensibaugh questioned the use of hibachi grills and propane. Mr. Lichtman noted that natural gas was used in the kitchen and if hibachi grills were used in the restaurant, which had yet to be determined, that same natural gas would be used. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that appropriate venting and safety requirements would need to be complied with and Mr. Lichtman agreed. Ms. Goldstein noted that the parking appeared to be adequate based on the shopping center ratios and Mr. Lichtman added that the spaces allotted to GNC would be assumed, parking for employees would be in the rear and if need be, the seating in the restaurant would be decreased to comply. Deliveries are to the rear and consist of small trucks and delivery vans only. He added that trash removal is handled by the shopping center and occurs 2 to 3 times weekly. Ms. Goldstein confirmed with the applicant that the number of employees was on an average of 7, with a maximum of 10 and that hours of operation would be 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Paul Beckert mentioned that when Conditional Use applications are received they are distributed to various departments, including the water and sewer authority, and that the applicant should be aware of this; Mr. Lichtman noted that he has already discussed this with them.

Paul Beckert framed a motion to approve the Conditional Use Application for Oishi Japanese Restaurant, Inc. to the Board of Supervisors with the following conditions:

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors and Allen Fidler seconded the motion. >Members unanimously approved.

b. Elliot Group, Promenade at Sycamore Street, North Sycamore Street

David Shafkowitz, Esp., counsel for the applicant described the project:

Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the Planning Commission needed to have their concerns with the Conditional Use application addressed. Mr. Shafkowitz agreed and added that meetings with Township staff have taken place to get the proposed building on this property. The proposed building and parking structure are substantial for a lot that is 1.9 acres and the applicant, in meetings with the Township staff, has attempted to determine what will be needed to make this project a reality. The site obviously is in need of redevelopment.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked why the applicant thought the property could support this building. Mr. Shafkowitz advised that this was the building that was the subject of their application. He further described the project:

Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the hours for the promenade itself could be set and Mr. Shafkowitz agreed. He continued with his description:

Allen Fidler noted his concerns regarding deliveries due to the lack of on-street parking and access to the rear of the building. Mr. Shafkowitz noted that there is parking in the front of the building and the height of the archway is 19 ft. for access to the rear. Mr. Fidler added the necessity for enough turning radius in the rear for delivery vehicles. Jay Sensibaugh concurred with Mr. Fidler and expressed his concern over vehicular clusters at the intersection. Paul Beckert asked if there were designated delivery spots in the parking garage and Mr. Shafkowitz advised there were not. However, he added that there was a 24 ft. turn around diameter with an outdoor covered vestibule. Further, he noted that these concerns had been addressed in the meetings with the Township staff and Vice Chairman Lombardi reminded him that this was the first time the Planning Commission had seen this proposal.

Vice Chairman Lombardi asked what the time frame was on this project and Mr. Shafkowitz advised that there was 1 year to complete substantial development of the property, demolition was to occur within 60 days and submission of a complete land development plan within 4 months. The redevelopment agreement was signed in May 2005.

The conversation returned to the parking issue and Mr. Shafkowitz expressed his inability to understand the concerns of the Planning Commission. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the availability of parking was a concern to the residents not wishing to have parking spill out onto the streets of Newtown. Jay Sensibaugh added that the parking appeared to be inadequate and Mr. Shafkowitz advised that they did not anticipate parking overflow. In his opinion, Allen Fidler noted that the proposed site appeared to be overbuilt; parking would be a problem with full occupancy.

Vice Chairman Lombardi recapped the issues:

And noted that there was a proposed outlet onto S. Eagle Road, as well as, Sycamore Street. He asked Mr. Shafkowitz to elaborate on the access and egress associated with this project. Mr. Shafkowitz advised that they had looked at obtaining access to S. Eagle Road thru the Rescue Squad property; however, that was not structurally or architecturally possible. The slope/grade is just too dramatic. Judy Stern Goldstein, who had been involved in the meetings with the Township staff, advised that EMS needed emergency access at the top level of the parking facility and by proposing this access, it would be too high. Mr. Shafkowitz added that vehicular traffic considerations had to include ambulance and fire trucks and EMS had approved this design.

Allen Fidler noted that storm water management was also a concern; it appeared that the entire site was being taken up by building and parking. He wanted to know what kind of catch basin/storm water treatment had been engineered into the site. The applicant will be required to meet the storm water requirements of the SALVO. Mr. Shafkowitz acknowledged that there was going to be a problem; however, there is only 800 SF of impervious surface being added at the site. There is no underground storage proposed to be built; waivers will be requested. Edward Koehler advised that his comments on the plans had been sent last Friday and addressed numerous storm water issues. While the applicant may not completely qualify with the requirements, based on Mr. Koehler’s suggestions, the attempt to qualify would be made. The previous occupancy exceeded the 75% release rate; they are at 101%.

After additional comments regarding the concerns of the Planning Commission, Jay Sensibaugh mentioned denying approval of the plan to the Board of Supervisors. However, Shawn Ward preferred to see resolutions proposed by the applicant first. Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested that the applicant returned with answers to the Planning Commission’s concerns. Mr. Shafkowitz noted that the Planning Commission was going to have to decide what they were willing to live with, since he would not be able to meet the ordinance requirements. Judy Stern Goldstein advised that items such as shared parking, which had been provided to the Township staff, would be very helpful to the Planning Commission. Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested nighttime deliveries as one solution and Mr. Ward added than an invitation to the Fire Marshall to attend a subsequent meeting, to discuss the emergency access might be helpful.

Mr. Shafkowitz described the 2nd floor of the building proposed to be occupied as 30,000 SF of office space and 17 residential units on the 3rd floor. It is unknown at this time whether the residential units will be condominiums or apartments. He reverted back to the issue of parking, noting that some of the restaurant and office square footage, including the kitchen and restroom facilities, need not be figured into the required number of parking spaces. 51 parking spaces are needed for the residential exposure and there are 43 spaces in the proposal on the top level of the parking deck; these may be restricted to use by residents only. Units will be one and three bedroom, which may provide some flexibility with the parking.

Mr. Shafkowitz stressed that the applicant’s intent was to work together with the board. When questioned by Vice Chairman Lombardi if members were ready to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, they unanimously advised they were not. Paul Beckert noted that parking was a zoning issue and the Township is obligated to support any variance requests reasonably made in conjunction with the redevelopment plan. Jay Sensibaugh added that the access to the parking is part of the Conditional Use from a safety standpoint. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised the applicant that the issues brought to the table where what the applicant proposed and what the Planning Commission perceived as being detrimental to the community. Shawn Ward suggested scheduling a special meeting or fitting the applicant into the next meeting to discuss this further; perhaps, the applicant needed to postpone the meeting with the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Shafkowitz noted that time was a factor and the Land Development was scheduled for next month; therefore, Paul Beckert suggested doing both the Conditional Use and the Land Development together. Mr. Shafkowitz added that he needed the Uses approved in order to market the property; however, he was agreeable to additional meetings to continue the hearings and address the issues, asking the Board of Supervisors for a continuance on June 14, 2006.

Shawn Ward, through the chair, motioned to table the issue to discuss the issues of delivery, loading, parking, access/egress, traffic and EMS; Jay Sensibaugh seconded the motioned. The members unanimously approved it.

5. Subcommittee and Liaison Reports – Due to the length of the meeting, members unanimously approved to forego review of the reports.

6. Adjournment - Members unanimously approved adjournment of the meeting at 9:55 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted by:

 

______________________________
Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary