NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes for the special meeting held on September 12, 2006
Present : Chairman Shawn Ward, Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe (arriving late), Frank Mendicino, Beth Sanderlin-Weachter (arriving late) and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert and Mike Imperial - Codes and Zoning. Allen Fidler and Planner Judith Stern-Goldstein were excused.
1. Call To Order–Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:10 p.m.
2. Ordinance Review – JMZO 2006-18, Veterans Cemetery Amendment; Melsky Rezoning Amendment – Change to Zoning Map and Ordinance
William F. Tuerk, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, introduced Bill Jayne, Chief of his construction division and Steve Muro, Director of Field Operations. Also in attendance were 6 veterans, Ronald Smith of the Lower Makefield Township Board of Supervisors, Dan Rattigan of the Upper Makefield Township Board of Supervisors, Curt Warner and Kimberly Wright of the Philadelphia VA Network office and Edward Murphy, Esq., Counsel for Toll Brothers, Inc.
Chairman Ward advised that in her absence, Judith Stern Goldstein had provided everyone with her comments on this issue, focusing primarily on the traffic impact; members concurred. Paul Beckert noted that this was the final revision of the ordinance showing the overlay district including the White tract and the Melsky tract which is partially located in Newtown Township; the Gray tract is not a part of the overlay district and has already been approved by the Upper Makefield Board of Supervisors. The density in Newtown Township and Upper Makefield will be the same with 40 acres of open space and a portion of the Melsky tract in Newtown Township being held aside for the Counsel Rock School District to develop in the future, if needed.
William F. Tuerk, in response to Frank Mendicino’s request for hard data concerning this development, advised that a lot of information is not yet available. He noted that unlike some local cemeteries, the Veteran’s Association develops extraordinary facilities to provide appropriate memorials, maintains a high maintenance standard, uses natural materials whenever possible and involves the community in the development of the site. Regarding traffic, he added that:
1. No environmental impact due to other burial sites available in the area;
2. 1500 to 2000 burials per year; 6 to 8 burials per day;
3. It will take more than 50 years to completely fill the cemetery and in the interim, farmland will remain usable;
4. Architectural Engineer will do studies in respect of parking, the location of the entrance and viable access routes;
5. With an average 10 vehicles in a cortège, resulting in 60 to 80 vehicles per day, the estimate traffic impact on Washington Crossing Road would be 1/10 th of 1%;
6. Burials are restricted to the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., outside of the peak traffic period; and
7. Fully staffed, there will be 16 employees on site.
Mike Piazza asked about the cemetery configuration and Mr. Tuerk responded that veterans with at least 2 years of service, honorably discharged (special circumstances for reservists), their spouses and dependent children could be buried there. Crypts are installed in a honeycomb system, stacked 2 deep, increasing the productivity of the area; headstones are uniform. Construction will occur in 10-year phases, the first phase opening up approximately 65 acres for burials along with administration and information buildings.
Jay Sensibaugh suggested that Taylorsville Road be considered for the access route in lieu of Lindenhurst Road due to fewer traffic lights. Vice Chairman Lombardi also noted the traffic impact of proposed residential developments on Stoopville Road severely impacting Lower Makefield. Mr. Lombardi asked if the government was prepared to provide traffic impact funding to assist in problems generated by both the cemetery and the residential development. Mr. Tuerk advised he had no authority in that area and Mr. Jayne and Mr. Muro added that turning lanes, traffic lights and small improvements respecting the cemetery only would be taken care of. The entrance to the cemetery is also a concern and Mr. Tuerk noted that that was still an open issue. Access though historical Washington’s Crossing is not suitable due to the bridge that crosses the Delaware River; however, being close to the National Park is very compelling. Ron Smith and Karen Friedman, member of the Lower Makefield Planning Commission expressed their concerns about the traffic impact on Lindenhurst Road already very heavy due to the quarry traffic.
Mr. Tuerk noted that there were events at the National Cemeteries on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, with an attendance of approximately 1,500 people. When asked by Ms. Friedman about the number of people interred in the cemetery when it was completely filled, Mr. Jayne advised approximately 100,000; however, Mr. Muro added that the older the graves were, the fewer visitors there were to the site.
Regarding the cemetery entrance, Mike Piazza asked if there could be a guarantee of a single entrance and Mr. Muro advised that the likelihood of a second entrance was minimal, except perhaps for a maintenance road. Mr. Tuerk confirmed to Mr. Piazza that there would be no mausoleums; however, columbaria are used for the internment of ashes in urns.
In answer to Frank Mendicino’s request for a timeline, Mr. Tuerk advised that he has the authority and funding to secure a site now, anticipates receiving the funding on 10/01/2006 to design the cemetery and asking for construction funding in fiscal year 2008; construction would be complete on the first phase 240 days after receiving the funding. Paul Beckert advised that the Veterans Association could not move forward until the Overlay Ordinance was in effect and Mr. Tuerk added that in order to keep with their schedule they needed to know whether to proceed with this site or an alternate site. Mr. Beckert added that the VA Cemetery and the litigation on the Melsky and Dollington tracts are interconnected, along with setting the parameters for the density in the jointure. Frank Mendicino felt the density impact would be up against Newtown Township.
Ed Murphy advised that from the very start, the Veteran’s Cemetery and the residential development have been linked. The sketch plans lay out the residential areas that are not anticipated to change in the final plans and the density/traffic impact is what it is. He confirmed to Vice Chairman Lombardi that there would be approximately 96 homes on the Gray tract, 80 homes on the Melsky tract and 90 homes on the White tract; however, the Gray tract is not included in the Overlay Ordinance. He added that if the Ordinance does not go through, there are 2 other plans (possibly 3) to develop the property; however, acceptance of the Overlay Ordinance decreases the number of homes by approximately 80. Funding appears to be available for improvements to the entire length of Stoopville Road.
Paul Beckert confirmed that the part of the Melsky tract that is set aside for the Council Rock School District would remain open space until they decide, if they do, to build a school and that due to the rezoning, could not be developed for any other purpose.
In response to Vice Chairman Lombardi’s query about changes to the Overlay District, Jay Sensibaugh suggested: a) that the impact on Newtown be addressed, b) traffic be diverted off Stoopville and Lindenhurst Roads, c) no school, if an alternative land swap was agreeable to the school board and d) traffic impact studies be done. Paul Beckert noted that raised pedestrian walkways and roundabouts have been discussed. Ed Murphy added that a group of residents in Upper Makefield requested that the Ordinance be revised to have the entrance to the cemetery on Highland Road; however, the Board declined saying it was a Land Development issue. Chairman Ward noted that once the Overlay Ordinance was approved, Newtown has no say about the traffic impact and that is the most important issue; the entrance to the cemetery has an impact on the traffic flow.
Chairman Ward suggested that members make it a condition of the approval that Newtown Township and Lower Makefield Township be granted “party status” by Upper Makefield Township. Paul Beckert noted that if the Ordinance were changed, the process would begin all over again. Jay Sensibaugh felt that “party status” would not give Newtown any leverage and Frank Mendicino wanted more information. Dan Rattigan noted that with the rezoning, the number of homes built would be less, thereby reducing the traffic impact somewhat. Jay Sensibaugh expressed his desire to see this information and that the entrance to the cemetery be stipulated. Tracy Hunt, counsel for Leo Holt who owns the property adjacent to the Melsky tract, advised that Mr. Holt would make an offer to purchase the tract if the Ordinance was not approved and as a conservation easement, would eliminate the residential development there; however, this action would eliminate the Veteran’s Cemetery.
Jim Bowe raised the issue of sewers and water being dumped into Newtown’s creeks. Mr. Muro advised that the cemetery’s water supply could be provided with the reuse of treated water.
Chairman Ward asked for a motion and comments. Mike Piazza didn’t want to loose the cemetery, Jim Bowe felt there were enough controls in place, Shannon Wilson expressed his desire for “party status”, Frank Mendicino was disappointed by the lack of input from the Council Rock School District and Jay Sensibaugh felt there was a need for additional traffic information and language in the Ordinance. Ed Murphy advised that if there were no Ordinance, there would be no cemetery.Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend advertisement of the ordinance by the Board of Supervisors with the condition that Upper Makefield agree to grant Newtown Township and Lower Makefield party status with respect to any Land Development for the Veterans Cemetery. This would afford Newtown Township and Lower Makefield the opportunity to participate in the process. Shannon Wilson made the motion and Vince Lombardi seconded it. Members approved the motion by a vote of 6 to 2.
3. Adjournment – Chairman Ward adjourned the meeting at 10:45 p.m. with the unanimous approval of the members.
Respectfully submitted by:
Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary