NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on October 3 , 2006
Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe, Frank Mendicino, Beth Sanderlin-Weachter and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert, Sr. Municiple Engineer Herb Gery, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein, Traffic Engineer Matt Johnston and Codes/Zoning Mike Imperial. Chairman Shawn Ward was excused from the meeting.
1. Call To Order–Vice Chairman Lombardi called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.
2. Minutes of Previous Meeting -
Jay Sensibaugh motioned to accept the minutes from the September 19, 2006 meeting and Allen Fidler seconded the motion. Members voted unanimously to approve.
3. Traffic Engineer’s Report
Matt Johnston advised that no changes have taken place since the September 19, 2006 meeting.
Mr. Johnston noted that his involvement with the Stoopville Road Project is completed. Paul Beckert added that completion of the project was anticipated to occur around October 16, 2006.
Beth Sanderlin-Weachter expressed her concerns over the marking/stripping that is becoming invisible at State Street and the Newtown Bypass. Mike Imperial advised that Gary Crossland is in the process of determining which roads are in need of work and will relay Ms. Sanderlin-Weachter’s concerns in a meeting with him tomorrow.
Mr. Johnston advised that the entire Bypass is being resurfaced from Rt. 413, across I-95 to Mirror Lake; a PennDOT project taking place at night.
a. Mastromarco Minor Subdivision, 135 Swamp Road – Revised Final Plan for Minor Subdivision
Vince Fioravanti of Fioravanti, Inc. representing the applicant advised he was presenting the final version of the Minor Subdivision plan. Except for the issue of open space and the waiver needed for the sidewalks, he advised that everything else in the most recent review letters would be a “will comply”. Paul Beckert advised that a fee, in lieu of the required open space, was agreeable. Further, he added that the sidewalk waiver was acceptable.
Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors subject to the following conditions:
1. Compliance with the Boucher and James review letter of 09/11/06, the Remington and Vernick Engineers review letter of 09/20/06, the Bucks County Planning Commission letter of 04/21/06, the Newtown Emergency Services Dept. of 09/14/06 and all DEP regulations;
2. Compliance with the variance granted by the Zoning Hearing Board on 10/02/06 and a note added to the plans;
3. All planting on the property will be guaranteed for 18 months;
4. A wooden snow fence erected during the clearing of the land for construction must be approved by the Township;
5. An access easement agreement will be approved, recorded and included in the deeds for the shared driveway between Lots 1 and 2;
6. A fee determined by the Park and Recreation Committee will be paid by the applicant in lieu of the dedication of open space;
7. An adequate letter will be provided to the Bucks County Conservation District;
8. A traffic impact fee, determined by the Traffic Engineer, will be paid by the applicant;
9. Applicant will provide Newtown Township with copies of service agreements with Newtown Artesian and the Newtown Area Joint Sewer Authority;
10. Existing street trees are deemed in compliance with Section 520.1.a and if lost during construction, will be replaced; and
11. The applicant will pay the cost for the review of the minor subdivision.
Further, the following waivers should be granted:
1. Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance Section 202 to allow for the minor subdivision; and
2. From Section 517.1 to waive the requirement for sidewalks.
Jay Sensibaugh made the motion and Allen Fidler seconded it. Members unanimously voted to approve the motion.
DeLuca Corporate Center (Preschool Site), 138 South Sycamore Street – Revised Sketch Plan
Ed Murphy, Esq., counsel for the applicant, and Mark Havers, P.E. of Pickering, Corts and Summerson, presented the revised plan, noting changes to the building setback and parking. Mr. Murphy added that the application to the Zoning Hearing Board has been continued until November 2006.
Mr. Murphy noted that the highway classification in front of this site is different from the rest of Sycamore Street, going north. The roadway is now classified as a “principle arterial”; in the remainder of the TC Zone, the street is classified as “commercial”. Since the applicant is requesting a rezoning of the property to TC, the requirement for the building setback would be less for a commercial street than for a principle arterial roadway. Therefore, the revised plans show the building 25ft closer to Sycamore Street than before; relief from the Zoning Hearing Board would be required. Vice Chairman Lombardi questioned the need to extend the TC District to the Bypass; Matt Johnston concurred advising that there were no plans at this time to widen Sycamore Street. Allen Fidler, in his opinion, noted that the two residential properties on Sycamore Street were unlikely to become commercial properties. Vice Chairman Lombardi asked Paul Beckert, in conjunction with the Township Manager, to look into what needed to be done to reclassify the street. Judith Stern Goldstein mentioned that any change would have to go through the Jointure. Jim Bowe motioned to authorize Paul Beckert to proceed and Mike Piazza seconded the motion. Members unanimously approved it.
Ed Murphy continued that parking in the rear has been reallocated, without reserving any parking spaces, due to the building moving forward; the line of trees providing a large buffer with the HOA in the rear will remain intact. The basement has been lowered and the windows have been removed, thus negating the ordinance’s requirement to consider it as a building story and affecting the parking space calculations. The proposed training room in the basement has been eliminated and the area will be used for storage and mechanical/computer equipment only. The number of parking spaces (150) provided is now in line with the ordinance requirement; additionally there will be 23 spaces in reserve along the northern boundary of the property to maintain as much “green space” as possible. There will be a 2ft retaining wall along the frontage of the property. Vice Chairman Lombardi expressed his concern about keeping the property pedestrian friendly and enhancing the streetscape with architectural landscaping, fountains, etc. Jay Sensibaugh noted that dropping the basement could affect the overall height of the building and Ed Murphy concurred, advising that the building height would probably be closer to the requirements in the ordinance. Previously 5ft of relief had been requested whereby now 2 or 3ft may be all that is required.
Judith Stern Goldstein asked that Mark Havers show members the repositioning of the access to the building along Sycamore Street. Previously there was a single flight of steps leading up to the entrance and Mr. Havers noted that now, steps on either side of a landing are proposed. When Jay Sensibaugh asked about handicap access, Mr. Havers added that everything needed would be provided in the rear.
Judith Stern Goldstein advised the applicant that certification would be needed to verify compliance with the proposed “green building”.
Members voted unanimously, based on the sketch plan revisions presented, to allow the applicant to move forward with Preliminary plans for the construction of this office building.
Old Business – VA Cemetery, Overlay Ordinance
Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that Chairman Ward asked for discussions to take place so that recommendations could be made to the Board of Supervisors subsequent to the next Planning Commission Meeting. Jay Sensibaugh felt that members might not be ready to do that and suggested that revisions/changes be considered prior to taking a vote at the next meeting. Paul Beckert advised that the Jointure has advertised it and the Board of Supervisors will vote on it on October 25, 2006. Jay Sensibaugh noted his concern with the lack of time to review the ordinance and make recommendations; Vice Chairman Lombardi suggested advising the Board of Supervisors of the status of the Planning Commission on this. Frank Mendicino asked for a clarification of how the Board of Supervisors would handle this and Vice Chairman Lombardi felt that they would agree or disagree with the Ordinance as it is now written. Paul Beckert added that Newtown Township handles ordinances differently from the other townships; the view of the other townships is that once the ordinance is authorized for advertisement the ordinance is acceptable in its present form. If the changes requested by Newtown Township were found acceptable by the other townships, the ordinance would go back to the Bucks County Planning Commission as a new ordinance. Frank Mendicino questioned Mr. Beckert as to why Newtown Township was being asked to approve an ordinance that had not been reviewed and sent back to Upper Makefield with recommended revisions. Mr. Beckert responded that members, in a previous meeting, had directed the Board of Supervisors to recommend authorization to advertise it. Mr. Mendicino commented that there had been no discussion in the previous meeting noting that the ordinance would not be sent back to Upper Makefield for revisions. Paul Beckert advised that the ability to make revisions was still open. Allen Fidler advised that he had voted to authorize the advertisement so that Newtown Township wouldn’t slow the process down. He added that, in his opinion, Newtown Township was being minimally impacted by the ordinance.
Jerry Schenkman advised that the 7 letters to the various parties involved in the development of the area had been approved by the Board of Supervisors and sent out. Paul Beckert noted that Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick had already responded favorably. The letters and the responses, as received, will be posted on the website.
Jay Sensibaugh expressed his concern about the impact on Lower Makefield Township and suggested that they be included in the process. John Rice, Solicitor for Upper Makefield, advised that meeting between the two townships have taken place and some revisions to the ordinance have already been made at the request of Lower Makefield. Mr. Rice encouraged members to make recommendations, noting that any revisions to the ordinance would require that it be sent back to the Jointure. He responded to Frank Mendicino advising that Upper Makefield would start the process over again if need be.
Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that the VA Administration, in the previous Planning Commission meeting, was looking for progress in passing this ordinance so they could move forward with their plans; and approving the authorization to advertise was progress. Ed Murphy concurred and added that it appeared that the VA was satisfied.
Jim Bowe asked for clarity of Section F on Page 6 of the ordinance. He noted that, in his opinion, the wording of the second to the last sentence stated that the property designated for the cemetery would be left as open space until the cemetery was developed. Mr. Mendicino interpreted the language differently and suggested that the words “or open space” be eliminated. John Rice noted that if the land was not transferred to the VA Administration, the Overlay Ordinance was null and void. Ed Murphy added that once the land was transferred then the VA would determine the use, be it cemetery or open space. When Mr. Mendicino advised Mr. Murphy that he was comfortable with the VA leasing a portion of the property to be used for farming, Judith Stern Goldstein noted that “farming” should not be added to the wording because of the wooded parcels that exist on the property. Mr. Mendicino added that his fear with the way the ordinance was worded in this respect was that if the ordinance was adopted and the Melsky Tract was not sold, Upper Makefield would keep 200 acres as open space causing more density in Newtown Township. Mr. Murphy suggested making the wording clearly by noted that once transfer to the VA, it would be restricted to cemetery or open space; however, Mr. Mendicino expressed his discomfort with that, noting that the VA could sell the property back to someone else who wanted to keep it as open space. Paul Beckert cited Section 305.b of the Ordinance whereby the ordinance only takes effect with the acquisition of the land by the VA Administration for the cemetery. John Rice added that the intent was to restrict the VA Administration from selling off parcels of the property for housing development. Mike Piazza suggested revising the wording to restrict the VA to use the property as “cemetery, open space and/or agricultural”. Shannon Wilson felt that open space was a better option that if the land was developed with housing. Vice Chairman Lombardi noted that his experience with the Federal Government was that they would do whatever they wanted to do; Ed Murphy agreed to speak with Mr. Tuerk, Under Secretary of the VA, to see what the government’s intent would be 10 years from now.
Jay Sensibaugh suggested another change on Page 3, Special Use Provisions, stating that the Overlay Ordinance was created for the sole purpose of the development of the Veterans Cemetery. He advised that the purpose of the Overlay District was neither to provide a buffer, nor to transfer residential from the CM District and wanted the language revised and changed. John Rice advised that the language intended to provide a buffer for the Dollington historic village. Mr. Sensibaugh would have his changes for discussion at the next PC meeting.
Frank Mendicino requested discussion regarding the footprint of the homes to be developed. He expressed his concerns about residents applying to the Zoning Hearing Board for variances in excess of the required setbacks. Ed Murphy advised that plans have been designed to allow residents room for expansion and would provide details at a future date.
Frank Mendicino raised his concerns about the special use provisions on Pages 3 and 4; some changes would occur to the current ordinance even if the VA Cemetery were not developed. However, Judith Stern Goldstein and Paul Beckert advised that the provisions for age-restricted housing in the R-2 District was already an approved plan.
Jay Sensibaugh noted his concern with “uses by right” on Page 4, due to the difference in how Newtown treats swimming pools as opposed to other Townships. Ed Murphy advised that the proposal for Land Development included the strictest of regulations across the board; swimming pools are contemplated as being impervious.
Jay Sensibaugh noted his concern with Section 2.A. dealing with the number of acres for the school. Judith Stern Goldstein advised that different townships required different acreage for schools. Paul Beckert advised that the minimum number of acres is 25 plus 1 acre for every 100 full-time students, except for colleges, junior colleges and high schools in the C-2 use. John Rice confirmed to Vince Lombardi that the property was exclusively for school use.
Members of the public, Dave Rinker and Sue Herman expressed their concerns over traffic, road safety and the well being of the children in the area.
Paul Beckert framed a motion to recommend that the Board of Supervisors request the following change to Ordinance JMZO 2006-18:
Page 6, Section F.1., second to the last sentence should be revised to remove the words “or open space”.
Frank Mendicino made the motion and Jim Bowe seconded it. Jerry Schenkman noted that the intent and purpose of this change should be noted and Mr. Mendicino explained the need to remove the words to prevent the use of the land, purely as open space, and not turned into a cemetery. Members approved the motion by a vote of 6 to 2.
Further Jay Sensibaugh motioned to table further discussion on the Veterans Cemetery to the October 17 th Planning Commission meeting. A second not required, members unanimously approved the motion.
New Business – Jointure Comprehensive Plan
Paul Beckert advised that there would be a discussion at the next Board of Supervisors meeting concerning the establishment of a visionary committee to review the plan and determine what the plan should look like from the Newtown Township point of view. Vice Chairman Lombardi advised that Chairman Ward was agreeable to doing whatever the Board of Supervisors wanted. Allen Fidler added that a clear mission statement was needed and a time-line should be established.
7. Subcommittee Reports -
Due to the length of the meeting, Vice Chairman Lombardi suspended the review of reports.
Adjournment - Vice Chairman Lombardi adjourned the meeting at 10:30 p.m. with members in unanimous agreement.
Respectfully submitted by:
Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary