NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on January 16, 2007
Present : Chairman Shawn Ward; Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi; and Members Jay Sensibaugh, Allen Fidler, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe, Frank Mendicino, Mike Piazza and Dennis Fisher.
Also Present : Solicitor Paul, Beckert, Township Engineer Edward Koehler, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein, Traffic Engineer Matt Johnston, Director of Planning and Zoning Michael Solomon, and Supervisors Jerry Schenkman and Phil Calabro.
1. Call To Order–Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:05 PM, welcoming new member Dennis Fisher. He noted that Leslie Dunleavy was filling in for recording secretary Susan Dalman. Chairman Ward said the annual report would be presented at the next Commission meeting.
2. Minutes of Previous Meeting 12/05/2006 -
Jay Sensibaugh made a motion to approve the minutes as presented. Frank Mendicino seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by the Commission.
3. Reorganization of Members
Chairman Shawn Ward ceded the chair to Vice Chair Vince Lombardi, who opened the nominations for Commission Chair. Frank Mendicino said he was interested in being Chair and asked for discussion and the opportunity to make some remarks.
Frank Mendicino said he felt it was time to rotate the chair in order that others have the opportunity to serve in that position. He stated his concerns: the improvement of the agenda process, better communication between the Planning Commission and the Codes Department and how reports are presented to the Board of Supervisors. He added that Commission dissension began when certain members were not given sufficient time to voice their concerns/opinion on applications.
Jay Sensibaugh stated his interest in being chair. He said he felt there were deficiencies in the way things had been handled by the PC in recent years and that it was time for a change in the chairmanship. Jim Bowe thought the rotation of the chair was a good idea, as in any committee, noting he appreciated the efforts of Chair Shawn Ward.
There was discussion regarding the timing of the agenda and submission of materials by applicants. Mike Solomon explained that plans cycle through the process, when reviews are received the application is put on the Commission agenda. Jay Sensibaugh felt information should be received more in advance, and that it was the Chair’s responsibility to improve the process. Frank Mendicino said material should not be allowed to be submitted late and that the Commission should be more aware of expiration dates. Vince Lombardi suggested that the process might be streamlined.
Jay Sensibaugh made a motion to nominate Frank Mendicino for Chair, which was seconded by Dennis Fisher. Jim Bowe spoke in support for Frank, having worked with him in a homeowners’ association; he said that Frank allows others to express concerns fully, was a good administrator and communicator. Jay Sensibaugh said Frank did his homework. Frank Mendicino pledged, if he were elected, to have direct communication with the Codes Department, conversation with the Board of Supervisors, and to gain the support of the BOS in deadlines for applications and information. The motion was defeated 5 to 4.
Shannon Wilson made a motion to nominate Shawn Ward for Chair, which was seconded by Mike Piazza. Allen Fidler spoke for Shawn, noting that he has grown in the capacity to lead and has done a good job of keeping politics out of the PC. He said he would like to see less over laden agenda and hoped the PC would have time to delve into the comprehensive plan and issues in the liaison reports. Vince Lombardi said Shawn had put a “good face” on the PC in reports to the BOS, is knowledgeable, and provides useful input to PC issues. The motion was approved 5-4.
The Chairman resumed his position and proceeded with the nominations. Frank Mendicino made a motion to nominate Jay Sensibaugh as Vice Chair, which was seconded by Jim Bowe. Frank Mendicino said Jay Sensibaugh should be given the opportunity to serve. The motion was approved 5-4.
Shannon Wilson made a motion to nominate Allen Fidler as Secretary. Frank Mendicino seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
4. Land Development
a. Grainhouse Developers LLC, 11 Penns Trail – Sketch Plan
Don Marshall, Esq., counsel for the applicant, and Karen Miller, Grainhouse Developers, were present. Mr. Marshall noted that Grainhouse had acquired the property and were proposing to convert the building to warehouse and office space; they were appearing before the Commission for comment on the sketch plan. Mr. Marshall explained that they were bringing in a sketch plan because Van Cleef Engineering had prepared a plan that fulfilled the 228 parking space requirement, which caused the impervious surface to become too large. He said they believe that the proposed sketch plan requires a waiver of 34 parking spaces and a variance of 4.7% for impervious surface. Mr. Marshall cited the township planner’s review, dated November 28, 2006, and letter from the Bucks County Planning Commission dated December 13, 2006.
It was clarified that the existing building would be unchanged, and that approximately 1500 sq. ft. would be used as warehouse and 45,000 sq. ft would be D-1 use office space. Mr. Marshall said parking may be nonconforming. In response to Solicitor Beckert’s question, Ms. Miller said they were presently unsure of whether the flow of people in and out of the property would be periodic or steady throughout the day because they don’t yet know who would inhabit the offices. Mr. Marshall said that Ms. Miller’s experience in development led them to believe that proposed parking should be sufficient, perhaps even superfluous. Mr. Marshall said they would be willing to have some 9 x 18 parking spaces.
Mr. Sensibaugh was concerned with the water flow on the parking areas, particularly with the proposed islands in the rear. Mr. Marshall clarified that under parking stormwater runoff storage was planned; stormwater will be addressed, no waiver sought. Mr. Mendicino said it was difficult to make any decision without knowing what uses would be in the building, and felt the plan had failed in parking and impervious surface issues.
Mr. Koehler asked if the applicant had considered some paving or block pavers in some areas in the rear; Ms. Goldstein noted a variance would still be required. Mr. Marshall said they had no objection to the suggestion. Chairman Ward agreed with Mr. Mendicino regarding zoning issues in the conversion from industrial to office use, and did not want to see impervious surface limits pushed. Mr. Marshall noted limitations due to the use of the existing building. Solicitor Beckert noted that uses, not building size, were the issue. Mr. Marshall said conversion of the building to Class A office space should not include large work/shop area, and said that with the exception of several uses, they should be able to meet the impervious surface requirement. He noted that this would require a variance for approximately 50 parking spaces. It was clarified that the prior occupant of the building was a distributor. It was clarified that front yard parking for non-residential was allowed.
Mr. Marshall thanked the Commission for their input.
Goodnoe Tract, 235 Eagle Road – Preliminary Plan for Major Subdivision
Ed Murphy, Esq., counsel for the applicant, and William Briegel, Orleans Builders, were present. Mr. Murphy explained that the project was the subject of discussion in 2005, delayed by changes in engineers. He said they have received initial plan reviews, noting they have not yet submitted a use application, and that they will be working on plan revisions and preparing Zoning Hearing Board applications. He said there were several issues they wished to have clarified with the Commission at this meeting.
Mr. Murphy said they would be providing sidewalks internally; the consensus of the Commission was that sidewalks be installed on each side of the street internally.
Mr. Murphy presented photos of the site and asked if the PC favored sidewalks on the Eagle Road frontage, understanding that fee in lieu might be required if no sidewalks were installed. He said the engineers advised them that approximately 20 white pines would need to be removed to install sidewalks. Mr. Mendicino said he was OK with a fee in lieu or sidewalks held in reserve for installation later if needed. Mr. Piazza suggested the need for a sidewalk if there was a school bus stop. Mr. Lombardi noted the road has rural characteristics and said a sidewalk along one side of Eagle Road was sufficient. Mr. Murphy said he has spoken to the Park & Recreation Department to see if a trail could be linked; there is a remote possibility but it might be able to be done. The question of site distance was raised; Ms. Goldstein said only a few trees might have to be removed or trimmed for sufficient site distance. She noted that the crest of the hill would seem to be more problematic than trees to the site distance.
It was clarified that there would be a crosswalk at the south entrance. Chairman Ward suggested there be a bus stop installed if there were no sidewalks; Mr. Fidler noted that if there was a bus stop at the south entrance that children at the other end of the development would need to walk on the shoulder of the road to get to the bus stop. Mr. Mendicino suggested that a request could be made for the school bus route to go through the development. Mr. Koehler noted that the applicant had proposed 5’ from the edge of the sidewalk to the cartway; Mr. Murphy will look to see if there would be space for the sidewalk without removing any trees. Mr. Schenkman noted that the Board of Supervisors has a preference for sidewalks. Mr. Johnson suggested a tapering at the entrances to minimize the impact of the trees on site distance.
Mr. Koehler clarified that the applicant has proposed a 35’ instead of 50’ turning radius in the cul de sac; Mr. Murphy explained they were applying the PennDOT recommendation of 35’. Ms. Goldstein said the cul de sac would not need to run so far back; Mr. Murphy said they would look to minimize the cul de sac. Chairman Ward recommended the applicant check for any issues with the Fire Marshal. Ms. Goldstein recommended keeping access to open space when modifying the cul de sac.
Mr. Murphy said the question of a possible trail was yet to be resolved; they would need the homeowners’ association agreement and the township would need to decide if it is taking dedication of the 38 acres in the rear of the property. Mr. Murphy clarified that the homes would have a minimum of 4 bedrooms and basements; he will check to see if there is sufficient area for patios and decks. It was clarified that detention basins were considered open space by the applicant; Ms. Goldstein said they may not qualify as open space. Mr. Murphy will look into the matter.
Mr. Murphy said it would be a while before they returned to the Planning Commission; Ms. Goldstein offered the assistance of the township professionals if needed. Mr. Murphy noted his recent good experience communicating with the Codes Department and with Mr. Solomon.
Conditional Use – DeLuca Corporate Center, 138 S. Sycamore Street
Ed Murphy, Esq., counsel for the applicant, and Richard Gitten were present. Mr. Murphy said the proposed 33,900 sq. ft building would be used as the corporate headquarters for DeLuca Enterprises (use D-1), and noted that preliminary land development plans have been previously submitted to the township and are pending approval; waivers have been requested and variances were granted by the Zoning Hearing Board on December 7, 2006.
Mr. Murphy clarified that parking would be internal, there would be no environmental impact, and proposed parking meets the ordinance. It was clarified that the height of the church would be significantly greater than that of the proposed building, and that there would be underground stormwater storage. Mr. Murphy said he had met with the neighboring homeowners’ association and they were pleased with the plans. He said they are maintaining a significant buffer in the rear, with parking lights probably in islands, perhaps a few lights in the rear.
Evan Stone of Pickering, Corts & Summerson distributed the streetscape plan elevation and reviewed the proposed streetscape, noting
- There would be an 18” wall along the front elevation, running the full length of the building
- A bump-out would be installed in front of the stairs; no parking spaces would be eliminated
- Streets trees would be placed in paved “pockets” off the sidewalk
- There would be a planter/landscape element in the bump-out, next to the stairs
- They are proposing a crosswalk across from the church at the bump-out
Mr. Lombardi suggested crosswalks from the church to the parking lots; Mr. Stone said some parking spaces would need to be eliminated and curb cuts redone. He said they could review the possibility. Mr. Piazza suggested some indication of mandatory stop for traffic at the crosswalks; Mr. Johnson noted an increased awareness of pedestrian traffic with the new Sycamore Street streetscape. Mr. Murphy said they would return to the PC on February 6 th.
Allen Fidler made a motion to recommend conditional use approval for DeLuca Enterprises, 138 South Sycamore Street, Tax Map Parcel 29-10-2 to permit a D-1 Office Use on the following conditions:
The motion was seconded by Michael Piazza and approved unanimously by the Commission.
- The use shall be a D-1 Office with an accessory building for storage (Use H-5). The office shall not exceed 33,900 square feet.
- The maximum number of employees shall be 120.
- The hours of operation shall be 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- No hazardous, flammable or explosive materials shall be stored or used on site.
- No glare from light shall extend onto adjacent properties.
- No deliveries shall be made on Sycamore Street; all deliveries shall be by no larger than UPS size vehicles.
- No noxious environmental effects shall be generated on site.
- 173 parking spaces being provided, the minimum required parking has been met; 27 spaces shall be permitted to be reserved in green to be paved as required by the Township.
- The applicant shall submit a true and correct copy of the current deed. If the applicant is the equitable owner, a true and correct copy of the agreement of sale shall be provided.
- No use shall be permitted which would be noxious or offensive to the immediate surrounding area by reason of smoke, gas, vibration, noise or which constitutes a public hazard by fire, explosion or otherwise.
- The requirements of JMZO section 1301.b have been met in terms of the consideration of traffic and health, safety and welfare of the community and as it affects adjoining and adjacent residents.
- All conditions and requirement set forth in any preliminary or final land development approval or any variances granted shall be deemed part of the conditional use approval.
- All outstanding legal, engineering, administrative and other review fees due the Township as a result of this conditional use review shall be paid in full to the Township.
6. Zoning Hearing Board
a. Robert Gartner, 30 Copperleaf Drive
The applicant is seeking relief to permit the installation of a 10’ x 10’ storage shed in the rear of a single family detached dwelling which will exceed the side yard setback requirements of the JMZO of 1983, as amended. The property is located in the R-1, Medium Density Residential District.
Mr. Solomon noted that the variance requested regards setbacks and does not impact the final plan, and that the variance is for a shed, not an addition.
The Commission had no objection to the variance request.
b. Newtown Center Associates 2, 2600 S. Eagle Road
The applicant is seeking variances in connection with the proposed improvements to Lot A-2 by constructing an addition to the rear of the retail building located at 2600 S. Eagle Road which will exceed the minimum rear yard setback requirement and the minimum of leading berth number requirement in accordance with the JMZO, as amended.
It was clarified that two enclosed loading berths were being requested, one for PetSmart. Mr. Mendicino asked what other uses were coming into the 12,000 sq. ft building, wondering if the loading docks could hinder other potential occupants; he said his concern would disappear if there were only one additional retail use in the building. Solicitor Beckert said that the Planning Commission could suggest to the Zoning Hearing Board that only one additional retail use in the building be a condition for approval. It was clarified that the PC had standing to make such a recommendation. It was the consensus of the Commission that they recommend only one additional retail use in the building as a condition for ZBH approval.
a. JMZO #2006-04 – Livestock & Poultry Ordinance
Mr. Fidler made a motion to recommend advertising of the Livestock & Poultry Ordinance, JMZO 2006-04. Mr. Piazza seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved by the Commission.
b. Fireworks Ordinance
Review of this ordinance will be on the next meeting’s agenda.
- Mr. Sensibaugh noted the cancellation of the Board of Supervisors meeting in order for Supervisors to attend the Traffic Study Open House at Bucks County Community College.
- Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Planning Commission be authorized to review the comprehensive plan, possibly at 6:00 PM, before the regular Planning Commission meeting; the meeting would be opened to the public at the regular 8:00 PM time. Chairman Ward asked Mr. Schenkman for direction from the Board regarding review of the comprehensive plan.
- Mr. Sensibaugh asked how the Planning Commission might participate in the newly formed Newtown Creek Coalition. Mr. Fidler noted that the PC participates as directed by the Board. Mr. Lombardi said the group is consisted of representatives from official and private groups; Mr. Schenkman briefly described the meeting of the coalition that he attended.
- Expiration Dates: There were no upcoming expiration dates. It was noted that no plan had been submitted yet from Elliott.
9. Adjournment –On motion by Mr. Sensibaugh and without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 10:18 PM.
Faithfully submitted by:
Leslie Dunleavy, interim recording secretary