NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on February 20, 2007
Present : Vice Chairman Jay Sensibaugh; and Members Vince Lombardi, Shannon Wilson, Jim Bowe, Frank Mendicino and Dennis Fisher.
Also Present : Solicitor Paul, Beckert, Township Engineer Edward Koehler, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein, Director of Planning and Zoning Michael Solomon, and Supervisors Jerry Schenkman and Phil Calabro.
1. Call To Order– In the absence of the Chair, Vice Chair Jay Sensibaugh called the meeting to order at 8:05 PM. He noted that Leslie Dunleavy was acting recording secretary for the meeting.
2. Minutes of Previous Meeting 02/06/2007 - Vince Lombardi made a motion to approve the minutes with the following changes:
Jim Bowe seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously by the Commission, with an abstention by Frank Mendicino.
- page 3, item #4b, 4 th paragraph: Mr. Sensibaugh made the motion rather than Mr. Schenkman; and
- page 5, Item 5a, add “with the condition that 10 acres be substituted where 14 acres shown” after “… Accessory to a Vineyard.”
3. Traffic Engineer's Report
4. Land Development
Zoning Hearing Board
a. James Risch – 36 Susanna Way
The applicant is seeking relief for the construction of a swimming pool with decking, coping and pads (1,325 sq. ft.) in the rear of the property, which will exceed the maximum allowable impervious surface; relief being sought is 605 sq. ft. It was the consensus of the Commission to send the matter to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
b. Scot & Nicol Blatstein – 6 Madison Court
The applicants are seeking relief to permit the construction of a 21’ x 28’ open wooden deck in the rear of an existing house which will exceed the minimum rear yard setback requirements; relief being sought is 27 ft. It was the consensus of the Commission to send the matter to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
c. Grainhouse Developers LLC – 11 Penns Trail
The applicant is seeking variances in connection with redevelopment of an existing 47,819 sq. ft. industrial building into an office and medical office facility. The applicant seeks relief of 116 parking spaces. Don Marshall, Esq. and Jeff L’Amoreaux of Van Cleef Engineering were present for the applicant; Karen Miller was also present.
It was noted that Ms. Miller had hired Mr. L’Amoreaux to develop the maximum amount of parking with minimal impervious surface. It was clarified that usage in the building would include 1819 sq. ft. for warehouse use, 27,600 sq. ft of D-1 office use and 18,400 for medical office use. Mr. L’Amoreaux presented a concept plan for the site dated 11/15/06 and revised 2/1/07, and explained his computations for parking requirements, distributing excerpts from Parking Generation, a study of uses and parking by the Institute of Transportation Engineers; he noted that site access is not considered in the study. He said required parking was .41 vehicles/1000 sq. ft. and explained his calculations for each proposed use on the site, which totaled 145 spaces; 149 parking spaces were indicated on the plan. It was clarified that making the parking spaces 9’ x 18’ would gain approximately 5-6 spaces.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that ordinance requirements may be lower than the numbers cited in the handouts. The Commission was concerned that parking would be inadequate. Mr. Beckert advised the Commission that they could recommend restrictions on the uses, but that the Zoning Hearing Board had not set any such restriction in prior cases. Ms. Miller estimated 6 users for the site, planning for maximum use and having received two inquiries from doctors. Mr. Marshall noted the shape of the industrial building limits the number of uses, since interior spaces such as stairs and hallways would be needed which would take up square footage.
Mr. Lombardi made a motion to recommend the Board of Supervisors send the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose the variance. Mr. Mendicino seconded the motion, which passed 4-1-1.
d. Leo Holt Appeal from Decision of the Township Zoning Officer
The applicant is appealing the Zoning Officer’s issuance of a preliminary published opinion, stating the developer’s sketch plans for the Melsky Tract comported with Ordinance #2006-18, Federal Cemetery Overlay District, of the JMZO.
Mr. Beckert explained that Toll Brothers had asked the Zoning Officer for an opinion as to whether the Melsky Tract sketch plan was compliant with the federal cemetery ordinance. Mr. Solomon and Upper Makefield Township have ruled that the plan was compliant with the JMZO ordinance, with Mr. Solomon clarifying that it was not required to meet the detail of a preliminary plan. It was clarified that this decision would avoid the claim at a later time that the ordinance was not valid.
Mr. Beckert said that the Zoning Hearing Board has received agreement from Upper Makefield Township and Newtown Township that no land development application would be accepted until the ZHB has heard the matter or while an appeal or challenge is occurring. He said that no stay was needed for the Zoning Officer’s opinion.
It was the consensus of the Commission that the matter be sent to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
a. JMZO 2006-19 – CM (Conservation Management District Revisions)
Lynn Bush suggested that the township may wish to consider preserving the CM district as rural, as there is no need to rezone in the township for increased density. She noted that there are three types of development presently allowed in the CM: 3-acre lots, cluster development, and PRD. Ms. Bush said the general proposal recommends keeping the 3-acre option, modifying the cluster option to increase open space by expanding lot size, and eliminating PRD.
It was the consensus of the Commission to recommend to the Board of Supervisors to deny the proposed amendment to JMZO 2006-19, Conservation Management District.
b. First Three Chapters of the Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan
Bucks County Director of Planning Lynn Bush was present. She noted that the joint comprehensive plan was significant and that grant funding had been sought for the study. Ms. Bush also said that it was good practice to periodically update the comprehensive plan and that it was a good tool for future planning. Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the draft copy of the plan is available on the township website.
Ms. Bush said she had met with the Regional Planning Commission who completed reviewing the plan over the summer; Wrightstown and Upper Makefield have reviewed chapters 1-3. Ms. Bush said she was present to help with the discussion and to discuss detail as well as larger philosophical issues of the plan. She said the updated plan should reflect the changes in the communities in the last ten years as well as changes in regulatory issues.
Ms. Bush said she has received only one substantive change thus far, to extend the term of the plan from 2015 to 2020; she suggested re-examining the term after the next census to see if an update was needed. Mr. Lombardi suggested a traffic impact study be done in the near future.
Ms. Bush clarified that no changes would be made to the draft until she had received input from all three townships. She said suggested changes are being tracked and that another draft (with suggested changes) would be circulated. She noted that the Commission’s packet included suggested changes from Upper Makefield. Mr. Bowe asked if an electronic copy of the draft was available; Mr. Beckert will look into the matter.
Mr. Koehler suggested tracking suggestions with different colors to identify each municipality’s suggestions; Newtown will be blue. Mr. Beckert will speak to the other municipalities.
Ms. Goldstein reviewed her thoughts and suggested changes, as detailed in her memo dated 12/19/06. Discussion included:
- Consideration of the characterization of the jointure as rural or semi-rural. Ms. Bush suggested expanding the description to note that there are some suburban and some semi-rural areas.
- Growth Management: Elimination of policy 4, regarding Development Areas, as confusing
- Housing: All municipalities need to provide medium and high density residential development, not just Newtown Township.
- Commercial uses: clarification of expansion of commercial areas; keeping existing zoning intact; elimination of Newtown Township as only regional commercial center, noting the ability to expand in existing retail areas to service region’s commercial community; and promotion of existing commercial areas without the need for expansion.
After partial discussion of Chapter 2, it was suggested that it would be more efficient and expedient for a smaller group to meet independently to review and discuss the comprehensive plan, to include planners, Planning Commission members and Supervisors. Mr. Wilson suggested all interested would be welcome, but regular attendees should be identified. Mr. Sensibaugh will make the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and work to set up meeting dates and times. It was suggested that meetings be twice a month over a period of three months.
Mr. Wilson noted that Ms. Goldstein’s comments were quite helpful; it was clarified that the Planning Commission has also been authorized to review chapters 4-6. Ms. Goldstein said she would not review chapters 4-6 until review of chapters 1-3 was completed.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
a. Board of Supervisors
b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission
Mr. Lombardi reported that the Commission reviewed chapters 4-6 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan.
c. Joint Zoning Council
d. Historic Architectural Review Board
Mr. Lombardi reported that three C.O.A.’s had been recommended for approval, for: a sign at Jac’s Urban Wear, sign at Shanfeld Chiropractic, and for the restoration of an existing building by Ed Murphy.
e. Park & Recreation Board
f. Sycamore Street
Mr. Lombardi reported they are awaiting the final disposition of landscaping issues.
g. Environmental Advisory Council
h. Plan Expirations
There were no upcoming expiration dates; Mr. Sensibaugh noted that Lang Ski & Scuba and the subdivision of the archdiocese property would be addressed at the next Planning Commission meeting.
There was no new business.
On motion by Mr. Wilson and without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 10:40 PM.
Faithfully submitted by:
Leslie Dunleavy, interim recording secretary