NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on March 20, 2007
Present : Jay Sensibaugh Vice-Chairman; Allen Fidler, Dennis Fisher, Vincent Lombardi, Peggy Driscoll, Shannon Wilson, Frank Mendicino and Jim Bowe, members. Chairman Shawn Ward was excused. Also in attendance were: Paul Beckert, Solicitor; Judith Stern Goldstein, Township Planner and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer. Edward Koehler, Township Engineer was absent.
1. Call To Order –Vice Chairman Jay Sensibaugh called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM
2. Changes to the Agenda -
Zoning Hearing Board, Attorney Don Marshall and applicant Karen Miller were in attendance to review the application for increased impervious surface and reduced parking of the adaptive reuse of a building in the Business Commons.
3. Approval of Minutes: Jay Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of March 20, 2007.
Allen Fidler seconded the motion was passed 4-0-4.
Frank Mendicino asked Jay Sensibaugh to table the minutes after the vote had been taken.
4. Zoning Hearing Board
a. Application of Neil Morris: Neil Morris, 429 Taylor Avenue, applicant is to add a 596 sq. ft. Rear addition, a 676 sq. ft. garage addition, a 64 sq. ft. walkway, and a 977 sq. ft. driveway to the existing home. Mr. Morris explained that he will remain in his existing home until the renovations are completed before moving into the new home. Jim Bowe asked whether he had discussed the renovations with his neighbors. Mr. Morris said that the neighbors were not concerned because he was making it more in keeping with the other homes in the neighborhood. Allen Fidler suggested that he get letters of support from his neighbors to present to the Zoning Board. The commission recommended that the application move ahead without comment.
b. Third Federal Bank: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant who is seeking a variance to replace an existing nonconforming 30 sq. ft freestanding sign with a new 32.66 sq. ft. triangular-shaped freestanding sign at the same location. The proposed freestanding sign will be seen from the bypass and will exceed the maximum allowable size and height requirement of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983. The property is located in the OR, Office Research district. Allan Fidler expressed concerns that the sign would be seen from the Bypass and would be a three face sign. Vince Lombardi noted that the way the sign would be facing only the back would be seen from the bypass. Members asked about the lighting and Don Marshall said that the sign would have internal lighting; currently the sign is lit from the ground.
Motion was made by Frank Mendicino and second by Jim Bowe to support the application and move ahead without comment.
c. Grainhouse Developers, LLC: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant, Karen Miller.At a previous meeting the Commission had recommended that the Board of Supervisors oppose this application for variances for parking and impervious surface. Mr. Marshall said that, subsequent to that recommendation, the applicant had met with Mr. Solomon, Ms. Goldstein, Mr. Beckert and Mr. Koehler to discuss amendments to the application. The plans have now been revised to include 70.4% impervious surface, where 65% is the maximum, and 194 parking spaces where 256 would be required under the Joint Municipal Ordinance of 1983. The impervious surface can be reduced further by replacing the oversized sidewalk. Ms. Miller has proposed that 10,000 square feet of the 47,000 square foot office building be medical uses, while the remaining 37,000 square feet would be general office. Mr. Marshall explained that, although Ms. Miller intends to use a portion of the building as warehouse space, it would be better to seek the variance for complete office use, rather than to return at a later time if the warehouse space is no longer needed. The left section of the parking area will have 50 spaces on a porous paving surface.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Marshall said that there is one prospective tenant, but no leases have been signed. It is Ms. Miller’s intention to make these offices condominiums. Ms. Miller owns the building on the opposite side of the street which complies with the parking Ordinance; she could not guarantee that there would be available parking at her other building for use by this building’s tenants.
Mr. Fidler said that this is a very good adaptive reuse of an existing building and the Commission should work with the applicant to make the parking work. He asked about the number of parking spaces that would be gained if warehouse use were included in the calculation.
Mr. Marshall said that warehouse use would gain about nine parking spaces. He said that at this time there are no tenants, making it difficult to project what each tenant’s use or parking needs would be. The uses will be “by right” uses.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that the Township ask for a condition that each prospective tenant seek conditional use approval. In that way it could be better ascertained how much parking would be needed for each tenant.
Mr. Mendicino noted that insufficient parking had been his concern at the time of the changes to the Ordinance to expand uses in the Business Commons. He is very concerned that the increase impervious surface and more intense use of the existing buildings will make provision of adequate parking very difficult under the Ordinance. It will be especially difficult when tenants change in the same office space to monitor whether the parking continues to be adequate.
The Commission discussed concerns about the inability of the applicant to meet parking requirements for office use. Mr. Lombardi suggested that this, and other applicants that are converting warehouse space to office space, go through a conditional use process, with a specific number of parking spaces assigned to each tenant. Other possible solutions suggested were reduction in parking stall size and elimination of the medical use, and use of porous paving. They also discussed stormwater management for the increased impervious surface and agreed that if the increased impervious surface were addressed with on-site retention, the members would not oppose the impervious surface increase.
Mr. Marshall said that it would not be possible to have each tenant apply for conditional use because it is not yet known who the tenants will be. The applicant has already agreed to use porous paving materials for 50 parking spaces. He agreed to eliminate medical uses and to add 1800 square feet of warehouse space. This would reduce the relief required to 40 spaces. He noted that there would be no more than 45,000 square feet of usable space for office and warehouse use if common areas and utility areas were not included in calculations. The required parking for 1,800 square feet of warehouse and the remainder as office, not medical, uses would require 234 parking spaces.
Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose the Zoning Hearing Board application of Grainhouse Developers, LLC, subject to the following conditions:
- That medical uses be eliminated;
- That 1,800 square feet of space be used as warehouse space;
- That all units are condominiums
- That on site stormwater retention be as if meadow;
- That no more than 45,000 square feet be used as office or warehouse, with the remaining areas as utilities and common areas.
With these conditions, the required parking is reduced to 234 spaces, requiring relief of 40 parking spaces. Mr. Wilson seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
New Business: Mr. Berkert advised the Commission that the Jointure has recently been informed of a decision that would permit a challenge to the Ordinance on a procedural basis without a statute of limitations. A meeting will be held in the coming week for representatives of the three municipalities to discuss re-enacting the JMZO. This one time re-enactment would clear up any procedural concerns. Mr. Sensibaugh agreed to attend the meeting to represent Newtown Township’s Planning Commission.
Comp Plan Review Committee: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that a date for the first meeting has tentatively been selected as April 16, 2007 however this has not been confirmed by the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Bowe moved to adjourn at 9:30. Mr. Wilson seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Patrice Cichalski, Recording Secretary