NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on June 5, 2007
Present: Shawn Ward, Chairman; Jim Bowe, Peggy Driscoll, Allen Fidler (late), Dennis Fisher, Vincent Lombardi, members. Jay Sensibaugh, Vice-Chairman; Frank Mendicino and Shannon Wilson were excused. Also in attendance were: Paul Beckert, Solicitor; Thomas Wilkes, Township Engineer; Judith Stern Goldstein, Township Planner, Matthew Johnson, Traffic Engineer and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer
Call to Order: Chairman Shawn Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00PM
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Ward noted that under Correspondence, only he received the PC Journal.
Mr. Fisher moved to accept the minutes of May 1, 2007, as corrected. Mr. Lombardi seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Mr. Johnson reviewed his report, noting that PennDOT has approved the revised timing for the Newtown Township Traffic Responsive Signal System and is currently coordinating with the Township and Traffic Products to have the revised timings implemented into the Closed Loop System. At the suggestion of members, Mr. Johnson said that he would take a second look at the Buck Road intersection’s timing in all directions.
In discussing the TIP, Mr. Johnson said that he would keep the Commission apprised of the calendar of dates for the DVRPC and BCPC reviews of the TIP, and suggested a presentation on the TIP for a meeting in July, with discussion continuing at subsequent meetings in order to prepare Newtown Township’s list of projects to be submitted to the BCPC some time in September.
In response to questions from Commission members, Mr. Johnson said that he had attended Swamp Road meetings; PennDOT is in the early stage of planning this project and is considering some lane reconfigurations and shoulder widths. In response to comments on the lack of public input, Mr. Johnson said that there have been a number of meetings for public comment. He again stressed that this is still in the very early planning stage.
Mr. Schenkman said that he is a member of the regional traffic task force, and would like to arrange a presentation by PennDOT at one of the televised Board of Supervisors’ meetings. In response to Mr. Ward’s question, Mr. Schenkman said that the Board of Supervisors has not yet discussed the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the traffic engineer attend regional and Swamp Road meetings to represent Newtown Township’s interests. It should be on an upcoming agenda.
(Mr. Fidler arrived at this point). Mr. Johnson reported that the engineers have completed a study and recommend that Silo Drive remain open to two-way traffic. To relieve some back-up at the intersection with Sycamore Street, it was suggested that signage be placed along Silo Drive directing traffic that would be northbound on Rte 532 to turn at Ice Cream Alley. He briefly discussed the effect of a traffic light at Silo and Sycamore Street. This would result in some calming of traffic.
At Mr. Lombardi’s suggestion, Mr. Johnson agreed to investigate the timing and synchronization of traffic lights on Sycamore and State Streets and the cross streets, paying particular attention to the intersection at Jefferson Street, which experiences significant backed up traffic during the noontime and afternoon rush hours.
Cricklewood Green Office Park (Community Association Realty) Caufield Place – Sketch Plan: Mark Balsch, J. Halleck Hoeland, Fred Schmitt and Moonlight Tong were in attendance to review a sketch plan modifying a previously approved plan for an office park, consisting of five separate buildings on Lindenhurst Road. The modification consists of a reconfiguration of the layout of three proposed buildings, a proposed reduction of the proposed total building square footage by 5,524 square feet, and a reduction of parking spaces by 28 spaces. Mr. Hoeland explained that building “A” will be redesigned and significantly reduced in size, but is now placed within the setback along Lindenhurst Road. In response to Ms. Goldstein’s question, he said that there is to be one loading berth and a drop-off area. The buildings are to be constructed as the market demands.
Mr. Balsch said that the property across Lindenhurst Road has a conservation easement, and the area surrounding the property was to have been an office park, but is now being developed as a residential development. He wanted to reduce the size of the building closest to the road, and remove parking from the front yard of that building (building “A”) to keep the streetscape more rural in appearance. In response to Mr. Fidler’s comment, Mr. Balsch said that, while the relocation of building “A” enhances views of his existing office building, it also improves the design of the interior of the office park, and allows the line of trees along Lindenhurst to remain in place. The project will require a variance for the encroachment into the front yard setback.
Mr. Schmitt noted that only 60% of the building would be within the setback, and all front parking has been relocated to the rear. He briefly reviewed the reconfigured parking areas. Building “A” is now to be 22,000 square feet. Some of the square footage has been transferred to the other buildings in the office park, but there is an overall reduction in size.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s questions, Mr. Hoeland said that no other variances are needed for the redesign of the other buildings in the project.
In response to Mr. Beckert’s question, Mr. Blasch discussed plans to replace the existing trees on the berm along Lindenhurst Road with larger cherry trees.
Ms. Goldstein noted that the plans must show existing landscaping.
Members asked to see architectural renderings of the buildings. Mr. Ward said that the concept of removing parking from the front is very attractive, but without renderings it is difficult to make any recommendation. It would be important to have renderings when the applicant returns with plans for approval.
Mr. Fidler said that it would be helpful to the Commission and to the Zoning Hearing Board when the variance is sought, if plans could show where parking is held in green. He expressed some concern about the adequacy of parking. He also asked that attention be paid to the parking configuration and cartway widths to allow for emergency access. He noted that there have been problems elsewhere in the Township when tenants have changed and new tenants have required more parking than had been provided to the previous occupants.
Mr. Balsch said that the interior building design is such that it would reduce the possibility of overcrowding of parking facilities. He said that leases allocate 5 parking spaces per 1000 square feet of office space; if that is not adequate, the tenants are not given a lease.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Schmitt said that there would be some changes to the piping and basins for stormwater management; however the plans are still in the sketch phase. The developers wanted to show sketches of the proposed changes to get feedback from the Commission.
Mr. Beckert suggested that the applicant consider appearing at a work session of the Board of Supervisors to discuss the proposed changes. He noted that any Zoning Hearing Board application would be reviewed by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors prior the to Zoning Hearing Board meeting. It might be helpful if the applicants could answer any questions the Supervisors might have.
Mr. Ward introduced Township Engineer Thomas Wilkes, who will be working with the Planning Commission.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler said that recent meetings have been under-attended. He will not be available to attend the next scheduled meeting.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that Park and Recreation Director Bill Wert and Township Naturalist Russell Strover have been awarded a $12,000 grant for a Clark Nature Center Natural Resource Management Plan from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society “tree-vitalization” program. A contract has been signed with the Heritage Conservancy to develop the management plan, which will be used by the Horticultural Society as a model for other municipalities for natural resource management.
Ms. Goldstein noted that at a recent conference, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society discussed the awarding of this grant with great enthusiasm.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC is collecting maps in order to begin a project of creating an inventory of all open space within the Township. In cooperation with the Newtown Creek Coalition, EAC members will participate in a creek walk. Letters to property owners along the creek are being distributed in advance of the creek walk.
Comprehensive Plan Review
Mr. Ward referred members to a May 10, 2007 memo from Lynn Bush recommending certain principles to be used as a guide in reviewing the comprehensive plan. He noted the Mr. Pognowski is trying to form a Comprehensive Plan Review Committee.
Mr. Ward polled those members in attendance and suggested that, due to the difficulty in reaching a quorum on July 3, 2007, the day before the July 4 th holiday, the meeting should be canceled. The members agreed to this.Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary