NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on September 18, 2007
Present: Shawn Ward, Chairman; Jay Sensibaugh, Vice-Chairman; James Bowe, Peggy Driscoll, Allen Fidler, Dennis Fisher, Vincent Lombardi and Shannon Wilson, members. Member Frank Mendicino was excused. Also in attendance were: Paul Beckert, Solicitor; Judith Stern Goldstein, Township Planner, Matthew Johnson, Traffic Engineer, Thomas Wilkes, Township Engineer; and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00PM
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fidler moved to accept the minutes of September 4, 2007. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 6-0-2, with Messrs. Lombardi and Ward abstaining.
Melsky Tract – Preliminary/Final Plan for Land Development: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant is this review of a plan to develop the Melsky tract. The parcel of 134 acres is currently owned by Council Rock School District. Court approval of a sale of 94 acres to Toll Brothers and 40 acres to Leo Holt has been continued to November 1, 2007. The Holt portion of the property will have conservation easements. The plan being shown is for development of the remaining 94 acres, with 45 homes in Newtown and 45 in Upper Makefield. The development is in the FCO Federal Cemetery Overlay Zoning District. The plans are the same as had been presented to the Planning Commission as a sketch plan in August. Each home will be entirely in either Newtown or Upper Makefield; no lot straddles both municipalities. The homes in Newtown will be serviced by public water and sewer. The development has been designed to address the SALDO’s of both municipalities. Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant will comply with the review letters.
Jeff Madden of Eastern States Engineering pointed out that there are requirements for 50 foot planted buffers where residential uses abut active agricultural uses. The plans would have to be revised to show these buffers if the Holt portion of the tract abutting lots 9 through 14 are to be farmed.
Mr. Fidler noted that the area in question has swales, and might not be suitable for an agricultural use.
Mr. Beckert suggested that Toll Brothers get a commitment from Mr. Holt about the possibility of farming the property nearest these lots.
The Commission reviewed the waivers being requested. Mr. Murphy said that the cartway width of 28 feet, widening to 34 feet at the entrances, is a compromise between the Newtown and Upper Makefield requirements. The widths are adequate for emergency access. Mr. Murphy will obtain a letter from the Fire Marshal confirming this. The culs-de-sac are in compliance with the ordinances.
The Commission discussed the proposed 28 foot cartway width and agreed that it would be adequate for emergency access, if only one side of the streets had parking permitted. Each lot provides three off-street parking spaces plus garages, which might reduce on-street parking.
A waiver is sought to allow a less than 100 foot tangent approach to intersections. The members discussed concerns about safety. Mr. Fidler suggested three-way stop signs at these intersections to reduce speed inside the development.
Mr. Murphy said that a waiver is needed because the two entrances to this development and between the entrance and the Linton Hill Chase entrance are less than 1000 feet apart. This is necessary to prevent headlights from shining directly into the existing homes on the opposite side of the street.
The Commission agreed to the requests for waivers from the requirements for curbs and gutters along Stoopville Road, as the trail is to be continued along the frontage of the development, for waivers to allow an 8% grade on driveways and for waivers to allow 6 foot and 7 foot grass strips between sidewalks and curbs.
The Commission did not agree to the request for a waiver from the requirement to provide curbs and gutters on internal streets. Mr. Murphy pointed out that Upper Makefield does not want curbs and gutters, but would agree to Belgian Block curbs.
Mr. Wilson and Mr. Fidler each expressed concern about the difficulty of maintaining Belgian Block curbs, particularly when the streets are plowed.
Mr. Murphy said that it had been his understanding that Newtown would plow the entire development, since the entrance is in Newtown, but Upper Makefield would be billed for the plowing.
The Commission continued to object to the Belgian Block curbs, and suggested that Mr. Murphy speak to Upper Makefield about using concrete curbs and gutters. The Commission was in agreement that they would recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they not accept dedication of streets with Belgian Block curbs. The streets could remain private if Belgian Blocks are used.
Mr. Murphy said that residents on the opposite side of Stoopville Road had requested that the ultimate right-of-way be shifted to the development side of the street. The applicant would agree to take the ultimate right of way onto its property if it is not included in site capacity calculations.
Mr. Wilson expressed some concern that if, in the future, PennDOT widens Stoopville Road to a four-lane road, the new homeowners will be negatively impacted. He said that there should be some kind of disclosure to those homeowners.
Mr. Fidler agreed and suggested that signage should be used to show where property lines and ultimate rights-of-way are.
Mr. Beckert said that this could be addressed through specific language in homeowners association documents.
Mr. Beckert explained that Upper Makefield and Newtown have agreed that all traffic impact fees would be paid to Newtown; however if the $2,000,000 from the Federal government is received for roadway improvements, the impact fees would either not be collected or be remitted to Toll Brothers.
Mr. Fidler said that the Federal money would be used only for Stoopville Road improvements, whereas traffic impact money could have been used elsewhere, as needed. He suggested that a portion of Federal money, equal to the traffic impact fee collected for the Newtown Township homes, be credited toward improvements anywhere within the Township.
Mr. Johnson said that, although this could be suggested to the Board of Supervisors, it is his understanding that the Federal money is to be used on a specific regional project.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant would perform a traffic signal warrant analysis for the intersection of Linton Hill/Creamery and Stoopville Roads.
Mr. Murphy said that Suburban Lighting Consultants has recommended street lighting throughout the development; Upper Makefield would only want lights at the entrances.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the intersections inside the development have lights.
The Commission briefly discussed whether to recommend preliminary as final plan approval. Mr. Ward noted that approval is conditioned on the cemetery overlay going forward. He also said that he would want the Fire Marshal’s approval as a condition but otherwise would recommend approval.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would want to have a second opportunity to review the plans, after they have been revised to comply with the review letters.
Resident Nancy Crescenzo said that the Board of Supervisors had already discussed and agreed to lights at the entrances only.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the Planning Commission is advisory; the Supervisors can agree to other conditions than recommended by the Planning Commission.
Mrs. Crescenzo objected to the recommendation of final plan approval. She also pointed out the burden to the School District of 90 additional homes, as well as the burden to the taxpayers.
Resident James Ott of 271 Stoopville Road said that the agenda for this evening’s meeting had not been posted in a timely fashion. He asked about the ultimate right-of-way, and about public water hook-up, and the alignment of the entrance to the development. He noted that he is not opposed to the cemetery plans, but only wants to be sure that the Stoopville Road neighbors are treated fairly.
Mr. Murphy re-iterated that the ultimate right-of-way would be shifted to the Toll Brothers property on the opposite side of the street and that the entrance has been placed to avoid light shining into neighbors’ windows.
Resident Ed Hackett of Woods of Saxony asked the price being paid by Toll Brothers for the property.
Mr. Murphy said Toll Brothers will pay $7,000,000 for its 94 acres.
Mr. Fidler said that he felt the applicant has shown that it can comply with all of the points in the review letters. He wants to make sure that the VA gets a message that Newtown is not “stonewalling” the project. There is a time limit on the project for the VA.
Mr. Ward agreed, adding that the public will have opportunity to speak again at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Mr. Murphy explained that the Upper Makefield Planning Commission is also reviewing the plans this evening. He is requesting that the Board of Supervisors review the plans on September 26, as will Upper Makefield’s Board. With the schedule of meetings the way it is, there would not be time to return to the Planning Commission and still appear before the Board of Supervisors before the November 1 deadline. If he can bring a recommendation to the Supervisors, there would be time for them to review it a second time if necessary.
Mr. Wilson to recommend preliminary as final approval for plan of major subdivision of Toll Brothers, Inc., regarding the portion of the Melsky Tract located within Newtown Township, Tax Map Parcel No. 29-007-004, to allow the subdivision of 67.6 acres within Newtown Township into 45 residential lots on the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted from the Newtown Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance:
As to the request to waive the requirement to provide concrete curb and gutter, Belgium Block being required in Upper Makefield Township, the Planning Commission recommends that curb and gutter be installed and that the requested waiver from Belgium Block be only permitted on the condition that the streets remain private streets and not dedicated.
Mr. Fidler seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ott asked whether any arrangement could be made for the residents on Stoopville Road to hook up to Newtown Artesian Water when it is brought to the new development.
Mr. Murphy suggested that Mr. Ott speak to the water company about this.
The Commission discussed whether the Township could require the Water Company to bring service. Mr. Beckert said that he would investigate this request further, but asked Mr. Murphy if he would be willing to work with the property owners. He agreed.
Mr. Wilson amended his motion to add the following condition:
Mr. Fidler amended his second and the motion passed 7-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting nay.
Johnson Kendall Johnson – 109 Pheasant Run – Preliminary as Final Plan: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant, who proposes to renovate an existing 11,827 square foot building on a 2.205 acre lot in the Newtown Business Commons in the LI- Light Industrial Zoning District. The applicant is also seeking approval for a 7,500 square foot addition, with increased parking, curbs, sidewalks and underground stormwater management facilities. The 7,500 square foot addition is a long range plan, not to be built immediately. The use will be D-1 office use, only.
Mr. Marshall explained that large portions of this property are heavily wooded, and rather than disturb the woods, the applicant would like to put parking in the front yard.
Matthew Chartrand of Bohler Engineering explained that the configuration of parking in the front yard has been designed to preserve two large trees; they would not be removed until the addition is needed.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is seeking waivers for parking in the very large easement that runs through the property. A variance will be needed for some parking within 6.2 feet of the property line. In all other regards, the applicant will comply with all of the review letters. He noted that the use will be D-1 office use, with no medical office use. Johnson Kendall Johnson will be using the building for its own insurance business. Deliveries are to be in a loading area, as the only deliveries are by UPS style trucks.
Mr. Johnson said that a fee in lieu of traffic study will be discussed.
Mr. Fidler moved torecommend preliminary as final land development approval for Johnson, Kendall & Johnson, Inc. and 109 Pheasant Run LLC to permit a 7500 square foot addition to an existing 11,827 square foot existing property at 109 Pheasant Run Business Commons, Tax Map Parcel No. 29-10-128, on the following conditions:
The following waivers are granted from the Newtown Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance:
Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Newtown Athletic Club Pool Addition – 209 Penns Trail – Final Plan for Land Development: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant for a12,809 square foot addition to an existing facility. Preliminary land development approval was granted on January 10, 2007. Three additional waivers are now sought for parking. In response to questions from Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Marshall said that the plans would be revised to include all requested changes before it is submitted to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Mr. Fidler asked about plans to re-stripe Penns Trail near the entrance.
Mr. Marshall indicated that up to four cars could stack for a left turn into the entrance with the new striping. A sign would be placed at the entrance to not block the driveway; such a sign is at the current entrance.
Mr. Wilson moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for land development for Newtown Athletic Club, 209 Penns Trail, subject to the following conditions:
The following waivers are recommended to be granted:
Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Newtown Irish Pub and Restaurant - 240 North Sycamore Street: Chairman Ward recused himself from this portion of the meeting; Vice Chairman Sensibaugh chaired this review. Attorney Kelly McGowan represented the applicants for conditional use approval for uses E-5 eating place, E-6 eating place/take out, for a 5000 square foot restaurant with a total seating capacity of 206seats, including outdoor porch/patio seating.
Mr. Beckert said that the building shows a two-story façade with a 5,000 square foot building footprint. This applicant is only entitled to 5,000 square feet for this use.
Ms. McGowan said the two-story façade will accommodate a vaulted ceiling, not a second story in the interior.
Applicant Robert Lutz explained that the name is to be changed to The Green Parrot Irish Pub and Grille. He hopes to create an upscale family restaurant with a ratio of 75% food sales to 25% bar sales.
Ms. McGowan said that the application had included an E-17 tavern use, which is only available by a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board. An application has been filed for the special exception, but Ms. McGowan asked the Planning Commission for input as to whether the E-17 use special exception is needed.
Ms. Goldstein confirmed that there are currently no E-17 uses in Newtown Township; all of the restaurants with bars have E-5 eating place use approval. She briefly reviewed the Ordinance requirements, pointing out that sales of alcohol are incidental to sale of food with an E-5 eating place use.
Mr. Wilson said that the proposed use sounds similar to Applebee’s, which is an E-5 use. The Commission members were in agreement on this, as it was noted that the kitchen would be open and serving food throughout the hours of operation.
Mr. Bowe questioned the proposed hours of operation at 7:00AM to 2:00 AM, seven days a week.
Chef Rick Narisaki discussed plans for the restaurant, which the applicants hoped would continue to serve food after 10:00PM. They would like to offer service of food to workers coming from other restaurants after they close and to other night workers. They do not anticipate remaining open until 2:00 AM every day, nor do they anticipate opening every morning at 7:00 AM. The application requests these hours, so that there would be an opportunity to see whether breakfast would be a profitable venture; they are not currently planning on serving breakfast. They do anticipate offering a weekend brunch. They are tentatively planning an all day menu, available from about 11:00 AM. Mr. Narisaki stressed that food would be served at all times while the establishment is open. He also noted that alcohol cannot be served on Sunday mornings.
Mr. Beckert suggested that the applicants review their proposed hours of operation before appearing at a Board of Supervisors meeting, as the proposed hours could be a concern to them.
Ms. McGowan reviewed the seating: 30 stools, 36 barroom seats and 96 dining room seats, plus 42 outdoor/patio seats. She noted that frequently, when the patio is in use, the indoor seating is not used, and the patio is not in use during winter and bad weather.
Mr. Beckert questioned the expected parking needs, based on the number of seats and the number of employees, proposed as 20 maximum.
Mr. Lutz said that he has discussed an arrangement for valet parking using the Tyrol Insurance parking lot in the evenings. There are about 20 parking spots available there. He also noted that the restaurant will take reservations, which should help with traffic flow.
Referring to the McMahon Associates shared parking analysis, Ms. McGowan noted that there were only a few times when parking is tight, but the study did not include the on-street parking that will be available.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Lutz estimated that the busiest times for business would be from noon until 1:00 PM and from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. He said that he would be willing to require employees to park off-site, but did not have any specific location in mind for this parking.
Mr. Beckert indicated that the Supervisors have had some concerns about the parking for the entire shopping center. If there had not been a variance granted, and based on the use only, one parking space per two seats, plus one per employee, this use would have needed 123 parking spaces. He suggested that the applicant continue the review until the next meeting, and continue the Board of Supervisors hearing until October 10, in order to revise some of the issues, particularly plans for off-site parking and hours of operation.
Ms. Goldstein noted that the plans appear to show a very large seating area in the bar, which does not match the concept of family dining.
Mr. Fidler also said that the floor plan appears to be very crowded, without any floor space for employees to circulate among tables. He asked whether there is a standardized amount of space that should be allocated per diner.
Mrs. Crescenzo questioned whether a basement would be included in the plans and if so, whether the basement would be handicapped accessible.
Mr. Solomon said that he would review the ADA requirements for handicapped accessibility for storage basements.
Mr. Beckert noted that ADA compliance is a requirement of approval.
Mrs. Crescenzo objected to the proposed hours of operation, and about the dangers of serving alcohol late at night. She also disagreed with the shared parking analysis, noting that the restaurant would need more parking spaces than will be available in the 146 parking space lot.
The review was continued to October 2, 2007.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Kieffer – Petsmart – 2600 South Eagle Road: This is an application for variances to allow three signs where only one sign is permitted; to allow a 199.28 square foot sign where only 20 square feet is permitted and to allow a height of signage of 17 feet above grade where only 9 feet is permitted. Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Solicitor be sent to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose this application. The motion failed to be seconded.
Mr. Lombardi said that traditionally, throughout the Township, anchor stores have been permitted larger signs. This particular store is set back from the road. He does not object to one large sign. He did, however, think that three signs were not necessary.
The Commission agreed that the two additional signs for pet grooming and veterinary services are not necessary, as all patrons enter through the same doors, then proceed to the various services inside the building. Signage could be placed inside the store to direct customers.
The Commission agreed that these issues should be called to the Supervisors’ attention in the Chairman’s report.
Daren and Lori Aita – 16 Millstone Drive: The Commission had no comment, but urged the Board to recommend that the applicants present letters of support from surrounding neighbors for this application.
Michael Burns – 35 Crittenden Drive: The Commission passed this application without comment.
The Heritage Company – Cosi Café – 104 Pheasant Run: The Commission passed this application without comment.
Richard & Trisha Brandimarte – 1 Thornbury Lane: The Commission passed this application without comment.
Sycamore Restaurant Group, LLC/Newtown Irish Pub – 240 N. Sycamore Street: The Commission members agreed that the proposed use is E-5 and E-6 – eating place, with alcohol sales incidental to food sales. There are no E-17 tavern uses in the Township, and the proposed use resembles other restaurants, such as Applebees, an E-5 use; as such, a special exception is not needed.
Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 12:15 AM. Mr. Lombardi seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary