NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on October 2, 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 (arrived 8:15PM); Judith Stern Goldstein, Township Planner, Matthew Johnston, Traffic Engineer, and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00PM
Approval of Minutes: In the minutes of September 18, 2007, Mr. Sensibaugh questioned the use of the wording in the recommendation to approve the Melsky tract land development plan, item 22. He said that it should read, “….slower speeds”.
Ms. Goldstein noted that during the meeting, a recommendation of slower speeds had been discussed, but the motion, as framed by Mr. Beckert, used the words, “… appropriate speeds”. The motion is recorded verbatim in the minutes.
Mr. Bowe moved to accept the minutes of September 18, 2007. Mr. Fidler seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Mr. Johnston reviewed the traffic signal enhancement initiative on the Newtown Bypass. At this time, Gannett Fleming is collecting data on the revised timings, which will be reviewed by PennDOT. In response to questions from members, he said that concerns about the intersection of State Street and Newtown Bypass are being addressed. Other areas of concern to be investigated include Buck Road at the Bypass, and Durham at Eagle Road.
Regarding the regional traffic task force study, Mr. Johnston said that Supervisor Schenkman has formally requested and extension to allow for incorporation of comments from residents. There was a presentation at the September 26, 2007 Board of Supervisors meeting, at which residents made a number of comments and offered a number of suggestions. Representative Steil has been reluctant to grant a formal extension, but has assured that Newtown Township’s comments will be accepted up until October 29. One recommendation from the residents was the reclassification of Swamp Road as a collector road. Such a request would need the approval of the DVRPC and PennDOT.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting, a number of residents spoke about the reopening of Upper Silver Lake Road. The Board tabled a decision until additional engineering data has been gathered.
JMZO 2007-05 Landscape Contractor Use – Wrightstown Overlay: Mr. Fidler said that this proposed ordinance attempts to address Wrightstown’s concern to permit landscape contractors without the need to rezone parcels, but he is concerned about the residency requirements, which could be difficult to monitor.
Members agreed that they would like to have additional time before making recommendations. The review was tabled to the next meeting.
JMZO 2007-03 Video Graphic and Electronic Signage: Ms. Goldstein said that other municipalities have begun regulating where such signage is permitted, as currently video and electronic signage is not prohibited.
Mr. Wilson expressed some concern about further restricting an already restrictive sign ordinance.
The Commission briefly discussed the suggested locations in Newtown where such signage would be permitted, including in the TC and PC zoning districts, very close to the historic district.
Mr. Wilson suggested that perhaps a redrafting of the sign ordinance should be considered.
The discussion was tabled.
Ink Stop, Inc., 260 N. Sycamore Street, Goodnoe’s Corner: Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the applicants. Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant is planning to open a 1400 square foot retail shop in building 3b of the Goodnoe’s Corner shopping center. The Ohio based company will carry various computer products, with an emphasis on customer service. The shop will comply with HARB requirements.
Mr. Wilson moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application of KLS Ryan LP and Ink Stop, Inc., 260 North Sycamore Street got Use E-1 Retail on the following conditions:
Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Green Parrot Irish Grille ( Newtown Irish Pub and Restaurant) – 240 North Sycamore Street: Mr. Ward recused himself from this review, and advised the Commission that he would participate in discussion as a principle in the application.
Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the applicants for a use C-5 restaurant, occupying 5000 square feet in building 1 of Goodnoe’s Corner. Mr. VanLuvanee said that when the applicant last appeared, there were a few points that the Commission had requested additional information on.
The applicant plans to occupy 5000 square feet of space. This is the entire building footprint. Although the building appears from the outside to be a two-story building, the interior bar area will have a vaulted ceiling, making the attic area unusable. There will be a basement used for storage, but it will not be occupied space; no office or work area will be located in the basement.
Ms. Goldstein briefly reviewed the ordinance definitions of “basement” and “cellar” and agreed that the space is a “cellar”. The cellar can be used for storage, including walk-in freezers, without being used in square footage calculations.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant is seeking approval for uses E-5 and E-6, eating place and eating place/take-out. The applicant expects about 75% of revenue to come from the sale of food; no other restaurants in the area have a tavern use E-17. The kitchen will be open whenever the business is open.
In response to questions from the Commission on proposed hours of operation, Mr. Ward explained that he had advised the applicant to seek approval for the maximum hours permitted, although the applicant does not plan to be open from 7:00AM to 2:00AM every day of the year. The owners generally intend to limit the sale of alcohol to after 11:00AM, but have considered offering certain televised events, such as international soccer and rugby, on certain mornings. There is also the possibility of offering a brunch on Saturdays, with traditional brunch cocktails offered. Pennsylvania law prohibits the sale of alcohol before 11:00 AM on Sundays. The applicants would agree to possibly limiting the sale of alcohol before 11:00 AM to only 90 days a year. Mr. Ward said that the owners are all local people, familiar with the area, and are proposing a family restaurant with an Irish Pub atmosphere. If the business model is unsuccessful, it would be changed.
Mr. Wilson said that he has no objection to the hours, provided the kitchen is open and food is available the entire time. He did not think that the sale of alcohol should be limited to after 11:00AM so long as the kitchen is open.
After some further discussion, the Commission agreed that the sale of alcohol before 11:00 AM should be limited to 90 days per year.
Mr. VanLuvanee reviewed the planned number of seats. He compared the proposed seating of 30 stools around the bar and 36 seats at tables in the bar area to the other restaurant bars in the area, and noted that the proposal was comparable to Friends, Dolce Carini and Applebee’s.
Mr. VanLuvanee reviewed the shared parking analysis that had been presented to the Board of Supervisors at the conditional use hearing for the shopping center. He said that there is a shared parking concept for shopping centers, and that the analysis does not consider the on-street parking available on Sycamore Street. The analysis used 150 seats for this restaurant because a number of seats are on the patio, which would be closed in winter and in bad weather. Frequently when the weather is nice and the patio is in full use, the indoor seating is not used.
Mr. Sensibaugh expressed some concern about the movement of traffic in and around the shopping center.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that Mr. McGrath has agreed to pay for a traffic light at Silo Drive, which will be installed when the warrants come in.
Mr. Bowe expressed some concern about the parking calculations, noting that it is very busy and crowded in the area on Friday and Saturday nights right now, and a number of restaurants and eating places are planned for this shopping center.
Mr. Sensibaugh expressed similar concerns, and mentioned the increased risk of automobile accidents.
Robert Stein, a partner in this business and a resident of Newtown, said that a number of businesses in the shopping center will have opposite peak hours; the bank will be closed in the evening for example. He also said that at the time of the Sycamore Street project, emphasis had been placed on making the Sycamore Street/State Street area pedestrian friendly. There are numerous parking spaces available up and down Sycamore Street as well as the spaces in the parking lot.
Mr. Lombardi said that there are 61 parking spaces on Sycamore Street between Durham Road and Washington Ave.
The Commission briefly discussed the proposed patio. Mr. Ward said that the patio would not have outdoor music, heat or air conditioning. There is a small fireplace gas planned, not for warmth but for atmosphere. There might be ceiling fans. There will not be side walls that can be brought down to make the patio usable all year.
Mr. Stein said that the applicants are working with Tyrol Insurance to lease some of Tyrol’s parking spaces for off-site valet parking in the evenings, if needed. He presented a letter confirming this.
The members discussed the use of valet parking and agreed that if needed, valet parking should be provided on Friday and Saturday evenings after 5:30 PM when the patio is in use. After further discussion, it was agreed that the Township would have the option of requiring valet parking, if needed, on Thursdays as well.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s question, Mr. Solomon said that the ADA does not require elevator access to a storage cellar.
The members briefly discussed security concerns, but agreed that this is an issue for the Township and the entire shopping center, not of one applicant.
Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application of KLS Ryan LP and , and the Sycamore Restaurant Group, LLC, trading as Green Parrot Irish Pub and Grill, 240 North Sycamore Street, granting permission for an E-5 Easting Place and E-6 Eating Place/Drive In use on the following conditions.
Mr. Wilson seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ward said that the applicants might want to host a few special events for which a special event permit would be requested from the Liquor Control Board. He mentioned a possible live music performance for St. Patrick’s Day.
Mr. Bowe amended his motion to adjust condition 21 to read as follows:
The applicant shall not apply to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for an amusement permit, provided however, that a special event permit for limited occasions not to exceed 10 days a year, may be applied for, subject to notice to the township and it’s opportunity to object.
Mr. Wilson amended his second and the motion passed 7-0.
Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Regional Planning Commission has canceled future scheduled meetings, and will meet as needed.
Ms. Goldstein said that the Comprehensive Plan review had developed a list of guiding principles, which are to be reviewed by the Bucks County Planning Commission.
Mr. Beckert reported that the JMZO amendment to rezone portions of the Woll tract had been reviewed by the Wrightstown Planning Commission, who recommended approval; however the Wrightstown Board of Supervisors had tabled a vote.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mr. Lombardi reported that HARB had reviewed and recommended approval for certificates of appropriateness for signage for a number of the businesses at Goodnoe’s Corner, for Lang Ski and Scuba and for the exterior of the Carriage House.
Joint Zoning Council: As Mr. Fidler said that he would not be available for the next scheduled meeting, Mr. Sensibaugh agreed to attend.
Mr. Wilson moved to adjourn at 10:30 PM. Mr. Fidler seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary