NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on January 15, 2008
Present: James Bowe, Peggy Driscoll, Allen Fidler, Dennis Fisher, Vincent Lombardi (late), James Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, and Brandon Wind. Also in attendance were: Mike Gallagher and Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisors; Timothy Duffy, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Russ Donleavy and Kristy McNeill, Township Traffic Engineers and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 8:00 PM. New members and consultants were introduced.
Organization: Mr. Ott nominated Mr. Fidler to serve as chairman. Mr. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Bowe nominated Mr. Sensibaugh to serve as vice-chairman. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Sensibaugh nominated Mr. Bowe to serve as secretary/treasurer. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to appoint Mary Donaldson as recording secretary. Mr. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Bowe moved to accept the minutes of November 20, 2007. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 3-0-4, with Messrs. Fisher, Ott, Sensibaugh and Wind abstaining.
Mr. Lombardi arrived.
Cricklewood Green Office Park – Caufield Place and Lindenhurst Road – Revised Final Plan for Land Development: J. Halleck Hoeland, Fred Schmitt, Moonlight Tong and Mark E. Blasch were in attendance to review this application for modifications to an already approved plan, which reconfigures the layout of three of the five approved office buildings, reduces overall floor area by 5,524 square feet and reconfigures parking, eliminating 28 spaces, and relocating front yard parking throughout the complex. Front yard parking has been eliminated and the Zoning Hearing Board has granted a variance for front yard setbacks.
Referring to the plan, Mr. Hoeland pointed out that building “d” has been constructed and is 75% occupied. Building “a” had been approved as a 38,100 square foot, 3-story building. The revision reduces this building to two stories and 22,000 square feet. What had been planned as front yard parking has now been bermed and planted with a line of trees. Buildings “b” and “c” on the revised plan are larger, and now face one another forming a small courtyard. Because the overall square footage of the complex is reduced by 5,500 square feet, 28 parking spaces have been eliminated. The complex also includes a renovated farmhouse, used as a guest house for corporate guest quarters, and a barn that is to be used as a conference center for tenants of the complex. A Zoning Hearing Board variance has been granted to eliminate loading berths, since this is a business office use with no need for deliveries by tractor-trailer.
In response to Mr. Bowe’s comments, Ms. Tong and Mr. Schmitt reviewed the location of the fire lane and fire hydrant, which comply with comments in the fire marshal’s review letter dated November 1, 2007. Loading areas for delivery trucks are recessed from the driveways, allowing the trucks to pull close to the building. The fire lane is marked by a yellow curb and “no parking” signs. The recessed loading areas are 8 feet wide, leaving a 25 foot driveway/fire lane, adequate for emergency vehicles to pass any parked delivery trucks. Although the delivery curb cuts are not marked with signage, they are all directly in front of the entrances to the buildings.
The Commission reviewed the letter of Remington & Vernick dated November 9, 2007. Mr. Hoeland indicated that the applicant will comply with most of the comments in the letter.
In response to Mr. Ott’s question, Ms. Fountain said that the applicant’s survey was required to show a tie-in to Autumn Drive, but this is not an actual lane connecting the complex to the residential neighborhood.
There are no changes to stormwater management facilities. The drainage basin for all five buildings has already been constructed.
Mr. Hoeland noted that his firm has been granted a six year moratorium from adverse changes in the Township’s Zoning and Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances for this project in exchange for advance payment of certain Park and Recreation and Traffic Impact fees.
Mr. Fidler briefly discussed whether there would be a point at which a plan is no longer a revision, but a new plan.
Ms. Tong indicated that the reconfigured parking area to the northern part of the complex does not bring parking closer to the stream on the property but does bring it about 15 feet closer to the existing basin.
Mr. Hoeland said that the applicant will comply with the Boucher and James letter dated November 13, 2007 and the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated November 16, 2007.
Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Solomon discussed the lighting for the complex. The already existing lighting does not meet the currently existing standards. Mr. Schmitt said that the Suburban Lighting Consultant did not say whether it would be acceptable for the plan to continue with the same lighting as has already been installed. He presented the lighting plan and pointed out that 60% of the lighting has already been installed. The light fixtures close to residential areas are shielded. The fixtures are 15 feet high.
The Commission discussed the height of light fixtures, which has been an issue with residents living close to business properties elsewhere in the Township.
Mr. Blasch said that there are two full grown rows of trees and hedges between the parking lot and the residential neighborhood, shielding the lights. Many of these lights are already installed and on timers set to turn off the lights by 10:00 PM. There have been no complaints from the residents about lighting. In response to a question from Mr. Duffy, he said that the new plan differs from the original approved plan in that the new plan eliminates three fixtures; the fixtures are in compliance with the original approved plan.
Mr. Solomon said that Suburban Lighting did not object to the lighting plan with the fixtures continuing, but has not put this in writing.
Mr. Duffy said that if the new plan has the same lighting as had been previously approved, then it should also be approved. He asked Ms. Fountain to confirm that the new plan complies with what has been approved.
Mr. Lombardi said that his only concern about the lighting is that the parking lot is safe. He did, however, note that he has some issue with granting preliminary/final plan approval with so many “will complies” on the review letters. He said that he would prefer that the plans be revised to comply with the review letters before the Planning Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors approve the plan.
Mr. Hoeland said that this work has already begun. He would arrange for the appropriate number of copies of the revised plans to be submitted to the Codes Office.
Mr. Fidler agreed with Mr. Lombardi that he would prefer to see compliant plans. He does not object to recommending approval when there are only a few “will complies”, but would prefer that these plans be revised and resubmitted for review.
After further discussion, Mr. Hoeland agreed to grant the Township an extension until March 15, 2008. This would give the Planning Commission and its consultants an opportunity to review revised plans.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of Zachary Dunkelberger and Christine Haney – 6 Eldridge Road: The Commission passed this application for a variance for a side yard setback to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Application of Lawrence M. Thomson and Loretta Thomson – 656 Linton Hill Road: Mr. Solomon explained that the applicants wish to construct a new single family detached dwelling on a non-conforming lot. He is of the opinion that a special exception is required under Section 1208 (C)(2) of the Ordinance. The applicant believes that, having met the criteria of Section 1000(C)(2) of the ordinance, a special exception is not required.
The Commission agreed to recommend that the Board of Supervisors send the Solicitor to defend the position of the Zoning Officer.
Subcommittee & Liaison Assignments
Mr. Fidler said that a list of liaison assignments had been distributed in the members’ packets. He asked that members indicate to which Committees they would be interested in acting as Planning Commission liaison.
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission – Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Wind
Joint Zoning Council – Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Fidler
Historic Architectural Review Board – Mr. Lombardi
Park and Recreation Board – Mr. Ott
Environmental Advisory Council – Mr. Fisher
Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation – Mrs. Driscoll
Newtown Creek Coalition – Mr. Sensibaugh
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board had discussed asking an EAC member to act as liaison to the Planning Commission.
The Commission discussed whether the Planning Commission’s liaison to the EAC was sufficient contact. Mr. Fidler and Mr. Gallagher each expressed some concern about adding another step in the review process by asking the EAC to review, comment and make recommendations on plans.
Mr. Ott and Mr. Solomon discussed including copies of the consultants’ review letters to the EAC for internal comment.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Schenkman reported that he has been elected treasurer of the Joint Zoning Council. The Council has continued to review the comprehensive plan, and discussed a draft amendment creating a TC-3 Zoning District.
EAC: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC did not meet in December, but members had taken various maps home to continue working on an open space inventory.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that because of scheduling conflicts with the Board of Supervisors, the Park and Rec Board has scheduled a special meeting on January 30, 2008 at 7:00 PM.
Traffic Engineer: Mr. Donleavy said that he was in attendance for Carroll Engineering in place of Amy Kaminsky, who is out of town. He said that it is his understanding that the traffic engineers provide a monthly update of ongoing projects to the Planning Commission at the first meeting of each month.
Mr. Solomon said that he would provide copies of previous traffic engineer’s reports to Ms. Kaminsky to help her prepare for the next meeting.
Mr. Fidler said that there might be times when the traffic engineer would be asked by the chairman to attend a meeting to comment on traffic issues involved with plan reviews.
Solicitor: Mr. Duffy asked the Commission about preparation of motions for plan recommendations.
Mr. Fidler said that the past solicitors have always framed the motions. Certain standard conditions are always included; motions are very detailed. He asked the recording secretary and Zoning Officer to work with the solicitor on a checklist of conditions.
Correspondence: Included in the Planning Commission packets was a letter from Lower Makefield Township informing Newtown residents of a plan revision for Brookshire Estates which is on Lower Makefield’s Board of Supervisors agenda on January 16, 2008.
General Discussion: Mr. Sensibaugh said that Frankford Hospital is planning major construction at the intersection of Route 332 and Stony Hill Road in Lower Makefield. This construction could have major impact on traffic in Newtown.
At Mrs. Driscoll’s suggestion, the Commission agreed to follow the Board of Supervisors’ lead and begin meetings at 7:30 PM beginning on February 5, 2008.
Mr. Fidler informed the members that he would not be in attendance at the February and first March meetings.
The Commission agreed to ask the Board of Supervisors to ask the Township Planner to conduct a short seminar on planning for the benefit of the new members of the PC and of the Board of Supervisors.
Mrs. Driscoll asked Mr. Solomon to look into the location of mechanicals at Goodnoe’s Corner in front of Jules’ Thin Crust Pizza.
Mr. Ott asked that he be provided with an updated copy of the JMZO and SALDO. He expressed some concern about the Commission’s practice of recommending approval of preliminary as final plans and requested that the process be discussed at a future meeting Commission meeting.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that Mr. Ott research this matter for future discussion. He and Mr. Fidler each spoke in support of the decisions to recommend preliminary as final plan approval, noting that this has been done only when the preliminary plans meet all or almost all of the recommendations of the professional reviews. Some plans have already been presented to the Commission as sketch plans, with the Commission’s recommendations incorporated into the preliminary plan. When, as this evening, a plan has a long list of items to be revised in order to comply with the reviews, the applicants have been asked to return.
Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 10:10 PM. Mr. Lombardi seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary