NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on March 18, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice-Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Secretary James Bowe, Peggy Driscoll, Vincent Lombardi (late), James Ott, and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Kristie McNeill, Township Traffic Engineer and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of February 19, 2008. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mr. Fidler abstaining.
The members agreed to accept the notes taken at the meeting of March 4, 2008, although there was not a quorum in attendance at that meeting.
(Mr. Lombardi arrived)
Council Rock High School North – 62 Swamp Road – Natatorium Addition – Sketch Plan and Land Development Waiver Request: Thomas Schneider, Supervisor of Operations and Dean McCloud, architect on the project, presented this plan for renovation of the pool, which involves an addition to the building, renovation to the faculty lockers to accommodate handicapped students participating in adaptive swimming classes, an additional swim lane, and increased depth to the diving tank. He explained that because there is only one pool in the district, which must serve two high schools and the community, additional swim area is needed. The new lanes and diving tank will allow teams to make better use of practice time and open up more area for community swim programs.
The addition would require the removal of 14 parking spaces. Mr. Schneider pointed out the area where the 14 parking spaces would be removed. He noted that the addition would be built on an already paved area, so there is no increase in impervious surface. He noted that the storm drainage system is adequate for this addition.
In response to questions from the members, Mr. Schneider said that during the school day there are at least 14 parking spaces open, so the plan does not show additional parking to replace the spaces to be eliminated. The building should have 1385 spaces under the current zoning but there are only 700 spaces on site. The School allots student parking privileges by a lottery system.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s questions, Mr. Schneider said that the new addition would be flush with grade outside and would not require any handicapped ramps.
Mr. Fidler said that there should be some sediment control in place.
Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Bowe and Mr. Sensibaugh each expressed some concern about parking at the high school during special events. The current parking is not adequate and they asked about relocating the 14 spaces elsewhere at the school. In the long term, some additional parking should be considered.
Mr. Schneider pointed out two areas, one at the rear of the school near the practice football field, another at the side near the soccer field, where the 14 spaces could be relocated.
Mr. Lombardi and Mrs. Driscoll discussed the use of commercial parking spaces by students, noting that many students park in the Village at Newtown shopping center all day and walk to school.
Mr. Schneider agreed that the parking would be relocated rather than eliminated. The District would also consider some long-term parking solutions. He noted that there are a few grassy areas where new parking could be installed.
The Commission members discussed the need for the District to provide a plan of existing features to the Township for this and future projects, and discussed their concern about the problems with inadequate student parking. Mr. Fidler suggested that information, such as percentage of impervious surface, should be provided to the Supervisors when the District presents its plans.
Mr. Solomon and Ms. Fountain agreed to visit the site to note the existing features.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he thought there might be a pipeline easement on the property that should be noted on an existing features plan.
Mr. Schneider said that he would agree to provide a site plan, but asked for a recommendation for approval right away because the District would like to get the project under way over the summer. The plan would be submitted before completion of the project.
Mr. Wind moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the request for a waiver of land development for Council Rock High School North for an expansion of the natatorium, use C-2, subject to the following conditions:
- Execution of land development waivers,
- Payment of all fees,
- Compliance with the CKS Engineering letter dated March 13, 2008, particularly items in sections III and V.
- There be no net loss of parking,
- The new facility will be ADA compliant
- The applicant will provide an existing features plan before a certificate of occupancy is issued.
Mr. Sensibaugh seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Fidler said that it should be noted that the Planning Commission would like all applicants to go through the full land development process for expansions, however this is a de minimis expansion and the full process would be cost prohibitive. An exception is being made in this case.
The motion passed 7-0.
Conditional Use – Basil Leaf Restaurant – 2804-2806 South Eagle Road: Danny and Lean Nguyen were in attendance to review this application for conditional use for an E-5 and E-6 Eating Place/Take out for a Vietnamese restaurant in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center. The restaurant will occupy 2700 square feet.
Mr. Wind noted that he is Mr. Nguyen’s attorney, and he would abstain from voting on this application.
Mr. Solomon noted that the shopping center has a variance for parking.
Mr. Sensibaugh expressed some concern about the mix of uses at the shopping center. There have been a number of restaurants moving in. He questioned whether there has been a matrix of the mix of uses with parking allocations for the shopping center.
Mr. Solomon said that a matrix had been prepared at the other end of the shopping center near LaStalla, but no such matrix exists for the entire shopping center.
Mr. Fidler said that he did not think that there would be a large impact on parking, as the restaurant is small and there is adequate parking in its immediate vicinity.
Mr. Bowe questioned the percentage of the business that would be take-out, noting that the restaurant would be located near Lee’s Hoagies and Bagel Junction
Mr. Nguyen said that he expected about 20% might be take-out. The restaurant will have 96 seats.
Mr. Bowe expressed some concern about parking in the fire lanes for picking up of take-out orders. He asked whether certain parking spaces should be marked for take-out only.
The Commission agreed that while parking is not a serious concern for this particular restaurant, there is an overall problem with parking in the shopping center. The Commission discussed asking the owner of the shopping center to attend conditional use hearings.
Mr. Lombardi moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant approval to Basil Leaf Restaurant for uses E-5 and E-6, eating place and eating place/drive-in at 2804-2806 South Eagle Road, tax map parcel #29-3-24-4, subject to the following conditions:
- That the proposed use meets the general requirements of Section 1301.B of the JMZO,
- That the proposed use satisfies the specific requirements applicable to the proposed use under Section 803 of the JMZO,
- That the applicant comply with the review letter of CKS Engineering dated March 12, 2008,
- That the maximum number of employees will be 8,
- That the hours of operation will be 11:00 to 11:00 PM, Monday through Sunday,
- No hazardous, flammable or explosive material shall be stored or used in the building,
- No noxious, hazardous or offensive impact upon surrounding areas be created by the proposed use by reason of dust, odor, smoke, gas, vibration, illumination or noise, or which constitutes a public hazard by fire, explosion or otherwise,
- The applicant shall supply a true and correct copy of the lease as a condition of approval.
- The premises shall be ADA compliant.
- All signage must meet Township requirements.
- All review fees must be paid.
Mr. Bowe seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would vote nay as he would like the Commission and the Board of Supervisors to take a stronger position with the landlord on parking issues.
Mr. Bowe asked that the chairman communicate Mr. Sensibaugh’s concerns, and the concerns of the Planning Commission as a whole on the parking situation, to the Board of Supervisors.
The motion passed 5-1-1, with Mr. . Sensibaugh voting nay and Mr. Wind abstaining.
Mr. Lombardi said that when the Village at Newtown Shopping Center was first planned a matrix of the uses had been kept with parking calculations included. That project has since been abandoned. He suggested that it should be looked into again.
Mr. Wind said that a matrix should also consider the times of day, as some uses are more intense evenings and weekends, others more active during the day.
Zoning Hearing Board Application
Application of Dennis and Kathleen Morton - 14 Meridian Circle: The Commission reviewed this application for a fence and passed it to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Solomon pointed out that our Ordinance permits 5 foot fences, while home improvement centers carry prefabricated fences in 4 foot and 6 foot heights. The Commission discussed reviewing the Ordinance to better reflect the available fencing products.
JMZO 2007-03 – Video Signage: The Commission discussed this proposed ordinance that would address where video signage can be used.
Mr. Fidler said that there have been some recent cases in the courts, testing where and whether video signage can be prohibited. The ordinance has been discussed at the Joint Zoning Council.
Mr. Senisbaugh said that he has some concern that if the signage is permitted in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District, it could be visible from the Bypass or from the historic district.
Mr. Wind asked whether, if permitted, there would be a limit to the hours of operation. He suggested that the ordinance should have specific reference to hours of operation. He also discussed the percentage of permitted signage that could be LED or video signage. If a business could use all of its allotted signage as video signage, it could lead to problems of light pollution, for example if all of the box signs above shops in a shopping center were electronic video signs, it would be very unsightly and distracting.
Mr. Fidler suggested that a height restriction on video signage could eliminate problems that Mr. Wind had discussed.
Mr. Bowe briefly discussed his concern with light pollution and suggested that a limited percentage of a business’s permitted signs could be video or electronic signs.
Mr. Lombardi said that it is important to permit some video signage. The Jointure should address specific areas of concern.
The Commission asked the Solicitor to report to the Jointure its concerns with four points that should be addressed in the Ordinance:
- Size - the percentage of signage that would be allowed to be video signage
- The hours the signs would be permitted to operate
- The maximum height permitted
- The intensity of the light generated
JMZO 2007-05 – Accessory Landscape Contractor: Mr. Sensibaugh said that this amendment has been revised to eliminate the Wrightstown Overlay. Accessory Landscape Contractor would now be permitted on 5 acre parcels in the CM district, or by conditional use approval on smaller parcels. Wrightstown is very interested in addressing the issue, as there have been some concerns there. In a spirit of cooperation, Newtown’s Board of Supervisors had recommended accepting the 5 acre requirement with a conditional use on smaller parcels for the entire Jointure.
Mr. Ott said that he has some concern about this being too restrictive for residents in the CM district on parcels smaller than 5 acres. Many accessory landscape contractor businesses already exist on these smaller parcels.
Mr. Fidler noted that a residency requirement is still in the ordinance as written. The principle operator of the business must reside on the property. This prevents property owners from allowing others to use their property for landscape businesses. He also discussed the impact in cluster developments in the CM district.
The members noted that Section 05 should be corrected to read “No impact.”
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this amendment with the correction to Section 05. Mr. Bowe seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Fidler said that the use of a conditional use protects the smaller properties in Newtown.
Mr. Ott said that he feels the ordinance as drafted is too restrictive.
The motion passed 5-2, with Messrs. Lombardi and Ott voting nay.
JMZO 2007-06 – TC-3 Convenience Store Use and TC-3 Zoning District: Ms. McGrath explained that this ordinance would create a new commercial district on Sycamore Street to address zoning on the Goodnoe home property, Newtown Presbyterian Church, Bill Marsh Ford and the Acme site. The aim had been to restrict convenience stores with gas stations. In response to questions from the Commission, she discussed spot zoning, noting that the Ordinance, as written, could be considered spot zoning, as the parcels in the proposed TC-3 district are not contiguous.
Mr. Schenkman said that there have been some inquiries from developers interested in building a convenience store/gas station on Sycamore Street. Since the Acme site has been sold, this ordinance is not considered urgent.
Mr. Fidler said that if there is a concern about convenience stores, the existing Ordinance governing the TC Zoning District could be modified rather than creating a new zoning district.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Solicitor should be asked to review alternatives to the TC-3 ordinance.
JMZO 2008-00 – QA-QAA Uses: Mr. Sensibaugh said that this ordinance would correct some typos in the Ordinance.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve JMZO 2008-00, QA-QAA. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
JMZO 2008-02 – Gunser Property Zoning Map Change: Mr. Sensibaugh said that it was his understanding that there were some inconsistencies between the legal description of the Federal Cemetery Overlay District and the zoning map, and that portions of the Gunser property were incorrectly included in the map.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve JMZO 2008-02 – Gunser Property Zoning Map Change, subject to the condition that this is only a correction to the zoning map. Mrs. Driscoll seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Bowe disagreed with the recommendation and said that more information on this change should have been supplied by the Jointure Solicitor.
The motion passed 4-3, with Messrs. Bowe, Lombardi and Wind voting nay.
JMZO 2006-08 – Lighting Regulations: Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve JMZO 2006-08 – Lighting Regulations. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board had recently met at a work session to discuss the municipal complex expansion with the architects and the financial advisors.
The Supervisors have held some discussions with Mr. Lorenzetti about his property on Durham Road. He has proposed both a Sunrise Assisted Living Facility and a townhome development. The Supervisors would be interested in seeing a plan for single family homes.
Open Space Comprehensive Plan
Mr. Fidler explained that, in order to qualify for funding from the County Open Space Program, the Open Space Comprehensive Plan must be revised. The Supervisors have asked that two representatives from the Park and Recreation Board, two from the Environmental Advisory Council and two from the Planning Commission serve on a committee to undertake this. The County will be supplying guidelines for the revision of the plan, last updated in 1997.
Mr. Wind, Mr. Sensibaugh and Mrs. Driscoll all expressed interest in helping. After a brief discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Sensibaugh and Mrs. Driscoll would serve on the committee.
In response to a question from Mrs. Driscoll, Mr. Solomon agreed to investigate the condition of dumpsters behind the shopping centers.
Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Ott and Mr. Fidler discussed the definitions used by the State in road classifications, and asked that the traffic engineer report on this as regards the status of Swamp Road.
Mr. Lombardi moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary