NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on April 15, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice-Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Secretary James Bowe, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher (late), Vincent Lombardi (late), Shannon Wilson and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Amy Kaminski, 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 March 18, 2008. Mr. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 50-0-1, with Mr. Wilson abstaining.
Messrs. Fisher and Lombardi arrived at this point.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Ms. Kaminski presented a written update of the Township’s ongoing traffic projects. She noted that a meeting of Township representatives, PennDOT, Swamp Road Residents Group and State Senator McIlhinney will be held on April 25, 2008 at the Wrightstown Township Municipal Building. In response to previous requests, Ms. Kaminski provided the members with written information of road classifications, which included a spreadsheet comparing the various classifications and a map outlining Newtown Township’s roadways.
Ms. Kaminiski reported that the Regional Traffic Task Force met on March 31, 2008. The plan has been adopted, and the task Force will be issuing a CD containing minutes, findings, exhibits, etc, used by the Task Force. The next meeting, scheduled for July 27, 2008 in Northampton Township will focus on implementation of the plan.
In response to questions from the Commission, Ms. Kaminski briefly discussed the sight distance issue at 35 Stoopville Road, and further explained that while traffic moves quickly along Stoopville Road, reducing the speed limit would not be a effective traffic calming device because of difficulty of enforcement. Other traffic calming would be more effective.
Regarding the Jake Brake ordinance, Ms. Kaminski said that her office is still awaiting accident data from the Police Department before application to PennDOT can be submitted.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of T-Mobile Northeast LLC - 251 Frost Lane : The Commission reviewed this application for a rear yard setback variance to construct a 10’ by 20’ concrete pad at the base of an existing water tank to house five equipment cabinets and passed it to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
In response to questions from the Commission, the recording secretary explained that neighbors within 500 feet of this, and all Zoning Hearing Board applications, are notified of the hearing about a week in advance of the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. They are not notified of Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors’ reviews of the applications.
Application of Dr. & Mrs. David Kim – 27 Sibelius Road: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance from the impervious surface ratio of 24.33% to construct a pool and spa, decking and coping, equipment pad, cabana, fishpond and driveway extension. Mr. Bowe expressed some concern about the large increase sought by the applicant.
Mr. Lombardi noted that there have been flooding problems in this area of the Township, and this project will stress the stormwater management system.
Mr. Wilson said that decisions on granting of variances is the jurisdiction of the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Lombardi disagreed and said that as an advisory committee with expertise in planning, it is the Commission’s responsibility to advise the Board of Supervisors of concerns with Zoning Hearing Board applications.
The Commission recommended that the Board ask the applicant to scale back the plans to reduce the increase in impervious surface.
Application of James McLaughlin – 175 Durham Road: Mr. Solomon explained that the applicant had been to the Zoning Hearing Board a few months ago seeking variances to subdivide his property, but had neglected to include this request for front yard setback relief to construct a 2-car garage.
The Commission passed this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Application of Emmanuel Fashakin – 11 Waterford Place: The Commission reviewed this application for relief from impervious surface and setback requirements in order to build a pool with decking and coping and a tennis court.
Ms. Driscoll is a neighbor of the applicant and she pointed out that this is a three-acre property located adjacent to the detention basin. She said that the development has a per-lot impervious surface maximum of 7718 square feet. It is her understanding that the streets were calculated into the individual lot allotments.
Attorney Ed Murphy, in attendance on another application, said that at one time the Township was using site-wide calculations for impervious surface rather than individual lot allotments. This has been changed, so that now, purchasers of new homes know exactly how much available space is remaining for amenities.
Mr. Lombardi said that, while this is a very large lot, and would ordinarily be permitted much more impervious surface, he does have some concerns about the stormwater management.
The Commission recommended that the Board require the applicant to demonstrate to the Zoning Hearing Board that the development’s stormwater system can address the increase or that the applicant provide on-site stormwater management to accommodate the run-off from impervious surface above the permitted 7718 square feet.
Application of Ali’s Igloo Inc., 33 Swamp Road: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance to permit a 20 square foot sign where 2 square feet is the maximum at Newtown Plaza Shopping Center. In response to questions from the members, Mr. Solomon said that the other businesses in the shopping center have 20 square foot signs.
The Commission passed this application to the Board with no comment.
Michele McNulty – 9 Connover Place: The Commission reviewed this application for a 6-foot high fence where 5 feet is permitted. Mr. Bowe pointed out that only split rail fences are permitted in Tyler Walk.
Mr. Fisher said that he has visited this site, and noted the home faces both Swamp Road and Helen Randle Park. The fence will help shield the property from the noise and provide some privacy for the homeowners.
The Commission asked Mr. Solomon to contact the homeowner to ask that Tyler Walk Homeowners Association approval be presented to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mike & Michelle Reilly, 4 Hillview Drive: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance from the maximum permitted impervious surface of 6000 square feet for an additional 2444 square feet to construct a pool, patio and walkway. Mr. Sensibaugh questioned whether a side yard setback would also be needed, as the plan attached to the application shows the pool to be very close to the property line.
Mr. Solomon said that he would investigate that further, but noted that the plan is not fully engineered and might not accurately represent the dimensions of the property.
The Commission discussed their concerns about stormwater management and the large increase in impervious surface that this application entails.
The Commission recommended that the Board ask the applicant to scale back the plans to reduce the increase in impervious surface.
Michael Sullivan, 178 Durham Road: Attorney Susan Piette and Michael Sullivan were in attendance to review this application for an increase from 15% to 18.1% to construct a single family home with patio on lot #2 of a 2 lot minor subdivision.
Ms. Piette explained that the property is a subdivision of the Twining property, and will be a flag lot with a 292 foot driveway, 12 feet wide, and limited by PennDOT to right in/right out, only. A second access point through the Twining driveway is also provided for left turns. The applicant would be willing to provide a median grass strip through the driveway to help with some of the impervious surface. The applicant plans to build a single family house similar in size to others being built along Durham Road.
Mr. Solomon indicated that the fire marshal requires a 12 foot paved driveway.
Mr. Bowe expressed some concern that there would be future requests for additional impervious surface for backyard amenities.
The Commission recognizes the hardship because the applicant is required to provide two entrances onto Durham Road and understand that adequate stormwater management will be part of construction. The Commission had no further comment.
Newtown Venture I Associates LP, Silver Lake Executive Campus, Silver Lake Road & Newtown Bypass: Attorney Ed Murphy and Tony Noce of Pitcairn Properties were in attendance to review this application for variances to construct two three story buildings approximately 78,426 square feet each, plus a 4125 square foot cafeteria/fitness center in the Office Research Zoning District. Mr. Murphy said that the applicant is seeking parking variances to provide 787 parking spaces where 806 spaces are required. He explained that the parking is based on the square footage of the buildings. The cafeteria is a one story, green roofed structure located between the two office buildings. It is for employee use only, so no additional parking would be needed. The applicant is also seeking relief to provide 9’ x18 ‘ parking stalls for 75% of the spaces, as is permitted in the LI Zoning District. Variances are sought for some of the stormwater requirements because the existing stormwater management facility was designed and installed based on development of the entire premises.
Mr. Noce said that one of the tenants in the other office building at this complex is seeking additional space to relocate its corporate headquarters from New Jersey. He has been working with the County economic development agency and the State to attract this prospective tenant, a pharmaceutical firm. This would be corporate offices, and no manufacturing would take place on the premises. One tenant would occupy the entire new building, while continuing to occupy some space in the existing building.
In response to Mr. Bowe’s questions, Mr. Noce explained that the slope of the property is such that only the top two stories of the buildings would be visible from the Bypass. The plan is adequate to accommodate any future widening of the Bypass while still providing an adequate buffer. The applicant will comply with any sign requirements of the Township.
Mr. Noce provided artist’s renderings of the proposed buildings. In response to Mr. Lombardi’s questions, the buildings’ HVAC equipment will be on the roof, but will be shielded from view.
The Commission asked the applicant to provide information about frequency visitors to the complex and about activities such as training and meetings on site to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Fidler and Mr. Lombardi were concerned that if conferences are held or training sessions are provided with frequent visitors, the smaller spaces might not be adequate. They had no objection for an office use where tenants arrive in the morning and remain parked all day.
The members discussed the importance of working with prospective tenants who would bring professional employees to the Township. The Commission recommended that the Board support the application, as it will be a benefit to the Township’s tax base and is appropriate use of the property.
JMZO 2007-05 Accessory Landscape Contractor: Mr. Fidler explained that this amendment has been reviewed before and the Commission had recommended approval. At this point it is being presented as a formality to fulfill requirements of the MPC.
Mr. Wind noted that on page 4, #2 states, “…no retail sales of nuersery materials or anything else…” He questioned the use of the words “anything else” as it seemed vague and all encompassing, and could prevent the property owner from holding yard sales or other activities. He asked the Solicitor to discuss this with the Jointure Solicitor.
The Commission recommended this one minor clarification in the language of this amendment and voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors advertise to adopt the ordinance.
JMZO 2007-03 Video Signage: Discussion was tabled pending further information from the Solicitors of the Jointure about whether it is necessary to address these signs within the Ordinance.
Addendum No. 8 to Jointure Agreement : The Commission discussed this addendum and the mission of the Joint Planning Commission. Mr. Fidler discussed adding some clarifications on the roles and responsibilities of the local and joint Planning Commissions. Members agreed that they would like to receive more detailed information regarding the reason member municipalities propose certain amendments from the JMZO. No action is recommended at this time.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported on the most recent work session of the Board of Supervisors, at which the Board reviewed plans for the Municipal Expansion and the Woll tract. The Board has requested that the Park and Recreation Board provide a budget for playing fields and parking only at the Woll tract, and have asked for revisions to the expansion eliminating renovation of the Public Works building for Park and Rec use, and eliminating an addition to the current administration building for police use.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mr. Lombardi reported that HARB recently reviewed signage for “Luna Chic” to be located at the Newtown Floral Company building.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether a decision has been made as to which members of other committees would serve on the committee for updating the open space comprehensive plan. He asked the recording secretary to find out whether a meeting date has been set.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary