NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on May 20, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice-Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Secretary James Bowe and Members, Peggy Driscoll, Jim Ott, Shannon Wilson and Brandon Wind. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Andrew Brown, Township Traffic Engineer and Michael Solomon, Code Enforcement Officer.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Ott noted that the Fashakin address for the Zoning Hearing Board application should be 11 Waterford Place. Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of April 15, 2008, as corrected.. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Ott abstaining.
Traffic Engineer’s Report (Including TIP): Mr. Brown presented an update of the Bucks County TIP for 2007-2010, and noted that Newtown Township’s projects are not to be funded until later years.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether the Terry Drive extension is to be included in the TIP.
The members discussed this extension, which is in the survey stage now. Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would like to see it added to the TIP under the Newtown Yardley Road/Terry Drive intersection project.
Mr. Bowe and Mr. Fidler said that they understood that this would be funded by the Township, in part by traffic impact fees.
The Commission members discussed their concerns about the funding for Newtown Township projects. They agreed that they would urge the Township Manager and Traffic Engineer to attend the June 2, 2008 comment hearing to request that Newtown’s projects be funded earlier than is currently proposed.
Mr. Brown reviewed his report, noting that the traffic responsive system on the Newtown Bypass is not yet fully functional. The Commission would like the Township Manager to contact PennDOT to urge them to make this a priority, as it affects thousands of motorists each day.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Newtown Township Parks and Recreation Dept: Parks and Recreation Board Chairman Andrew Levine was in attendance to review this application for an increase in impervious surface to 9.1% for development of the Woll tract for active recreation. He explained that the increase would allow for a parking area and a main trail from the entrance to the center of the park. In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Levine explained that the Board of Supervisors is unwilling to include the park in the upcoming bond issue for full build-out. The current plans, which will be presented to the Commission for final review shortly, will show the first phase to consist only of three rectangular fields, and three baseball/softball fields. A pavilion is included in this phase. Some of the paved parking has been eliminated. The basketball and tennis courts have also been removed. The full, 12-foot wide trail system has been scaled back to include only a 6-foot main trail from the entrance to the center of the park. Only landscaping to buffer the surrounding residential areas remains. This first phase will require 9.1% impervious surface.
Mr. Fidler said that he had some concerns about seeking only the necessary impervious surface for the first phase, noting that when the other phases are built, additional variances or possible zoning changes will be needed. It is shortsighted on the part of the Township to seek a variance only for the impervious surface area to be constructed in this phase of the park.
Mr. Levine said that at this time only the fields will be built; these fields will be used primarily by the intramural sports leagues. Travel teams are not expected to need use of fields as often as the intramural teams.
The members discussed the parking calculations being used, and expressed some concern about the formula that provides one space per five users. Many felt that each car would bring one adult and only one or two children.
Mr. Ott said that he agreed that seeking only the variances needed for the first phase is ill-advised. He had some concern that, should the Township wish to proceed with further construction, there will be delays while additional variances are sought. He also questioned the advisability of narrowing the trail.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he is opposed to the reduction in impervious surface for the parking and trails because of safety concerns. He said that people would be safer walking on a paved parking lot with lined parking stalls. He said that when people park in the grass, the cars are not as clearly aligned, making it difficult to see children running to or from their cars. He also noted that there is increased liability if people fall into ruts created in the grass. He briefly discussed his concerns about the narrow trails making it difficult for EMS access for emergencies and for police patrols after park closing.
The members agreed that the application is shortsighted and that the reduction in parking and trail widths could create dangerous situations.
Mr. Bowe expressed some concern that the Planning Commission chairman is no longer giving oral reports to the Board of Supervisors during their meetings, and the Supervisors will not be told of the Planning Commission’s concerns about this application.
Mr. Fidler asked that both the synopsis to the Board and the minutes reflect the Commission’s concerns about this application.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would not support this application because of the elimination of some paved parking and the narrowing of the paths. He does support the development of the Woll tract, and continues to support the plan that had been presented in September of 2007.
Mr. Ott moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors support the Zoning Hearing Board application of Newtown Township Park and Recreation Department. Mr. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 6-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting nay.
Stephen C. Costalas – 26 Delaney Drive: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance for a 25 foot rear yard setback for a deck where 30 feet are required and passed it to the Board of Supervisors without comment
Thomas & Helen Landolt – 375 Stoopville Road: The Commission reviewed this application for a special exception to construct a dingle family detached dwelling on a non-conforming lot and passed it to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Lithos LP – 10 Friends Lane: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this application for a number of variances for parking, steep slope disturbance and loading berths. He explained that the applicant will be adding three stories to an existing building. No variance is required for increased height of the building. The steep slopes are man-made and will be disturbed to expand the existing detention basin. The parking variances do not seek to eliminate spaces. The applicant will provide the required number of parking spaces, but wishes to provide only 23% of 10 foot by 20 foot spaces instead of the required 25%. This would be 6 additional spaces at the smaller size.
Mr. Ott asked that the Township Engineer review the parking spaces at the turning radius when the plans are reviewed for land development.
The Commission passed this application to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
Newtown Township – 100 Municipal Drive: The Commission reviewed this application for a front yard setback of 25.7 feet where 75 feet are required for construction of the new Township Administration building and passed it to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
JMZO 2008-03 (FCO- Melsky/Newtown): Mr. Fidler reviewed discussions held at the Joint Zoning Council about this proposed amendment. He said that there is some concern that this ordinance might indicate a lack of support for the Veterans Cemetery.
Attorney Ed Murphy, representing Toll Brothers, briefly outlined the status of some of the ongoing litigation involving the various properties in the FCO. He said that if the current challenges to the FCO are successful, zoning would revert to its original CM zoning.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Murphy said that the sale of land to the Veterans Administration for the cemetery is unconditional. He said that the original agreement had as a condition that Toll would have unappealable approvals for developing other properties in the FCO before transfer would occur. When additional funding became available to the VA, the sale was made without that condition.
Ms. McGrath said that the approved plans for development of the Melsky tract by Toll Brothers are protected if the challenges are unsuccessful.
Mr. Ott said that the Melsky property is across the street from his home. He and his neighbors have found that Toll Brothers has been very cooperative with them, and have addressed all of their concerns.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that there would be some additional input from the Jointure and the member Townships’ solicitors on technical matters within the draft.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to table discussion of JMZO 2008-03 pending additional input from the Joint Zoning Council. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Newtown Area Planning Commission: Mr. Fidler reported that the Planning Commission has been reviewing the B-12 and B-14 uses in the CM Zoning Districts. Lots sizes for the B-14 use are very small. The Joint Planning Commission is discussing possibly eliminating this use.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Council has been discussing its relationship with the Newtown Area Planning Commission. There has also been some discussion of green initiatives. Of concern is the current zoning’s height and setback restrictions as they apply to windmills. Video signage is still being reviewed by the Jointure Solicitor.
Park and Recreation Board/Environmental Advisory Council: The recording secretary reported that the County has issued guidelines for updating open space comprehensive plans. That information has been forwarded to the Planning Commission, Park and Recreation Board and EAC in anticipation of the open space sub-committee’s meeting, which has not been set.
Technology Committee: Mr. Bowe reported that the Technology Committee held its first meeting a few weeks ago. As the Committee begins evaluating the Township’s existing infrastructure it will also be considering ways to improve the use of technology. The Committee might also consider ways to use technology as an aid to the Township’s various committees, boards and commissions.
Mr. Fidler reported that he had received a letter from the Park and Recreation Board saying that the Board is recommending that the Township accept a fee in lieu of open space for the land development project at 170 Pheasant Run.
Village at Newtown Parking: Mr. Solomon presented a chart outlining current uses in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center. The Commission discussed the current mix of uses as compared to the mix that had originally been expected. Mr. Solomon noted that the section of the shopping center near Petsmart meets the parking requirements. One possible tenant should be coming soon to the empty shop next to Petsmart. The Commission recommends that for shared parking to be effective, a ratio be established that would limit the number of E-5 and E-6 (restaurant) uses.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Supervisors have recently discussed concerns about temporary and portable signage. This might be an issue the Planning Commission should discuss.
Ms. Fountain said that she will schedule an information session on planning for 6:30 PM on the second meeting in June, on June 17.
Mr. Bowe moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary