NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on June 17, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice-Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Secretary James Bowe, Dennis Fisher, Jim Ott, Shannon Wilson and Brandon Wind. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer and Andrew Brown, Township Traffic Engineer.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of June 3, 2008. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Mr. Brown reviewed a report updating the Commission on recent traffic issues.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that both Lower Makefield and Newtown Borough have had concerns about the traffic responsive signal system on the Bypass, and perhaps their representatives should be included in meetings with PennDOT about this project.
Mr. Brown noted that the communication with PennDOT has been primarily via e-mail and telephone; there have not been meetings.
Mr. Bowe said that residents of Headley development have been concerned about traffic volume on Newtown Yardley Road, making exiting the development extremely difficult at certain times of the day. He said that a traffic signal might be warranted at the intersection of Newtown Yardley Road at Friends Lane/Headley entrance.
Mr. Fidler asked the Traffic Engineer to review land development approvals for the new business construction on Newtown Yardley Road at Friends Lane, as that developer might have already paid for signals.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board of Supervisors has also been discussing this matter.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Todd Goldberg, 13 Delaney Drive: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance of for rear yard setback relief. The plans show a 608 square foot patio. Mr. Ott noted that the property backs to open space.
Mr. Wind said that the patio is very large; with a slight re-design or reduction in size the patio could be built within the building envelope, not requiring a variance.
Mr. Solomon said that many applicants in this development have been granted setback variances, and that residents frequently complain that pools only require a 10 foot setback.
The Commission recommended that the applicant consider attempting to meet the Ordinance setback requirements, as this is appears to be an extremely large patio.
Jamie & Scott Sysler – 2. S. Lancaster Lane: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance to allow a 6 foot fence where 3 feet is the maximum permitted height. This is a corner property.
Mr. Bowe said that he would support the application if the Homeowners Association were not opposed.
Mr. Jirele said that the intent of the ordinance had been for consistency along the roadways, and many in this development have higher fences.
The Commission had no comment on this application.
The Commission discussed whether the fence Ordinance and the SALDO should be reviewed, as permitted fencing does not conform with commercially available products, which now are sold at 4 and 6 foot heights, not the 5 feet permitted for rear yards.
11 Friends Lane LLC, 11 Friends Lane: The Commission reviewed this application for relief from the parking requirements to allow the full 34,076 square foot building to be medical offices. This applicant had already been granted parking variances for the site for a combined medical and general office use, allowing 155 parking spaces for 19,343.5 square feet of medical use. The applicant would want to still only provide 155 parking spaces where 227 parking spaces would be required.
Mr. Solomon said that he expects similar requests in the future because the parking requirements for medical uses are different from general office use
The Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors oppose the variance request because a medical use has a more intense parking need.
Congregation Brothers of Israel, 530 Washington Crossing Road: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to present this application for special exceptions for construction of a modular classroom on a non-conforming lot. The lot is 7.7708 acres and a place of worship requires 10 acres in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. Mr. Murphy said that the location had variances granted in 1984 for a place of worship and in 1995 for a small building. The modular classroom, similar to those used by the School District, is needed for religious classes of grades 4-6 on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for two hours.
Leslie Floyd, Vice President of the Congregation said that the temporary modular should be needed for about 3 to 5 years and the congregation would agree to a time limit of the special exception. In response to questions from the Commission, Ms. Floyd said that the Congregation is working on a master plan; she is currently trying to estimate future growth.
In response to Mr. Sensibaugh’s question, Mr. Solomon said that the need for sprinklers is determined by the square footage of the building; this is very small and probably will not require sprinklers.
The Commission had no comment on this application.
Mr. Murphy said that the Congregation would be appearing again shortly for a request for a waiver of land development.
JMZO 2008-05 Detention Basins: The Commission reviewed this proposed amendment that would clarify the prohibition against counting detention basins as part of the required open space. Mr. Fidler pointed out that Upper Makefield and Wrightstown accept dedication of detention basins, while Newtown leaves them to the Homeowners to own and maintain.
Mr. Bowe moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt JMZO 2008-05 Detention Basins. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
JMZO 2008-06 – Permits for Disturbance of Environmental Resources: The Commission discussed this amendment, which would require a permit to disturb environmental resources. Mr. Fidler spoke about discussions at the Jointure, where Upper Makefield and Wrightstown have indicated that they are more impacted by property owners’ disturbance of resources.
The members discussed the proposed ordinance. Mr. Wind said that there are no clear parameters, nor are fines and other consequences addressed. He expressed some concern that property owners would need to get permits to remove dead trees or maintain their yards. The members discussed adding specific definitions of instances when a permit would be required, to avoid property owners needing to develop costly plans in order to remove a diseased tree, for example.
Mr. Fidler said that the Jointure partners have particular concerns about gradual disturbance of the environment so that over time a significant disturbance has occurred, such as when a property owner removes one or two trees each season, or mows a few feet deeper into the protected wetlands each season.After further discussion the Commission agreed that it is supportive of the intent of the amendment. Mr. Fidler asked Ms. McGrath to convey to the Jointure that the amendment, as currently drafted, does not clearly define what constitutes a “disturbance”, and if there are violations, what penalties are to be imposed, and whether restitution could be required.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that at the work session the Board discussed the reports of committees, boards and commissions. It was agreed that after a planning commission meeting, the Chairman and Supervisor liaison will discuss whether an oral report will be necessary, based on the content of the meeting discussions. If a report is required, a written synopsis of the meeting will be prepared and submitted to the Board for the weekly packets.
The Supervisors have also been approached by Sycamore Street business owners requesting some modification of the sandwich board restrictions. The Planning Commission might be asked to contribute to this discussion.
Mr. Fidler said that this issue might be of interest to the Jointure partners, who have different signage concerns in their commercial districts.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the Jointure will be hosting a celebration in honor of its 25 th anniversary on July 31 at the Wrightstown Municipal Building.
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Schenkman reported that Park and Recreation Director Bill Wert has resigned effective June 27 to take a position as assistant township manager in Hilltown Township. He will be missed by the Township.
Open Space Subcommittee: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the open space committee held its first meeting on June 9 to begin the process of first updating the open space comprehensive plan, then beginning the application for Municipal Open Space Program funds from the County. The EAC has begun an inventory of open space, and the committee discussed using students working part time to complete the inventory.
Mr. Ott noted that the old St. Andrew’s School, which had been purchased by DeLuca, is for sale. He said that the zoning on the property had been changed to accommodate DeLuca’s plans. He asked whether that should be reviewed.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the change in zoning was consistent with the surrounding Sycamore Street neighbors.
Mr. Wind moved to adjourn at 10:00. Mr. Wilson seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary