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.

Land Development

Lots 54 & 55 – 170 Pheasant Run/Penns Trail, Preliminary Plan for Land Development: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review this application for a lot line change and construction of a 26,000 square foot office building with associated parking and stormwater facilities in the LI Light industrial Zoning District. Lot 54 contains a 12,863 square foot office building, occupied by PKF. The lot line change would move 0.4667 acres, containing 25 reserve parking spaces, to lot 55, where the new office building will be. There will still be 30 parking spaces in green on the PKF property.

The Commission reviewed the consultants letters. Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply with the letters, noting that he would like clarification of CKS’s letter dated May 21, 2008, item #12 regarding landscape buffering.

Mr. Fidler said that the Township would like buffering from the parking lot to prevent headlights from shining directly into the intersection.

Ms. Fountain suggested that a few evergreens should satisfy this comment.

The Commission reviewed the waiver requests, and agreed that a traffic study could be waived if the applicant provided an updated traffic count.

Mr. Marshall showed an architectural rendering of the proposed new building. In response to Mr. Wilson’s question, he said that Lot 54 would have 43.9% impervious surface and lot 55 would have 62.1% impervious surface, including stormwater management and reserve parking.

Mr. Fidler suggested that the plans be revised to better show the proposed loading/drop off areas.

Mr. Bowe move to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant preliminary plan approval RKD Builders, Inc., for the premises located at Lots 54 & 55, Newtown Business Commons, 170 Pheasant Run, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840 B being Bucks County Tax Parcel NO. 29-10-134 and 135 prepared by All County Inc., comprising Sheets 1-6 dated March 1, 2008, subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to: 

  1. Subject to the waivers granted and the variances secured, the Plans shall be revised to comply with the following professional consultants’ review letters:
    1. April 4, 2008 correspondence from Carroll Engineering , except for the following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:
          • With respect to Lot #54, Paragraph 2 B the developer will widen the driveway access if reserved parking is added.
          • With respect to Lot #54, Paragraph 3 and Lot # 55, Paragraph 2, let the record reflect that the Ordinance now allows for 75% of the parking to be 9' by 18'
    2. May 21, 2008 correspondence from CKS Engineers, Inc. , except for the following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:   
          • With respect to Section II B Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, Paragraph 9, parking is permitted in the 100 foot wide easement pursuant to the Declaration of Terms of Easement document dated August 4, 1967, Deed Book1875, Page366-370.
    3. April 29, 2008 correspondence from  Bucks County Planning Commission
    4. March 28, 2008 correspondence from Newtown Emergency Services Department.
  2. The applicant shall comply with all terms and conditions of any variances, conditional uses and/or special exceptions granted by the Zoning Hearing Board or Board of Supervisors.
  3. The applicant shall supply and execute all financial security documents in a form satisfactory to the Township Solicitor.
  4. The applicant shall supply all permits required by all Township, County, State and Federal governmental agencies.  
  5. Applicant shall provide a will serve or appropriate agreement from the appropriate water and sewer authorities.
  6. The applicant shall provide an adequate letter from the Bucks County Conservation District as to erosion and sediment control.
  7. All lighting shall comply with all Township Ordinances (except to the extent any waivers or variances have been granted) and no glare shall extend onto adjoining properties and a note shall be added to the plan so indicating.
  8. Any signs shall be subject to and comply with Township sign ordinances (except to the extent any waivers or variances have been granted).
  9. The applicant shall comply with all storm water management ordinances and the Township Engineer recommendations and the applicant shall execute a storm water management agreement in a form acceptable to the Township=s professionals. 
  10. No use shall be permitted which is noxious or offensive to the immediate area by reason of odor, dust, smoke, gas, vibration, illumination or noise or which constitutes a public hazard by fire, explosion or otherwise and a note shall be added to the plan so indicating. 
  11. A fee in lieu of dedication of park and open space area shall be paid in accordance with the Township Fee Schedule. 
  12. The applicant shall pay a traffic impact fee on the Schedule of Fees of Newtown Township and as assessed by the Township Traffic Engineer.
  13. The applicant shall execute a declaration of unilateral restrictions and covenants as to the notes of the plan.  
  14. All review and professional fees as required under the Township SALDO shall be paid.
  15. The Developer shall provide sufficient landscape buffering so as to preclude headlights from the Property from impinging upon nearby intersections.
  16. The Plan shall reflect the location of all loading zones for Fed Ex, UPS, etc.

The Commission recommends that the following Waivers be granted to Developer from the SALDO as follows:

      • Section 514.2 B Requires that all off-street parking in commercial and industrial zones shall be located to the side and rear of buildings.
      • Section 514.9 B Requires that the edge of any parking area shall not be closer than 20 feet to the outside of the nearest building
      • Section 402.1 B Requires that the plan shall be drawn at a scale of 1"50 or 1"100'.
      • Section 402.3C B Requires that plan show the location of all significant manmade features within 400 feet of the site.
      • Section 402.5.C in Part B Requires a traffic impact study for all office development of 10,000 square feet or more.  However, the Developer will provide a traffic count and pay a traffic impact fee.
      • Section 520.5C Parking will be permitted in General Easement pursuant to the Declaration of Terms of Easement document dated August 4, 1967, Deed Book1875, Page366-370.

Mr. Ott seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether sidewalks are planned for the property.

Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply with the requirement to install sidewalks. In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, he said that the new building will be ADA compliant. The PKF building is at grade level, and there are handicapped accessible restrooms and handicapped parking.

The motion passed 7-0.

Newtown Public Storage, 178 Upper Silver Lake Road, Sketch Plan: Attorney Don Marshall presented a sketch plan for expansion of the existing storage facility to include a 2,700 square foot addition to the existing self-storage building and construction of a new, three-story 21,150 square foot self storage building.

Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply with the review letter of CKS dated May 8, 2008.

Mr. Marshall said that the property contains an old farmhouse, that while not in the historic district, may contain certain historic elements. It is currently used as an office for the storage company and a residence. The owners have spoken to HARB about making improvements in keeping with the historic period. At some point in the future, the owner is considering parceling out the lot surrounding the house to create a residential lot for single family use.

In response to Mr. Fidler’s questions, Mr. Marshall said that the sketch plan shows full stormwater management for the new three story building and the and the addition.

Mr. Fidler expressed some concern about the increased intensity of the use, noting that a climate controlled three-story building with an elevator would have a different kind of customer who would probably make more frequent visits than the customers using the garage style storage units presently on the site. Emergency access as well as impact on neighbors must be considered more carefully for the new building.

Mr. Bowe had some concern about parking for the new building, which would have a central entrance.

Mr. Marshall said that the facility meets the Ordinance’s parking requirements for this use and for the residence./office. In response to Mr. Ott’s questions, he reviewed the travel lanes around the facility, noting that they are all one-way and 20 feet wide, which would allow an emergency vehicle to pass a parked car.

The Commission members all had concerns about the parking and emergency access, particularly the turn required after entering the gate to travel to the first storage building. They discussed whether a fire engine would be parked too close to the burning building in the event of fire. The Commission agreed that the applicant should first review the plans with the Fire Marshal to address parking, turning radii and emergency access, before creating a preliminary plan.

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 Reviews

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.

Member Comments

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.


Respectfully Submitted:


Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary