NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on October 7, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Vince Lombardi, Jim Ott, and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Richard O’Brien, Interim Codes Officer. Jerry Schenkman, Supervisor Liaison and Andrew Brown, Township Traffic Engineer.
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 September 16, 2008. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Traffic Engineer's Report: Mr. Brown reported that there has been no response from PennDOT on the timing of the lights on the Bypass.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Brown said that installation of a traffic light at the entrance to Headley development is on the TIP. The recommendation for right now is widening and re-striping of the road to create a middle turning lane.
Ms. Fountain said that she will report to the Board of Supervisors on the Headley traffic issue. She noted that the traffic study completed for Lithos also indicates the need for a traffic light.
Mr. Ott asked Mr. Brown to provide an update on the intersection improvements at Swamp and South Eagle Roads in his next report.
David and Beth Mischak, 192 Greenbriar Lane: David and Beth Mischak were in attendance to review this application for a PRD variance for rear yard setback relief of 26.73 feet where 32.74 feet is required to build a 229 square foot addition to a single family detached dwelling in the R-1 medium density zoning district.
In response to Mr. Ott’s question, Ms. Fountain explained that portions of the Woods of Saxony development are zoned R-2 and portions are R-1. This house is next to the R-2 area.
In response to Mr. Lombardi’s question, Mrs. Mischak said that the existing deck will be removed.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the project is within the limits for impervious surface coverage. No variance is needed for impervious surface. She said that the variance is from the PRD, and the new plan will be recorded in the courthouse.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant a PRD variance to David and Beth Mischak at 192 Greenbriar Lane. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
JMZO 2008-06 – Permit for Disturbance of Natural Resources: Mr. Fidler reported that he was not informed of a change in the meeting time of the Joint Zoning Council, so was not in attendance to report to members on Newtown Planning Commission’s concerns about this amendment.
Mr. Schenkman said that he had been in attendance at the Joint Zoning Council meeting, and this amendment was not discussed.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that at the last meeting discussion of this amendment had been tabled. There was some concern that the requirement for a permit could be a burden for owners of smaller parcels.
Mr. Ott noted that the Ordinance defines “woodlands” as 10 trees on an acre of land. He said that woodlands should be defined as densely wooded.
Mr. Fidler said that woodlands contain mature trees, and undergrowth. This should be referenced in the Ordinance. He also noted that the “10 trees per acre” definition does not differentiate between natural woodlands and trees planted by homeowners for landscaping.
Mr. Sensibaugh agreed that the definitions are inadequate, noting that the Ordinance needs to be specific and detailed in order to have confidence in enforcement. He also agreed that thee should be a minimum size of parcels requiring permits.
Resident Will Sterling asked whether, under this amendment, he would need a permit to harvest trees.
Mr. Fidler said that there are State guidelines for harvesting of trees and he advised Mr. Sterling to investigate these.
The Commission members agreed that the ordinance, as written, does not adequately define “woodlands”. They would also like to see the amendment applied only to lots over 10 acres.
JMZO 2006-19 – 2008-09 (2006-19) – CM District Revisions: Mr. Fidler and Mr. Ott each referenced discrepancies in the current draft of the ordinance: page 5, section (b) should read ‘….30,000 square feet.” , and on pages 3 and 4, there is a discrepancy in the percentage of impervious surface for use B-12.
Mr. Lombardi expressed some concern for the diminishing rights of property owners by removing the B-14 use.
Mr.. Sensibaugh said that he would like to keep the B-14 use but expand the open space requirement to 65%. The goal of the B-14 use had been to preserve contiguous areas of open space. Elimination of this use would be detrimental to the preservation of large areas of open space.
Mr. Fidler said that a solution might be to leave the B-14 use but remove the bonus density.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the Board of Supervisors had tabled the authorization to advertise but would like to proceed. What can be done to lessen the impact on landowners but still eliminate the use.
Mr. Fidler said that he understands that the B-14 use has been used by developers as a bargaining chip to gain higher density. He would like to possibly address some of the standards for the B-12 use if B-14 is eliminated. He also expressed some concern that the other Jointure partners have not carefully considered the numbers being proposed for the B-12 use. He suggested that the Commission consider changing the B-12 performance standards by increasing the minimum lot size to 37,500 square feet, decreasing the gross density to 0.45 and reducing the minimum open space to 0.50. He suggested that by increasing the minimum lot size, future homeowners would be given additional room for improvements and amenities, avoiding the need for impervious surface and setback variances for decks and patios.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Bucks County Planning Commission thinks there is no need for the B-14 use and that there is no way to calculate the loss to property owners because of the variables in the market. The Township expects to see new plans for a B-14 development shortly.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he is opposed to eliminating the B-14 use because it provides contiguous open space. He suggested that there should be a discussion on the goals for development of the CM district, and whether the goal is development of parcels at one home per three acres or clustered homes with large areas of contiguous open space.
Mr. Ott and Mr. Lombardi each expressed some concern about the rights of the property owners and the erosion of the value of their properties. Mr. Ott said that he agreed that in light of some recently built developments with homes all needing variances for back yard amenities, something has to be done, but he is not sure that elimination of the B-14 use is the right answer because of its impact on property values.
Resident Will Sterling said that he is very concerned about the many recent proposals for changes in zoning of his properties. He asked that the Board and Commission leave his land alone.
The members agreed that rather than make a recommendation to the Board about JMZO 2008-09 (2006-19) the Planning Commission and Board should meet at a work session to discuss possible solutions, particularly the clarification of inconsistencies in the language of the ordinance as currently written.
Mr. Fidler offered three areas for discussion with the Board:
Mr. Fidler said that he would like to see any change still offer similar value to the property owners, while eliminating the problems caused by the B-14 use.
Mr. Ott moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors hold a special work session with the Planning Commission and the public to discuss JMZO 2008-09, CM District Revisions. Mr. Wind seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman suggested that representatives of the Jointure partners also be invited to attend and participate.The motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Fidler asked the Commission to review the new Draft Comprehensive Plan to discuss at the next meeting.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked the members to carefully consider the map of road classifications.
Liaison reports were tabled.
Mr. Lombardi moved to adjourn at 9:00 PM. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary