NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on December 2, 2008
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Jay Sensibaugh, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Vince Lombardi, Jim Ott, Shannon Wilson and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Andrew Brown, Traffic Engineer and Mike Galla, Interim Codes Officer.
Call to Order : Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Ott move to accept the minutes of October 21, 2008. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Wilson abstaining.
(Mr. Lombardi arrived at this point)
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Mr. Brown reviewed his written report, noting that there has been no recent activity on the extension of Terry Drive through the Business Commons for a right in/right out opening onto the Newtown Bypass. PennDOT has indicated that additional traffic count information is needed.
Mr. Fidler said that the proposed opening would greatly benefit residential neighbors as well as employees of the Commons by alleviating some traffic congestion and removing business traffic from the residential areas along Fountain Farm Lane. He said that during his report to the Board of Supervisors he would urge that the additional work be authorized.
The Commission discussed the possible installation of a traffic light at Silo Drive and Sycamore Street. Mr. Brown said that at this time PennDOT does not believe it is warranted.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that additional traffic counts be performed after completion of the Green Parrot Pub. He said that there are significant traffic back-ups in late afternoon; traffic counts should be conducted between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM on weekdays.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that there is no street identification sign at Ice Cream Alley. A sign should be installed since Rite Aid Pharmacy uses 1 Ice Cream Alley as its address.
In response to Mr. Ott’s question, Ms. Fountain said that the Township is responsible for some of the work to be done for the parking lot entrance to Newtown Plaza shopping center. The certificate of occupancy for Ali’s Igloo Ice Cream was not connected to completion of this roadwork.
(New Business, discussion of Comprehensive Plan was deferred until the end of the meeting, as Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush was expected to attend.)
Lots 54 & 55, 170 Pheasant Run at Penns Trail – Final Plan for Land Development and Lot Line Change: Attorney Don Marshall and Richard Doyle were in attendance to review the final plan 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 Mark III.
Waivers have been granted for a traffic impact study, however a traffic impact fee will be paid. The plans have been revised to comply with the review letters. The Board postponed until final approval a decision on sidewalks for the Pheasant Run side of the property. Sidewalks will be installed along Penns Trail. Pheasant Run ends in a circle servicing three buildings. The applicant would like to pay a fee in lieu, with the fee used to install sidewalks in more actively used areas of the Commons.
Mr. Marshall noted that the plan shows only one loading area, as this will be an office building with only UPS type deliveries.
In response to Mr. Sensibaugh’s question, Mr. Doyle said that there will be a main entrance to the building near the loading area. This entrance leads to all areas of the building and to the elevator bank. There are side entrances proposed, but signage would indicate that the loading area and front entrance are to be used for deliveries. He does not yet have a tenant, and cannot say whether it will be one or multiple tenants.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for land development of RKD Builders, Inc., for the premises located at Lots 54 & 55, Newtown Business Commons, 170 Pheasant Run, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840 – being Bucks County Tax Parcel NO. 29-10-134 and 135 (‘the Premise’) prepared by All County Inc., comprising Sheets 1-6 dated July 18, 2008 (“the Plans) subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
Mr. Lombardi seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mr. Ott recommended that the Planning Commission review the Business Commons streetscape plan to become familiar with existing and proposed sidewalks.
Rosebank Winery, 258 Durham Road – Sketch Plan: Attorney Don Marshall, Walter Bronson of Pickering Corts and Summerson and David Fleming were in attendance to review a sketch plan for a two story 5400 square foot addition to the existing barn and a 1400 square foot deck to the existing wine producing building on a 10.675 acre parcel in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. Mr. Marshall explained that the applicant intends to move the wine production and sales to the new structure and wine related events will be moved to the existing structure. The impervious coverage is presently at 14.4%; with the addition it will be 17.8%. A variance will be needed for the increase, but the Ordinance is not clear on the permitted impervious surface. Agriculture has a 5% impervious limit but other uses in the CM district have a 15% impervious surface. This use would be H-17, winery accessory. This use would require a two-way driveway, but the applicant is proposing a 12 foot wide driveway.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s question, Mr. Marshall said that the applicant intends to do a fully engineered plan including stormwater management. The facility will connect to public sewer through the Township’s park. Until the park is completed the applicant would seek permission from the Health Department for a temporary sewer storage tank.
In response to Mr. Sensibaugh’s question, Mr. Marshall said that the tent has been removed and the tent area will be removed from the plan. The buildings will be in compliance with the Ordinance for use H-17 and will be more than 150 feet from the property line.
Ms. Fountain reviewed the provisions for calculating impervious surface for gravel parking, which is counted as impervious.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant does not want a paved parking lot because he is attempting to maintain a rural appearance.
Mr. Ott and Mr. Wind expressed some concern about two way traffic on the 12 foot driveway.
Mr. Marshall said that during events vehicles are headed in the same direction, either all arriving or all departing. It will be possible for two cars to pass.
Mr. Ott suggested some kind of pull-off area on either side of the drive to allow two cars to more easily pass one another.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the permanent building should be an improvement over the tent that had been used for events. This should help with noise control.
The Commission briefly discussed buffering between the parking lot and the proposed park access road to prevent cars from driving over the grass to the park entrance onto Wrights Road.
Mr. Fleming said that he has recently planted some evergreens along that border.
The Commission agreed that the proposed building would be a welcome improvement over the tent used for weddings and other party events. Mr. Fidler said that he would recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the plan be supported and the proposed variance not be opposed.
Stockland Inc., S. Sycamore Street & Richboro Road - Sketch Plan: Shawn Foley of Stockburger Chevrolet and Engineer Walter Bronson presented a plan to build an addition of the existing McBride Chrysler building and construct a new showroom for Stockburger Chevrolet, with a canopy placed between the two buildings on 3.7 acres on Sycamore Street. There will also be modifications to the parking area. Mr. Foley explained that Stockburger plans to develop the State Street dealership property in Newtown Borough for residential use, and move the dealership to the Sycamore Street property. There are three separate tax map parcels, so two different dealerships would be permitted. The front of the existing showroom is to be removed and the expansion will be at the rear.
Mr. Bronson pointed out the current entrances along both Richboro Road and Sycamore Street. He said that the number of entrances will be reduced to three driveways. Employee parking will be at the rear of the property with an entrance on Swamp Road. There has been some recent discussion with the Newtown Corporation about creating some parking to be used by restaurants on the opposite side of Swamp Road.
Mr. Fidler discussed his concern about lighting as there are residential neighbors at the rear of this property.
Mr. Foley said that the dealership has already been using less intense lighting that would normally be required and will continue to cooperate with residential neighbors. In response to other comments from the Commission members, Mr. Foley said that the plan has not been fully engineered but he is aware of stormwater management issues at this location.
Mr. Bronson reviewed parking. He said that parking stalls for customers are 10 feet by 20 feet, but smaller stalls are used for the display vehicles.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether the applicant would consider creating an entrance to the rear lot through Newtown Plaza Shopping Center’s parking lot when the new traffic signal and new driveway are installed. This would then eliminate a driveway entrance on Swamp Road near the traffic lights.
Mr. Foley said that he has not seen these plans, but would consider it. The plan currently shows an entrance on Howard Street, which is a paper street.
Mr. Ott said that he recalls that some time recently some of the paper streets in that area were vacated by the Township. He asked whether Howard Street was among those vacated streets.
Mr. Fidler said that he would ask the Township to investigate this.
In response to Mr. Fisher’s question, Mr. Lombardi said that this property is not in the historic district and is not subject to HARB review.
The Commission agreed this would be an enhancement to Sycamore Street; they would recommend that the Board of Supervisors support the plans.
2008 Comprehensive Plan: ( Lynn Bush of the Bucks County Planning Commission did not come to the meeting, although the Commission had expected her.)
Mr. Fidler said that many on the Planning Commission had participated in the drafting of the plan. A great deal of hard work was involved in developing a strategic plan that allows each individual municipality in the Jointure as they navigate land development.
Mr. Ott agreed with Mr. Fidler, but noted that he had concerns that some of the maps in the addendum were somewhat outdated. His suggestion moving forward would be to periodically update the maps using the GIS available to the Townships. He also said that as the Planning Commission continues to meet, it should use this plan as a guide and attempt to follow up on the specific recommendations.
The Commission briefly discussed methods for keeping maps current. Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the Open Space Committee, working with the EAC, has been attempting to revise maps to show open space, parkland, trails and sidewalks.
Messrs. Fidler, Lombardi, Wilson, Ott and Wind and Mrs. Driscoll agreed that the plan was excellent, and should be adopted by the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that while he agreed with the Commission on the text, he would like the road classifications for Swamp Road and Newtown Yardley Road in Newtown Township downgraded from principal arterial to collector classification. He acknowledged Wrightstown’s concern that the reclassification would reduce the rights of way, allowing for buildable area for development. For this reason he would recommend that, since all affected parcels in Newtown are already fully developed, only Newtown’s portion of Swamp Road be included in the downgrade. Swamp Road would benefit by traffic calming that is available to collector roads.
Mr. Fidler noted that the classification has been in place since 1983; the goal had been to make Swamp Road safer and to make the road eligible for more funding from PennDOT.
Mr. Fisher noted that at the Board of Supervisors meeting of October 24, 2007, the Board had agreed to the downgrade to major collector road, which would have allowed for a reduction in speed limit.
Mr. Jirele said that the classifications are meaningless; PennDOT will not consider Swamp Road as a rural road, and when making plans for roadway improvements, PennDOT does whatever it wants regardless of the classification. He reviewed the speed study process involved in establishing a speed limit noting that the classification would not influence the set speed limit.
Mr. Fidler asked the Commission members whether they would like to recommend that the Board adopt the plan, addressing road classifications separately, or withhold recommendation of approval until the road issues have been addressed.
Mr. Jirele suggested that, rather than hold up the entire plan, the Commission agree to review all road classifications in 2010. There are other roads throughout the Township whose classifications are not appropriate.
Resident Eleanor Lyons of 173 Colonial Drive said that her home backs onto Swamp Road. She wants the Township to slow down the traffic. If the Township adopts this plan with Swamp Road classified as a principal arterial road, it creates a record of the Township showing support of the classification. Because of its current classification, Swamp Road does not qualify for traffic calming, which is badly needed because of the college and quarry truck traffic.
Mr. Ott said that he and Mr. Jirele had participated in a number of meetings involving regional traffic planning and he did not think that the road classification of Swamp Road should be considered as a factor in approving the comprehensive plan. He has some information on traffic counts and other documentation that the Commission can review in future discussions of roads and traffic calming.
Mr. Jirele said that he has concerns about addressing only one or two roads before adopting the comprehensive plan. Residents on other busy roads will want similar consideration. He urged the Commission to set as a goal the overall review of Township road classifications.
Mr. Sensibaugh disagreed; he said that no additional study is needed and the plan should not be adopted until Swamp Road has been addressed.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the 2008 Draft Comprehensive Plan with an amendment reclassifying Swamp and Newtown Yardley Road as major collector roads. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Wilson asked whether adding an amendment would require that he plan go through the entire review process again, with input from the other Jointure partners and the Bucks County Planning Commission. He said that there are expenses associated with this that he would be reluctant to incur in the current economic climate.
Mr. Fidler said that he does not know what the cost would be, but any change would require the recirculation of the document through each member municipality’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Jirele noted that portions of Sycamore and State Streets are also classified as arterial, and should be reviewed.
Mr. Ott agreed with Mr. Jirele, that all roads should be reviewed, but that the review should not further delay the approval of the Comprehensive Plan. Ms. Lyons said that the residents along Swamp Road are being bullied. She asked again that the classification be changed in order for the road to qualify for traffic calming.
Mr. Fidler and Mr. Jirele each said that there is limited recourse when dealing with PennDOT, which will “do what it wants” regardless of road classification.
The motion failed 2-6, with Mrs. Driscoll and Messrs. Fidler, Lombardi, Ott and Wind voting nay.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that Board of Supervisors adopt the 2008 Draft Comprehensive Plan and to recommend that the Planning Commission and Board undertake an effort to consistently and accurately classify Township Roads. Mr. Ott seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ott noted that Principle #3, item # 4 says, “Identify needed improvements to the road system and coordinate efforts with PennDOT to address improvements …” He felt that future review is part of this principle.
The motion passed 7-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting nay.
JMZO Reviews – Final Drafts
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that each of these amendments had been reviewed by the members on numerous occasions, and are brought for final recommendation before adoption. They have all been authorized for adoption by the Board of Supervisors.
In response to a comment by Mr. Wind, Mr. Jirele said that 2008-05 refers in part to the use of certain open space held by developments to be used exclusively by residents of the developments. Reference to “governing body” however, refers to the governing Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Ott moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt JMZO amendments 2008-04, 2008-05, 2008-06 and 2008-09. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 5-3, with Messrs. Wind, Sensibaugh and Fisher voting nay.
Messrs. Wind Sensibaugh and Fisher agreed that their objection is to 2008-09 only, as this amendment eliminates the B-14 use in the Conservation Management Zoning District. They feel that the B-14 use allows for the preservation of contiguous open space.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors : Mr. Jirele said that he would recommend to the Board that review of road classifications be a priority in 2010.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mr. Lombardi reported that HARB has approved a color change for the Green Parrot Pub roof.
Open Space Subcommittee: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the draft update of the open space comprehensive plan is almost complete. It will be forwarded to the BCPC for input shortly.
Mr. Fidler reported that three members of the Planning Commission, Messrs. Lombardi, Wilson and Bowe, have indicated that they will not be seeking re-appointment next year. He thanked them for their many years of service and valuable insights and contributions to the Commission. He noted that Mr. Lombardi has served on Township committees, boards and commissions for 23 years. All of the departing members will be missed, most especially Mr. Lombardi.Mr. Lombardi and Mr. Wilson thanked the members for the opportunity to work with them.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary