NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on January 20, 2009
Present: Sue Beasley, Peggy Driscoll, Allen Fidler, Fred Olivari, Jim Ott, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager, Tom Jirele, Supervisor Liaison and Mike Galla, Interim Codes Officer.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM. Prior to reorganization, the Planning Commission members introduced themselves and new members were welcomed. Mr. Fidler said that he would arrange for the Township Planner to host some training sessions in the coming weeks, to be held 30 minutes prior to the start of regular meetings. Planning Commission members and Supervisors are encouraged to attend.
Reorganization: Mr. Ott nominated Mr. Fidler to serve as chairman. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mrs. Beasley nominated Mr. Ott to serve as vice-chairman. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mr. Wind nominated Mrs. Driscoll to serve as secretary/treasurer. Mrs. Beasley seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mr. Fidler noted that it has been the Planning Commission’s tradition that officers attend the Joint Zoning Council representing Newtown Township.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of December 16, 2008. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 5-0-3, with Mrs. Beasley and Messrs. Olivari and Whartenby abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Lockheed Martin – Newtown Yardley Road: Mr. Fidler explained for the benefit of new members that the Planning Commission discusses applications to the Zoning Hearing Board in order to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to support or oppose an application. In many instances the Commission passes applications to the Board without comment.
Mr. Whartenby disclosed that he and his former employer had been involved in the original construction at the Lockheed site. He is no longer with that firm and was not involved in the current expansion.
The Commission reviewed this application for variances for relief for a height of 60 feet where 50 feet is the maximum and setback of 133.54 feet where 150 feet is required.
Ms. Fountain said that Township staff and consultants have met with the applicant’s attorney. The addition is needed for Lockheed to do work for a new contract with the Federal Government. The existing facility has already been granted a height variance for 60 feet, but the attorney for the applicant felt a new variance is needed for the new construction.
Mr. Ott said that since there is already a structure with a height of 60 feet and the property does not back to residential uses, he would suggest passing the application to the Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Fidler said that he would like the Township to support the application because the expanded facility will bring additional employees and will contribute to the Township’s tax base.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he has worked on similar facilities in New Jersey and confirmed that the height is necessary for the type of work to be done. He agreed that the application should be supported.
Mrs. Driscoll said that this expansion could bring as many as one hundred new employees and she agreed that the application should be supported.
Mr. Wind noted that this is a self imposed hardship. While he is not opposed to the application, he did not think the Board should actively support it at the Zoning Hearing Board. He would prefer to pass it to the Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Jirele and Mr. Galla confirmed that work done at the site would require the 60 foot height.
Mr. Fidler said that rather than take of vote on this application, he would report to the Supervisors the opinions of the members. He asked that the minutes reflect this discussion.
Liaison Reports and Assignments
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Jirele reported that in the coming year the Jointure would be discussing the drafting of appropriate ordinances to address alternative energy sources, including wind turbines, wood burning stoves and solar panels. The Jointure will be forming a panel to review current highway classifications. He and Mr. Fidler would serve on this panel.
Mr. Jirele said that looking ahead, he would like the Commission to include discussion of planning for the future of Sycamore Street in upcoming agendas. The Jointure had at one time considered a change in zoning of certain lots in the Sycamore Street area. The changes that had been part of that draft ordinance had included most of the north end of Sycamore Street. Other areas to be considered for future planning are at the southern part of Sycamore Street near McBride’s Chrysler. In the next few years there is a possibility that many changes could be coming and it would be good to look ahead and plan.
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission : Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Regional Planning Commission would be looking at some of the same concerns as the Joint Zoning Council. The meetings are on the third Thursday. Mr. Sensibaugh and Mr. Ott agreed to serve as liaisons.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler said that he would continue as liaison.
Historic Architectural Review Board: This Board meets during the afternoon. Mrs. Beasley and Mrs. Driscoll agreed to share liaison duties.
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Wind and Mr. Whartenby agreed to share this liaison duty.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fidler said that he had spoken to Mr. Fisher, who has agreed to remain as liaison.
Open Space Subcommittee: Mr. Sensibaugh and Mrs. Driscoll agreed to continue to serve on this committee. Mr. Sensibaugh reported that all of the preliminary work on the updated open space comprehensive plan has been forwarded to the Bucks County Planning Commission. Once a response is received from BCPC, a presentation will be made to the Board of Supervisors.
Other Business: The Commission briefly discussed matters that will be of concern in the Jointure in the coming year, including ordinances to address alternative energy such as windmills, solar panels and wood burning stoves.
Mr. Fidler said that the Jointure is working on a draft ordinance to govern preservation of historic structures that are not located in the historic district. There has been some concern about demolition by neglect on properties that have not yet been subject to redevelopment. Newtown Township does have an ordinance and this is being used as a template.
Mrs. Beasley said that perhaps the Jointure should consider whether to include historic or at least very old or rare specimens of trees and shrubs in the new ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that input from the Commission would be sought during the year as the Joint Zoning Council considers highway classifications. When the new comprehensive plan was completed it was noticed that some roads are inconsistently or inappropriately classified by PennDOT.
Mr. Jirele again talked about a vision for the future of Sycamore Street. He said that the Board would be looking for some planning input for the currently proposed plan for the Acme site as well as for the entire business district.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Commission include in its discussion some of the current zoning regulations along the street. He noted for example that at the Acme site an apartment house would be permitted but not condominiums. This zoning had been created to address what had existed on Sycamore Street at the time the Ordinance was drafted, but might no longer be appropriate.
Mr. Jirele said that the Commission and the Jointure could consider reviewing the various commercial uses permitted throughout the Jointure. He said that the Board intends to plan meetings with each of the advisory committees, boards and commissions this year to help set priorities. He would like to arrange for that joint meeting with the Planning Commission very soon, perhaps at the February work session.
Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 8:45 PM. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary