NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on March 3, 2009
Present: Vice Chairman Jim Ott, Dennis Fisher, Fred Olivari, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager, Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor and Mike Galla, Interim Codes Officer.
Call to Order: Vice Chairman Jim Ott called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Olivari moved to accept the minutes of February 3, 2009. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 4-0-2, with Messrs. Ott and Sensibaugh abstaining.
McLaughlin Revised Preliminary Plan for Minor Subdivision, 174 Durham Road: Jim and Darla McLaughlin and Jose Grande of D.S. Winokur Associates were in attendance to review this revised plan for subdivision of a 2.54 acre parcel in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District. Mr. Grande said that the plan has been revised to incorporate the recommendations made by the Planning Commission at its first review.
The Commission reviewed Ms. Fountain’s letter dated February 19, 2009. This letter reviewed plans last revised on January 26, 2009. Mr. Grande indicated that further revisions have been made to comply with the review letters.
The Commission discussed the Zoning Hearing Board’s requirement to install landscaping to serve as a buffer between the McLaughlin property and the neighbors. Mr. McLaughlin indicated that he has already installed some plants in this area and intends to supplement it. It was agreed that the landscaping would be shown on the plan, rather than require a letter from the neighbors indicating their satisfaction with the buffer. The Ordinance and the Zoning Hearing Board do not have specific plant requirements. Ms. Fountain would confirm whether the existing and proposed landscaping would be adequate.
Ms. Fountain and Mr. Grande discussed the requirement to install monuments at all changes in direction of the boundary and along proposed easements. Mr. Grande indicated that some monuments and some metal pins already exist on the site. He said that there are many easements on the property and questioned whether the existing pins would be adequate.
Ms. Fountain agreed to work with Mr. Grande on a compromise solution.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about the traffic impact fee waiver.
Mr. Grande said that he was not sure whether a traffic impact fee would be required, as PennDOT has indicated that a highway occupancy permit is not required. He will speak to the Township Traffic Engineer to confirm this.
The Commission reviewed the requests for waivers. The members agreed that since none of the surrounding properties have curbs or sidewalks, they would agree to that waiver. If, at some time in the future the Township were to install sidewalks along Durham Road, there is adequate right of way at this property’s frontage.
Ms. Fountain discussed the stormwater management requirements. She said that originally the applicant had wanted to install a rain garden, but this proved not to be feasible. A small berm and elongated stormwater facility are now proposed. The applicant has demonstrated that this will be adequate to meet the requirements of the Ordinance.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the berm must be stabilized with some kind of grass.
Mr. Grande said that the revised plan has been resubmitted to the Bucks County Conservation District. It shows compliance with comments on previous review letters.
Mr. Whartenby urged the use of adequate silt fencing materials, as this property slopes down onto a main road and there could be problems with mud washing down onto the street.
Mr. Wind moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the revised preliminary plan of James and Darla McLaughlin for the premises located at 174 Durham Road, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel Number 29-4-38, prepared by D.S. Winokur Associates, comprising Sheets 1-9 dated January 29, 2009 subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
The Commission recommends that the following Waivers be granted to Developer from the SALDO as follows:
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Grande thanked the Commission and Ms. Fountain for their help and guidance during the review process.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Regional Planning Commission has begun to discuss the TC-3 Zoning District, which would include areas of Sycamore Street.
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Whartenby reported that the Park and Recreation Board saw a presentation on a new compost toilet system that is being considered for the Roberts Ridge Park playground.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has briefly discussed when and whether Environmental Impact Studies are or should be required as part of land development. The members are considering recommending that Newtown join “Cool Cities”. They are compiling information in anticipation of a wildlife management white paper. They have also discussed ways to better control geese on Eagle Road at the detention basin in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center. Members will work on recommendations of environmentally friendly pesticides, herbicides and snow melting materials for use at the Rockbridge property.
Open Space Subcommittee: Mr. Sensibaugh said that he expects a response shortly from Lynn Bush on the open space comprehensive plan information which had been submitted in the fall.
JMZO 2008-10 Historic Preservation: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that Upper Makefield’s Planning Commission had reviewed this ordinance and had a number of concerns. Each municipality is expected to provide an inventory of historic sites, which could be burdensome. There is some concern about the criteria for the inventory and the possible burden on homeowners to comply with requirements for historic preservation when making improvements to properties. There is some concern about some of the suggested permitted re-uses for historic buildings, which Upper Makefield feels does not take into consideration the surrounding community. This could also be of concern in Newtown Township.
Wrightstown’s Planning Commission tabled discussion because of similar concerns.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to table consideration of JMZO 2008-10. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Acme/Sycamore Street: Mr. Ott said that the Planning Commission’s packets contain copies of the Acme Visioning Committee Report. He provided a list of uses that are currently permitted or not allowed in the PC, TC and CC Zoning Districts as a starting point for discussion of a vision for the future of Sycamore Street. The Board of Supervisors has requested input from the Commission by the end of June.
Former Planning Commission member and current member of the Sycamore Street Community Association Vince Lombardi was in attendance to participate in the discussion. Mr. Lombardi reviewed some of the history of the reasons for current zoning and permitted uses, pointing out that the original plan had been to keep a central “downtown” business/commercial district, which would prevent suburban sprawl. Without this zoning, there could have been strip malls or convenience shops at most of the major roadway intersections or entrances to residential developments. Within the business and commercial districts, some uses were permitted that might not now seem appropriate because inclusion of the uses somewhere within the Jointure would prevent a challenge to the Ordinance.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that going forward the Commission give careful consideration to the larger parcels that could possibly become subject to redevelopment in the future, including the two auto dealerships, the Goodnoe home and the DeLuca (St. Andrew’s School) properties. He urged the Commission to include Joe McKiernan of HARB in discussions when considering mixed/residential/condominium uses, as Mr. McKiernan has considerable experience in this area. Mr. Lombardi said that there has been some resistance to the idea of permitting condominiums, but his own opinion is that it would add an invested residential presence to Sycamore Street. Owners would become more involved in the community than renters, who would be more transient.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that there are a number of groups with interest in participating in the discussions, including the Newtown Creek Coalition and the newly formed “new acme concerns” group. For this reason he suggested that future discussions be added to the regular agenda rather than forming a subcommittee to meet outside of the regular publicized meeting.
Business Commons Streetscape: The members were provided with copies of the Newtown Business Commons streetscape map which should be very helpful when reviewing redevelopment of properties and discussing when or whether to include sidewalks.
Stoopville Road : Ms. Fountain reported that it is her understanding that funding for the Stoopville Road improvements in conjunction with the Federal Cemetery has been included in the stimulus package.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to adjourn at 9:45 PM. Mr. Ott seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary