NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on March 17, 2009
Present: Vice Chairman Jim Ott, Sue Beasley, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, (late) Fred Olivari, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind (late), members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager, Jennifer McGrath, Solicitor and Mike Galla, Interim Codes Officer, Tom Jirele and Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor Liaisons.
Call to Order: Vice Chairman Jim Ott called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of March 3, 2009. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 4-0-2, with Mrs. Beasley and Mrs. Driscoll abstaining.
Silver Lake Executive Campus, Final Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review the plan for development of a 34.8 acre parcel in the OR Office Research Zoning District for two 78,000 square foot office buildings connected by a 4,125 square foot cafeteria/gym. Mr. Murphy said that the applicant is working with one of the tenants in the other Silver Lake office building, who would occupy both of the new buildings for a corporate headquarters. If that tenant does not occupy the site, the two buildings will have multiple tenants and the center gym/cafeteria would be eliminated.
Mr. Murphy indicated that the engineer on the project has met with Township Engineer Michele Fountain to address stormwater management. The applicant will comply with the Township on stormwater management issues.
The Commission reviewed the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated March 10, 2009. The applicant will comply with this letter and will agree to work with the Township on satisfactory tree choices.
In reviewing the CKS letter, Mr. Murphy said that at previous review meetings he had thought that the Planning Commission preferred that buffering be added along Silver Lake Road rather than along the Bypass. The applicant intends to clear some of the underbrush along the Bypass; existing vegetation might be adequate.
Ms. McGrath said that at preliminary plan approval this had been deferred to the final plan phase.
Ms. Fountain said that while existing vegetation may possibly meet the requirements of the Ordinance, this is not shown on the plan.
Tony Noce, developer of the site, indicated that the Bypass will be cleaned up and that if required, some new plants would be added to the berm, but the property slopes down from the Bypass so that only the upper floors would be visible from the road. The buildings will be more than 200 feet from the right of way.
Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant will work with Ms. Fountain to meet the planting requirements along the Bypass.
(Messrs. Fisher and Wind arrived at this point.)
In reviewing the stormwater requirements, Ms. Fountain said that she has met with TWT Engineers and is satisfied that the plans comply with her letter.
Mr. Murphy said that he will confirm with Carroll Engineering that roadwork for the project had been completed as part of a prior plan. No fee is due. He will provide the Board of Supervisors with documentation of the completed roadwork.
Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant will comply with the Emergency Services review letter dated January 28, 2009.
The Commission discussed the parking planned for the site. Mr. Murphy said that the parking complies with the Ordinance. In discussing holding some parking in green, Mr. Murphy indicated that the prospective tenant wants all of the parking.
Mr. Sensibaugh move to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant Final Land development approval to Venture Associates, L.P. for the premises located at 42 University Drive, being known as Bucks County Tax Parcel Nos. 29-10-43 and 29-10-43-1 prepared by Taylor, Wiseman & Taylor, comprising Sheets 1-17 dated July 16, 2008, last revised December 22, 2008 subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mrs. Beasley said that she has frequently noticed that the number of handicapped parking spaces provided is not adequate for the needs of the community. She suggested that at some point the Commission discuss requiring additional handicapped spaces.
Newtown Township & Newtown Bucks Association, Durham Road at Newtown Bypass – Final Plan for Minor Subdivision: Ms. Fountain presented this plan for a lot line change which would convey a 0.68 acre portion of property owned by Newtown Bucks Association behind Staples to be combined with a 3.52 acre parcel owned by Newtown Township and currently used as an athletic field. No improvements are proposed with this plan.
Ms. Fountain provided copies of the original 2002 plan and the review letter of Bucks County Planning Commission dated March 4, 2009. She noted that the BCPC questioned the impervious surface ratio. The shopping center had been granted a variance to allow 51% impervious surface. The ratio is based on the entire gross site area, including the portion that is currently owned by the Township.
In response to questions from the Board, Ms. Fountain said that the Township does not own the parking spaces alongside the athletic field. She reviewed the parking spaces that have been held in green along the roadway extending closer to the School District property. She reminded the Commission that this is a lot line change only; no development plans are being considered. There will be no change in the impervious surface at this time. Parking spaces held in green had been considered in the impervious surface calculation.
Mr. Jirele noted that the Board has reviewed the parking at the shopping center and has not felt that the additional parking has been needed. Those spaces are to remain in green at this time.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan for a minor subdivision of Newtown Bucks Association and Newtown Township. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Zoning Hearing Board
Leonard A. Christopher, 277 Stoopville Road: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance for front yard setback and a special exception to erect a front porch on a nonconforming lot. Mr. Ott said that this is his next door neighbor’s house. In response to Mr. Wind’s question, Mr. Ott said that this is an older home on a non-conforming lot; his neighbor is attempting to improve and modernize it. The Commission passed this application to the Board with no comment.
Robert Hughes and David Rominiecki, 82 Swamp Road: The Commission reviewed this application for a variance to install a 6 foot privacy fence. The members noted that the property is adjacent to the High School parking lot and the fence is needed. Mr. Ott noted that the Ordinance permits 5 foot fences, however most fences are manufactured in 6 foot heights. The Commission passed this application to the Board with no comment.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Commission’s agenda for Thursday, March 19, 2009 will include discussion of windmills and other alternate energy sources, the historic overlay and a transportation sub-committee.
Sycamore Street Discussion
Mr. Ott reported that the Board of Supervisors has requested that this discussion concentrate first on the TC Zoning District. The members were provided lists of uses permitted on Sycamore Street, of all permitted uses and on uses specifically permitted in the TC district, as well as a list of the tax map parcels in the TC district with their current uses noted.
Mr. Ott said that as the members review the currently permitted or prohibited uses, it is important to remember that is a use is removed it must still be available as a permitted use in the Jointure. He also noted that as uses are discussed, the performance standards should also be considered. For example the minimum lot size is 7500 square feet, which would mean that the larger lots could be subdivided, for example the 3.7 acre Stockburger lot could be divided into 14 residential lots for single or twin homes.
Ms. Fountain suggested that each use be considered, first as to whether to continue to permit that use at all, then to revisit the use with consideration of the performance standards. She noted that the building size, height, parking requirements, etc., could change a use from acceptable to very intense. For example a small medical office of a single practitioner on a small lot would not have the same impact on Sycamore Street as a medical arts building on a large lot.
The members discussed whether to remove or adjust in some way the D-1 office use and D-2 medical office use. Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Wind said that both uses should be removed entirely from the TC district. Large medical and business offices would negatively impact parking and traffic.
Resident Vince Lombardi, a resident of Sycamore Street and member of the Sycamore Street Community Association, urged the Commission to consider controlling these uses by performance standards rather than prohibiting them.
After some further discussion, the members agreed to create a list of uses which would be reviewed in further depth at a future meeting. The performance standards for these uses would be given consideration. Medical and general office uses, D-1 and D-2 would be on this list.
Ms. Fountain explained that an E-5 eating place would not have a drive-through component, whereas E-6 would. E-6 is not permitted in the TC district. She also discussed the drive-through windows on financial establishments. She suggested that E-4, financial establishment be added to the “Consider Further” list.
Most members agreed that “hotel, motel, inn” use E-8, should be removed.
The members discussed E-10, service station. Existing service stations would be “grandfathered.” A show of hands indicated that the members would recommend removing service station E-10 from permitted uses. Automotive Sales should be considered further.
In discussing use E-19, funeral home, members had concerns about this use on one of the larger lots. Funeral homes can create parking and traffic difficulties on an already busy street. Mr. Lombardi suggested that the solicitor research recent challenges to ordinances before removing this use. The members agreed that this information could be helpful in considering whether to remove or to address by performance standards.
The members discussed use G-10, trades, and had some confusion as to whether this referred to offices of tradesmen or businesses, such as cabinetmaking, taking place on site. This was added to the “Consider Further” list.
The members briefly discussed the accessory uses. The members agreed that most of these uses should remain, but wanted to further consider H-13, non-commercial accessory radio antennae.
Ms. Fountain reviewed the “Consider Further” list:
Mr. Ott and Ms. Fountain suggested that in preparation for the next Planning Commission meeting the members should begin a review of all of the uses available in the Township to determine whether any should be added or considered for a possible mixed use. At the next meeting the members should also consider a discussion of the current performance standards for the Acme site.
Mr. Whartenby said that consideration should be given to economic viability of certain uses. The Township should be encouraging uses that would be successful on Sycamore Street.
Resident Joanne Bintliffe Ritchie said that when the Commission considers medical uses she would like the members to discuss clinics and walk in medical treatment facilities, which might generate more activity than traditional medical offices. She also expressed some concern about allowing C-2 school uses to remain in the TC district. Schools will generate a great deal of traffic. She also asked whether the Township has or could consider adding a requirement to demolish structures after they have been left vacant a certain period of time.
Ms. McGrath said she could look into this. Other municipalities have addressed this when big box stores have been vacated.
Mr. Olivari moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary