NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on May 19, 2009
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Jim Ott, Sue Beasley, Jay Sensibaugh (late), Robert Whartenby, Fred Olivari and Brandon Wind (late), members.
Also in attendance were: Supervisor Jerry Schenkman; Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager and Jennifer McGrath, Township Solicitor.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:34 PM. And apologized for any confusion with regards to the meeting’s start time and advised that the agenda would be restructured so that members will be in attendance for action items.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Ott moved to accept the minutes of May 5, 2009. Mr. Whartenby seconded; the minutes passed unanimously (5-0).
(Mr. Wind and Mr. Sensibaugh were not present for the approval of the minutes.)
Continued Discussions of Sycamore Street: Mr. Fidler reported that Ms. Fountain is working on a spreadsheet for the Commission’s review and on the Commission’s review of similar communities that have mixed use town commercial districts that fit the Sycamore Street profile. Similar municipalities include Princeton, Stone Harbor and Avalon. He advised that he would like to get input from the public. He commented on possible allowed uses and inappropriate uses on Sycamore Street. He suggested uses include a dance studio and events to bring people on to the street. He commented with regards to the parking dilemma and suggested sharing a municipal parking authority with the Borough.
Ms. Fountain reported on her analysis with regards to Princeton. She discussed their planned commercial type development and advised that she has no more information at this time but is hopeful to have an update for the next meeting.
Mr. Fidler commented on reasons to pursue information regarding planned commercial type development. He discussed planned residential development with regards to zoning and approved uses.
Ms. Fountain advised that planned residential development has difference types of residential developments that could happen on one site.
Mr. Fidler suggested that if that concept could work in a planned commercial type development in the TC district that would better serve the Township and the applicant and possibility allow mixed use. He discussed various development standards including parking requirements, setback requirements, height requirements and façade requirements. He discussed having a historic overlay district required on the redevelopment of existing properties on the left side and is that required in any other the communities that Ms. Fountain provided information on.
The members discussed their concerns with regards to properties that are two acres or larger.
Mr. Ott commented with regards to Stone Harbor and Princeton’s requirements with regards to such things as setbacks and open space for each building.
Mr. Fidler commented on the possibility of having a civic focal center on the street such as a building, park, fountain, parking lot/garage, the Church and walkway. He suggested that the planned commercial district have flexibility for the Township and applicant.
Ms. Fountain commented that for a planned residential development if the developer allows more open space usually there is an allowance that for them to have a greater density or maybe a lessening of the setbacks. With regards to planned commercial developments, she questioned what the developer could do for there to be the allowance for greater density or less of a setback.
Mr. Fidler reported that is what the Supervisors, Planning Commission and concerned citizens should be thinking about. He suggested that there could be an agreement by the applicant to apply the historic overlay architectural requirements.
Mr. Ott suggested a possible offset for the applicant to offer more parking.
The members discussed parking being a critical factor for the area.
Ms. McGrath questioned what types of uses would be allowed in the planned commercial district. Mr. Fidler suggested the planned commercial district allow mixed uses, the current uses (there is still debate over E10 and automotive sales), arts & crafts, studios, galleries. He suggested considering other uses from Princeton’s planned commercial district if they are appropriate. He commented on medical uses in buildings over 3,000 sq. ft. and the possible of an increased parking requirement. He advised that in the Business Commons the Township placed medical use building on the arterial roads.
Mr. Ott questioned if they would want to establish a minimum/maximum size of a building.
The members discussed Mr. Ott’s question.
Mrs. Beasley advised that she would not want to restrict the minimum size.
Ms. Fountain reported that currently the Township’s E-1 retail use allows a store up to 10,000 sq. ft. and the E-2 use allows anything above 10,000 sq. ft.
The members discussed if the size restriction is appropriate for a 2-acre parcel.
Mr. Whartenby advised that he has done a quick performance standard, which he will email to Ms. Fountain and she will forward it to the members.
Mr. Fidler questioned the members and public for any additional comments on this matter.
One resident advised that she appreciated the Commission taking the time to review this matter and questioned how the Jointure would be effected. Mr. Fidler advised that he did not know if the mixed use would have a negative impact on the Jointure partners and that they do not have a TC district. The resident commented with regards to expanding the historic district, building sustainability, increased energy cost and the Doylestown green points program.
Mr. Ott commented with regards to uses that are permitted possibility include a village housing type concept and the development built on the old Frost Watson site.
Mr. Fidler discussed the proposed historic overlay district and how that would interplay with LEEDS certification and green sustainability. He suggested discussed this further with the Supervisors.
(Mr. Wind arrived.)
One resident suggested having outdoor concerts. Mr. Fidler advised that Park and Recreation had looked into outdoor concerts years ago.
Mr. Fidler requested if there were any more questions or comments from the public and advised that if there were time this matter would be discussed further once the other matters on the agenda are concluded.
Mrs. Beasley questioned when the Supervisors expect the Commission to have completed their review for uses on Sycamore Street. Mr. Schenkman advised that the Supervisors would like to have a report in the fall. Mr. Fidler advised that he is hopeful that the Commission would provide the Supervisors with a report in September or October.
Mr. Schenkman advised that he is hopeful the Supervisors would get the report prior to the budget process.
Mrs. Beasley questioned if the Township should notify interested parties of the possible changes to the allowed uses on Sycamore Street. Ms. McGrath advised that these meetings are advertised and suggested that interested parties be encouraged to attend meetings.
Mr. Fidler reported that he does not expect the possible change for allowed uses on Sycamore Street to be finalized until sometime in 2010.
Friends Lane LLC – Penns Trail Storage, 104 Penns Trail: Attorney Don Marshall and Attorney Stefan Richter were in attendance to discuss the final plan submission for Bucks County tax parcel #29-10-94, the proposed construction of two 2-story self-storage buildings. The plan had received preliminary plan approval on July 18, 2009. Tonight they are looking for final plan review. There have been two Zoning Hearing Board actions, one in August of 2007 and one in July of 2007. There is one Zoning Hearing Board action pending which is with regards to the disturbance of the floodplain. They are looking for relief with regards to the floodplain due to the request to align the driveway with the one across the street.
The members discussed the review letter received from Carroll Engineering Corporation dated April 15, 2009. Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant would comply.
The members discussed the review letter received from Bucks County Planning Commission, dated February 17, 2009. Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant would comply and that the trees would be replaced.
The members discussed the review letter received from CKS Engineers, Inc. dated May 12, 2009. Mr. Marshall advised that with regards to item 4, under Zoning Issues – the facility would be fenced on three sides with a 6 ft. ornamental fence and the fourth side would have a 6 ft. chain link fence. It is also necessary to acquire a drainage easement and temporary construction easement from Mr. Richter’s clients (condominiums in the back) which has been prepared but not finalized. With regards to item 5, under Zoning Issues – there will be more buffering on the southwestern side of the entrance drive. With regards to item 12, under Zoning Issues – there is no loading area; there will be an elevator for access to the second floor with designated parking areas. The members discussed having signage designating elevator parking for the second floor tenants. The applicant agreed to have signage. (Mr. Sensibaugh arrived.) With regards to item 6, under Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance – the applicant will comply. With regards to item 7, under General Comments – Ms. Fountain commented on the foot-candles being shown on the plan. Mr. Marshall advised that is a will comply. Mr. Marshall advised that the applicant would comply with the correspondence received from the Municipal Authority, Newtown Artesian Water & Sewer Authority and Newtown Emergency Services Department. Ms. Fountain questioned the reason for the variance that was received on August 24, 2007 with regards to impervious surface. Mr. Marshall advised that he did not represent the applicant at that time, but believes that the prior solicitor applied for a variance that was not needed. Ms. Fountain stated that the received variance was for 76% impervious coverage and what is currently being proposed is for 57.3% impervious coverage.
Ms. McGrath requested Mr. Marshall address the correspondence received from Bucks County Conservation District dated April 30, 2009. Mr. Marshall advised that the application was incomplete and has been resubmitted and is a will comply.
Mr. Fidler questioned if there were any comments from the Planning Commission.
Mr. Sensibaugh commented with regards to the disturbance of wetlands. Mr. Fidler advised on the past request from the Township to align the driveway with the driveway on the opposite side of the street. Mr. Marshall advised that area is not a wetland but a floodplain and that there is no disturbance to wetlands.
Mr. Fidler questioned if there were any comments from the public.
Mr. Richter advised that he represents the condominium association and that they have no objections to what is being proposed.
Mr. Wind moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the final plan of land development of Friends Lane, LLC for the premises located at 104 Penns Trail, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel NO. 29-10-94 (the Premises) prepared by Pickering, Corts & Summerson, comprising Sheets 1-14 dated February 19, 2009 (the Plans), , subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
B. April 15, 2009 correspondence from Carroll Engineering.
C. February 17, 2009 correspondence from Bucks County Planning Commission.
D. Bucks County Conservation District letter dated April 30, 2009.
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 7-0..
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Promenade, 200 North Sycamore Street: The Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application for 200 North Sycamore Street for variances for height, setbacks, retail use, and a number of other variances. Attorney Ed Murphy, Architect Peter Stampfl, Engineer Scott Mills and John McGrath were in attendance to discuss the plan. Mr. McGrath advised that the reason for appearing tonight is to discuss the status of the project. He reported that the application is schedule to go before the Zoning Hearing Board on June 4 th, 2009 and that the matter is scheduled to be discussed at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on May 27, 2009. He advised that there have been several conversations since the last appearance before the Supervisors ,addressing concerns regarding height and setbacks. He advised that with regards to the relief being requested he would follow the Zoning Hearing Board application to address the items.
The first request for relief is to permit an E-2 Retail Use on the first floor of the building to be occupied by a single retailer: he reported on what the current ordinance allows. Mr. Stampfl discussed the square footage of the areas for retail use. Mr. Ott questioned if office use has been considered; he commented with regards to mixed uses. The members discussed the possibility of the reconfiguring the retail space in the future if needed. The applicant reported that the retail space could be reconfigured if needed.
The second request for relief is to allow the 2 nd and 3 rd floors to be redeveloped for 27 residential condominiums.
The third request for relief is to permit a minimum front yard of 6.5 ft., a minimum side yard on the Church side (south side) of 3 ft. and on the detention basin/open space side (north side) of 1.5 ft. Mr. Stampfl reported on the changes to the plan being reviewed tonight compared to the last plan reviewed. Reported on a section of the building that was moved back 6.5 ft., that the overall size of the promenade has been reduced and is now accessible directly from the sidewalk, the ADA requirements are clearly shown on the plan and do comply. Mr. Fidler commented with regards to 6.5 ft. setback request on the Zoning Hearing Board application not showing the linear length of the 6.5 ft. request for relief and feels that it should restrict the 6.5 ft. setback to what is shown on the plan in case the plans are revised showing changes to the linear footage. Mr. Murphy advised that could be done. Mr. Stampfl discussed the front yard setbacks. Mr. Sensibaugh questioned if other areas will need relief with regards to setbacks. Mr. Murphy advised that he would make that information showing the areas requesting relief available. The members discussed the site with regards to handicap access and the promenade. The members discussed the grade of the site with regards to the elevation of the promenade. Mr. Sensibaugh suggested pushing the building back further. Mr. Stampfl advised that nothing would be gained by pushing the building back any further. Mrs. Beckert commented with regards to the grade of the site and questioned why the site could not be dug out more in the rear. Mr. Mills advised with regards to the grading of the site and managing stormwater. Mr. Sensibaugh questioned the plan with regards to stormwater collection. Mr. Mills reported on the collection of stormwater. Mr. Lombardi questioned if all of the entrances need to be ADA compliant. The applicant advised that 60% of the entries must be ADA compliant. Mr. Lombardi suggested removing the ramps from the front of the building and having steps to access the front entrance. Mr. Stampfl advised that he would look into Mr. Lombardi’s suggestion. Mr. Fidler commented with regards to the drainage issues needing to be researched and the possibility of lowering the building/parking. Mr. Lombardi commented on the underground drainage in the area and the existing stormwater system on the site. Mrs. Crescenzo advised that she is against relocating the ADA entry to the rear of the building and suggested having extra handicap parking spaces along Sycamore Street. Mr. Lombardi commented with regards to lowering the building, digging the site deeper, having no front entry on Sycamore Street and the site appearing non-pedestrian friendly. Mr. Stampfl corrected Mr. Lombardi and advised that there are three (3) entries fronting Sycamore Street. Mr. Lombardi took back his comments with regards to the front entrances and the site appearing non-pedestrian friendly. Mrs. Beasley commented on the prior presentation to the Commission and the suggestion to move the building back 9 ft. Mr. Stampfl reported that the current plan shows portions of the building moved back 6.5 ft. Mrs. Crescenzo questioned the width of the out cove. Mr. Stampfl advised that the out cove is approximately 12 ft. and that the move back is across approximately 200 ft. of the building. One resident commented on the 1.5 ft. side yard setback. Mr. Mills reported with regards to the northern side setback. Mrs. Beckert commented with regards to the setbacks and advised of problems viewing business signs along the street. Mr. Stampfl replied with regards to the signage for the building. Mrs. Beasley commented with regards to the side yard on the Presbyterian Church side and questioned if there would be a retaining wall there. Mr. Mills reported that the side yard area closest to Sycamore Street is 3 ft., that the side yard complies in the rear of the site, that a walkway from the parking lot to the Church property is being proposed and on discussions with the Church. He advised that those design plans are still being worked on. Mr. Murphy reported on ongoing discussions with the Church and that a written agreement is being prepared. Mr. McGrath commented with regards to the Church’s garden and grading. Mr. Ott commented with regards to the location of the marker for the front steps and the corner of the building. Mrs. Beasley questioned if the building would be the retaining wall for the Church property. Mr. Mills advised that the plan is not at that level of design. Mrs. Beckert suggested that if the building is not used as the retaining wall the applicant consider matching the sidewall to the existing stone wall. Mr. McGrath advised that could be done. One resident commented with regards to accessing the site and fire concerns. Mr. Fidler advised that the Fire Marshall would review the plan.
The fourth request for relief is to permit 45.1 ft. height. Mr. Murphy commented on discussions taking place to reduce the height of the building. Mr. Stampfl advised that the building height has been reduced; 6 in. have been removed from each residential floor and the building has been lowered by 6 in. for a total reduction of 18 in. Also there will no longer be a hip roof; it has been replaced with a flat roof for a building height of 42.7 ft. Mr. Murphy advised that on June 4, 2009 at the Zoning Hearing, he would amend the application from 45.1 ft. to 42.7 ft. Mr. Wind commented on the HVAC system. Mr. Stampfl advised that the residential units would each have their own system and that there may be some equipment on the roof for the retail units and that would be screened if needed. Mr. Stampfl reported on the treatment to the northern end of the building. Mr. Sensibaugh suggested sinking the building down into the ground another 2.5 ft. Mrs. Beckert reported on early survey results with regards to the maximum building height along Sycamore Street.
The fifth request for relief is to permit the disturbance of the manmade steep slopes; he reported that the site has no natural slopes.
The sixth request for relief is to remove all of the Norway Maples.
The seventh request for relief is to permit the current conditions on the site to be used as the calculations for the predevelopment conditions in the design of the stormwater management system. Mr. Mills reported with regards to managing the stormwater. Mr. Ott commented with regards to the impervious surface. Mr. Murphy reported that the impervious surface issue is grandfathered. Mr. Sensibaugh commented with regards to the relief being sought and the collection of stormwater. Ms. Fountain commented with regards to the applicant controlling the peak rate of run off; she discussed the ordinance. Mr. Murphy advised that the stormwater would be managed. Mr. Lombardi suggested that a condition of the stormwater is that it should all be collected underground and dumped into the existing system.
The final items requesting relief deal with the dimensions of parking aisles, parking stalls and the loading berth. Mr. Murphy advised that with regards to the parking stalls, the stalls for at-grade parking are proposed at 9 ft. wide x 18 ft. deep and the stalls for below-grade parking are proposed at 9 ft. wide x 16.7 ft. deep. Mr. Fidler commented with regards to the zoning requirements addressing the underground cart way. Mr. Mills advised that underground traffic is one way. Mr. Stampfl reported on the modifications to the parking plan. He discussed the handicap parking spaces and the depth of the parking spaces. He reported that the spaces are angled and that the travel width is 14.5 ft. Mr. Whartenby commented with regards to the buffering around the storage shed. The members discussed the parking garage with regards to accessibility in an emergency. Mr. Fidler reported that some of the issues being discussed tonight would be addressed in land development. Mrs. Crescenzo commented on her concerns with regards to emergency access to the garage; she discussed past fires in Philadelphia. Mr. Fidler reported that Mr. Harris would have to review the plan. Mrs. Beasley questioned the garage with regards to parking for SUV’s. Mr. Mills suggested designating parking spaces for larger vehicles. He reported that the total number of parking spaces is 172; underground parking would be for residents. Mr. Murphy commented with regards to off street loading and advised that a single 20 ft. x 43 ft. loading berth would be provided. Mr. Stampfl advised on the location of the loading berth. Mr. Ott commented with regards to tenant’s loading. Mr. Stampfl advised with regards to tenant’s loading and having a delivery schedule.
The Commission discussed their recommendations to the Supervisors. Mr. Whartenby reported that he has no issues with the plan being reviewed tonight. Mr. Fidler reported that he has no opposition to the plan being reviewed tonight. Mr. Ott reported that he is opposed to the building height and the side and front yard setbacks; he has no other issues other than the building is too big and sits to close to the street. Mrs. Beasley reported that she would like to see the building height reduced even more and that she feels the Township should sent the attorney to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Olivari reported that he likes the design and has no issues; he proposes the Commission vote to approve. Mr. Wind reported on his concerns with regards to the size of the parking spaces and the cart way. Mr. Sensibaugh suggested designating a parking area for compact vehicles and changing the appearance of the front of the building; he has issues with regards to ADA access in the front of the building, the site with regards to steep slopes disturbance and setbacks. He suggested that the Planning Commission’s comments be sent to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fidler commented on Mr. Sensibaugh’s suggestion to forward the Planning Commission’s comments to the Zoning Hearing Board. Ms. McGrath reported that the Planning Commission’s comments could be entered as an exhibit, but could be objected.
The Commission discussed sending the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose the requested variances.
Mrs. Beasley made a motion to recommend that the Supervisors send the solicitor, but not to oppose the application. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and failed with five members voting no (2-5).
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested voting to have the solicitor attend the Zoning Hearing.
Mrs. Beasley made a motion to recommend that the solicitor be present at the Zoning Hearing Board to represent the Township’s interests as directed by the Supervisors. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ott and passed 5-2, with Messrs. Sensibaugh and Olivari voting nay.
Timothy Cojocaru, 7 East Park Road: The Commission reviewed The Zoning Hearing Board application for 7 East Park Road for an appeal from the action of the Zoning Officer regarding conditions for a home occupation for firearm repair. The Zoning Officer added as a condition that no sales be conducted. The Commission felt that the Ordinance does not prohibit retail as part of a home occupation. The ATF requires that retail be permitted in order for a license to be issued. The applicant has indicated that his will be strictly a repair business. We had some question as to whether the permit would go with the location or with the applicant, himself. After careful review of the Ordinance, the Commission agreed to recommend that the Board support of the applicant before the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Olivari made a motion to recommend that the Board support the applicant before the Zoning Hearing Board for the relief requested. The motion was seconded by Mr. Whartenby and passed with one member voting no (6-1).
Richard and Grace LeMay, 8 Clearview Drive: The Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application for 8 Clearview Drive for relief to construct a 34’ x 15’ addition with an 8’ x 16’ patio on a nonconforming lot. The members discussed the site with regards to the impervious surface. Members agreed to pass this to the Supervisors without comment.
Board of Supervisors: None
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: None
Joint Zoning Council: None
Historic Architectural Review Board: None
Park and Recreation Board: None
Environmental Advisory Council: None
Plan Expirations: None
There being no further business to come before the Commission, the meeting was duly adjourned at 10:54 P.M.
Christy Holley-Flaherty, Recording Secretary