NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on August 4, 2009
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Peggy Driscoll, Fred Olivari, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer and John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of July 21, 2009. Mr. Whartenby seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that page 4, paragraph 2 should read “… no amplified live music.”
Mr. Wind agreed that had been his intention.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of July 21, 2009 as corrected. Mr. Whartenby amended his second and the motion passed 4-0-2, with Mrs. Driscoll and Mr. Olivari abstaining.
Conditional Use: Sarcone Deli, 2100 South Eagle Road: Kathleen and Peter Cassalia, Robert Cassalia and Jason Kupski, Architect, were in attendance to review this application for a conditional use for E-5 Eating Place and E-6, Eating Place Drive In, for a 1695 square foot delicatessen with seating for ten patrons.
Mr. Fidler said that this location had been a use E-5 and E-6 before and he questioned why it was not an administrative conditional use. Later in the meeting it was pointed out that administrative conditional use is not available for restaurants.
Jason Cassalia reviewed the proposed use, noting that there would be the same seating, the same trash arrangements and fewer employees than the previous occupants of the space.
Ms. Fountain reviewed her letter dated July 24, 2009. In that letter she questioned the parking provisions. She has since confirmed that the shopping center had been granted a variance for parking in 1991, allowing 5.5 parking spaces per 1000 square feet for the entire shopping center for shared use.
Mr. Fidler said that the application seeks an E-6 eating place/take out/drive through approval. He asked whether the applicant intends to provide drive through service.
Mr. Peter Cassalia said that although this is an end unit, the sidewalk is very wide at this location, making a drive through window impractical.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the applicants consider the number of employees and hours of operation. The application indicates three employees. If the business is successful and more help is needed, the applicant would have to return to the Township. It might be better to request more employees or longer hours now, with the understanding that this would be the maximum. The applicants would not be obligated to employ the maximum or remain open the hours listed in the application.
Ms. Cassalia indicated that she expected a total of three employees working on each shift.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the applicant consider asking for up to five employees, to accommodate any part time or overlapping during busy hours.
Peter Cassalia asked whether the business could install any benches outside on the sidewalks.
Mr. Fidler said that if there is no table service outside, then benches and additional trash receptacles would be a matter to be discussed with the landlord.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Sarcone Deli’s application for conditional use for an E-5 a eating place and E-6 eating place/drive in at 2100 South Eagle Road in the PC, Planned Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Peter Cassalia said that since he has been at the facility preparing for opening, he has noticed that it is difficult to see to enter Eagle Road at the intersection. There have been a number of accidents because of signage and bushes.
Mr. Boyle noted that there are plans for a traffic signal to be installed shortly at the intersection. He would also look into the sight distances at the entrance to be sure that shrubbery and signage are not causing a problem.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board is planning to interview applicants for the appointment of interim supervisor.
Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that at the next meeting there will be a discussion on basins. Bucks County Planning Commission has recently published a brochure on retrofitting of basins to have natural bottoms rather than mown bottoms. This will both slow water discharge and increase infiltration. The Commission is considering creating a basin map.
Mr. Fidler noted that the three Jointure partners are not in full agreement on basins, as Newtown Township has not taken ownership of basins as Upper Makefield and Wrightstown has done. This discussion should be monitored closely.
Ms. Fountain noted that many municipalities are investigating the costs associated with maintaining mown versus natural basins. She noted that natural basins typically are less costly to maintain but do have some costs associated with them because they could become unsightly in appearance. There are also some new requirements, currently in draft form, from the DEP, which will change the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), possibly requiring some retrofitting of basins. The Township will have to meet 2 of 7 requirements of the DEP.
Mrs. Driscoll mentioned that her development’s homeowners association has made an effort to maintain a park like appearance for its detention basin, as have other developments in the Township. She suggested that there could be some resistance to retrofitting for a natural basin.
Resident Joanne Bintliff Ritchie noted that Eagleton Farms development has a natural basin which has maintained a beautiful appearance. A natural basin does not have to be unsightly.
Historic Architectural Review Board: HARB member Harriet Beckert said that HARB has not met since the last Planning Commission meeting. She shared with the members a series of photographs of the 100 block of South State Street to help the Commission as it discusses the possible retrofitting and in-filling of residential properties on Sycamore Street. She noted the many large single family homes that had once been on State Street, all of which have been retrofitted to retail or business uses.
Continued Discussion of Sycamore Street
Mr. Fidler reminded the members that the Commission had agreed to discuss performance standards for the two proposed new uses for the TC district, Planned Commercial Development (PCD) and “Mixed Use”. Both would be permitted uses in the TC district. The PCD is not a new or different zoning district but a new use for the TC district.
All agreed that the first standard for the PCD would be that it would be limited to lots of 2 or more acres.
Mr. Fidler noted that the new “mixed use” would be two or more uses on the same property, with both or all uses as primary uses. This would be different than the current principle use and accessory use which already is permitted. The east side of Sycamore Street already has a number of “mixed uses” which are existing non-conformities.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the “mixed use” could work on smaller lots and should not be limited to a use permitted for a PCD, only.
Resident Vince Lombardi pointed out that a number of existing non-conforming “mixed uses” are on lots of 7500 square feet, the minimum lot size allowed in the TC district. He said that it might work well to allow “mixed use” as a conditional use with the same performance standards as the individual uses making up the mixed use. This would better allow for the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, particularly on the smaller lots on the east side of the street.
The Commission agreed that ‘mixed use” should be permitted as a conditional use on any lot size where it could meet performance standards for the combined uses.
Ms. Fountain said that in reviewing “mixed use” ordinances in other municipalities, the various uses were grouped and a “mixed use” had to contain a combination from different groups. Some of these ordinances also require a certain percentage of the property to be residential. The same is true for the PCD ordinances she had reviewed for other municipalities.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that a residential component not be required for a “mixed use” but should be part of any PCD.
Mr. Fidler said that it might be helpful to have input from the Board of Supervisors before requiring or restricting residential uses.
The Commission briefly discussed parking requirements. Mr. Sensibaugh said that residential uses would have a smaller impact on parking than office or retail uses. A residential component would work well with any shared parking that might be considered in a PCD.
Ms. Fountain suggested that the Commission table discussion of parking until the next meeting. She would provide some information on shared parking ordinances and on the current JMZO requirements. She asked the members to include in future discussion the currently allowed “fee in lieu” for parking. The Ordinance allows the Township to collect a fee in lieu of parking at the Board’s discretion, but does not give any specifics such as the amount of the fee, the maximum number of parking spaces for which a fee can be paid or whether the applicants would be required to provide off-site parking.
Mr. Lombardi said that the fee in lieu had been very helpful to the Township as part of the revitalization project. Fees collected were used to create on-street parking.
Mr. Fidler suggested that input from the Supervisors on fee in lieu should be sought.
Ms. Fountain said that some other municipalities’ ordinances for “mixed use” restrict certain uses to certain floors of buildings. She asked the Commission to consider this.
Mr. Lombardi asked that the Commission not place any restrictions, as the use itself would dictate whether it would be viable as a street level or second floor use.
The Commission agreed that the current zoning’s dimensional criteria should be applied to “mixed use.” The same setbacks and lot widths should be used.
Ms. Fountain said that as the members consider lot widths, they should keep in mind that some of the larger lots could be subdivided and developed for “mixed uses.”
Mr. Sensibaugh said that with the addition of the PCD, larger lots are open for different development. He did not think a large lot would be of more value if subdivided.
Mrs. Beckert said that on State Street in Newtown Borough there had been a number of single family homes on individual lots, as seen in the photographs she supplied earlier. Over time the open area between buildings was filled in with smaller buildings, creating the current appearance of attached or semi-attached commercial buildings. Some small lots were purchased and combined into single large lots, creating new property lines and side yards and eliminating side yards between existing buildings, allowing for infilling of buildings abutting existing structures. She stressed that the Commission should consider where infilling would be appropriate and where open space between buildings should be maintained. Even in historic districts some infill is permitted provided other façade criteria are met.
Ms. Fountain discussed the current setbacks in the TC district. Front yards are either 20 feet from right-of-way or the average setback of the adjacent buildings.
Mr. Fidler said that as the Commission should seek to encourage some development at the streetscape line, adjacent to the sidewalk, perhaps on the larger lots there should be some consideration of requiring a staggering of the front facades. He suggested that no façade front should extend more than 100 feet without some variation in the frontage.
The Commission discussed whether they would want to require varying frontage along the façade of one building in a PCD or whether to require that no building have a wide frontage. The PCD could be required to have more than one building, with no one building wider than 100 feet.
Members discussed the appearance of Goodnoe’s Corner, where there are separate buildings on Sycamore Street, all with the same setback.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether the Commission would want to limit the maximum square footage of any one building in a PCD.
The members agreed that they would want to require more than one building in the PCD, rather than one large building. The individual buildings would need some space, perhaps about 10 feet, between them.
Mrs. Beckert said that when considering the setbacks along the streetscape, signage requirements should be considered. She noted that buildings set farther back from the street require on-street signage in order to be seen. She gave some examples of buildings on State Street which are set farther back and are unnoticed.
The members considered whether to allow a greater height for the PCD. Mr. Fidler said that he would prefer that the current 30 foot height be held for the portion of the buildings at the streetscape setback. He suggested that portions of the buildings set back farther than the minimum be permitted an additional 10 feet, to a maximum height of 40 feet.
The members discussed this idea, and also considered permitting a percentage of the building at the streetscape setback to be 40 feet high. They also discussed whether to allow only a certain percentage of each building to be 40 feet high. Allowing 40 feet at a certain distance from the minimum setback could result in plans being submitted for only 40 foot high buildings with wider front yard setbacks.
Mr. Wind suggested a requirement that a certain percentage of each PCD must be at the streetscape setback and must contain a mixed use.
The members discussed creating different side yard setbacks for PCD’s. Mr. Sensibaugh suggested 10 foot side yard setbacks.
Ms. Fountain noted that the current maximum impervious surface is 80%. She asked whether the Commission would want to consider a change, perhaps offering additional impervious surface for the PCD, provided stormwater management was adequate.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested rather than add to the impervious, it should be reduced, with credit given for certain architectural features or public amenities such as bandstands, gazebos, fountains or green spaces.
Mr. Fidler suggested offering bonuses for buildings with LEED certification or use of energy efficiencies.
After some further discussion it was agreed that the 80% impervious should remain. The Ordinance already addresses stormwater issues.
Public Comment: resident Bernie Hagman said that he has been interested in plans for Sycamore Street. He has been following traffic concerns around Newtown and is eager to see how increased traffic might be addressed in the Sycamore Street area, as it will impact the surrounding roadways.
Other Business: Mr. Sensibaugh noted that Board of Supervisors will soon be considering the adoption of the new Joint Comprehensive Plan. When the Planning Commission reviewed this Plan in December of 2008, the members had agreed by a vote of 7-1 that the Board adopt the Plan, but to also “…. undertake an effort to consistently and accurately classify Township roads.” Mr. Jirele had agreed to work on this effort in 2010. He asked Mr. Fidler to include this in his Planning Commission report to the Board, reminding the Board of concerns about roadway classifications.Mr. Whartenby moved to adjourn at 10:15 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary