NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on August 18, 2009
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Sue Beasley, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind members. Also in attendance were: Maureen Griet, Township Engineer, Frank Dillon and John Torrente, Township Solicitors Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor and John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager.
Mr. Fidler announced that Solicitor Jennifer McGrath has resigned and our new Solicitor will be John Torrente. Frank Dillon of Begley Carlin and Mandio was also in attendance.
Mr. Fidler noted that he would be taking a short leave of absence from the Planning Commission in September and October, during which time the vice chairman would have the duty of setting the agenda, running the meeting and reporting to the Board of Supervisors. He asked the members for nominations for vice chairman.
Mr. Sensibaugh nominated Mrs. Beasley to serve as vice chairman. Mr. Fisher seconded.
Mrs. Driscoll nominated Mr. Whartenby to serve as vice chairman. Mr. Wind seconded.
Discussion of motions: The Commission reviewed the duties of acting chairman and agreed that because Mr. Fidler would be away for more than a month and there would not be an acting vice-chairman, it might be helpful if Mr. Whartenby and Mrs. Beasley shared the responsibilities, in the event that one of them was unable to attend a Planning or Supervisors meeting.
Both motions passed 7-0, naming both Mr. Whartenby and Mrs. Beasley to serve as vice chairman.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh asked that the last paragraph of page 2 of the minutes of August 4, 2009 be changed to read, “… She noted that natural basins typically are less costly to maintain…”
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of August 4, 2009, as amended. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Fisher abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Application
Mr. and Mrs. Dean Miller, 3 Poppy Court: Mr. Whartenby said that the applicants live directly opposite his home in Newtown Grant, where he sits on the Homeowners Association Board.
Mr. Dillon said that everyone in Newtown is a neighbor and he would not be required to recuse himself from participation in the discussion.
The commission reviewed this application for an increase in impervious surface for a 525 foot patio expansion. Mrs. Miller said that the Homeowners Association would approve the patio after the Zoning Hearing Board had ruled on a variance.
The Commission passed this application to the Board without comment.
Rosebank Winery, 258 Durham Road – Preliminary Plan for Land Development: Attorney Don Marshall, Engineer Paul Wojciechowski of All county Engineering and applicant Dave Fleming were in attendance to review this plan for development on a 10.1928 acre site in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District to build a 6,210 square foot, two story addition to an existing barn, a wooden deck between the existing stone barn and the proposed winery and a wooden deck to the existing events and promotions building. The plans proposed to restore a portion of the existing parking area to grass and landscaped area and to add a 0.50 acre orchard. The applicant plans to move the existing retail and wine production and storage to the new building and to move the events to the existing retail building. The existing tent area will no longer be needed.
Mr. Marshall noted that with the proposed changes the site will only need to provide 107 parking spaces, so some of the parking will be restored to green. He reviewed the parking requirements of 6 for residential, 2 for permanent employees and 99 for customer and event parking. The maximum event capacity will be 200.
Mr. Fidler said that events will require additional staff. He asked about that parking.
Mr. Marshall noted that there is ample green area on the property for staff parking.
Mr. Marshall reported that he had presented the plan to the Park and Recreation Board which recommended a fee in lieu of open space. Issues concerning the extension of the Woll tract sewer lines have been resolved. The site will be served by public sewer.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is seeking a waiver from the requirement for a traffic impact study, as discussed in the Carroll Engineering review letter dated June 10, 2009. There is no change in use with this construction.
The Commission reviewed the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated June 18, 2009. Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is seeking waivers from the requirement to install a trail on the Durham Road frontage and from the requirement to provide buffering in the parking area. The parking area, while reinforced gravel, has the appearance of an open field. There are buffer trees marking the perimeter of the field.
The Commission discussed the need for some kind of delineation of the parking aisles for large events.
Mr. Fleming said that he has been holding large events for 8 years and there have not been problems. The first few cars are guided into aisle arrangements and the later arriving cars follow the patterns. If this were to become a problem, he would address it.
Mrs. Beasley suggested possibly placing temporary traffic cones to establish the parking patterns. She said that she supports waivers for trees in the parking area. She would like to property to retain the appearance of farmland.
Mr. Wojciechowski said that there is a request for a smaller pipe for a roof drain.
Ms. Griet said that this is acceptable.
Mr. Wind said that he has some concern about traffic when events are scheduled; a police car sometimes directs traffic causing some delays.
Mr. Marshall said that the events are at non-peak hours. The applicant will address these concerns.
The Commission reviewed the current impervious surface. The current impervious surface is 24.2% but will be reduced to 15.6%. The site is already non-conforming.
Mr. Whartenby expressed concern about the width of the driveway. As proposed it would not be wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic. He said that with the proposed 16 foot width, there could be accidents. He noted that the events will be in the evening in the dark, with service of alcohol.
Mr. Wind noted that the area along the sides of the driveway are grass, with no trees or hedges. If necessary, a vehicle could pull over to the grassy area. Most of the traffic will almost always be either entering or exiting together.
Mr. Fidler said that he did not object to the proposed 16 foot width; he polled the other members.
Mrs. Beasley noted that in the ten years that events have been hosted at the Winery there have been no accidents on the driveway. She and Mr. Sensibaugh expressed concern about increasing the impervious surface in order to provide a wider driveway if it is not necessary.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would no longer hold large tent events, but would still comply with the provisions of the stipulation agreement. He reviewed the agriculture ordinance, which was recently adopted to protect farming in the community. He reviewed the Township’s challenge of a variance granted for a tent at the Rosebank site, which eventually led to the stipulation agreement.
The Commission expressed some concern about lighting in the parking area for evening events.
Mr. Fleming reviewed the current lighting used and agreed that he would add to the lighting if it is needed.
Mr. Fidler said that he was in agreement that a trail is not needed along the Durham Road frontage, as it would not connect to any other trails or sidewalks, but asked whether there would be a trail from Wrights Road into the park.
Members were not certain that a sidewalk or trail would be placed along the driveway into the park as it is on an easement through Council Rock School District property.
Mrs. Beasley that the Board of Supervisors approve the preliminary plan of Rosebank Winery, for the premises located at 258 Durham Road, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel Numbers 29-3-25-1, prepared by All County, Inc, comprising sheets 1-5, dated May 1, 2009, subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board has been attempting to work with the Patel family on Durham Road to resolve an extension on a CO.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler said that the Jointure had discussed Newtown’s possible removal from the Federal Cemetery Overlay District. The solicitors are researching the possible ramifications if Newtown’s property were withdrawn.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has been discussing wildlife management.
Open Space: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Open Space Comprehensive Plan has been placed on the Township Web site. He urged the members to review it.
Continued Discussion of Sycamore Street
The members reviewed their recent discussions on a new Mixed Use, which would consist of two already permitted uses at the same location. All existing performance standards would apply to the Mixed Use.
The members reviewed prior discussion of a new use to be called a Planned Commercial Development (PCD) which would be permitted on parcels of 2 or more acres. The PCD would have two or more uses. Some performance standards would be different, such as some height adjustments to allow up to 40 feet for portions of the PCD.
The Commission discussed possibly including in the PCD a requirement to improve, enhance or provide some public areas. Among ideas discussed were landscaping improvements, pocket parks and pedestrian improvements. Mr. Fidler suggested that if a developer of a PCD did not have an appropriate proposal for a public amenity on site, a contribution could be made toward some general improvement in the TC district. Perhaps, also, the Board of Supervisors might consider that any fee in lieu of park and recreation space could be designated for public amenities in the TC district. He said that pedestrian access between the Township and Borough could be improved.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Newtown Creek Coalition had discussed a possible pedestrian bridge from Greene Street. A similar concept had been discussed as part of the Stockburger plans for Stockingworks II. PennDOT has a store of old bridges that are sometimes made available for use in downtowns throughout the State.
Resident Vince Lombardi spoke about the Township’s collection of a fee in lieu of parking. The Township had used those fees to help provide the on-street parking now on Sycamore Street. This same concept could work to accumulate funds for pedestrian amenities.
HARB Liaison Harriet Beckert said that the enhancement of the existing bridges could be problematic. She noted that the Centre Street bridge is the oldest in Pennsylvania, with part of its foundation extending under the bank property.
Mrs. Beasley said that there is some concern about police patrolling of areas near Chandler Field and Carl Sedia Park. When discussing placing pedestrian access in that location, police access must be considered.
The members discussed possible parking requirements for the PCD. Mr. Fidler suggested that the engineer and solicitor could research this as part of their work in crafting a PCD ordinance.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that perhaps the Planning Commission should seek some input from the Bucks County Planning Commission on PCD’s and the TC district.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that input from a planning consultant could be helpful.
Mrs. Beckert said that the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors should agree on what they would like Sycamore Street to look like before drafting an ordinance. She noted that while the historic district offers some protections, developers could purchase and consolidate lots and develop with infill.
Mrs. Beasley said that she would like to consider using pocket parks as part of development. She and Mr. Fidler discussed allowing the pocket park to be used to benefit base site calculations in development plans.
Mrs. Beckert said that the Commission might want to consider greenspace on the Creek side of properties instead of along the street.
The Commission agreed that the next step in consideration of Sycamore Street would be seeking input from the Board and possibly consulting with a planner.
Mrs. Driscoll asked the Township Assistant Manager to check the area next to 7/11, where the grass is strewn with debris.
Mrs. Beasley shared a booklet she had received about fire prevention in old buildings.
Mrs. Beasley moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary