NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the Special meeting held on September 29, 2009
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Sue Beasley, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Andrew Brown, Township Traffic Engineer, William Bolla, Special Counsel for Township, Matt Benchener, Township Supervisor, Richard O’Brien, Code Enforcement Officer and John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of August 18, 2009. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown was in attendance to review the ongoing Township traffic projects. He noted that the Swamp Road improvement project has been significantly reduced in scope and will be handled as a PennDOT maintenance contract. The Temora Farm bridge design is being completed with construction to be done by 2012.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked for an update on the maintenance items requested of PennDOT by the Board of Supervisors at Mr. Brown’s next report.
Mr. Fisher noted that he has a list of those items. The Supervisors had requested certain maintenance items in letter form and PennDOT responded by asking that the requests be re-submitted in a different format. He agreed to provide a copy of the correspondence to Mr. Brown.
Mr. Fidler said that he has some concerns about the required maintenance of traffic calming medians in Stoopville Road. He said that planted medians would require regular maintenance by the Public Works Department, placing the workers in some danger while working in the center of a busy road.
In response to Mrs. Beasley’s question, Mr. Brown said that the Township Manager would be working with PennDOT to oversee the $1,347,979.80 Stoopville Road project.
Mr. Brown noted that work has begun on the improvements to the South Eagle and Swamp Road intersection.
Promenade at Sycamore Street: Attorney Ed Murphy reviewed the preliminary plan for land development for this proposed development of 1.96 acres for six retail stores and 25 residential condominiums with associated parking and stormwater facilities in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District. He said that the plans had been altered slightly since last reviewed by the Planning Commission as a sketch plan and as a Zoning Hearing Board application. The plans have been adjusted for the 40 foot height granted by the Zoning Hearing Board and the number of residential units has been reduced from the originally proposed 27 units. Mr. Murphy said that he would like the Planning Commission to review this plan as preliminary/final.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the Planning Commission focus this evening’s review on the issues of zoning, traffic, both internal to the site and to the surrounding area, and engineering and stormwater management.
Karl Janetka of VanCleef Engineering reviewed the zoning comments in the CKS letter dated September 8, 2009. He explained that the plan has been revised to adjust the front yard setback to comply with the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision. An application has been submitted to HARB for review.
Mr. Murphy said that in response to the Zoning Hearing Board condition that the traffic study be provided to Newtown Borough, the applicant’s traffic engineer has met with the Borough engineer to review the study. It was not known at this time whether the engineer would issue a written response.
Mr. Fidler said that the Planning Commission was attempting to carefully review all zoning matters to avoid an oversight requiring a return to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Murphy reviewed the conditions of the Zoning Hearing Board:
Resident Jim Ott asked whether the ambulance squad and fire association had approved of the underground parking entrance.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will comply with the requirement for the review. The Fire Marshal has already sent a review letter but it does not reference the underground parking garage.
Joe DeSantis of McMahon Associates reviewed the traffic study, which was conducted at the intersections of Sycamore Street with Durham Road, Jefferson Street and Washington Avenue. The study had originally been conducted in 2006, and was updated to include Silo Drive. The study was done in September, after the opening of school. Traffic counts were done for the AM and PM peak hours and for a Saturday peak hour.
Mr. DeSantis noted that there is a back up of traffic on Jefferson Street waiting to turn left onto Sycamore Street, but the September count showed lower numbers for the back ups than the 2006 study.
Using ITE Trip Generation for the new development of retail and residential, it was estimated that the development would generate 70 new PM peak hour trips.
Commission members questioned the low number of trips because the proposed development would have 25 residential units and six retail shops.
Mr. DeSantis explained that the peak hour is the one hour with the highest number of trips during the time between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. Using Trip Generation for estimates, it is calculated that only 70 new trips for the residential and retail would be generated, because condominiums have lower PM trips than single family houses and some of the retail trips would already have been in the area. The numbers for “shopping center” were used to estimate the retail trips.
To help alleviate traffic, Mr. DeSantis recommended adding a left turn lane into the development for vehicles approaching from South Sycamore Street. This would allow for passing. The northern entrance drive would be a right in only, and would be a one way, entrance only. He also suggested considering prohibiting left turns from Sycamore Street to Jefferson Street, which would alleviate some of the Saturday peak traffic, but would have little impact on the weekday PM peak. The impact on Washington Avenue would not be significant. Prohibiting left turns from Jefferson to Sycamore Street would not impact traffic significantly.
Mr. DeSantis said that currently the Jefferson/Sycamore Street intersection as an “E” level of service during the PM peak, with waits between 35 and 50 seconds. At other times it has a “D” or better level of service, with “D” equaling about an average 35 second delay. Changing the timing cycle could produce marginal benefits.
Mr. DeSantis said that he would recommend taking a “wait and see” approach to traffic modification. He would not recommend making Jefferson a one way street.
Commission members asked whether permitting a right turn on red might help traffic back ups on Jefferson Street.
Mr. DeSantis said that this might require an adjustment to the stop bar to prevent accidents and to improve sight distances. In response to Ms. Fountain’s question, he said that an application to PennDOT for a traffic signal change would have to be made, either in advance or after completion of the project if it were determined the change were necessary.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the traffic impact fee had been calculated or whether any credit was given for fees paid by Acme.
Mr. Murphy said that he has assumed no fee had been paid by Acme.
Mr. Janetka asked if signage could be used to establish fire lanes in the Promenade passage and in the northern side driveway.
Mr. Brown agreed this would be acceptable.
Mrs. Beasley asked about the height of the “headache bars” as she was concerned that emergency vehicles would not be able to enter.
Mr. Janetka said that the height is 7 ½ feet. Emergency vehicles would not enter the garage. There will be a sprinkler system and fire and ambulance personnel would enter the garage on foot.
Engineer Scott Mills reviewed the autocad templates for turning radii in the parking lot and garage. He said that the box truck projections are for trucks with a 20 foot wheel base and 30 foot vehicle length. It would not be possible for full size moving vans to use the loading berths. These deliveries do not occur often and arrangements with moving companies would have to be made to use smaller than full size vans. It is anticipated that since the residential units are not large, new residents would only have a few rooms of furniture and would not require the full size vans.
In response to Mrs. Beasley’s questions about the underground garage turning templates, Mr. Mills said that the projection used a 19 foot long vehicle, about the size of a Suburban.
Mr. Fidler said he has some concerns about the top of the exit ramp from the garage. There is no flat spot to stop before driving into the parking lot.
Mr. Janetka said that the ramp has been reconfigured to lengthen it. Stop signs will be placed at the exit.
Mrs. Beasley suggested that only driveway “A” , the Promenade entrance, should be used to enter the underground garage, or in the alternative, striping could be used in the parking lot so that only right turns could be made into the underground garage.
Mr. Janetka said that he would review this suggestion.
Mr. Sensibaugh offered some suggestions for rearrangement of landscaping close to the garage entrance to improve sight distances.
Mr. Ott said that he thinks that the underground garage should be accessible to ambulances and that fire hoses should be available at regular intervals.
Mr. Fidler said that the Newtown Ambulance Squad has indicated it would not enter the garage with a vehicle. The Fire Marshal’s review needs some clarification as to location of hydrants and hoses.
The Planning Commission had some concern that although a variance has been granted for a loading berth area 20 feet by 43 feet, this would not be adequate for deliveries to the six retail shops and 25 residential units.
Architect Peter Stampfl reviewed the loading area, pointing out sidewalks connecting to interior hallways and entrances for deliveries.
Mr. Ott noted that six handicapped spaces are now required in the garage. Since the garage is for residents only, would it be possible to only allocate handicapped spaces as needed for handicapped residents, but otherwise make spaces available to all residents. He expressed some concern that residents might not want to park underground and might use spaces planned for the retail customers. He also had concerns that shoppers might use the underground garage.
Mr. Murphy said that the garage would be gated to prevent unauthorized use.
Board members felt it would be unlikely that many residents would frequently choose the parking lot if indoor parking is provided.
Resident Joanne Bintliff Ritchie asked for a copy of the traffic study for the Township/Borough Joint Traffic Committee.
Mr. Murphy said that it would be available to her through the Township Manager.
In response to Mr. Fisher’s question, Mr. Stampfl said that earlier plans had shown storage units for residents in the garage, but these have been removed to accommodate the handicapped parking stalls.
Mr. Janetka reviewed the stormwater management plans, which include an underground detention basin beneath the parking area. The system uses infiltration BMP’s and discharges to the culvert on the west side of Sycamore Street, with a 75% release rate for the two year storm. Roof drains will also be used, although these have not yet been located on the plans; the roof drains will not be detained and will flow to trenches. Pipe sizes have been used to provide for the 100 year storm. The existing 18 inch storm sewer on Sycamore Street will be replaced with a 24 inch storm sewer.
Mr. Sensibaugh had some concern about the possible need to dig on Sycamore Street and offered some suggestions for connecting with the storm sewers.
Mr. Janetka agreed to investigate this further as he agreed that it would be better to avoid digging up Sycamore Street if possible.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Janetka reviewed “snout” devices which are water quality devices used to keep debris from entering the storm sewer. If Ms. Fountain objects to the use of “snout devices” an alternative will be found. Mr. Janetka said that the proposed slope would provide for self cleaning of the storm sewers.
Mr. Fidler had some concern about back flow and questioned whether the Sycamore Street system is adequate.
Mr. Janetka said that the slope will be adequate for self-cleaning. He noted that the site is already almost entirely impervious. The proposed system will improve conditions.
Ms. Fountain noted that the DelVal Soils Stormwater Infiltration Report showed bedrock was hit at a depth of 17 inches at the southerly parking island.
Mr. Janetka said this is not hard pan bedrock and will meet DEP requirements.
In response to questions from Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Janetka said there will be a sump pump in the basement garage.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie asked about sustainable building practices for this site.
Mr. Stampfl said that site will follow Green Building Council guidelines for materials used, for disposal of existing site materials and for stormwater management.
Ms. Bintliff Ritchie expressed disappointment that more sustainability measures are not being taken, including capturing of rainwater run off for watering landscaping.
Mr. Benchener asked about references to “conservative” plans.
Mr. Janetka explained that the stormwater plans are designed for the 100 year storm where only the 25 year storm is required by the Ordinance. The detention system is an improvement to current conditions on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Murphy said that going forward, plans are already close to completion to comply with the review letters. Some additional changes will be made in response to the Commission members’ comments. He would like to present some additional information from the ambulance squad and fire department on the underground garage. He would like to return and request a recommendation for preliminary/final approval.
Mrs. Beasley asked about an easement with Newtown Presbyterian Church at the staircase.
Mr. Janetka explained that it had not been known whether the stairs would be entirely on Promenade property, so an easement was sought to continue the stairs onto the Church property. It has been ascertained that the stairs are entirely on Promenade property; the easement is not necessary. The building will meet the grade at the side; there is not a three foot drop to ground level. The line on the plan shows the property line, but the building wall meets the slope above street level.
In response to Mrs. Beasley’s questions about construction equipment and soil stockpiling, Mr. Janetka said that there would be very little soil. It would be removed from the site. The parking area would be built first and construction equipment and workers’ vehicles would be stored there. Workers would not be using Sycamore Street’s parking. The underground garage will be prefabricated and installed quickly.
The Commission reviewed the requests for SALDO waivers:
The Commission and Ms. Fountain had no objections to the waivers. Mr. Fidler noted that Section 529.4.E would require 13 trees. He asked the applicant to consider a fee in lieu or the planting of the 13 trees elsewhere in the Township.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that there is a path between the Church and Bill Marsh Ford. Perhaps the Commission could consider requiring some improvements to this path, as it connects additional parking and Village at Newtown to Sycamore Street.
Mr. Ott asked whether changes to the traffic signal would be part of land development.
Mr. Janetka said that it is not incorporated into land development but is a separate application which will be done.
The Commission reviewed the calendar and agenda for upcoming meetings and agreed that the Promenade review would continue at a meeting scheduled for October 15, 2009. If possible, the Zoning Hearing Board applications scheduled for the regular meeting of October 20, 2009 would be moved to the special meeting of October 15, 2009, canceling the need for the second regular Planning Commission meeting in October.
The first meeting in November falls on election day. A poll of the members indicated that the Election Day, November 3, 2009 meeting would lack a quorum and would be canceled. The applicant and special counsel William Bolla would coordinate with the chairman and recording secretary to set another special meeting should the Promenade review not be completed at the October 15, 2009 meeting.
Mrs. Beasley moved to adjourn at 10:30 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary