NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on November 17, 2009
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Sue Beasley, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby and Brandon Wind members. Also in attendance were: Phil Calabro, Township Supervisor and John Boyle, Assistant Township Manager.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of October 15, 2009. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Fisher abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Application
Newtown Pavilion Associates, LP, 6 Penns Trail: Evan Lambrose was in attendance to review this application for a variance to permit a front yard fence for a childcare facility, use C-10, in Newtown Business Commons. The playground yard will be 4400 square feet. Mr. Lambrose explained that this is a corner property. The daycare center will occupy the entire wing of the first floor of the building on the Newtown Yardley Road side of the building. The rear yard would not be appropriate for the playground because it is a paved parking lot. The opposite side yard is not directly accessible from the daycare center.
Mr. Fisher asked about the color and materials and the proposed height of the fence.
Mr. Lambrose said that he was intending to use a solid PVC fence similar to others in the Business Commons. It would be 4 or 5 feet high. Plantings and the slope of the property will shield the playground from Newtown Yardley Road.
Mr. Fidler said that there might be a limit of a 3 foot height on front yard fences. In this particular case, with two front yards, and the use being a daycare, 3 feet is probably not appropriate, however the application might need to be amended. He suggested that Mr. Lambrose investigate this further.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that in the Business Commons, childcare, use C-10, is a use by right. It would be important not to reference the facility as a school.
Mr. Lambrose said that it will be a full daycare, from infant through kindergarten.
The members discussed the appearance of the fence and its proximity to Newtown Yardley Road and the parking lot. They asked Mr. Lambrose for additional information on the entrance, drop off/pick up plans and the number of children who would be using the playground.
Mr. Lambrose said that the facility could have up to 82 children; as many as 60 children might be in the playground, always supervised by a ratio of one employee per 6 to 10 children, depending on the ages of the children. He would be willing to provide additional plantings to soften the appearance of the fence. He reviewed the entrance and parent pick-up procedures, noting that the cars would not be turning near the playground.
Mr. Wind and Mr. Whartenby discussed concerns about the possibility of vehicles jumping the curb from either Newtown Yardley Road or from the parking lot. They asked about possibly locating bollards or additional plantings to further protect the fence.
Mr. Lambrose said that he would cooperate with any such requests from the Board or the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fidler explained to the applicant that the Planning Commission is an advisory committee. The members are expected to review applications and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors as to whether to support or oppose an application at the Zoning Hearing Board. The Commission also offers applicants some advice to better prepare them for their hearing.
The Commission agreed to pass the application with no comment, but to alert the Board to its recommendations regarding protecting the fence with bollards and plantings.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the Joint Zoning Council has been reviewing draft ordinances which have not been acted upon. There is still some ongoing discussion as to whether to remove the Melsky tract from the Federal Cemetery Overlay District. This amendment does not appear to have the support of Upper Makefield at this time.
The Council discussed the proposed historic district ordinance, but has not reached consensus. Wrightstown has concerns about provisions regarding demolition by neglect.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mrs. Beasley reported that HARB liaison Harriet Beckert e-mailed her reporting that HARB had some difficulty resolving a request from AT&T regarding the bright orange color of their new signage. It has recently been resolved. HARB also continues to work on its design guideline booklet.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the banner sign on the Sweet Pea Ice Cream Shop is permitted.
Mr. Boyle agreed to look into this.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has spent the past few meetings concentrating on wildlife management presentations from the firms working with Upper and Lower Makefield. The EAC hopes to have a recommendation for the Supervisors shortly. The EAC has also been discussing ways to better promote its Ecostar Award, which is presented to local businesses and organizations which have made superior efforts to conserve energy or recycle. The members also briefly discussed the reactivation of the SEPTA R-8 Newtown train line.
Mrs. Beasley said that the discussion of the fence for Newtown Pavilion’s daycare reminded her that the current Ordinance’s fence regulations might need to be re-evaluated. For example, fences greater than 3 feet are not permitted in front yards, but the ordinance does not consider that corner properties and properties which back onto roadways have two front yards. The Ordinance requires 5 foot fences for pools, while commercially available fencing products are in heights of 4 and 6 feet.
Mr. Fidler said that he would discuss this with the Board and ask for direction to review the fence ordinances. He said that this would probably be of similar concern to the Jointure partners, as well.
Mr. Fidler said that he expected some feedback from Lynn Bush of the Bucks County Planning Commission on the Sycamore Street review. He noted that any revisions to the Ordinance would need to address design and performance standards for the new Planned Commercial Development use as well as for the rest of the TC Zoning District. He said that the Commission would probably continue to work on Sycamore Street in the new year.
Mr. Wind moved to adjourn at 8:35 PM. Mrs. Beasley seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary