NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Sycamore Street Discussions
MARCH 3, 2009
Mr. Ott said that the Planning Commission’s packets contain copies of the Acme Visioning Committee Report. He provided a list of uses that are currently permitted or not allowed in the PC, TC and CC Zoning Districts as a starting point for discussion of a vision for the future of Sycamore Street. The Board of Supervisors has requested input from the Commission by the end of June.
Former Planning Commission member and current member of the Sycamore Street Community Association Vince Lombardi was in attendance to participate in the discussion. Mr. Lombardi reviewed some of the history of the reasons for current zoning and permitted uses, pointing out that the original plan had been to keep a central “downtown” business/commercial district, which would prevent suburban sprawl. Without this zoning, there could have been strip malls or convenience shops at most of the major roadway intersections or entrances to residential developments. Within the business and commercial districts, some uses were permitted that might not now seem appropriate because inclusion of the uses somewhere within the Jointure would prevent a challenge to the Ordinance.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that going forward the Commission give careful consideration to the larger parcels that could possibly become subject to redevelopment in the future, including the two auto dealerships, the Goodnoe home and the DeLuca (St. Andrew’s School) properties. He urged the Commission to include Joe McKiernan of HARB in discussions when considering mixed/residential/condominium uses, as Mr. McKiernan has considerable experience in this area. Mr. Lombardi said that there has been some resistance to the idea of permitting condominiums, but his own opinion is that it would add an invested residential presence to Sycamore Street. Owners would become more involved in the community than renters, who would be more transient.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that there are a number of groups with interest in participating in the discussions, including the Newtown Creek Coalition and the newly formed “new acme concerns” group. For this reason he suggested that future discussions be added to the regular agenda rather than forming a subcommittee to meet outside of the regular publicized meeting.
MARCH 17, 2009
Mr. Ott reported that the Board of Supervisors has requested that this discussion concentrate first on the TC Zoning District. The members were provided lists of uses permitted on Sycamore Street, of all permitted uses and on uses specifically permitted in the TC district, as well as a list of the tax map parcels in the TC district with their current uses noted.
Mr. Ott said that as the members review the currently permitted or prohibited uses, it is important to remember that is a use is removed it must still be available as a permitted use in the Jointure. He also noted that as uses are discussed, the performance standards should also be considered. For example the minimum lot size is 7500 square feet, which would mean that the larger lots could be subdivided, for example the 3.7 acre Stockburger lot could be divided into 14 residential lots for single or twin homes.
Ms. Fountain suggested that each use be considered, first as to whether to continue to permit that use at all, then to revisit the use with consideration of the performance standards. She noted that the building size, height, parking requirements, etc., could change a use from acceptable to very intense. For example a small medical office of a single practitioner on a small lot would not have the same impact on Sycamore Street as a medical arts building on a large lot.
The members discussed whether to remove or adjust in some way the D-1 office use and D-2 medical office use. Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Wind said that both uses should be removed entirely from the TC district. Large medical and business offices would negatively impact parking and traffic.
Resident Vince Lombardi, a resident of Sycamore Street and member of the Sycamore Street Community Association, urged the Commission to consider controlling these uses by performance standards rather than prohibiting them.
After some further discussion, the members agreed to create a list of uses which would be reviewed in further depth at a future meeting. The performance standards for these uses would be given consideration. Medical and general office uses, D-1 and D-2 would be on this list.
Ms. Fountain explained that an E-5 eating place would not have a drive-through component, whereas E-6 would. E-6 is not permitted in the TC district. She also discussed the drive-through windows on financial establishments. She suggested that E-4, financial establishment be added to the “Consider Further” list.
Most members agreed that “hotel, motel, inn” use E-8, should be removed.
The members discussed E-10, service station. Existing service stations would be “grandfathered.” A show of hands indicated that the members would recommend removing service station E-10 from permitted uses. Automotive Sales should be considered further.
In discussing use E-19, funeral home, members had concerns about this use on one of the larger lots. Funeral homes can create parking and traffic difficulties on an already busy street. Mr. Lombardi suggested that the solicitor research recent challenges to ordinances before removing this use. The members agreed that this information could be helpful in considering whether to remove or to address by performance standards.
The members discussed use G-10, trades, and had some confusion as to whether this referred to offices of tradesmen or businesses, such as cabinetmaking, taking place on site. This was added to the “Consider Further” list.
The members briefly discussed the accessory uses. The members agreed that most of these uses should remain, but wanted to further consider H-13, non-commercial accessory radio antennae.
Ms. Fountain reviewed the “Consider Further” list:
Mr. Ott and Ms. Fountain suggested that in preparation for the next Planning Commission meeting the members should begin a review of all of the uses available in the Township to determine whether any should be added or considered for a possible mixed use. At the next meeting the members should also consider a discussion of the current performance standards for the Acme site.
Mr. Whartenby said that consideration should be given to economic viability of certain uses. The Township should be encouraging uses that would be successful on Sycamore Street.
Resident Joanne Bintliffe Ritchie said that when the Commission considers medical uses she would like the members to discuss clinics and walk in medical treatment facilities, which might generate more activity than traditional medical offices. She also expressed some concern about allowing C-2 school uses to remain in the TC district. Schools will generate a great deal of traffic. She also asked whether the Township has or could consider adding a requirement to demolish structures after they have been left vacant a certain period of time.
Ms. McGrath said she could look into this. Other municipalities have addressed this when big box stores have been vacated.
APRIL 7, 2009
Mr. Fidler reported that Township Solicitor Jennifer McGrath was unable to attend tonight’s meeting because she has been asked to attend Lower Makefield’s Zoning Hearing Board meeting on behalf of Newtown Township.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the Jointure is considering an amendment eliminating service stations (E-10) and automotive sales (E-11). Our Planning Commission has not yet received a copy of the amendment for review, but he suggested that the Commission postpone review of E-10 and E-11 until the amendment is on our agenda.
Mr. Fidler said that an amendment would not impact existing service stations or dealerships. The members briefly discussed whether the use would be permitted if it had been vacated. Mr. Lombardi suggested that it might be six months, that if, for example a dealership closed the property could remain empty for six months and another dealership could then move in.
Ms. Fountain agreed that an identical non-conforming use could be located where one had vacated within six months.
The members also discussed whether the existing automotive shop on the corner of Sycamore and Centre Avenue still had gas pumps and tanks.
The Commission discussed currently permitted uses on Sycamore Street in the TC Zoning District. Mr. Lombardi noted that the east side of the street consists of the historic district and most of the parcels are small, with existing structures. This side of the street’s redevelopment potential is somewhat limited. The west side of the street has a number of larger parcels that are or could be the subject of future redevelopment.
Mr. Fidler suggested possibly narrowing the focus of discussion to the west side of the street, if the Board would agree. He said that of particular concern on the larger parcels would be parking and traffic. There have already been some problems with intense uses and unsuccessful “shared” parking. He said that the performance standards should be designed so that larger uses can be successful.
The members reviewed all of the currently permitted uses for the TC district, discussing their impact on small and large parcels. Most of the already permitted uses seem acceptable to the Commission on the smaller lots, but members had some concerns about these same uses built on a larger scale on the larger lots. The members discussed whether to completely eliminate these uses, or somehow control the intensity by more stringent performance standards. Of particular concern, primarily because of traffic and parking concerns, were the following:
Each of these uses, on a very small scale, could work well on the east side of the street. There are already successful business offices and medical offices there; however when large buildings are constructed for these uses, they could be a burden to the street. While a single medical practitioner might require only a few parking spaces, for example, a medical arts building would be a much greater burden. If parking calculations were refined to contain adequate parking on site, however, these could be successful on Sycamore Street. The same could be true for a funeral home and a small hotel or inn.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that drive-through windows for financial establishments might not need to be eliminated on Sycamore Street if an internal driveway were used, as is the case for First Trust at Goodnoe’s Corner in the PC Zoning District.
Mr. Lombardi suggested that the members consider decreasing the impervious surface permitted on the larger parcels. With less impervious surface available there could be better control over the size of a particular structure. The footprint size might also be reduced to create a less congested appearance. He noted that the separation of buildings at Goodnoe’s Corner has given the shopping area a more open appearance.
The members discussed use E-19, Funeral Home. It was noted that the traffic created for funeral processions already is occurring without incident at the churches. Members agreed that if parking were all contained on site and there was a limit to the size of the facility, or of the number of viewings permitted at one time, it might be an acceptable use.
The Commission discussed use G-10 trades. Mr. Ott questioned what constitutes “trades” and when does a trade become an industrial or manufacturing use.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Commission should consider whether “trades” fits into the vision for the future of Sycamore Street.
Mr. Fidler asked Ms. Fountain to provide more information on trades.
While certain artisans would be a welcome addition to Sycamore Street, and offices and storage for trades whose primary work is conducted off-site, such as carpentry and plumbing could be acceptable, the Commission members had concerns about noise and dirt when carpentry, for example, expands into larger scale furniture and cabinetmaking.
The Commission agreed that H-13 radio antenna might no longer be of interest in the community and might be removed, as it is an outdated technology.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked for a definition of use E-9.
Ms. Fountain said that would be skating rinks, bowling alleys, pool halls, movie theaters, and similar uses.
Resident Ivan Winegard questioned whether the Township could control the façade or exterior appearance of new buildings.
Mr. Fidler explained that only the size, height and setbacks could be controlled outside of the historic district. The appearance of the facades can only be controlled within the historic district.
Members discussed ways that the Township has worked with applicants during land development to seek cooperation on the outward appearance of structures. Sometimes, if an applicant is seeking certain waivers, for example, that applicant might be asked to create a certain appearance in exchange for favorable consideration of the waivers.
Ms. Fountain noted that waivers are part of the SALDO not the zoning ordinance.
The members briefly discussed the PRD, and whether there could be a PRD for commercial districts.
Going forward, Mr. Fidler asked the members to review the table of uses and to consider some that are not currently permitted in the TC district that could be viable addition. \Ms. Fountain agreed to research some successful main streets in other municipalities, to better understand uses that could add to the success of Sycamore Street. She will also research some successful artisan type uses on main streets elsewhere in the state.
APRIL 21, 2009
Due to the lateness of the hour, Mr. Fidler said that the discussion would be limited to public comment.
Mrs. Katz suggested that the Township consider extending the historic district to the other side of Sycamore Street. She said that the McGraths have been cooperative with HARB on their other project but it was by choice, not a requirement.
Mrs. Beckert said that any change would not impact existing conditions. The Borough is also considering extending its historic district.
Warren Waldorf of Newtown Borough Planning Commission and its HARB liaison said that the Borough is considering expanding its historic district beyond State Street into the surrounding neighborhood. This is in the very early stage of investigation.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick said that she would like the community at the forefront of the planning.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to ask the Solicitor to draft a JMZO amendment to include mixed use, including performance standards, into the TC Zoning District. Mr. Wind seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Fidler said that this could begin, but that the addition of the mixed use should proceed slowly and carefully. He had concerns about moving forward too quickly.
Mr. Sensibaugh agreed and said that a draft could serve as a template for the Planning Commission to focus discussion on mixed uses.
The motion passed 9-0.
Mr. Ott said that during Mr. Fidler’s absence, the Board had directed the Planning Commission to review the uses on Sycamore Street with recommendations to be presented at the end of June.
Mr. Schenkman said that any recommendations from the Planning Commission would still need careful consideration by the Board of Supervisors. The Board would like to protect Sycamore Street, but if progress is being made, he did not think the Board would want to rush the Planning Commission to do something incompletely.
Mr. Fidler said that he would seek input from the Board on the direction of future discussions.
MAY 5, 2009
Ms. Fountain provided the Commission with a large packet of information on small “downtown” districts in nearby Townships and Boroughs. Included in the packet were maps and lists of permitted uses in Stone Harbor Borough, Princeton Borough, and Metuchen Borough in New Jersey and Doylestown Borough, New Hope Borough, Skippack Township and Lansdale Borough in Pennsylvania. Ms. Fountain pointed out that all of these town centers are concentrated in a downtown area only for several blocks, usually with a one block/lot width, which is similar to Newtown Township. Most allow mixed uses and most allowable uses are similar to those currently permitted in Newtown Township. Some uses permitted elsewhere which Ms. Fountain suggested could be discussed for the TC district are mixed use, studio related to artistic activities, library and museum, municipal building, tavern and emergency services. She also suggested discussion and review of Ordinance Section 603.C.3, which allows a fee in lieu of providing the required number of parking spaces and use E-14, specialty/cultural shopping facility. Ms. Fountain will prepare a spreadsheet for the next meeting for easier comparison of the permitted uses. She noted that Skippack Township allows fitness studios in its downtown district.
Mr. Fidler said that, depending on the size of the facility, parking could be an issue. A small yoga studio might not generate the same parking and traffic that would be generated by a large facility or a dance studio or karate school.
Mr. Sensibaugh agreed with Mr. Fidler, but questioned whether to address the uses or the performance standards, so that uses are permitted provided they meet dimensional and parking requirements.
For the benefit of residents in attendance, Mr. Fidler gave a brief overview of performance standards, explaining that the Ordinance could control the uses by requiring certain setbacks, impervious surface, parking per square foot or per employee. He noted, for example, that if retail is limited to spaces under 10,000 square feet, the district probably would not attract developers of big box stores.
Ms. Fountain said she had begun her research first considering the uses. She will research performance standards as uses are considered. She pointed out that recent census data shows that Newtown Township has more women than men and more women than the national average. There are also more Asian people than the national average. This data should be kept in mind when planning for future uses. Fitness and educational facilities might be appealing to Newtown’s demographics.
Mrs. Beasley said that she is concerned that there might be a perception that the Township does not want businesses to be too successful because successful businesses generate traffic and parking.
The Commission discussed the concept of shared parking. Mr. Wind said that he would urge that parking be more connected to use than to square footage. He mentioned that some of the other municipalities for which information is provided are successful in part because they are within walking distance of large parking areas such as Metuchen’s railroad parking lot.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he is not supportive of shared parking. He feels it is only successful in very large shopping centers. The members discussed the shared parking at Goodnoe’s Corner. There was some concern that the lack of adequate parking could be problematic to some of the businesses. Customers might not use the businesses if they are unable to find easy parking.
Mrs. Beasley noted that when shared parking is approved for a shopping center, the uses in the center are considered at time of approval, however, the mix of uses can change, sometimes very quickly, changing the parking requirements for the center.
Mr. Ott agreed. He suggested that perhaps tenants should be asked to contribute toward multi-level or underground parking.
Mr. Wind and Mrs. Driscoll noted that many people expect to park very nearby and have not taken advantage of ample parking a short distance away from the shopping areas on Sycamore Street. Outside of school hours there is usually ample parking around the high school, for example.
Mr. Fisher said that a short distance away from Goodnoe’s Corner there is on-street parking available, which is not frequently used.
The Commission briefly discussed concerns about the requirement for off-site parking for employees of Goodnoe’s Corner. Employees are parallel parking on Ice Cream Alley. Mr. Ott said that the typical Rite Aid store usually has as many parking stalls as the entire Goodnoe’s Corner lot.
Resident Karen Katz said that the Newtown 21 st Century Voice organization has attempted to gather input from residents about Sycamore Street. Among the 83 respondents, about 60 favorably responded to restaurants and retail shops, 44 preferred a height restriction of 30 feet, 25 preferred a height of 40 feet and 11 expressed support for 50 feet. 64 people included community center as a preferred presence on Sycamore Street. Fitness use was not included in the options for preferred uses.
Mrs. Beckert asked whether Ms. Fountain has spoken to representatives of the municipalities she included in her research.
Ms. Fountain said she has spoken with planners for the municipalities, who indicated the success of their revitalization efforts. Lansdale’s plan calls for parking incorporated into building structures.
In response to comments from Mrs. Katz, Mr. Fidler and Resident Vince Lombardi discussed some work done by the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation on transportation. Research had been done about providing shuttles or trolleys for shoppers in the State Street area and also for employees of the State Street businesses. It was found that the area is too small to support a shuttle; Mr. Lombardi called it a “critical mass”, a number that would make a shuttle self-sufficient.
The Commission briefly reviewed the idea of a municipal parking authority or a municipal parking facility. Mr. Fidler noted that these ideas have been considered at different times. It is his understanding that expanded municipal parking has also been considered by the Borough.
The members discussed an ordinance for mixed uses. Ms. McGrath said that she has begun reviewing the Langhorne Borough and Perkasie ordinances to serve as a possible guide. She provided copies of this ordinance and literature on a planned area of Doylestown Borough with live/work units.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that it might be a good idea to require something equivalent to a homeowners association for buildings with condominiums and business space.
Ms. McGrath said that she will continue to investigate mixed use ordinances. She asked the members to consider the possible combinations of mixed used that they think might work well. She suggested considering the size of parcels for the various combinations of retail, residential and office uses.
Ms. Fountain said that she would prepare a spreadsheet comparing the uses in the municipalities being reviewed for comparison. She mentioned Princeton’s planned commercial development, which she suggested might be considered for a parcel greater than two acres.
Resident Joanne Bintliff Ritchie asked whether any research has been done on the costs to build a parking garage where drivers would pay to park.
Mr. Fidler said that past research had indicated that the commercial district could not support construction of a garage.
Mrs. Beasley questioned the financial arrangements for maintenance of buildings with condominiums and unoccupied retail space.
Mr. Fidler asked that for the next meeting, Ms. McGrath provide information on a mixed use ordinance, Ms. Fountain prepare a comparison spreadsheet of uses and some additional information on viable mixed uses and Princeton’s planned commercial development, and that the members prepare to discuss performance standards for lots greater than 2 acres, with particular emphasis on parking.
Mr. Fidler said that some of the other municipalities with successful downtowns have a civic feature as the centerpiece of the commercial district, such as a park, library, community center. He said that perhaps some attractive walking trails from the available parking areas to Sycamore Street, possibly near the Presbyterian Church, could be discussed.
Residents in attendance expressed support for this idea, as Sycamore Street is within a short walk of the middle and high schools.
MAY 19, 2009
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.
JUNE 2, 2009
The Commission reviewed a comparison chart of permitted uses in our TC district and other, similar, downtowns in the area, including Princeton, Metuchen, and Stone Harbor in New Jersey, and New Hope, Doylestown, Skippack and Lansdale in Pennsylvania. Ms. McGrath reviewed residential uses and our own Ordinance’s definitions, which might differ from some of the other municipalities’ uses. It appears that our Ordinance does not permit “multi-family” described as “6 or more families,” but does allow boarding or rooming houses. The Ordinance also does not allow nursing, senior or group homes.
Mrs. Beasley said that multi-family would probably fit in with the “mixed use” category the Commission has been discussing in past meetings. She briefly discussed a trend to create boarding or rooming house arrangements for senior citizens.
Mrs. Beckert said that in studying historic districts, the HARB members have learned that successful historic districts almost always have a residential component to keep the area attractive and vibrant.
The members discussed whether boarding or rooming house is still an appropriate use for Sycamore Street. Ms. McGrath read the definition, which included the renting of a room to one person. The members were reluctant to remove this from the permitted uses, noting that occasionally a homeowner might want to rent out an extra room to a student or a business person with a home elsewhere and work in the Newtown area.
The members asked about definitions and standards for senior housing. Our ordinance addresses “elderly housing” which would more closely resemble assisted living facilities involving a staff, rather than “age qualified” which is independent living for those over a certain age, frequently over age 55.
Mr. Fidler said that before moving forward with this discussion, it would be important to have a clearer picture of the definitions of each type of dwelling for more than one family, including multi-family dwellings, such as small apartment buildings, with more than two but fewer than six families. The Commission should also consider whether to add multi-family dwellings only when combined in a mixed use setting.
Ms. McGrath found in the Ordinance a number of definitions, including attached dwellings and multi-family dwellings for 3-8 families. She agreed to research the various types of multi-family dwellings in the Jointure and elsewhere, perhaps consulting with the Bucks County Planning Commission.
The members agreed to postpone discussion of public, private, trade and commercial schools until the performance standards are reviewed at a later meeting. These uses are permitted by conditional use, but members, while supportive of small scale commercial schools, had some concerns about very large, busy commercial schools in the TC district. The members also agreed that small fitness uses, including some physical therapy, yoga and exercise studios, might fit well. Mr. Whartenby pointed out that “Curves” on State Street fits well in the Borough commercial district.
Regarding restaurants, the members focused discussion of drive-in windows, which are currently not permitted. Mr. Sensibaugh noted that take-out is becoming increasingly popular, not just for fast food like pizza and burgers. He said that the building that Goodnoe’s will occupy has the capacity for a drive-in with all traffic coming onto the site and the window exiting onto the site. It might not cause the same traffic concerns that a very busy burger stand with its window exiting directly onto the street might cause. He briefly discussed a dairy store with drive through that he has visited often in another municipality. This store sells basics only; milk, butter, eggs, bread, etc. This might be a good use to consider for the TC district.
Resident Vince Lombardi said that drive in uses fit better in the PC and CC Districts, as they can cause traffic back-ups and discourage pedestrian traffic.
Mrs. Beckert noted the problems a bank on State Street had created with a drive-in window.
Mr. Fidler said that he does not see any problem with restaurants offering take-out service. Drive through windows on some restaurants might fit well if the parcel were large enough to provide an internal traffic pattern for the window.
After some further discussion, the members agreed that a high volume drive through business does not really belong in the TC District, however, there could be some businesses for which it might be appropriate as a conditional use, which would allow the Township to carefully consider and control the use.
Mr. Lombardi expressed some concern that drive-in businesses were not a good match for the TC district or for the historic district. He suggested that the Commission should begin with a long range vision for the district, and consideration of the uses should be framed by that vision. He suggested that the Board of Supervisors should be involved in that visioning.
Mrs. Beckert said that the main concern of the historic district is appearance. The façade of the building should be historically accurate, but that does not mean that a drive-in window could not co-exist. She noted the bank at the end of Sycamore Street near Durham Road, whose drive-thru lane is in the rear parking lot.
Skip Goodnoe said that the Main Street Program was initiated some years ago along Sycamore and State Streets to bring vitality to the downtown area and it is working very successfully on State Street. Drive-in or drive-thru businesses could be compatible with the historic district. The Commission should consider the economics, as successful businesses add to the vitality. The downtown area has to be competitive or customers will go elsewhere in their cars.
Mrs. Driscoll said that if the parcel is large and there is no traffic back-up directly onto the street, drive-thru could be considered.
The Commission briefly discussed use E-17, tavern. Most did not object, but felt that this should be discussed further at another meeting. The tavern use is different from the E-5 restaurant use, which can have a bar or a barroom, but relies on food sales for a larger percentage of its business.
All agreed that arts and crafts studios would be a good addition to the TC District.
The members reviewed a few other retail uses that had been separated out in the other municipalities’ ordinances, including antique shop and bakery. These are allowed in our ordinance under E-1 retail and/or E-14, specialty retail. The members discussed these uses as an asset to the pedestrian atmosphere.
Members agreed that liquor store might not be a good fit to the downtown, although Mr. Whartenby noted that wine shops do well in New Jersey in downtown districts. The members also thought that convenience store, printing and dry cleaning would be better suited to other zoning districts.
The members discussed some of the entertainment uses that are permitted in other downtowns. Theater is not clearly defined on the list. Members agreed that a small community theater with a stage could be successful, but would be in competition with the Langhorne Players near Tyler Park and Newtown Arts on State Street. A multiplex movie theater would be better suited to the other commercial districts. They briefly discussed pool halls and arcades as places that might appeal to children and younger adults, but questioned whether these uses might also be better suited to the other commercial districts.
The members agreed that museums and art galleries as well as community centers should be left as permitted uses, but did not thing that social halls should be added to the permitted uses. The members also agreed that antennae for non-commercial use should not be permitted any longer. Forestry, and roadside agricultural stands should remain as permitted uses.
Mr. Fidler said that the next step would be to review and finalize this list of uses for recommendations to the Supervisors, then the Commission should more carefully consider performance standards for the permitted uses. He said that he would seek some direction from the Supervisors on their vision for the future of the street before proceeding with the performance standard review.
Mr. Fidler asked Ms. McGrath whether the Commission could create a building height standard that is contingent on the distance from the right-of-way. A building set farther back on a property might not appear to tower over the street and might be more palatable.
Ms. McGrath said that she did not think there would be any impediment to creating such a standard.
Mr. Lombardi cautioned that a longer front setback could lead to plans with parking in the front yard.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick asked whether there has been any consideration of extending the Historic District to the west side of the street.
Mr. Fidler said that there has been some discussion of expanding the historic district or of creating an overlay district, which would impose some design standards. The Solicitor would have to investigate whether this could be done.
Mr. Lombardi suggested creating performance standards in keeping with 18 th and 19 th century architecture.
Mrs. Beckert said that HARB has been looking into this but is not sure whether to expand the historic district, which would require people to adhere to certain standards when renovating their properties.
Mr. Fidler said that at the next meeting the Commission would review performance standards. He has some reservations about a strict historic district, as there are sometimes constraints against using modern materials in an attempt to preserve history.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick asked whether there would be any consideration of tree preservation or any easy pedestrian access to Sycamore Street from the High School.
Mr. Fidler said that the Ordinance already has tree protections and natural resource protections. The Commission could consider including tree preservation in performance standards.
JUNE 16, 2009
Mr. Fidler said that at a future meeting the Commission should review the performance standards for large retail businesses. While large retail is not permitted in the TC Zoning District, the Commission might want to discuss some modified large retail uses for some of the larger parcels in the TC district.
Mr. Fidler said that he would like to consider a use similar to a PRD for a mixed commercial development, possibly creating a new Planned Commercial District (PCD) use for the TC Zoning District.
Ms. McGrath said that a new use such as this could be created that would only be permitted in the TC district.
Ms. Fountain suggested possibly an overlay for the PCD. She said that she has begun reviewing ordinances in other municipalities where such uses exist. Some PCD’s have modified performance standards; certain concessions are made to developers in exchange for conforming to certain other standards such as façade standards or energy efficiency.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the PCD have a minimum lot size rather than creating an overlay or separate Zoning District..
Mr. Fidler noted that there have been sketch plans presented in Newtown Borough for redevelopment of the Stockburger property and the Centre Ave. parking lot and state store area. If those plans are developed it might make extending the PCD use to the south end of Sycamore Street a good idea.
The Commission briefly discussed possible performance standards for a PCD, including requiring varied heights on buildings, a limit on impervious surface ratio, or a limit on the largest size building permitted. Mr. Sensibaugh expressed some concern about stormwater management close to Newtown Creek on the south end of Sycamore Street.
Ms. Fountain said she would provide the current ownership and lot sizes for the larger parcels on Sycamore Street to help with developing performance standards.
Ms. McGrath asked the Commission to give some consideration to which uses they would like to include in the mixed use or in the PCD. Referring to Mr. Fidler’s earlier mention of large retail, she noted that CVS drug stores, for example, are typically 11,000 square feet.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that perhaps single, stand alone, retail businesses of about 12,000 to 15,000 square feet could be permitted if they did not take access directly onto Sycamore Street but had a side entrance or an internal drive. He talked about a building configuration with the shorter wall parallel to Sycamore Street and the longer wall perpendicular.
Members considered this but agreed it would still be important to try to avoid front yard parking, creating strip mall appearance on Sycamore Street.
The Commission reviewed uses that had been considered at past meetings. They agreed that some performance standards should be reviewed for large retail, office and larger residential uses. The members might also want to give additional consideration to drive-through windows for certain low impact businesses.
Mr. Fidler suggested inviting a member of the Newtown Corporation Board to participate in some of the discussion. When Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation was formed, before it became Newtown Corporation, a great deal of research had been done on revitalization of the downtown, particularly on State Street.
Ms. Fountain suggested creating a new type of residential use, incorporating some of the standards for garden apartment, either as a use or as part of a mixed use development.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she would be supportive of a larger residential use, which would contribute to a vibrant, pedestrian friendly community, but suggested that if performance standards required larger units, for example 1500 square feet or above, might encourage ownership. The members discussed this and agreed that small rental units might not bring stability to the Street.
The members briefly discussed adding performance space, performing arts center and/or live music venue to permitted uses.
Mr. Sensibaugh pointed to a narrow lot adjacent to Newtown Ambulance Squad. He said that this parcel might be Village at Newtown’s dedicated open space, but he is not sure whether it is owned by the Township or Village at Newtown. It is very overgrown now, but could possibly be cleaned up and made into a walking path joining Village at Newtown with Newtown Presbyterian Church’s gardens and Sycamore Street. It could possibly be made into a linear park.
Ms. Fountain agreed to research ownership of this parcel.
Mr. Fidler said that perhaps some Park and Recreation impact fees could be specifically dedicated to improvements to this parcel or to enhance a possible creek walk area in conjunction with Borough efforts for a similar feature.
Mrs. Beckert said that HARB would be supportive of working on architectural standards similar to those for the historic district for any PCD use created.
JULY 7, 2009
Mr. Fidler reported that some of the Supervisors had expressed interest in seeing smaller residential units permitted as part of a multi-family use in the TC district. They felt that smaller, less expensive units, as either rentals or condominiums, might be attractive to downsizing older adults as well as to younger people looking to remain in Newtown after they are finished with their education. He reminded the members that at earlier meetings they had agreed that multi-family residential uses with units larger than 1500 square feet would be preferred.
The members briefly discussed the idea of smaller units, including one bedroom and studio apartments as well as small two bedroom apartments. Mrs. Driscoll noted that condominiums with two bedrooms might be attractive for young families with small children eager to move into the school district. This could have an impact on the schools.
Mr. Wind noted that when considering smaller units, the Commission should also consider lot size, as some of the larger lots on Sycamore Street could contain a large number of small apartments. None of the members knew whether such housing would be marketable. Mr. Fidler suggested inviting someone from the real estate business to attend a future meeting to discuss the housing market now and looking ahead.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that there is a regional movement among planners to increase residential uses in downtown areas. DVRPC has documents discussing this as a way to reduce some suburban sprawl.
Ms. Fountain asked whether the Commission would want to consider garden apartments, use B-10, as a permitted use. These are multi-family dwellings of 6-16 units. When considering this use, the members should consider whether to permit the use as a stand alone or as part of a mixed use or PCD. The members could also place percentages on the size of units, for example, either limiting or requiring a certain number of units to be a certain size. She suggested that the members consider adding use B-10 with certain conditions, including limiting the use to conditional use for parcels over 2 acres or requiring a compliance with certain HARB requirements. Another consideration would be whether to allow first floor apartments, or to only permit apartments on upper floors, above commercial uses.
The members agreed that they did not object to first floor residential units. Other considerations would be postponed to a later meeting with a real estate professional in attendance.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested creating a new eating place use that would incorporate restaurants with walk up windows or a heavy take-out component, but without drive thru windows. Mr. Sensibaugh said that he did not object to drive thru service if the drive aisle were contained on the property.
The members discussed some of the negative aspects of a drive thru, which could create traffic back-up with frequent in and out trips. Resident Harriet Beckert noted that drive-thru service can be disruptive to pedestrian aspects, as walkers would have to pass across the driveways.
Ms. McGrath noted that the Ordinance currently references drive thru in the E-6 use. The E-5 use allows the “sale and consumption” of prepared food, which would include take out.
Ms. Fountain agreed that the Ordinance prohibits drive-thru with E-6 in the TC District, but that carry out is not prohibited with E-5. She noted that in the Ordinance there is no specific reference to seating in the E-5 use. She and Ms. McGrath agreed that carry out is incidental to the E-5 use.
Mr. Sensibaugh urged that if a new use is not to be created, he would like the E-5 use clarified on carry out and walk up windows.
The Commission members agreed that they did not want to add E-6 to the TC district, but did not object to walk-up windows or carry out for E-5.
Mr. Wind suggested that the Commission consider some kind of entertainment venue, such as a tavern with live music performances. The sale of alcohol would not be the primary business, but a cover charge or ticket sales would provide the bulk of the income. He said that there is not much to do in Newtown and a small entertainment venue could bring vitality to the street at night.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he has concerns about a night club or entertainment venue when the Commission is attempting to promote residential uses.
Mr. Fidler said that it might be a good idea to discuss this further in conjunction with existing restaurants and bars, as an accessory use.
Mrs. Beckert agreed that an establishment which provides music entertainment in the evenings could bring younger people, who might want to live in smaller apartments in a vibrant town.
Ms. Fountain suggested creating a new use with entertainment as an accessory use to a restaurant or tavern.
The members discussed changing the Ordinance’s retail uses. Currently retail is divided into small, below 10,000 square feet and large, above 10,000 square feet. Mr. Fidler suggested considering a medium size retail use and at the same time reducing the maximum size for small retail, E-1 to about 7,500 square feet. The TC District could be a good location for some medium size retail establishments, especially in conjunction with a mixed use PCD.
Mr. Schenkman noted that while allowing one or two larger retail uses might be good, it could be a traffic concern if all of the larger parcels were developed for large retail.
Ms. Fountain agreed to investigate this further.
Mr. Sensibaugh mentioned that bake shop is currently permitted as an E-1 retail use. He asked whether a bake shop would be allowed to sell baked goods to be consumed on the premises, or would that make it an E-5.
Mrs. Beckert said that she is familiar with bake shops with a few tables for eating purchased pastries. That portion of the business is much smaller than the sale of baked goods which are baked on the premises and taken home.
Ms. McGrath reminded the members that they had not decided on studio uses such as yoga and exercise studios.
The members said that if the use were less than 2,500 square feet it would fit in nicely on Sycamore Street. None had an objection to allowing such a use on the second story of a building.
Mr. Schenkman noted that in the comparison list with other municipalities, philanthropic uses are not included as permitted uses in Newtown.
Ms. Fountain said that in our Ordinance, it would depend on what exactly the use would be, for example, headquarters or offices would fit in with the D-1 office use. Collection locations for organizations like Salvation Army might not fit in.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether push carts are permitted.
Ms. Fountain said that they are not permitted now. She would investigate further whether they are permitted as part of a sidewalk sale or a promotional event for businesses which already have a storefront.
Ms. Fountain asked the members to consider use F-2, Emergency Services.
The members agreed that this would not be a good match for the TC district because of accessibility.
Ms. Fountain asked the members to consider use E-14, specialty cultural retail. This use, currently permitted, allows for most of the retail uses already permitted. The only use permitted in E-14 but not permitted in the TC district is repair shop.
The members agreed that since almost all of the possible cultural retail uses are already permitted, use E-14 should be removed.
Ms. Fountain reported that the strip of land between Bill Marsh Ford and the Newtown Presbyterian Church is part of Village at Newtown’s detention basin land. It is 382 feet by 80 feet and extends to Sycamore Street. This could be a possible future location of a linear park which connects the shopping center parking lots to Sycamore Street.
JULY 21, 2009
Mr. Fidler said that he had attempted to discuss the real estate market for the various residential unit sizes the Commission had been considering for a Planned Commercial Development (PCD). Mr. Fidler reported that he had a conversation with Paul Salvatore, a local realtor active in the community, who had indicated that small, two bedroom units are very popular, as they appeal to single parent families eager to move into or remain in the School District with school age children. They are popular as both rentals and purchases. These units might be the most economically viable in the current market. Mr. Salvatore did not differentiate among types of small units, whether townhomes, rental apartments or apartments on second floor over retail. He defined small as having two bedrooms and about 1200 square feet.
Ms. Fountain asked the Commission to discuss a multi-family dwelling use, either a B-10, garden apartment, which would be 6-16 units, or as part of the PCD. She also asked about parameters, such as size of structure, number and size of units, parking requirements.
Mr. Fidler said that he did not think multi-family should be prohibited as a stand alone use.
Mr. Sensibaugh disagreed, noting that the expectations of residents in a mixed use environment combined with retail uses would be different than residents of a strictly residential development.
The members discussed Mr. Sensibaugh’s point and agreed that multi-family dwellings should only be permitted as part of a mixed use development. In considering the performance standards the members discussed possibly requiring a certain percentage of units to be no larger than 1200 square feet, for example. The members decided that they did not want to place restrictions that might hinder the economic viability of a project. They did agree that multi-family should be permitted in combination with office or retail uses.
Resident Harriet Beckert, HARB liaison, spoke about mixing residential with restaurant uses. She said that in some communities there have been difficulties with rental units over restaurants because of noise and odor problems.
Resident Vincent Lombardi disagreed, noting that Allen Smith has always had tenants in his apartments over restaurants in his shopping center in the PC District on Sycamore Street. He suggested that Mr. Smith be invited to a meeting to discuss his experience.
The members agreed that any commercial use permitted in the TC district should be permitted as part of the PCD.
The members discussed possible parking requirements for the residential use and agreed that two spaces per unit would probably be acceptable, but that there could be some credit for shared parking or consideration to banking some parking in green unless or until needed.
In further discussion of the PCD, members agreed that the PCD should have at least a mix of two uses and should be limited on lots of 2 or more acres. In considering the other performance standards, Mr. Fidler suggested that the structures’ footprints should be carefully considered. Perhaps there could be some adjustment to increase the maximum permitted height for some percentage of the buildings, but not for the entire PCD. He also suggested that perhaps the Commission could consider allowing only a certain percentage of the frontage to be at the minimum setback. It might help to avoid a “canyon” feel and could provide some public areas or green spaces if structures had staggered frontages and rooflines.
The members briefly discussed whether to require that all of the mixed uses be within one structure, using, for example the first floor for retail, upper floors for other uses, or whether to require more than one structure.
Mrs. Beckert said that it would be important to also consider how the PCD fits into the surrounding historic district. Taller buildings at the rear would not be consistent with Newtown’s style.
Mr. Fidler and Mr. Sensibaugh agreed that they would like to see opportunities to promote green spaces on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Fidler said that he still has some concerns about medical uses on larger lots.
Mr. Lombardi noted that with performance standards in place to control the number of offices and number of parking spaces, medical arts buildings could be a good match for Sycamore Street. He noted the Dentists of Newtown building, which has about a half-dozen dentists sharing facilities.
Mr. Fidler reminded the members that at previous meetings they had discussed the current E-1 retail use, which is for retail up to 10,000 square feet. Use E-2, retail greater than 10,000 square feet, is not permitted in the TC district. The Commission had discussed possibly altering the E-1 to be retail up to 7,500 square feet. A new use could be created for retail between 7,500 and 12,000 or even 15,000 square feet.
The members continued previous discussion of entertainment venues. All agreed that a small theater for live performances, with fewer than 100 seats, could make a valuable contribution to the vitality of the street, as theater goers might make use of shops and restaurants before or after attending a performance.
Mr. Wind suggested that if a performance venue for live music or comedy, with service of drinks as an accessory, were not to be permitted, perhaps the Commission should recommend to the Supervisors that live entertainment as an accessory to a restaurant use could be permitted, provided the performances were indoors only, with no amplified music. Restaurant, not tavern, should be the primary use for the live entertainment venue. The members did not object to entertainment as an accessory.
Mr. Fidler said that the next step should be consideration of performance standards for the PCD. A draft ordinance might be helpful in further discussions.
Mr. Schenkman said that some direction from the Board of Supervisors will be needed before asking the Solicitor and Engineer to begin a draft ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that it might be helpful to have some input from the Supervisors about what their vision for Sycamore Street would be. He said that he would ask for a joint meeting, either at a work session or at a regular Planning Commission meeting for an open discussion. It might be helpful to have this input before beginning to draft a new ordinance for the TC district or for the PCD and multi-family uses. He suggested that if a joint meeting with the Board is planned, representatives of HARB should be included in discussion.
AUGUST 4, 2009
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.
AUGUST 18, 2009
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.