NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on January 5, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Sue Beasley, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci, Fred Olivari, Jay Sensibaugh, Robert Whartenby, members. Also in attendance was Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Reorganization: Prior to entertaining motions for officers of the Planning Commission the members introduced themselves and welcomed new members, Paul Cohen and Michael Iapalucci.
Mr. Sensibaugh nominated Mr. Fidler to serve as chairman. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mr. Fidler said that he spends a few weeks away from home each winter. The job of chairman requires a commitment to not only chair meetings but also to report to the Board of Supervisors on each meeting. He suggested that the Commission elect two vice chairmen again this year to share the responsibilities.
Mr. Fidler nominated Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Whartenby to serve as vice chairmen. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mr. Sensibaugh nominated Mr. Fisher to serve as secretary/treasurer. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mr. Fidler explained that in addition to participating in the Planning Commission meetings, members are also asked to act as liaisons to other Township and Jointure committees, Boards and Commissions. He reviewed each position, noting that the Joint Zoning Council and Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission have representatives from Upper Makefield and Wrightstown. At these meetings, the member municipalities discuss issues to be addressed by possible zoning changes. The Regional Planning Commission will be spending time in the future discussing alternative energy solutions and appropriate zoning. The Joint Zoning Council, whose members are the supervisors of the three municipalities, rely on the Planning Commission liaisons when considering zoning changes. In the past, supervisors have asked for zoning changes without careful consideration of the impact those changes might have on the neighboring municipalities. After some further discussion, members volunteered to serve as liaisons as follows:
Mrs. Driscoll said that when she began attending HARB meetings as the Planning Commission liaison, she was asked to participate in discussion and to vote. She later observed that her name appeared in minutes as a voting member. While she is willing to make this commitment to HARB, she has a concern that this is irregular, as it was her understanding that HARB members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors for a specific term.
Mrs. Beasley said that she had the same experience when she attended as a Planning Commission liaison. It was her recollection that this practice went back some time. HARB has certain requirements that a percentage of the membership have certain professional qualifications. Some of the professionals have not been available for daytime meetings, so to reach a quorum, the Planning Commission liaison has been asked to participate. This had been the case for a number of years, when former member Vincent Lombardi had served as HARB liaison.
Mr. Fidler said he would discuss this with the Board of Supervisors when he gives his next report. He noted that Harriet Beckert has served as a HARB liaison to the Planning Commission, participating in discussions on projects involving the historic district. He expects that as the Planning Commission considers zoning changes to Sycamore Street in the coming year, Mrs. Beckert will continue to make valuable contributions.
New Business: Supervisor Schenkman reported to the Commission on plans for the redevelopment of the Stockburger property in Newtown Borough. He explained that the project would involve the former Chevrolet dealership property as well as the area currently occupied by the State Store and municipal parking field. The plans show a combination of townhouses near the creek, retail/office spaces with dwellings above along the streetscape of State Street and Centre Avenue and a 700 car parking garage. The plans Mr. Schenkman had seen included some rerouting of Centre Avenue and a possible driveway from the complex to Barclay Street.
Mr. Fidler said that such an intense development so near Sycamore Street will impact the Township. The Township’s Planning Commission should stay informed about these plans as the Planning Commission continues its consideration of rezoning of Sycamore Street’s TC zoning District. The Township will need to consider traffic patterns generated by the Borough’s planned redevelopment.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the Board ask the Borough Council or the Borough Planning Commission to include the Township’s Planning Commission to attend meetings.
Mr. Whartenby asked Mr. Schenkman whether it would be possible for the Planning Commission to see a copy of the sketch plan.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would speak to Borough representatives about this. He noted that the Borough is planning to do traffic studies early in the planning process.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would like the Planning Commission to spend some time in the current year discussing green building codes. He suggested that perhaps the Township could offer some incentives to promote green building.
Mr. Fidler and the Commission reviewed for the benefit of the new members, the duties of the Planning Commission in reviewing plans and making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. He explained the application process, noting that when an application is submitted for land development or conditional use approval, the application is first reviewed by the Township engineer, traffic engineer, fire marshal and in the Bucks County Planning Commission. Review letters are included with the plans in each member’s packet. The members review the packets at home in advance of the meeting. The members then review the plan together with the applicant. With the help of the solicitor the Planning Commission then makes a recommendation to the Supervisors.
Mr. Fidler said that in past years, with new Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission members, the Township’s Planner/Engineer has conducted a few short classes on planning and zoning. He said that he would ask the Board whether such classes could be authorized this year.
Mr. Whartenby moved to adjourn at 8:40 PM. Mrs. Beasley seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary