NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on February 16, 2010
Present: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci, Fred Olivari and Jay Sensibaugh (late) members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor and John Boyle, Township Assistant Manager.
Call to Order: Vice Chairman Whartenby called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Cohen moved to accept the minutes of January 19, 2010. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Ace Hardware, 2670 South Eagle Road : Attorney John VanLuvanee and George Smith were in attendance to review this application for use E-1 retail at Village at Newtown, Unit #6, a 10,000 square foot space in lot #A-2 and recommended that the Board approve the application subject to certain conditions.
Mr. VanLuvanee referred to the CKS letter dated February 2, 2010, in which the applicant had indicated hours of operation of 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM on weekdays. He asked that the application be amended to allow weekday hours until 8:00 PM, to give the applicant flexibility during busy seasons.
Mr. VanLuvanee noted that the letter referred to hazardous, flammable or explosive materials to be stored or used in the building. The only such items would be consumer items in sealed packaging on the shelves of the shop. These items, such as spray paints and paint thinners, would not require any special storage or handling. Propane tanks for barbeque grills will be exchanged at a locked cage outdoors at the rear of the building.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that deliveries would occur twice weekly in Ace Hardware tractor trailers, which will be unloaded at the rear loading berth shared with Olly’s Shoes. Petsmart has its own loading dock. Ace Hardware will keep a forklift inside the store to be used for unloading. There might also be occasional UPS deliveries in box trucks.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether there were restrictions on the hours for deliveries.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that there are no such restrictions at Village at Newtown, where the businesses have rear loading berths.
In response to Mr. Fisher’s question, Mr. VanLuvanee said that the Village at Newtown Shopping Center has a shared parking variance for 5.5 spaces per 1000 square feet. The applicant will require 91 parking spaces. Mr. VanLuvanee noted that the location is at the north end of the section of the shopping center along South Eagle Road, separated from the Farmers Market area. This parking area has more than adequate parking. Mr. Smith has indicated that a successful Ace Hardware would have about 300 customers throughout the entire business day.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether any sale items would be displayed on the sidewalk, which is a common practice for hardware shops.
Mr. Smith said that some barbeque grills might be placed outside, close to the wall. He agreed that the sidewalk is too narrow for many outdoor displays.
Mr. Torrente listed suggested conditions to be included in a possible approval.
Mr. VanLuvanee agreed to the outlined conditions, except to point out that HARB approval of signage would not be necessary, as this shopping center is not in the historic district. Details of signage would be addressed by a separate sign application.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Ace hardware’s application for conditional use for an E-1 retail use at 2670 South Eagle Road in the PC, Planned Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Fisher seconded.
Discussion of motion: The members discussed whether to completely restrict hazardous or flammable materials, as they would be sold in the store.
Mr. Olivari said that it was his understanding that consumer sized packages would be exempt form such restrictions.
Mrs. Driscoll amended her motion to include, “ No hazardous, flammable or explosive material which require special handling shall be stored or used in the building.”
Mr. Fisher amended his second and the motion passed 6-0.
Zoning Hearing Board
Frank Mayo, 1 Crittenden Drive: Frank Mayo as in attendance to review his application for a variance to allow a pool in the front yard. He explained that his home is on a corner lot, so each side of the house is considered a front yard. It is his intention to install a pool at the rear of his home, which abuts Eagle Road.
Mr. Whartenby noted that the setback for pools is ten feet; the application shows an eight foot setback from the pool coping to the property line. He said that the application would have to be amended.
Ms. Fountain advised Mr. Mayo to telephone the codes department in the morning to confirm this, as the memo outlining the required variance does not note that a setback variance would also be needed.
Mr. Cohen asked about proposed fencing.
Mr. Mayo said that the yard would have a four foot high 3-rail split rail fence with mesh between the rails. This fence meets the Township and International Building Codes requirements. In addition, the pool itself will be surrounded by a mesh safety fence.
Mrs. Driscoll suggested that Mr. Mayo bring an approval letter from his homeowners association to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fisher suggested that letters of support from surrounding neighbors would also be helpful to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Cohen said that the Zoning Hearing Board would want information about a hardship for this application. He asked whether there are any public pools, swim clubs or other recreational facilities nearby.
Mr. Mayo said his development does not have a pool. There are six other homes with swimming pools in the development.
The Commission agreed to send this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Third Federal Bank, 66 Walker Lane: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review this application for a parking variance to needed to convert an existing 5000 square foot flex space to office use. The condo unit has 13 parking spaces assigned to it, but 25 spaces are required for office use.
Mr. Marshall said that Third Federal is already using another condo unit at 66 Walker Lane; employees walk between Walker Lane and Third Federal’s building at 3 Penns Trail by a paved path. The new condo unit will have 11 employees assigned to it. In addition to the 13 assigned spaces at Walker Lane assigned to the unit there are a number of unassigned parking spaces in the Walker Lane parking lot. Third Federal’s 3 Penns Trail site has 86 parking spaces for 74 employees. The applicant would accept a condition of any variance granted that the twelve additional spaces at 3 Penns Trail could be assigned to the Walker Lane employees. The 3 Penns Trail property also has space to add up to 46 new parking spaces, if necessary. The Walker Lane facility is for employee use only; there is no bank at either location.
Mr. Cohen asked about the distance between the 3 Penns Trail parking and the Walker Lane unit.
Wayne Bishop of Third Federal said that the two properties adjoin one another. Employees are already walking between the two buildings. He estimated the distance to be about 200 feet.
(Mr. Sensibaugh arrived at this point)
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Whartenby discussed asking the Zoning Hearing Board to recommend an easement for the parking spaces at the Penns Trail location in the event that both properties are no longer owned by the same principals.
Mr. Marshall said that the condo space meets criteria for flex space use, with a combination of warehouse and office space. The applicant is seeking an office use for the entire space, which would require the additional parking. If the variance had as a condition that additional parking be provided off-site, if the additional parking were no longer available, the use would no longer be permissible. He said that the applicant would probably be reluctant to grant a permanent easement. He has seen the Zoning Hearing Board grant variances with a condition that off-site parking be provided.
The members discussed whether to recommend that an easement be required. They agreed that the parking for the proposed use is adequate, but if the Zoning Hearing Board were to require off-site parking, they agreed that an easement between the two properties should be considered.
(Supervisor Schenkman arrived at this point)
Burns Auto Repair, 19 North Sycamore Street: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review this application for a variance to permit an additional sign at the service station. He noted that the applicant has revised the design of the sign so as not to require height and size variances.
Mr. Marshall explained that the applicant wants to place the new sign along Sycamore Street because the existing signage only identifies the gas station use. This new sign would identify the auto repair use. It is designed to be in keeping with the other free standing signs along Sycamore Street. The existing “Burns” sign will be removed from the side of the building. The signage is already non-conforming, but with this change it will be less of a non-conformity. It is the applicant’s understanding that any sign will require HARB approval.
In response to questions from the Commission, David Burns said that he might light the sign externally, with up-lighting. He has verified that the placement will not interfere with sight distances for vehicles exiting the service station.
The members agreed to forward this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
JMZO Amendment 2010 - ___ MSAO Municipal Services Agriculture Overlay District: Mr. Sensibaugh said that this proposed amendment creating an overlay district at Chippewa Farm was introduced by Wrightstown Township. It would allow specific future uses of the land and historic buildings. The goal is to promote sustainable agriculture by providing opportunities for goods to be produced and sold on the municipal open space. This amendment only impacts Wrightstown’s municipal land. Mr. Sensibaugh urged the Commission to support the Jointure partners in their request for this amendment.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors authorize advertisement to adopt JMZO 2010-__ MSAO, Municipal Services Agriculture Overlay District. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that he has been elected vice chairman of the Regional Planning Commission. The next meeting will be Thursday, February 18, 2010.
Old Business: The recording secretary announced that the joint meeting of Newtown Borough’s Planning Commission, Newtown Creek Coalition and our Planning Commission has been rescheduled for March 2, 2010 at 7:00 PM at Chancellor Center. As there are no plan reviews on the March 2, 2010 agenda, the meeting will be canceled to allow the members to attend the special meeting.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked if the Promenade will begin construction soon.
Ms. Fountain said that the Township is awaiting revisions to the approved final plan before construction can begin.
The recording secretary reminded the members of the invitation of Newtown’s 21 st Century Voice to attend its Town Hall meeting on February 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM at the George School. The agenda will include a presentation of the possible reactivation of the SEPTA R-8 rail line.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to adjourn at 9:10 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary