NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on July 6, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairmen Sue Beasley and Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci (late) and Jay Sensibaugh, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Kevin Kochanski, Township Planner and John Boyle, Township Assistant Manager.
Call to Order: Chairman Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher moved to accept the minutes of June 1, 2010. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Whartenby abstaining.
(Mr. Iapalucci arrived at this point)
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Mr. Fidler reported that due to scheduling conflicts, Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown will not come to a meeting until August. He is expected to have an updated report on the proposed Terry Drive extension and slip ramp to the Newtown Bypass at that time.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked that the Engineer include an update on any changes to the TIP.
Lan d Development
Rosebank Winery, 258 Durham Road - Planning Module: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review the planning module for Rosebank Winery to connect with public sewers. The public sewer lines are in Veterans Park.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission review states that, “the type of system that is proposed would limit further extension.”
Mr. Marshall said that no further expansion of the site is planned.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Planning Commission Chairman’s signature is required under Act 537. All of the other agencies have already signed off; Newtown Township is the final step in the approval process.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Township approve the planning module for Rosebank Winery. Mr. Fisher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Beasley asked whether the approval should be conditioned on no further expansion.
Ms. Fountain said that condition is not necessary since this is for an already approved plan.
The motion passed 8-0.
Honey Baked Ham – 2845 South Eagle Road: Philip Rivera was in attendance to review this application for conditional use approval for uses E-1 retail and E-5 eating place for a specialty retail shop for the sale of hams, turkeys and other pork products with indoor dining at Village at Newtown Shopping Center next to Subway Sandwich Shop.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Rivera said that he is seeking hours of operation from 6:00 AM until 12:00 AM because he will eventually want to serve coffee and pastries in the morning and the early hours will allow for preparation time. He might stay open very late during holiday season to accommodate customers and fill orders.
Mr. Iapalucci asked about deliveries.
Mr. Fidler noted that this has not been of concern in the shopping center, as most businesses have access to loading areas at the rear of the shops.
Mr. Rivera said that he expects deliveries by 18 wheel tractor trailers at the rear of the store. The shop has a large capacity for on-site storage.
Mr. Fidler asked about the required EDU’s for a restaurant use.
Mr. Rivera said that he has spoken to Warren Gormley at the Sewer Authority who assured him that the EDU’s are adequate for 12 or fewer seats. He plans to have seating for ten.
Mr. Whartenby asked about on-site cooking.
Mr. Rivera said that his business is primarily retail sale of whole cooked hams. There would be some heating up but not full service cooking. The hams are delivered pre-cooked.
Mr. Iapalucci asked about signage. He has some concerns about businesses installing signs in the store windows and neon signs inside which can be seen from the street.
Mr. Rivera said that he would use the area above the door for the same type of sign as the other businesses in the shopping center. Mr. Rivera said that this is a franchised business; the franchise owners are encouraged to comply with the local restrictions and regulations on signage.
The members briefly discussed parking at the shopping center.
Ms. Fountain said that the shopping center was granted a variance for shared parking.
Mr. Fidler noted that a few years ago the Codes Department had been tracking the variety of uses in the shopping center to determine whether the mix of uses is still working for shared parking. At this part of the shopping center, although there are other restaurants, all busy in the evenings and weekends, there is still ample parking near the bank and the empty building. He thought the parking would be adequate, but said that he would discuss continued monitoring when he reports to the Board of Supervisors.
Mrs. Beasley moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Bucks County Ham’s application for conditional use for an E-1 retail use and E-5 eating place at 2845 South Eagle Road in the PC, Planned Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
The Barn/LaStalla – 18 Swamp Road: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review this amendment and modification to LaStalla’s conditional use approval to allow extended hours of operation and to permit outdoor entertainment. The applicant is seeking to remain open until 2:00 AM Monday through Sunday and to provide outdoor acoustic entertainment on Wednesdays and Saturdays and amplified DJ music on Thursdays and Fridays. The current conditional use allows no outdoor music unless by special permit; hours are until 11:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and until 1:00 AM Friday and Saturday.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply with all other aspects of the previous conditional use. The music will comply with Township noise ordinances and will end at midnight. There have been notices of violation of the conditional use, and rather than appeal the notices, the applicant has elected to amend the conditional use application.
Mrs. Driscoll said that the Newtown Advance has reported that there have been complaints to the police. She is concerned about disturbance to residential neighbors.
Mrs. Beasley said that she has also seen the complaints. She is acquainted with a former tenant of the apartment building on Sycamore Street who moved because of the late night noise. She has concern that the noise is travelling down hill to the Sycamore Street area, which does have residential uses. She suggested that music be permitted inside only or that some kind of sound buffering be considered.
Mr. Kochanski said that if the Commission is considering using plantings as buffers, he can help advise on varieties of trees and bushes which could help.
Mr. Marshall said that LaStalla is located in the PC zoning district, surrounded by businesses. The noise ordinance measures sound at the property line in decibels. The applicant will comply with the ordinance. He said that he was unaware of the specifics of police involvement or the details of the noise complaints.
Mr. Boyle said that he spoke to the police department who confirmed the complaints have been about the outside speakers. He said that the violation notices were issued because no outdoor music is permitted unless a special permit is issued. No permit has been issued.
Mr. Fidler and Mr. Sensibaugh each expressed concern that the Commission attempt to work with the applicant to help his business continue to succeed while being sensitive to the residential neighbors.
Mr. Cohen said that this is the prime commercial area of the Township. He asked whether there is a zoning district where this use would be permitted.
Mr. Marshall said that the use is not prohibited except by the conditions of the conditional use approval. The applicant is seeking to amend those conditions.
The Commission discussed the ongoing concern that violation notices are being issued and the activity continues.
Mr. Marshall said that this is similar to appealing a zoning violation notice. The activity could continue until the hearing when the issue would be decided.
Mr. Iapalucci said that this is a commercial area; LaStalla is a successful commercial business. He would like to work toward some flexibility to help the business remain viable. Perhaps some alterations, such as bringing the speakers inside, would be helpful. He said that the Township has been working toward creating a vibrant downtown area and some noise should be expected.
Mr. Whartenby reminded the Commission that in its discussions of a vision for Sycamore Street, the members had been supportive of entertainment venues and pocket parks which might invite performances by musicians and other entertainers. This should be kept in mind as there is some concern about noise in residential areas.
Mrs. Beasley said that at the 2007 conditional use review, La Stalla agreed to provide valet parking on weekends.
Mr. Marshall explained that when Rouget opened nearby, LaStalla and Rouget had provided valets but they proved unnecessary. The shared parking and has been sufficient. Employees are parking remotely. If valet parking were to become necessary it would be re-instated.
Mr. Cohen discussed the proposed changes to the hours of operation. Of concern was that the restaurant kitchen would close at 11:00 PM but the bar would remain open until 2:00 AM. He and Mr. Fisher said that they would like to see some food available at all times and asked about having snacks available until closing.
Mr. Fidler said that the Green Parrot has hours until 2:00 AM but the kitchen remains open and food service is always available.
The Commission members agreed that they would prefer to see food available at all times.
Mr. Marshall said that he would like to continue this review to the next meeting. He would like to discuss some of the suggestions made with the applicant and would like to further research the exact nature of the police complaints.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the Commission should address the hours of operation now and continue the discussion of entertainment only.
Mr. Marshall said he would prefer to continue the entire application and the applicant would turn down the music in the meantime.
Mr. Fidler urged the applicant to move the entertainment indoors.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to table the conditional use review for LaStalla. Mr. Whartenby seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Marshall said that he would speak to Mr. Torrente about an extension if necessary.
The motion passed 8-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of Marc J. And Karen M. Hansen, owners, by Brad Chorpenning, Hunter Pines Construction Co. LLC. , 670 Linton Hill Road: . Dan Rominelli of Hunter Pines Construction was in attendance to review this application for variances and a special exception to rebuild a dwelling on a non-conforming lot. Mr. Rominelli explained that the Hansen house was damaged more than 70% by fire. The applicant wishes to demolish the house and rebuild a two story house on the 0.6 acre parcel. The applicant will be changing the orientation of the house so that the driveway is on Springhouse Road. This is for safety, as Linton Hill Road has become very busy.
Mr. Fidler said that he has a concern when large homes are built to completely fill the building envelope. Future owners do not have room for additional amenities such as pools and patios. He did think the plans were consistent with other homes in the neighborhood.
Mr. Cohen said that the property will still be below the 25% impervious surface ratio permitted, so future expansion would be possible. Mr. Sensibaugh agreed with this.
Mrs. Beasley asked about drainage issues.
Mr. Rominelli said that stormwater management will be part of the building plan. He noted that although the house was built in 1968, it did require a historic review before a demolition permit could be issued.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the driveway would be close to the intersection with Linton Hill Road.
Mrs. Beasley said she is familiar with the location and thinks it will be safer than the current driveway.
The Commission agreed to pass this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Gerald and Mary DeYoung, 103 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. and Mrs. DeYoung were in attendance to review this application for a setback variance to construct a detached garage and remove an existing garage. The new garage will be 24’X32” and the old one is 16’X 42. The new garage will be the same height.
Mr. Cohen asked why a variance is required for this application since the expansion of the existing non-conformity is de minimis.
Mr. Torrente explained that the more than a 25% expansion.
The Commission members were in agreement that the Board should support this application, as it is consistent with its vision for Sycamore Street.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Historic Architectural Review Board – Recommend Liaison to become voting member: Mr. Boyle read the Ordinance establishing the HARB, requiring an architect, a real estate professional and a voting member of the Planning Commission to be appointed to HARB. He said that the Planning Commission is being asked to recommend a member for appointment to HARB by the Board of Supervisors.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she had volunteered to serve a liaison, but did not feel she had the expertise to participate and vote on applications. She also felt that she could not commit to the 9:30 AM meetings, as she is not consistently available at that time.
Mrs. Beasley said that she and Mrs. Driscoll had agreed to share the HARB liaison responsibility but she would not be able to commit to a 9:30 AM meeting.
Mr. Fidler said that he is not available at the time of the regular meetings and asked if any of the members could make that commitment. As no members were free on the second Thursday of each month, Mr. Fidler asked Mr. Boyle to convey this to the HARB chairman. Perhaps HARB could meet at the end of the business day or in the evening to accommodate the volunteers from the Planning Commission. Mr. Fidler would also discuss this with the Supervisors when he gives his report.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has been given copies of the two pamphlets Ms. Fountain provided on stormwater management. They are interested in contributing to the Planning Commission’s effort to create a Newtown Township guide for stormwater management on home improvement projects. The EAC chairman is working on an PRF for a controlled wildlife management program on some Township owned properties.
Correspondence: Mr. Fidler reported that former Planning Commission member Vince Lombardi is recovering from surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital. The Commission will send its best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Lombardi.
Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 9:30 PM. Mr. Sensibaugh seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary