NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on September 7, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairmen Sue Beasley and Robert Whartenby, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci and Fred Olivari, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Stacy Yoder, Township Planner, and Andrew Brown, Township Traffic Engineer.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Beasley noted that in the minutes of August 3, 2010, the discussion of LaStalla’s report by its sound engineers, no current decibel levels were referenced. She suggested that the minutes make it clear that these numbers were not provided.
Mr. Fisher pointed out a typo on page 7.
Mrs. Beasley moved to accept the minutes of August 3, 2010, as amended. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 4-0-3, with Mrs. Driscoll and Messrs. Fisher and Olivari abstaining.
Traffic Engineer’s Report: Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown presented an updated report on the ongoing road projects. He discussed the Temora Farm Bridge replacement.
Mr. Fidler noted that the replacement is listed a structural improvement, giving the impression that there are safety concerns.
Mr. Brown said that he has not yet seen the PennDOT report so is not certain that the substructure of the bridge is deficient.
Mr. Fisher shared some ongoing correspondence between the Township and DVRPC regarding the reclassification of Swamp Road to a major collector rather than a minor arterial road.
Mr. Fidler said that it will be difficult to have the road classification reduced when usage has increased.
Mr. Brown briefly discussed the paper street Howard Avenue. Meglio’s Restaurant would like to relocate and use Howard Avenue for access. This would create an opening on Swamp Road very close to the new traffic signal.
Engineer Kurt Rittler, in attendance on another matter, said that he has been involved in the Meglio’s project. The owner of the shopping center has been unwilling to grant Meglio’s an easement to gain access through the new intersection and parking lot.
Mrs. Beasley asked that the timing of the lights at the cross streets with the Newtown Bypass be reviewed. They currently only allow a small number of cars to pass through the intersections.
Mr. Fidler and Mr. Brown confirmed that PennDOT’s goal is to quickly move traffic along the Bypass during the rush hour peaks.
Mr. Brown informed the members that the Board of Supervisors must appoint a committee to complete the land use assumption report for updating Act 209. Without the update, the Township cannot alter developer fees.
Print Mail Systems, 23 Friends Lane, Waiver of Land Development: Curt Rittler, Engineer and Kevin Reilly, owner, were in attendance to review this plan for expansion of the existing parking lot with 20 new parking spaces.
Mr. Rittler explained that when Print Mail Systems moved to this location, some interior renovations were made that did not require land development review. A site plan developed in the 1980’s by the previous owner showed 45 parking spaces held in reserve. The new spaces are to be taken from those held in reserve. The new spaces will increase the impervious surface by 6600 square feet, increasing impervious surface to will be 30%, far below the permitted impervious surface. The business is growing and the applicant is adding a number of new employees. The applicant is seeking a waiver of land development.
Mr. Fidler said that since the 1980’s, when the plan was developed, stormwater requirements have changed. It might be beneficial to ask the Township Engineer to review stormwater calculations.
Mr. Whartenby noted that the project would need to meet Bucks County Conservation District standards.
Ms. Fountain noted that BCCD will only require stormwater management if the disturbance is one acre or more; approval from BCCD will still be required.
The members were supportive of recommending the waiver, with an engineer’s review of stormwater management. All were eager to support a business which is expanding and providing employment in the current difficult economy. Mr. Fisher noted that he did not recall the Planning Commission ever reviewing a request for a waiver of land development.
Ms. Fountain said that the Supervisors have reviewed and granted a few such waivers for minor changes in recent years. These projects have gone directly to the Supervisors without Planning Commission review. The Township is trying to create a consistent procedure for reviewing waivers.
Mr. Whartenby asked about the stockpile of topsoil.
Mr. Rittler said that the topsoil will remain on the site, distributed through the landscaping after construction is completed.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors waive land development for installation of 20 parking spaces at 23 Friends Lane in the LI Zoning District subject to the following conditions:
Mrs. Beasley seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Beneficial Bank, 34 South Sycamore Street, Sketch Plan: Attorney John Van Luvanee, representing Beneficial Bank, along with architect Harry Childress, engineer and a bank official, were in attendance to review a sketch for a branch bank at the corner of Sycamore Street and Newtown Richboro Road on the Stockburger/McBride Chrysler site.
(Mr. Fidler, as a Board member of a bank at which Mr. Stockburger is a customer, said that he would recuse himself from any voting as this project proceeds through land development.)
Mr. VanLuvanee explained that Beneficial Bank would like to build a two story building for retail banking and bank offices on the 1.75 acre site. In keeping with the vision for the historic district, the proposed building will be close to the street with parking and drive through window at the rear of the building. Parking and drive through would be on the Richboro Road side, far from the intersection, so as not to interfere with pedestrian traffic.
Mr. Fidler noted that Harriet Beckert, a member of the Historic Architectural Review Board, was in attendance. He invited Mrs. Beckert to take a seat with the Commission so that she could see the presentation better and contribute to any discussion of historic district building requirements.
Mr. Van Luvanee said that the plan complies with the Ordinance except for parking. The Ordinance bases parking on square footage for a retail bank, however this building will only have one story of retail banking with the second story administrative offices. ITE calculates a suburban bank’s need at 3.49 spaces per 1000 square feet; the applicant can provide 5 on site spaces per 1000 square feet; the Ordinance requires 10 spaces per 1000 square feet.
Mr. Fidler said that it is possible that some accommodation can be made, either through a fee in lieu, off site parking or a variance.
The members were in agreement that parking seemed adequate for the proposed use and that they would not object to a possible arrangement for off-site parking or a variance.
Mrs. Beasley noted that Howard Avenue is noted on the plan.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that Stockburgers has been using Howard Avenue as an internal driveway. He said that the paper street had been eliminated some years ago and the land reverted to the adjacent property owners at the center line by quiet title.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about the proposed setback on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Childress said that the setback is 35 feet from the street. There will be a lawn and garden area with landscaping and hardscaping. A wall and fence will shield the parking and drive through areas.
Mr. Iapalucci asked about sidewalks.
Mr. Childress said that the sidewalk would extend up Richboro Road, connecting to the next parcel.
The members discussed the drive through window, which will have three bays. All agreed that it was designed to divert traffic from the intersection and would work well with the pedestrian areas on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Childress showed a rendering of the exterior of the building, a brick federal style structure with metal awnings and simulated limestone cornices. The style fits with the historic tone of the district. The appearance will be similar on all four sides of the building. The main entrance is facing Richboro Road.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s question, Mr. VanLuvanee said that the height complies with the Ordinance.
The members briefly discussed proposed landscaping and placement of trees to soften the appearance.
Mrs. Beckert said that HARB prefers buildings to face Sycamore Street. She also noted that lights on drive through windows are not permitted to be seen from Sycamore Street. HARB has also asked that buildings be closer to the sidewalks. She suggested that portions of the façade be treated differently to give the impression of a few attached buildings rather than one large building. HARB also asks for true divided lights on the windows.
Mr. Doyle of Beneficial Bank explained that Beneficial wants to have large windows for transparency in the retail portion of the bank. The appearance is meant to convey that this is a large, old, stable institution.
Mr. Childress said that the size and shape of the lot and the parking and driving requirements have made it necessary to place the main entrance on the Richboro Road side of the building. The façade facing Sycamore Street will have the same appearance as the front without an entrance door. There have been many iterations of the design but this is the only orientation which will accommodate the driving and parking requirements.
Mr. Fidler and Mr. Whartenby agreed that the design works well for internal traffic flow for the parking and drive through windows.
Mr. Olivari, Mrs. Driscoll and Mrs. Beasley agreed that they liked the appearance of the building.
Mr. Fisher, Mr. Iapalucci and Mr. Whartenby favored the a mix of materials for a varied appearance on the façade.
Mr. Fidler said that specific concerns about the exterior would be addressed during land development. HARB and the Supervisors would discuss this in more detail.
Mr. Brown said that the layout of the parking area seemed adequate. He said that a highway occupancy permit would be required for the entrance.
Mrs. Beasley noted the long distance from the handicapped parking spaces to the front door.
Mr. Fidler agreed that the parking did seem far from the entrance.
Mrs. Beckert said that a demolition permit would be needed for removal of the Stockburger showroom as it is a historic structure.
Mr. VanLuvanee said he would research this, as he did not think the building was very old.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the Joint Zoning Council is still reviewing the historic zoning ordinance.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mr. Fidler explained that a review of the Ordinance has shown that the Board of Supervisors must appoint a Planning Commission member as a voting member of HARB.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she would volunteer for the position.
The recording secretary would notify the Supervisors.
Park and Recreation Board: Mr. Iapalucci reported that the Supervisors have approved the skate park. Construction should begin shortly.
Mr. Fidler said that there has been an increase in home occupation businesses. Many have no impact on the neighborhood, but some do.
Mrs. Beasley pointed out that a farm near her home now has a beauty salon with a sign outside on Washington Crossing Road.
The recording secretary reminded the members that the owner of that business applied for and was granted a variance by the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fidler said that he would speak to the Supervisors about being more stringent in considering home businesses.
Mrs. Beasley asked the recording secretary to contact attorney Don Marshall about the sound test at LaStalla.
Mr. Fisher moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary