NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on October 5, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairmen Sue Beasley and Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Michael Iapalucci, Fred Olivari and Jay Sensibaugh, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Kevin Kochanski,, Township Planner, John Boyle, Township Assistant Manager and Jerry Schenkman Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: Chairman Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Beasley moved to accept the minutes of September 21, 2010. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Messrs. Olivari and Sensibaugh abstaining.
Ross & Karen Altman, 34 Greenbriar Lane, PRD Variance: Ross Altman was in attendance to review his application for a PRD variance from the Woods of Saxony Final Plan to construct a front porch with a front yard setback of 40.4 feet where 42.74 feet is required and to expand an existing sunroom resulting in a rear yard setback of 13 feet where 15 feet is required.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that the irregular shape of the Altman lot creates a hardship. He asked whether the 7 foot wide porch would be wide enough.
Mr. Altman said that this is the design he and his wife prefer.
Mr. Cohen said that the proposed improvements would be enhancements for the neighborhood and the request is de minimis.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Board of Supervisors would consider this application but it would not require Zoning Hearing Board approval.
Mr. Sensibaugh moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant a PRD variance to Ross and Karen Altman, 34 Greenbriar Lane, from the PRD restrictions of the Woods of Saxony final plan so as to permit construction of a front-covered porch and to expand an existing sunroom, which will require the encroachment into the minimum front yard by 2.34 feet and into the minimum side yard by 2 feet, subject to the condition that the applicant comply with the review letter of CKS Engineering dated September 14, 2010 and with other conditions of the PRD. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Old Business: Mr. Fidler reminded the members that the sound check tests for La Stalla restaurant have been rescheduled for Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 8:00 PM.
Mr. Whartenby questioned whether the Township could still take a position on outdoor music. He referred to a Liquor Control Board regulation provided to the members at the last meeting, which seems to prohibit noise beyond the property lines of licensed establishments. This regulation seems to preclude outdoor music at all,
Mr. Torrente said that this could be influenced by the type of license the business has. The Commission would need more information on LaStalla’s license.
Mrs. Beasley said that original approved plans for LaStalla did not include outside service; the bar was installed outdoors some years after the original approval. She questioned whether the liquor license extends to the entire property or to the original barroom area.
Mr. Boyle informed the Board that the Liquor Control Board has been notified every time the Township Police have responded to complaints.
Mr. Cohen said that it is his understanding that a liquor license does not specify where on the property liquor is served, but the regulation does prohibit sound to travel off the premises. This is enforced by a special division of the State Police.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether the question is still within the Township’s purview if there are LCB regulations already addressing the issue.
Mr. Schenkman said that the municipality and the LCB have overlapping jurisdictions and the municipality needs to have some standing, especially if the LCB’s enforcement is spotty.
Mr. Kochanski said that if the business were to change and no longer have an outdoor bar with control by the LCB, the entertainment question would still need to be addressed by the Township. Restaurants which allow diners to bring their own bottles would fall under municipal approval conditions, for example.
Mr. Boyle reminded the Commission that the Township had granted LaStalla permission for outdoor entertainment if a special event permit were obtained. The special event permit is reviewed by various departments of the Township before being issued. No such permit has ever been sought.
Mr. Olivari said that he questioned that LaStalla is having such difficulty with Newtown Borough. The owners are trying to run a successful business in a difficult economy, providing some entertainment to differentiate itself from other local restaurants.
After some further discussion the members agreed that the Board of Supervisors should clarify any conflicts with regulations of the Liquor Control Board before considering approval of the request for outdoor entertainment.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board had approved changes to the Phase II Stoopville Road improvement plan to include a traffic light at the intersection of Stoopville and Durham Roads. The discussion of the extension of the Sewer Authority charter has been continued.
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Sensibaugh reported that the Regional Commission had seen a presentation on the Neshaminy Watershed and Act 167, which is being reviewed by the DEP.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the next meeting would include discussion of the proposed ordinances addressing certain green energies such as windmills, wood burning stoves and solar panels.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Schenkman reported that the EAC had given a very detailed report on wildlife management to the Supervisors, with some recommendations for proceeding with a program. The Supervisors are expected to continue the discussion at an upcoming meeting.
Economic Advisory Group: Mr. Fidler reported that he has participated in discussions with a group of Township, County and regional experts on economic development which meets to consider the economic growth of the Township. At its most recent meeting, the group saw Lynn Bush’s presentation of the vision for Sycamore Street, and discussed the economic viability of some possible development of the larger lots on the street.
Mr. Schenkman said that the group, through Chairman Dick Weaver, had also been able to provide a tour of a visiting delegation of Korean businesspeople, sponsored by the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber members were very impressed with all that Newtown has to offer a relocating business.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he agrees that Newtown does have much to offer, but there has been some history of creating difficulties for relocating businesses through the approval process.
Old Business: Mrs. Beasley said that she has some concern about recent local press coverage of Township matters. Some Planning Commission members have been quoted in the press as “reporting for” the Planning Commission.
Mr. Fidler reminded members that the Commission meetings are public and as such, members in attendance can certainly speak about what they have witnessed at the meetings, but unless the members are reporting on votes taken, it is important to differentiate between individual opinion and the official opinion, as voted, of the Planning Commission. Mr. Fidler said that he has attempted to always report to the Board on the dissenting opinions when votes by the Commission have not been unanimous.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that members refer questions from the press to the Chairman if an “official” statement is requested.
General Discussion: Mr. Fidler said that there had been some recent discussion about the procedure for review of sketch or concept plans. Occasionally an applicant wants some input from the Township on ideas for development before going to a fully engineered plan for preliminary review. The applicant might hold meetings with Township staff to discuss a plan, might want to speak to the Supervisors at a work session before coming to the Planning Commission.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to adjourn at 8:45 PM. Mr. Olivari seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary