NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on October 19, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairmen Sue Beasley and Robert Whartenby, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher (late) , Michael Iapalucci, and Jay Sensibaugh, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, John Boyle, Township Assistant Manager and Jerry Schenkman Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Sensibaugh moved to approve the minutes of October 5, 2010. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mrs. Driscoll abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Kevin DeFinis, 395 Eagle Road: Kevin DeFinis was in attendance to present this application for a special exception and a variance for side yard setback relief of 1’10” to build a screen porch.
Mr. Fidler suggested that because the relief was de minimis, the Commission should move the application forward to the Supervisors without comment.
Mrs. Driscoll suggested that the Board should support the application.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors support this application to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 5-1, with Mr. Sensibaugh voting nay.
Mr. Fisher arrived at this point.
JMH Outdoor Services on behalf of John Perry Bugnar – 25 Amy Circle: Mark Hayworth of JMH Outdoor Services presented this application for a variance for 3.78% increased impervious surface to install a swimming pool and associated decking, coping and walkways.
Mr. Fisher asked whether the surrounding neighbors had any concerns.
Mr. Hayworth said that the property has woods to one side and it was his understanding that the neighbor on the other side had no objection. To the rear of the property is open space and some woods. Beyond the woods is the Newtown Grant development.
Mrs. Beasley said that the plan shows a large pool and decking. She did not see a hardship if the applicant reduced the size of the project to comply with the Ordinance.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the owner is trying to improve the property and the relief sought is only a 3.78% increase. He suggested that the Commission move the application forward to the Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Fidler said that the Zoning Hearing Board has sometimes asked applicants who are increasing their impervious surface to show some best management practices to address the increased run off. He suggested that the applicant investigate ways to mitigate the increased impervious surface.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that Yardley would be hosting a presentation on the use of rain barrels later in the week. This might prove helpful to the applicant.
Mr. Whartenby suggested that the applicant consider using some porous pavers for parts of the project to address run off.
The Commission members agreed to forward this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Weglos, 759 Newtown Yardley Road – Sketch Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant, who wishes to build a one story building to house his dental practice; his practice is currently in leased space at Summit Square.
Engineer Heath Dumack showed two different sketch plans, one with a rectangular building taking access from Newtown Yardley Road and the other with an “L” shaped building with an access easement through the Newtown Swim Club driveway. The plans would use the existing non-conformity to maintain the same front yard setback. Both plans would require zoning relief for the use, a dental office for a single practitioner. Both plans have increased impervious surface of about 75% and both provide only 12 parking spaces where 14 would be required. Relief would also be needed for a loading berth, which the Ordinance states must be 50 feet from the property lines, however the property is only 83 feet wide.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the building could be reduced in size to accommodate the additional parking spaces.
Mr. Murphy said that the proposed single story building is only 2000 square feet. To remove square footage for parking would reduce the building size too much.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the property is in the R-2 Zoning District; the proposed use does not fit with that zoning.
Mr. Murphy explained that rather than seek to change the zoning he would seek a use variance. The location is between the entrance to the Swim Club and the Headley open space and swimming pool. Across Newtown Yardley Road are offices. The use fits with the neighborhood; he did not think the property would be desirable for single family residential use.
Mrs. Driscoll agreed. The property has become an eyesore in an area surrounded by business uses.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he had concerns about a new curb cut so close to the swim club, as it could be dangerous when the swim club and dental offices are both busy in the summertime. He would favor an easement through the swim club.
Mr. Murphy said that at this time the owner of the swim club has not been receptive to granting an easement.
Mr. Fidler said that he would prefer not to see a new driveway curb cut on Newtown Yardley Road so close to the swim club. He suggested that as the swim club has expanded its activities in recent years to include a catering room and health club, perhaps the Township could work with the applicant and the swim club to develop an easement agreement for the good of the community.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant would need Township support to work out an easement arrangement. He noted that with the easement and using Plan 2, no parking variance would be needed but other variances would still be required.
The members agreed that the easement would be preferable to an additional curb cut on Newtown Yardley Road. Mr. Fidler asked if the easement could access the driveway in the ultimate right of way.
Mr. Dumack said that this might not be the best solution from a traffic standpoint.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Murphy said that any easement agreement would clearly define liability should accidents occur.
Ms. Fountain discussed the open space requirements for a single family dwelling. She also noted that the impervious surface ratio for residential use is much higher than for other uses. She also discussed requirements for screened parking. She suggested that the applicant seek a variance to eliminate the loading berth.
Mr. Fidler said that he agreed that this is a difficult property to develop as zoned. He would support the project if it were developed with the access easement through the swim club, but had concerns about such an intense use with a new driveway onto Newtown Yardley Road.
McDonald’s Restaurant, South Eagle Road – Sketch Plan: Mr. Murphy represented the Lori Kedaisch of McDonalds and Michael Anton the prospective franchise for this plan to build a McDonald’s Restaurant with drive through service at Village at Newtown Phase II. Philip Wursta of Pennoni Associates, traffic engineer for the project and Brian Zapala of Boehler Enginering, engineer on the project were also in attendance. The plan calls for demolition of the existing doctors’ office building and construction of a smaller restaurant building. This sketch plan has already been shown to the Cliveden Estates Homeowners Association and the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Zapala showed an aerial photograph and record plan which outline the access roads and existing parking. He noted that the proposal will demolish the existing 6900 square foot building, replacing it with a 3911 square foot restaurant building with 71 seats. He reviewed the traffic circulation through the parking lot and through the proposed drive through window, pointing out the existing 5 foot buffer and hedges, which will remain in place. He pointed out two proposed exits from the restaurant parking area. The proposal shows 48 parking spaces, maintaining the 5.5 spaces per 1000 square feet as required. The plan will include screened trash enclosures. The new building is smaller, will have a reduced impervious surface and will be 20 feet high. The existing building is 30 feet high.
Mr. Iapalucci had some concern that customers entering the restaurant have to walk across the drive through aisle. Since this is a building which will attract children, he would prefer to have the entrance clear of drive through traffic. He also expressed some concern about signage visible from the roadways.
Mr. Fidler said that he has some concern about the parking. The shopping center was originally built to have shared parking but this section of the center has a high concentration of restaurant uses, needing parking at the same times.
Mr. Wursta said that he has begun a comparison of the businesses in the shopping center and their peak usage times. He has begun evaluating the parking and comparing availability to Phase I (Genuardi’s). While he has only counted at mid-day, it does appear to be adequate.
The Commission discussed relocating the new building closer to Durham Road. Mr. Sensibaugh said that if the building were aligned with the toll house, the entrance could be clear of the drive through aisle. He said that if the architectural design were similar to the toll house it would give an attractive appearance from the street.
Mr. Zapala said that the shopping center owners have designated a particular building envelope which would not allow the restaurant to be located closer to Durham Road. He was not sure whether is could be changed Regarding the building appearance, the architectural style is more upscale to fit into the surrounding community, but the appearance is dictated by the corporation. He showed an artist’s rendering of the proposed façade.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the drive aisle might not be wide enough and suggested internal one-way traffic.
Mr. Fisher asked about plans for lighting and signage.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant is not prepared to discuss signage yet, but is aware that signage is a sensitive issue. It will be understated and will not face Durham Road directly. The berm along Durham Road will remain and some supplemental plantings are proposed.
Mrs. Driscoll, Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Whartenby agreed with the proposal to move the building to align with the toll house to create a safer parking lot crossing to the entrance. They did have some concerns about evening parking with so many other restaurants in Phase II of the shopping center. Mrs. Beasley asked about plans for trash containment. She also asked why McDonalds has decided to open in Newtown.
Ms. Kadaisch said that McDonalds has reviewed numerous sites in the area and has studied the demographics. This would be a good location for the new McDonalds.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted the proximity to the high school and skate park. He suggested that the plans include additional sidewalks.
Resident Candace Zinger, a resident of Cliveden Estates, said that she is concerned about traffic, parking, noise and trash.
Resident Tom Engle of Cliveden Estates said that he has the same concerns as Ms. Zinger. He is also concerned about young people loitering near the site and about noise from the drive-through speakers.
Resident Judith Norkin, President of Cliveden Homeowners Association, said that the Homeowners Association is concerned about all of the issues already discussed. In addition, there are concerns that this will be a very active use, will generate trash, traffic, lights, odor, noise from idling cars and car radios. Cliveden residents are not supportive of the project and want it stopped.
Lorenzetti, 54-58 Durham Road – Sketch Plan: Mr. Murphy represented Gene Lorenzetti, owner of the property. Also in attendance were Mike McCormack of Heritage Corporation, Jack Parry, architect, Philip Wursta, traffic engineer and Heath Dumack, engineer. They presented a plan to develop 9 acres on Durham Road for an assisted living facility with 90 units. A few of the units could house two residents for a total of 120 residents.
Mr. Murphy said that Mr. Lorenzetti had met with the Board of Supervisors, with Cliveden Homeowners Association and with Drs. Goldberger and Kelly to review the plans.
Mr. Dumack said that the 85,000 square foot facility would be divided into a one story Alzheimer’s facility and a two story assisted living facility with administrative offices, dining and kitchen facilities at the center. The ordinance requires 224 parking spaces, which would bring the impervious surface to 43%. The stormwater management would accommodate the full 43% impervious surface. Nearby residents have expressed a preference for detention/retention without a decorative fountain. The applicant would like to provide 88 parking spaces, which would result in 35.9% impervious surface.
Mr. Murphy explained that the Ordinance does not have a category of “assisted living facility.” He has been researching other municipalities’ parking requirement for this use. The parking is used primarily by staff and visitors; most residents do not have cars.
Mr. Fidler said that he has some concerns about the parking, and also about the proposed access. He asked whether the project could have primary access on Durham Road, with a secondary access on Eagle Road.
Mr. Murphy showed the second, emergency access on Rte 413. He noted that in previous plans for this site the Board of Supervisors had requested that access be from Eagle with no access on Durham Road.
Mr. Wursta said that he has not studied an access point on Durham Road.
Mr. Iapalucci suggested moving the building closer to Durham Road with parking at the rear.
Mr. Murphy said that the Supervisors had also suggested this, or eliminating one row of parking in front.
Mr. McCormack said that the occupancy would be 90 units, with up to 120 residents. The memory unit would have 41 rooms and the assisted living has 49 units with small kitchenette facilities, not full kitchens. There would be 26 employees on the day shifts, fewer at night. There is no skilled nursing offered, although some help with medication, dressing and grooming is provided. Transportation is provided for local shopping, appointments, etc. Facilities are available on site for visiting barbers and hairdressers, podiatrists and other services. A nurse is on duty, but not a doctor. No hospice care is provided, although residents might bring in outside hospice providers. Heritage operates 14 such facilities, which are licensed by the State. The average age of residents is 85, and 70% are women. While residents of the assisted living units are permitted to own cars, it is rare for residents to keep their vehicles.
Mr. Parry explained that there are two dining rooms served by one common kitchen. Activity areas are located throughout the facility. Administrative offices are at the center. The assisted living portion has two elevators.
The Commission members discussed the proposed parking. They had concerns that with the number of employees, visiting service providers, visitors and resident with cars, 88 spaces might not be sufficient.
Mr. Murphy said that Heritage does not want the facility to be under-parked and will continue to study this, making comparisons to other nearby facilities.
Mr. Parry reviewed the proposed architectural appearance, noting that the building will be less than 35 feet tall with stucco and horizontal siding. All four sides will have the appearance of the front.
The members briefly discussed adding sidewalks to the intersection of Eagle and Durham Road so that residents can walk to the shopping center.
Mr. Parry showed the courtyard area and noted that most of the residents will walk outside to the courtyard to sit on benches, but will not venture much farther on foot.
Mr. McCormack agreed to re-visit the sidewalks. He did not imagine that residents would walk beyond the grounds, even in the company of their visiting family member.
Mr. Dumack noted that the portico over the front entrance will require a setback variance.
Ms. Norkin, representing Cliveden Homeowners Association, said that while the resident found this plan less objectionable than plans previously shown for the property, the residents continue to have concerns about lights, noise, glare, traffic and the possible need to relocate utility poles to the CIiveden side of the street. Of particular concern is the noise and lights of emergency vehicles.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board had voted to authorize expenditure of $750 for Eccologix to organize an archery hunt to cull the deer herd, as recommended by the EAC. The Board had also approved the NAC addition, agreeing to waive the traffic impact fee. At its work session the Board had reviewed the sketch plan for Luis Flores subdivision, but had many reservations.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the Council continues its review of proposed ordinances to address green energy, but no specific draft has been presented for Planning Commission review at this time.
Mr. Iapalucci asked for an update on LaStalla’s conditional use.
Mr. Schenkman said this will be on the next Board of Supervisors agenda. He and Mr. Sensibaugh had attended the tests of the new sound system. It seemed to be very effective in reducing the noise, but there is some concern among residents that once approval is granted, the volume could be turned up again.
Mrs. Beasley said that there should be more consistency among the conditional uses., noting that some other local restaurants have music on their outdoor patios.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether fines will be included in any approvals for LaStalla or if any fine has been levied.
Mr. Boyle said that LaStalla has paid its fine.
Mr. Schenkman said that if approval of the outdoor music is considered, penalties would be discussed at that time.
Mrs. Beasley moved to adjourn at 10:20 PM. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary