NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on November 16, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci, and Jay Sensibaugh, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Kevin Kochanski, Township Planner, John Boyle, Jerry Schenkman Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Iapalucci asked that the minutes of October 19, 2010, page 2, paragraph 10, be amended to read, “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. Sensibaugh moved to accept the minutes of October 19, 2010, as amended. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mr. Cohen abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Joseph Jenci – 63 Harmony Way: Dr. Jenci was in attendance to review this application for a setback variance for relief of 5.8 feet to enclose an existing elevated deck as a three-season room, and add some decking and a stairway to his yard. Dr. Jenci noted that this is a raised deck with no access to the back yard. His only entrance is through the front door. He plans to add a stairway, providing a second access to the house. This second access would provide emergency exit in case of a fire. He provided the Commission with photographs of his yard and of a similar room on his neighbor’s home.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether there is a homeowners association.
Dr. Jenci said that the homeowners association approved his plan, provided he received a variance.
Mr. Cohen asked what is behind his home.
Dr. Jenci explained that his home backs to open space and Hidden Lake. His home is angled such that the new room would not be visible from his neighbors’ homes.
Mr. Fidler explained to the applicant that the Planning Commission reviews applications for variances to recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether to take a position at the Zoning Hearing Board. He suggested that Dr. Jenci bring some letters from his neighbors supporting the plan.
The members agreed that the plan should be forwarded to the Supervisors without comment.
Julianna Merback Burdo – 3 Ainsley Court: Mr. and Mrs. Burdo were in attendance to review this application for a setback variance of 22.69 feet to build a deck and patio at the rear of their property.
Mr. Sensibaugh noted that it appears the driveway is also to be expanded and will be very close to the property line.
Mr. Burdo explained that his home was to have had a three car garage, but instead they had built an additional bedroom. The driveway would have been longer to go to the third garage bay. As it is now, it is difficult to maneuver the cars into the garage. The proposed widening and extension would have been part of the original plan. The widening is only one foot closer to the property line. It does not require a variance. He said that the house backs to open space. His neighbors have all built similar decks and patios. He has spoken to his neighbors and there is no objection to the plan.
Mr. Cohen said that he has some concern about the encroachment into the setback for this applicant and the others in the development. It is not a hardship, but the home does not appear to have sufficient space for outdoor amenities. He asked whether the Ordinance should be reviewed to streamline the procedure so that homes backing to open space do not require setback variances.
Mr. Burdo noted that without a variance he would only have five feet available for a patio or deck. He is within the required impervious surface allotment. Many of his neighbors have already been granted variances.
Mr. Fidler agreed that the Ordinance does appear to restrict full use of the homeowners’ properties in this development. It is unfortunate that the builder was granted approval to use the entire building envelope on the house, without leaving some area for outdoor amenities.
Ms. Fountain noted that this is a B-12 cluster development; the ordinance has been amended to remove the B-12 use from the CM district.
The members agreed to pass this application to the Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Fidler asked that the synopsis include the Commission’s discussion of the setback restrictions on homes backing onto open space.
Infinity Building Group – 11 Cloverlee Way: Louis Gomes of Infinity Building Group was in attendance to review this application for setback relief to build a single family home at the intersection of Cloverlee and Durham Road. Mr. Gomes explained that the property is on a corner lot and has two front yards. The front of the home would face Cloverlee. On the Durham Road side, the building encroaches into the setback from the ultimate right of way. Mr. Gomes pointed out that he had submitted his plans prior to completion of purchase of the property and had been told that the setback is measured from the legal right of way. Relying on the approval of the building permit plan he completed purchase of the property. It was only later that he was told by the Code Enforcement Officer that the appropriate point of measurement for the 60 foot setback is from the ultimate right of way of Durham Road. The house will be located 73. 75 feet from the curb and will align with the other homes on both Durham and Cloverlee.
Mr. Fidler said that the Zoning Hearing Board typically looks favorably on plans that are consistent with the surrounding properties.
Mr. Cohen asked about the size of the new building and asked if it were possible to position the house differently so that the variance would be less.
Mr. Gomes said it will be a 3700 square foot home, similar in size to the surrounding neighbors. It will have a side entry garage. The garage will face the neighbor’s side entry garage.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that this plan will enhance the surrounding neighborhood. The members agreed to pass this application to the Supervisors without comment.
Mr. Fidler said that the Planning Commission had received a letter from Jeffrey Garton, the Jointure Solicitor, circulating the FCO amendment to the JMZO.
Mr. Torrente explained that the tax map parcels had been confirmed and the Ordinance would be on the Boards’ agendas for adoption in December.
Mr. Fidler said that he did not know whether Wrightstown would be supportive of the changes, as the original FCO had changed housing densities in Newtown and Upper Makefield and had given Wrightstown two schools on the Howe tract. The new amendment eliminates some of the housing density changes but does not change the schools in Wrightstown.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Ordinance is good for Newtown and he continues to support it.
Mr. Cohen said that he had expressed some concerns at the Planning Commission’s earlier review and he still has those concerns.
Mr. Fidler said that he also has similar misgivings should the current challenges be unsuccessful.
Mr. Schenkman arrived at this point.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board is now in the process of reviewing the budget.
Mr. Fidler noted that at one time the Planning Commission had reviewed its budget, which had included some allocation for continuing education. It has been some time since that budget has been considered.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mrs. Driscoll reported that HARB has reviewed and approved signage for a furrier to take the location now occupied by Christine’s dress shop.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that the Park and Recreation Board is beginning to update its Recreation Comprehensive Plan. As this is an update, it will not be an arduous task and much of the work will be done by paid consultants. A committee with representation of two members from the Planning Commission is needed for the review of the plan.
Mr. Fidler said that he would participate as needed. He suggested that three representative might be better to share the responsibility, as this might better address scheduling conflicts.
Messrs. Iapalucci and Fisher agreed to participate as well.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that at its last meeting the EAC had discussed tree trimming by PECO.
Mr. Kochanski said that PECO has the right to trim trees as needed.
Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Fidler reported that at its next meeting the Regional PC will be reviewing survey results.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to adjourn at 8:35 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary