NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on December 21, 2010
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Michael Iapalucci, Fred Olivari, Jay Sensibaugh, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor and John Boyle, Township Assistant Manager.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher moved to accept the minutes of November 16, 2010. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 7-0-1, with Mr. Whartenby abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Newtown Racquetball Association – 209 Penns Trail: Attorney Don Marshall was in attendance to review this application for variances for increased impervious surface,
parking, loading berth relief and location of a sign within 1000 feet of the Newtown Bypass to construct an 11,050 square foot addition to an athletic facility. The plan proposes to consolidate three parcels into a 12.54 acre parcel and to eliminate the entrance on Penns Trail, relocating it to Pheasant Run. The applicant has proposed an additional 101 parking spaces instead of the required 221. Mr. Marshall noted that the entire facility will have 587 parking spaces where the Ordinance would require 3473 spaces. Previous variances have been granted for parking. The current impervious surface is 69% per previous variances; the new plan proposes 71.05%. The sign variance has also been previously granted and is being included again in this application.
Ms. Fountain asked whether the 71.05% impervious surface includes parking held in reserve.
Mr. Marshall said that the impervious does include reserve parking held in green; stormwater management will address the entire 71.05%.
Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Marshall to review the impervious, as the plan appears to show 100% impervious surface. He also asked whether new signage will be added.
Mr. Marshall noted that tax map parcel 29-10-39-1 is in porous. It is part of the plan but will not be developed. New directional signs will be added because the entrance is being relocated to another street.
Mr. Fidler said that signs on Pheasant Run will not require variances as they will face away from the Bypass.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the location of the reserve parking and the lots being combined. He noted that 29-10-39-1 is not being consolidated but the entrance will have an easement through that lot. The baseball academy entrance has been relocated farther back from the intersection as suggested by the Planning Commission during sketch plan review.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to recommend that the Board support this application. Mrs. Driscoll seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Cohen said that he is not in favor of recommending Board support of the application. He does not think the Board should send its solicitor to participate at the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the Commission should be cautious in making a recommendation to send a solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board, saving such action for occasions when the Commission feels the Township should have a presence to uphold our ordinances.
The motion failed 2-6, with Messrs. Cohen, Fiddler, Fisher, Olivari, Sensibaugh and Whartenby voting nay.
The members agreed to send the application to the Board of Supervisors with no comment.
Mr. Marshall suggested that in the new year the Jointure might want to re-evaluate the parking requirements for athletic facilities. The Ordinance bases its requirements on square footage, without considering some of the spaces inside the facility are very large and that use of the facility is continuous throughout the day, not all at once.
Mr. Fidler said that there are many uses with larger than appropriate parking requirements that should be reviewed.
Mark Weglos, DMD – 759 Newtown Yardley Road: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this application for variances and a special exception for a dental office use, increased impervious surface and parking relief. Mr. Murphy noted that the applicant had shown two sketch plans to the Commission. The plan with this application takes access directly from Newtown Yardley Road as the applicant was unable to arrange for an easement to take access from Newtown Swim Club.
Mr. Murphy explained that the sketch plan had been shown to the Board of Supervisors, who were supportive of the plan, noting that the dental office proposed was not an intense use. Since showing the plan, Mr. Murphy has spoken to Board of Supervisors’ Solicitor Jeffrey Garton suggesting certain conditions to be included in any approved use variance. Those conditions include hours of operation limited to 3.5 days per week, with only emergency hours on weekends, dental office use only and limit of four total employees on the premises. The applicant would agree to those conditions, should the Zoning Hearing Board grant variances.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission had received correspondence from the Joint Historic Commission expressing some interest in the old house on the property, which might have been a toll house at one time. Neither Mr. Fidler nor Mr. Murphy remember this house as having been a toll house. Mr. Fidler did some research and learned that the house had been moved to its current location from the middle of what is now Newtown Yardley Road some time in the 1960’s.
Mr. Murphy said that Jeffrey Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy had similar recollection about moving of the building. The applicant would allow the Historic Commission to have access to the property to photograph and document it before it is razed.
Engineer Heath Dumack said that the plan does not include curbing because of sheet flow on the parking area. Mr. Dumack also said that the sidewalk/trail would be maintained for now, but is in the way of proposed widening of Newtown Yardley Road which has been on the TIP list.
The Commission agreed to pass this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
WEN- Hamilton – 54-84 Durham Road: Mr. Murphy was in attendance to review this application for variances for reduced parking and increased impervious surface, disturbance of steep slopes and woodlands, to construct an 87,000 square foot assisted living facility. Mr. Murphy pointed out that this plan shows the main access on Durham Road with fire access on Old Durham and a second access on Eagle Road. PennDOT and the Township Traffic Engineer are supportive of this change provided the slope can be addressed. PennDOT requires an 8% slope and the property is terraced right now.
Mr. Fidler said that a right in/right out access could help reduce congestion at the Eagle/Durham intersection.
Mr. Dumack said that this has not been reviewed by the Traffic Engineers yet. It would be considered at land development.
Mr. Murphy said that Jeffrey Marshall had expressed some interest in the houses on this property as possibly historically significant as Sears catalog houses. The applicant would allow access to the property to document the buildings.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about the removal of trees.
Mr. Dumack said that there are trees forming borders between the individual houses on the property which will be removed. These are not a true woodland, although some are larger caliper trees.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will replace the trees elsewhere on the property or contribute to a tree bank. This would be considered at land development.
Mr. Fidler said that he continues to have concerns about the proposed 88 parking spaces. He said that if a variance is granted and it were later determined that the number was insufficient, the Township could not require the applicant to install the spaces.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he is also concerned about the proposed number of spaces and suggested that an additional 36 spaces be installed at the rear for employees. This would leave visitor parking for special events.
Mr. Cohen suggested that, since the stormwater management will accommodate the full 224 spaces, instead of seeking a variance, the applicant could ask to hold the spaces in green unless or until needed.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the applicant could approach the Supervisors at land development to hold the spaces in reserve.
The members discussed the proposed parking and favored holding the spaces in reserve. This would allow the Supervisors the option of requiring installation should the parking prove to be inadequate. They noted that Chandler Hall frequently has parking difficulties when special events are hosted., but this will not be the same intense use as Chandler Hall.
Mr. Murphy and Mr. Lorenzetti agreed to seek approval for holding spaces in green instead of seeking a variance.
Resident Harvey Goldberger, owner of the adjacent property, said that he has not seen any parking problems when he’s visited assisted living facilities. HE was supportive of the plan.
Resident Judith Norkin, representing Cliveden Homeowners Association, said that she was very pleased with the plan, especially since the main entrance has been moved to Durham Road.
The Commission agreed to pass this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: The recording secretary reported that at its last meeting the Board voted to extend the Sewer Authority charter for fifty years.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to adjourn at 9:20 PM. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary