NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on February 17, 2011
Present: Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Larry Galley, Michael Iapalucci, Fred Olivari and Robert Whartenby, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Kevin Kochanski, Township Planner and Jerry Schenkman Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM. The members introduced themselves to new member Larry Galley.
Reorganization: Mr. Whartenby moved to elect Mr. Fidler to serve as chairman. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to elect Mr. Whartenby to serve as vice chairman. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to elect Mrs. Driscoll to serve as secretary/treasurer. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
McDonald’s Restaurant, South Eagle Road – Revised Sketch Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicants for this plan to build a McDonald’s Restaurant at Village at Newtown Phase II. The plan calls for demolition of the existing 6,900 square foot doctors’ office building and construction of a 3,900 square foot restaurant building with drive through service and additional parking.
Mr. Murphy reminded the members that at its October 19, 2011 meeting the applicant had presented a plan which posed a number of concerns to the Commission, particularly the location of the new building on the site. The applicant’s engineers and traffic engineers met with Township staff to discuss the various suggestions the Planning Commission had made and reviewed a number of possible designs, some which were very similar to the three plans to be shown this evening.
Phil Wursta of Pennoni Associates presented the results of parking and traffic studies conducted at the site. Mr. Wursta reviewed the study, which considered the parking available around the proposed site as well as at the adjacent parking area near the Pier One section of the shopping center. During all periods, the parking at the site remained the same, with about 5 of the available 50 spaces taken. At the Pier One section the count showed that of the 217 spaces available, at mid-day, mid-week, 95 spaces were occupied, on Friday evening, 179 were occupied and on Saturday evening 192 were occupied. During the evening hours the spaces at Wells Fargo Bank remained open. These studies were actual counts during peak hours, ending at 8:00 PM. In response to Mr. Whartenby’s question, Mr. Wursta said that it is not possible to determine whether the parked cars belonged to Green Parrot customers. At the time of the traffic counts, all of the stores in this section of the shopping center were occupied.
Michael Jagger of Bohler Engineering, using a PowerPoint series of slides, reviewed “Plan A,” which he said is very similar to the plan shown in October. The lot would have the same access from the internal shopping center roadway as currently exists. The building is oriented so that the front faces west. The drive through aisle circulates counter-clockwise around the building with ten stacking stalls.
“Plan B” showed the front entrance to the building facing the shopping center and the rear facing Durham Road. This plan did not have adequate stacking around the building’s drive through aisle, does not comply with Township parking requirements, even with reduced seating, and creates a congested area at the entrance to the parking/drive through area. The exiting vehicles would conflict with through driving patterns in the shopping center.
“Plan C” is the same orientation as “Plan A”, however the building is located closer to Durham Road. In this plan, the menu boards are closer to Durham Road, stacking is inadequate and there is a conflict between drive through vehicles and vehicles attempting to back out of parking spaces.
Mr. Jagger said that it would be possible to develop a compliant plan with direct access to and a road opening on Durham Road.
Mr. Jagger said that after reviewing these three concepts, plus about a dozen variations on them, McDonald’s feels that “Plan A” is best suited for the site and is the most compliant plan. It provides adequate parking and stacking without creating a road opening onto Durham Road.
Mr. Jagger reviewed the pedestrian entrance and showed a series of architectural renderings of the proposed building as it would appear on the site when viewed from Durham Road.
Mr. Cohen asked to review the flow of traffic from the “plan A” site to the roadway in the shopping center. He expressed some concern about the second access entrance/exit, near the Parcel Place section of the shopping center.
Mr. Jagger noted that this is a two lane access point. It is possible to restrict traffic to one way, or to address the traffic pattern by adding some striping and curbing to alleviate any confusion.
Mr. Cohen noted that it is sometimes very difficult to cross Eagle Road in front of the bank toward the Genuardi’s section of the shopping center because of heavy traffic. McDonald’s will add to the traffic at this intersection.
Mr. Wursta said that there are a number of existing deficiencies that should be addressed including this intersection and the intersection at Silo and Sycamore, which warrants a traffic signal. He said that a four way stop sign at Eagle near the bank intersection might help with traffic. Mr. Wursta briefly discussed the peak hours for the shopping center, noting that they do not coincide with the peak McDonald’s hour. The shopping center’s peak time is one hour between 4 and 7 PM. During that peak time, McDonald’s will add 15 trips in and 12 out. McDonald’s peak is between 7 and 9 AM and at lunch.
Mike Anton, proposed franchise owner, said that he operates a number of other McDonald’s restaurants in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. This restaurant will have hours of 5:00 AM to midnight, seven days. The drive through is open when the restaurant is open. His business is 24% before 11 AM, 35% from 11 to 1 PM. Evening business drops off by 6:30, with a steady trickle until closing. The evening peak is right after work, when people pick up meals on their way home.
Mr. Whartenby asked if anyone from McDonald’s had considered any other available properties in Newtown.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh showed the McDonald’s representatives an aerial photograph of Village at Newtown shopping center. A brief, off the record, discussion occurred among the McDonald’s representatives and some residents in attendance.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the proposals included double drive through aisles and windows.
Mr. Jagger said that the favored plan featured tandem order windows, only.
Mr. Anton said that he has this arrangement at other restaurants. It allows two cars to move forward in the same aisle together, with patrons placing orders at the same time and moving forward to a pay and pick-up window. This method helps reduce the time on line and keeps stacking to a minimum.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he has continued concerns about pedestrians crossing the parking lot and drive through aisle to enter the restaurant.
Mr. Jagger said that this is not unique. It is a typical layout of fast food restaurants; it is what patrons expect. He noted that vehicles are traveling at very slow speeds in the lot and drivers are aware that patrons need to cross to the entrance.
Mr. Anton said that the traffic is typically one way. He has operated restaurants like this one for 22 years and has never had an incident involving a pedestrian. The layout that has been shown works well, as it is designed to prevent parked cars from backing into oncoming drive through traffic.
Mr. Jagger again reviewed the other proposed plans, demonstrating difficulties with parked cars and drive through traffic in each layout.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he does not favor this location. The lot is an unusual shape and it is a very congested section of the shopping center. He is also concerned about the appearance of the building and signage not being in keeping with the center.
Mr. Cohen asked whether McDonald’s would be cooperative with a requirement for reduced signage with subdued lighting.
Mr. Murphy noted that the Township controls signage by its ordinances.
Mr. Anton said that typically McDonald’s has one monument sign. This will be a neighborhood store; the customers will already know it is there. Signage would conform to Township requirements.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she would be interested in learning more about the dozen various designs considered by the applicant; only three designs have been shown.
Mr. Jagger said that the other concepts were all variations on the three plans shown. He reviewed each plan again, discussing slight changes in location on the lot, orientation of the building, entrance/exit and parking. He noted that most of the other concepts created awkward traffic circulation issues.
Mr. Murphy said that a number of the plans used a direct access from Durham Road, which Township staff had some concerns with.
Mr. Wursta emphasized that the design favored eliminates speed and prevents conflicts with pedestrians. This design is what the customers are expecting; pedestrians and drivers know what to expect with this circulation pattern.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Township has asked other applicants to have a “front” treatment to all facades. He asked that this be considered for McDonald’s. He asked about the external speakers used for the drive through order window, as some residents had expressed concern about noise.
Mr. Anton said that the sound quality has been improved for external speakers. The McDonald’s system would be no louder than the adjacent banks’ drive through windows.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether a “one way” entrance/exit could help with traffic.
Mr. Wursta said that he expected most customers to enter on the side nearer the bank, and that most would exit the same way. It is possible to investigate a one way approach but he did not expect that it would make too much difference in traffic patterns.
Mr. Kochanski asked about loading, as there is no clearly defined loading berth or dock.
Mr. Anton explained that all deliveries are from the same source; two deliveries are made each week by truck. The deliveries are usually at off hours, sometimes around 7:00 AM and the truck is in the stacking area for about 20 minutes. The fully engineered plans will show that cars can pass a stopped truck to proceed to the drive through window. A turning template will also be part of the plans.
Mr. Kochanski noted that the handicapped parking is located across the drive aisle, which could create problems as someone in a wheel chair might not be able to see or be seen crossing the aisle.
Mr. Jagger said that he would look into a more suitable location for ADA compliant parking spaces.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he has concerns that if twelve designs were considered but only one design “worked” that the site might not be suitable for this use at all. He expressed concern for traffic and safety issues and urged the applicants to look elsewhere in the community for a more suitable site.
Resident Fran Poole, representing Cliveden Estates Homeowners Association, asked about lighting on signs.
Mr. Jagger said that the sign package has not been finalized, but the signs are usually internally lit.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant is amenable to supplementing buffering on the Cliveden side of the street to help with the view.
Mr. Poole asked who performed the traffic study and what the next step in the approval procedure will be.
Mr. Murphy said that the study was conducted by Pennoni Associates for the applicant. It will be reviewed by the Township’s traffic engineer. The Township traffic engineer has already agreed to the traffic counts but has not yet reviewed the deficiencies discussed this evening. Mr. Murphy said that the applicant may take this sketch plan to the Supervisors for further review, after which fully engineered plans will be submitted to the Township for preliminary land development review.
Resident Judith Norkin of Cliveden Estates said that she is concerned that the traffic studies may have been done recently when bad weather has kept the shopping center quiet. The numbers might not be typical. She expressed concern about noise from cars, from teens driving by with loud music on their car radios and from teens loitering in the parking area. She noted that the other fast food restaurants in Newtown are not as close to residential neighborhoods. She said she is also concerned about trash. Residents of Cliveden are not happy with the proposed plan.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown Township said that he is very concerned about traffic safety in and around this shopping center. Adding a McDonald’s will make traffic problems worse, especially at Eagle Road near the banks.
Resident Katherine McAndrews of Cliveden Estates said that the proposed restaurant is about 400 feet from her house. She is very concerned about noise, lights, odors, trash, reckless driving and loitering of teens who will use drugs and vandalize properties. She is concerned that stacking cars will back into traffic. She has spoken to the other merchants in the shopping center and all are concerned about traffic and parking.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman said that he will continue as liaison for the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Whartenby said that he has spoken to Chairman Fidler, who agreed that he would give reports to the Supervisors at their meetings in Mr. Fidler’s absence.
Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Cohen agreed to continue as liaison to the Commission.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Iapalucci said that he would continue to share this liaison assignment with Mr. Fidler.
HARB: Mrs. Driscoll said that she was appointed by the Supervisors as a member of HARB.
Park and Recreation Board: Messrs. Iapalucci and Whartenby agreed to share this assignment.
EAC: The recording secretary reported that Dennis Fisher has agreed to remain in this liaison position.
Mr. Cohen moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary