NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on March 1, 2011
Present: Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Larry Galley, Michael Iapalucci and Robert Whartenby, members. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor and Jerry Schenkman Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Iapalucci moved to approve the minutes of February 17, 2011. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Fisher abstaining.Land Development
Philip and Carla Capriotti, 17 Kingsley Court – PRD Variance: Philip Capriotti was in attendance to present his application for a PRD variance to construct an in-ground swimming pool with a 583 square foot concrete apron and 91 square feet of coping which will exceed the maximum permitted impervious surface by 666 square feet. Mr. Capriotti said that his home backs to his development’s open space and there are two storm drains on his property. He has never had a problem with flooding. He will comply with the letter of CKS Engineers dated February 18, 2011. His application contains letters of support from his adjacent neighbors and his homeowners association.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he has visited the site and confirmed the storm drains and the open space to the rear.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about plans for a fence.
Mr. Capriotti said that he plans to install an aluminum fence as required by the ordinance.
Mr. Fisher asked why the pool surface is not included in the impervious calculation.
Ms. Fountain explained that the Ordinance does not consider pools in impervious calculations in Planned Residential Developments.
Mr. Torrente pointed out a discrepancy between the impervious calculation in the plan and in the application.
Mr. Capriotti said that he filled the application form before the plan had been formally drawn and the exact size had been calculated. He will make that correction.
Mr. Whartenby noted that this will be a 17.65% increase in impervious surface.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to forward this application to the Supervisors without comment. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 5-0.Public Comment
Mr. Whartenby noted a large number of residents in attendance and asked whether they wished to comment on any of the evening’s agenda items. General public comment is not usually a part of the Planning Commission’s agenda.
Resident Fran Poole, President of the Cliveden Estates Homeowners Association, said that he and a number of other residents were in attendance to continue discussion of the proposed McDonald’s restaurant at Village at Newtown Phase II. Cliveden has 139 homes. The residents would like to reiterate their position against the proposed restaurant because it will create traffic and safety problems. The residents are asking for an independent traffic study before the plan is given consideration. The residents are also concerned about noise; they are asking for documentation that shows that the speaker system will not be audible on their properties. Trash is a concern as customers take out their meals and eat them off the site. Although this is not a planning issue, the residents are very concerned that the restaurant will become a hangout for teenagers. The residents are asking that significant buffering be provided on the Cliveden open space to shield the homes from headlights of cars and delivery vehicles as well as from the signage. A Facebook page has been started, “say no to McDonald’s at Village at Newtown.” Mr. Poole noted that the concerns are being echoed by residents of the other developments on Eagle Road, including at Overlook.
Resident Judith Norkin said that when Goodnoe’s Corner was built, the developer attempted to work with residents on buffering on both sides of the street. The residents were unhappy that the telephone poles had to be moved to the Cliveden side, interfering with the location of sidewalks. The residents would like McDonald’s to use professional landscapers to create additional buffering on the Cliveden side of the street, closer to the homeowners property lines.
Ms. Fountain explained that the Ordinance requires that the applicant buffer his own property to shield headlights of cars.
Ms. Norkin said that the residents want the buffering to block the sign on the building as well.
Ms. Fountain again explained that the Township can only require the applicant to comply with the Ordinance, buffering headlights on its own property. The applicant might want to agree to buffer the Cliveden side of the street, but it is not a requirement.
Mr. Poole said that the Cliveden residents do not want this project approved and are not agreeing to buffer planting.
Resident Wendy Mallis said that she is very concerned about traffic and safety in and near the shopping center. She questioned the outcome of the traffic study conducted by the applicant, as it did not seem to show the volume of traffic that she typically witnesses in the shopping center.
Resident Shari Waldorf said that she is concerned about traffic, particularly in the afternoon, when school buses come through the shopping center and high school students are driving home from class. She also noted that there has been an increase in traffic through the Cliveden development as drivers attempt to avoid the traffic lights.
Resident Cheryl Gilmore asked about the approval procedure.
Mr. Whartenby explained that the Supervisors and the Planning Commission had seen concept plans in October and the Commission had seen a PowerPoint presentation at its last meeting. Should the applicant wish to proceed, plans would be fully engineered and presented for review by both the Planning Commission and the Supervisors. In addition, the proposed use would need conditional use approval. The Planning Commission would review that application before passing it to the Supervisors for a hearing. At this point, no plans have been submitted.
Ms. Fountain said that she believed the applicant might present the sketch concept PowerPoint to the Board of Supervisors at its March 9, 2011 meeting.
Mr. Schenkman noted that if an applicant were to feel that his plans would not be approved, he might not proceed to the fully engineered plans. For this reason, residents in opposition should make their concerns known to the Supervisors.
Mr. Whartenby also pointed out, that if the plan does proceed to the next steps, residents in opposition could seek party status in the conditional use hearing.
Ms. Norkin said that she had gotten a copy of the lease for Wendy’s and there seems to be a prohibition against other hamburger businesses within a certain distance of Wendy’s. She agreed to drop the lease at the Township building for review.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown said that he is concerned about the quality of life if this project moves forward. He agreed that the traffic study did not adequately document the heavy traffic at different times of the day, particularly when school lets out or when there is a football game.
Ms. Norkin said that she is also concerned about traffic, safety and the lack of crosswalks.
Mr. Schenkman said that if cut-through traffic is becoming a problem, perhaps a four way stop sign could be placed in the development, as was done at Wiltshire Walk, where cut-through traffic was a concern.
Ms. Fountain suggested that residents could petition the Township to address some traffic calming inside the development.
Ms. Norkin said that funds should be escrowed for additional buffering on the Cliveden side of the street to be sure that residents are satisfied.
Ms. Fountain said that if the applicant agrees to provide additional buffering it should become part of the approved plan and should be indicated on the plans. Then the Township could enforce the plans.
Ms. Norkin said that the existing medical office building acts as a buffer between the residential properties and the shopping center. Residents might not object as much to another use or to a McDonald’s without a drive through.
Ms. Fountain explained that the Pennsylvania DEP had recently approved the Neshaminy Creek Watershed Act 167 Stormwater Management Plan. Newtown is in both the Neshaminy and the Delaware River South watersheds. The plan requires that municipalities adopt or amend local stormwater ordinances. The Bucks County Planning Commission has prepared a model, similar to the existing Stormwater Ordinance but with more restrictive exemption criteria. The new ordinance will not have any exemption from applying volume controls in any new planned development. In addition the calculated capture runoff volume cannot leave the site and shall either be infiltrated, reused or evapo-transpired. The new ordinance does not consider parcel size, but only size of impervious surface, as follows:
5000+ square feet of new impervious Volume control required
1001-5000 square feet of new impervious Volume Control required
0 – 1000 square feet of new impervious Volume Control required
New volume control replaces existing groundwater recharge and water quality. New peak rate controls are also part of the plan. Volume control calculations depend on the amount of earth disturbance.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether small projects like the plan reviewed earlier this evening would now require volume control.
Ms. Fountain said that any plan, regardless of the size, will now have to address the additional volume. The engineers for the municipalities in the watershed have participated in meetings specifically to discuss the small projects with under 5000 square feet of disturbance. They are attempting to help residents develop “non-engineered” site plans. It is possible for a municipality to opt out of the engineered plan for under 5000 square feet. The engineers are also suggesting that the new regulations be incorporated in both the SALDO and the stand alone stormwater ordinances.
Ms. Fountain provided the members with the maps of the watersheds, the appropriate sections of the SALDO, a table outlining the new requirements and an appendix on small project stormwater site plans. She asked the members to take the paperwork home for additional review. The new regulations must be passed by mid-May. She said that the new regulations will impact even residents planning very small projects such as sheds. There will be a need for some public education. She noted that in the Appendix are a number of calculations to help a homeowner plan for volume control, including infiltration trenches, rain gardens, seepage pits and tree planting.
The members discussed possibly developing a page on the Township’s Web site where a homeowner could enter his project size and the site could calculate the needed volume control measurements.
Ms. Fountain also noted that last year the Environmental Advisory Council had discussed developing a pamphlet outlining some simple stormwater control measures. With the new requirements, such a pamphlet would be very helpful and should be offered to residents seeking permit applications.
Ms. Fountain said that at the next Planning Commission meeting she would provide redlined copies of the new and existing stormwater ordinances for comparison.Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that at its last meeting, the Supervisors had signed an agreement with the firefighters union, agreed to a pension strategy with the new consultant and extended the Sycamore Street sandwich board ordinance an additional year.
EAC: Mr. Fisher reported that at the last EAC meeting the members heard a presentation on Birdtown, an Audubon Society program for re-introducing native plants to improve the bird habitat. The members also discussed a stormwater management pamphlet.
Joint Historic Commission: Mr. Schenkman said that he is the Supervisor liaison to this group. He would like to add this to the subcommittee agenda and perhaps invite a Commission member to participate in Planning Commission meetings, particularly when addressing projects with some historic significance. This group has some concern with the Toll House at Village at Newtown and with the auto showroom and filling station at Sycamore Street and Centre Street.Mr. Iapalucci moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary