NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on May 24, 2011
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Paul Cohen (late), Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Larry Galley, Michael Iapalucci and Fred Olivari, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Kevin Kochanski, Township Planner, John Torrente, Township Solicitor and Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM, asking for a moment of silence to remember Planning Commission Member Sue Beasley, who passed away last week. Mr. Fidler spoke briefly about Mrs. Beasley’s twenty years of volunteering in the community, particularly with the Township’s committees, boards and commissions. Her expertise and historic knowledge of the community had been a great asset to the Commission and she will be greatly missed.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher moved to approve the minutes of April 5, 2011. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0-1, with Mr. Olivari abstaining.Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of The Saloon, Inc. – 211-213 North Sycamore Street: Attorney Shawn Ward was in attendance to review this application for relief to construct a patio deck on top of 5 parking spaces, reducing the parking by 5 spaces while adding 34 additional seats. Mr. Ward provided the members with a memorandum in support of the zoning relief requested, along with a series of photographs and plans.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission members that this building had been a restaurant for many years. The area that is now the bar had been an open porch at one time. The property had been subdivided, but cross-easements exist for some shared parking. Mr. Fidler asked whether it would be possible to expand the existing porch. He is concerned about the loss of parking spaces.
Applicant Dean Evangelou explained that the existing porch, which wraps around the side of the building, is very narrow. It could possibly accommodate five or six tables for two, but the front door must remain clear for a handicapped entrance.
Mr. Ward said that during warm weather, business falls off sharply as customers seek outdoor dining options. This is an effort to keep the business viable in the summer months.
Mr. Fidler said that the Township does need to consider that some outdoor dining has become a noise problem.
Mr. Ward said that the applicant would agree to no further enclosure, only to umbrellas over the tables. No bar or entertainment would be provided on the deck, only table service. Mr. Ward noted that the proposed deck would eliminate 5 parking spaces, but that the applicant has an easement agreement for shared parking with the adjacent property and an oral agreement with the Dentists at Newtown, whose hours are complementary to The Saloon’s. There are also 28 on street parking spaces in the immediate area.
Resident Vince Lombardi said that he is a resident of Sycamore Street and a member of the Sycamore Street Community Association. He is supportive of the application as it contributes to the environment the Township is trying to create on Sycamore Street. These enhancements to the Saloon will contribute to the pedestrian friendly atmosphere that has been the Township’s goal.
Mr. Fisher said that he visited the site this afternoon and observed that the parking lot was busy.
Mr. Ward referred to the packet of photos he had submitted, noting that they had been taken at 3:00 PM this afternoon. All of the on-street parking spots were available, as were many of the lot spaces.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the proposed deck would encroach on the cartway width in the parking lot.
Mr. Ward said that the width is 15 feet now and would be expanded to 20 feet. Some bollard planters might be added to protect the deck from the parking lot.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the existing porch could be widened to accommodate larger tables.
Mr. Ward said that only tables for two would fit; the porch cannot be widened because it would encroach in the right of way, and would place diners too close to traffic on both Sycamore and Jefferson Streets.
Mr. Cohen expressed some concern about losing parking spaces while adding to the dining capacity. He noted that the Acme site had also proposed using the on-street parking. He is otherwise supportive of the plan.
Mr. Ward explained that when outdoor dining is available, the dining room is not busy. The restaurant is not going to be adding customer, but seating a similar number of customers in a different, outdoor setting.
Mr. Olivari said that he felt the loss of only five spaces would be insignificant. He is a frequent customer of the restaurant and had not experienced difficulty parking.
Mr. Fisher expressed some concern that the handicapped parking space has been relocated farther from the handicapped entrance.
Mr. Ward noted that the plan is ADA compliant.
Mr. Kochanski noted that although his office has not formally reviewed the plan, a quick study of the Ordinance shows that the additional seating would require 15 additional parking spaces.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the applicant should provide some kind of written agreement for shared parking with the dentists’ offices at the Zoning Hearing Board. He also suggested that the applicant could offer to close a portion of the dining room during the time that the deck is open.
Mr. Torrente asked the number of additional spaces in the dentists’ parking lot.
Mr. Ward said that there are 16 to 20 spaces. The dental employees use the Saloon parking in the daytime. The painter who shares the parking lot easements has need for only one or two spaces during the day. The nail salon, dental offices and painter’s offices are closed on weekend evenings and on Sunday.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the building is in the historic district.
Mr. Ward said that the applicant would take his plans to HARB and comply with any HARB requirements. He is waiting to see whether the variance is granted.
After some further discussion, the members agreed that they would be supportive of the application, provided the reciprocal parking agreement with the dental offices is formalized. It was agreed that the application should be forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Application of Julie M. Laughlin – 420 Eagle Road: Attorney Ed Murphy explained that he would represent the applicant in place of attorney Don Marshall. The application seeks relief to for demolish an existing non-conforming single story dwelling and construct a two story residence on a non-conforming lot. The footprint of the new building will be similar to the existing home.
Mr. Cohen said that the plan is in keeping with the surrounding homes.
Mr. Fidler suggested that letters of support from the neighbors could be helpful to the applicant.
The members agreed to forward the application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.Land Development
The Birches of Newtown, 54-58 Durham Road – Preliminary/Final Plan for land development: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this plan for land development which proposes to consolidate seven parcels into one lot for construction of an 87,243 square foot assisted living facility with associated access drives, landscaping and stormwater improvements, with public water and sewer. Mr. Murphy suggested that the Commission discuss the consultants’ review letters and any suggested revisions would be made. The applicant would return to the Commission with the revised plans later this summer, seeking a recommendation for preliminary as final plan. The applicant has already been granted relief from the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision indicated relief for 88 parking spaces. It had been his understanding that the parking would be addressed by the Supervisors at land development.
Mr. Murphy explained that the first written decision had included the parking relief, although at the time of the hearing, the applicant had withdrawn that request. Ms. Fountain noticed it and it was called to the attention of the Zoning Hearing Board. An amended decision, removing the parking variance, has been issued. It is the applicant’s intention to address the parking requirements as part of the Conditional Use hearing. The Conditional Use application will be submitted with the revised plans for land development in order to do both applications together.
Mr. Murphy said that most of the points in the Boucher and James and CKS review letters will be “will comply.”
Mr. Fidler asked about a number of comments in the review letters to which Engineer Heath Dumack replied “will be completed by others.” He asked what that meant.
Mr. Dumack explained that certain items are being completed by the traffic engineer, working with PennDOT. This includes access to the site from Durham Road and from Eagle Road. It has yet to be determined whether the Planning Commission’s preference for a right in/right out access from Eagle Road will be acceptable to PennDOT.
Mr. Dumack noted that there is a 7800 square foot disturbance of Bowmanville soils across the entrance and stormwater facility which had not been included in the Zoning Hearing Board application. A new variance will be sought.
Mr. Murphy said that he planned to bring the application to the Zoning Hearing Board in July.
Ms. Fountain noted that when the Board of Supervisors reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application, it had requested that relief be conditioned on the Joint Historic Commission having access to document the site and on replacement of all trees to be removed. This was not included in the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Murphy said that the Historic Commission has already been to the site. The applicant will agree to tree replacement as part of land development.
Ms. Fountain asked that the square footage of each floor be added to the plan. It is 87,243 square feet but only a portion of the building has a second story.
Mr. Murphy said that the Township’s former traffic engineer had indicated that a full traffic study would not be needed, only a level of service study. A waiver will be sought.
Ms. Fountain said that the plan had been reviewed by the Township’s former traffic engineer; the revisions will be reviewed by the new traffic engineer.
Mr. Fidler noted that a number of other waivers are needed for stormwater grading. He asked why the applicant would not comply rather than seek waivers.
Mr. Dumack said that he has attempted to move to drainage basin out of the steep slope disturbance area and some of the waivers are to work with already existing drainage swales.
Mr. Fidler said that he would like the traffic, parking and confirmation of compliance with stormwater ordinances to be addressed at the next review.
Mr. Iapalucci asked what the appropriate number of parking spaces should be for an assisted living facility.
Mr. Murphy said that the Board of Supervisors had suggested that the applicant research what other municipalities have required for similar facilities. The Ordinance does not address “assisted living” as a separate use. This is currently being researched. The stormwater facility will accommodate 224 spaces but the applicant does not want to install unnecessary impervious surface.
Mr. Fidler said that he has some concern that information on installing spaces as needed could be lost over time. He does not want to see insufficient parking for visitors, employees, service people and any residents who keep their cars. He asked whether the applicant has researched grass reinforced pavers for overflow parking. This would appear as lawn but would be able to handle extra parking as needed.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he favors installing a sufficient number of spaces from the beginning.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant would agree to an annual review by the Zoning Officer to determine the adequacy of the parking.
Applicant Gene Lorenzetti assured the Commission that he wants to install adequate parking but he feels the proposed 88 spaces will be adequate for the facility. He noted that the residents do not get a lot of visitors and they arrive and depart throughout the day, not all at the same time.
Ms. Fountain said that all stormwater requirements have been met; to pave additional parking would only require a permit.
Michael McCormack, who represents the assisted living facility, said that the facility will have 92 rooms, half for memory impaired residents. There are 30 employees on the day shift. As calculated, the parking anticipates spaces for the 30 employees, one space per two beds in the assisted living portion of the facility and visitor parking. He would not be in favor of porous pavers for additional parking because of safety concerns, with elderly residents walking to visitors’ cars, etc. He would prefer to pave the number of spaces required.
Mr. Fidler said that he has found it difficult to park when visiting his own elderly family members on weekday mornings and afternoons. He is very concerned that the parking be adequate.
The Commission members favored paving 88 spaces with the understanding that additional spaces would be added at any time that the Township might require them.
Mr. Lorenzetti said that the nature of the facility is to provide a comfortable living environment for the residents. The applicant will not want inadequate parking.
Mr. Fidler noted that the facility is named “the Birches” although no birch trees appear in the landscape plan. He suggested that flowering ornamental trees might provide a prettier environment and view for the residents.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the Township Solicitor has notified the applicant that the name “Birches of Newtown” is unacceptable. An ordinance has been passed prohibiting the names, ”Newtown” or “eagle” for any development or facility.
The Commission discussed the roadway improvements for the entrance. PennDOT has not yet responded. Mr. Fidler said that he feels that Durham Road will accommodate a major entrance treatment including a deceleration lane and turn lane. If that is the case, he would favor right in/right out on Eagle Road.
Mr. Murphy said that if PennDOT agrees, the applicant favors this, as well.
The members discussed the proposed trail from the facility to the corner of Eagle and Durham Roads and agreed that the trail should be on the west side of Eagle to a crosswalk at the intersection.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the residents of Cliveden Estates would like additional buffering on their side of the street to screen them from the entrance. He also suggested that erosion controls be included with the steep slopes.
Mr. Murphy said that the plans would be revised and resubmitted. The applicant hopes to return to the Commission with revised plans and a Conditional Use application in the end of July. The Highway Occupancy Permit will be obtained before the next review.
Stormwater Management Act 167 : Ms. Fountain reminded the members 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 Commission has reviewed and discussed the draft ordinance from the Bucks County Planning Commission and agreed that Newtown Township’s ordinance would:
The members have been provided with the draft of that new ordinance for their review. Ms. Fountain has made some minor revisions to that ordinance, primarily correcting some typographical errors and rewording of the definition of “floodway” to match the definition which appears in the JMZO.
The Bucks County Consortium is meeting on Thursday to ask the DEP to adjust its requirements for residential projects under 1,000 square feet.
Mr. Fisher said that the Environmental Advisory Council has begun to draft a pamphlet to help residents with the self-regulatory stormwater management requirements. He gave a copy to Ms. Fountain for her review and input.
Ms. Fountain said that CKS Engineers represents seven municipalities, all of which elected self-regulation and non-engineered site plans. She would review the pamphlet and share any developed for other municipalities. This ordinance has been advertised for adoption by the Board of Supervisors on tomorrow evening’s agenda. The Board is asking for a recommendation from the Planning Commission.
Mr. Fidler moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the Stormwater Management Ordinance as presented, with self-regulation of volume controls for projects under 1000 square feet and acceptance of non-engineered plans for projects under 5,000 square feet. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 7-0.New Business
Newtown Borough Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance: Mr. Fidler said that the Supervisors have asked the Commission to review the Borough’s Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance and its proposed amendment. Copies of the Ordinance, amendment and the BCPC review letter have been provided to the members. He suggested that the Commission discuss this ordinance’s possible impact on Newtown Township at the first June meeting.
Mr. Schenkman noted that there has been some discussion about the proposed Allen Smith/Stockingworks II plan. The plan could be permitted as many as 300 condominium units. The plans are in a very preliminary, sketch phase and it is not yet known how many units or the square footage of retail. No application has been submitted.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would expect a number of sketch phases before any plans are submitted for approval.
Mr. Fidler said that any zoning change in Newtown Borough could impact the Township, particularly the construction phase and the traffic impact. He suggested that when the Commission reviews the Ordinance, it should do so as the global concern of the impact the ordinance could have on the Township and the School District.
Joint Municipal Sewer Authority: Mr. Fidler said that the County Sewer Authority is updating its comprehensive plan and asking The Newtown Authority to anticipate its EDU needs for the next 40 years. The current plan is sufficient for future needs as the Township is currently zoned, with the exception of the Archdiocese property, which, if developed, would need its own sewer treatment facility. The County is asking for future EDU’s to be paid in advance.
The Supervisors have asked the Planning Commission to review the Township’s current open spaces and current zoning to confirm the Sewer Authority’s statement that the system is adequate. He would like to invite Warren Gormley to an upcoming meeting to participate in the discussion. The recording secretary will provide the list of parcels and zoning map in the next packet.Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman said that the Township expects a plan for Beneficial Bank at the corner of Sycamore Street and Richboro Road to be submitted shortly. The Joint Historic Commission has some concern that this plan would include the demolition of the old Stockburger showroom, which they would like to see it preserved as an example of 1950’s architecture.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that at its last meeting the EAC discussed developing a series of educational outreach programs for the community.
The recording secretary asked whether the members would be available for the regular meeting scheduled for July 5, 2011, should any plans be submitted for PC review.
All in attendance agreed that they would be available.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission will need a new member and he hoped the Supervisors would select someone soon who would be available to help meet the quorum requirements for the summer months.
Mr. Fidler said that it is his understanding the McDonalds will be moving forward with a by right plan which would include a road opening on Durham Road.
Mr. Cohen said that he has seen plans for a major expansion on display at the NAC. He asked if these plans had been submitted, as he did not see additional parking included with the plans.
Mr. Fidler said that he had also become aware of the NAC’s long term plans for development. He did not think these plans have been formalized at this time.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he recalled that Ace Hardware had said it would not have sidewalk displays except occasional grills and snow blowers during big sales, yet the sidewalk is cluttered with many items at all times. He asked whether this is permitted.
Mrs. Driscoll said that Beautyland, next to Acme, has neon signs in its windows. She did not think this is permitted, as the signs are visible from the Bypass. She asked the zoning officer to investigate this.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he is concerned that he had submitted complaints about the new signage at Applebee’s Restaurant and Applebee’s has not responded.Mr. Fidler moved to adjourn at 10:30 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary