NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on June 7, 2011
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor and Jerry Schenkman, Township Supervisor.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher moved to accept the minutes of May 24, 2011. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mr. Whartenby abstaining.
Newtown Borough Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance: Mr. Fidler explained that the Board of Supervisors has asked the Planning Commission to review Newtown Borough’s Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance and a proposed amendment to it, in much the same way that the Commission reviews ordinances proposed by our Jointure partners. The Supervisors Chairman would like Planning Commission to consider whether this ordinance could have an impact on the Township, because of its increased density. Copies of the Ordinance, amendment and the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) review letters have been included in members’ packets.
Mr. Cohen said that, as he is the Borough solicitor, he would be limited in his ability to comment.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the BCPC comments were included in revisions and drafts before the Ordinance was adopted.
Mr. Cohen said that the BCPC had active involvement in the drafting of the Ordinance.
Mr. Fisher noted that each review letter had fewer comments and the comments of the earlier letters appear to have been included in the adopted ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that he was concerned about the Ordinance creating non-conformities, which make it difficult for property owners to make changes to their properties without involving zoning relief. He also agreed with the BCPC concern about density. This Ordinance allows four times the population density of Newtown Station.
In response to questions from the Commission, Mr. Cohen said that the Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance has been adopted, but the parking amendment is still in draft form, and has not yet been advertised for adoption.
Mr. Fidler said that he understands that the Ordinance was drafted to give the Borough some flexibility to create mixed use projects which will be attractive to the Borough, but he also understands the Supervisors’ concerns with the impact of intense development so close to the Township. The construction phase could bring disruption to the Township. He asked whether infrastructure for the project would be included in the first phase of the development for the Stockburger property.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the Township escrows funds for stormwater and road work and requires that work to be done in the first phase of a multiphase project.
Mr. Cohen said that no plans have been submitted yet. It is his understanding that the Allen Smith/Stockburger project would be constructed in phases, with infrastructure as part of the first phase, but at this point, there is no applicant and no estimated time line. There was only an oral presentation at which “phasing” was briefly discussed.
Mr. Fidler said that the sketch plan that has been shown looks to be more intense than any project undertaken in the area.
Mrs. Driscoll said that the traffic impact will be intense on both Barclay Street and Sycamore Street.
Mr. Whartenby expressed some concern that a phased project could be a lengthy disruption.
In response to Commission questions, Mr. Cohen explained that the Borough land development process would involve a sketch plan, which would be reviewed and revised before formal land development would begin.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the proposed parking garage would be for resident parking or would it be open to the public, and if so, who would be responsible for its maintenance.
Mr. Cohen said that he feels the discussion is premature, as even the presentation already given was very open ended. It has not yet known whether the developer plans to retain ownership of the garage.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Supervisors have some concerns about the potential impact this Ordinance could have on the Township. The Supervisors would like a better understanding of what the Ordinance would allow, not only on the Stockburger property but on other parcels within the Borough, particularly if Allen Smith is not part of the development. He suggested that this current review should have been a joint dialog with Borough representatives.
Mr. Fidler agreed that a conversation with the Borough would have been helpful. He also suggested that more technical information from our professionals would have been helpful for the Commission to better understand what the maximum density would entail, wherever the Ordinance could be applied. He believed that the Borough uses different site capacity calculations than the Township.
Mr. Whartenby said that it is difficult to understand this Ordinance without having seen the Borough’s entire Zoning Ordinance for reference. It would also have been helpful to have had a better understanding of the sketch plans already discussed for the Stockburger property.
Mr. Fidler said that he would report to the Supervisors on tonight’s review and ask the Supervisors to allow our Solicitor and Engineer to look at specific maximum yields under this Ordinance. He would suggest to the Board that a sub-committee of Commission representatives meet with a sub-committee of Borough representatives to discuss common concerns. He would also like to discuss the proposed phasing of the project as well as ownership and maintenance of the parking garage.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Township’s review of our own TC district is nearing completion and we will have a draft ordinance. This will be of interest to Borough representatives as both ordinances involve our joint downtown areas.
Messrs. Fisher and Whartenby expressed interest in participating in any sub-committee which might be formed.
Joint Sewer Authority Long Term Plan: Authority Director Warren Gormley was in attendance to review a list of undeveloped parcels for the 40 year planning of the Sewer Authority. He provided a map with the open parcels highlighted.
Ms. Fountain had already provided the members with an aerial photograph to help the members better envision the parcels under discussion.
Mr. Fidler explained that the County Sewer Authority is asking for the 40 year projections and also requiring that any additional EDU’s would be paid for in advance.
Mr. Gormley said that he had been using 1 EDU per 3 acres for parcels in the CM district, but understood that it would have been 1 EDU per acre for residential development. Office use has a different calculation; restaurants require 1 EDU per 10 seats.
The members began reviewing the map and list, and were able to point out that the Holt, Wiggins and Peter Taylor properties are preserved open space and would not be developed. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia owns a total of five contiguous parcels in the CM Zoning District. Mr. Fidler pointed out how slowly the Archdiocese had responded to the sale of a small parcel to the Township for the municipal complex. He felt it is unrealistic to expect that the Archdiocese’s five parcels would all be fully developed for residential use in the next 40 years. It was agreed that if any of the parcels were sold off for development at all, it might be the two outlying parcels labeled 17 and 20 on Mr. Gormley’s list.
Mr. Fisher noted that the parcel labeled 21 has high tension wires, which could severely limit development.
Ms. Fountain reviewed the FEMA map and noted that parcel 22 might have some protected alluvial soils, but is not in the floodplain. Parcel 15 is almost entirely in the floodplain. These parcels should not be included in the plan.
Mr. Schenkman pointed out that the parcels labeled 27 and 28 are possibly being considered for development in the near future for commercial use.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the Sewer Authority discuss the County’s request with its own solicitor before providing any of the information discussed, as the Authorities are currently involved in some litigation.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush attended the last Supervisors meeting to discuss the TC District Zoning. The Supervisors gave her some guidance and asked her to prepare a draft ordinance for review within the next month. The Pension Committee met to discuss the transition to a new Pension Manager.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that the Council briefly discussed the Borough Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mrs. Driscoll reported that HARB would meet later this week.
Joint Historic Commission: Mr. Fidler said that he has heard that there is some interest in attempting to preserve portions of the Stockburger Chrysler showroom as part of the Beneficial Bank plan. He suggested that since the Bank has begun its land development review process, it might be better to attempt to preserve the Bill Marsh Ford showroom, which is the same age as the Stockburger showroom and is still an active showroom.Mr. Whartenby moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary