NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on November 1, 2011
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Michael Iapalucci, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Supervisor Jerry Schenkman and Michael Hartey, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Chairman Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM. He said that he had spoken to Planning Commission Solicitor John Torrente and William Bolla, the solicitor who represents the Township on the Promenade; they agreed that it would not be necessary for them to attend this evening’s meeting for the Planning Commission’s review of the Promenade’s zoning application.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to approve the minutes of October 18, 2011. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 4-0-3, with Messrs. Cohen, Deutsch and Fisher abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Application of John Widmer – 4 Hillside Road: Mr. Widmer explained that he would like to put a single story 20’ X 35’ addition on his home, to be used as a family room, bathroom and closet area. The room is needed as a play area for his daughter and baby triplets, who are beginning to run around.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether his neighbors are aware of his plans.
Mr. Widmer said that he has spoken to his neighbors and collected letters of approval.
The Commission advised him to bring the letters with him when he appears before the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fisher suggested that Mr. Widmer be prepared to discuss his plans for stormwater management for any additional run off from the increase in impervious surface at the Zoning Hearing.
Mr. Widmer said that he had planned to run PVC pipe to his lawn.
Mr. Fidler said that the Zoning Hearing Board may want to hear what the plans are to contain additional run-off on the property.
The Commission agreed to forward this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment to the Supervisors.
Application of 200 North Sycamore LP (the Promenade) Architect Peter Stampfl was in attendance to review this application for zoning relief for development of the Promenade project, consisting of one single story 2400 square foot building and a second building which will be three stories. The smaller building will be retail space. The larger building will be mixed use; the ground floor will have retail space for a total of 17,600 square feet, and the top two floors will have 26 one-bedroom rental apartments. The plan proposes 116 parking spaces where 152 are required. Relief for setbacks, building height, steep slope disturbance, woodland disturbance, parking stall size, drive aisle width, loading berths, building height, large retail and rental apartment uses are also sought.
Mr. Stampfl noted that many of the variances sought are the same as variances granted in 2009. He pointed out that the small, single story building will be on the Church side of the property and will have less visual impact on the Church. Parking will be at the rear of the building and the underground garage parking has been eliminated. The plan shows 6 handicapped parking spaces. The access which aligns with Jefferson Street will accommodate two-way traffic, but the second access, north of Jefferson Street, will be a 12 foot cartway for one-way traffic only.
Mr. Stampfl showed an architectural rendering of the proposed facades. He noted that the appearance is similar to what had originally been proposed. There is still the raised promenade in front of the retail spaces. There is now a covered canopy over the shop entrances. There are four proposed retail spaces in the main building, plus one in the smaller building, a total of 20,000 square feet. A variance is needed for the one large retail use, E-2.
Ms. Fountain noted that in 2009, the applicant was granted a variance for use E-1, retail, to occupy up to 11,500 square feet. She suggested that the same variance request be considered for this application.
Mr. Stampfl said that the 2009 variance had granted a height of 40 feet, with an additional two feet for architectural features. He will be seeking the same variance, but would like to consider possibly increasing the height for architectural features to screen the rooftop mechanicals.
Mr. Whartenby noted that the plans for the apartments are labeled 1 bedroom/den. He asked what that means.
Patrick Flanagan, a partner on the project, explained that the plans call for one bedroom apartments with an additional room to be used as an office or den. The interior floor plans will designed so that the extra room will not be appropriate for a second bedroom.
Mr. Whartenby said that the Township has seen some difficulty with parking at Goodnoe’s Corner, as residents, retail customers and diners are all competing for parking. He is concerned that the parking proposed for this building will not be adequate.
Mr. Flanagan noted that there are 32 on-street parking spaces available in front of and in short walking distance to the retail spaces. Anthropologie is expected to be the anchor retail tenant; all of the other space will be retail. There will be no restaurant uses. He said that they would accept conditions restricting the apartments to one-bedroom and the retail to exclude restaurants.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the units could be sold later as condominiums.
Mr. Flanagan said that if the economy changes they might want to sell the units.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he is concerned about moving vans; with rental units, there will be more frequent moves.
Mr. Fidler said that since the overhead pass through at Jefferson Street has been removed from the plan, large trucks will be able to get to the rear for moving and large deliveries.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether there is a specific tenant yet for the smaller building. He is concerned about a small restaurant or a branch bank at this location.
Mr. Stampfl said that only Anthropologie has been secured as a tenant.
Len Poncia, a partner in the project, said that he had been concerned about competition for parking, however their traffic engineer has assured him that these are compatible uses and shared parking will be adequate.
Mr. Fidler reminded the applicants and the Planning Commission members that any future retail tenants would need conditional use approval; the Commission would have an opportunity to review parking with each use.
Mr. Fisher and Mr. Fidler each expressed some concern about the lack of resident reserved parking. They discussed weekend parking, when shops are busy and tenants are home. Mr. Fidler noted that future tenants might be home during the week, if they do not work or work at night. The apartments are large, and might be occupied by couples with two cars.
Mr. Poncia said that the partners are also concerned about the parking and want to be sure that retail tenants are successful and residential tenants are comfortable. They would like to assign some tenant specific parking, but are not prepared to commit to a specific plan at this time.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the retail and residential tenants would use the same trash dumpster location.
Mr. Stampfl pointed to the dumpster area at the rear of the parking lot; it would be shared.
Mr. Iapalucci asked about air conditioning for the residential units.
Mr. Stampfl said that each unit would have a separate air conditioner on the roof. The two additional feet for architectural embellishments should be enough to conceal the units from the street.
Mr. Cohen asked whether there would be sidewalks along the access drive extension of Jefferson Street and if the retail businesses would have doors onto those sidewalks.
Mr. Stampfl said that there are sidewalks and any doors would be recessed and would open in. It is not yet decided whether there will be entrances along the driveway.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the parking calculation would change if the retail spaces were broken into smaller shops.
Ms. Fountain said that parking is based on use. The calculations should not change for all retail uses. The number of employees would impact parking calculations.
Mr. Fidler said that he would want to be sure that any changes to the original plans would be reviewed by the Township professionals, even if land development is waived at some point.
Ms. Fountain noted that any architectural changes would still need HARB approval as well.
Mr. Stampfl said that the new plans are very similar in appearance to the original approved plans. He understood that HARB would need to review the changes.
Mr. Fidler said that the Board of Supervisors would not have a regular meeting before this application is brought to the Zoning Hearing Board on November 10. He asked the members whether they would like to make a recommendation to the Supervisors.
Mr. Fisher suggested that the Supervisors not oppose the application if the following conditions could be added to any Zoning approval:
The Commission members were in agreement that this would be their recommendation to the Supervisors.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the recording secretary provide the Supervisors with a synopsis of the discussion. If any of the Supervisors would like to speak to him on the record, he would attend the Budget meeting on November 2, 2011 and discuss the review under New Business.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Board had approved the conditional use of New Life Christian Church for a daycare center and had waived land development, as recommended by the Planning Commission.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has expressed interest in visiting the site of the Birches to see what woodlands are to be disturbed.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Supervisors have been considering a tree bank ordinance for situations like the Birches, where more trees are being removed than can be replanted on the site. The Solicitor has been reviewing ordinances in other municipalities which require payment of a fee in lieu of planting trees, but any fees are to be used only for tree planting elsewhere.
Mr. Fisher said that the EAC had also reviewed continuation of the wildlife management program.
Joint Historic Commission: Mr. Schenkman reported that the Joint Historic Commission had approved a demolition permit for the Stockburger Chrysler showroom. There had been some discussion of the timeline for demolition permits to allow sufficient opportunity for the Joint Historic Commission to discuss permit applications before they are granted. Mr. Schenkman noted that at the year’s end there will be two vacancies on the Commission.
Mr. Fidler urged Mr. Schenkman to continue his involvement with the Township’s committees when his term as Supervisors ends this year.
Mr. Fidler reminded the members that the November 15 agenda will have both the Beneficial Bank and McDonald’s Land Development, some zoning applications and the Borough traditional neighborhood ordinance.
Mr. Cohen said that the Borough will be reviewing the conditional use application for the Stockburger Chevrolet site on December 7, 2011.
Mr. Iapalucci suggested that in the new year, the Planning Commission should begin to think about some creative ways to address parking issues in the business districts. He is concerned that so many applicants are referencing the same on-street parking spaces when seeking approvals.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 9:30 PM. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary