NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on November 15, 2011
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher, Larry Galley, Michael Iapalucci and Fred Olivari, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Kevin Kochanski, Township Planner; Amy Kaminski, Township Traffic Engineer; Supervisor Jerry Schenkman and Michael Hartey, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher noted that under Zoning Hearing Board, the Witmer address is number 4.
Mr. Whartenby moved to approve the minutes of November 1, 2011, as corrected. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0-2, with Messrs. Galley and Olivari abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Byran and Joann Mills – 1 Hillside Road: Applicant Bryan Mills was in attendance to review his application for a variance and special exception to build an addition to his home and widen his driveway. He noted that he has three babies and needs additional room for his family.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the applicant be prepared to discuss stormwater best management practices to control additional runoff with the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Fisher suggested that the applicant bring letters of support from his surrounding neighbors.
The Commission members agreed to pass this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Chris Bilski – 5 Amy Circle: Applicant Chris Bilski was in attendance to review his application for a variance to install an in-ground pool in his rear yard.
Mr. Whartenby said that he is a friend and neighbor of the applicant.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that the Township has faced difficulty with certain developments which have been built using the maximum impervious surface, leaving no available room for outdoor amenities.
The Commission passed this application to the Supervisors without comment.
Newtown Raquetball Club – 209 Penns Trail: Attorney Don Marshall and applicant Jim Worthington were in attendance to review this application for a number of variances in order to merge the lots, remove the Dunmore building and build a baseball academy building, an outdoor pool complex and a multipurpose practice field. Some of the variances have already been granted for earlier projects and are being re-iterated. Included in the variances are:
Mr. Worthington explained that the proposed field would be a multipurpose practice field. The field would not be used for baseball or other competitive games which would generate additional parking.
Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Marshall to review the parking requirements.
Mr. Marshall said that under the ordinance, a facility of this size would require 3512 parking spaces. The NAC has 420 paved spaces now and a variance for relief of 2886 spaces. The new project will include 272 new parking spaces for a total of 692 spaces.
Mr. Worthington said that he is confident the parking will be adequate. The pools will be for members; there will not be separate pool memberships. The baseball academy is for children who do not drive themselves, but are dropped off.
Mr. Fidler expressed some concern about the variance for lighting on the field.
Mr. Marshall said that the variance is for a setback. The variance would not grant specific lighting; the applicant would still have to address lighting during land development.
M. Iapalucci said that he would favor recommending that the Supervisors support this application; the NAC is an asset to the community and makes good use of the land.
The members agreed to pass this application to the Supervisors with a recommendation that they support the application.
Beneficial Bank – 34 South Sycamore Street: Attorney Kelly McGowan and Engineer Joel Della Carpini were in attendance to review this application for conditional use approval for use E-4, financial establishment on a 1.829 acre lot in the TC Town Commercial zoning district. The applicant proposes to develop a 3,186 square foot bank with associated parking, access drive improvements, landscaping and stormwater management facilities. The plan has been revised to show a 16 foot setback on the Sycamore Street side of the building.
Ms. McGowan explained that she has researched the history of German and Howard Avenues and has learned that German Avenue was vacated in 1990 and the land was divided between the adjacent properties. Howard Avenue exists and an easement for a driveway.
Ms. McGowan noted that the use is E-4 financial establishment. She presented a floor plan for the bank, pointing out the open lobby area. There is a library area with financial publications and tables and chairs. This would be made available to employees and customers; it is not a separate community room use. There is no separate entrance and the area cannot be closed off from the lobby.
Ms. McGowan said that the bank would have a maximum of ten employees, six per shift. The maximum hours of operation are 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday, 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The actual hours will probably be shorter. The only deliveries will be by UPS and an armored car two or three times a week. For security reasons, the applicant is reluctant to designate a time and parking space for the armored car. The parking is adequate and the applicant has confirmed with the Historic Commission that the existing building has no historic significance.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether this is a use by right.
Ms. McGowan said that it is a permitted use by conditional use, which means that the applicant is required to provide additional information to show compliance with the regulations. This gives the Township some additional control.
Mr. Torrente said that most of the uses in the TC district are by conditional use.
Mr. Cohen said that a standard for conditional use approval is that the use conforms to the neighboring properties and is consistent with the intended use of the area. He suggested that since the intended use of the area is a more walkable business district, the Commission should consider the impact that the drive through will have on the street. He suggested that a condition should be that the drive-through aisles should not be visible from Sycamore Street.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that the Planning Commission had suggested in the past that the front façade should face Sycamore Street. She had expected that change to have been made in the revisions.
Mr. Della Carpini explained that the size and shape of the lot made it impossible to accommodate a front entrance on Sycamore Street with a safe drive through aisle. This design avoids pedestrians walking across the drive through aisle, and screens the drive aisles from Sycamore Street. The bank was unwilling to include a remote teller location because the pneumatic tubes must go underground; it is very difficult and time consuming to extricate customers’ personal items if they get stuck in an underground tube.
Ms. McGowan said that the applicant has met the standards for conditional use; financial establishment is a permitted use in the TC zoning district.
Mr. Fidler asked Mr. Torrente to explain this. He said that the applicant has met all the criteria of the Ordinance, including parking. Can the applicant be denied conditional use approval?
Mr. Torrente said that most of the issues of concern to the Commission are land development, not conditional use issues.
Mr. Fidler asked Ms. McGowan to review the Howard Avenue status.
Ms. McGowan said that Howard Avenue had never been offered for dedication; it is an easement, only.
Mr. Torrente said that Howard Avenue has no impact on what is being proposed; there is no paper street.
Mr. Fisher asked whether all issues concerning the historic significance of the property have been resolved.
Joseph Coyle, Beneficial’s Vice President of Real Estate and Branch Development, said that the Bank has worked with the Joint Historic Commission, which has determined that the existing building has no historic significance and has issued a letter authorizing a demolition permit.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission’s letter dated June 16, 2011, recommends that the front entrance be on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Della Carpini said that this is not a requirement; approval cannot be denied for this reason. The project does provide the recommended streetscape improvements.
Mr. Iapalucci said that the building and use are not in keeping with the Township’s vision for Sycamore Street.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the orientation of the building is based on the geometry of the lot or the number of drive through aisles.
David Shultz, architect on the project, explained that the entrance for the parking lot will be on Richboro Road. The proposed orientation makes this building’s façade the gateway to Newtown’s business district. The side facing Sycamore Street has been softened by the hardscape treatment of the corner.
Mr. Della Carpini said that fewer drive through aisles would still require the same circulating and stacking areas.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the entrance would be right in/right out.
Mr. Della Carpini said that the entrance would be a full entrance; the plan eliminates some of the existing curb cuts on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Fidler urged the members to continue to address the Conditional Use application; engineering issues would be part of the land development review.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the financial establishment use is a separate use from a financial establishment with drive through.
Mr. Torrente said that these are not separate uses; no variances are required.
Mr. Kochanski said that in addition to specific requirements of the Ordinance, the use must meet the general requirements of Section 1301B.
Ms. McGowan reviewed Section 1301B, as discussed in Mr. Kochanski’s letter dated October 25, 2011:
Ms. McGowan noted that the plan has met the specific requirements of the JMZO and they are consistent with the Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan’s purposes and intent for the Town Commercial zoning district.
Ms. McGowan said that the proposed plan is an improvement over the existing site; the architecture is more consistent with the vision for Sycamore Street than what exists today.
Ms. McGowan said that the plan is compliant with the requirements of the JMZO.
Ms. McGowan said that the proposed accesses to the property are superior to what currently exists.
Bradford Lare, an attorney representing the Sycamore Street Community Association, urged the Commission to not recommend approval of the application because the plan does not meet all of the conditions of Section 1301. The drive through window will generate more trips at the intersection. The entrances cross sidewalks, which could be dangerous. It is not addressing the Township’s vision for the future of Sycamore Street as a walkable community retail district. There will be a significant increase in stacking of traffic on Richboro Road, which is already congested.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the use and its traffic will have a negative impact on the customers and the business of the neighboring business, 7-Eleven.
Resident John D’Aprile said that the plan is not in keeping with the character of the area and the vision for Sycamore Street.
Resident Judith Norkin said that the use and the plan are not in keeping with the vision for Sycamore Street as a town center, as outlined by the Bucks County Planning Commission.
Mr. Cohen suggested that the Commission could recommend that the Board deny the application with the Richboro Road orientation but would approve if the orientation were changed so that the front entrance would be on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny approval of Beneficial Bank for conditional use E-4, financial establishment because it fails to meet the recommendations of the Bucks County Planning Commission’s letter dated June 16, 2011 and does not meet the general conditions of JMZO Section 1301 B, sections 1 through 5. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 8-1, with Mr. Fidler voting nay.
Beneficial Bank – 34 South Sycamore Street – Preliminary as Final Plan: Ms. McGowan requested that the Commission table this review.
McDonald’s LLP, South Eagle Road – Preliminary Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy, Engineer Michael Jeitner and franchise owner Michael Anton were in attendance to review this preliminary plan for a 3,911 square foot McDonald’s restaurant with drive-through and 41 parking spaces in the PC Planned Commercial zoning district. The plan has been revised to show an entrance to the site from Durham Road and two other access points within the shopping center. Mr. Murphy reminded the Commission members that they have seen this plan in October of 2010 and again in February of this year. The applicant has also reviewed this plan with the Supervisors during a work session in March.
Mr. Jeitner said that the plan has been revised. It still proposes to remove the 6900 square foot building and erect a 3911 square foot McDonald’s restaurant. The Ordinance requires 41 parking spaces for this use, and 41 spaces are provided. The plan has been changed to provide direct access to Durham Road. There has been some discussion with PennDOT, and it is expected that a Highway Occupancy Permit will be issued. The plan complies with the review letters on most points.
Mr. Murphy said that this plan has been submitted as a preliminary plan. After this evening’s review, the plan will be revised to comply with the review letters and any recommendations the Planning Commission might have. The applicant will return for final land development review and conditional use approval. The plan may or may not require variances.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that at the sketch plan phase, there had been some discussion about a slight shift in the footprint of the building, but the land owner had been resistant to that change.
Mr. Murphy said that since the February review, the applicant had attempted a number of orientations but feels the current plan is the most appropriate. The land owner’s objection is no longer an issue.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Township’s Traffic Engineer had suggested restricting left turn access to the site from Durham Road.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant would like PennDOT to weigh in on this question; the applicant will comply with PennDOT’s recommendations.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission had questioned the need for a separate Durham Road entrance.
Ms. Kaminski said that she disagreed with the previous Township Engineer on a few points. She would want to see a Saturday analysis of traffic. She would like to restrict left exit traffic by a physical means.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether PennDOT asks for Township input in its review.
Ms. Kaminski said that PennDOT does ask for the review letters to be included with the Highway Occupancy Permit application. She also prepares comments directly to PennDOT to be sure that the land development plan matches the HOP.
The Commission reviewed CKS’s letter dated October 11, 2011.
Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant will comply with most of the letter. Regarding the minimum allowable driveway width of 25 feet, Mr. Murphy noted that the Ordinance does not differentiate between one-way and two way driveways. This lane will be one-way only, and is 18 feet wide for a small portion of the driveway. This width has been approved elsewhere in the Township.
Mr. Jeitner explained that the one-way traffic is being directed into or around the drive through aisle. The narrower portion helps to keep stacking cars in line. He reviewed the circulation around the building and into the drive –through aisle then out into two-way traffic.
Mr. Cohen expressed some concern that the access could be used as a cut-through to the rest of the shopping center.
Mr. Jeitner said that it is not a straight shot through to the shopping center. Vehicles will have to slow down to pass McDonald’s.
Mr. Kochanski suggested creating a “T” entrance to enter at a 90° angle.
Mr. Jeitner said he would review this option. The goal is to keep McDonald’s traffic within that development area and not to impact the shopping center.
Mr. Fidler asked when the applicant decided to add a third entrance.
Mr. Murphy said that the Township felt it is necessary to access an arterial road; there was concern about competing traffic.
Mr. Fidler said that he has some concerns about three accesses to the site. Perhaps a waiver could be considered for the arterial roadway access.
Mr. Murphy and Mr. Jeitner reviewed the SALDO section of the CKS letter. They reviewed internal walkways and sidewalks.
The Commission reviewed the Boucher and James letter of October 10, 2011.
Mr. Jeitner discussed the comment regarding pedestrian sidewalks on Durham Road. He noted that while it would appear that there is adequate space for a sidewalk from Ice Cream Ally to the Eagle Road entrance to the shopping center, there is a significant grading problem and a sharp drop-off along the road. The lawn area in front of the Wells Fargo property is bermed and heavily landscaped. PennDOT would want a buffer area between the street and the sidewalk, which would create additional challenges.
Ms. Fountain said that she would need more topographical information. She asked that this discussion be deferred.
Mr. Murphy said that other than this one point, the applicant will comply with the Boucher and James letter as well as with the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated September 29, 2011 and the Fire Marshal’s letter dated September 2, 2011.
Mr. Iapalucci expressed some concern that customers would have to walk across the drive through lane to enter the building. He had some concern about the three entrances. He asked about stacking of cars in the drive through aisle.
Mr. Jeitner said that the plan shows 10-car stacking. The speed is very slow and is a typical design for a drive through, providing safe circulation.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will comply with PennDOT on access.
Mr. Olivari said that the plan does not fit into the shopping center.
Mr. Galley said that he has some concern about the two internal access points.
Mr. Fidler said that this is a substantial change to the approved plan for the shopping center.
Mr. Torrente said that this is a permitted use for the shopping center.
Mr. Cohen asked about signage.
Mr. Murphy said that the sign package has not been prepared yet.
Mr. Whartenby and Mr. Deutsch expressed concerns about the intensity of the use in this already busy section of the shopping center.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she has concerns that the new entrance will be too close to Ice Cream Alley.
Mr. Fisher asked about deliveries.
Mr. Jeitner reviewed the proposed circulation for delivery trucks. He said that the trucks are on site for a very short time. The deliveries are off-peak. McDonald’s has its own distribution company and can control the time and number of deliveries. Additional information will be provided with the revised plans.
Mr. Fisher asked about lights.
Mr. Jeitner said that there will be supplementary buffering; there will be zero foot candles at the property line.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the applicant had considered other Township locations which had been discussed at previous Planning Commission meetings.
Mr. Murphy said that two of the sites are no longer available and another is controlled by an agreement with Wendy’s prohibiting other fast food restaurants.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the use will impact the entire property and the land owner should be part of the review process. The center has shared parking and a private road system which will be impacted by this use.
Resident Fran Poole, president of the Cliveden Homeowners Association, said that the Homeowners are not against commercial development and have worked with other developers on projects in the area. They are not against McDonald’s but against McDonald’s at this location. He said that this use would also have to comply with JMZO Section 1301 B as had been discussed earlier with Beneficial Bank. He would like McDonald’s to demonstrate compliance with this section of the Ordinance. This use needs a separate approval for the drive through window. There is not good pedestrian access.
Mrs. Norkin, also a member of Cliveden’s Homeowners Association Board, said that she is concerned that traffic will stack all the way back to Sycamore Street waiting to make a left turn into the site. She would like separate turning lanes. She is concerned about the increased volume of traffic near the Parcel Place entrance. She asked that the traffic study include evenings and weekends. She said that the site has no sidewalk access from outside of the shopping center, and feels that it will be a site that people will want to walk to. She expressed concern about crime, about creating a teen hang-out and about off-peak deliveries by large trucks in the late hours of the evening or very early in the morning, disturbing nearby residential neighbors.
Le Sheppard of Wrightstown said that he is concerned with public safety and increased traffic.
Resident Catherine McAndrews said that she is concerned about safety; the access roads in and around the site are not safe for pedestrian crossing for young people or for seniors. She suggested that the traffic studies should be done after the Birches assisted living facility has opened. She does not think the parking in that section will be adequate.
Mr. D’Aprile said that the use will have a negative impact on traffic.
Resident Janine Long said that she is concerned about traffic and safety.
Resident Robert Thomas said that he is concerned that the use will have a detrimental impact on his neighborhood because of the noise, lights, traffic, trash and odors.
Newtown Borough TND Review: Mr. Fidler noted the late hour. He reminded the members that they were provided copies of the Borough Ordinance and Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby’s detailed review in advance of the meeting. The Ordinance allows Newtown Borough flexibility in developing properties larger than 2 acres for mixed uses and increased residential density. In addition to the Stockburger property, this ordinance could be used at the former Newtown Beverage property, the CVS property, Lucas Plumbing and Stockingworks I.
Mr. Cohen said that the Borough has an application for plans for the Stockburger property which are far less intense than the plans originally discussed in concept meetings.
Mr. Fidler said that he had seen an article in the Newtown Advance which talked about a two-story garage and far fewer residential units than the original plan, but still of much greater density than any other developments in the Borough. Such intense use will place a burden on the infrastructure of both the Borough and Township. He suggested that the members continue the discussion once the Borough has formal plans to review.
The recording secretary provided copies of a letter and draft amendment to the Township Stormwater Management Ordinance.
Ms. Fountain said that the Commission had already reviewed proposed language for the amendment and had recommended that the Supervisors authorize advertisement. This is a copy of the amendment which will be adopted.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he has seen a number of neon signs in the windows of shops in the business districts. He would like the Township to enforce its ban on these signs.
Mr. Iapalucci moved to adjourn at 11:15 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary