NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on December 20, 2011
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Dennis Fisher, Larry Galley and Michael Iapalucci, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Stacy Yoder, Township Planner and Michael Hartey, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Chairman Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to accept the minutes of December 6, 2011. Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Application
McDonald’s Restaurant, 2875 South Eagle Road: Attorney Ed Murphy, Engineer Michael Jeitner and franchisee Michael Anton were in attendance to review this application for a variance from JMZO Section 1001(B)(5) to allow a minimum driveway width of 18 feet where 25 feet is the minimum. Mr. Murphy noted that the Ordinance does not differentiate between one-way and two-way drives and parking aisles. The proposed drive aisle will be one way only.
Mr. Jeitner reviewed the plans, pointing out that the drive aisles for two way traffic comply with the Ordinance. The drive through aisle is one way and 10 feet wide. The pass-by lane narrows to 18 feet at two points as it goes around the building. The pass-by lane is also one way and is adjacent to the drive through aisle, separated only by painted lines. This is the standard design for drive through windows at all McDonald’s restaurants. At one point the aisle narrows to 18 feet in order to keep the existing curb line and separation from the adjoining bank property. At the entrance to the drive through area the aisle is reduced to 21 feet. This will help differentiate the aisle as one-way only.
Mr. Fidler asked whether there are any physical barriers between the drive through and pass-by aisles at any point.
Mr. Jeitner said that the line is painted for the entire drive aisle. This enables a vehicle to exit the drive through in case of an emergency.
Mr. Jeitner reviewed the entrance to the site from Durham Road, noting that it is two way and wider than 25 feet. There is a curb separating the entrance from Durham to the McDonald’s drive aisles and parking area to prevent vehicles from entering the drive aisle going the wrong way.
Mr. Whartenby asked about passing the drive aisle if cars are stacked to 11 or more cars and wind around the front of the building.
Mr. Jeitner said that McDonald’s uses tandem order boards to move cars through the drive through faster; stacking rarely goes beyond 8 cars, which can be accommodated in the drive aisle.
Mr. Whartenby asked about the time between placing an order and exiting the drive aisle.
Mr. Anton said that it typically takes about one minute from ordering to exiting. When the line stacks to 8 cars, the customers either park and go inside or drive away. McDonald’s rarely sees lines beyond 8 cars.
Mr. Iapalucci asked why our ordinance requires a 25 foot drive aisle when 18 feet is the standard.
Ms. Fountain said that Newtown is the only municipality she has worked with which does not differentiate between one way and two way aisles. She has usually seen a 12 foot requirement for one way aisles.
Mr. Whartenby said that he has not seen an ordinance requiring 25 feet for one way drive aisles in any other municipalities where he has worked as a planner.
Mr. Iapalucci said that he also has concerns about the stacking going completely around the building including across the front where the entrance to the restaurant is located. He does not want to see pedestrians forced to walk across the drive through line to enter the building.
Mr. Fidler said that when the Ordinance was first drafted, the Jointure was not receptive to drive through facilities; the Ordinance does not prohibit drive through uses, but the requirements are the same as for non-drive through uses with wider drive aisles which accommodate two-way traffic. Since it was drafted in 1983, the Ordinance has not been amended to account for the change to more drive through uses.
Mr. Iapalucci also asked about traffic enforcement since this is private property.
Mr. Torrente said that he is not sure of the specifics of police enforcement of traffic on private property.
Mr. Murphy said that police can patrol and enforce traffic on private property with the owner’s permission.
Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the parking stalls are compliant with the Ordinance.
Mr. Murphy said that the stalls and number of spaces comply.
Mr. Iapalucci expressed some concern about drivers ignoring the one way restriction and cutting through the parking lot to exit.
Mr. Jeitner said that the aisles are narrower in McDonald’s layouts to keep traffic flowing in one direction. With the narrower aisle, drivers cannot enter the wrong way.
Mr. Torrente asked if the curb at the Durham Road entrance extends beyond the entrance.
Mr. Jeitner said that the curb is only near the entrance to prevent vehicles from entering the drive aisle the wrong way. Beyond the entrance, only lines are used to guide traffic.
Mr. Cohen said that while the narrow aisle does not appear to be a hazard, he sees no reason to waive from the Ordinance requirement.
Mr. Galley agreed that the design seemed congested and he favored upholding the Ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that the pad site is triangular and the design is rectangular and does not fit properly. This is the wrong size site for this use. He asked Ms. Fountain to research whether the 25 foot standard was applied to other banks, Wendy’s and Chik-fil-a.
Mr. Fisher said that he has concerns about the flow of traffic in this already congested portion of the shopping center. He favors upholding the Ordinance.
Mr. Torrente asked whether the entrance to the site from South Eagle Road is 25 feet.
Mr. Jeitner confirmed that it is 25 feet.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he is concerned that the problem goes beyond this one site. The Ordinance was designed to restrict drive through uses. The entire shopping center area needs to be considered.
Le Sheppard from Wrightstown Township asked the Commission to clarify whether the police can enforce traffic regulations in the shopping center.
Mr. Fidler said that Mr. Torrente would research this; he expected that the three shopping center owners would cooperate with enforcement efforts.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission could forward this application to the Supervisors without comment or recommend that the Supervisors support, or send the solicitor to oppose this application.
All of the Commission members agreed to recommend that the Supervisors should send the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose this application and uphold the Ordinance.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Fidler noted that this would be Mr. Schenkman’s last attendance as Planning Commission liaison. He thanked Mr. Schenkman for his service and his input to the Commission. The members echoed Mr. Fidler’s thanks.
Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Cohen reported that the Regional Commission had met with Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush to discuss the County Comprehensive Plan. A summary of the plan will be distributed to the County’s municipal planning commissions shortly. The plan focuses on preservation of open space and redeveloping of business areas. Of particular interest to Newtown is the County’s effort to encourage businesses to relocate to Bucks County. The Commission discussed mixed use development.
Mr. Torrente said that in the coming year the Regional Commission will consider the draft ordinance regulating alternative energy sources. There will also be review to clarify the difference between uses with and without drive-through service.
Mr. Cohen noted the Regional Commission will attempt to meet more regularly in 2012.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that at its last meeting the Park and Recreation Board voted to recommend that the Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space for a planned addition to Goodnoe Elementary School.
EAC: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC has been trying to raise funds to make Newtown Township an Audubon Society Bird Town. The EAC is also beginning to plan for regular quarterly environmental forums for residents. The EAC is also working on a pamphlet outlining methods of stormwater management for residents planning small projects which will increase impervious surface. The effort was put on hold until the amendment to the Stormwater Ordinance has been adopted.
Correspondence: Mr. Fisher said that he and a number of other Commission members had received e-mails complaining that tonight’s meeting was being held on the first night of Hanukah.
Mr. Fidler said that it was unfortunate, but this was the only opportunity the Commission would have to review the McDonald’s application before it goes to the Board of Supervisors at their last meeting of the year. The Planning Commission members were polled in advance to be sure there would be a quorum. He thanked the Planning Commission members for their efforts, volunteering for the Township and committing to meetings twice monthly.
Mr. Fisher moved to adjourn at 9:00 PM. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary