NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Minutes of the meeting held on February 7, 2012
Present: Secretary Peggy Driscoll, Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Dennis Fisher, Larry Galley and Fred deVesa, members. Also in attendance were Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Stacy Yoder, Township Planner and John Torrente, Township Solicitor and Philip Calabro, Supervisor Liaison.
Call to Order: Mrs. Driscoll called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Cohen moved to approve the minutes of January 17, 2012. Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
(Mr. Fisher arrived at this point)
Goodnoe Elementary School Expansion, 298 Frost Lane, Preliminary Plan: Attorney Michael Carr, Engineer Jodi Litius and School District Facilities Manager Doug Taylor were in attendance to review this plan for replacement of modular classrooms with an 11,538 square foot classroom addition, an entrance addition of 972 square feet and a stage addition of 2034 square feet. The plan also includes some internal renovations and a reconfiguration and restriping of parking, changes to the bus pickup/drop-off and parent pick up areas and kindergarten playground location.
Mr. Carr said that the existing modular classrooms will be removed, some internal renovations are also planned, resulting in the same number of classrooms; no new students are anticipated. The site has some existing non-conformities which will be continued in the new plan, including setbacks for the parking lot/drop off area.
Mr. Cohen asked about parking configurations.
Mr. Carr said that there are currently 141 striped parking spaces. With this plan, the parking area will be re-striped to hold 147 parking spaces.
Mr. Carr said that the project has not been bid out yet; it is possible that two classrooms and the stage would be eliminated to reduce costs.
The Commission reviewed the CKS review letter dated December 20, 2011. Ms. Fountain pointed out that the current zoning requires that parking areas closer to any lot line or street than 100 feet shall be screened. This is an existing non-conformity, which will change and decrease, but will still exist. In addition, there is an existing play area within 22.93 feet of the street, where 200 feet setback is required. This will also be continued with the new plan. A new fenced play area will be 109.44 feet from the street. This will require a variance. She said that the Solicitor would determine whether continuing existing non-conformities would require zoning relief.
Mr. Torrente said that continuing the non-conformity, or reducing it, would not require zoning relief.
Mr. Carr noted that the Ordinance does have requirements for islands and trees in parking areas. Some zoning relief will be sought to eliminate the islands. The kindergarten playground will be relocated and that will also need zoning relief. Curbing is required internally in the parking areas and where parking areas abut streets. Some curbing has been eliminated because of stormwater management concerns. Variances will be needed for this as well.
Mr. Carr said that the School District will seek a waiver from traffic impact fees because there is no change in use or increase in student/staff population.
Mr. Chleboski asked the current enrollment and capacity enrollment.
Mr. Litius said that the current enrollment is about 800 students and capacity is 850.
Mr. Fisher said that the Township might still want traffic study information in case at some point in the future the enrollment were to change.
Mr. Cohen said that he did not think any widening of Frost Lane or acceleration lanes were necessary. He also did not think changes to the intersection of Frost with Lower Dolington would be needed.
Mr. Carr said that the applicant would seek a waiver from road widening.
Ms. Fountain said that it was recommended by the Public Works Director that the road be widened, as would be required of any developer undertaking such a project. He noted that road widening tends to increase speed. The narrower road might be safer.
Mr. Carr said that he would like the engineers on this project to work on stormwater issues; he was not prepared to discuss stormwater at this time.
Mr. Fisher said that he had concerns about stormwater management for increased impervious surface.
Mr. Litius said that the project will be below the maximum 35% impervious surface. Stormwater will be contained with swales to underground detention systems.
Mr. Carr said that the applicant would comply with most of the other points on the CKS letter. A few matters still need discussion. The same is true for the Boucher and James review of January 5, 2012.
Mr. Carr turned to the Gilmore & Associates letter of January 11, 2012, noting that the letter suggests widening of sidewalks. The sidewalks are currently 6 feet wide and have been adequately accommodating children who walk to school.
Mr. Cohen said that he would like to review item #6, which discusses traffic flow for buses and parent drop off/pick up. He would like the applicant to prepare a plan, similar to those submitted for drive through uses, showing stacking of cars waiting to drop off. It is currently not unusual to see as many as fifteen cars waiting in the morning to drop off, while the plan seems to show stacking for only six cars. He suggested some changes to the area currently used for school bus drop off to help with parent drop off. He noted that the plan’s stacking will spill out onto Frost Lane, especially on days of inclement weather when there are many more children driven to or picked up from school.
Mr. Taylor said that the new plan will separate school bus drop off from parent drop off. A separate area is planned for drop off of special needs children.
Mr. Galley asked about deliveries.
Mr. Taylor said that there are no changes to the delivery truck plan. Currently box trucks deliver to a separate area near the kitchen.
Mr. deVesa said that he has some concerns about the plan to not screen the kindergarten playground area. He thought it would be safer if the children were not visible from the street and parking lots.
Mr. Taylor said that the School District would prefer an open appearance, so that the children can be seen by their supervisors while at play. Landscaping could interfere with the visibility to the children by the staff. This is the only appropriate area for the kindergarten playground, close to the classrooms and away from the bus drop off.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about the time frame for construction.
Mr. Taylor said that the work would be done over two summers.
Mr. Cohen asked about asbestos removal.
Mr. Taylor said that an environmental consultant would arrange for asbestos removal during the summer, when the building is not in use.
Mr. Chlebsoki asked about a Bucks County Conservation District review.
Mr. Litius said that a response is expected shortly.
Mr. Carr said that a meeting is scheduled tomorrow with Township staff to review some of the details discussed this evening. The applicant is not asking for a recommendation from the Planning Commission this evening. The plans will be revised to comply with the review letters and the applicant would then like to return to the Commission with revisions to be reviewed as preliminary/final. An extension letter has been provided to the Township.
Newtown Borough Resident Nancy Carroll asked whether the review letters discussed are available to the public.
Ms. Fountain said that copies are on file in the Codes Department and could be reviewed by the public.
Mrs. Carroll said that she has some concerns about the large size of the planned addition. With these changes, Goodnoe could conceivably house 1000 students. She provided a list of current school district enrollment for each school and the current uses for the modular classrooms at Goodnoe. It is her concern that the modular classrooms, now used for individual and special instruction would be converted to 11 additional regular classrooms. She also has concerns about the parking arrangements. Parent/visitor parking will be too far from the new entrance configuration. There is inadequate room for stacking of cars for drop off and pick up.
Resident Rosemary Witchell said that parking for a school this size should be 280 spaces. She has concerns that the parking is inadequate. She also asked that the plans include improvements to the rear play area walkways.
Mr. Carr said that the engineers will look into improving the walkways.
Mr. Cohen referred to the current and planned bus drop off arrangement. He suggested that bus drop off remain as is, leaving more room for stacking of parent drop off cars. He said that this would afford better circulation through the site without cars backing up on to Frost Lane. He said this is of special concern during bad weather, when as many as 50 or 60 cars might be arriving together.
Mrs. Driscoll polled the members. All agreed that the plans should be revised to comply with the review letters and that they would like a second review as preliminary/final.
TC Zoning District – Mrs. Driscoll explained to the newer members of the Commission that some time ago the Planning Commission began a review of the TC zoning district along Sycamore Street. Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush has drafted a memo outlining the changes recommended by the members and by the Board of Supervisors. She suggested that the review should be tabled until Mr. Whartenby and possibly Mr. Fidler are in attendance. It might also be a good idea to invite Ms. Bush to a meeting to review the draft.
Mr. Fisher said that he would e-mail the members a recent Commonwealth decision regarding the inclusion of stormwater basins in the calculations used for open space in land development plans.
Mr. Fisher asked the Township engineer to check into some activity along Swamp Road near Temara Farm involving the removal of trees. It is his understanding that the Swamp Road improvements have been postponed.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Newtown Area Joint Planning Commission: Mr. Cohen reported that the Commission will be finalizing the alternative energy ordinance at its next meeting.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that at its last meeting the Board heard a presentation from Spartans Men’s Cricket Club, asking to build a pitch in a Township park. The Board was supportive of the request and recommended that the Director investigate land at Roberts Ridge, Silver Lake and Veterans Park and invited the club to present their request to the Supervisors during an upcoming joint work session.
At the same meeting, Natalie and Jason Cohen reported on their efforts to raise funds for a playground in Veterans Park. At this point they have raised close to $50,000. The PRB suggested that the Township might approach the County’s Municipal open space program for matching funds to complete the project.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC is planning a community environmental education forum on Saturday morning, March 3, 2012, featuring presentations from Tree Tenders, Newtown Creek Coalition and DCNR. He invited the members to attend.Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 9:45 PM. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary