NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Synopsis Minutes of the meeting held on June 5, 2012
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Fred DeVesa, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer; Stacy Yoder, Township Planner; Amy Kaminski, Traffic Engineer; John Torrente, Solicitor; Donald Williams, Special Township Solicitor for Promenade; Martin Vogt, Code Enforcement Officer and Supervisor Liaisons Philip Calabro and Michael Gallagher.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to accept the minutes of May 17, 2012. Ms. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0-1, with Mr. Cohen abstaining.
GreenStraw Smoothies, LLC, 243 North Sycamore Street: Applicants Jeff and Kelly Ann Troy were in attendance to review this application for use E-5, eating place in the TC, Town Commercial Zoning District. Mr. Troy explained that GreenStraw would prepare and sell smoothies, juices and healthy snacks made from locally sourced products.
Ms. Fountain pointed out that in 1986, the Zoning Hearing Board granted a parking variance for this shopping center for reduced parking for 14,500 square feet of retail and 10,000 square feet of rental apartments. She is not certain that ratio has been maintained. The variance may not still be valid. Mr. Fidler said that the original land development for the shopping center had anticipated a certain mix of uses. The addition of more E-5, eating place uses can strain parking.
Mr. Troy said that he conducted an informal traffic study of the center at mid-morning and mid-afternoon on a weekday and weekend and observed 35-40 open spaces in the morning and 45-50 open spaces in the afternoon. He provided photographs of the parking lot at 9:00 AM. His business would have only ten seats. He also spoke to Allen Smith, owner of the shopping center, who assured him that there is adequate parking, more than other centers in Newtown.
Mr. Fidler noted that the lower level parking is rarely used at this center.
Ms. Yoder asked about deliveries.
Mr. Troy said that he has spoken to his supplier. His business will not add to truck traffic at all, as his supplier is already delivering to Sycamore Grill in the same shopping center. His deliveries will be coordinated with Sycamore Grill.
Mr. Fisher asked about hours of operation, noting that the Commission advises applicants to seek the maximum hours they might possibly need, rather than have to return to the Township if they find they want to open earlier or remain open later in the evening.
Mr. Troy said that he expected his busiest time to be between 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM, but would amend his request to remain open until 10:00 every evening.
Mr. Fisher said that the shop does not have to be open that late, but it could do so. The Commission is hoping with this recommendation to offer businesses some flexibility.
Mr. Torrente asked if the applicant would have counter seating.
Mr. Troy said there would be ten seats at tables. The counter is for ordering only, although some customers might drink their juice while standing at the counter. No seating is planned.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the application for conditional use for an E-5 eating place at 243 North Sycamore Street in the TC, Town Commercial Zoning District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Chleboski seconded.
Discussion of motion: Shawn Ward, President of the Sycamore Street Community Association, said that the Association fully supports this application and welcomes GreenStraw to the street.
The motion passed 9-0.
200 North Sycamore Street, LP (The Promenade), Revised Final Plan for Land Development: Engineer Karl Janetka, Landscape Architect Scott Mills, Architect Gene Grimaldi and Traffic Engineer Joe DeSantis were in attendance to review revisions to the approved final plan for development of a 1.96 acre site to include 20,000 square feet of retail space and 26 residential rental apartments in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District. The plan was approved in 2009. In 2011 variances were granted to allow for the revisions presented to the Planning Commission, which include a change from one large building to two buildings, one a free standing, single story retail building and a second, larger building with ground floor retail spaces and two floors of residential apartments.
Attorney Donald Williams served as special solicitor for the Planning Commission.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Commission has had five new appointees and a new planner and solicitor since the plan was last reviewed. He had asked the recording secretary to prepare packets for the Commission containing minutes and decisions from the 2009 plan review and the 2011 Zoning Hearing Board review and hearing.
Mr. Janetka referred to the current plan and noted the changes to the plan. He pointed out that the original building had been one large building with a driveway pass-through breezeway aligned with Jefferson Street. The plan now shows one three story building and a smaller, single story retail building, with a driveway aligned with Jefferson Street, going through to the rear parking. Underground parking has been removed from the plan. The plan now shows 20,000 square feet of retail space and 26 rental apartments. At this time no tenant has been named for the small, free standing building. The applicant was granted zoning variances to allow 116 parking spaces and rental apartments. The façade of the larger building is very similar to the original plan, with a raised promenade across the front; the height is still 40 feet. No changes have been made to the stormwater basin plan. No additional waivers are requested.
Mr. Fidler asked Mr. Janetka to review the access points.
Mr. Janetka said that the south access at the Jefferson Street intersection would be two-way. The second, north access will be right in, only. The north cartway is 12 feet wide. No exits are permitted from the north access.
Gene Grimaldi of Omnia Group, architect on the project, reviewed the façade of the building, noting that the plans are very similar to the 2009 plan, with features as recommended by HARB. Each rental unit will have a balcony. The stand-alone building will be similar to the large building and similar to the concept design shown during the 2011 zoning review.
John McGrath, one of the investors, said that he has been involved with the project since the 2009 plan; the façade is very much the same as the 2009 approved plan.
Mr. Cohen asked whether any restrictions have been placed on use of the promenade area for placement of retail merchandise.
Ms. Fountain said that would be part of the conditional use hearing; each commercial tenant would have to apply for conditional use approval.
Mr. Galley asked about retailing walls in the parking area.
Mr. Janetka said that the materials had not yet been chosen.
Mr. Deutsch asked about mechanicals on the roof.
Mr. Grimaldi said that the air conditioning units for the retail spaces would be on the roof but not visible from the street. The residential units would each have their own units in the apartments. The largest retail space, Anthropologie, would have a pad outside the building.
The Commission reviewed the CKS letter dated June 5, 2012. Mr. Janetka said that the applicant will comply with the letter.
Mr. Fidler asked about page #4, items 8 and 9.
Mr. Janetka said that these items, dealing with lighting and traffic signal plans will comply with Township requirements. At this point only parking lot illumination plans have been completed. It is understood that building lighting and landscape plans are also subject to HARB review.
Ms. Fountain noted that as part of a proposed easement agreement with Newtown Presbyterian Church there was to have been landscaping done in the Church garden. This should be noted on the plan. On the original plan, steps from the Church to the parking lot were to have been removed and replaced.
Mr. Janetka said that the new design has more space on the side nearer the Church. Removal of the steps may not be necessary. This will be clarified and a note shall be added to the plan.
Ms. Fountain and Mr. Janetka discussed crosswalks within the parking lot. Mr. Janetka said that the sidewalks would be revised to be continuous; he would work with Ms. Fountain on this detail.
In response to Mr. Fidler’s question, Mr. Janetka reviewed the template for maneuvering of emergency vehicles.
The Commission reviewed the Boucher and James letter of June 5, 2012. This letter was similar to the CKS letter. Mr. Janetka indicated that the applicant will comply with this letter.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission has traditionally been reluctant to recommend that the Supervisors approve a plan with a long list of “will complies.” He urged the applicant to revise the plan to comply with the review letters prior to appearing before the Supervisors.
The Commission reviewed the Gilmore & Associates letter dated June 6, 2012. Ms. Kaminski said that she had included a review of the McMahon Traffic Impact Study conducted in 2009, but had some concerns with AM peak traffic impact if a coffee shop is included in the retail mix. She also felt that a left turn arrow on Sycamore Street for northbound traffic turning into the site is not warranted and might impede the flow of traffic. She favored a left turn lane, only. She also felt that the left turn light from Sycamore Street onto Jefferson Street might need to be timed to remain green a little longer. The queue lane also should be lengthened.
Joe DeSantis of McMahon Associates said that he has eliminated the northbound left turn signal. The traffic pattern should be similar to when Acme was opened. The issue of back-up on Jefferson Street already exists and should be addressed by adjustments in the timing of the traffic light. He has submitted a traffic signal time plan to the Township and PennDOT and it has been accepted. A permit for the left turn lane on Sycamore Street was submitted but a permit has not been issued when the project was stalled.
The Commission agreed that the applicant should be required to escrow funds to evaluate the traffic light timing six months after the project has been completed and occupied and timing of the light can be readjusted in necessary.
Mr. DeSantis reviewed the testimony given at the Zoning Hearing Board to allow 116 parking spaces. He noted that the peak Saturday demand is for 116 spaces. There are 32 on-street spaces adjacent to the property, which were not included in any parking calculations.
Mr. Fidler said that when the applicant appeared at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for the review of the 2011 Zoning application, both bodies had recommended that certain parking spaces be reserved for residents of the building.
Mr. Ward said that he had attended the review meetings but felt that it would be difficult to monitor residential reserved parking. Those spaces would not be available to shoppers when residents were not using them and residents might not necessarily always use their assigned spaces, preferring spaces closer to the building or on the street. Enforcement becomes difficult for the property management.
Mrs. Driscoll said that if she were to reside in the building, she would prefer a designated parking space.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he favors flexible shared parking. He felt this plan corrects some of the concerns with the 2009 parking plan.
The members discussed the restriction of right turns out of the parking lot. It has been recommended that trucks not be permitted to make right turns. Mr. Fidler said that this restriction would force trucks to circle around to get to the south end of Sycamore Street.
Mr. Janetka said that this had been imposed as a condition when the exit from the rear of the project was through the tunnel/arcade. That has been eliminated, making visibility much better, however the signal box and pole would have to be removed to provide sufficient turning radius.
Ms. Kaminski suggested possibly dropping the stop bar on the left turn lane back to give trucks more room to turn.
All agreed that this should be studied further; all favored allowing trucks to turn right if it were safe to do so.
Mr. Whartenby noted comment #8 which discusses sight distance for exiting driveway “A” if vehicles are parked near driveway “B”.
Mr. Janetka and Ms. Kaminski agreed to review this further and attempt to remedy the problem, possibly by prohibiting right turn on red.
Walt Jamison, a member of Newtown Presbyterian Church, said that he had attended many meetings over the years to discuss the impact of this development on the historic church. He said that he wanted to confirm that the construction easement is still necessary and that the church garden plans are still part of the project.
Mr. Janetka confirmed that the construction easement is still needed. A note will be added to the plan confirming the church garden plans. It is not yet known whether the stairs from the church will need to be relocated or replaced.
Mr. Vogt asked that egress lighting be added to the plan.
Mr. Ward, speaking on behalf of the Sycamore Street Community Association sand that his organization has reviewed the revisions to the plan and is fully supportive. It is consistent with the 2009 approved plan. He asked that the Planning Commission recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Fidler again asked that the plans be revised to comply with the review letters prior to presenting them to the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Williams asked whether any additional waivers would be sought.
Mr. Janetka said that the project needs no new waivers; those granted in 2009 are all still required. He confirmed that the 2011 zoning relief meets the needs of the project.
Mr. Whartenby move to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the revised final plan of land development of the Promenade at Sycamore Street, being known as Bucks County Tax Parcel No. 29-10-7 prepared by Van Cleef Engineering, dated July 24, 2009, last revised October 6, 2009 and revised May 30, 2012, subject to the following conditions, all of which the Applicant has agreed to:
1. Prior to the signing of the Final Plan and its recordation, and subject to the variances granted and waivers secured, the Plan shall be revised to comply with the following professional consultants’ review letters:
A. June 5, 2012 review letter from CKS Engineers, except for the
following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:
B. June 5, 2012 letter of Boucher and James;
C. June 5, 2012 review letter of Gilmore & Associates, except for the following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:
D. June 1, 2012 review letter from the Newtown Emergency Services Department.
2. The Applicant shall comply with all terms and conditions of the variances granted
by the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board on July 2, 2009 and November 10, 2011;
3. The applicant shall comply with any review from Bucks County Planning Commission;
4. The Applicant shall supply all permits required by all Township, County, State and Federal governmental agencies
5. The applicant shall obtain E-1 Conditional Use approval for all retail tenants,
6. The applicant shall comply with conditions of land development approval dated November 18, 2009
7. The Applicant shall supply and execute all development and financial security documents in a form satisfactory to the Township Solicitor;
8. The Applicant shall provide a will serve or appropriate agreement from the
appropriate water and sewer authorities confirming the availability of public water and public sewer to the project.
9. The Applicant shall provide an adequate letter from the Bucks County Conservation District as to erosion and sediment control;
10. All lighting shall comply with all Township Ordinances (except to the extent any
waivers or variances have been granted) and no glare shall extend onto adjoining properties and a note shall be added to the plan so indicating.
11. The Applicant shall comply with all storm water management ordinances and the
Township Engineer recommendations and the Applicant shall execute a storm water management agreement in a form acceptable to the Township’s professionals.
12. No Use shall be permitted which is noxious or offensive to the immediate area by
reason of odor, dust, smoke, gas, vibration, illumination or noise or which constitutes a public hazard by fire, explosion or otherwise and a note shall be added to the Plan so indicating.
13. If applicable, the Applicant shall pay a traffic impact fee pursuant to the schedule
of fees of Newtown Township and as assessed by the township traffic engineer.
14. Applicant shall execute a declaration of unilateral restrictions and covenants as
it relates to the notes on the Plan, which Declaration will be filed contemporaneously with the final plans.
15. Applicant shall pay all review and professional fees incurred by the Township in
connection with all prior reviews and reviews in connection with this approval as required under the Township SALDO and its applicable rate structure.
16. Applicant shall provide sufficient landscape buffering so as to preclude
headlights from impinging upon nearby intersections.
17. All signs shall be subject to and comply with Township sign ordinances and
shall only be placed after securing any and all permits from the Township.
18. A fee in lieu of dedication of park and open space area shall be paid in accordance with the Township Fee Schedule.
19. The property shall be ADA compliant.
20. The façade of both proposed buildings shall be consistent with the 2009 plans as to appearance, footprint and height;
All waivers granted as outlined in minutes of prior approval dated November 18, 2009, letters A through P are incorporated into this recommendation.
Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0-1, with Mr. DeVesa abstaining.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether there have been any updates to plans for Beneficial Bank on Sycamore Street or McDonald’s Restaurant at Village at Newtown.
Mr. Gallagher said that both businesses are in the process of revising plans to better meet the Township’s requirements.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the changes to the shopping center footprint proposed by McDonald’s would impact the shopping center’s original approval or whether the shopping center would have to amend its final plan and apply for approval jointly with McDonald’s.
Mr. Torrente said this would be addressed at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors.
Ms. Fountain noted that the original approval and parking variance had been for one 64 acre parcel. The property has since been subdivided into three or more parcels, measuring about twenty acres.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Gallagher thanked the Planning Commission for making the extra effort to expedite the Promenade review.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Supervisors are exploring the possibility of converting to electronic packets. If successful for the Supervisors, a plan will be implemented to convert the other Township committees, boards and commissions. This could save the Township as much as $40,000 in paper each year.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission would probably still want hard copies of land development plans, but otherwise would be supportive of the change.
Mr. Gallagher said that the newly hired Township Manager would possibly begin work on June 25. The Supervisors are in the process of interviewing for the newly created fire chief position as well.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that the Supervisors have approved the Park and Recreation Board’s plan to seek matching funds for a playground in Veterans Park from the County Municipal Open Space Program, which will permit funds to be used to enhance existing open space and make it more accessible to all residents. Jason and Natalie Cohen of Newtown have raised $50,000, which will be donated to the Township for its match for the County funds.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC held a quarterly forum on June 2, 2012. The topic was organic gardening. The EAC is revising the stormwater pamphlet to be given to residents planning projects which will increase impervious surface on their properties. The EAC would also like to have input on tree placement on land development projects.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 10:15 PM. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary