NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Synopsis Minutes of the meeting held on June 19, 2012
Present : Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Craig Deutsch, Fred DeVesa, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Stacy Yoder, Township Planner, John Torrente, Solicitor and Martin Vogt, Code Enforcement Officer.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. DeVesa moved to approve the minutes of June 5, 2012. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Faith and William McManimon, 21 Jasmine Ct.: William McManimon was in attendance to review this application for side yard setback relief to install a wooden deck on his home. He explained that the minimum permitted setback for a house in Newtown Grant is ten feet, but for patios and decks it is 15 feet. He would like the deck to run to the side wall of the house, because his house has sliding glass doors at the rear and he wants the doors to open onto the deck.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she had visited the site and noted that the house backs to woods and open space. She noted an existing concrete pad.
Mr. McManimon said that the patio would remain in place and would be connected to the deck by one step.
Mr. Torrente confirmed that the deck setback would be 11.51 feet while the house is 11.85 feet.
Mrs. Driscoll suggested that the Commission should recommend that the Supervisors not oppose this application. All agreed.
Michael Walsh, 385 Stoopville Road: Michael Walsh was in attendance to review this application for relief from the minimum open space ratio so that he can subdivide his property. He reminded the Commission that he had already presented this plan for land development of a minor subdivision. He intends to create a second lot for a new home for his son, while renovating the existing house on the first lot. He will demolish the existing barn and build a garage with an apartment for his daughter. When his plans were being reviewed by the Township it was discovered that a piece of land was to have been deeded to 385 Stoopville Road when the road was realigned by developers. Stoopville Road had also been upgraded by PennDOT at that time. The upgrade had increased the right of way from 40 feet to 70 feet. His property had been surveyed with the 40 foot right of way. The lot size is the same, but the right of way must be included in new calculations. He will now have one lot a little more than three acres and a second, non-conforming lot of 2.85 acres.
Mrs. Driscoll reminded the Commission that the Joint Historic Commission had asked to be notified if a demolition permit were filed for the barn.
Mr. Deutsch asked whether both lots would be served by public water.
Mr. Walsh said both would have public water and public sewers.
The Commission agreed to pass this application to the Board of Supervisors without comment.
Karate fir Kidz of Newtown LLC, 2110 South Eagle Road: Don Drumm was in attendance to review his application for a use C-3, commercial school in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District. He would like to open a karate school for children ages 4 through 16 at Village at Newtown in the portion of the shopping center near Wendy’s.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about the size of the space.
Mr. Drumm said that his space would have 1874 square feet. He said that he was not sure why the plans seemed to have a discrepancy between the unit numbers for the spaces in that portion of the shopping center. He confirmed that his unit is currently unoccupied and is near the existing travel agency.
Mr. Vogt said that the plans are for the Codes Department’s information and the unit number and square footage would be confirmed before a certificate of occupancy is issued. It is not unusual to discover discrepancies in older as built plans.
Mr. Fisher asked about peak hours for this business.
Mr. Drumm said that he would hold classes between 4PM and 8PM.
The Commission agreed that parking at that section would be adequate. They were in agreement that they are pleased to see businesses move into that section of the shopping center where there have been a number of vacancies. They would like to see the Supervisors support this business at the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Whartenby moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors support this application. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
S&H Security, LLC, 74 Richboro Road: Attorney Ed Murphy and Brian Tomlinson were in attendance to review this application for variances from sections 601.A, 1001.A.6, 1001.F.6.b, 1001.B.5, 1001.D.1, 1001.D.2, 1001.F.6.c, and 1207.A.1 to permit seasonal conversion of an existing dwelling into a ”haunted house” and concession stand / ticket booth where such use is not permitted, no additional buffering, 12 to 15 feet driveway width instead of the required 25 feet, no curbing of parking area, no landscape island in parking area, and on-going residential use when not in seasonal use; and a Special Exception under section 1208A to permit a 224 sq ft concession stand/ticket booth as an expansion on a non-conforming lot.
Mr. Murphy explained that the applicant, Mr. Tomlinson, has purchased the former Chesler home at 74 Richboro Road, currently being used as rental residential. Mr. and Mrs. Tomlinson own the adjacent home. The property backs onto St. Andrew’s Church parking lot and is surrounded by the paper street German Avenue and the old Minute Man Press and the American Legion. The Tomlinsons wish to build a haunted house entertainment venue, use E-9, which would be open for six weeks in the fall of each year on Thursdays through Sundays from 6:30 to 10:00 PM. The entertainment use is non-conforming. The house would be used as residential the remainder of the year, which is an existing non-conforming use.
Mr. Murphy explained that some time ago the American Legion paved a portion of the paper street, but a recent survey shows that they paved the portion belonging to the residential neighbors, the Weirs, on the north side of German Avenue. The proposed plan would pave the unpaved, American Legion owned, other side of German Avenue. Visitors to the haunted house would enter through the American Legion property to park. The American Legion has been supportive of the plan as have the other neighbors.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant had shown their plan to the Supervisors as a sketch plan a few months ago. Mr. Murphy also confirmed that the Supervisors do not wish to review the zoning application at Thursday’s meeting. Most of the relief sought is technical.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether the Supervisors had seen the entrance plans.
Mr. Murphy said that the sketch plan had shown access through the existing driveway on Richboro Road. The Supervisors had suggested moving the entrance to Linden Avenue.
Mr. Fisher asked whether any trees would be removed to accommodate parking. He asked about other buildings on the property.
Mr. Tomlinson said that no trees would be removed. The trailer on the property has already been removed and the shed belongs to the Legion.
Mrs. Driscoll expressed concern about traffic on Richboro Road, as she has seen backed up traffic going to Sleepy Hollow Hayrides.
Mrs. Tomlinson said that the attraction would not attract the same large crowds. There is nothing to keep visitors at the site once they have gone through the attraction as at Sleepy Hollow, which has music, food and a bonfire. Groups will be brought in 8 people at a time and it takes about 12 minutes to walk through. There would be a maximum 500 visitors each night.
Mr. Galley asked about overflow parking.
Mr. Tomlinson said that he owns the property on the other side of Linden Avenue which is sometimes used by the American Legion for overflow parking.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the residential neighbors are all supportive.
Mr. Murphy reminded the Commission that this is a convenience commercial zoning district; there are very few residential neighbors. Mr. Tomlinson owns a number of the adjacent parcels.
Mr. Chleboski expressed some concern with traffic which will compete with high school football traffic in the fall.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether the project would have a land development review at which time issues such as traffic can be discussed.
Mr. Murphy said that he thought the applicant would probably seek a waiver of land development since this is a temporary use for only a short time each year.
Ms. Fountain noted that even if granted a waiver, it could be conditioned on providing a traffic study.
Mr. Fisher expressed some concern about maintenance of the property.
Mr. Tomlinson said that he lives next door and would maintain the property all year. There are no proposed structural changes to the exterior.
Mr. Whartenby asked whether the parking on the grass would impact the lawn and stormwater management.
Ms. Fountain said that the grass can be restored after the haunted house season.
Mr. Vogt said that he has spoken to the applicant and his attorney about the code standards for this type of commercial use. This was built as a residential structure, meeting residential building codes. The State fire code has some strict requirements for entertainment venues, especially for haunted mansion venues.
Mr. Murphy said that he is aware of the building code requirements and will work with the inspectors and the fire marshal to meet all requirements.
Mr. Chleboski said that the numbers did not add up; if only 8 visitors every 12 minutes go through the attraction, that would only equal about 120 people who could come through in the proposed 3.5 hours of operation each night, not the 500 referenced earlier.
Mr. Whartenby asked if the attraction would conflict with events at the Legion hall.
Mr. Tomlinson said that he has spoken to representatives of the Legion. There are no conflicts this fall. The Legion will sign an access easement.
Mrs. Driscoll continued to have concerns about traffic in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Tomlinson said that she has spoken to the Police Department. They can hire policemen to direct traffic if necessary.
Mr. Whartenby said that the applicant should bring letters of support from his surrounding neighbors to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The members agreed that they have many concerns about the use, but had no objections to the other technical variances sought. They agreed that Mr. Whartenby should report to the Supervisors that they have concerns about the intensity of the use, the impact of traffic and the safety of the community if this attraction were permitted.
Subcommittee & Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: The recording secretary reported that the Supervisors would meet jointly with Newtown Borough on Thursday, June 21, and would cancel their regular meeting on the fourth Wednesday.
At its last meeting the Supervisors approved the revised final plan for the Promenade.
In response to member questions, Mr. Torrente reported that the changes to the TC Zoning District are being circulated among the Jointure partners for review, after which it would be advertised for adoption in each municipality.
Mr. Whartenby moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary