NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Synopsis Minutes of the meeting held on August 7, 2012
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Fred DeVesa, Peggy Driscoll and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Stacy Yoder, Township Planner, John Torrente, Solicitor and Martin Vogt, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane – Revised Sketch Plan: Attorney Mark Cappuccio, Engineer Terry DeGroot and School District Facilities Manager Doug Taylor were in attendance to review revisions to the plan to expand and renovate Goodnoe School. Mr. Cappuccio showed the original preliminary plan which the Planning Commission had reviewed some months ago, along with the proposed revisions. Mr. Cappuccio explained that the revisions improve the bus and parent drop-off circulation, reduce the impervious surface and preserve a larger portion of the playground.
Mr. Taylor explained that the School District had concerns about both the budget and the initial design. A new engineer was brought on to review the plans, the feedback from residents and the Township Planning Commission’s concerns. Mr. DeGroot has made revisions to the plans so that the stacking of parent drop-off is moved off of Frost Lane and employee parking is moved closer to the building.
Mr. DeGroot reviewed the drop off plans for parents and small vans. These vehicles will enter the east entrance near the SAIL School (former Preston house) and stack along the interior drive to drop off at the front entrance. School Buses will enter the west entrance, bypassing parent drop off lanes, to proceed to the same bus entrance currently used. A gate will be installed at the bus lane so that the area for bus drop-off can continue to serve as a play area during the school day without concern that cars might inadvertently drive on the bus lane. The same play area will serve as overflow parking during weekend and evening events. The SAIL School parking lot will be extended south to provide some additional parking. Staff parking will be along the Frost Lane lot. As staff arrives before student drop-off and remains until after students go home, there should not be conflict between the drive aisle and parking spaces.
Mr. Fidler asked about the plans for the building renovation.
Mr. Taylor said the plans for additional classrooms to replace modulars, expansion of the stage area in the all-purpose room and internal renovations will be the same. There is no anticipated increase in student enrollment with the revisions.
Mr. Fidler asked about signage for the interior circulation patterns.
Mr. Taylor said that signs will be used to direct parents and bus drivers to the appropriate entrances and exits.
Mr. Whartenby asked about dropping off children in the parking lot.
Mr. Taylor said that staff would monitor to be certain children are dropped off at the curb in front of the building only.
Ms. Fountain noted that the original plan showed the addition to be 11,538 square feet while the revision shows a 13,066 square foot addition.
Mr. DeGroot said that the building plans have not changed. He would review, but it appears that the two add addition classrooms were included in the total as one number, whereas the original plan shows them separately, which would account for the discrepancy. He would research and make necessary corrections.
Mr. Taylor confirmed that the intention is to use the original building plans, which show seven new classrooms and two possible additional classrooms. These classrooms will replace the existing eight modular classrooms.
Mr. Whartenby noted that the applicant is seeking three waivers:
Mr. Whartenby said that he thought that Frost Lane might need some widening because it is already tight and vehicles may want to pass the stacked cars waiting to get into the school.
Mr. Fidler said that without a traffic study, it is not known whether any turning lanes would be warranted. He noted that sometimes very small measures have proven very useful in reducing traffic congestion, pointing out that adding a passing lane on Penns Trail at the NAC entrance, which only involved some restriping, greatly reduced congestion at that intersection.
Mr. Cappuccio said that the school population is not changing, so the traffic will not change. There is not a problem with traffic now. He said that the applicant will take a look at traffic concerns and provide better information at preliminary plan review.
Ms. Fountain said that the location of the gate at the school bus lane might require some area for turn-around for vehicles which go down the drive not realizing there is no exit.
Mr. DeGroot said that he would look at this, or possibly relocating the gate to make it apparent that this is not a through driveway during the school day. The gate will have a lock box for emergency access. School personnel will have keys and be responsible for locking and unlocking during the school day.
Mr. Taylor said that the playground will be striped for parking for events. This will provide 36 spaces.
Mr. Torrente asked whether the variances granted by the Zoning Hearing Board will be adequate for the proposed changes.
Mr. DeGroot said that one variance was for the loading berth and one was for the playground setback. The changes in parking and drive aisles are still within the variance granted.
Ms. Fountain noted that the variances sought had been for Frost Lane and Andrew Drive, whereas the changes in the parking lot area are along the south property line.
Mr. Cappuccio said that the zoning decision is not specific to the streets, but provides relief for setbacks. He has been in touch with the Zoning Solicitor for some clarification. If a new variance proves necessary, the applicant would return to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Whartenby asked about renovations to the exterior of the building.
Mr. Taylor said that he has been getting estimates for power washing and other cleaning, but no other remodeling is planned for the exterior. Most of the renovations are to the interior, including air conditioning and electrical work.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission would not want to place an onerous burden on the District if the changes would not involve an increase in the student population. He would only ask that the Commission be provided more information on traffic before seeking a recommendation on waivers.
Mr. Fidler reported that the DEP has lifted its restrictions on issuance of building permits as it resolves the Bucks County Sewer Authority issues with the Bensalem pumping station. This should allow work to begin on the Acme and Birches sites shortly.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: The recording secretary reported that the Supervisors have reviewed a Zoning Hearing Board application by Newtown Artesian Water Company for a pumping station on the Tanner property and have voted to send the solicitor to oppose it.
Mr. Fidler reported that the Supervisors have questioned the use of “no comment” in the Planning Commission’s reviews of Zoning Hearing Board applications. He would like the Commission to think about how to report its discussions to the Supervisors. On applications which have no impact on the community as a whole, as is the case with many of the residential applications the Commission reviews, it has been the practice of the Commission to guide the applicant to prepare for his appearance at the Zoning Hearing Board, but to have no specific recommendations for the Supervisors. The Commission has also been mindful of the expense involved should it recommend that the Supervisors take a position at the Zoning Hearing Board.
The members discussed perhaps having the synopsis reflect the discussion for each application, without making a recommendation.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission has a few choices for its recommendations:
No recommendation would indicate that the Supervisors need not take a position at the Zoning Hearing Board.
The members agreed to consider ways to enhance the Board synopsis to make the Commission’s position clearer at the next meeting.
Mr. DeVesa moved to adjourn at 8:30 PM. Mr. Chleboski seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary