NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Synopsis Minutes of the meeting held on October 2, 2012
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Fred DeVesa, Peggy Driscoll and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner and John Torrente, Solicitor.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order and reminded members that former Planning Commission member and former Township Solicitor Paul Beckert had passed away last week. He had been a very active and valuable member of the community and would be greatly missed. He expressed the sympathy of the Planning Commission to the Beckert family, especially to Mrs. Beckert, who has been a member of our Historic Architectural Review Board for many years.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to accept the minutes of August 21, 2012. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 7-0-1, with Mr. Deutsch abstaining.
JMZO Energy Ordinances: Mr. Torrente reminded the Commission that these two ordinances, dealing with solar energy and with wood fired boilers, have been reviewed by the Commission on many previous occasions. They are scheduled for a public hearing next week. Both ordinances allow these alternative energy methods as accessory uses by right and set performance standards including setbacks. Wood fired boilers must also comply with PAEPA requirements.
Mr. Cohen said that he understood that the solar panels are permitted as an accessory, only but he questioned whether this could allow for solar farms. There do not seem to be restrictions on the amount of energy produced and excess energy is fed back into the grid.
Mr. Fidler noted that when this ordinance was discussed at the Jointure, the concerns seemed to be focused on keeping solar as accessory and protecting smaller lots. The 150 foot setback and front yard prohibition seemed to have accomplished this.
Mr. Chleboski said that there are also environmental regulations which would govern the number of panels, which can produce sound and glare.
Mr. Fidler noted that the goal had been to craft an ordinance which would allow residents to take advantage of alternative energy sources without impacting neighbors. The Jointure did not want to create obstacles preventing residents from being environmentally conscious in energy sources.
Mr. Deutsch suggested that the building code should address concerns with noise. He asked whether the panels would require a permit.
Mr. DeVesa asked whether the panels would impact impervious surface.
Mrs. Driscoll said that some roof mounted solar panels can be very unsightly.
Mr. Fidler said that the Bucks County Planning Commission had input in drafting the ordinance and had felt that in the R-1, R-2 zoning districts, homeowners associations’ regulations could also limit use of panels.
Ms. Fountain and Mr. Lewis discussed whether the panels would require permits or whether the SALDO could further regulate them. This is usually a zoning issue. They agreed that depending on placement of the panels, they could be considered impervious, but they were not sure whether this would always be the case.
Mr. Whartenby moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the energy ordinances. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
The Commission members agreed that they would like to recommend that the Supervisors review other municipal state and national ordinances and regulations, including the SALDO, to see whether noise, glare, impervious surface and accessory use are adequately addressed.
Town Commercial District Zoning Amendment: Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that this ordinance has been reviewed on numerous occasions and this is a final draft, scheduled for a public hearing by the Supervisors next week. It will only impact Newtown Township’s TC Zoning District.
Mr. Galley asked whether continuation of the stamped concrete sidewalks is addressed in the ordinance.
Mr. Torrente said that page six discussed design review. SALDO also would address this.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that the new ordinance does not permit drive through or drive in uses at all. She asked whether this would impact the Beneficial Bank plans.
Mr. Torrente said that Beneficial’s submission predates this ordinance.
Mr. Whartenby noted that member Dennis Fisher had send an e-mail pointing out a typo on page #6, which could be significant. On page #4, Notes on Area and Dimensional Requirements, note 1 should read, “A maximum of two (2) stories shall be permitted by right.”
Mr. Chleboski said that the use of the term “large amounts of traffic” on page two seemed vague and subjective.
Mr. Fidler said that the goal of the ordinance had been to promote a pedestrian friendly streetscape.
Mr. Cohen said that it provides guidance rather than definitive restrictions on traffic generation.
Mr. DeVesa moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the TC Ordinance subject to correction of the typo on page #6, so that note #1 reads, “…a maximum of two (2) stories…”
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mrs. Driscoll noted a large number of neon signs at the shopping centers. She also pointed out that Bagel Junction now has speakers playing music out onto the sidewalks. She said she would ask the Code Enforcement Officer to look into this.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: The recording secretary reported that the Supervisors had approved a resolution allowing the transfer of a restaurant liquor license to Newtown Athletic Club.
Ms. Fountain noted that the license is restricted to the pool restaurant and could only be used inside the NAC by a special occasion permit.
Ms. Fountain reported that the Board had agreed to not require installation of reserve parking or a crosswalk at Newtown Shopping Center for the Corner Bakery Café. The Police Chief had confirmed that since the opening, traffic has died down considerably.
Park and Recreation Board: The recording secretary reported that the Park and Recreation Board is considering projects which could use funding from the County Municipal Open Space fund, including possibly installing an adult fitness trail at Carl Sedia Park.Mr. Galley moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary