NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Synopsis Minutes of the meeting held on October 16, 2012
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen (late), Craig Deutsch, Fred DeVesa, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner, Amy Kaminski, Traffic Engineer and John Torrente, Solicitor.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Driscoll moved to accept the minutes of October 2, 2012. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 7-0-1, with Mr. Fisher abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Thomas Ames, 61 Gaucks Lane: Mr. Thomas Ames was in attendance to review his application seeking a special exception to construct a three bay detached garage on a non-conforming lot in the CM zoning district.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she is familiar with the property. The relief is de minimis, as the property is very close to the required three acres, and will have no impact on the surrounding properties.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose this application to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
St. Andrew’s Church, 135 S. Sycamore Street: Monsignor Michael Picard was in attendance to review the Church’s application to erect a five foot high ornamental aluminum fence in the ultimate right of way. He explained that the fence will be erected very close to the headstones in the cemetery, making it unlikely that PennDOT would require access to the land.
Mr. Vogt explained that the fence requires a height variance as well as a variance to erect in the right of way.
Mr. Fidler said that if PennDOT were to require access, it would be the Church’s responsibility to remove and then restore the fence. He thought it was unlikely because of the headstones as well as because Sycamore Street has already been widened with curbs and sidewalks added.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the fence would be the same as that along the creek on North Sycamore Street.
Monsignor Picard said that this fence would be similar, but would have decorative finials at the top of the fence posts.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose this application to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
(Mr. Cohen arrived at this point.)
Promenade Planning Module, 200 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Fidler explained that the DEP is requiring that the Planning Commissions review planning modules for projects which are connecting to public sewers to confirm that they conform with the reviewed and approved land development plans. This seems to be related to problems the DEP has had with the Totem Road pumping station and the subsequent moratorium on building permits. The final plans are contingent on DEP approval.
Ms. Fountain said that usually the DEP grants exemptions and Planning Commissions do not see planning modules for projects connecting to public sewers. The Planning Commission chairman is being asked to sign the Planning Module confirming that the plans have been reviewed and have been approved.
Mr. Fidler said that the DEP has taken issue with what it has described as overloads on the system. It has questioned the number of gallons which can go through the Totem Road pumping station, and is requiring an action plan before new permits can be issued.
Mr. Deutsch moved to authorize the chairman to sign the Planning Module confirming that component 4A has been completed. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane – Preliminary as Final Plan: Attorney Michael Carr, Engineer Terry de Groot, and CRSD facilities manager Doug Taylor were in attendance to review plans for 16,924 square feet of additions to the building, increased parking, improvements to vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns, a new play area and an underground infiltration system. The Planning Commission had reviewed the reconfigured driving patterns as a sketch plan a few months ago.
Mr. Carr referred to the CKS review letter of October 10, 2012, noting that there is a discrepancy in the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board on the setbacks. While the School District had requested setback relief for 109 feet, the decision states 190 feet. Mr. Carr is awaiting clarification from the Zoning Hearing Board solicitor on this. An additional variance may be required for new parking areas near Roberts Ridge Park. The 17 acre property spans three zoning districts. It is the intention of the District to seek a change so that the entire parcel is zoned EIR. The review states that a conditional use might be needed, however the use is not changing, although there is an existing non-conformity regarding lot size.
Mr. Torrente agreed that a conditional use should not be required.
Mr. Carr said that the applicant will comply with most of the CKS letter. To still be considered is whether the drop off driveway must be widened. If the Township requires widening, a new variance may be required.
The Commission briefly discussed required buffering. Mr. Fidler said that some waivers could be considered to make the parking and driving safer for children, however the Township does want to prevent headlight glare from disturbing surrounding neighbors.
Mr. DeGroot said that this would be addressed to the satisfaction of the Township’s engineer and planner.
Ms. Fountain said that she would favor not using islands and planting in the event parking area, as this is also used during the school day as a play yard.
Mr. DeGroot said that a waiver is being requested to not require one foot of freeboard in the retention basin. No modification is proposed for the basin, although underground infiltration will be added.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Township’s stormwater ordinance has changed to comply with certain State DEP requirements. He asked whether the plan will comply with the new ordinance.
Mr. DeGroot said that the release rates do comply; the only issue is the freeboard.
Ms. Fountain said that the proposed infiltration will comply with the ordinance.
Ms. Fountain said that she would not object to a partial waiver to use an aerial photograph for properties within 400 feet of the subject property, however she would like detailed contours and topographical information for the additional parking and construction staging area behind the SAIL School, adjacent to Roberts Ridge Park.
Ms. Fountain asked to confirm the size of the proposed additions.
Mr. DeGroot said that the total additions are 16,924 square feet; 12,092 square feet for classrooms, 972 square feet for the front addition and 2034 square feet for the stage area. While the project has not changed in size, there were a few discrepancies of the numbers for square footage. These numbers are correct and accurate.
Mr. Carr said that the applicant will comply with the Boucher and James letter dated October 8, 2012.
The Commission discussed the Gilmore & Associates letter dated October 8, 2012. Mr. Fidler said that the applicant is seeking a waiver from making improvements to Frost Lane. This will be the Township’s only opportunity to address traffic impact and he is not sure whether the waiver is appropriate.
Traffic Engineer Amy Kaminski said that the plans do not propose any additional trips. She did a field observation on a stormy afternoon and did not observe any difficulties with traffic. She said that in the afternoon, dismissal is at the same time for all, whereas in the morning, drop-off is more scattered. She thought that the proposed new traffic pattern would need additional education, signage and enforcement until all have learned the new procedures. She said she could return and do another study, but could support the waiver request.
Mr. Cohen said that he drops his child at Goodnoe Elementary and initially had some concerns, however, he has not observed problems on Frost Lane. All issues are contained internally. He did agree that more children are dropped off in the morning than are picked up in the afternoon, so a second visit by the Traffic Engineer might be a good idea.
Mr. DeGroot said that the new plan keeps all of the stacking on the site, not on the street.
Mr. Taylor confirmed that current enrollment is 800 students and the maximum would be 850 students.
Ms. Kaminski said that she does have some concerns with the arrangement of crosswalks which do not align with ADA compliant curb cuts. As this school has a number of walkers, she would like all of her concerns with crosswalks and signage addressed.
Mr. Carr said that the children are watched daily and the crosswalks are working effectively. He will review the ADA curb cut concern.
Mr. Fidler asked about proposed internal speed bumps.
Ms. Kaminski said she would recommend a period of observation and installation of speed bumps should they prove necessary.
Mr. Vogt asked about access to the addition.
Mr. DeGroot said he would review this and get back to Mr. Vogt. He believed it would be internal with sidewalks already in place for outside access.
Ms. Kaminski noted that the driveway gate has been relocated and she favored its original location.
Mr. Carr said that it had been moved at the Planning Commission’s suggestion but would be relocated again if the Commission agreed.
The members discussed whether to require improvements to Frost Lane. Mr. Fidler said that he would have liked a lane added so that cars could pass by those waiting to enter the site.
Mr. Cohen said that such an improvement would speed up traffic where it should be kept slow. During busy times the speed limit is very low and no cars should be attempting to speed up past the school traffic.
Mr. Chleboski asked whether any prior studies existed.
Mr. Fidler said that he doubted if there had been any studies, since the school pre-dates the current ordinance.
Mr. DeVesa said that he agreed with Mr. Cohen that problems will be addressed internally. The widening of Frost Lane would only encourage traffic.
The members agreed to leave the decisions on Frost Lane improvements to the Supervisors.
Nancy Carroll of Newtown Borough said that she is very concerned about stacking school buses which cannot pass each other when exiting.
Mr. DeGroot said that the driveway will be widened to accommodate two-way bus traffic inside of the site. He reviewed the traffic pattern noting that car traffic will be separated completely from school bus traffic.
Ms. Carroll said that there are many areas throughout the campus where parents illegally park. No Parking rules need to be better enforced. She provided copies of current district enrollment and said that enrollment is dropping off and there is no longer any need to construct the addition. She also provided a copy of the staff list for Goodnoe and said that parking is inadequate. She said she had ongoing concerns with drainage on the site and with monitoring the proposed underground infiltration system.
Ms. Fountain said that if the Township were to see difficulties with the infiltration system it can either require that the District fix it or it could fix problems and bill the District. This is a standard portion of the stormwater agreement.
Ms. Carroll said that the school has too many students for the acreage of the site.
Mr. Carr said that this is an existing non-conformity. The acreage and the enrollment are not changing with this plan.
Ms. Carroll again said that the construction is unnecessary as the District enrollment is shrinking.
Mr. Fidler explained that this is not the purview of the Planning Commission, which is charged with confirming that the land development conforms to existing Township ordinances.
Mr. Carr said that the District is seeking preliminary as final plan approval, with conditions to include resolution of the zoning issues and the matter of waivers.
The members discussed whether to consider this a final plan but hesitated because of the long list of “will complies” and matters to be “worked out to the satisfaction of the Township professionals.” Mr. Fidler said that since there are so many issues unresolved, perhaps it would be better to consider preliminary approval only, and review the plans again after they have been revised to comply with the review letters.
Mr. Whartenby moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant Preliminary (not Final) approval for Land Development of Goodnoe Elementary School (CRSD)(“Applicant”) for the premises located at 298 Frost Lane, Newtown Township, Bucks County, Tax Map Parcel 29-10-45-1 prepared by Terraform Engineering, Inc., dated September 14, 2012, and consisting of 14 pages, subject to the following conditions and variances previously granted:
(1) Section 2, SALDO, no 6 – section 402.5.C requiring a traffic impact study;
(2) Section 2, SALDO, no 8 – section 504.17.B and 516 requiring a minimum cartway widths for local street to be 30 feet (the current cartway on frost lane is 19 feet);
(3) Section 2, SALDO, no 18 – sections 402.6 and 1301 requiring a traffic impact fee; and
(4) Section 2, SALDO, no. 20C – section 504(17)(a) requiring Frost Lane to be widened.
**If the Board does not grant the waiver for the Frost Lane improvements, the Supervisors should determine if an escrow account is required.
In addition, the following waivers are recommended:
3. Compliance with the Gilmore & Associates report dated October 8, 2012 with the comment that:
4. Compliance with the report received from the Bucks County Planning Commission dated October 3, 2012, with the understanding that the school district is requesting a waiver from the requirement to obtain a conditional use approval (see paragraph 2) for the continuation of the EIR use and the landscaping will be completed in accordance with the recommendations of the township professionals.
5. Compliance with review letter received from the Newtown Emergency Services Department dated September 25, 2012.
6. Applicant shall comply with any and all conditions of the variances previously granted by the township ZHB.
7. Applicant shall fund and execute development and financial security agreements in a form satisfactory to the Township Solicitor and the Board of Supervisors.
8. Applicant shall secure any and all permits required from any agencies having jurisdiction over this project, including the Township, Bucks County, the State and Federal governments, including, but not limited, to the Bucks County Conservation District and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
9. Applicant shall provide a will serve or appropriate agreement from the appropriate water and sewer agencies confirming the availability of public water and public sewer to the project.
10. Applicant shall comply with the Township Engineer’s recommendation as to storm water management and best management practices. Applicant shall execute a storm water management agreement in a form acceptable to the Township.
11. 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 pubic hazard by fire, explosion or otherwise and a note shall be added to the plan so indicating.
12. Any signage proposed to be placed shall comply with the applicable Township Sign Ordinances and shall only be placed after securing any and all permits from the Township.
13. 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.
14. Applicant shall execute a Declaration of Unilateral Restrictions and Covenants in a form acceptable to the Township Solicitor and Board of Supervisors as it relates to the notes contained on the Plan, which said Declaration shall be subject to the approval of the Township Solicitor.
15. The School District shall provide sufficient landscape buffering so as to preclude headlights from the property from impinging upon nearby intersections and furthermore, all lighting proposed to be installed by Applicant shall comply with all Township Ordinances such that no glare shall extend onto adjoining properties, and a note to that effect shall be added to the Plans.
Mr. Chleboski seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms. Carroll said that she did not understand what was being done.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Planning Commission is recommending that the Supervisors grant preliminary approval of the plan and that the District then revise its plans to comply with the review letters and return for a final review. It is up to the Board of Supervisors to decide whether to approve the plan as either preliminary or final. The Supervisors will address the granting of waivers and the parking issues and Frost Lane improvements.
The motion passed 9-0.
Mr. Cohen said that he did not recall reviewing plans for the NAC Baseball Academy at the corner of Pheasant Run.
The recording secretary and Ms. Fountain confirmed that the NAC attorneys went directly to the Supervisors for permission to revise the plan so that the baseball building would be closer to the corner and the area where the building had been would remain open, possibly for additional parking. Ms. Fountain said that she understood that the NAC had purchased land on the other side of Penns Trail, which it might use for practice baseball fields.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: The recording secretary reported that the Supervisors had voted to adopt the TC Ordinance and the two energy ordinances.
HARB: Mrs. Driscoll reported that HARB had reviewed signs for GreenStraw Smoothies and Allstate Insurance.Mr. Chleboski moved to adjourn at 10:15 PM. Mr. Galley seconded and the motion passed 9-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary