NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Members Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner, John Torrente, Solicitor and Michael Gallagher, Supervisor Liaison.
This meeting lacked a quorum. No votes were taken.
Zoning Hearing Board
David and Geraldine Platt, 761 Newtown Yardley Road: Attorney John VanLuvanee, representing County Builders, equitable owners of the Newtown Swim Club property, reviewed this amended application for zoning relief. The previous application sought relief for use B-19, transitional residential, to build a 64 unit townhome development. As the Supervisors had indicated opposition to that application, the property owner and developer have revised the plans to now seek relief for a 52 unit townhome PRD, use B-15. Use B-15 requires a mix of housing types and a minimum of 25 acres. The subject property is 16.36 acres and only one type of housing, townhomes, is proposed.
Mr. Van Luvanee showed the plan originally developed for 64 townhouses and 40% open space.
This plan has been redesigned with the number of townhouses reduced to 52, leaving 55.9% open space. For comparison, Mr. VanLuvanee showed a plan which combined single family houses and townhouses, totaling 52 units and meeting the PRD requirement for mixed use. He then showed an aerial photograph of the property and surrounding areas, noting that the surrounding developments all have townhouses. The developer does not feel that a single family cluster, a by-right use, would be appropriate for this area.
Mr. Cohen said that the applicant is seeking two variances, for a PRD variance on less than 25 acres and for only one type of housing where a mix is required. The property could support a single family cluster with fewer homes or modular housing. These would be by right uses. Mr. Cohen said that the relief needed should be a legislative matter, as it would be changing the zoning.
Engineer Kevin Reilly said that each townhouse would be 26’ X 58’ with a full basement and three bedrooms. They would be attractive to families with children.
Mr. Cohen asked about the proposed 55.9% open space.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the open space would be passive. The applicant is trying to work with neighboring Headley development for sharing its recreational facilities. Headley’s development has tennis, swimming pool, basketball and an indoor club house. All are currently underutilized and in need of some sprucing up. The homeowners association was receptive to the suggestion.
Mr. Torrente noted that he by-right plan would have 40% open space.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the townhouse development could add its own recreational facilities if necessary.
Mr. Reilly said that walking trails and a tot lot could easily be added to the plan without impacting the open space.
Ms. Fountain asked whether any other variances, such as resource protection relief, would be needed.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that these are the only two variances required.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that the maximum gross density for this parcel would be 64 units for modular housing.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission had asked Weglos Dental Offices to try to arrange for a shared access to Newtown Yardley Road with the swim club. The Commission had wanted to eliminate an additional curb cut so close to the swim club entrance.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has spoken to both Dr. Weglos and Mr. Platt and both are willing to revisit this.
Ms. Fountain asked whether the applicant would volunteer to make the improvements to the Weglos plan to accommodate the change if an agreement is reached.
Mike Meister of County Builders agreed to provide revisions to the Weglos plans to provide a shared access.
Ms. Fountain asked whether the project would require a traffic study.
Mr. Van Luvanee did not know yet whether a study would be required.
Mr. Cohen said that because he feels this is a legislative matter, he would urge the Supervisors to participate at the Zoning Hearing Board. He expressed concern about the density and its impact on traffic and on the School District.
Mr. VanLuvanee explained that the Platts had originally planned to include this parcel in the Wiltshire Walk development. It would have been developed as townhouses with a greater density than is now proposed. The Platts decided instead to continue to operate the swim club.
Mr. Platt said that the traffic would be reduced with this development. The swim club and year-round fitness center generate more traffic than a 52 unit development will.
The members discussed whether to recommend that the Supervisors participate at the Zoning Hearing Board. As the meeting lacked a quorum, any recommendation would be informal.
Mr. Torrente suggested that the Supervisors could participate without formally opposing the application. This would put the Board in a position to seek certain conditions, including a possible reduction in density, the shared access with Weglos Dental and the shared recreational facilities with Headley.
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Deutsch favored seeking a reduction in the density of the development. Mr. Deutsch noted that the townhouses are designed to be large with three bedrooms. They will be attractive to families with small children and will be a burden on the roads and the schools.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that while he agreed that changes in zoning are legislative matters, this case is complicated because Newtown is part of a Jointure, making zoning changes more cumbersome.
Mr. Fidler said that the revision to the plan shows much improvement over the original proposal. The Supervisors may find certain aspects appealing. The Township has benefited for 30 years by the property not being developed according to the R-2 criteria.
Mr. Cohen continued to express concern about the proposed density and urged the Commission to recommend that the Board oppose the application.
Mr. Fidler suggested that the Commission recommend that the Supervisors discuss the proposed density with the applicant to see whether they would also want further reductions or if they are satisfied with the current density of 52 homes. The Supervisors should also attempt to include the shared access with Weglos and the shared recreation with Headley as conditions of any relief granted.
Mr. Cohen said that he has heard rumors of a possible sale of the New Life Christian Church to commercial developers.
Mr. Fidler said that he had not heard anything nor had any of the others in attendance. Mr. Fidler did note that the property is commercially zoned, TC-2.
Liaison and Subcommittee Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Gallagher said that the Board had reviewed a preliminary budget, which is very tight, with no capital spending and a reserve below $40,000. That draft has been further refined and will be discussed at the next meeting before it is authorized for advertisement.
The Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings on a well on the Tanner property on Washington Crossing Road on December 12 at 1:00 and 6:30 PM in the Township main meeting room. The meeting will be televised.
Mr. Cohen said that he has noticed increased difficulty in parking at Newtown Shopping Center near the Gap. Perhaps peak hour parking should be reviewed to determine whether the reserve parking should be installed.
Mr. Gallagher noted that during review of traffic and parking for the Corner Bakery Café, the engineers had agreed that a crosswalk and four-way stop signs were needed but that parking appeared to be adequate. The Board had agreed to review the parking again after a few months. The Corner Bakery had been very busy in its opening weeks but interest has died down.
Mr. Fidler said that the Board of Supervisors has charged the Commission with a review of the JMZO and SALDO for frequently requested variances and waivers. It might be necessary to amend the ordinances to allow for what has now become common need and practice. He suggested that a subcommittee be formed next year to review the ordinances, particularly the sign ordinances, and discuss possible changes.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary