NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
March 19, 2013
Present : Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, David Domzalski, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Micah Lewis, Township Planner and Martin Vogt, Township Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Whartenby called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Fisher moved to approve the minutes of February 19, 2013. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 7-0-1, with Mr. Deutsch abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Barre 3, 2875 South Eagle Road: David Ziel presentedthis application for relief to place seven signs where only three are permitted and for one sign at a height of 12 feet where 9 feet is the maximum for a fitness studio at Village at Newtown. Mr. Ziel explained that this franchise, which combines ballet with exercise, is new to Pennsylvania. It will share the free standing building near the Wells Fargo Bank with one other tenant. He said that he would like to place vinyl lettering on the windows explaining the business offerings in addition to the existing channel signs. He would also like to place the logo “B” on the chimney on Durham Road facing Goodnoe’s Corner. The “B” will have led lighting from behind, but that can be changed to a lamp shining down on the sign. He said that the landlord has agreed to all of the proposed signage.
Mr. Whartenby said that he understood the need to have additional signage since the franchise is new to the area, but advised that the Zoning Hearing Board might have some reservations about granting four more signs than are permitted.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the three permitted signs met the height size requirements.
Mr. Vogt said that the boxes for the signs already exist and comply. The “B” on the chimney is the only sign needing height relief. The maximum height permitted, measured from the bottom of the sign to grade, is nine feet.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she has some reservations about recommending approval of the “B” sign on the chimney since Barre 3 is not the only tenant.
Mr. Ziel said that each side of the building has a chimney. He would not be branding the entire building.
Mr. Vogt noted that the building is to be shared with a critical care medical office. It will also require signage.
Mr. Ziel said that the other tenant has the right to apply for similar relief. He noted that within the shopping center other businesses are moving away from the channel signs.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the “B” sign would be visible from the road at 9 feet.
Mr. Ziel said he had not really measured it. The building is about 2/5 feet below the road grade and is surrounded by shrubbery.
Mr. Cohen said that if the sign required the height to be seen, he would not object to the variance, but suggested that Mr. Ziel show that the additional height is needed.
Mrs. Driscoll still had concerns about branding the entire building by placing the “B” on the chimney.
Mr. Cohen said that this is the concern of the landlord and his tenants, not the Planning Commission. He asked whether some of the signage could be consolidated to reduce the number of signs needed. He asked whether the lettering describing the activities offered constitutes an additional sign at all, noting that other businesses place displays in windows.
Mr. Torrente reviewed the ordinance and said that these letters are considered signs.
The members were in agreement that the Board of Supervisors not oppose the application to the Zoning Hearing Board but also recommended that the applicant demonstrate that the additional height is needed for visibility. They also suggested that if relief is granted, no other marketing materials such as display board be visible in the windows.
NDFK, LLC, 32-46 Blacksmith Drive : Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants for zoning relief for reduced parking in Newtown Business Commons. He explained that the 6.54 acre parcel has two buildings, unit #2, a single story 15,977 square foot office building, which is to be converted into dental offices and unit #3, a 20,870 square foot building with 5000 square feet used for offices and the remainder as warehouse for Lockheed Martin. There are currently 5 Lockheed Martin employees at unit #3. The site has 169 parking spaces, 62 held in reserve and 107 paved spaces. If unit #3 were to remain in its current use, it would comply with the parking ordinance, however if the entire building were converted to office space, the two buildings would then require 209 parking spaces.
Mr. Sadwith, owner of the property, said that he did not expect Lockheed Martin to leave the building or convert it in the near future. He would like to keep the parking in green unless it is needed, at which time the stormwater management may need to be reviewed before it could be paved.
Ms. Fountain questioned the number of parking spaces which currently exist.
Mr. Marshall said that the lot is to be restriped to accommodate 107 spaces. There is a portion of the lot which has never been striped.
Mr. Fisher noted that he had visited the site and seen a number of large potholes.
Mr. Sadwith said that unit #2 has been vacant for three years. The lot will be repaved and potholes repaired before the spaces are painted.
Mr. Chleboski asked the number of staff.
Mr. Marshall said that there are twenty employees working in shifts.
Mr. Lewis asked about use of the easement on the property.
Mr. Marshall said that this easement runs through the entire Commons. It can be used for parking; the property owner is responsible to dig it up should the Sewer Authority need access.
Mr. Whartenby said that his children use this dental office. He is concerned that some of the office space used for play areas for pediatric patients could be converted to dental office space if the practice expanded. This would impact parking.
Mr. Cohen noted that currently this lot has accommodated overflow parking from the NAC when it hosts special events.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about hours of operation.
Mr. Marshall said that the offices are open 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, with occasional evening hours and no Saturday hours.
Mr. Cohen noted that the variance would run with the land and if the use were to change, it might require more parking.
Mr. Marshall noted that the dental practice is investing a great deal of money in the conversion of this space. It is not likely to change uses.
Mr. Torrente asked whether the reserve spaces would be installed.
Mr. Marshall said that applicant favors leaving the spaces in green unless or until they are needed.
The members were in agreement that the Board of Supervisors should not oppose this application.
Brookshire Estates, Phase II, Final Plan: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant. He explained that the development was approved in 2005 for 27 houses in Lower Makefield. Phase II has been approved in Lower Makefield for eight lots, with one, one acre lot located in Newtown. The applicant is seeking final approval for that one lot in order to break ground this summer.
The Commission reviewed the CKS letter dated March 13, 2013. Ms. Fountain noted that there is right of way available for sidewalks, so no easement is necessary. She noted that item 4D discusses deeding 1.25 acres open space to a conservancy group; this is not usually done. She suggested an intergovernmental agreement with Lower Makefield. An agreement is also needed for stormwater management and road maintenance. This will be handled by the solicitor.
Brian Focht, engineer on the project, indicated that the applicant will comply with most of the review letter’s points. The applicant is seeking a partial waiver to plant 44 trees where 64 are required. He also noted that the preliminary approval required a driveway apron at the Wiggins Tract opposite Gaucks Lane. He questioned whether that is still required.
Mr. Whartenby said that it was his understanding that at one time the Wiggins tract was to have been developed for active recreation.
The recording secretary confirmed that the current Open Space Comprehensive Plan includes Wiggins for passive recreation/preserved open space, only. The Woll tract was developed as Veterans Park instead of the Wiggins tract.
The members agreed that this should no longer be required.
Ms. Fountain questioned whether this plan had been reviewed for a Recreation Impact fee by the Park and Recreation Board.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant expects to pay a fee in lieu.
Ms. Fountain noted that at the time of the preliminary plan approval, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors had wanted to collect the traffic impact fee for the houses on the new road, since their only access is in Newtown Township.
Mr. Murphy said that he did not believe Lower Makefield or the developer would agree to that. This is to be worked about by the Supervisors.
Mr. Torrente noted that the plan should be reviewed by the EMS department for final approval.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Supervisors grant Final Land Development approval for Brookshire Estates, Phase II, for premises located at Tax Map Parcel 29-16-8, consisting of 22 sheets prepared by Van Cleef Engineering dated March 25, 2005 and last revised February 4, 2013 and including highway occupancy permit plans consisting of 8 pages dated September 8, 2006 and last revised January 10, 2013, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Galley seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Solar Energy Ordinance: Mr. Torrente explained that the current draft of the solar energy ordinance addresses solar panels as a permitted accessory use. It does not include any performance standards such as setbacks.
Mr. Cohen said that at the Joint Planning Commission meeting, Upper Makefield discussed wanting to have stricter standards than Newtown or Wrightstown. There was some concern that the proposed setbacks did not address placing panels facing front yards.
Mr. Torrente said that the Jointure partners had agreed to address performance standards in the municipal SALDO instead of in the JMZO.
Mr. Lewis said that the proposed JMZO ordinance would permit solar panels without any particular restrictions.
The Commission members discussed the need to have a Newtown ordinance in place before or simultaneously with the JMZO adoption.
Mr. Cohen reminded the members that they had agreed to the standards outlined in the prior draft of this ordinance. Perhaps the prior draft could serve as a guide to Newtown’s stand-alone ordinance.
The members were in agreement that they would recommend that the Board draft a Newtown stand-alone ordinance to be adopted simultaneously with the JMZO amendment. That ordinance should use the standards outlined in the earlier draft of the JMZO amendment.
Mr. Chleboski questioned whether the Jointure should continue to govern as a Jointure if it were drafting stand-alone ordinances different for each municipality.
The members were in agreement that the Jointure should strive to come to compromises to continue to work successfully as a Jointure.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
HARB: Mrs. Driscoll reported that HARB has a new member and that Mrs. Beckert is thinking about resigning.
EAC: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC is co-sponsoring an electronic recycling event on Saturday, March 30 at the Township building, free to residents. The EAC also sponsored a land stewardship seminar on March 1 which had over thirty in attendance.
Joint Historic Commission: Mr. Deutsch reported that the Commission will be reviewing a demolition permit on its next agenda.
Newtown Area Joint Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Cohen said that the Commission will continue its review of use tables. He sent an e-mail, as per Ms. Fountain’s suggestion, to remove stormwater management from the JMZO as each municipality has its own stormwater ordinance.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 10:10 PM. Mr. Chleboski seconded and the motion passed 8-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary