NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
June 18, 2013
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Township Engineer Michele Fountain, Township Planner Micah Lewis, Philip Calabro, Township Supervisor and Martin Vogt, Township Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to approve the minutes of June 4, 2013. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Messrs. Deutsch and Galley abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Kenneth I. Bonn, 26 Bayshore Drive: Lauren Bonn was in attendance to review this application for Zoning Hearing Board relief for an increase in impervious surface of 0.65% to install a shed. A prior variance had increased impervious surface to 19.24% from 17.62% which was the maximum permitted for Hidden Lake’s final plan.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Planning Commission’s role in reviewing Zoning Hearing Board applications is to both guide the applicants through the process and to advise the Supervisors on whether to support or oppose an application. He noted that the Zoning Hearing Board has sometimes asked applicants to provide letters from surrounding neighbors showing support for an application and has requested that applicants address additional run-off caused by increased impervious surface.
Ms. Bonn said that her yard already has walkways and patios around the swimming pool. She wants to add a shed to store patio furniture and pool equipment. She has spoken to her neighbors who all are supportive of the plan. She has recently had landscaping work done to address stormwater run-off.
Mr. Cohen noted that any landscaping planned for the shed area will help with mitigation of additional run-off. The plan seems to call for a de minimis increase.
Ms. Bonn asked what is considered de minimis.
Ms. Fountain said that this cannot be measured in square feet, but depends on the total size of the lot as well as the location of the proposed new impervious surface.
Mr. Deutsch noted that the size of the pad is larger than the proposed shed and suggested that the pad should equal the shed size, reducing the amount of impervious relief needed.
Ms. Bonn did not know why the pad is larger but would ask the contractor. It might be for an access ramp but she was not sure.
Mr. Cohen moved to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose this application provided the applicant addresses any additional run-off. Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Luis Flores, Linton Hill Road – Sketch Plan: John Richardson of Dumack Engineering was in attendance to review this sketch plan for subdivision of a 12.91 acre parcel in the CM conservation management zoning district into three lots. Lot #2 will consist of the existing house and barn on 6.91 acres. The remaining area will be subdivided into two 3 acre building lots, each containing a 6,000 square foot dwelling unit. The two new dwellings will take access by a shared driveway through an easement on the adjacent parcel.
The Commission discussed the review letter of CKS Engineering dated June 11, 2013. Referring to the Zoning sections, Ms. Fountain noted that the plans will need to include the entire site’s woodlands and wetlands, including on the adjoining property where the proposed driveway easement is planned. There would need to be jurisdictional determination on waters of the United States and Waters of the Commonwealth. A mitigation plan will be required. A special exception is needed for driveways in floodplains; a FEMA 100 year floodplain map will be needed.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the driveway access would be blocked if the pond flooded in a storm.
Ms. Fountain said that this would need to be shown in a 100 year floodplain map.
Mr. Richardson referred to comment #3 under Zoning and said that the entire property is 13 acres, of which 12 acres are protected. The applicant will need zoning relief for two of the lots as all will have drainage easements.
Mr. Fidler noted that the Commission had reviewed another sketch plan for this same lot. Members of the Commission had walked the site and had noted that many wetland and woodland areas and the environmentally sensitive nature of the entire site. It is a unique property and the Commission had been concerned about riparian buffers and protected areas.
Mr. Cohen said that it is possible that a subdivision into only two lots may eliminate some of the issues of concern regarding riparian buffers and wetlands.
Mr. Richardson said that the applicant will also be seeking setback variances because the building envelopes will not be sufficient because of the natural resource protection areas.
Ms. Fountain asked that natural resources be clearly defined on the plan.
Mr. Richardson indicated that he would be mapping individual trees.
Regarding comment #9, Ms. Fountain said that a previous plan had shown the natural resources on the adjacent property. She would like that information on the new plan. She would also ask for physical features within 400 feet be shown by a detailed aerial photograph, which would include driveways, houses and the pumping station.
The members did not think a traffic study would be necessary, although they would probably not recommend a waiver of traffic impact fees. The members did not think roadway improvements or sidewalks would be required either, but deferred to the traffic engineer for recommendations.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the Township could collect a fee in lieu of sidewalks or roadway improvements.
Mr. Torrente said that there are no ordinances requiring this. A condition requiring such a fee could only be included if the applicant agreed to it.
Ms. Fountain suggested that the property lines be made straighter on the plan.
The Commission briefly reviewed the Boucher and James letter dated May 29, 2013. Mr. Richardson indicated that the applicant would comply with most of the comments. Some variances were noted, including for steep slopes and disturbance of wetlands, driveway over floodplain and utilities in floodplains.
Mr. Lewis suggested that the driveway include a pull-off area, as it will be difficult for two cars to pass on the proposed 16 foot drive.
Mr. Fidler said that the Township does not require a review of plans by the Environmental Advisory Council, however this plan may benefit from EAC input. The property is very environmentally sensitive with many protected wetlands and woodlands. It is also immediately upstream of the County dam. A review by the EAC might also be helpful when discussing the plans with the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Vogt said that he would recommend careful consideration of leaders and gutters with a controlled roof system to an underground retention system for the proposed new houses.
Ms. Fountain said that there may be poor soil infiltration. The applicant should consider underground retention and possibly not including basements in the houses.
Mr. Richardson said that he would bring these suggestions to the applicant. Stormwater management planning has not yet begun. In response to Mr. Whartenby’s question, Mr. Richardson said that the three houses would have public water and sewer.
Mr. Cohen noted that the Ordinance protects environmentally sensitive areas like this property. He noted that as proposed, the plan would need considerable Zoning Hearing Board relief. He urged that a two lot subdivision, needing less relief, should be considered.
Mr. Fidler agreed with Mr. Cohen. He noted that the last time the Commission reviewed plans for this property, it had stressed the difficulties because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the site. This has not changed. He asked Mr. Richardson if the newer members of the Commission would be allowed to visit the site.
Mr. Richardson said he would discuss this with his client.
Sign Ordinance Discussion: Mr. Fidler reminded the members that the Commission would discuss the sign ordinances on the second meeting of each month if time permits. He asked the recording secretary to prepare paper copies of the relevant ordinance sections for the members. He also asked the staff to begin to prepare some guidelines to proceed with discussion. He noted that he has heard of particular concern in the business community with the prohibition of signs within 1000 feet of the Bypass. As the Business Commons has seen an increase in professional service businesses and multi-tenant buildings, this prohibition has become particularly difficult.
Mr. Cohen asked whether the Commons had ever considered directory signage.
Mr. Fidler said that some time ago Boucher and James had devised a master streetscape plan which included directory signage, however the signage would have required Zoning Hearing Board relief.
Mr. Vogt said that he would like any change to the Ordinance to clarify how long signs can remain after a business leaves. He has also encountered some difficulty with signage in the PennDOT or Township rights-of-way.
Mr. Fidler said that he would consider the difficulty when signs are placed outside the right-of-way, making them difficult to read by the driving public.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Calabro asked whether the NAC had included its signage in the plans reviewed by the Commission.
Mr. Vogt said that the NAC would be submitted a signage package shortly. I will need some Zoning relief.
Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission: Mr. Fidler reported that at its next meeting the Commission will be reviewing a fence ordinance amendment.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC had hosted a forum on fracking recently. Disposal of waste water from fracking was not part of the presentation.
The members briefly discussed the ongoing moratorium on issuance of EDU’s by the Sewer Authority. Mr. Fidler noted that Bucks County and Newtown are fighting the DEP on this, but all new permits are still on hold. He said that he has recently been made aware that if a use has been abandoned for three years, the EDUs disappear. This is impacting vacant properties as well as successful businesses attempting to expand.
Mr. Vogt said that Rothman Institute is facing some difficulties with the issuance of EDU’s because exam rooms require additional EDUs.
Mr. Fidler said that medical practices have faced this difficulty for many years. Each room in the practice is counted even though patients cannot be in the waiting room and the exam room at the same time.
Mr. Whartenby moved to adjourn at 9:20 PM. Mr. Galley seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary