NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
July 16, 2013
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and members Craig Deutsch, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley. Also present were Township Solicitor John Torrente, Township Engineer Michele Fountain, Township Planner Micah Lewis and Supervisor Liaison Philip Calabro.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Zoning Hearing Board
Amended Application of S&H Security, 74 Richboro Road: Brian and Jamie Tomlinson of S&H Security were in attendance to review their application for variances and a special exception to create an E-9 entertainment use in the CC Convenience Commercial Zoning District. The applicants wish to host a haunted house in two tents. A concession stand/ticket booth will be installed and parking will be on the grass.
Mr. Brian Tomlinson explained that the tents and parking would be at the rear of the existing house, which would not be used as part of the entertainment venue. The grass can accommodate 114 parking spaces. The haunted house will be open on weekends in September and October for a total of 21 days.
Mr. Fidler explained that the Planning Commission’s duties are to review the application and make recommendations to the Supervisors and to guide the applicant through the procedure. He said that it would be very helpful at the Zoning Hearing Board to show letters of support from surrounding neighbors and to document the applicant’s ability to control parking and traffic.
Brian Tomlinson said that he has spoken to his neighbors; he is the owner of the immediately surrounding residential properties. Only one neighbor has expressed any concern. He has arranged for overflow parking at the American Legion and his own parking lot opposite the Legion. Entrance to the parking would be through the Legion property and would be one-way, exiting from German Avenue to Linden Avenue.
Mr. Deutsch asked about electricity to the tents.
Brian Tomlinson said that two lines would be run separately to the two tents. The tents would be divided internally into rooms. He has met with the code enforcement officer to make sure that the attraction meets all safety and fire codes.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that Mr. Vogt has given some guidance as to safety requirements.
Mr. Fidler said that the applicant would still be required to meet the Township’s noise and light ordinances. He reminded the Commission of the difficulty a local restaurant had because of noise from music traveling to residential areas a number of blocks away. He said that sound must meet the decibel levels permitted by our noise ordinances at the property lines.
Mr. Galley noted that the application indicates that the attraction would close at 10:00 PM.
Mr. Deutsch asked about restrooms.
Mr. Jamie Tomlinson said that portable restrooms with sinks and handicapped accessibility will be delivered to the site.
Mr. Fisher asked about the maximum number of visitors to the attraction.
Brian Tomlinson said that he hopes to accommodate 96 people per hour.
Mr. Torrente asked whether St. Andrew’s Church knows of the plans.
Brian Tomlinson said that his attorney, Ed Murphy, has spoken to Church representatives, who do not have any objections. He said that he believed Mr. Murphy already has letters of support from neighbors. Mr. Murphy also has written confirmation from the American Legion for use of the parking lot and access through its property to the site.
Mr. Fisher said that the application seeks narrower drive aisles in the parking lot. He asked whether there will be someone directing traffic on the site.
Jamie Tomlinson said that he will have security throughout the site, directing traffic inside the parking lot and directing foot traffic through the site. He will hire off-duty police officers to direct street traffic.
Mr. Fidler said that once a variance is granted, it runs with the land. While the Tomlinsons have agreed to limited use of the seasonal activity and to on-site security and traffic controls, he would like to recommend that these be conditions of any variance granted.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she has concerns about the intensity of the use and the large number of variances needed to accommodate the tents and parking lot. This is a very dark and quiet part of the Township and she expressed concerns about the burden it will place on the neighborhood.
Mr. Fidler said that he also has some concern about lights; any lighting would need to comply with Township ordinances. He understood that haunted house attractions are frequently placed in non-commercial areas. This particular area, while zoned commercial, is a transitional neighborhood where residential uses are permitted. The use must be acceptable to residential neighbors.
Mr. Galley said that he feels assured that the neighbors do not object to the plan. He would not recommend opposition to the application if it complies with all building codes for safety and if the days and times are limited and security and traffic controls are required as conditions of approval.
Mr. Whartenby said that he agreed with both Mrs. Driscoll and Mr. Galley. The number of variances seems excessive and the use is intense, but if the neighbors are in support of the use and all of the conditions are met, he would not recommend opposition. It is only proposed for 21 days.
Mr. Fisher said that he has some concerns about grass parking areas; wet weather could prove a difficulty.
Brian Tomlinson said that he would have gravel and wood chips placed to prevent mud.
Mr. Deutsch noted that even though this is a temporary use, the access from the handicapped parking spaces to the attraction needs to be accessible as well; some kind of paving might be required.
Mr. Torrente noted that the application states the use is limited to September and October.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she did not think there is a hardship in this case. She is reluctant to recommend approval.
Mr. Fidler said that he would report to the Supervisors that the Commission would recommend not opposing the application if the applicant meets all safety codes, limits the use to 21 days in September and October, meets Township noise and light ordinances and provides traffic and security personnel. He would make clear in his report that some Board members had many concerns about the intensity of the use.
Newtown Racquetball Association, 120 Pheasant Run: Eve Krieger, Business Manager for the NAC, was in attendance to review this application for a 116 square foot wall mounted sign where only 16 square foot signs are permitted. Ms. Krieger said that the NAC thought that the words on the retaining wall were an architectural feature and that the installer either did not think a separate permit was required or had acquired all proper permits. The application was submitted in response to a violation notice from the Code Enforcement Officer.
Mr. Fidler said that Mr. Worthington, owner of the NAC, has gone through many land development procedures and should have been aware that signage requires permits separate from construction permits.
Mr. Galley said that while he thinks the sign looks very nice, he has concerns that the applicant has already installed it without proper permits in place. He also noted that the application only addresses the sign on the retaining wall, while there are also signs on the new field house and at the entrance on Pheasant Run.
Mr. Deutsch said that the sign is not necessary to advertise the business, as there are already signs on the original building and the water slide is visible from the street and serves as advertisement. One of the water buckets on the slide has letters “NAC” on it, visible from the road. This should also be considered a sign.
Ms. Krieger said that the Pheasant Run signs are all temporary construction signs.
Mr. Whartenby said that he felt the ordinance should be upheld.
Messrs. Fisher and Deutsch agreed that the ordinance should be upheld and the Planning Commission should recommend opposition to the application.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the sign is lighted.
Ms. Krieger confirmed that the sign is backlit at night.
Resident Steve Bernhart said that he is not a member of the NAC, but knows the NAC to be a good neighbor and an asset to the community. He urged the Commission to work with the NAC to devise a satisfactory compromise.
Mr. Fidler said that the NAC will have additional applications coming in for signage at the field house and the entrance. He asked the Commission whether they would agree to recommend that the Supervisors oppose the application unless the Board of Supervisors agrees to a compromise which would address all signage, including the sign which is the subject of this application.
The members were in agreement that the Board should oppose the application unless it was in agreement on a compromise for the entire complex’s signage. The members were opposed to considering each sign separately.
Dr. Denise Chranowski (Wellness Solutions Center) 121 Friends Lane: Dr. Denise Chranowski was in attendance to review this application for a service business use E-3 in the Light Industrial Zoning District to add an aesthetician to the health, fitness and chiropractic business at the site. Dr. Chranowski explained that she has taken two condos at this address. Five chiropractors work at the site promoting a wellness program involving diet, exercise, massage and chiropractic services. Adding an aesthetician will add to the cash flow of the business, allowing it to remain at this location.
Dr. Chranowski said that the condos include about 10,000 square feet of space, with about 2,000 square feet currently unused.
Mr. Fidler asked about parking.
Dr. Chranowski said that the parking is adequate. Currently about 100 patients visit the site each day and she hopes to increase that number to 120.
Mr. Torrente said that he has reviewed the ordinance to find a suitable use category and nothing else fits; there are already medical uses and fitness uses at the site.
Mr. Fidler said that the use is in keeping with the other health related businesses at the site. He did point out that the application would only apply to the use and would not allow for additional signage.
The members were in agreement that the Supervisors should not oppose this application.
Newtown Townhome PRD (tentative), 761 Newtown Yardley Road: Attorney John VanLuvanee, Engineer Kevin Reilly and Mike Meister of County Builders were in attendance to review this tentative application for a 56 unit townhouse development (PRD) on 16.61 acres in the R-2 residential zoning district according to MPC guidelines.
Mr. VanLuvanee explained that under MPC Section 704.4 the applicant is only required to provide such information as is reasonably necessary to the governing body or planning body to evaluate the plan, including topography, proposed density, location of open space, size and use of buildings, proposed water, sewer and stormwater management, parking, easements, conservation and use of renewable energy and any modifications to applicable land use regulations which might be needed. These are not fully engineered plans; SALDO is not relevant here. The applicant is seeking a tentative approval before developing fully engineered plans. The Board of Supervisors has the authority to modify the zoning process, for example, by allowing a PRD with only townhouses, when the zoning ordinance requires a mix of housing types. In March, a majority of the Board of Supervisors voted to approve a number of modifications and some of the needed SALDO waivers. These are all outlined in Solicitor Jeffrey Garton’s letter dated March 19, 2013 and Mr. VanLuvanee’s follow-up letter dated April 30, 2013. The applicant will comply with the review letters of the Township professionals.
Referring to the CKS review letter dated July 3, 2013, Mr. Reilly noted the open space areas include all land outside of the lot lines for the townhouses and a large open area adjacent to The Ridings’ open space for a total of almost 8 acres where 6.4 acres are required.
Mr. Fisher asked about the width of the streets.
Mr. Reilly said that the streets will be one-way only, with no on-street parking. There is no requirement for handicapped parking for residential uses.
Referring to the Boucher and James letter dated July 2, 2013, Mr. Lewis pointed out that the correct proposed density for the development is 3.42 units per acre. This should be corrected on the plan.
Mr. Galley expressed some concern that the cartways will be difficult for the Township to plow as they are narrower than usually required.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the streets will not be dedicated and will be maintained and plowed by a homeowners association. They are adequate for emergency vehicles.
Mr. Reilly confirmed that the 30 foot wide streets, with one-way traffic and no on-street parking and an all way stop sign, as recommended by the Township, will accommodate all emergency vehicles. The turning radii are adequate for all trucks.
Mr. Galley expressed some concern about parking.
Mr. Reilly noted that the driveways are double width and will easily accommodate two cars. Most of the townhouses will also have two-car garages. The driveways will be at least 22 feet in length to the sidewalk. There are also perpendicular spaces, one per unit, in designated areas on the plan.
Mr. Fidler asked whether there are any plans for overflow parking for special events, holidays, etc.
Mr. Reilly said that no additional parking will be provided, but he pointed out the many commercial areas a short distance away which are closed for business on holidays.
Ms. Fountain noted that a portion of the trail may need to be relocated if the PennDOT plans to widen Newtown Yardley Road move forward.
Mr. Lewis suggested that the applicant agree to a deed restriction to not convert the garages to additional living areas.
Mr. Meister said that he would agree to such a condition and felt confident the homeowners association would also agree.
Resident Dave Wagner, representing Headley Homeowners Association, said that his development fully supports this plan. The applicant and his attorney and engineer have met with Headley residents and have taken into account their concerns for landscaping and buffering when developing the plans.
Doug Weigand, representing Wiltshire Walk Homeowners Association, said that his association has participated in the same meetings with Headley and the applicant. All of Wiltshire Walk’s concerns have also been addressed. Of particular concern is the maintenance of the stormwater basins, which the new development will share with Wiltshire Walk. Mr. Weigand said that he had been concerned that this project would languish and the site would be abandoned and become an eyesore. He urged the Commission to work with the developer to move the project along in a timely fashion.
Mr. Whartenby moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve this application for a Tentative Planned Residential Development (“PRD”) for 56 town-homes located at Bucks County Tax Parcel No. 29-10-52-2, prepared by Langan Engineering and Environmental Services dated April 29, 2013, with no revisions, comprised of nine pages, subject to the following conditions:
1. Unless otherwise noted herein, compliance with the July 3, 2013, review letter from CKS Engineers, Inc., except for the following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:
a. Item 2 – A modification is recommended from section 405B of the JMZO to permit a density of 3.42 dwelling units per acre.
b. Item 4 – The length and width for each building will be added to the final plan.
c. Item 5 – Stormwater Management will be addressed in the final plan.
d. Item 6 – The non-exclusive easement agreement with Wiltshire Walk shall not be included in the base site area calculations.
e. Item 7 – Handicapped parking for private lots is not required.
2. Unless otherwise noted herein, compliance with the July 2 , 2013 review letter of Boucher and James, Inc., except for the following comments which shall be resolved as indicated:
a. Item 2 – A modification is recommended from section 405B of the JMZO to permit a density of 3.42 dwelling units per acre.
3. Unless otherwise noted herein, Applicant, as part of its final plan submission, shall comply with the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated June 3, 2013. In addition, the plan requirements outlined at paragraphs 2a and 2b are not required for tentative plan approval.
4. A modification from JMZO section 803.B.15 and 405.B. is recommended to permit a PRD consisting of only 56 town-homes along with the following JMZO requirements as more fully outlined in Mr. VanLuvanee’s letter dated July 5, 2013;
a. Section 405B of the JMZO to permit a density of 3.42 dwelling units per acre.
b. Section 405B, 803.B-15.5b, and 1005.B.1 of the JMZO to permit development with 40% open space as configured on the tentative plan.
5. Compliance with the terms and conditions outlined in Mr. VanLuvanee’s letter dated March 19, 2013, as amended at the April 10, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting and outlined in Kurt Ferguson’s memorandum to the Board of Supervisors also dated April 10, 2013.
6. The following modifications are recommended from the SALDO:
7. Unless otherwise inconsistent with the conditions of tentative PRD approval herein and modifications granted, applicant shall comply with JMZO Section 803.B.15 in its final plan along with the township SALDO.
8. Secure approval from the Newtown Emergency Services Department.
9. As part of the Final Plan approval, the Applicant shall secure any and all permits required by all Township, County, State and Federal governmental agencies having jurisdiction over this project including, but not limited to the Bucks County Department of Health, the Bucks County Conservation District, and the Pa. Dept. of Transportation.
10. As part of the Final Plan approval, Applicant shall supply and execute all financial security documents in a form satisfactory to the Board of Supervisors and Township Solicitor.
11. As part of the Final Plan approval, Applicant shall execute a declaration of unilateral restrictions and covenants as it relates to the notes contained on the Plan, which said declaration will be filed contemporaneously with the final plans.
12. As part of the Final Plan approval, Applicant shall pay all review and professional fees as required under the Township SALDO.
13. Applicant shall comply with its June 28, 2013 letter .
Mr. Galley seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Newtown Place, Cambridge Lane, Revised Final PRD Plan: Attorney Don Marshall, Engineer Mark Haver and applicants Peter Clelland and Greg Gamble, were in attendance to review this plan for construction of a pool and clubhouse within an existing 4.71 acre parking field in the R-2 residential zoning district. The Newtown Place PRD consists of 60-2 acres with 63 single family homes and 110 rental townhomes and 40 rental garden apartments. The new facility will include a 2600 square foot building to serve as a fitness center, clubhouse and rental office. 14 new parking spaces will be added. The applicant will comply with the review letters.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the facilities will be open to the public or offered for rental by non-residents.
Mr. Marshall said that the facilities will be available to tenants and their guests only.
Mr. Gamble said that he had considered offering a membership to residents of Newtown Place’s single family homes, but has decided against that.
Mrs. Driscoll asked whether the single family homes are allowed to have swimming pools.
Mr. Marshall said that pools are permitted and some houses do have their own pools.
Ms. Fountain said that the plans only show the impervious surface for parcel “C” where the construction is proposed. She would like to have the original impervious ratio for the entire PRD on the plans.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will comply; he said that he did not know the exact percentage but the proposed construction is estimated at about a 1% increase. The applicant is also seeking a modification to the PRD for setbacks.
Ms. Fountain said that sidewalks should be added from the parking area to Cambridge Lane.
Mr. Marshall said that this would be added to the plan.
Ms. Fountain said that she would like details of the proposed under drains for the pool worked out in advance.
Mr. Galley said that he has some concerns about parking if the pool is used for competitive swim team meets between this development and others in the area. He also asked whether entrance to the pool will be through the clubhouse.
Mr. Gamble said that there will not be a swim team; this is not a competition pool. Although the pool design is not completed yet, it is planned as a leisure pool, only.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the application by BET Investments to revise the final Planned Residential Development (“PRD”) dated February 13, 1986 for the premises located at Bucks County Tax Parcel No. 29‑11‑240, Parcel C, with plans prepared by Pickering, Corts, and Summerson dated May 13, 2013, with no revisions, comprised of eleven sheets, and a Stormwater Management Report also prepared by Pickering, Corts, and Summerson dated May 24, 2013, with no revisions, subject to the following conditions:
a. Section II.A.1 – A waiver is recommended from Section 508.2 of the SALDO to permit the parking stalls to be located within 50 feet of the curb line on Cambridge Lane.
b. Section II.A.1 – A waiver is recommended from Section 1304 of the SALDO requiring traffic impact fee as long as the pool and club house are not rented to non-residents.
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Sign Ordinances: The recording secretary provided copies of the current zoning ordinances for all zoning districts.
Mr. Fidler said that when time permits, he would continue the review of these ordinances on the second meeting of each month.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Fidler reported that at its last meeting the members participated in a teleconference with Attorney Cohen, who is preparing an ordinance to address cell towers. He expects the draft ordinance to be presented to the Jointure partners’ planning commissions shortly.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mrs. Driscoll reported that HARB continued its work updating the Certificate of Occupancy application. The members also discussed the deteriorating condition of the toll house in front of Wells Fargo Bank.
Mr. Fisher moved to adjourn at 10:25 PM. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary