NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
August 6, 2013
Present : Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice and Members Ted Chleboski, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch, David Domzalski, Peggy Driscoll, and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were: John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Township Engineer Michele Fountain, and Martin Vogt, Township Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Driscoll moved to approve the minutes of July 16, 2013. Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 3-0-3, with Messrs. Chleboski, Cohen and Domzalski abstaining.
Dennis and Lucinda Burkett, 43 Copperleaf Drive: Attorney Gene Sutton presented this application for a PRD variance to increase impervious surface to 33.9% where 25% is the maximum and to permit a rear yard setback of 14.84 feet where 30 feet is required to place a roof over a portion of an existing wooden deck. Mr. Sutton explained that the deck already encroaches into the rear setback. The rear of the property is open space and woodlands owned by the Kirkwood Homeowners Association. Letters of support from the adjacent neighbors and the Homeowners Association are included in the application.
Mr. Sutton said that the Burkett family cannot use their rear deck in the summer because it faces the sun all day making it much too hot. A partial roof will provide some relief. The Burketts will comply with the CKS review letter dated July 16, 2013. Any additional stormwater will be directed toward the wooded area to the rear of the property.
Mr. Fidler asked why the deck is considered porous in the Ordinance, whereas adding a roof makes it impervious.
Mr. Vogt explained that the slats on the deck are about 3/8 inch apart, allowing water to fall to the ground below. Under the deck is dirt. Once the roof is added, stormwater does not go directly through to the ground.
Ms. Fountain agreed with Mr. Vogt’s explanation. She said that the Newtown Township Ordinance considers compacted crushed stone to be impervious because it can bear a load and water runs off.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about a reference to a 2009 application which was denied.
Mr. Sutton said that this was not a variance application. The Burketts applied for a permit to add the roof and the permit was denied because a variance was required. Mr. and Mrs. Burkett decided not to pursue relief at that time, postponing it until now.
Mr. Galley said that he visited the site. He asked whether the new roof pitch will follow the lines of the existing roof.
Mr. Sutton said that the roof would follow the same angle, away from the house.
Mr. Torrente reminded the Commission that a PRD variance would be heard by the Board of Supervisors, so a recommendation is needed.
Mr. Cohen moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant a PRD variance to Dennis and Lucinda Burkett, 43 Copperleaf Drive, Kirkwood, subject to the condition that the applicants comply with the CKS review letter dated July 16, 2013.
Mr. Torrente suggested that as a matter of housekeeping, any appeal to the denied permit application of 2009 be denied.
Mr. Cohen amended his motion to include denial of the 2009 appeal of the denied permit application. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Sign Ordinance Review: Mr. Fidler asked Mr. Vogt to prepare a list of ongoing signage issues that the Codes and Zoning Departments see in our commercial zoning districts. He asked that this include frequently occurring violations, variance applications and concerns of business owners. He asked that this list be shared with the Planner, Engineer and Solicitor for their input before the next Planning Commission meeting. He would like to continue to discussion of the ordinances at the second meeting of each month, eventually inviting representatives of the various business organizations to participate in the discussion before inviting Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush to help guide the Commission through the recommendations for adjustments to the ordinance.
Subcommittee and Liaison Reports
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Fidler reported that at its July 24 meeting, the Supervisors heard from a number of Borough residents as well as a few Township residents seeking support for a joint public/private effort to keep Newtown Swim Club open. The Board seemed surprised to hear such an outpouring after more than a year of discussion about the sale and eventual redevelopment of the property.
Mr. Fidler reported that the Supervisors had a number of questions on the Planning Commission’s review of the Swim Club tentative PRD plans.
Historic Architectural Review Board: Mrs. Driscoll reported that at its last meeting, HARB recommended approval of signage for Farmers Insurance, which was granted a certificate of appropriateness. Unfortunately, the day after the Certificate was approved, Farmers changed its logo colors and the applicant must return to both HARB and the Supervisors.
The Commission briefly discussed the ongoing concerns of the sign ordinances as they impact the historic district. Mr. Fidler said that of particular concern when the Commission begins its review of the ordinances, will be the colors permitted in the historic district.
Mrs. Driscoll said that this has already been a difficulty, as franchise businesses begin to move onto Sycamore Street, with modern logos and brand identifications. She did note that on a recent visit to some historic districts in New York State she had observed chains like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and even McDonalds complying with sign size and number requirements. She saw many storefronts with only small lettering and company logos; this made her aware that the national chain franchises are able to comply with very strict local zoning requirements.
Mr. Galley asked about temporary signage. He said that he would like to better understand how the length of time for a temporary sign is measured. He noted that he notices some banner signs that seem to stay up all the time when they should be temporary.
Mr. Vogt said that he would include temporary sign regulations in his outline for the Commission.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 8:20 PM. Mr. Cohen seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary