NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
October 15, 2013
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby, Secretary Peggy Driscoll and Ted Chleboski, Craig Deutsch, Dennis Fisher and Larry Galley, members. Also in attendance were John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer and Martin Vogt, Code Enforcement Officer.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Driscoll moved to approve the minutes of September 17, 2013. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 5-0-2, with Messrs. Fidler and Whartenby abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board
Donald S. Queeny and Denise Queeny, 1 South Sycamore Street: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants. Mr. Marshall explained that this is a 16,210 square foot lot containing an apartment building, a six car garage and an out building. The garage has three occupants. The other building has been renovated and repaired and currently has no occupants. The application to the Zoning Hearing Board seeks relief for the existing parking so that the renovated building can be offered for tenants with possible E-1 uses. The variances sought include relief for parking stall size at 9’ X 18’, landscape buffering, front yard parking, number of parking spaces, access to streets and drive aisle width.
Mrs. Queeny indicated that she is eager to work with the Planning Commission to develop a plan in keeping with the Sycamore Street revitalization and the Planning Commission’s vision for the TC zoning district.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the plan of the site as it currently exists, noting that many of the parking conditions predate the ordinance.
Mr. Fidler asked about tenant parking for residents of the apartment building.
Mr. Marshall explained that the tenants have assigned spaces, including the two spaces on the Washington Avenue sidewalk area adjacent to the building.
Mr. Fidler said that he is concerned about safety if vehicles need to back out onto Sycamore Street to exit the site.
Mr. Vogt pointed out that if the concrete deck were removed from the rear of the garage, cars could circle the building and exit driving forward. He said that to do this, parking space #5 would have to be eliminated.
Mrs. Queeny said that the garage building is currently used for storage and storage of vehicles. People visiting the storage site park in the angled parking spaces but are in and out quickly. She noted that she had been granted permission for the sidewalk parking for the apartment building during the renovation of Sycamore Street.
Mr. Vogt confirmed that this was part of the revitalization project. He said that there have been different uses at the site over the years and none have been consistently monitored or use conditions enforced.
Ms. Fountain noted that the garage building measures 25’ X 60’; the ordinance requires 1 parking space for each 500’ of storage/warehouse. There is not adequate parking for this use.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is aware that what is there does not fit with the current ordinance. The goal is to work with the Planning Commission to help make the buildings functional in the Town Commercial zoning district in keeping with the vision for Sycamore Street.
Mr. Fidler said that he did not know how to make both buildings attractive to commercial tenants with the limited parking available. He suggested that if one of the buildings were eliminated, the other could be made more appealing for a retail use. He said that in reviewing the requested variances, he was aware that in the past, the Planning Commission has supported parking in the front yard and eliminating some of the buffering and the smaller stalls and narrower drive aisles. He would like to see some exploration of shared off-site parking with a nearby business.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would like to explore the idea of redesigning the plan to make a driveway that loops around the garage building in one direction so that exiting the site would be safer. He would also like to explore shared parking. He noted that the apartment tenants’ spaces are usually available during the day.
Ms. Fountain suggested reviewing nearby businesses’ extra spaces on both sides of the street. She said that available on-street parking could not be considered part of the calculations but could be cited as additional available parking. She also noted that the applicant may need relief from JMZO section 1001(D)(2) and 1002, which require curbing and loading zones.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicants would review what has been discussed and return to the November 19 meeting. He would contact the Zoning Hearing Board and ask for a continuance.
Mr. Chleboski asked whether the property is in a floodplain and whether relief is needed.
Ms. Fountain said that building in the floodplain is prohibited but work can be done in the flood fringe by conditional use.
Mr. Fidler said that all other discussion would be tabled until the next meeting, as the Board of Supervisors has scheduled a budget meeting to begin shortly. Discussion of the sign ordinance review would continue at the November 19 meeting.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 7:35 PM Mr. Fidler seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary