NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
April 15, 2014
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby and members: Craig Deutsch, Peggy Driscoll, Dennis Fisher (late) and Larry Galley. Also in attendance were John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner and Supervisor liaisons Jennifer Dix and Michael Gallagher
Call to Order: Chairman Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Whartenby moved to accept the minutes of April 1, 2014. Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Mr. Fisher arrived at this point.
Application of Mark & Heather Wildgust, 104 St. Andrew’s Place: Engineer Kevin Dorwitz was in attendance to review this application for increased impervious surface to 5745 square feet where 5108 square feet is the maximum permitted by the St. Andrew’s Place final plan to install a swimming pool. He explained that deed restrictions for open space located in his rear yard will be relocated and his front yard will be deed restricted.
Mr. Galley asked about grading and tree removal for the pool.
Mr. Dorwitz said that the land will be regraded to accommodate the pool and stormwater flow. The trees removed for the placement of the pool are to be replaced with new trees.
Mr. Torrente noted that there are conditions attached to the relocation of the deed restricted land, as outlined in Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton’s letter dated March 18, 2014. Included in the conditions are planting of replacement trees to shield neighbors’ views of the pool, stormwater management and the consent of all of the residents of St. Andrew’s Wood subdivision.
Mr. Fidler asked whether all of the neighbors have consented; he felt this could be an onerous burden for the Widlgusts.
Ms. Fountain briefly reviewed the Board of Supervisors’ meeting at which Mr. Wildgust asked permission to build in deed restricted open space. The Supervisors agreed to grant permission subject to the conditions Mr. Torrente just referenced.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board understood that all of the residents of the subdivision had purchased their homes with the understanding that the development included deed restricted open space. While the land is not available for all homeowners in the development to use and is owned by the Wildgust family, it is part of the final subdivision plan. For that reason, all must agree.
Mr. Fidler suggested that Mr. Wildgust should continue to gather signatures from his neighbors granting approval of the swap of open space, if it becomes a matter of only one or two homes not approving, Mr. Wildgust could ask the Supervisors to grant a waiver.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose the application of Mark and Heather Wildgust provided the conditions of Mr. Garton’s letter of March 18, 2014 are met. If the applicant is unable to gain approval of one or two neighbors, the Commission recommends that the applicant seek a waiver from the Board of Supervisors. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Application of Joseph DeLong, 519 Grant Street: Joseph DeLong was in attendance to review this application for increased impervious surface of 19.29% where 13% is the maximum permitted to install a vestibule at the front door of his home. Mr. DeLong briefly explained the appearance of the vestibule and his family’s desire to protect the front door from wind and rain.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that the increase in impervious is de minimis and that the proposed addition to the home will improve its appearance.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose the application of Joseph DeLong. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Application of Potential Inc., 170 Pheasant Run: Attorney Ed Murphy and applicant Christine Quimbly were in attendance to review this application to permit an outdoor play area in the front or rear yard, for a play area closer than 200 feet from the lot or street line and for parking relief for 40 spaces where 72 spaces are required to bring a special school for autistic students to a 12,500 square foot space in the LI, light industrial zoning district.
Ms. Quimbly explained that her school has seen rapid growth in recent years as well as a need to expand the school’s offerings. Currently she has elementary school students, only, but she would like to include pre-school and high school and possibly some adult training. She also offers some individual classes for speech and occupational therapy. Some of the employees are part-time and some, while employed by Potential, Inc., visit clients in their schools or homes. Her budget has grown tenfold to over $1 million in recent years.
Mr. Murphy explained that the school will need a play area for the students. The plans show two different locations which would be suitable, but each location is either in the front yard or less than 200 feet from the street line. The play area would be enclosed for the children’s safety.
Mr. Murphy reviewed the parking spaces, noting that there are currently two other tenants at the site, one a physical therapist and the other a small stock trader. The Potential Inc. use would require 72 parking spaces under the ordinance and the parking lot has 71 spaces for all three tenants. Potential has need for forty spaces and is seeking a variance for that.
Ms. Quimbly said that her maximum staff would be forty people, but some are part time and some work off site. Students are dropped off and picked up; they will not use parking spaces.
Mr. Fidler noted the change in grade from the play area to the Bypass and expressed some concern about its closeness to the street.
Mr. Galley asked whether the play yard would be directly connected to the building and whether this would effectively block off a fire exit.
Mr. Murphy explained that construction plans have not been finalized but the Fire Marshal would have to approve the plans. He expected that the play yard would have a gate to exit directly outside.
The members discussed the drop off/pick up procedure. They had concerns about mingling of school buses and parents cars and the safety of children being walked from their cars to the school.
Ms. Quimbly said that the current students are dropped off by small school buses and vans and only occasionally are students dropped off in cars. Currently only one bus come to the school. The people coming for individual therapies arrive at different times and are escorted by staff from their cars into the school. Rarely do caregivers stay and wait. The student drop off is not in the same area as the parking for other tenants’ employees or for Potential Inc. employees.
The Commission members were in agreement that they would want to see a defined drop off/pick up procedure in place before the school opens for business.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will work with the Township Engineer to develop an acceptable plan for drop off procedures.
Mrs. Driscoll suggested that the other tenants should have specific designated parking.
Mr. Fisher said that it might be a good idea to re-stripe the parking lot. Right now it is difficult to see exactly how many spaces are available.
Mr. Fidler agreed that parking could become a concern later, as the school grows or if the other tenants change. He would like some kind of mechanism in place to evaluate changing parking needs. He noted that there is adequate available impervious area to add more parking should it become necessary.
Mr. Torrente said that another mechanism in place is the conditional use procedure. Traffic and parking would be addressed if any of the current tenants at the site were to change.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant wants to provide adequate parking for its staff and occasional visitors. If parking becomes an issue, additional parking would be added. The applicant feels confident that she will only need 40 spaces.
Mr. Fisher moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not oppose this application, recommending the following conditions:
Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Newtown Townhome PRD, 761 Newtown Yardley Road: Kevin Reilly of County Builders, Attorney John VanLuvanee, Engineer Robert Cunningham and Traffic Engineer Frank Montgomery were in attendance to review the final plan for land development for a 56 townhome development (use B-15) on 16.61 acres in the R-2 residential zoning district, with associated parking, landscaping, access roads and open space.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the applicant has met with the Township’s Engineer, Traffic Engineer, Planner and PennDOT’s representative to review the comments made at the April 1, 2014 meeting and to discuss the proposed TIP project for Newtown Yardley Road. All concerns of CKS Engineers and Boucher and James have been resolved.
Mr. Fidler asked about landscape buffering between the development and its adjacent neighbors.
Mr. Lewis said that he met at the site with the applicant’s landscape architect. The applicant has agreed to escrow funds to comply with ordinance requirements, but wants to wait until construction is completed before installing new plantings between mature trees at the borders of the property. The community impact assessment has been revised and has addressed all of the Commission’s concerns.
Ms. Fountain noted that there remains 3,849 square feet of impervious surface not specifically assigned to individual lots. She asked how that would be addressed.
Mr. VanLuvanee said the additional available impervious surface would be assigned to the open space for the benefit of the homeowners association and would not be added to any individual lots. There are also restrictions in the homeowners’ documents on additions to the houses. The additional impervious will not have restrictions and can be used by the homeowners association for use in the open space areas.
Ms. Fountain pointed out that a development name and street names are still needed. She noted that the names cannot contain the words “Newtown” or “Eagle.”
Mr. Reilly said that he has not decided on names yet and would welcome suggestions.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that Mr. Reilly and Mr. Montgomery have met with Ms. Kaminski and Matt Johnson of Pennoni Associates, who is working on the PennDOT TIP project. Mr. Reilly has agreed to fill the gap between the TIP project and the bank, creating a left turn lane into the development and into the Business Commons.
Mr. Montgomery confirmed that the applicant will comply with the March 17 letter from Ms. Kaminski and will provide widening and striping and will coordinate with Headley on traffic light timing.
Mr. Torrente asked if the applicant is still seeking a waiver from SALDO Section 505.5.
Mr. Montgomery said that this waiver, to provide a 75 foot straight course before the intersection with Newtown Yardley Road, would still be required.
Mr. Galley noted a discrepancy between the lighting identified on pages 24 and 26 of the plan.
Ms. Fountain said that this is a mistake and the detail will be fixed.
Mr. Fidler commended all of the Township consultants as well as Mr. Reilly’s team on the quick and thorough turn around on the revisions the Commission had asked for.
Mrs. Dix asked about the community impact statement, noting that there seem to be some assumptions she is not sure are accurate, particularly the estimated incomes of residents and the earned income tax contribution.
Mr. Reilly said that the homes will all have three bedrooms. The prices will be in the $500,000 range, so it is estimated that the income of the families will be about $150,000.
Mrs. Dix noted that even if that is accurate, not every resident will pay earned income tax. She also noted that while the streets will be private, the residents will place other burdens on public services and public schools.
Mr. VanLuvanee said that the impact statement cannot be accurate until the homes are occupied; it is an estimate based on studies of similar neighborhoods.
Mr. Whartenby moved to recommend that the Supervisors approve the application of County Builders, Inc. for a Planned Residential Development (“PRD”) consisting of 56 town-homes located at Bucks County Tax Parcel No. 29-10-52-2, prepared by Tri-State Engineers & Land Surveyors, Inc. dated February 17, 2014, with one revision dated April 4, 2014, consisting of 27 pages, along with the Post Construction Stormwater Management Plan narrative prepared by Holmes Cunningham Engineering, also dated February 17, 2014, with one revision dated April 4, 2014, subject to the modifications and waivers previously granted and the following conditions:
a. I. Zoning Issues, Item 1. –The excess impervious surface coverage permitted on the site will be allotted to the Homeowners Association.
b. I. Zoning Issues, Item 4 – The buffer adjacent to the Ridings Open Space has been supplemented to add a full visual barrier. Also, more buffering will be added to supplement the existing canopy trees along the property line of the Headley Development. Applicant will escrow for all the required trees; and if there trouble installing the buffering, then applicant shall provide landscaping at other locations on the site or in the township.
c. II. SALDO, Item 3 – A partial waiver is recommended requiring the names of all property owners, including across the road frontage, and widths of existing streets within 400 feet of the property to be identified. The applicant will provide an additional sheet with an aerial picture of existing features within 400 feet with 2 foot contour intervals.
d. III. Grading, Stormwater Management/Storm Drainage and Erosion and Sedimentation Control, Item 8. A partial waiver is recommended from the requirement to increase the rain garden area.
a. Item C2 - A partial waiver is recommended from section 530.2.A to permit the required spacing for street trees to exceed 25’ along the curve of the internal drive only. The number of street trees will be provided.
b. Item D – the Community Impact Assessment will be revised to the satisfaction of the Township Planner.
Mr. Galley seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mr. Fidler said that he has reached out to representatives of the business community to attend our second May meeting to participate in the sign ordinance discussion. He asked the recording secretary to share with these business leaders the memo prepared by Mr. Torrente outlining ongoing concerns of the codes department and sample ordinances from other municipalities which address these concerns. He told the Supervisors in attendance that he has also compiled a list of recent variances sought from the Zoning Hearing Board. It is the hope of the Planning Commission to have some recommendations for the Supervisors by the fall. The goal is to work with the business community but to also remain sensitive to the nearby residential neighbors. He hoped it would not be difficult to gain support from our Jointure partners because most of the commercial zoning districts exist only in Newtown.
Mrs. Dix asked why the Commission had begun to review the sign ordinance.
Mr. Fidler said that a number of concerns had been called to the Commission’s attention, including difficulties the Codes Officer has had in enforcing temporary sign restrictions and the large number of variances sought. For example, signs are not permitted within 1000 feet of the Bypass, making it difficult for businesses inside the Business Commons to identify themselves. With the downturn in the economy, some businesses have tried to attract customers with new types of signage and the Commission wants to find a way to work with these businesses while being sensitive to the residential neighbors.
Mr. Fidler said that the Planning Commission members had received a letter from an Upper Makefield resident expressing some concern about noise from wineries.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has participated in discussions with the Jointure partners on this matter. In Newtown we have a noise ordinance which helps with enforcement on outdoor events. In Upper Makefield the winery is limited to a certain number of outdoor events per year and the neighbors have insisted that every time the outdoor space is used it be counted into the total. This has included a yoga class. He suggested that the deciding factor should be amplified music and Upper Makefield has seemed to agree to this rather than to drafting a noise ordinance.
Board of Supervisors: Mr. Gallagher reported that the Township has been seeing renewed development activity. He believed there is some interest in the old Newtown Veterinary Hospital.
Mr. Fidler asked whether the Board has made any decisions on an economic development committee or whether the Planning Commission will be needed to help review the Lockheed Martin property.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board plans to meet in executive session next week to decide on appointments to a new economic development committee and Lockheed will be its first priority.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Gallagher said that the last meeting had focused on the number of outdoor events at the winery.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mr. Fisher reported that the EAC held an environmental forum on Saturday morning on alternative energy. It will also be participating in the Earth Day event April 26 at Core Creek Park.
Mr. Galley reported that he had noticed a downed handicapped parking sign at Ace Hardware. He had hoped to discuss this with Mr. Vogt this evening.
Mrs. Driscoll moved to adjourn at 9:50 PM. Mr. Whartenby seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary