NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940
May 20, 2014
Present: Chairman Allen Fidler and members: Courtney Coffman, Paul Cohen, Craig Deutsch and Peggy Driscoll. Also in attendance were John Torrente, Township Solicitor, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer, Micah Lewis, Township Planner and Code Enforcement Officer Martin Vogt.
Call to Order: Mr. Fidler called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM. He welcomed new member Courtney Coffman and explained that effective tomorrow Mr. Whartenby would resign, as he takes a place on the Township’s Zoning Hearing Board. He thanked Mr. Whartenby for his many years of dedicated service and leadership as Vice Chairman. He thanked Mr. Whartenby for attending this meeting, but noted that his participation would not be necessary, as the Commission did have a quorum of five voting members.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Deutsch moved to approve the minutes of April 15, 2014. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Ms. Coffman abstaining.
Zoning Hearing Board Applications
Application of Luis Flores and Application of Luis Flores/Rui Perriera, 595 and 617 Linton Hill Road: Luis Flores, attorney Charles Marte and engineers Heath Dumack and John Richardson were in attendance to review these applications for relief to subdivide 595 Linton Hill Road into three residential building lots with access through a shared driveway from 617 Linton Hill Road.
Mr. Marte reminded the Commission that this plan had first been seen by the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission three years ago as a concept plan. It was later revised and last year reviewed as a sketch plan. At that time the Commission had suggested that Mr. Flores seek an easement for a shared driveway with Mr. Perriera at 617 Linton Hill Road to eliminate the need for a number of variances. The current application for Zoning relief has incorporated the shared driveway and has also incorporated a number of other Planning Commission suggestions to greatly reduce the amount of relief needed.
Mr. Marte reviewed the relief needed for 595 Linton Hill Road, including:
Mr. Flores said that he has four children who were raised on the property and now want to return to the area. He is attempting to create building lots for his children on his twelve acre property.
Mr. Fidler commended Mr. Flores for making so many revisions to his plan in accordance with the Commission’s recommendations. He asked whether it is common practice to place utilities in floodplains.
Mr. Richardson said that the ordinance does permit this with a variance and it is not uncommon.
Mr. Dumack said that the sewers will be forced mains to connect with Linton Hill Road’s sewer access.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about flooding on the lot and about basements in the new houses.
Mr. Flores said that he has not had any flooding on his property, even in the heavy rains of recent weeks. He has not decided whether the houses will have basements. His home does have a basement and it is dry.
Mr. Deutsch asked whether there will be a back-up generator for the forced mains.
Mr. Dumack said he is not sure yet, but noted that there will be a 1000 tank to store four days of sewage.
Mr. Torrente said that conditional use approval is required for utilities in Zones one and two.
Mr. Dumack said this would be addressed at land development if zoning relief is granted.
Mr. Marte noted that the application is also seeking a waiver of the need for a special exception for improvements in floodplain districts.
Mr. Lewis asked if the request for 18.1% disturbance is for the entire project of each lot.
Mr. Marte said the Flores lots will go from the current 18% to 18.1% and the Perriera lot with also have an 18.1% disturbance.
Mr. Cohen asked what the hardship is for this application.
Mr. Marte said that this is a ten plus acre lot almost completely occupied by woodlands and floodplains. It is located in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District where three acre lots are permitted.
Mr. Cohen said that the ordinance exists to protect sensitive environmental areas. He recalls that at the last review of these plans the Commission had suggested reducing the subdivision to only two lots to minimize the impact on the natural resources. He would favor not supporting the application and would also recommend that if relief is granted, some tree replacement be required.
Ms. Fountain noted a discrepancy in the signatures for the 617 Linton Hill Road application; Mr. Flores cannot sign the application for a lot he does not own.
Mr. Marte said this has been addressed. Mr. Flores has submitted the applications for both lots after securing an agreement with Mr. Perriera.
Mr. Fidler asked whether, since this is a plan to build homes for Mr. Flores’s children, the buildings could be built without subdividing the lot, as is frequently done on farms and estates.
Mr. Marte said that it is his understanding that the ordinance permits only one dwelling unit per lot.
Mrs. Driscoll said that she lives up the street from Mr. Flores and is very familiar with the lot. She favors leaving the decision to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Deutsch said that he agreed with Mr. Cohen’s assessment and would be supportive of a subdivision of two lots. He would not recommend that the Supervisors support the application, but favors leaving the decision to the Zoning Hearing Board without formal Township opposition.
Mrs. Driscoll asked about the size of the proposed new houses.
Mr. Marte said that the application seeks large building envelopes for some design flexibility, but the houses will probably be smaller than the building envelopes would indicate.
The Commission members agreed that the Board should not oppose the application but leave the decision to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fidler said that he would include the members’ concerns in his report to the Supervisors.
Application of John & Mary Ellen Mangano, 204 St. Andrew’s Place: Mr. and Mrs. Mangano were in attendance to review this application for increased impervious surface to 32.3% where 27.2%is permitted to build an extension to their home to expand the kitchen and add a sunroom and patio
Mr. Mangano explained that a large portion of his property is deed restricted, creating a hardship. He has the support of his neighbors and also noted that the application had included setback relief which is no longer needed.
Ms. Fountain noted that the deed restricted area is included in impervious calculations, but rights of way are deducted normally. In this particular case the deed restricted area was not included in calculations.
Mr. Cohen said that he would suggest that the Commission recommend that the Supervisors support this application, provided some best management practices are incorporated in the plan to offset run-off from increased impervious surface. The members all agreed to this recommendation.
Application of Christopher & Suzanne Terry, 533 Taylor Avenue: This application seeks increased impervious surface to 33.09% where 13% is permitted and 31.04% exists and side and rear yard setback relief to build a kitchen extension. The property is non-conforming and also requires a special exception. The applicants were not in attendance to review their plans. Mr. Vogt explained that the property predates the ordinance, so was built with the current impervious surface percentage. There have been complaints from that area of the Township about flooding. Mr. Cohen said that he would recommend that some stormwater management be required for the increased impervious above the permitted 13%. He also noted that the addition will be very close to the rear neighbor’s property line. He would have advised the applicant to bring a letter of support from that neighbor to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The members agreed to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose this application.
Application of Beneficial Bank, 34 South Sycamore Street: Attorney Kelly McGowan and Compass Sign Company representative Phil Doorley were in attendance to review this application for relief to have five signs where two are permitted and for size and height relief. The proposed sign package includes two monument signs, one sign over the entrance and two logo signs on the chimneys of the building. The monument signs will measure 32 square feet and are 6’7” high where five feet is the maximum height.
Ms. Fountain asked if signage was addressed in the stipulation agreement.
Ms. McGowan said that signage was not included except for a “welcome to Newtown” sign on a retaining wall. The two monument signs are proposed for the lawns behind that wall. The pedestals are not included in the measurements; only the sign cabinets are included.
Mr. Cohen asked about lighting for the signs.
Ms. McGowan said that the signs will be internally lit, which is not prohibited by the Ordinance.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that while the property is not located in the historic district, it is visible from the historic district. Many properties adjacent to the historic district have had to comply with HARB requirements. She thought this applicant should make an effort to learn about the HARB requirements and attempt to comply with them.
Mr. Fidler agreed. He said that the chimney logos are not in keeping with the surrounding area and detract from the historic district’s appearance. He did not oppose the height or size of the monument signs but had concerns about the internal lighting. He reminded the members that the Planning Commission has been considering making changes to the sign ordinance but intends to seek input from the Sycamore Street Community Association. He urged the applicant to also seek that association’s input.
Mr. Deutsch said that this is a very prominent location and the two monument signs seem sufficient for identification. Each one is visible to oncoming traffic from different directions. He is not opposed to the size, but feels the two monument signs accomplish identification. He did not see a hardship for the additional signage.
Ms. McGowan said that the building is on an intersection and needs to be visible to passing traffic from four different directions. The additional signage is necessary.
Mr. Cohen agreed with Mr. Fidler that the chimney signs are not necessary but did not oppose the size and height of the monument signs. He would not object to the sign over the entrance. He did, however, wish that the applicant had made some effort to comply with the requirements of the historic district, especially with lighting.
Mr. Fidler said that it appears the Commission is in agreement that they are not opposed to the monument signs; there is some support for the entrance sign. The Commission is recommending that the applicant seek input from the Sycamore Street Association and attempt to comply with HARB on colors and lighting.
Mrs. Driscoll noted that most businesses are able to find a historic color palette which closely matches the brand’s colors.
Mr. Vogt asked whether the signs would be dimmed or turned off when the bank is not open.
Ms. McGowan said that the signs will glow and can be dimmed after hours. She reminded the Commission that this bank will be replacing an auto dealership’s pylon signs.
The members were in agreement that for the business to succeed it needs to establish a presence in the new location. They recommend that if the applicant proceeds with the application as presented that the Board oppose it. They recommend that the applicant consider a reduced number of signs, and that the applicant learn the HARB requirements and seek the support of the Sycamore Street Community Association.
Newtown Townhome PRD, Planning Module: Ms. Fountain reported that she has reviewed the full planning module for this development. CKS recommends that the Township approve it. The signature of the chairman of the Planning Commission is required.
Mr. Deutsch moved to authorize signature of the Planning Commission Chairman on the Newtown Townhome PRD planning module. Mrs. Driscoll seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Cohen voting nay.
162 Durham Road, Minor Subdivision: Attorney Ed Murphy said that this application has been postponed, as some stormwater plans have been revised and not yet presented to the adjacent neighbor.
Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, Preliminary as Final Plan and Conditional Use: Attorney Ed Murphy and Univest representative Richard Marrin were in attendance to review this preliminary as final plan and conditional use application for a 2200 square foot branch bank with associated parking, landscaping and stormwater management. He reminded the members that the applicant has received an easement for Howard Avenue from Luk Oil. The applicant will comply with all review letters. The traffic engineer had some concern about the access point at Howard Avenue as being too close to the intersection but she has withdrawn that comment. The applicant has agreed to right-in/right out only at that intersection. The traffic engineer will submit a review letter shortly and the applicant will comply with it.
Mr. Murphy asked the Commission to consider the conditional use application today as well. There was some confusion as to whether this use required conditional use approval at all, so the application was only submitted on Friday. Mr. Lewis has issued a draft comment letter, which had not been included in the packet.
Mr. Fidler said that he was pleased that the primary access will be through the signalized intersection in the adjacent shopping center.
Mr. Cohen asked how left turns would be prohibited at the second, Howard Avenue, entrance.
Mr. Murphy said that the entrance would have a pork chop to prevent left turns.
Mrs. Driscoll asked the proposed hours of operation.
Mr. Marrin said that the bank proposed house Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Thursday and Friday 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM and Saturday 9:00 AM t0 1:00 PM.
Mr. Cohen asked about parking.
Mr. Murphy said that there will be 22 parking spaces, of which about half are needed and will be used.
Mr. Cohen moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the conditional use application of Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road, Tax Map Parcel 29-11-98, in the CC Convenience Commercial Zoning District for Use E-4, Financial Establishment, subject to the following conditions:
Mrs. Driscoll seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Mr. Cohen asked if the maximum number of employees would be four at all times.
Mr. Marrin said that with electronic banking gaining in use, fewer employees are needed on site.
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission usually advises applicants to include the maximum number of employees they would have and also to include the hours of operation six days a week, noting that if the branch decided to remain open earlier or later, a new conditional use would not be needed.
Mr. Marrin asked the Commission to consider hours of operation until 6:00 every weekday.
Mr. Cohen amended his motion to include hours of operation from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday. Mrs. Driscoll amended her second and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Cohen moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant Preliminary as Final land development approval to Univest Bank for its property located at 15 Swamp Road, Newtown, tax map parcel no. 29-11-98, consisting of twelve (12) pages, prepared by Van Cleef dated April 7, 2014, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Deutsch seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Fidler reminded the Commission that the second June meeting would continue review of the sign ordinances. Representatives of the various business organizations, including Newtown Business Association, Newtown Business Commons Association and Sycamore Street Community Association have been invited to participate in the discussion.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary