NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2001

7:30 PM


APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF MAY 3, 2001: Some pages were missing from some copies of the minutes, and so the board will review them at the meeting of July 19, 2001. For the minutes of May 5, 2001, Mr. Ragan noted that his name is spelled RAGAN, and should appear consistently. 
Mr. Ragan moved to approve the minutes of May 5, 2001. Mr. Leone seconded. The motion passed unanimously.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, May 3, 2001, in the Newtown Township Municipal Building. In attendance and voting were: Mario Lionetti, Chairman; Thomas Ragan, Vice-Chairman; John Lenihan, Secretary; and Franklin Carver, Member. Michael Leone was absent. Also in attendance were James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Tom Harwood, Interim Township Manager.

CALL TO ORDER

Mario Lionetti, Chairman calls the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m.

THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

THE AGENDA WAS REVIEWED

Approval of Minutes Thursday, April 12, 2001

Continue Application of JAM Enterprises

Application of Mr. & Mrs. Hou

Application of Newtown Bucks Associates, Limited Partnership

Application of Sun Oil Company

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE APRIL 5, 2001 MEETING

Mr. Lionetti moved to postpone the approval of the minutes until the next meeting. Mr. Carver seconded: the motion carried unanimously.

CONTINUED APPLICATION OF PHEASANT POINT ASSOCIATES

Mr. Auchinleck said he had received correspondence from the applicant's attorney, advising him that they have filed a mandamus action in court to compel the township to issue building permits as applied for, and that they intend to pursue that mandamus act rather than pursue the zoning application at this time. The applicant requested that this matter be continued generally, indicating that they will pay for any required advertisement. They have granted the township an extension of time to hold the hearing to within 60 days of the date when they are request a new hearing. There was no need for a motion in this matter.

APPLICATION OF RONA WATERS

Mr. Auchinleck said that there was an error in the advertisement of the requested relief in this application, and it needs to be re-advertised. He has advised the applicant of that fact, and said it would be continued to the June 7, 2001 hearing.

Mr. Ragan Moved to continue the application of Rona Waters to the June 7, 2001 hearing. Mr. Carver seconded: the motion carried unanimously.

CONTINUED APPLICATION OF JAM ENTERPRISES

John VanLuvanee, represented the applicants. Also present was Joseph Marrazzo, principal owner in the corporation.

Mr. VanLuvanee requested a continuance to explore the need for dimensional relief. He has advised the solicitor that they are requesting a variance from the provisions of Section 404.C, which in the R-1 District, when a lot will be provided with public water and sewer facilities, there is a minimum distance requirement between buildings of 60 feet. They are asking for relief in the nature of the variance to permit 50 feet. Mr. VanLuvanee said a survey has been prepared, and recalled Mr. Marrazzo to testify about the additional evidence.

Mr. Marrazzo was reminded that he was still under oath from the last hearing. Mr. VanLuvanee asked Mr. Marrazzo if he had pursued the possibility of getting a connect to public water from the development behind his lot, and if he had contacted the homeowner's association that controls the open space across which he would need to go in order to obtain water facilities. Mr. Marrazzo said he has reached agreement with this association, which will permit him to connect to public water. Mr. VanLuvanee clarified that the relief that Mr. Marrazzo is asking for at this meeting is relief from dimensional requirement that applies in the R-1 District to single-family detached dwelling with public water and sewer, and that Mr. Marrazzo is willing to take the risk of ultimately arranging the connect. Mr. Marrazzo confirmed this. Mr. Marrazzo also confirmed that he understood that the relief that this board may grant would be predicated on the assumption that you connect to public water and sewer.

Mr. VanLuvanee asked Mr. Marrazzo about a survey and plan prepared of his lot and of the two lots adjoining it. He said that All County Engineering in Washington Crossing had prepared the survey. Mr. VanLuvanee submitted the plan as Exhibit A-10. He said the plan is sealed by Paul Wojohowski, a registered professional land surveyor. He confirmed with Mr. Marrazzo that lots 10 and 13, as identified on the plan, are existing conditions. Mr. Marrazzo said he has viewed these lots and said that the plan seems to accurately reflect the footprint of the houses and driveways on these lots. 

Mr. VanLuvanee summarized: the houses on either side of the lot subject to these proceedings are actually built approximately 20 feet from the plot line that divides Lot #12 from those lots. On Lot #12, the proposal is to exceed the current ordinance requirement and provide 30-foot sideyards. That would reduce the building envelope so that the maximum width of any house Mr. Marrazzo could construct there would be 53.95 feet, which is shown on the plan. The house on Lot #13, according to the as built survey, has a width of 53.96 feet. The house of Lot #10 appears to have a width of 55.56 feet. Therefore, the proposed house would be consistent in width to the houses on either side. The ordinance requires a minimum distance between houses of feet; if the houses on either side had 30 feet, Mr. Marrazzo would be able to comply. If Mr. Marrazzo were required to comply provide 60 feet between house, the sideyard on Lot #12 would be increased to 40 feet, and would reduce the width of the house that he could build to 33.95 feet, significantly smaller than the adjoining houses. Therefore, the only relief being requested from the dimensional criteria is relief from the 60 feet between buildings, and the applicant is willing to increase the sideyards on Lot #12 from the required 24 feet to 30 feet. Mr. Marrazzo confirmed all of the above.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if the size of the building is the same as on the original application; Mr. VanLuvanee said that it is smaller. It has reduced by 3 feet in width.

Mr. VanLuvanee confirmed that the home on Lot #10 is a two-story dwelling.

Mr. Lionetti clarified that the original application requested the construction of a single-family detached dwelling on a nonconforming lot, and that the applicant is still requesting this relief. Mr. VanLuvanee said that is the special exception. Mr. Lionetti asked if relief was also being asked from the minimum lot area of 40,000 square feet; Mr. VanLuvanee said he didn't believe they needed the relief, because the special exception identifies the lot as already substandard. If the board concludes he was incorrect in his conclusion. Mr. VanLuvanee's relief in the alternative is to request a variance to permit the erection of a single family dwelling on a lot that does not meet the 40,000 square foot minimum lot size. He said that he interpretated the ordinance as permitting the special exception under these circumstances. If the board disagrees, the applicant is requesting a variance in the alternative.

Mr. Lionetti clarified that under Mr. VanLuvanee's interpretation, the 125 foot setback does not need relief, and that the requested relief is from the 60 foot distance between houses.

Mr. Harwood said he would support the variances as well as the special exception to authorize the construction on a nonconforming lot.

Mr. Auchinleck asked for the identification of the specific variances which would grant the requested relief. Mr. Lionetti agreed. The matter will be continued, providing the opportunity to identify the specific dimensional nonconformities.

Mr. Harwood said that in his department's original evaluation they determined that the proposed setback would require a variance of 9 feet.

There were not additional comments for or against the application.

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant the special request. Section 1208(C)(2) to construct the single family detached dwelling on the nonconforming lot; to grant variance from Section 404.B; to grant the relief of 17,920 square feet from the minimum lot area of 40,000 square feet; to grant the relief from Section 404.C to allow 50 feet between buildings instead of the required minimum of 60 feet. Mr. Ragan seconded; the motion carried unanimously.

APPLICATION OF MR. & MRS. DONALD HOU

Mr. Donald Hou and Mr. Vince Piscitelli, from Crystal Clear Pools, were present.

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Mr. & Mrs. Hou, requesting a variance from the final plan of Eagle Glenn to permit construction of an in-ground swimming pool with patio which will result in an impervious surface ratio of 28.84% instead of the maximum permitted 20%. The property is located at 30 Sibelius Road in the CM (Conservation Management) Zoning District being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-20-6.

There was no one present who wished to be party to the application.

Mr. Hou and Mr. Piscitelli were sworn in.

Mr. Piscitelli said that they are seeking to increase the impervious surface. The existing impervious surface is 4755 square feet. He presented a plan indicating that the house, driveway and the walkway total 4409 square feet; there is a balance of 346 square feet. They would like to add a total 2450 square of impervious surface. They are asking for an additional 2104 square feet. The free form pool would be 20 x 40 feet. The actual pool and spa cover 850 square feet.

Mr. Lenihan said he had not had an opportunity to do a site inspection on this application.

Mr. Ragan asked what the hardship is that Mr. Hou is claiming. Mr. Hou said they asked Orleans if they could put in an in-ground; they said yes. Their realtor got the requirements for a pool from the township office. Mr. Hou said that Orleans had not spoken to them about the impervious surface ratio. After they had purchased the property, they were told that the construction of a pool would exceed the impervious surface ratio.

Mr. Lenihan asked Mr. Hou if he had sought approval from his homeowners association for the installation of the pool. Mr. Hou said it was his understanding that a pool was allowed by his homeowners association; he has not checked the association bylaws.

Mr. Piscitelli said they are building a pool next door to the Hous, and when they started the pool they spoke to the association, and they requested that the pool signs be removed from the street. Mr. Ragan said that if the board is of a mind to grant a variance, he would insist that a a condition be added to that, that the Hous receive a letter from their homeowners association, for his own protection.

Mr. Auchinleck said that the plan shows an impervious surface ratio of 28.84%, and the board received notice of an amendment increasing the impervious surface ratio to 29.4%. Mr. Piscitelli said he was unaware of this.

Mr. Harwood was sworn in. He said that the first memorandum, issued to the board on April 6, 2001, used a percentage that was based on the applicant's contractor's numbers. Subsequently, the numbers were checked based on the as built drawings, and this was the basis for the increase to 29.4%. The difference was in the contractor's base number and the as built number: the base number used by the zoning office was 4542 square feet and the contractor's base number was 4409 square feet. Mr. Harwood is not familiar with the site.

Mr. Lionetti was concerned that the relief requested was above what the board usually grants, and it is significant. He wondered if the new impervious surface area could be decreased; he said he would like to have a designer see if the patio or pool area could be reduced.

Mr. Piscitelli said that the rear of the property falls into the retention basin, and the pool would not be near or against a neighbor's property. Mr. Auchinleck explained that the retention basin is designed based on the calculation of impervious surface area of the entire development. Mr. Piscitelli said that no variance was required for the construction the pool next door to Mr. Hou.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if the applicant could live with an impervious surface ratio of 25%, a reduction of about 900 square feet.

Mr. Piscitelli said that in some townships they have put in a holding retention off the edge of the pool, which consists of a 2 x 3 foot trench filled with crushed stone, so that when water rolls off the swimming pool it retains its own water. He asked if the board would entertain this option; Mr. Lionetti said he would have to see a total design.

It was clarified that 25% of the 23,780 square foot property would be 5945 square feet.

Mr. Lionetti moved that the board grant relief of 5% of the impervious surface ratio from the maximum allowable impervious surface ratio of 20% from the Eagle Glenn final plan. Mr. Lenihan seconded: the motion carried unanimously.

It was clarified that Mr. Hou needs to reapply for his permit with new drawings. Mr. Ragan suggested that Mr. Hou contact his homeowners association to find out if they require a letter from the ZHB.

APPLICATION OF NEWTOWN BUCKS ASSOCIATES, LP

Mr. Lenihan record the application for Newtown Bucks Associates, LP, for blanket sign variances for the Newtown Shopping Center. The variances are requested from Section 11.04 and 11.06 pertaining to height, size, number, location and proximity to the Route 413 Bypass for complex identification, information, and public service signs and individual establishment identification signs for the Gap, Acme Supermarket, Beauty Land, Hair Cuttery, Design for Vision, Mobile Phones, Dry Cleaners, Pizza Restaurant, Pet Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples and additional retail stores. A copy of the application is available for inspection at the at township zoning office. The property is located at Route 413 and Durham road, in the PC (Plant Commercial) Zoning District, and is also known as Tax Parcel #29-3-2-4.

Timberlake N. Townes and Jack Lowe, principals at Newtown Bucks Associates, LP, were present and were sworn in.

Mr. Townes distributed a packets which identified the applicant's exhibits. Mr. Auchinleck marked the entire document as A-1, and said that individual documents would be identified during the proceedings. Mr. Lowe reviewed the contents of A-1:

Mr. Lowe said that, because of the controversy that arose from the application for a variance of one of the stores in the Newtown Shopping Center, they felt it was appropriate to try a consolidated application and try to address all of the stores in the center, except Applebee's, Commerce Bank, Blockbuster and Longhorn Steakhouse. Mr. Lowe said that they have created a signage system for the entire center, which they have taken to the Planning Commission. They incorporated their comments, and appeared before the supervisors on February 28, 2001 and presented a plan much like the one being presented at this meeting, with a few revisions. The Board of Supervisors indicated that with some certain changes and a scaling down of some of their requests that they would not oppose the plan.

Mr. Lowe referred to item 6 of A-1, which shows a site plan at another shopping center, which they propose to use at the Newtown Shopping Center, showing the type of signage, which utilizes channel letters instead of box signs. He also referred to the signage in the adjacent shopping center.

Mr. Auchinleck marked the color photograph of the shopping center referred to as A-2, and the photographs of the adjacent shopping center as A-3, A-4 and A-5.

Mr. Lowe presented an enlarged version of item 4 in the packet, and explained that the top and third from the top lines showed what they would like to propose for the center. The bottom line depicts what the township would permit if signage were done exactly as the ordinance dictates. He said that the biggest single issue is in the interpretation of the township that the road in front of the shopping center is the Bypass. He noted that there is no position on the site that is not within a 1000 feet of the Bypass, and that the only way to make signage not visible to the Bypass would be to turn the buildings around to put the loading docks on the street side, which they do not want to do. They believe that this consists a hardship. They reserve the right to challenge whether or not 413 is the Bypass, but they would rather not do that.

The second hardship Mr. Lowe requested to be considered was the aspect of designs granted to adjacent, competing centers, with some signs exceeding the height size, or proximity to the Bypass limitations.

Mr. Lowe said he would like to separate the applications into several categories.

Mr. Lowe presented a drawing of the existing Acme market pile-on sign, which is significantly larger than the one being requested for the new location. Mr. Auchinleck marked the drawing as Exhibit A-6.

Mr. Lowe said that the names on the Hair Cuttery, Design for Vision, and Mobile Phones are intended to be generic. These and others have not yet been dsigned. They are addressing the size and location at this meeting.

Mr. Lowe discussed the details of each store individually, detailing the specific requests for each.

Mr. Lionetti moved to accept the application and variances as described on pages 1, 2, and 3 of Exhibit B of Exhibit A-1, with the noted change in page 3, free standing complex identification sign, and that size will be a maximum of 40 square feet. Mr. Lenihan seconded the motion; the motion carried unanimously.

APPLICATION OF SUN OIL COMPANY

Sun Oil Company is requesting a variance from Section 1106(F)(4)(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an increase in the number, size and height of signs in excess of that permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. The subject parcel is located at Washington and Elm Avenues, Newtown, in the PS (Professional Services) Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-45-2.

Timothy Jones, and Scott DeFlavis. Mr. DeFlavis described improvements currently exist on the property: service bay building, canopy, and paved areas. He also described existing signs: goalpost sign and Utraservice sign. He said Sunoco's proposal was the installation of three-color graphic graphics on existing building facia and canopy facia and two Sunoco letter signs on the canopy. He presented a plan, marked as A-1, dated 9/18/00, and revision three, dated 3/5/01. He explained that the internally illuminated letter signs will be mounted on each side of the canopy facing Washington Avenue. He said that the letter signs are 19.6 square feet.

Mr. DeFlavis described the proposed horizon graphics as vinyl overlay on the existing facia. They proposed 304 square feet of vinyl graphics, to be placed on existing facia and sections of the canopy. Mr. DeFlavis said that the graphics make up approximately 56% of the total sign area. Mr. Jones said that the graphics are not illuminated. Mr. DeFlavis explained that four free standing advertising signs, totaling 55 square feet, were removed from the prior plan, at the request of the borough.

Mr. Jones referred to Exhibit A-2, and asked Mr. DeFlavis to describe the photos included, which showed other gas stations in the area. Mr. Sander questioned the relevance of this exhibit. Mr. Jones said that a case called Hertzberg, which allows dimensional variance and allows a zoning hearing board to consider economic detriment of one of the factors in granting a variance, one of them being competitive disadvantage.

In addition to the removal of the outdoor advertising signs, Sunoco installed a shield on the canopy light in February to reduce glare. Mr. Jones referred to A-4, a group of four pictures, which show the site as exists today. Mr. DeFlavis described a number of modification made, which had been approved in a zoning/construction permit issued in August 2000. These modifications cost approximately $20,000; no appeals have been filed concerning these changes.

Mr. Sander asked Mr. DeFlavis if the Sunoco property was in use as a gas station, if they do not receive the relief they are seeking could it continue as a gas station, and if it were making a profit. Mr. DeFlavis answered yes to the first two questions and was unsure of the third. Mr. DeFlavis said he was unaware of any complaints from neighboring residents. Mr. Sander said that in December of 1991 a proposal by the gas station owner included a colonial wood framed A-trussed structure with residential type roofing shingles.

Mr. Sander marked Exhibit T-1. Mr. Sander noted page 2, paragraph 9, which states that the canopy is to be 16 feet 6 inches from the legal right of way, shall have 14 feet 6 inches clearance, and will be constructed in a colonial wood framed A-trussed structure with residential type roofing shingles. Mr. DeFlavis said he did not know if this structure was ever built. Mr. Sander asked Mr. DeFlavis to see color renderings of the proposed signs. Mr. Jones marked the color copy as Exhibit A-5, and showed it to the board.

Mr. Walsh asked Mr. DeFlavis about site distance and brand name recognition. It was clarified that the Sunoco station was adjacent to the borough historic district, and that the professional building was part of the historic district.

Mr. Paul Friel was sworn in. Mr. Friel is Leading Sales Manager for Sunoco; he has worked for Sunoco for four years. He explained that Sunoco is updating their image at many sites, to upgrade and increase brand recognition.

Mr. Sander asked Mr. Friel what tangible evidence he had, with the station as it stands with the goalpost sign containing the Sunoco logo, and each pump with new horizon graphic, plus permitted Ultraservice center graphic, is not currently recognized as a Sunoco. Mr. Friel said that the most powerful graphic they have is the canopy horizon graphic. Mr. Sander asked why Sunoco had not requested for these additional canopy graphics when they got a permit in August; Mr. Friel answered that they had only applied for items that did not require a variance. Mr. Sander asked if the station had made a profit; Mr. Friel did not know.

Mr. Friel said that the property would suffer from business hardship if relief is not granted, as it would lose name recognition.

Mr. Sander questioned Mr. Harwood about prior variances granted to Sunoco by the Zoning Hearing Board, in particular a decision dated January 30, 192, which Mr. Sander marked as Exhibit T-2. This document is an application to the Zoning Hearing Board filed by Atlantic Refinement & Marketing Corporation. Mr. Sander noted that a page was missing was from the decision, and Mr. Harwood could not locate it. Mr. Auchinleck said he should be able to locate it; Mr. Sander said that would help to complete the record.

Mr. Sander asked Mr. Harwood to read the conclusions of Law number 3, 4 and 5, which said that:

It was clarified that this decision was signed by three current members of the ZHB: Mr. Carver, Mr. Lionetti and Mr. Leone.

Mr. Sander asked Mr. Harwood about a Zoning Hearing Board decision regarding this property dated February 17, 1994, the application of Barry and Lois Luff/Sun Oil Company. He marked this document T-3; he will supply the ZHB solicitor with copies. Mr. Harwood said that variance was granted, with conditions that included (in conclusion of law #1 of that decision) the removal of all existing signs identified in Exhibit A-1, as well as the kerosene sign and temporary banner, shall be removed. Mr. Sander summarized the decision: the applicant was permitted to replace the existing free standing sign with another free standing sign,  but had to remove all other signs from the property. Mr. Harwood said that this was the most recent ZHB decision in this case. Mr. Harwood said that, to his knowledge, no one else has applied for relief from this board to situate additional signage on the property.

Mr. Harwood said that Sunoco has requested six signs, and that, permitted either by right or authorization, they are allowed three.

After further discussion, the board asked Sunoco to speak with the township and the borough to see if an agreement could be reached and/or a modified Plan devised. The matter was continued to the next meeting.

Mr. Lionetti moved to continue the hearing until June 7, 2001 at 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Lenihan seconded the motion.

Carried unanimously.

Faithfully submitted by:

 

__________________________________
Leslie Dunleavy, Recording Secretary
June 18, 2001