NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2001

7:30 PM


APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF OCTOBER 4, 2001:  Mr. Ragan noted that on page 8 a reference should read Johnny Apple, and on page 9, Mr. Leone stated. Mr. Ragan moved to approve the minutes of October 4, 2001 as corrected. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion carried unanimously.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, October 4, 2001 in the Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Mario Lionetti, Chairman; Thomas Ragan, Vice-Chairman; John Lenihan, Secretary; Franklin Carver, Member; and Michael Leone, Member. Also in attendance were James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Solicitor and Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer.

CALL TO ORDER: 

Mario Lionetti called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM

THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

THE AGENDA WAS REVIEWED: 

Approval of Minutes

September 6, 2001

Continued Application of SEPTA (496-01) 

Continued Application of Commerce Bank (508-01)

Application of John Stezzi (509-01)

Application of Newtown Bucks Associates/Chick-Fil-A (510-01)

Application of Keller-Williams (511-01)

Adjournment

APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF SEPTEMBER 6, 2001: 

Mr. Ragan moved to approve the minutes of September 6, 2001. Mr. Carver seconded. The motion passed, unanimously.

APPLICATION OF JOHN STEZZI:

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Mr. John Stezzi requesting variances from Section 405(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a sunroom addition which will result in an 18 ft. side yard instead of the required minimum 20 ft. side yard and an impervious surface ratio of 21.04% instead of the maximum allowable 13%. Applicant also requests a Special Exception under Section 208(C)(2) to permit construction of a building on a non-conforming lot. The property is located at 566 Sterling Street in the R-2 (Residential) Zoning District, being further identified as tax Map Parcel #29-14-42.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone else wished to be a party to this application. There was no response.

Mr. Mike Clineff, contractor on the project, and Mr. John Stezzi were sworn in.

Mr. Clineff explained that he had been contracted to remove an existing screen porch and to construct in its' place a sunroom. The existing porch is 12X20 feet and currently has a side yard setback of 18 feet. The new sunroom will extend the porch area to 12X40 feet. There will not be a change in the existing side yard setback, which has been in place for about 30 years. The only change will be an increase in impervious surface area where the new room is extended.

Mr. Lenihan noted that in the proposed plan there is a shed. He asked if this had been calculated into the impervious surface ratio.

Mr. Clineff said that it had been part of the calculation.

Mr. Lenihan stated that he had visited the site and that he noted the concern about the increased percentage of impervious surface, however, he did not think the addition would create a drainage problem.

Mr. Carver noted that the entire development where Mr. Stezzi's home is located consists of non-conforming lots. These homes all pre-date the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983.

Mr. Stezzi confirmed that he had lived in the house for 25 years, and that it is 30 years old.

Mr. Auchinleck noted that the new room would only increase the impervious surface by 240 sq. foot.

Mr. Harwood was sworn in. Mr. Harwood stated that the Supervisors had reviewed this application at their meeting of September 26, 2001. They had decided not to send their solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board on the matter, but urged the Zoning Hearing Board to consider the impervious surface ratio. The supervisors are concerned because the application is asking for an 8.04% increase in the impervious surface ratio.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone else present had any comments on this matter. There was no response.

Mr. Lionetti asked if the supervisors had indicated any acceptable impervious surface ratio for the board to consider.

Mr. Harwood stated that they had not.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if the Supervisors would be interested in having the contractor submit a drainage plan to the Zoning Officer of the Township Engineer as a condition of approval.

Mr. Harwood stated that such a plan would be needed for a building permit.

Mr. Clineff explained that on other projects he had allowed for a drainage pit of 5X5 feet lined with stone, to collect any run-off.

Mr. Lionetti asked if the Township was aware of any drainage or flooding problems in the area around Sterling Street.

Mr. Harwood answered that there was no such problems that the Township is aware of.

Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the board could require, as a condition of approval, that Mr. Stezzi submit a drainage plan to Mr. Harwood and the Township Engineer.

Mr. Ragan stated that he felt such a condition was too open-ended. Mr. Harwood needs to indicate what he would like to see. He felt that the Township needed to give specific guidelines.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if he could submit a plan for a system that could collect run-off for a specific square footage.

Mr. Harwood replied that the drainage must meet the requirements of the engineer.

Mr. Clineff stated that the increase of roofed area is less than 300 square feet. The new room is in place of an existing roofed room 1/2 its' size.

Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the board might consider having Mr. Clineff submit a plan of how he intends to address drainage, and that the board could continue the application to the November meeting, and reconsider it with the drainage plan.

Mr. Stezzi stated that he did not have any drainage problems at all. His house sits far back on his lot, backing onto about 60 feet of open space belonging to Newtown Gate. This open space has been designed to handle the run off.

Mr. Lionetti noted that what is allowed by the ordinance is 13% impervious surface, and that Mr. Stezzi already exceeds the allowable percentage by about 5%. The new room would add well beyond what is allowed by the ordinance.

Mr. Carver noted that the Zoning Hearing Board had addressed a similar request at the September 6, 2001 meeting. He noted that at that time another family in Mr. Stezzi's neighborhood had been given a variance for a similar impervious surface ratio.

Mr. Ragan noted that Mr. Stezzi is already adequately addressing run-off on his property. The Zoning Board has walked the property, and has noticed no drainage problems. Mr. Stezzi has lived on the property for 25 years and would know if there were potential problems.

Mr. Carver moved to approve the application for variances from Section 405(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 for a minimum side yard setback of 18 feet, an increase of 2 feet, and for a maximum impervious surface ratio of 21.04%, an increase of 8.04%, and a special exception under Section 208(C)(2) to permit construction of a building on a non-conforming lot. Mr. Ragan seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

CONTINUED APPLICATION OF SEPTA (496-01)

Mr. Ragan recused himself in this matter.

Raymond Parecka, Jr. and John Calnan were sworn in.

Mr. Parecka, as counsel for SEPTA, thanked the board for allowing SEPTA to continue the matter. He explained that SEPTA has been working with Mr. Harwood on looking at all of the bus stops, and trying to explain the reason for SEPTA's need for signage at various locations throughout the township.

Mr. John Calnan stated that as Manager of Route and Service Planning for SEPTA, he tries to make the routes more effective. He stated that Route 130 was started on November 19, 2000. It originates at Franklin Mills Mall and terminates at Bucks County Community College.

In April 2001, SEPTA discontinued Route 301, which originated in Newtown Grant ant Terminated at Bethayres Railroad Station. The stops in Newtown have been added to the 130 Route once in the early morning, and returning in the early evening. As a result, some signs will be removed, and others changed to reflect the new routes. There are also currently 7 stops in the Industrial Park, which SEPTA intends to reduce to 3 stops, based on ridership. SEPTA will be removing signs for the 301 Route along Durham Road and Newtown Crossing. They need to add signs to South Drive. They would like to add signs to existing light standards, and are willing to put up their own standards. They do not want to clutter the already existing street and traffic signs.

Mr. Carver asked if there was still any service in Newtown Crossing.

Mr. Calnan answered that the entire Route 301 had been discontinued. There was no longer a bus route in Newtown Crossing, but the signs had not been removed. They will be removed.

Mr. Leone noted that the original application asked for new signs to be added.

Mr. Parecka said that they are now trying to concentrate on the entire route, and not on individual signs. They are trying to work with Mr. Harwood to come to agreement all of the signs.

Mr. Lionetti said there seem to be a lot of changes over the original application. The Zoning Hearing Board needs something in writing that tells exactly what is being asked for. He asked if the Township was satisfied with what was being asked for.

Mr. Harwood said that the original question about the right of way has been resolved. The original application asked for 8 new signs. The Board had asked that the entire route be re-evaluated for compliance with the Township. Mr. Harwood said that he has a 5 page list of all signs as of May 31, 2001. Mr. Harwood said he felt a condensed list should be prepared to be submitted to the Board. Not all signs need Zoning Hearing Board approval.

Mr. Auchinleck stated that the application for signs in the Right-of-Way be withdrawn. He said that the Zoning Hearing Board did not need to ride the bus route and check every sign if an agreement had been reached between the Township, through Mr. Harwood, and SEPTA.

Mr. Lionetti moved that the mater be continued to November 1, 2001, at which time a condensed list of all signs in 2question will be submitted. Mr. Carver seconded. The motion passed 4-0, with Mr. Ragan abstaining.

CONTINUED APPLICATION OF COMMERCE BANK (508-01)

John Coopman, counsel for the bank, and Carol Forman, manager of the Newtown North branch were sworn in.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone else wished to be a party to the application. There was no response.

Mr. Lionetti asked if there were any changes to the original application.

Mr. Coopman said that the signs had been made smaller, as per agreement with both the Newtown Township Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. He submitted exhibit A-1, designs of the signs for which variances are requested.

Mr. Coopman stated that the first sign, a "C" logo would be on the front of the building, facing into the shopping center. The sign has been reduced to 29.5 square feet. The height variance requested is still 11 feet 2 inches. The height variance is being sought because the sign would not be visible behind lanscaping.

The sign on the drive through windows, sign 2 on exhibit A-1 has not changed.

Ms. Forman explained that the drive through window had three driveways under a canopy. Two lanes had posts with pneumatic tubes, the third uses the window. The "C" logo would be on the outside edge of the canopy, three car widths away from the building. It will be 14 feet high, the height of the canopy. The size of the the sign is less then 20 feet and does not require a variance. This sign faces Applebees.

Mr. Coopman said that the application for the free standing sign had been withdrawn. The third sign would be on the back of the building, facing Durham Road. It is 9 feet high, which does not require a variance. The sign has been custom designed to be 29.75 feet. The entire bank has been custom designed to be brick to match the Newtown Shopping Center. It is not the bank's standard design.

Mr. Ragan asked if the elevation of the bank is below the road grade.

Mr. Coopman said that it sits below the road, but is visible to cars on the road. It does not face Tyler Walk, but there is a house on the other side of Durham Road.

Mr. Ragan asked if there are signs on the tubes in the drive through.

Ms. Forman said that there are not bank signs on the tubes, but there are small signs that change, giving instructions for use of the tubes, bank hours of operation, account information, interest rates. These slip into a protected sleeve next to the tube, and the information changes regularly. They are only visible to the cars in the lanes.

Mr. Coopman submitted exhibit B-2, which shows the entire shopping center, and he pointed out the bank's orientation in the center. The side that faces east, to the bank's parking lot ant them to Blockbuster, will have a sign that does comply with the Zoning requirements. No variances are sought for this sign.

Mr. Ragan asked if the bank has logos on the front doors.

Ms. Forman said that the handles on both the outside doors to the MAC machine, and the inside doors are "C" logos.

Mr. Coopman noted that the signs are not drawn to scale on Exhibit A-1; that sign #3 for the rear of the building is 29.75 square feet and is the only sign with the words "Commerce Bank".

Mr. Lionetti asked if Mr. Harwood had and comments.

Mr. Harwood answered that the amended application was consistent with what the Board of Supervisors had discussed and approved on September 26, 2001.

Mr. Lionetti asked that the bank consider limiting the sign on the rear of the bank, facing Durham Road, to 20 square feet, as the red "C" logo, as it appears on the other Newtown branch is very glaring.

Mr. Coopman stated that, while he is not sure of the exact square footage of the signs on the other Newtown Commerce branch, these are considerably smaller, and that the "C" alone is not 29.75 square feet; it is the "C" and the words "Commerce Bank".

Mr. Leone moved that variances be granted from Section 1106(H)(4)(d)(2); 1106(H)(4)(d)(1); 1106(H)(4)(c)(2)(a); and 1103(c)(4) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to grant relief from the height, size and location of permitted signs to allow two signs of 29.75 and 29.5 square feet where 20 square feet are permitted; to allow signs to be constructed at a height of 11 feet 2 inches and 14 feet 2 inches where the maximum sign height of 9 feet is permitted; and to allow signs to be located within 1000 feet of the by-pass to face the by-pass, the application for a free standing sign having been withdrawn. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

APPLICATION OF NEWTOWN BUCKS ASSOCIATES/CHICK-FIL-A (501-01)

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Newtown Bucks Associates, L.P., owner on behalf of Chick-Fil-A, Inc., lessee, for a variance from section 1103(4) and 1106(H)(4)(d)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit signs which face the Bypass where no signs are permitted to face the Bypass and to permit signs with heights of 16 feet 20 inches (2), 16 feet 3 inches and 14 feet 5 inches where the maximum permitted height is 9 feet. The property is located at 4 West Road, Pad 1 in the Newtown Shopping Center in the PC (Planned Commercial Zoning District, being further identified as Tax Map Parcel 329-3-24.

Mr. Timberlake M. Towns of Newtown Bucks Associates was sworn in.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone wished to be a party to the application. There was no response.

Mr. Towns explained that Chick-Fil-A would occupy Pad 1 of the Newtown Shopping Center, adjacent to Staples, with the front entrance facing the Bypass. This is an amended application. There is an X through one of the signs on the application attachments. Mr. Towns showed a picture of the proposed building, and noted that the "Original Chicken Sandwich" sign had been eliminated, as per the Board of Supervisors request. All signs have been reduced in size to less than 20 square feet, to conform with the Ordinance.

Mr. Towns stated that the applicants were asking for relief on the height of the signs. The two signs on the front of the building are at angles so they face both the Bypass, and Applebees to the east and Staples to the West, and are 16 feet 9 inches. the sign on the rear of the building faces the Acme and is 14 feet 5 inches high. Because of the design of the building the signs look better centered higher.

Mr. Towns stated that the main entrance will be toward Applebees, with the drive through pick-up on the staples side. There will be directional signs around the building which comply with the ordinance.

Mr. Auchinleck marked for Exhibit 1-A, a drawing of the building.

Mr. Towns said that the business is opened until 10:00PM six days a week, closed on Sundays. The signs would not be lit when the business is closed.

Mr. Lionetti asked if Mr. Harwood had any comments.

Mr. Harwood stated that the plan being shown conforms with the plan that the Board of Supervisors had given conditional use approval for on September 26, 2001.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant relief to the application as amended to permit signs within 1000 feet of the Bypass with a height of 16 feet 10 inches (2) a relief of 7 feet 10 inches, and 14 feet 5 inches, a relief of 5 feet 5 inches. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

APPLICATION OF KELLER-WILLIAMS (511-01)

Mr. Lenihan read into the application of Keller Williams Preferred R.E., lessee (William Tanner, owner) requesting a variance from Section 1106(G)(2) and 1106(G)(4)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an additional free standing individual use sign where only one such sign is permitted and that the sign be 24 square feet in size where only 2 square feet is permitted. The property is located at 36 Newtown Richboro Road in the CC (Convenience Commercial) Zoning District, further identified as Tax Map parcel #29-11-47.

Ms. Ruth Brustle of Keller-Williams and Mr. William Tanner, owner, were sworn in.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone wished to be a party to this application. There was no response.

Ms. Brustle stated that Keller-Williams will be tenants in a newly renovated building formerly occupied by Tanners. It sits back from the road and is not visible from the road because of large trees. Mr. Tanner is putting a brick facade on the building, and there will not be any signage on the building itself. The sign that has been designed will be dark read with gold lettering. It is similar in appearance to a sign on Buck Road, opposite Mill Race Inn, for Johnny Appleseed. Ms. Brustle said that Keller-Williams is a very upscale Real Estate Agency and that the sign is very important to the business.

Mr. Leone stated that he has visited the site and that does not think there is a need for additional free standing signs. He would rather see a joint use sign for all the tenants of the property.

Mr. Tanner stated that Creighton's Auto Repair would move their sign so that Keller Williams sign would not be crowded.

Mr. Tanner stated that he would have a tenant on the second floor, above Keller-Williams office.

Mr. Auchinleck stated that there may potentially be 4 tenants in the space over Keller-Williams office.

Ms. Brustle repeated that the building is not visible from the street because of trees, and that the sign is essential to give an upscale appearance to Keller Williams. Her parent organization would not approve a joint use sign shared with an auto repair business. The parent organization feels that they must have a separate sign.

Mr. Lionetti stated that the property had a number of tenants already, with the potential of adding four more, and that the board could not grant every tenant permission for a free standing sign.

Mr. Lione stated that the joint use sign that is permitted is 20 square feet. He sighted the Village at Newtown Medical Building sign as an example. He said that there is no problem with giving a single tenant a larger share of the joint use sign. Perhaps that should be considered.

Mr. Lionetti asked if Mr. Harwood had any comments.

Mr. Harwood said that the Zoning Hearing Board had discussed this issue before with regard to the dance studio tenant.

Mr. Leone said that because the property had approval for one tenant on the lower level and four on the upper, Mr. Tanner needed to present a comprehensive plan for signage for the entire property.

Mr. Ragan stated that if the Zoning Hearing Board granted relief for this very attractive sign, then they would have to grant the same relief to all five tenants.

Mr. Leone said that the board has considered signage on the building itself, as they have done with the center with Meglio's and Manhattan Bagels.

Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the application be continued and that Mr. Tanner and Ms. Brustle come up with a joint use sign.

Mr. Ragan stated that he wanted to make it clear to Mr. Tanner and Ms. Brustle that the Zoning Hearing Board would not permit free standing single use signs at this property. They may consider a larger than permitted joint use sign.

Ms. Brustle again stated that in order to be visible from behind the tree, her business needed the free standing sign and that her business occupied an office building adjoining an auto repair business; they are not tenants of the same building.

Mr. Ragan stated that both the tree and the ordinance were in place when Ms. Brustle contracted for the property.

Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the matter be continued and that Mr. Tanner submit a design for a joint use sign. He may consider giving Keller Williams a larger share of the sign. It is permissible to give them, for example 50 % of the sign, with the other four tenants sharing the other 50%.

Mr. Tanner asked what size would be acceptable.

Mr. Harwood responded that the Board of Supervisors had expressed concern about additional signage.

Mr. Auchinleck advised Mr. Tanner that if he decided to ask for anything different he would need to reply for variances. The new applications submitted by October 12, 2001 would be advertised for the November 1, 2001 meeting.

Mr. Ragan moved to continue the application to November 1, 2001. Mr. Leone seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

ADJOURNMENT

Mr. Lionetti moved to adjourn at 9:50 PM. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Respectfully submitted, 

 

_________________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary