NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2002

7:30 PM


Approval of the Minutes of February 7, 2002 Mr. Ragan moved to accept the minutes of February 7, 2002. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, February 7, 2002 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Mario Lionetti, Chairman; Thomas Ragan, Vice-Chairman; John Lenihan, Secretary; and Franklin Carver, Member. Also in attendance were James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Ann Pratt, Stenographer.

CALL TO ORDER

Mr. Lionetti called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.

THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

THE AGENDA WAS REVIEWED:

Approval of the Minutes of January 3, 2002

Continued Application of Keller-Williams Preferred R.E.

Application of Michele White

Application of Douglas and Kathleen Campbell

Application of Harry R. Stevens

Application of Autumn Leaf Development, Inc.

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF JANUARY 3, 2002.

Mr. Ragan moved to accept the minutes of January 3, 2002. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

CONTINUED APPLICATION OF KELLER WILLIAMS PREFERRED REAL ESTATE

Mr. John VanLuvanee appeared for Keller Williams.

Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone present wished to be a party to this application.

Mr. John Wuerstle, of Harris & Harris, representing Newtown Township Board of Supervisors appeared in opposition to the application.

Mr. VanLuvanee stated that in this continued matter he wished to submit an amended application for a variance from section 1106(G)(4)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983. He explained that there was a mistake on the original application and that the height of the sign is actually 10 feet. The application will have to be re-advertised.

Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the Zoning Hearing Board take the testimony of Mr. VanLuvanee's expert witnesses today and that the matter would be re-advertised for the March 7, 2002 meeting, at which time a decision would be rendered.

Mr. Wuerstle agreed to this.

Mr. Richard B. Crawford was sworn in. Mr. Crawford stated that he is an expert on sign visibility. He is owner of Mercer Sign Consultants, Doylestown, PA; President of Mercer Sign Leasing, Inc., Doylestown, PA; and Senior Project Manager of Bartush Signs, Orwigsburg, PA. A graduate of Rutgers Law School, he is admitted to the Pennsylvania State Bar. He is the current President of the United States Sign Council and the United States Sign Council Foundation. He has given expert testimony on sign visibility about 75 times.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered Mr. Crawford's resume as exhibit A-1.

Mr. Weurstle asked what sign visibility means.

Mr. Crawford said that it is determining the sign size for legibility for a motorist to read while traveling at a certain speed.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as exhibit A-2, the Plan of Survey of Tax Map Parcel 29-11-47, dated 4-11-01, and Exhibit A-2-a, a plan prepared by Mr. Crawford showing locations of signs, giving an enlarged view showing the curb line. The plan shows the existing sign as 14 feet back from the curb, and the proposed sign similarly set back, at the same location as the current Creighton's Auto Repair/Vince's Auto Service sign. Mr. Crawford prepared the plan after visiting the site and traveling past the site at the posted 35 MPH speed limit.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as exhibit A-3, a photograph of the existing Creighton's/Vince's sign, and Exhibit A-4, one sheet containing photographs of other signs along the same block of Richboro Road. The measurements of these signs are shown beneath each photograph..

Mr. Harwood confirmed that this is a C-C Commercial District and that the existing code limits signs to 20 square feet for a free standing sign, with a height of 4 feet.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-5, a letter, signed by Mr. William Tanner, the owner of the property stating that he approves of the requested Keller Williams sign.

Mr. Crawford stated that the building will contain 6 tenants: Keller Williams, Creighton's, Vince's and three future tenants. Mr. Tanner agreed to the proposed sign which allows for the three current tenants and space for three future tenants.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-6, the Company Identity Standards of Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate. The standards set a uniform appearance for the parent organization's logo.

Mr. Crawford stated that the main requirement of the Company Identity Standards is sign legibility.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-7, Sign Legibility Overview and Calculation Methodology Sign Legibility Index prepared by the United States Sign Council.

Mr. Crawford explained that the chart within the publication explains the formula used to calculate sign legibility taking into account the "viewer reaction time". The standard viewer reaction time is 10 seconds, with 5.5 seconds as a minimum viewer reaction time. This is the time a viewer needs to read and react to a sign. The viewer reaction time is multiplied by the distance traveled per second. A chart in the pamphlet shows that the feet traveled per second when traveling at a speed of 35 miles per hour is 51 feet. Using these numbers it is determined that the sign must be legible from a distance of 280 feet. Using these numbers Mr. Crawford calculated that the Keller Williams sign, in order to be visible and legible to motorists traveling at 35 MPH, should contain 10 inch lettering. This calculation takes into account the Legibility Index in the publication, which considers the color and style of print used. The Keller Williams logo uses a Clarendon font.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-8, a sign designed by Mercer Sign Consultants showing the proposed sign, and for comparison, a sign designed to the existing code, and Exhibit A-9, a photograph showing a computer generated image of the proposed sign as seen from a distance of 270 feet, as per the Legibility Index.

Mr. Crawford explained that the distance he chose to use takes into account the road grading. Using the various indices he presented a sign should be visible from 510 feet, however, the curve of the road prevents visibility.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-10, a photograph showing a computer generated image of a sign that meets the code, as seen from a distance of 270 feet.

Mr. Crawford explained that the sign prepared as per the existing code would contain letters 3.5 inches high, and would only allow a viewer reaction time of 1.78 seconds. A motorist traveling 35 MPH would have to turn his head to read this sign.

Mr. Crawford confirmed that the original advertised application asked for a variance for a 72 square foot sign, 9 feet high, but that the sign as designed in Exhibit 8 is actually 62.95 square feet in area and stands 10 feet high.

Mr. Weurstle asked Mr. Crawford what kind of organization the United States Sign Council is.

Mr. Crawford said that they are a trade organization within the sign industry.

Mr. Weurstle asked if the red on the Keller Williams proposed sign affected its legibility.

Mr. Crawford stated that the contrast of the red with white does make it more visible.

Mr. Weurstle asked if Mr. Crawford had ascertained the status of the existing signs in Exhibit A-4.

Mr. Crawford said that he had not.

Mr. Wuerstle inquired what the size of the sign would be if the slots for future tenants were eliminated.

Mr. Crawford stated that it was his understanding that the code requires a provision for the future tenants.

Mr. Weurstle asked if Mr. Crawford had considered the distance from traffic lights and intersections to determine if drivers will have attained a speed of 35 MPH as they approach the sign.

Mr. Crawford said that he had not.

Mr. Weurstle questioned Mr. Crawford as to the exact requirements of the Keller Williams Standards.

Mr. Crawford said that the standards require a 9 inch exterior letter on the logo and that all signs must be approved by a regional manager. The telephone number, which adds 6 to7 inches to the height of the sign, is not a requirement.

Mr. Ragan asked the size of the Keller Williams temporary sign that is in place on Richboro Road.

Mrs. Ruth Breustle was sworn in.

Mrs. Breustle stated that the temporary sign, which had been approved by the Board of Supervisors, is 15 square feet.

Mr. Lenihan asked if there had been any traffic accidents along the road caused by the smaller sign.

Mr. Crawford said that he had not investigated that.

Mr. Auchinleck asked Mr. Crawford if he had calculated the legibility of the signs in Exhibit A-4.

Mr. Crawford stated that he had not done such calculations, nor had he measured the size of the lettering on these signs, or the size of any of the properties where the signs appear.

Mr. Auchinleck noted that in Exhibit A-8, it appeared that the words "Keller Williams" are the only ones that comply with the index for legibility.

Dr. Martin Pietrucha was sworn in.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that he is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Penn State University.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-11 Dr. Pietrucha's resume.

Mr. Weurstle stipulated to Dr. Pietrucha's qualifications.

Dr. Pietrucha explained that he conducts research into the human factors of highway safety; how people process information as they navigate through the environment. He has written and published on sign visibility and legibility for the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. He had been approached by the United States Sign Council to apply the results of his research to commercial signage.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that the Legibility Index is a concept in highway guide signage used to determine letter height for motorists traveling at a certain speed.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-12 Sign Visibility Research and Traffic Safety Overview, prepared by the United States Sign Council.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that there are differences between highway and commercial signs, such as color and font. The Sign Council asked him to conduct a study on color, font and types of illumination. Fabricated signs were placed on a 1 mile test track. Drivers were to press buttons when they were able to read target words. As a result of the study, Dr. Pietrucha developed the series of indices that are the basis of the charts in Exhibit A-7.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered as Exhibit A-13 Sign Legibility - The impact of Color and Illumination prepared by the United States Sign Council, which is the published result of Dr. Pietrucha's test study.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that visibility of signage is imperative to traffic safety; that if signs are not visible, motorists may miss their destination, causing erratic driving patterns.

Mr. Weurstle asked if, using the index, standard street signs meet the visibility standard.

Dr. Pietrucha said that they do not.

Mr. Weurstle asked if Stop signs meet the standard.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that the shape and color make Stop signs, and other road signs, visible. Motorists have memorized these symbols; they are not reading them.

Mr. Weurstle asked if, as stated in exhibit A-12, page 15, section 4, a sign height limit of 5 feet is reasonable.

Dr. Pietrucha said that this refers to the mounting height, for example Stop signs are mounted 5 feet above the ground in rural areas, but in urban areas 7 feet is the standard so that pedestrians do not walk into them.

Mr. Weurstle asked what "setback in feet" referred to on page 41 of the same exhibit, means.

Dr. Pietrucha said that this refers to the maximum distance to be within the "20 visual cone", so that the closer a sign is moved to the roadway, the longer it stays in this cone of vision.

Mr. Weurstle asked if it was Mr. Pietrucha's testimony that a sign not compliant with the legibility index is a danger from a traffic safety standpoint.

Dr. Pietrucha answered that this would depend on whether a motorist is looking for a sign, or if it is a superfluous sign.

Mr. Weurstle asked if a sign with more lettering, more information, or a sign with only a few words, such as "Motel 6" would be better, from a safety standpoint.

Dr. Pietrucha stated that, as with the Stop sign, the "Motel 6" is a recognized logo, not words that are read.

Mr. Weurstle asked then whether, generally speaking, fewer words on a sign would be better.

Dr. Pietrucha said yes.

Mr. Auchinleck asked Dr. Pietrucha to calculate the legibility of the proposed Keller Williams sign.

Dr. Pietrucha figured that, using a 5.5 second reaction time and a speed of 35 MPH, white letters on a dark background, using Clarendon font, the letters should be 10.7 inches for legibility. Dr. Pietrucha explained that the 5.5 second reaction time is the minimum that he uses. The 10 second reaction time mentioned earlier is not a minimum based on his research.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if the table on page 41 of Exhibit 12, setback in feet, is the result of his calculations.

Dr. Pietrucha said that this is sign placement criteria.

Mr. Auchinleck asked if sign placement affected visibility.

Dr. Pietrucha said that this had not been directly tested.

Mr. Lionetti asked if, on page 42 of Exhibit 12, the tests worked under the assumption that the observer is alert and actively looking for the sign.

Dr. Pietrucha said that, during the test studies, the participants were alert and were not distracted. They were concentrating on looking for the signs.

Mrs. Breustle resumed her testimony, stating that she leases space from William Tanner for a real estate office, a franchise of Keller Williams. There are 50 employees, not all on the premises at the same time. She said that the building is 100 feet back from the road.

Mrs. Breustle stated that she had been in the real estate business for 22 years. At Keller Williams, many of her clients are from outside the Newtown area, and are unfamiliar with her location. She said that the legibility of the sign is essential to her business, because she is set back from the street, and building signage is not visible. Illumination is also important because her business is open until 8:00 PM in the evening.

Mr. Weurstle stated that as a real estate professional she should be familiar with zoning laws. He asked if Mrs. Breustle was aware, when she chose the property, of Newtown's zoning requirements regarding signage.

Mrs. Breustle said that her experience has been primarily in residential real estate and she was not aware of the zoning requirements.

Mr. Weurstle said that Mrs. Breustle's application for a variance stated that the hardship created by the ordinance is because the building is set back from the street.

Mrs. Breustle said that the restrictions are a hardship because Keller Williams is new to the area. She is having trouble identifying her location both to people familiar with Newtown and to people from out of town. In trying to recruit new agents to her franchise, she relies on the sign to draw attention to her presence in the community.

Mr. Weurstle asked if her customers come to the business in response to advertisements and flyers.

Mrs. Breustle stated that her clients come to the office in response to flyers, advertisements, the internet, telephone calls, and sometimes just driving in the area and wanting to inquire about housing. Since she has been in this location, five customers have been unable to find her location. One of these customers could not find her after the installation of the temporary sign, which is not lit in the evening.

Mr. Weurstle asked if the lost customers eventually located Mrs. Breustle's office.

Mrs. Breustle responded that all but one eventually found her.

Mrs. Breustle stated that the sign depicted in Exhibit A-10 would not properly identify her business to prospective customers or agents.

Mr. Ragan commented that the 15 square foot temporary sign seems adequate, and that, since the other tenants are willing to take less space, he thought that using a sign similar in size to the temporary sign would not be a problem. He noted that the literature on sign standards provided by Keller Williams required 9 inch letters. He asked what provision Keller Williams had made for dealing with the zoning requirements of the different municipalities.

Mrs. Breustle said that she did not know what they would do in each situation, only that any sign she did place must be approved by a regional manager. She again stated that the sign must be visible not only to customers looking for her location but for drive-by customers. The sign would serve the two-fold purpose of identification and advertisement.

Mr. Michael Iappalucci was sworn in. Mr. Iappolucci stated that he is a resident of Newtown and had attended the Board of Supervisors meeting in November, at which time it was explained that the other tenants of the building did not need a large sign because their businesses dealt with local, repeat customers. He felt that the Keller Williams sign is a eyesore, and that by including the additional lines for the logo, the name, and the telephone number, it became more an advertisement.

Mr. John Payne was sworn in. Mr. Payne stated that he is a resident of Newtown, and currently working toward obtaining his Real Estate License. He was in the process of interviewing real estate offices in the area, and had tried to locate the Keller Williams office. Although he drove back and forth on Richboro Road he passed by a number of times. The Newtown Depot sign drew his attention away from this building and he did not find the location. He knows of another student in his Real Estate class who had a similar problem.

Mr. Lionetti moved to leave the record open and to advertise the corrected application. He moved to continue the matter to March 7, 2002. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

APPLICATION OF MICHELE WHITE

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Michele White requesting a Special Exception under Section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an addition on a non-conforming lot maintaining existing setbacks. The subject parcel is located at 399 Eagle Road in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District.

Ms. Michele White was sworn in.

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

Ms. White explained that she intended to put an extension on her house. She said that Christopher Tallis Homestead Remodelers, on the original application, were no longer involved in the project.

Ms. White intends to put a 16.5X18 foot, two story extension on the rear of her house. The extension will go back and toward her driveway and does not affect her side yard setbacks.

Mr. Auchinleck explained that all construction in the Conservation Management District requires an exception, even though this property is 2 1/2 acres.

Mr. Lenihan stated that he and Mr. Ragan had done a site inspection of the property. They noted that a portion of the original structure had been removed. Mr. Lenihan felt that the proposed addition would not cause any problems.

Mr. Kevin DeFina was sworn in. Mr. DeFina said that he lives next to Ms. White and had no objection to the project. He hoped an exception would be granted and that she could proceed with her project.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a special exception to Section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Ordinance of 1983 to permit an addition on a non-conforming lot. Mr. Ragan seconded and the motion passed 4-0

APPLICATION OF DOUGLAS AND KATHLEEN CAMPBELL

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Douglas and Kathleen Campbell requesting a Special Exception under Section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an attached garage addition on a non-conforming lot; and a variance from section 405(B) 1983 to permit an attached garage addition which will result in a 10 ft. side yard setback and a 28 feet, 11 inches aggregate side yard instead of the required 30 yard side yard and 70 feet aggregate side yard. The Subject parcel is located at 51 Richboro Road in the R-2 Residential Zoning District.

Douglas and Kathleen Campbell were sworn in.

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

Mr. Campbell stated that they have lived at 51 Richboro Road for 16 years, and that they would like to expand their house by adding a garage. They have consulted their neighbors, and nobody has an objection. They will be removing a portion of the driveway, and as a result, some impervious surface will become pervious.

Mr. Harwood had no comment.

Mr. Ragan noted that there was also a second story planned, but that it is not mentioned in the application.

Mr. Campbell said that he thought that he did not need any variances to expand up; that he was not changing the original footprint of the building to add the second story. Mr. Campbell said that he had checked with Mr. Harwood on this.

Mr. Harwood said that he did not believe that an advertisement for the second story was necessary because it did not change the footprint.

Mr. Auchinleck stated that the advertisement that had already appeared did not mention a second story on a house on a non-conforming lot.

Mr. Ragan recommended that the Campbells amend their application to include the second story on the non-conforming lot.

Mr. Ragan moved to continue the matter to March 7, 2002. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

APPLICATION OF HARRY R. STEVENS

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Harry R. Stevens requesting a variance from the Final Plan of Newtown Grant to permit construction of a deck addition which will result in a 23 feet front yard setback (Honey Locust Lane) instead of the required 30 feet and a 46 feet front yard setback (North Drive) instead of the required 50 feet. The property is a townhouse located at 1 Quince Circle in Newtown Grant in the R-2 (Residential) Zoning District.

Mr. Harry R. Stevens was sworn in.

Mr. Stevens explained that he wished to add a deck to the rear of his house to add a little privacy, but that because his is an end unit, he would need a variance.

Mr. Lenihan stated that he and Mr. Ragan had made a site inspection of the property. All of Mr. Stevens' neighbors have decks. He did not see any problem. He asked if Mr. Stevens intended to put up a fence.

Mr. Stevens said that he did not.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from the Final Plan of Newtown Grant to allow a 23 feet front yard setback instead of the required 30 feet, and a 46 feet front yard setback instead of the required 50 feet. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

APPLICATION OF AUTUMN LEAF DEVELOPMENT, INC.

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Autumn Leaf Development, Inc., equitable owner Eric M . and Ivy S. Lyons, owners requesting a Special Exception under Section 903(B)(1) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit sanitary sewer crossing of the 100 year flood plain and variances from sections 1001(B)(3); 1002(I); and 903(b)(2) to permit construction of a 2- story, 25,750 square foot office building with 14,250 square feet of related parking which will result in 10 feet wide by 18 feet deep parking stalls instead of the required 10 feet by 20 feet; a delivery and drop off zone instead of 2 required loading berths and a sanitary sewer crossing of the 100-year flood plain. The subject parcel is located at 398 Durham Road in the PS-2 Professional Service Zoning District.

Francis X. Dillon is representing Autumn Leaf Development in this matter.

Ms. Mary Ellen Saylor, a Civil Engineer with Pickering, Corts and Sommerson was sworn in.

Mr. Dillon stated that Autumn Leaf plans to build a 25,750 square foot 2 story office building with 14,250 square feet of parking. The building will be professional offices and medical offices. The plans have been reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission.

Ms. Saylor explained that the developer wished to extend the sanitary sewer on the Newtown Creek to the property. It is about 1500 feet from the property to the Newtown Sewer Authority connection at the rear of the property. This plan has been approved by both the Planning Commission and Bucks County. Ms. Saylor said that the wetlands would be disturbed in the flood plain at the Newtown Creek. The area of disturbance would be .13 acres. This would be 100 feet from the parking lot.

The developer is also requesting a variance to eliminate the loading berths and instead use a delivery drop-off zone. Ms. Saylor said that these would be professional and medical offices and deliveries would be of a mail and Federal Express variety.

The developer is also asking for a reduction in the size of the spaces for the remote parking area. There will be a road interconnecting this property with the adjoining property to reduce traffic on Route 413. The road will connect with the property to the north right away, and eventually with the property to the south, which at this time is undeveloped. The property to the north will have a right turn only exit, this property will have a left turn also, and there is a traffic light proposed for this driveway, which will be opposite Municipal Drive. Ms. Saylor explained that the developer had originally planned a different parking configuration for the property, but when they were asked to provide an access road they thought they would ask to reduce the size of some of the parking spaces rather than increase the impervious surface. The Planning Commission recommended that a condition of this variance be that signs be placed at the smaller spots saying Employee Sedan Parking Only.

Mr. Lionetti asked how large a parcel this is.

Ms. Saylor responded that it is 10.5 acres.

Mr. Lionetti asked if Ms. Saylor knew what the total number of people at the property would be.

Ms. Saylor said that they did not know who the tenants would be at this time, and did not know how many people would be employed or visiting the building.

Mr. Carver moved to grant a Special Exception under Section 903(B)(1) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit sanitary sewer crossing of the 100 year flood plain and variances from sections 1001(B)(3); 1002(1); and 903(b)(2) to permit construction of a 2- story, 25,750 office building with 14,250 square feet of related parking which will result in 10 feet wide by 18 feet deep parking stalls instead of the required 10 feet by 20 feet; a delivery and drop-off zone instead of 2 required loading berths and a sanitary sewer crossing of the 100 year flood plain, with the condition that the 23 substandard parking spaces be designated by a sign as Employee Parking of Sedans Only. Mr. Ragan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

ADJOURNMENT

Mr. Lionetti moved to adjourn at 11:30 PM. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

 

Respectfully Submitted

 

_______________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary