NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2002

7:30 PM


Approval of Minutes of September 5, 2002: Mr. Lenihan noted that page two, paragraph two should read "November 14, 2001".  Mr. Leone moved to accept the minutes of September 5, 2002, as amended. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 3-0. 


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, September 5, 2002 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were Mario Lionetti, Chairman; Thomas Ragan, Vice-Chairman; John Lenihan, Secretary; Michael Leone, and Franklin Carver, Members. Also in attendance were James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor,  Kristie Kaznicki, Zoning Officer and Justine Gregor, Stenographer. 

Call to Order 

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

The Pledge of Allegiance 

The agenda was reviewed. 

Application of Piccolo Trattoria

Application of Scott Levy

Application of Kathleen Lesser

Application of Kim Lawrence

Application of Toni and Michael Cestero

Application of Paul Lebedev

Application of Steven and Lynn Liesner

Application of Maple Leaf Learning Center

Application of Genesis Community Church

Continued Application of WLM Management, Inc. 

Approval of the minutes of August 1, 2002 

Mr. Ragan noted that on page 6, paragraph 7 should read "Mr. Ragan said that he and Mr. Lenihan had visited the site" 

Mr. Ragan moved to accept the minutes as amended. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

Application of Piccolo Tratoria  

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of  Piccolo Tratoria requesting a variance from Section 1003(C)(4), 1104(B)(6) and 1106(H)(4)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a novelty sign to be displayed at the entrance to a restaurant which is a second sign which also faces the Newtown By-Pass. The subject property is  32 West Road in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District. 

Mr. Fami Piccolo was sworn in. 

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

Mr. Piccolo stated that his sign is a large comical statue of a waiter that is outside the door of his restaurant. He put the statue at the door when the restaurant on the day it opened for business, November 14, 2002, He takes the statue in at night. There are no words or signs on the statue. Mr. Piccolo said that his customers like the statue and he thinks that it attracts business. 

Mr. Auchinleck asked Mr. Piccolo if he would agree to a variance that was limited to this statue only. 

Mr. Piccolo said that he would agree to such condition. 

Mr. Ragan said that he is very concerned with the signage at this shopping center. He said that he has noticed sandwich board type signs at some of the businesses and that Appleby's has added signs to their patio umbrellas and to their parking spaces. He expressed concern about setting a precedent in granting this variance. 

Mr. Lenihan said that he thought that the Zoning Hearing Board has put a great deal of time and consideration into keeping the signage limited, and would like to continue to review each sign individually. 

Mr. Lionetti said that the proliferation of  signs on the sidewalks of this shopping center is not a Zoning Hearing Board matter, but a code enforcement matter. He also expressed concern about setting a precedent by granting this variance. He asked if Mr. Piccolo could place the statue inside his restaurant. 

Mr. Piccolo said that there is not room for the statue inside the door of the restaurant. He again said that he would agree to the condition that his variance only be for this statue and that the statue would not display any words at all, including advertising daily specials or holding a menu. 

Mr. Lionetti asked if Ms. Kaznicki had any comment. 

Ms. Kaznicki said that the Board of Supervisors asked that if the Zoning Hearing Board were inclined to grant a variance that it be limited to the statue pictured in the application only. 

Mr. Edward Joseph Twining was sworn in. He said that he has been a resident of the Township for 56 years, and has been a customer of  Piccolo Tratoria. He is familiar with the sign and he finds it tasteful and attractive. He said that he hoped that the Zoning Hearing Board would grant the variance. 

Mr. Carver moved to grant a variance from Section 1103(C)(4), 1104(B)(6) and 1106(H)(4)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance to allow a novelty sign to be displayed at the entrance to a restaurant which is a second sign which also faces the Newtown By-Pass, with the condition that the variance be limited to the statue, without words, depicted in the photograph attached to the variance application. Mr. Ragan seconded and the motion passed 3-2 with Messrs. Leone and Lenihan voting nay. 

Application of Scott Levy 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Scott Levy requesting a variance from the Pheasant Pointe Final Plan and Section 401(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a patio with a 38 foot rear yard setback where a 40 foot rear yard setback is required. The subject property is 8 Alexander Way in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. 

Mr. Scott Levy was sworn in. 

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

Mr. Levy entered as Exhibit A-1 a bound folder of papers, including photographs of his rear yard. 

Mr. Levy said that he has already had his patio built. He explained that he had previously had a contractor install a sprinkler system on his property and that the contractor had applied for a permit. When he contracted for his patio his contractor told him that he would not need a permit. Upon the completion of the patio it was inspected by the Township Codes department. He was then informed that he must pay a fine for building without the required permit. He has paid this fine. He also was told that his patio extended two feet over the setback line. He stated that to comply with the setback line he would have to remove a wall from the patio at a cost of $15,000.00. Mr. Levy said that his Exhibit A-1 included a copy of his contractor's estimate to remove and rebuild the patio and letters from his neighbors in the surrounding properties stating their support of the application. 

Mr. Lenihan said that he and Mr. Ragan had visited the site. He said that this was an error on the part of the contractor and only involved two feet. He said that if the surrounding neighbors had no objection he was inclined to grant a variance. 

Mr. Ragan said that he was reluctant to set precedent granting variances for work that has already been completed. He said that he thought that when an applicant appears after the fact, the ordinance should be upheld. 

Mr. Leone said that he disagreed with Mr. Ragan on this point. He said that the applicant had to pay a substantial fine for applying after the fact. Mr. Leone said that the application should be considered the same as one for work not yet begun, and that his decision should be the same as it would have been if the applicant had applied first. He said that he would not be willing to grant a variance for relief of ten feet, but that he would vote to approve two feet of relief from a 40 foot setback. 

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment. 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from the Pheasant Pointe Final Plan and Section 401(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a patio with a 38 foot rear yard setback where a 40 foot rear yard setback is required. Mr. Carver Seconded. The motion passed unanimously. 

Mr. Ragan said that he did not realize that the applicant was required to pay a large fine, and that he did agree with Mr. Leone that the application should be considered the same as any other application. 

Amended Application of Kathleen Lesser 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the amended application of Kathleen Lesser for variances from Sections 1000(E) and 1001(F)(4) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to allow parking in the front yard and two parking spaces within the Sycamore Street Right of Way. The subject property is 117 South Sycamore Street in the TC (HIS) Town Commercial (Historic Area) District. 

Mr. Ed Murphy represented the applicant in this matter. 

Mr. Murphy said that he had presented testimony at the August 1, 2002 Zoning Hearing Board meeting. The matter was re-advertised and he was awaiting a decision. 

Mr. Auchinleck said that the hearing was now open for public comment. 

There was no public comment. 

Mr. Ragan asked if the issue of handicapped parking had been addressed. 

Mr. Murphy said that there is now one parking space that meets the Newtown Township Ordinance and one space that complies with the ADA requirements. 

Mr. Ragan asked if Mr. Murphy could provide the Board with documentation indicating that the plans were in keeping with the Sycamore Street Committee's plans. 

Mr. Murphy said that there is no such written document but that the matter has been discussed by the Sycamore Street Committee and it meets with their approval. 

Mr. Lionetti moved to approve a variance from Sections 1000(E) and 1001(F)(4) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to allow parking in the front yard and two parking spaces in the Sycamore Street Right of Way. Mr. Ragan seconded. The motion passed 4-0 with Mr. Leone abstaining.

Application of Kim Lawrence 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of  Kim Lawrence requesting a variance from St. Andrew's Woods Final Plan and Section 402(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance to permit 6,246.4 square feet of impervious surface where only 5,108 square feet is permitted. The subject property is 207 St. Andrews Place in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. 

Ms. Kim Lawrence and Mr. George Lawrence were sworn in. 

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

Mr. Lawrence explained that he bought his home in October of 2001, and would like to install a patio, walkway and garden pond. He said that 50% of his property is deed restricted, leaving only 120 square feet of impervious surface for any improvements.  Currently there are no improvements to his yard. His property backs onto a creek, woods and open land. 

Mr. Ragan said that he and Mr. Lenihan had visited the house and noticed that some siding was missing. He asked if there had been a deck or patio at one time. 

Mr. Lawrence said that the house is ten years old and had never had any deck or patio. The house has recently been resided and some siding was left off to accommodate the planned patio. 

Mr. Lenihan said that if the Zoning Hearing Board considered the entire size of the lot this would be an 18% impervious surface. He said that he thought that the deed restriction created a hardship. 

Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that this property is in the CM Conservation Management district and that 18% impervious surface ratio is typical in such zoning. He said that the Board is dealing with square footage because the impervious surface ratio has been calculated for the entire development. 

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment in this matter. 

Mr. Leone moved to grant a variance from St. Andrews Woods Final Plan and from Section 401(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit 6,246.4 square feet of impervious surface where only 5,108 square feet is permitted. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

Application of Toni and Michael Cestero 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Toni and Michael Cestero requesting a variance from Section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of an addition to a non-conforming lot. The subject property is 128 Stoopville Road in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District. 

Mr. Michael Cestero and Ms. Toni Cestero were sworn in.

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

Mr. Cestero explained to the Board that he wished to add an 8X10 foot, two story addition which will square off his home. He would like to add a bed and bath for his mother-in-law. He said that he would not need any variances for setbacks as the addition will be in line with his existing home.

Mr. Lenihan said that he and Mr. Ragan had visited the site. He said that a variance is needed only because this is a non-conforming lot. The setbacks will be the same and there is no impervious surface issue. 

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment in this matter. 

Mr. Ragan moved to grant a variance from Section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of an addition to a non-conforming lot. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Paul Lebedev 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Paul Lebedev requesting a variance from the Newtown Grant Final Plan and Section 405(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a 16 foot by 16 foot living room addition with a 10 foot rear yard setback where 25 feet is required. The subject property is 84 Cypress Place in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District.

Mr. Paul Lebedev and Ms. Lolita Lebedev were sworn in. 

Mr. Lebedev explained that he wished to add a living room to his townhome. He and his wife currently live with their six year old child and Ms. Lebedev's mother. Mr. Lebedev's 15 year old daughter has moved into the home, and as a high school student would like her own bedroom. He plans to use an existing ground floor room as a bedroom and add a living room off of the kitchen. 

Mr. Lionetti asked if  the room could be made smaller. 

Mr. Lebedev agreed that he would build a smaller room if necessary.

Mr. Ragan said that he and Mr. Lenihan had visited the site. He asked if the new room would take up the area of the existing patio.

Mr. Lebedev said that the patio and landscaping are a little larger than the proposed room, but would be in place of the patio. 

Mr. Ragan noted that the addition to this end unit townhome would be eight feet from the nearest neighbor's property line, but that the other side of the addition would face open space. The addition would be about 250 feet from nearest neighbor to the rear and 80 feet from the next townhouse unit. The open space belongs to the Newtown Grant Homeowners Association. 

Mr. Leone said that while the relief sought is considerable, there is open space behind. 

Mr. Ragan said that he is concerned that there will be overbuilding in this townhouse development if all of the surrounding neighbors want additions. 

Mr. Lebedev said that his neighbors have been notified and do not object to the addition. He noted that throughout the development other similar  additions have been built. He said that he would construct the addition to appear the same as the existing building. It will look like part of the original structure. Mr. Lebedev said that he has gotten approval of the Newtown Grant Homeowners Association. 

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment on this matter. 

Ms. Karen D'Aprile was sworn in. Ms. D'Aprile said that she resides at 118 Broadleaf Place and is the Lebedevs' nearest neighbor. Her home faces the addition. Ms. D'Aprile said that the Lebedevs maintain their property well and she is confident the addition will blend into the community. She said that this will be the third such addition to this townhome cluster, and that no neighbors have any objection to the additions. 

Mr. Lionetti said that he is very concerned about the size of the relief requested. He would like to see the addition made 12 feet by 16 feet, requiring 11 feet of relief rather than fifteen feet. 

Mr. Lebedev said that he would agree to a 12 foot by 16 foot room. 

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance form the Newtown Grant Final Plan and  from Section 405(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 12 foot by 16 foot living room addition with a 14 foot rear yard setback where 25 feet is required. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 3-2 with Messrs. Leone and Ragan voting nay. 

Application of  Steven and Lynn Liesner 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Steven and Lynn  Liesner requesting a variance from Section 404(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a driveway extension which would result in a 14.96% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted impervious surface ratio is 12%. The subject property is 172 Durham Road in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District. 

Mr. Steven Liesner, Mr. Frank Delia and Mr. Steven Berurdi were sworn in. 

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

Mr. Delia said that he and Mr. Berurdi are from Prime Building Group. They built Mr. Liesner's home. Mr. Delia explained that he had built the home and when Mr. Liesner visited the home site he felt that the driveway would not be large enough to accommodate his family's needs. He said that Mr. Liesner wanted a driveway that would allow for cars to park and to turn around so they would not have to back onto Durham Road. The driveway was expanded and after construction the codes officer discovered that the impervious surface was 2.96% over that allowed. 

Mr. Liesner said that he has three teenage children and all would be driving soon. He was concerned that there be parking on his property for his family and for visitors as there is no parking available along Durham Road.. His driveway has an easement to the property behind his and must remain clear for that homeowner.  

Mr. Delia said that three homes were constructed at the same time and that the combined impervious surface is 4,400 square feet below the limit. 

Mr. Ragan said that he and Mr. Lenihan had visited the site and that he felt that the driveway paving is very extensive. He said that the property is already over the impervious surface ratio and that there are no improvements such as a pool, porch or  patio  in the backyard. He said that he does not like to see applicants appearing before the Zoning Hearing Board for work that has already been completed. 

Mr. Lionetti said that he thought the driveway was very large. He said that the driveway is over the impervious surface ratio by 1,230 feet. He said that this seems excessive. 

Mr. Liesner again said that he is concerned for the safety of his family and visitors to his property. There is no off street parking available and that he thinks that cars must be able to turn around and drive onto Durham Road rather than back out. 

Mr. Leone said that he thinks that an increase in impervious surface ratio from 12% to 15% is not excessive and that he would be inclined to grant relief. He said that he would also be inclined to deny any additional relief if the applicant came back for other improvements to his property.

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment on this matter. 

Mr. Leone moved to grant a variance from Section 404(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a driveway extension which would result in a 14.96% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted impervious surface ratio is 12%. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 3-2 with Messrs. Ragan and Lionetti voting nay. 

Application of Maple Leaf Learning Center 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Maple Leaf Learning Center, Rev. Harry Pearson, Newtown Assembly of God, owners, requesting a variance from Section 803(C-10)(4)(d) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a daycare center on a 3.44 acre lot where a minimum 5 acre lot is required. The subject property is  530 Washington Crossing Road in the CM Conservation Management District. 

Mr. Ed Murphy represented the applicants in this matter. 

Ms. Patricia Beato, Director of Maple Leaf Learning Center and Ms. Shelly Kolder, Assistant Director, were sworn in. 

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

Mr. Murphy explained that Maple Leaf is a non-profit, United Way sponsored, day care center. They have operated for twenty years at the George School, and more recently at the Newtown Borough Friends Meeting house. When Friends Meeting needed the space, Maple Leaf contracted to rent classroom and playground space from Newtown Assembly of God Church.  

Mr. Murphy presented a site plan of the Church, marked as Exhibit A-1, not received into evidence and Exhibit A-2 through 7, photographs of the playground area. 

Mr. Murphy explained that the daycare center had received conditional use approval from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors on the condition that this variance be granted. The daycare is currently operating at the Assembly of God. They occupy 1420 square feet in seven classrooms. Hours of operation are from 7:00AM to 6:00PM, Monday through Friday, with arrivals and departures at staggered intervals. They are licensed for a maximum of 41 children and 25 employees. The children do not all attend at the same time, as some only attend morning or afternoon nursery school, or for before or after school programs. They are licensed  by both the Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Education.  

Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that the Zoning requirement for 5 acres is a blanket requirement, regardless of the size of the center or the enrollment. 

Mr. Ragan asked if the daycare activities would conflict with Church activities. 

Mr. Murphy said that the daycare is closed on Sunday and that the Church holds evening prayer services at 7:00PM. He said that the daycare center would not conflict with Church activities, nor is it affiliated with the Church. 

Mr. Leone asked if there have been any problems with the sight lines exiting the school onto Washington Crossing Road during rush hour. He said that he thought there might be problems with traffic. 

Ms. Beato said that traffic had not been a problem. 

Mr. Ragan said that he and Mr. Lenihan had visited the site and he thought it was a good use for the building. 

Ms. Kaznicki had no comment on this matter. 

Ms. Beato confirmed that the testimony given by Mr. Murphy was accurate. 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 803(C-10)(4)(d) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a daycare center on a 3.44 acre lot where a minimum 5 acre lot is required. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

Application of Genesis Community Church 

Mr. Lenihan read into the record the application of Genesis Community Church requesting a variance from Section 702(A)(2)(3)(4) and 803(C-1)(1) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a place of Worship in the LI zoning district without access to a collector or arterial highway. The subject property is 54 Walker Lane in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District. 

Mr. Keith Brown represented the applicant in this matter. 

Pastor Donald M. Schuler was sworn in. 

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

Mr. Brown explained the Genesis Community Church has been at the location and had been granted a temporary variance for three years in 1999. The layout of the property is the same as it had been. The surrounding neighbors are a mail-order house, Third Federal Bank, a precision drilling firm and Freihofers Wholesale Bakery.  There is frequent turnover in the surrounding businesses, and there have been no complaints about the Church, nor have there been any objections to this application from the neighbors. 
Mr. Brown said that the Church congregation had twenty five members with services and Sunday School from about 8:00AM to about 11:30 AM Sunday mornings, an evening service Wednesday and Thursday, Tuesday evening Bible study, and a noontime service Monday through Friday. 

Reverend Schuler said that he conducts prayer services at St. Mary's Hospital and does some counseling there. He sometimes conducts biblical counseling at the church . His noontime services, attended by people who work in the industrial commons, have an attendance of 10-15 people, who walk to the services. His Sunday attendance is about 25 people, with occasionally up to 60 people. The parking lot can accommodate up to 400 people. He said that he has spent about $60,000.00 on rehabilitating the space, which had been an auto parts warehouse, $10,000.00 for painting the space alone. 

Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that the original variance had been granted as a temporary variance with the understanding that as the congregation became more established they would look for a more appropriate location. He further advised the Board that a permanent variance would remain with the property should this church move out and another church wish to move in. He said that the ordinance had been designed to keep this area Light Industrial and it does not permit church use. 

Mr. Ragan said that he was inclined to grant another temporary variance for this church. 

Mr. Auchinleck said that Mr. Brown could appeal a temporary variance if he did not agree with the Board's decision. 

Mr. Brown said that the Church would agree to a temporary variance, as would the property owner, for whom he is authorized to speak, however three years would be a hardship as the application fee is high. He said that the Board had granted a similar variance without a time limit for a Church at the August meeting. 

Mr. Leone stated that the variance granted at the last meeting was for a Church in the CC- Convenience Commercial district, where churches are permitted uses. 

Mr. Carver said that he believed that the Church could request that the Board of Supervisors waive the fee for this application and for an application at the end of the time limit if a limited variance were granted. 

Mr. Lenihan said that he would like to put a time limit of six years on the variance, which would allow the Church to grow and move to a more suitable location. 

Mr. Brown said that they would agree to a six year limit. 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 702(A)(2)(3)(4) and Section 803(C-1)(1) to allow a place of worship in the LI District without access to a collector or arterial highway with the conditions that the use be temporary and limited to a period of six years; that congregational use be limited to all day Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and noontime Monday through Friday; and that the applicant provide 160 parking spaces during congregational use which spaces may be provided by consent to use spaces  allocated to other occupants of Walker Lane Condominium. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 4-1 with Mr. Leone voting nay. 

Continued Application of WLM Management 

Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that the WLM Management application had been withdrawn. 

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 10:35. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

Respectfully Submitted 

 

________________________
Mary  Donaldson, Recording Secretary