NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD
MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE
NEWTOWN, PA 18940
THURSDAY, JANUARY 16, 2003
Approval of the Minutes of January 16, 2003: Mr. Lionetti noted that on page two, paragraph four should read "no children's classes", and "refreshments might be served". Mr. Ragan moved to accept the minutes of January 16, 2003, as amended. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, January 16, 2003. In attendance and voting were Mario Lionetti, Chairman; Thomas Ragan, Vice Chairman; John Lenihan, Secretary; Franklin Carver and Gail Laughlin, members. Also in attendance were James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Connie D'Argenio, Stenographer.
Call to Order
Mr. Lionetti called the meeting to order at 7:30PM.
The Pledge of Allegiance
The Agenda was reviewed.
Approval of the Minutes
Continued Application of Banai Jacobs-Anshe Emes
Continued Application of Frederick Marshall
Approval of the Minutes of January 2, 2003
Mr. Lionetti noted that on page two, second paragraph, the word "matter" should be changed to "application".
Mr. Ragan moved to accept the minutes of January 2, 2003, as amended. Mr. Carver seconded, and the motion passed 4-0, with Mrs. Laughlin abstaining.
Continued Application of Banai Jacobs – Anshe Emes
Mr. Auchinleck explained that the hearing for this application had been opened at the January 2, 2003 meeting. The application had been read into the record at that time, but the hearing had been continued because of a need to re-advertise due to a mistake in the original advertisement.
Mr. Eric Tobin of Eastburn and Grey represented the applicant.
Mr. Tobin entered as Exhibit A-1 the Application, Exhibit A-2, the plan, and Exhibit A-3, the agreement of sale.
Mr. Tobin said that his clients wished a use variance for a place of worship in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District, and to have access from a local street, and a reduction in the number of required parking spaces. He said that the variances sought were for five years.
Rabbi Isaac Leizerowski was sworn in.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that he is employed by the congregations of Banai Jacobs and Anshe Emes. He explained that Banai Jacobs in located in Northeast Philadelphia and Anshe Emes is located in Trenton.. Each congregation has gotten smaller as the members have aged. Many have moved from the cities to the suburbs. Some members have adult children living in Bucks County. The two congregations would like to merge and re-locate to Newtown, an easy drive from Trenton and Northeast Philadelphia for the congregants still living in the cities, and a good location for the suburban members.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that Banai Jacobs Congregation was founded in 1911 and has 50 members. Anshe Emes has been in Trenton for 106 years and currently has 28 members. Each congregation conducts similar programs. They hold prayer services on Friday evenings and Saturdays. There are services for the Holidays in Spring and Fall, adult Bible study classes in the morning and a few evening classes.
If the congregation is permitted a variance for this location, Rabbi Leizerowski said that the congregations hope to grow. He would like to offer religious education classes for children of members on Monday through Thursday evenings between 5 and 8 PM, and possibly on Sunday mornings. There are not children's classes now. His adult Talmud study classes are currently held on weekday mornings from 7:45 to 8:45 AM. These classes are attended by about eight to twelve men before they go to work. There may be a few social gatherings two or three times a year, following Holiday services, during which light refreshments may be served.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that he did not think that the congregation would disturb any neighbors, as services are held at times when the surrounding businesses are closed. He said that when he begins holding children's classes, cars would be dropping off and picking up children, not parking and staying.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that it is his hope that his combined congregation would grow and would raise money for a more suitable location to build a Synagogue. This location is a temporary solution only. He said that he is aware of another place of worship that has been granted a temporary variance in the Industrial Commons.
Mr. Carver asked how many children would be attending the classes.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that there may be 30 children, but they would not be attending at the same time. He would not be holding classes continuously from 5 to 8 every evening, but would be scheduling some classes during those times at the convenience of the members.
Mrs. Laughlin asked if the trailers at the rear of the property are to be removed.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that the trailers would be removed at the time of sale. This would provide space for about 30 cars. The Rabbi said that he is the only employee of the congregations.
Mr. Ragan asked if there would be kitchen facilities and what type of social functions the Rabbi expected to hold.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that there would not be a kitchen. He said that after services at Purim and Chanukah, coffee and cookies might be served and members may stay for an hour to socialize. His facility would not hold funerals, wedding receptions, or dances.
Mr. Lionetti asked how many people would be attending services.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that there are 78 member families in the two congregations. Most are widowed people. He hopes for the congregations to grow, but at the current membership, he anticipates 120 people attending High Holy Day services. Most weeks only about 35 people attend services. He said that the congregation would need to increase to about 150 member families to build a synagogue.
Mr. Lenihan asked if the congregations currently met in synagogues.
Rabbi Leizerowski explained that the congregations had converted buildings to places of worship in Philadelphia and Trenton. He said that his were orthodox congregations, and could not merge with existing congregations in the Newtown area.
Mr. Ragan asked if the congregation would be offering childcare.
Rabbi Leizerowski said that there would be no childcare or nursery school, only evening religious classes.
Mrs. Laughlin asked if each condo in the association was assigned specific parking spaces.
Mr. Tobin said that no specific spaces were assigned to these units. He said that there is room for up to 30 cars in the rear of the building.
Mr. Auchinleck asked if there were any addenda or riders to Exhibit A-3.
Mr. Tobin said that he had not participated in the real estate transaction, but thought that the addenda had been presented as part of A-3.
Rabbi Leizerowski again said that he would not have funerals or wedding receptions, and that the children's classes may have ten or twelve children at a time. Right now there are no children in his congregation.
Mr. Harwood had no comment on this matter.
Mr. Lionetti said that he was reluctant to grant more than a three-year variance.
Mr. Tobin said that the 106th Congress of the United States had found that the burden of proof for prohibiting religious use of land is on the Township.
Mr. Lenihan said that he would like to approve the application, with the conditions that there be no childcare and no food preparation.
Mr. Ragan said that he would like to grant a variance for a term of three years, as had been done for the previous place of worship application. He said that if the Light Industrial district were revitalized as has been discussed by other Township boards and committees, houses of worship would be out of place. He thought that the Zoning Hearing Board might want to review this variance again in three years.
Mr. Tobin asked that the Zoning Hearing Board consider granting a five-year variance as the congregations have purchased the property and will need to renovate while they attempt to grow. He said that while the Industrial Commons is not the ideal location for a house of worship it might take time to get a larger congregation and raise funds for a move.
Mr. Lionetti said that after three years the congregation could appear before the Zoning Hearing Board and give a status report, and possibly apply for an additional variance.
Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 702(A)(2)(3)(4), 803(C-1)(1) and 803(C-1)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a place of worship in the LI District where such use is not permitted and to have access from a local street, and a reduction of the number of required parking spaces from 242 to 10, subject to the conditions that use be limited to a term of three years; no childcare, catering or food preparation be conducted on the premises; and that adult education classes be completed by 9:00AM and children's education classes not begin before 5:00PM. Mr. Ragan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application of Frederick Marshall
Mr. Auchinleck explained that this application had been open and read into the record at the January 2, 2003 meeting but had been continued because the advertisement appearing in The Advance newspaper had been garbled and the application had been re-advertised.
Mr. Don Marshall represented the applicant in this matter.
Mr. Lionetti asked if anyone wished to be a party to this application. There was no response.
Mr. Frederick Marshall was sworn in.
Mr. Don Marshall entered as Exhibit A-1 the Application, Exhibit A-2 the deed to the property, Exhibit A-3 the plan for the improvements to the property, and Exhibit A-4 the original sub-division plan for Pickering Chase.
Mr. Don Marshall explained that the property, located at 3 Pickering Drive, is 1.3384 acres. It is part of a sub-division in the CM District, which requires three acres per home. The Ordinance does allow for less than three acres if the difference is kept as open space. Pickering Chase is a 49.221 acre sub-division, with 3.8 acres developed. The Ordinance would allow 7.38 acres to be developed. Lot number 2, 3 Pickering Drive, provides 1.6 acres of open space.
Mr. Frederick Marshall said that he acquired his home at 3 Pickering Drive in June of 2000. He said that Exhibit A-3 shows his existing home, with a stone terrace and garden with a pond. He would like to add a pool, spa, gazebo and wooden deck. His property currently has 14% impervious surface and with the proposed improvements he would have 20.8% impervious surface. The improvements would total 3841 square feet of impervious surface, bringing his total impervious surface to 12,169 square feet.
Mr. Don Marshall pointed out that Newtown Township considers pools, spas and ponds impervious surfaces. If these areas were not counted in the impervious surface ratio it would total 18.9% impervious surface.
Mr. Don Marshall said that the sub-division consists entirely of lots of less than three acres, but has provided substantial open space. If the Marshall lot had been three acres, rather than 1.3384 acres with 1.6 acres dedicated as open space, then the property would be allowed 20,000 square feet of impervious surface.
Mr. Don Marshall submitted as Exhibits A-5 a, b, and c, photographs of the property with areas of proposed improvement marked. Exhibit A-5 c shows ten acres of wooded area behind the property.
Mr. Don Marshall entered as Exhibit A-6 a letter of support for these improvements signed by the surrounding neighbors.
Mr. Carver asked if there are any other pools in the development.
Mr. Frederick Marshall said that one other home has a pool.
Mrs. Laughlin asked if the Marshall property extends into the wooded area, and if any trees are to be removed for the improvements.
Mr. Frederick Marshall said that his lot does extend into the wooded area, but that no trees will be removed.
Mr. Ragan asked if the Marshall home is at the high point of the development.
Mr. Frederick Marshall said that his is the second highest lot. He said that water run off flows south toward a drain and toward the woods.
Mr. Lionetti said that while the development has provided adequate open space, the lots must be looked at individually. He noted that a great deal of impervious surface is concentrated in a small area. He said that he was not inclined to grant more than a 25% increase in impervious surface.
Mr. Lenihan noted that there are stones in the garden that could be taken up, which would bring the impervious surface area to 18.75%. He said that it was up to the property owner to decide where he would make changes to accommodate a variance of less than the 20.8% impervious surface ratio sought.
Mr. Harwood had no comment on this matter.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance from Section 401(B)(Pickering Chase Final Plan) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit installation of a 30 foot by 50 foot inground swimming pool with spa, walks and patio resulting in a 19% impervious surface instead of 15%. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Lionetti moved to adjourn. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary