NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004

7:30 PM


Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Laughlin moved to accept the minutes of March 4, 2004. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, March 4, 2004, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Mario Lionetti, Chairman; John Lenihan, Vice-Chairman; Gail Laughlin, Secretary; Victoria Bowe and Franklin Carver, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer; and John McHugh, Stenographer.

 Call to Order

 Mr. Lionetti called the meeting to order at 7:35PM

 Pledge of Allegiance

 The agenda was reviewed. 

Continued Applications of Stonehouse Holdings, LLC.

Application of Jeannette S. Mann

Continued Application of Newtown Yardley Road Associates 

Approval of Minutes 

Mr. Lenihan moved to accept the minutes of February 5, 2004. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 5-0. 

Application of Jeannette S. Mann 

Mrs. Laughlin read into the record the application of Jeannette S. Mann requesting a variance from Section 405(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 (Newtown Grant Final Plan) to permit a 14 foot by 20 foot patio, resulting in a 67.77% impervious surface ratio, where the maximum permitted impervious surface ratio is 60%. The subject property is 23 Birch Court, in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District. 

Jeannette S. Mann was sworn in. 

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

Ms. Mann said that she wanted to put a patio at the rear of her home, with room for a table and chairs. She said that there is just a slab in the yard right now. 

Mr. Lenihan said that he had visited the site this morning, and he noted that there was standing water to the rear of the property. He noted that there had been some light rain on the morning of his visit. He said that he is concerned that if there is standing water in the yard after a light rain, that additional paving might cause run off problems for this home and for the attached neighbors. 

Ms. Mann noted that there is a swale to the rear of her property, but that the patio would not touch the swale. She said that rain water typically drains toward the swale, not toward the homes. 

Mr. Lenihan said that because the surrounding properties are fenced he was not able to see if there were drainage problems other than the standing water in Ms. Mann’s yard, however he noted that the Final Plan for Newtown Grant was already double the impervious surface ratio allowed in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District. He asked if Ms. Mann had considered installing a wooden deck instead of a patio. 

Ms. Mann said that she did not want the maintenance required with a wooden deck. She said that she had chosen E.P. Henry pavers because it was her understanding that they are installed in sand and are considered pervious, although the Newtown Township Ordinance considers them impervious. 

Mr. Lionetti noted that Ms. Mann’s property is already over 59% impervious surface, and that this is a hardship. She has been left with no room for any patio at all without a variance.

Ms. Laughlin asked if the home has a basement. 

Ms. Mann said that these townhomes do not have basements. 

Mr. Auchinleck said that he had received a letter from the Newtown Grant Homeowners Association stating that this patio had not been approved by their Architectural Review Board. 

Ms. Mann said that she had applied for and received approval from the Homeowners Association last July, when she first planned the patio. She said her paperwork had been lost, and she had submitted it a second time. She said that when she learned that she would need a variance, and that her application would not be heard until September, she decided to wait until spring to start the project. She said that she had a copy of the approval letter at home. 

Mrs. Bowe asked if the landscapers ever suggested additional drainage for the patio.

Ms. Mann said that her original plan called for a path with some drainage included, but she had been told by the Codes Department that because the path would have entered the swale, the Township would not approve it. The landscaper then suggested the patio described in this application, which she had been told would not require additional drainage. 

Mrs. Laughlin said that she was not comfortable granting a variance for a patio that encroaches on a swale, or that ends at the very edge of the swale. She asked if Ms. Mann would make the patio two feet shorter. 

Mr. Auchinleck said that when a property has a gradual slope leading toward a swale, it is impossible to tell where the swale begins. 

Mr. Harwood was sworn in. 

Mr. Harwood said that the Township Codes Department would consult with the Final Plan to determine where the swale begins. He said that any changes made to the plan to accommodate the swale must still conform to the setback requirements. 

Mr. Auchinleck reminded Ms. Mann that she cannot proceed with her plans until she has confirmed with her Homeowners Association that her plan has been approved. 

Mrs. Laughlin moved to grant a variance from Section 405(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to construct a patio, not to exceed 230 square feet, to permit an impervious surface ratio of 67.77%, with the condition that the patio not encroach on any swales shown on the Newtown Grant Final Plan, and that it maintain the required 3 foot side yard setbacks. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Lenihan voting nay. 

Continued Applications of Stonehouse LLC 

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he had received correspondence from David Sander, the Township Solicitor, explaining that all parties to this application are working toward an agreement, and requesting a continuance to April 1, 2004. 

Mr. Lionetti moved to continue the applications of Stonehouse LLC to April 1, 2004. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

Continued Application of Newtown-Yardley Road Associates 

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record at the October 2, 2003 meeting. 

Mr. Don Marshall represented the applicant in this matter. 

Mr. Marshall reminded the Board that Newtown Yardley Road Associates had submitted an application for variances for increased impervious surface and a reduction in parking stall size in October. Newtown Yardley Road Associates plan to build four two-story office buildings on the lot at Newtown Yardley Road and Friends Lane. He said that the portion of the application referring to the parking stall size was amended and re-advertised, and has been continued until this evening. 

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

Mr. Marshall submitted as Exhibit A-1 plans for the site, dated May 25, 2003. 

Mr. Marshall said that this property is a 9.22-acre parcel with three frontages, along Newtown-Yardley Road, Friends Lane and Walker Lane. The plans show an entrance opposite Newtown Swim Club at Newtown Yardley Road. The buildings will total 20,000 square feet of office space, which will be 50% general office use and 50% medical office use. The plan shows 504 parking spaces, 34 more than the required 470 spaces. The plan shows additional spaces because the owners cannot be sure of the exact mix of general office and medical office tenants, and medical offices require more parking stalls. 

Mr. Marshall said that the 86 parking stalls abutting the buildings will be 10 feet by 20 feet, and there will be 10 handicapped spaces as well.  It is the owners’ intention that the remaining 9X18 foot parking stalls will be for employees. 

Mr. Doug Terry was sworn in. 

Mr. Terry said that he is a partner in Newtown-Yardley Road Associates, and a member of Newtown Township’s Economic Development Commission (EDC). Mr. Terry said that on the recommendation of the EDC, the Board of Supervisors has requested a draft ordinance allowing a reduction in the parking stall size for the Newtown Business Commons to 9 feet by 18 feet. He said that the recommendations call for full size parking stalls close to the buildings, as does his plan. 

Mr. Terry said that a previous owner of this property, Penn’s Trail Development Corp., had been granted a variance for a similar request for reduced parking in 2000. 

Mr. Marshall entered as Exhibit A-2, the Minutes of the Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board meeting dated April 6, 2000. 

Mr. Marshall noted that because the property has three frontages, including along Newtown Yardley Road, a State road, the property loses ¾ acre of property with road dedication. 

Mr. Auchinleck asked if any other businesses in the Newtown Business Commons have reduced parking stalls. 

Mr. Terry said that he thought that the NAC had smaller parking stalls. 

Mr. Harwood had no comment.

Mr. Lionetti noted that the plan calls for 86 full size spaces, 10 handicapped spaces and 408 reduced spaces, of which 125 spaces will be held in reserve. He asked if 10 handicapped spaces are enough for four buildings. 

Mr. Terry said that the number of handicapped spaces is a percentage of the total spaces required. 

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance from Section 1001(C)(1) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to allow 408 parking spaces 9 feet by 18 feet, instead of the required 10 feet by 20 feet, with 86 spaces 10 feet by 20 feet and 10 handicapped spaces. Mr. Carver seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mrs. Laughlin voting nay. 

Mrs. Laughlin said that she did not support such intense use of property fronting Newtown Yardley Road, as it did not provide enough green space. 

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 8:45 PM. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

 _____________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary