7:30 PM

Approval of Minutes: Mr. Lionetti moved to accept the minutes of December 2, 2004, December 6, 2004 and December 13, 2004. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Monday, December 13, 2004 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Mario Lionetti, Chairman; John Lenihan, Vice-Chairman; Gail Laughlin, Secretary; Victoria Bowe and William Wall, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Jackie Boss-Robbins, Stenographer.

Call to Order

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

The Pledge of Allegiance

The agenda was reviewed.

Continued Application of David B. Fisher

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record at a previous meeting, but no testimony had been heard.

Mr. David B. Fisher and Ms. June Kovacs were sworn in.

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

Mr. Lionetti explained to those residents in attendance that if they wish to be party to the application they would have the right to cross-examine the applicant and any of his witnesses, present evidence and witnesses, and make any statement concerning the application. Should they disagree with the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board, party status would give them the right to appeal the decision. Anyone present not wishing party status would be allowed to make statements for or against the application after the hearing and before a decision is rendered.

There was no response.

Mr. Fisher explained that he wished to open a “Slack’s Hoagie House” in the Newtown Place Shopping Center and he would need a zoning variance for take-out service. He said that he is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University and has worked in the food service industry for eight years. There are 18 other Slack’s franchise locations in the Philadelphia area. He said that Slack’s is a sandwich shop similar to Lee’s, but it is a friendlier work environment.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Mr. Fisher said that the shopping center also had a Domino’s Pizza and an Indian restaurant with take-out service.

Ms. Kovacs said that the center is divided into three sections, and this section also houses Liberty Mutual Insurance, Citizens Bank, an eyewear shop, and an orthodontist. The second section houses Newtown Family Care and a furniture shop and the third section houses a Japanese Restaurant, Dance Ten, TJ’s Pizza and an empty store. They are single story buildings.

In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Fisher said that he would have seating for 36 to dine in, but that he hopes to expand the seating area to accommodate 50 people.

Mr. Lenihan questioned the parking in the shopping center.

Ms. Kovacs said that she has not ever seen more than a few cars in the evening, and although she hasn’t visited during the lunch hour recently, she has never had any complaints about parking.

In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Fisher said that the rear entrance to the shop would be for employees only. He said that the hours of operation would be 11:00AM to 10:00PM Monday through Sunday.

Mr. Harwood had no comment on this application.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 603(A), and 803(E-14)(1) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an E-6 eating place with take out to occupy a space within an E-14 Specialty Cultural Shopping Facility where such is not permitted. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Continued Application of Acme Supermarket

Me. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record at a previous meeting. He said that he had received correspondence from the attorney for the applicant requesting a continuance to January 6, 2005.

Mr. Lionetti moved to continue the application of Acme Supermarket to January 6, 2005. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Continued Application of Shannon and Nancy Wilson

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been scheduled for the December 6, 2004 meeting and read into the record, but had been continued due to the length of that evening’s agenda.

Mr. Don Marshall represented the applicant.

Mr. Shannon Wilson and Mr. Jeff Skinner, Engineer on this project, were sworn in.

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

Mr. Auchinleck provided Mr. Marshall with a copy of Mr. Harwood’s Summary Memo to Mary Donaldson dated November 3, 2004. Mr. Auchinleck entered this memo as Exhibit ZHB – 1.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that his two sons have been employees of Newtown Rental Center. He had previously informed Mr. Marshall and Mr. Harris, the Township Solicitor of this and offered them the opportunity to ask him to step down as counsel for the Zoning Hearing Board, and appoint another solicitor for this hearing. Neither the Township, nor Mr. Marshall had an objection to his continuing to serve as solicitor for this hearing.

Mr. Marshall entered the following Exhibits:

Mr. Marshall explained that the applicant owns the Newtown Rental Center at 861 Newtown Yardley Road in the R-1 Residential Zoning District, with a small portion of his property, tax map parcel 29-10-40-2 in the LI – Light Industrial Zoning District. Mr. Wilson acquired the LI portion of his property when Newtown Yardley Road was relocated.

Mr. Skinner said that the R-1 portion of the lot is 91,000 square feet and the LI portion is 35,000 square feet.

Mr. Marshall said that Mr. Wilson wished to expand his Rental Center business, however the Township expressed interest in preserving the old farmhouse on this property. Mr. Wilson has agreed to sub-divide his property to create a 10,000 square foot lot for the house and to allow Mr. Bradley McGowan to move the house to this lot. The Township has agreed that if this were done, then the Township would waive fees and not object to this application for expansion.

Mr. Marshall said that the application tonight is for some variances to create the 10,000 square-foot lot, and some for the expansion of the business property. Many of the variances sought have already been granted but are being reincorporated into this application.

Mr. Wilson confirmed Mr. Marshall’s summary. He said that his property fronts on Newtown Yardley Road, Upper Silver Lake Road and Old Frost Lane. He has entered into an agreement with Mr. McGowan to move and restore the farmhouse.

Mr. Marshall said that Mr. Wilson would like to sub-divide his lot to create a 10,000 square-foot residential lot for the farmhouse, where the minimum lot size required is 40,000 square feet. This lot would have 17% impervious surface where 12% is the maximum, and 0% open space where 10% is required. There would also be a reduction of the minimum lot width to 80 feet, where 125 feet is the minimum, a front yard setback of 27.04 feet where 60 feet is required and a 49.55 foot aggregate side yard where 60 feet is required. The agreement he has with Mr. McGowan requires that Mr. McGowan be responsible for providing buffering between the residential property and the commercial property; that the new lot is to be for residential use only; and that once moved and restored, a façade easement for the front of the building be granted to the Township.

For the Rental Center, Mr. Wilson would like to add a separate building with a new entrance. He has acquired a portion of an LI lot that was created when the Newtown Yardley Road was realigned. When the roadbed has been removed by the Township and the road is vacated, Mr. Wilson would like to return that area to grass. The total size of the lot, after reclaiming the road would be 3.39 acres. Mr. Wilson would like to build a 5000 square-foot single story building for an E-1 retail use. The property already has E-3 Service Business use and G-3 Warehouse use.

Mr. Marshall referred the Board to Exhibit A-1a, which depicts the parking that is proposed. He said that the applicant would withdraw his request for parking variances, as the plan provides all required parking

Mr. Marshall reviewed all previous zoning relief variances granted:

He noted that he would like these variances incorporated into any decision rendered this evening.

Mr. Marshall said that in addition to these previously granted variances, Mr. Wilson would like to expand his warehouse business by 2500 square feet, and would like to add an E-1 retail business. He hopes to add a small convenience store to the front first floor of the new building. He said that it would not be a franchise, but a small shop similar to the Village Market. He would also like to add an unwalled canopy to the loading area of the building, which would then create a 10-foot side yard setback.

Mrs. Laughlin questioned Mr. Wilson and Mr. Skinner on the parking spaces to be provided for the E-1 retail use.

Mr. Skinner pointed to the lower lot on Exhibit A-1a, noting that these 23 spaces would be closest to the convenience shop. All stalls will be 10 feet by 20 feet, and curbing would remain for these spaces.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Skinner said that stormwater management would be planned for both the business property and the 10,000 square foot residential lot. Some piping would be installed and some already exists. There would be sheet flow across the parking areas toward the basin. Although no curbs are planned for the remaining parking areas, some bumpers will be installed to prevent cars from driving onto grass.

Mr. Wilson said that he was asking for relief from 1003(B)(1), that a landscape plan be prepared by a landscape architect. He said that the builders of the surrounding residential developments have installed 10-foot fences, and Mr. McGowan has agreed to provide buffering between the residential lot and the commercial property, and there are trees already in existence along the remaining side. In response to Mrs. Laughlin’s questions, he said that he did not know the elevation of the residential housing to the rear, but that the houses are all two stories.

Mr. Marshall said that Mr. Wilson would also like variances to install a new sign, seven feet high, announcing both the rental and convenience businesses.

Mr. Marshall reviewed the conditions Mr. Wilson had already agreed with the Township:

In response to Mr. Lionetti’s questions, Mr. Marshall said that relief from Section 404(B)(5) for a 3.392-acre lot had already been granted. If the stone house were to crumble and the move were unsuccessful, then all other plans would be off. All necessary building permits are to be issued after the successful moving of the house. If the move is unsuccessful, then Mr. Wilson is to retain the 10,000 square foot lot. Mr. Marshall said that the Township has set these conditions, and that Mr. McGowan would be moving the house to land that he would not own until the house has been moved to it. It has been Mr. Marshall’s understanding that land development and sub-division approval would be contingent on the successful moving of the farmhouse.

Mr. Auchinleck said that he had represented a client who had been interested in renovating this farmhouse, and had found it to be in very poor condition.

Mr. Lionetti said that the previous Board had granted variances with the condition that the historic barn on the property be preserved. He asked if that had occurred.

Mr. Wilson said that he had donated it to the builders of Newtown Meadows, and it had been dismantled and reassembled at that development.

Mrs. Laughlin expressed concern about the granting of an E-1 retail use. She said that she did not think that a convenience store should be permitted in a residential zoning district, nor should one be permitted along Newtown Yardley Road. She expressed concern for increase traffic in an already congested area.

Mr. Marshall said that this had been part of the agreement with the Township, entered as Exhibit A-2.

In response to Mrs. Laughlin’s questions, Mr. Wilson said that he intends to have a small convenience store, with no table service. He will be the owner and operator. It will not be a franchise of a 7-11 or Wawa. Although he has not completed his plans for the business, he does not intend to make sandwiches on the premises.

Mr. Wilson reviewed the plans for the buildings’ uses. He said that the new building would be for the convenience store at the lower level, and the second level would be for the party center, offices and supplies. The existing building would continue to warehouse rental supplies. The driveway around the buildings would be one way, and for employee use only. This driveway would be wide enough to allow for some parking of the rental equipment along the drive with adequate passage. The old Newtown Yardley Road is still being used by the builder as a construction entrance, and will be removed when the development is complete. This is what the Township has requested.

In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Wilson said that the convenience store would be accessed through the same entrance as Commerce Bank. There would be no secondary access from the residential development to the rear. He did not intend to do any catering or to sell food for the party rental customers. He said that the retail use is critical to his business plan.

Mr. Lenihan said that he did not agree that this location was an inappropriate place for a convenience store. He noted that it would not be a destination location, but rather would serve the workers in that end of the Business Commons.

In response to concerns expressed by Mr. Lionetti, Mr. Wilson said that he would provide a walkway from the parking area to the convenience store entrance to help pedestrians traverse traffic.

Mr. Harwood had no comment.

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant variances, as outlined in Exhibit ZHB-1 for lots one and two with the following conditions:

For lot number one:

For lot number two:

All variances are conditioned on the successful relocation of the farmhouse. If the farmhouse were to crumble, all variances are negated. Requests for variances from Sections 803(E)(1)(4), 803(E)(3)(2), and 803 (G)(3) have been withdrawn by the applicant. Mr. Lenihan seconded.

Mr. Wall questioned whether there would be any access to the business from Newtown Yardley Road.

Mr. Wilson said that the only access would be from Upper Silver Lake Road. The old Newtown Yardley Road is to be vacated. The builder using it as a construction entrance does not show a road in its final plan.

Mr. Auchinleck said that he has discussed with the Board requiring a transcription of the proceedings in certain hearings, at the expense of the applicant. He said that he thought that this would be appropriate for this application.

Mr. Marshall agreed to this requirement.

Mrs. Laughlin said that she does not oppose the expansion of the rental business, but is very much opposed to the E-1 retail use in the residential zoning district.

The motion passed 4-1, with Mrs. Laughlin voting nay.

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 9:45PM. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


Respectfully submitted


Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary