NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, JANUARY 5, 2006

7:30 PM


Approval of Minutes: Mr. Lenihan moved to accept the minutes of January 5, 2006. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed 4-0.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, January 5, 2006 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: William Wall, Chairman; Victoria Bowe, Secretary; Gail Laughlin, David Katz and John Lenihan, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor, Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Jackie Robbins, Stenographer.

Call to Order

Mr. Wall called the meeting to Order at 7:30 PM.

The Pledge of Allegiance

Organization of Board

Mrs. Laughlin nominated Mr. Wall to serve as chairman. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Lenihan voting nay.

Mr. Wall nominated Mrs. Laughlin to serve as vice-chairman. Mr. Katz seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Lenihan expressed concern about the nomination of Mrs. Laughlin as vice chairman, noting that she has a hearing loss that has made her unable to hear some testimony at meetings. He said that he felt that this could be a serious problem if she were called upon to serve as chairman in Mr. Wall’s absence.

The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Lenihan voting nay.

Mr. Lenihan said that prior to this evening’s meeting the Board had considered nominating Mr. Lenihan to serve as vice-chairman, but Mr. Wall had indicated that “the powers that be” had rejected this. Mr. Lenihan expressed great concern that the Zoning Hearing Board, as a quasi-judicial entity, should not be in any way influenced by others outside of the Board membership and that all votes should be independent of such outside influence. He said that he has concerns regarding the independence and credibility of members of this Board.

Mr. Wall said that he has not been aware of any evidence that the members have had any outside influence on any serious matters.

Mr. Wall moved to nominate Mrs. Bowe to serve as secretary. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Katz moved to appoint Mr. Auchinleck as solicitor. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to appoint Ms. Donaldson as recording secretary. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Approval of Minutes

Mrs. Laughlin moved to approve the minutes of December 1, 2005. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 3-0-2, with Messrs. Katz and Wall abstaining.

The agenda was reviewed.

Continued Application of Don Harley and Beth Okomski – 95 Richboro Road

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record but no testimony had been given.

Mr. Dean Harley was sworn in.

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

Mr. Harley explained that his home is on Richboro Road, with his rear yard facing the Newtown By-Pass. He is seeking a variance for a six foot high fence to shield his yard from the view of passing cars stopped at the traffic light, to buffer traffic noise and for the safety of his four young children. The existing PennDot fence is not high enough to safely keep his children inside. In response to Mr. Lenihan’s questions, Mr. Harley said that he had erected the fence before he realized that a variance would be needed.

Mr. Auchinleck explained that the variance and permit are required to insure that the fence is properly located within setbacks and conforms to the Ordinance. He said that because the rear of the house faces a road it is considered a front yard.

In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Harley said that he has planted 45 pine trees within the fence to buffer sound. He has chosen a fence similar to the fence already existing along the Chandler Hall property. He hopes that in time his fence will blend in with the existing fence.

Mr. Harwood had no comment.

Mrs. Laughlin suggested that Mr. Harley contact the Newtown Place Homeowners Association, to join their efforts to erect a sound barrier along the By-Pass.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 803(H-3)(1)(a) and (b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit installation of a 6 feet high solid stockade fence along frontage on 413 Bypass. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Continued Application of Raymond James & Associates

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that testimony had already been given for a sign on the façade of 223 N. Sycamore Street, and there had been some concern about the size of the sign on a multi-tenant building.

Mr. Joseph Allen was sworn in.

Mr. Allen said that his business occupies the first floor of the Tyrol building. His clients have been unable to locate the building because the sign in front of the building is placed north of the entrance to the parking area. For this reason he would like a larger sign on the façade. He has shown the plans to HARB and they have approved. Mr. Tyrol, the owner and other tenant of the building, has also approved.

Mr. Allen entered as Exhibit A-10 a series of diagrams and photographs of the building and proposed sign. He noted that the drawing on page two shows the width of the sign as the same as the width of the windows. He said that it is smaller than the sign on the Carriage House shop next door. He said that he has signed a long-term lease for this office space and it is essential to his business that his location is clearly identified. He reminded the Board that at the last hearing his associate had been told that a member had been unable to find the office and parking lot entrance.

Mrs. Bowe said that she had asked the applicant to bring back plans for a smaller sign. She said that she is very concerned about other tenants seeking similar variances.

Mr. Allen said that his business occupies 45% of the building. Mr. Tyrol, the owner, occupies the second floor. There is a third tenant, who occupies a small space at the lower level, which can only be entered through the rear.

Mr. Auchinleck explained that the number of tenants could change, and the variance would be granted for the property, not for a particular tenant. In response to Mr. Katz’s question, he said that there could not be a condition that the sign must be removed if the tenant were to leave.

Mrs. Bowe continued to express concern for the size of the sign.

Mr. Harwood was sworn in. He explained that the Ordinance has different limitations for signage for individual use and multiple use buildings.

Mr. Allen again stated that the sign, which is smaller than the Carriage House sign, is necessary for his business. Both HARB and the building owner have approved. It is very difficult for clients to locate his offices.

The Board discussed possibly granting a variance to permit this sign if there were no other signs on the façade of the building. There was some concern about adding such a condition without the building owner’s knowledge or permission. Mr. Auchinleck suggested continuing the application. He asked Mr. Allen to return to the February meeting with Mr. Tyrol, or with his written consent to a condition that this be the only sign on the building.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to continue the application of Raymond James and Associates to February 2, 2006. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Auchinleck agreed to provide Mr. Allen with a draft of the letter from Mr. Tyrol confirming his agreement to the condition placed on the variance.

Continued Application of Third Federal Bank

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he had heard from the attorney for this applicant asking for a continuance.

Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of Third Federal Bank to February 2, 2006. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Newtown Industrial Commons, Inc.

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Newtown Industrial Commons Inc, Newtown Industrial Commons Inc owners requesting a variance from Section 1106(G)2, 4, 5, & 7 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit three identification signs where only one joint use sign is permitted; the signs exceed the size and height restrictions of the ordinance; and the public information sign contains tenant information not permitted on such signs. The subject property is 111-115 Pheasant Run, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-129.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he had heard from the attorney for this applicant asking for a continuance.

Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of Third Federal Bank to February 2, 2006. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Ina and Robert Paul – 3 Hansel Road

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Ina and Robert Paul, Ina and Robert Paul owners requesting a variance from Section 404B, 1000E.4 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Eagleton Farms final plan to permit shed located with a nine foot set back where twelve feet is required and a reconfigured walkway resulting in a 35.9% impervious surface ratio where 35% is the maximum permitted. The subject property is 3 Hansel Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-43-568.

Mrs. Ina Paul was sworn in.

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

Mrs. Paul explained that she wanted to place a shed in her fenced yard, and at the same time she wanted to apply for a variance to replace and reconfigure a damaged sidewalk. She has purchased a very small shed to try to conform to the impervious surface requirements as much as possible. The shed would be inside of her fenced yard.

In response to Lenihan’s question, Mrs. Paul said that she has spoken to her homeowners Association, and they have approved, but have not given her a written approval letter. All of her neighbors have sheds. In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, she said that she has not gotten written approval from her neighbors, but they have all been informed of her plans by written notice from the Township.

Mr. Lenihan said that he had visited the site. He did not notice a shed in the rear of Mrs. Paul’s next-door neighbor.

Mrs. Paul referred to the photographs included in her application to show the Board that her rear yard is backed by a common area and her property does not back directly onto her rear neighbors.

Mrs. Bowe moved to grant a variance from Section 404B, 1000E.4 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Eagleton Farms final plan to permit shed located with a nine foot set back where twelve feet is required and a reconfigured walkway resulting in a 35.9% impervious surface ratio where 35% is the maximum permitted. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

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

Respectfully Submitted:

 

_______________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary