NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD
MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE
NEWTOWN, PA 18940
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2006
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Lenihan moved to approve the minutes of February 2, 2006. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Katz abstaining.
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, February 2, 2006 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: William Wall, Chairman; Gail Laughlin, Vice Chairman; Victoria Bowe, Secretary; and John Lenihan, member. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Connie D’Arginio, Stenographer.
Call to Order
Mr. Wall called the meeting to Order at 7:30 PM.
The Pledge of Allegiance
Mr. Lenihan, as longest serving Board member, presented two plaques to Mario Lionetti, thanking him on behalf of the Board and the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors for his fifteen years of service on the Zoning Hearing Board, thirteen of those years as chairman. Mr. Lenihan thanked Mr. Lionetti for the example he has set on the Board of openness, fairness, independence and integrity.
Mr. Lionetti thanked the current Zoning Hearing Board, the Board of Supervisors and Skip Goodnoe, Thomas Harwood, Thomas Ragan and Jim Auchinleck for their friendship, counsel and support during his tenure on the Board. He asked that the Board remember that there is “no room for personal agendas”, and advised them to uphold the rights of the property owners of Newtown Township.
The Agenda was reviewed:
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Lenihan moved to accept the minutes of January 5, 2006. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Application of Michael and Cecilia Fingerman
Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Michael and Cecilia Fingerman owners requesting a variance from Section 401 (C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Linton Hill Chase final plan to permit construction of a 1,132 square foot patio resulting in a 6.2 foot rear yard setback where 30 feet is required and a 48% impervious cover where only 40% is permitted. The subject property is 4 Delaney Drive, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-48-56, Lot 34.
Mr. Michael Fingerman was sworn in.
Mr. Wall asked if anyone wished to be a party to this application.
Mr. Auchinleck 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. Fingerman explained that he had purchased his home from Toll Brothers five months ago, and had installed a swimming pool. He was unaware when he built the pool that it was considered impervious surface. He has submitted a plan for landscaping and a patio in his yard. He said that his lot is very small, but backs to open space and there is a detention basin to the side of his property, so there would be no problems with drainage. He has shown his plan to his neighbors, and they have no objections.
In response to questions from Mr. Lenihan and Mrs. Laughlin, Mr. Fingerman said that he had obtained permits from the Township for his pool and for his fence, which has been erected on the property line. His Homeowners Association has reviewed the plans and approved of them, although the HOA has not issued a formal letter stating such.
Mr. Wall and Mrs. Bowe each expressed concern that the patio and pool covered the entire rear yard and created a very crowded appearance. Mrs. Bowe was particularly concerned about the rear yard setback and asked if the plan could be scaled back to allow a larger setback.
Mr. Fingerman said that there is a swale through his yard and he wanted to keep all improvements away from the swale.
Mr. Matthew Noonan of Toll Landscape Design was sworn in.
In response to Mr. Wall’s comments, Mr. Noonan said that the applicant wanted the patio to wrap around the Jacuzzi to allow entry from both sides. He also wanted to provide enough room for lounge chairs, picnic table and grilling area. He said that a number of drafts had been prepared and the plan submitted has the smallest impervious surface of any of these plans.
Mr. Fingerman said that he has two small children and he has concerns about their safety if there is not enough room on the patio for them to play.
The Board discussed possible compromises.
Mr. Harwood had no comment.
Mr. Wall said that the Board has been very concerned that Toll Brothers has planned this development using all available impervious surface for the houses and driveways, and has not provided any area within the setbacks for outdoor amenities. While he said that he favors granting the request, and not punishing the homeowner for the lack of foresight of the builders, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, he did not think that a motion to grant the variance would pass.
Mr. Lenihan agreed with Mr. Wall, noting that this development has left the homeowners with a hardship.
Mr. Wall opened the floor for public comment.
Resident Donna Lenihan said that she supported this plan because the home is surrounded by open space that will not ever be developed. She said that there is not any concern for drainage issues, and the immediate neighbors and the Homeowners Association have approved of the plans. She said that the homeowners have a right to enjoy their property.
Mr. Fingerman asked if it would be possible to continue his application to a later meeting. He said that he would like to bring his attorney.
Mr. Wall said that the Board would be willing to continue the application, but suggested that Mr. Fingerman and his landscape architect discuss whether a compromise plan could be developed using 46.5% impervious surface. He said that the Board would probably agree to a variance for 46.5%, but not for the 48% asked in the application.
Mr. Fingerman and Mr. Noonan agreed to table the application until the end of the meeting.
Mr. Lenihan moved to table the application of Michael and Cecilia Fingerman until the end of this evening’s meeting. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Continued Application of Raymond James and Associates – 223 N. Sycamore Street
Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that they have already heard testimony for this application for a 14 square foot wall-mounted sign. The Board has expressed concern that if granted this variance could lead to other, similar applications for the façade of this multi-tenant office building. The applicant had been asked to provide proof that the owner of the building, Frank Tyrol, would agree to a condition to a variance granted, permitting only one façade mounted sign.
Joseph Allen was sworn in.
Mr. Allen entered as Exhibit A-1, a letter from Frank Tyrol dated January 31, 2006, acknowledging that he is aware of and in agreement to a condition being placed on any variance granted that only one wall mounted sign would be permitted on this building.
Mr. Harwood had no comment.
Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 1106 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a 14 sq. ft. wall-mounted, individual use sign where 2 sq. ft. is the maximum permitted with the condition that there would be no additional front façade signage, as has been agreed to by the owner. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Continued Application of Third Federal Bank – 950 Newtown Yardley Road
Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that he has received correspondence from attorney Ed Murphy stating that Third Federal has withdrawn this application. The Board need take no further action.
Continued Application of Newtown Industrial Commons, Inc – 111-115 Pheasant Run
Mr. Auchinleck advised the Board that he had received correspondence from attorney Don Marshall requesting that this application be continued to March 2, 2006. Mr. Marshall has indicated that he is working with the Township Board of Supervisors to resolve certain issues.
Mrs. Laughlin moved to continue the application of Newtown Industrial Commons, Inc. to March 2, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application of Michael and Cecilia Fingerman Continued
Mr. Noonan said that he has attempted to reduce the size of the patio by about 115 square feet, and increased the setback to 8.5 feet.
In response to Mrs. Laughlin’s suggestions, Mr. Fingerman said that he did not want to use paving stones set into the lawn instead of the paved path from the front of the house to the yard because he did not think this would be safe for his very young children.
Mrs. Laughlin said that she is not as concerned about the setback, and would be willing to grant that variance, as the property backs to open space, but she would only grant an impervious surface variance of 46.5%.
Mrs. Bowe suggested that Mr. Fingerman consider using some pervious covering for portions of the project.
Mr. Auchinleck said that the Board could grant a variance for a lesser amount, and the applicant could work with that number. There are some surfaces that the Township considers pervious. He said that in Newtown Township, however, crushed stone is considered impervious.
In response to Mr. Fingerman’s question, Mr. Wall said that if the Board grants a variance for 46.5%, it would be up to Mr. Fingerman to satisfy his neighbors and Homeowners Association.
Mr. Fingerman asked if he could come back for the additional 1.5% impervious surface if he accepted a variance rather than continue the application.
Mr. Auchinleck said that Mr. Fingerman could continue the application, or accept it and appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. Occasionally residents return to the Zoning Hearing Board for additional variances. Mr. Fingerman could work with the 46.5%, and apply again in the future, but the application could be denied.
Mr. Fingerman thanked the Board and said that he would accept the relief they have offered.
Mrs. Laughlin moved to grant a variance from Section 401 (C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Linton Hill Chase final plan to permit construction of a 1,132 square foot patio resulting in a 6.2 foot rear yard setback where 30 feet is required and a 46.5% impervious cover where only 40% is permitted. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mrs. Bowe voting nay.
Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary