NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2006

7:30 PM


Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Laughlin moved to approve the minutes of June 1, 2006. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, June 1, 2006 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: William Wall, Chairman; Gail Laughlin, Vice Chairman; Victoria Bowe, Secretary; David Katz and John Lenihan, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Thomas Harwood, Zoning Officer and Anne Pratt, Stenographer.

Call to Order

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

The Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Minutes

Mr. Lenihan moved to approve the minutes of May 4, 2006. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

The agenda was reviewed.

Continued Application of Applegate Wood Floors, Inc. – 8 Pheasant Run

Application of Jeff Barris - 28 Claire Drive

Application of Steven DiMeglio - 150 Wrights Road

Application of Jim and Lori Gavaghan - 21 Autumn Drive

Application of John V. George - 6 Harding Court

Application of Ken and Lisa Rentz - 176 Durham Road

Application of Keith E. Smith - 148 Durham Road

Continued Application of Applegate Wood Floors, Inc.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that the applicant’s attorney has notified him that this application has been withdrawn. No further action by the Board is necessary.

Application of Steven DiMeglio

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Steven DiMeglio, Steven and Karen DiMeglio owners, appealing the action of the zoning officer in the issuance of an enforcement notice for failure to maintain the required switch grass planting area. The subject property is 150 Wrights Road, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-19-1-5.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that the applicant has written a letter requesting that the application be continued to the July meeting.

Mr. Wall moved to continue the application of Steven DiMeglio to July 6, 2006. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Keith E. Smith

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Keith E. Smith, owner, requesting a variance from Section 404(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an 866 sq. ft. swimming pool with 1200 sq. ft. of decking and 132 sq. ft. of coping resulting in 20% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 12%. The subject property is 148 Durham Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-4-42.

Keith E. Smith was sworn in.

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

Mr. Smith entered the following exhibits:

Mr. Smith explained that he would like to extend the turn-around area of his driveway, and add a pool, decking, patio and gazebo to his rear yard. The total for the existing and proposed impervious surface is 19.1%. He is requesting 20% impervious surface to allow for additional changes to the plan. In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Smith said that the exposed pipe in the yard is for the sump pump, and it is to be covered as part of the improvements.

 

Mr. Katz asked whether he had been informed of the impervious surface limitations on the property at the time that he purchased his house.

 

Mr. Smith said that Toll Brothers has said would be room in the rear for a pool and patio. He had not been told the exact amount of impervious surface that remained for improvements to the property, nor did he know that a variance would be needed for the pool.

 

Mr. Katz asked the reason for the request.

 

Mr. Smith said that he wanted to add a pool for his family’s enjoyment, and for physical therapy for his mother-in-law.

 

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Smith said that his house faces Durham Road. His property slopes down at the rear toward a retention basin. It is at least 400 feet to the nearest rear yard neighbor’s property.

 

Mr. Katz asked Mr. Auchinleck to discuss “hardship” as it applies to zoning.

 

Mr. Auchinleck said that hardship requires that the property could not be reasonably be used as permitted under the ordinance; however the definition is less stringent for dimensional variances than for use variances.

 

Mr. Harwood was sworn in.

 

Mr. Harwood asked, if a variance is granted, that an updated scale drawing of existing and proposed improvements be provided as a condition of approval.

 

Mr. Lenihan said that property owners do have a right to use their property as they like, provided it does not impinge upon their neighbors. He is uncomfortable granting the full 20% requested, and suggested that some compromises be made to grant 18% impervious surface.

 

Mr. Katz said that there have been a number of applicants seeking to increase impervious surface. He is concerned about the impact on adjoining neighbors. He asked about the history of the 12% impervious surface permitted by the Ordinance.

 

Mr. Auchinleck said that the 12% impervious surface was part of the 1983 Zoning Ordinance.

 

Mr. Katz said that it is the duty of the Zoning Hearing Board to uphold the Ordinance, as increases to impervious surface have an effect on the entire jointure. He said that it is up to the homeowner to research zoning prior to purchase to know what is permitted on his and on surrounding properties. He noted that if all the neighbors went to 20% impervious surface, the existing detention basin could fail.

 

Mr. Wall and Mrs. Bowe agreed with Mr. Lenihan that because this is an isolated lot, they would support a variance of 18%. This would require a reduction to the plan of about 500 feet.

 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 404(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a swimming pool with decking and coping resulting in 18% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 12%, with the condition that an updated scale drawing showing existing and proposed improvements be provided to the Township. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Katz voting nay.

 

Application of Jeff Barris

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Jeff Barris requesting a variance from Section 803(H-3)(1)(a)(e) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit 440 linear feet of 4.5 ft. high picket fence where the maximum height for a picket fence is 3 feet.  The subject property is 28 Claire Drive, Newtown, in the OR Office Research Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-77-8.

Jeff Barris was sworn in.

 

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

 

Mr. Barris said that he would like to extend a 54-inch fence along the side of his property facing Upper Silver Lake Road, to match the fencing around the rest of the yard. This is considered a front yard.

 

Mr. Barris entered as Exhibits A-1 and A-2, a series of photographs of his property. He explained that there is a berm between his property line and Upper Silver Lake Road, and the fence would not be very noticeable from the road. The area between his property and the road is common ground for his development. He would possibly like to install a pool at some time in the future, which would require the higher fence. He said that a shorter fence would be unattractive because his house is very large.

 

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Mr. Barris said that the 50-foot landscape easement along Upper Silver Lake Road is not on his property.

 

Mr. Harwood had no comment.

 

Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 803(H-3)(1)(a)(e) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit 440 linear feet of 4.5 ft. high picket fence where the maximum height for a picket fence is 3 feet. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Jim and Lori Gavaghan

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Jim and Lori Gavaghan, owners, requesting a variance from Section 401(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Norwalk Final plan to permit a 10 ft. by 14 ft. storage shed resulting in 17.38% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 15%.  The subject property is 21 Autumn Drive, Newtown, in the OR Office Research Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-16-11-25.

 

Lori Gavaghan was sworn in.

 

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

 

Mrs. Gavaghan explained that she wanted to put a 10-foot by 14-foot shed behind an existing fence. The previous owners of her home had been granted a variance for 17% impervious surface when they put in a pool.

 

In response to Mr. Katz’s question, Mrs. Gavaghan said that she has had no comments from her neighbors. A sign has been placed on her house, and her neighbors were given written notice of the application.  Behind her property is some brush and a creek.

 

Mr. Harwood had no comment. 

 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 401(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Norwalk Final plan to permit a 10 ft. by 14 ft. storage shed resulting in 17.38% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 15%. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

 

Application of John V. George

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of John V. George, owner, requesting a variance from Section 404(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and New Haven final plan to permit a 17 ft. by 17 ft. sun room resulting in a 14.9 ft. rear yard set back where 30 ft. is required. The subject property is 6 Harding Court, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-33-125.

 

There was no one present for this application. Mr. Auchinleck said that he would phone the applicant to remind him that he must appear before the Board.

 

Mr. Wall moved to continue the application of John V. George to July 6, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Ken and Lisa Rentz

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Ken and Lisa Rentz, owners, requesting a variance from Section 803(H-3)(1)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a 6 ft. high fence in the front yard where the maximum height is 3 ft.  The subject property is 176 Durham Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-4-38-1. 

 

Ken Rentz was sworn in.

 

Mr. Auchinleck explained to those residents in attendance that if they wish to be a 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.

 

Edward Joseph Twining of 178 Durham Road asked for party status.

 

Mr. Rentz explained that he would like to continue an existing six-foot fence between his property and 178 Durham Road. The fence would end about 60 feet from the front of the property.  He would like the fence to provide privacy for his family. The fence is five feet of solid fencing topped by one foot of lattice. He said that the front of his house does not face Durham Road. There are some very large, old trees on the property line, half on his property, half on Mr. Twining’s, and they will remain, and the fence will be about four feet inside of his property line.

 

In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Rentz said that some new trees had been placed in his yard, where he would like the fence to be. These trees were stolen from his property. He had intended for these cypress trees to provide privacy.

 

Mr. Twining was sworn in.

 

Mr. Twining said that he was appalled at the theft of the landscaping trees. He had been in the hospital at the time, but it was apparent that the thieves had used his property to access the trees.

 

Mr. Twining explained that he had requested party status because he wanted to protect the old trees that are along the property line. These trees are about seventy-four years old, as they do not appear on a survey of the property prepared in 1932, when both lots were bean fields.

 

Mr. Twining said that he has some concern about the property line between his and Mr. Rentz’s property. Toward the front of the property there seems to be a discrepancy of about 36 inches between the marker and recent surveys. He intends to have a new survey done by Pickering Corts and Summerson.

 

Mr. Twining said that he is now in support of the application, since the fence will be about four feet inside of the Rentz property and the trees are to be protected. He continues to have some concern about the property line.

 

Mr. Auchinleck explained that this Board can only act on the application, which addresses the height of the fence. Mr. Rentz is erecting the fence at his own risk, if there is a disputed property line.

 

Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 803(H-3)(1)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a 6 ft. high fence in the front yard where the maximum height is 3 ft.  Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 8:50PM. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

 

Mary Donaldson

Recording Secretary