NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP ZONING HEARING BOARD

MUNICIPAL BUILDING - 100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE

NEWTOWN, PA 18940

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THURSDAY, JULY 6, 2006

 


The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, July 6, 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; Michael Solomon, Zoning Officer and Jackie Robbins, Stenographer.

 

Call to Order

 

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

 

The Pledge of Allegiance

 

Approval of Minutes

 

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

 

The agenda was reviewed.

Continued Application of Steven DiMeglio - 150 Wrights Road

Continued Application of John V. George - 6 Harding Court

Application of Chetan and Reshma Patel – 140 Wrights Road

Application of Tai Nguyen – 2 Devon Road

Application of Allen Brader – 8 Ainsley Court

Application of Mark Scher – 17 Delaney Drive

Application of The Promenade at Sycamore Street – N. Sycamore St.

Application of Delancey Court (McGrath Homes) – Durham Road

Application of Daniel Doorley – 1071 Lindenhurst Road

 

Continued Application of Steven DiMeglio

 

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that this applicant has requested a continuance to a special meeting on July 27, 2006. At that time, the applicant has indicated he may request further continuance until the regular meeting on September 7, 2006.

 

Mr. Wall moved to continue the application of Steven DiMeglio to July 27, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Chetan and Reshma Patel

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Chetan Patel and Reshma Patel, Chetan Patel and Reshma Patel owners appealing from the enforcement notice dated April 12, 2006 requiring maintenance of switch grass on the subject property.  The subject property is 140 Wrights Road, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-19-1-1.

 

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that this applicant has requested a continuance to a special meeting on July 27, 2006. At that time, the applicant has indicated he may request further continuance until the regular meeting on September 7, 2006.

 

Mr. Katz moved to continue the application of Chetan and Reshma Patel to July 27, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of The Promenade at Sycamore Street

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of The Promenade at Sycamore, LP, The Promenade at Sycamore, LP owners requesting variances from Sections 603A, 603B(1), 803(B-11)(2), 803(D-1)(5), 803(E-1)(4), 803(E-5)(4), 903B(4)(1), 903B(4)(2), 903B(5)(b),1000E, 1001B(3), 1001F(4), 1003B(3), and 1006F(6)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of 2 buildings with mixed use including: retail, restaurant, office and residential with variances to allow mid-rise apartment use, 90% impervious surface coverage, 55' building height, 7' front yard, 1' side yard, 4.5' rear yard, 305.83 building length, 275 parking spaces instead of 455, no protection of protected resource land, reduced parking stall size, off-street parking within 4.49 feet of rear property line, and no buffer or screening of parking area .  The subject property is North Sycamore Street (ACME), Newtown, in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-7.

 

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that this applicant has requested a continuance to a special meeting on July 27, 2006.

 

Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of The Promenade at Sycamore Street to July 27, 2006. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Tai Nguyen

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Tai Nguyen, Tai Nguyen owner, requesting a variance from Section 803(H-8)(1)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a pond and appurtenances resulting in a side yard set back of 5 feet where 10 feet is required.  The subject property is 2 Devon Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-29-243.

 

Tai Nguyen was sworn in.

 

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

 

Mr. Nguyen said that he would like a variance for a pond in his yard. His house backs to open space, and the pond will not be an inconvenience to his neighbors. He entered as Exhibits A-1, A-2 and A-3, a series of photographs of his rear yard.

 

In response to questions from Mr. Katz, Mr. Nguyen said that the pond has already been installed. He built it himself. He was unaware that a variance was needed. He did obtain variances for his addition and deck. He has heard no objections from any of his neighbors who have come to his home and enjoyed the deck and pond. His neighbors had offered to come to this hearing in support of his application, but he did not think it was necessary.

 

Mr. Katz asked whether the notice sign posted on his property had been moved.

 

Mr. Nguyen said that he and his family had been on vacation and only just returned home. There had been storms during the week, and possibly the sign had been blown away during a storm.

 

In response to Mr. Lenihan’s questions, Mr. Nguyen said that he has lived in his home for about eleven years. He does not need an approval from his homeowners association for the pond.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 803(H-8)(1)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a pond and appurtenances resulting in a side yard set back of 5 feet where 10 feet is required. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Continued Application of John V. George

 

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been read into the record at the June 1, 2006 meeting.

 

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

 

John V. George was sworn in.

 

Mr. George explained that he would like to build a sunroom on his home, measuring 17 feet by 17 feet, 15 feet in height. He needs a variance for the rear yard setback.

 

Mr. Lenihan said that he has visited this site. Mr. George’s home is at the end of a cul-de-sac. The backyard slopes considerably. His sunroom would not be visible to his neighbors.

 

In response to Mrs. Bowe’s question, Mr. George said that he does not require approval from his homeowners association.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 404(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 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. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Allen Brader

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Alan Brader, Alan Brader, owner, requesting a variance from Section 401C of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 16 feet by 25 feet open wooden deck resulting in a rear yard set back of 15.08 feet where 30 feet is required.  The subject property is 8 Ainsley Court, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-20-55 Lot 26.

 

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

 

Alan Brader was sworn in.

 

Mr. Brader said that he would like to put a deck on the rear of his home, but would need a variance for the setback.

 

Mr. Lenihan said that he has visited the site. He noted that the rear of the property slopes toward an area of common ground for the development. He asked Mr. Brader if he had known at the time of purchase that there would not be sufficient space for a deck or patio.

 

Mr. Brader said that he had asked Toll Brothers to build a deck onto the house during construction but his request had been turned down. He knew that there was a 30 foot setback requirement, but had thought the setback would be for the addition of a room, not for an open deck. He does not intend to enclose the deck, or the area below the deck, which would be about five feet above the ground. His neighbors have not objected to his plans; many have also had to seek variances for decks and patios. He will need approval of his homeowners association, but he has not yet sought the approval.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mrs. Bowe moved to grant a variance from Section 401C of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 16 feet by 25 feet open wooden deck resulting in a rear yard set back of 15.08 feet where 30 feet is required.  Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

 

 

 

Application of Mark Scher

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Mark Scher, Mark Scher owner, requesting a variance from Section 401C of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 20 feet by 20 feet open wooden deck resulting in as rear yard set back of 18.73 feet where 30 feet is required.  The subject property is 17 Delaney Drive, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-20-38 lot 9.

 

 

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

 

Mark Scher was sworn in.

 

Mr. Scher said that his home is in the same development as Mr. Brader. He also would like to add a deck to the rear of his home. He noted that the advertisement reads “20 feet by 20 feet”, but the planned deck is 29 feet wide, and appears that way on the plans he had submitted.

 

Mr. Auchinleck said that the setback request is the same, so the typographical error does not matter.

 

Mr. Scher said that he did not ask Toll Brothers about the setback requirements.

 

In response to questions from Mr. Katz and Mr. Auchinleck, Mr. Scher said that his home backs to an open space area of about 60 feet, and beyond which is a berm. He does not know if there are any plans for the land beyond the berm. The dotted line on the plan he submitted probably represents a swale at the rear of his property. He has the approval of his homeowners association.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mrs. Laughlin moved to grant a variance from Section 401C of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 29 feet by 20 feet open wooden deck resulting in as rear yard set back of 18.73 feet where 30 feet is required. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

 Application of Daniel Doorley

 

 Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Daniel Doorley, Daniel Doorley owner, requesting variances from Sections 501B(2) and 1001B(3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a new 1,385 sq. ft. research facility accessory to an existing office with a 78.95' front yard instead of 150 ft., 84.79' side yard instead of 120' and 35.44' rear yard instead of 150' and parking stalls 9' by 19' instead of 10' by 20' and a Special Exception under section 1208C(2) to permit construction of a building on a non conforming lot.  The subject property is 1071 Lindenhurst Road, Newtown, in the OR Office Research Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-80.

 

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

 

Karen Doorley, Daniel Doorley and Heath Dumack were sworn in.

 

Mr. Doorley explained that he needs additional lab and research space for his business, and wishes to demolish an existing barn and detached garage and construct a 1385 square foot building. He said that he requires more headroom, and he needs a more secure facility. He entered as Exhibit A-1, a board with a series of photographs of the existing facilities.

 

In response to Mr. Katz’ questions, Mr. Doorley said that he designs equipment and instrumentation for homeland security and medical uses. There is no retail component to the business on the site.

 

In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, Mr. Doorley said that the buildings to be demolished were built in the 1960’s. Although portions of the property are in a floodplain, there has not been any flooding.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mr. Wall moved to grant variances from Sections 501B(2) and 1001B(3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a new 1,385 sq. ft. research facility accessory to an existing office with a 78.95' front yard instead of 150 ft., 84.79' side yard instead of 120' and 35.44' rear yard instead of 150' and parking stalls 9' by 19' instead of 10' by 20' and a Special Exception under section 1208(C)(2) to permit construction of a building on a non conforming lot. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Application of Delancey Court/McGrath Homes

 

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of McGrath Homes, John J. McGrath Jr. and Patrick V. Flanagan owners requesting a variance from Section 405.4(C), 902B(2)(b), 903B(5)(b), 903B(2), 1000E(3)(b)(2), and 1001(B)(3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of 120 age qualified houses with variances from the front side and rear yards, woodland disturbance of 62.1% where 50% is the maximum allowed, with a wetland crossing, and parking stall width of 9' where 10' is required.  The subject property is 398 Durham Road, Newtown, in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-3-34, 33-1,35, 36-2, and portion of 36.

 

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

 

Attorney Thomas Hecker represented the applicant. He said that John J. McGrath, Jr. and Patrick V. Flanagan were in attendance, and might be called as witnesses.

 

Mary Ellen Saylor, engineer with Pickering Corts and Summerson, was sworn in.

 

Mr. Hecker reviewed the history of McGrath Homes’ involvement with the property, noting that the land had been zoned PS-2. McGrath had submitted a land development plan for an office complex on a portion of the property. Another developer had submitted plans for an office complex on adjoining lots. The plans had been given some zoning relief and final plan approval. During the land development phase, the developers began to conduct market studies of the viability of 200,000 square feet of office space at this location. McGrath then developed a sketch plan for age-qualified housing on the lots, which they brought to the Board of Supervisors and discussed with the homeowners associations of Newtown Grant. Newtown Grant residents overwhelmingly preferred the age-qualified housing to the office concept. McGrath has purchased the parcels owned by Durham Road Associates, and, joining all parcels, have presented a request for zoning change to R-2, which permits age-qualified housing by conditional use. They have also been granted preliminary plan approval and conditional use approval for the plan. Conditional Use approval for 120 age-qualified townhomes is conditioned on the zoning relief sought in this application.

 

Ms. Saylor reviewed the lot lines for the Durham Road Associates property, Newtown Office and Pearson tracts, and a portion of the veterinarian’s property, which are to be consolidated. The remaining portion of the veterinarian’s parcel is to remain zoned PS-2.

 

Ms. Saylor reviewed the environmental issues on the property, including Newtown Creek, woodlands, wetlands and ponds. The total property is 39.8 acres, which would allow for 154 units. In order to reduce woodland disturbance, and to accommodate environmentally sensitive areas, the plan presented has only 120 units. The plan calls for a road crossing of the wetlands at the narrowest point, and sanitary sewer crossings are planned in the least disruptive manner.

 

The community will be gated, with private roads. A community center with pool, tennis courts and meeting rooms is planned. The entrance will be aligned with Municipal Drive. An additional emergency access is also planned. There are two spring fed ponds on the property, and two stormwater basins are planned. The wetlands also act as filter areas.

 

Ms. Saylor said that the builders met with representatives of the Joint Historic Commission earlier this evening to discuss preservation of the historic portion of a house located on the property. The historic building will be preserved and moved to the front of the development, to be connected to the community center. She said the house would be placed between units 27 and 28, or sold as a residence.

 

Ms. Saylor reviewed the lot lines for the units. Each unit is sold for fee simple, with surrounding land to be owned and maintained by the community association. In response to Mr. Wall’s questions, Ms. Saylor said that after all improvements have been completed, the developer will remain on the board of the community association until the Township is satisfied and the land is dedicated to the association.

 

Mr. Hecker said that McGrath has conducted market research and believes there is a good market for this product. A list of potential buyers has been compiled; McGrath’s other communities in Bucks have sold out quickly. In the event that this development fails to sell out, the State has required that funds be held in escrow, and McGrath is obligated to build and maintain amenities until the community association is self-sustaining.

 

Ms. Saylor said that McGrath is seeking a 62% disturbance of woodlands where only 50% disturbance is permitted. This disturbance is mitigated by the substantial landscaping and planting that is planned. In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Ms. Saylor said that the plan for office development would have caused 57% disturbance of woodland. A variance had been granted for that disturbance. The total area of woodlands in the development is 23.89 acres.

 

Ms. Saylor reviewed the crossing of wetlands for roads and utilities, noting that a culvert currently crosses Rte 413 and discharges into a ditch on the property. With planned improvements the culvert will be extended to direct water back toward the wetlands. Some grading will be necessary to cover the pipes. The plan attempts to minimize disturbance. Permits from PADEP are required for this work. The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed with DelVal Soils, and a general permit has been applied for. In order to qualify for this permit there must be disturbance of less that ¼ acre, and they have complied with this requirement. A variance for crossing for the sanitary sewer has already been granted. In response to questions from Mr. Katz, Ms. Saylor said that the State allows applications to be made to the County. An adequacy letter has already been received from the Bucks County Conservation District. In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, Ms. Saylor said that she will be following up on her applications for permits next week, but she does not know how long before permits will be issued.

 

Ms. Saylor explained that they are requesting a variance from the setback requirements because the lawns and open space are to be maintained by the community association. The Ordinance requires 15-foot setbacks. The plans allow for patios or decks of 200 to 250 square feet. The impervious surface allotment would permit up to 70 homes to have patios. There are no additions to homes permitted. Each home would have five to ten feet on the side, 5 feet at the front and ten to fifteen feet at the rear to allow for some personal gardening and landscaping.

 

John J. McGrath, Jr. was sworn in.

 

Mr. McGrath said that the largest units are 3,000 square feet. Some will have basements; all will have two-car garages. The pricing will be in the $600,000 range. There are some models that have master bedroom suites on the second floor, and these have optional elevators. In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, Mr. McGrath said that the minimum side distance between buildings is 30 feet and using units 107 and 117 as examples, said that the distance between buildings at the rear is about 50 feet. There is not enough room for end units to have side decks.

 

Ms. Saylor said that the Ordinance requires parking stalls to be 10 X 20 feet in parking lots, but is not clear on residential parking. They are requesting 18 foot driveways, which would allow two cars to be parked in each driveway, and would allow enough green area for the sanitary sewer lines. It also makes a prettier appearance than wider driveways with very small strips of lawn between them.

 

Mr. Hecker showed an artist’s rendering of the front elevation of the building. In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, he said that each building would be slightly different, depending on the model of home chosen. There would be some repetition of design.

 

In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, Ms. Saylor said that the internal streets will be 26 feet wide. Parking would be permitted on one side of the street, only. Using a computer generated image, Ms. Saylor showed the width needed for a fire engine to safely drive through a street with cars parked on one side. She said that the fire marshal has reviewed and approved this plan.

 

In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Hecker said that, although the streets are privately owned, the police can be invited in to patrol and enforce parking and speed limits. He said that there have not been any problems in other McGrath developments, where residents self-police traffic and parking matters.

 

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

 

Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 405.4(C), 902B(2)(b), 903B(5)(b), 903B(2), 1000E(3)(b)(2), and 1001(B)(3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of 120 age qualified houses with variances from the front side and rear yards, woodland disturbance of 62.1% where 50% is the maximum allowed, with a wetland crossing, and parking stall width of 9' where 10' is required. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

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

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

 

 

Mary Donaldson

Recording Secretary