NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP

ZONING HEARING BOARD

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF OCTOBER 5, 2006

The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, October 5, 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 Barbara Stalheim, Stenographer.

Call to Order

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

The Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Minutes

Mr. Katz moved to approve the minutes of September 7, 2006. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to approve the minutes of the special meeting of September21, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

The agenda was reviewed.

  • Continued Application of Steven DiMeglio - 150 Wrights Road
  • Continued Application of Chetan and Reshma Patel – 140 Wrights Road
  • Application of DeLuca Enterprises – 138 South Sycamore Street
  • Application of DeLuca Enterprises – 135 South Sycamore Street
  • Application of James and Janet Gray – 22 Barclay Street
  • Application of Mr. & Mrs. Doug Karp – 3 Dorchester Lane
  • Application of Vincent A. Lombardi – 123-125 North Sycamore Street
  • Application of Center Club of Newtown – 11 Friends Lane
Continued Application of Steven DiMeglio
Continued Application of Chetan and Reshma Patel

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that the Township Solicitor is attempting to resolve this matter. He has asked for a continuance. This is agreeable to both applicants.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to continue the application of Steven DiMeglio and the application of Chetan and Reshma Patel to November 2, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of DeLuca Enterprises – 138 South Sycamore Street

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of DeLuca Enterprises, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia owners requesting a variance from Section 603(B)(1), 803(D-1)(5), 803(G-3), 903(B)(9), 1001(B)(3), 1001(A)(7), and 1001(D)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 50,850 square foot office building with 35 ft. building height instead of 30', 5 ft. front yard instead of 20 ft., 175 parking spaces instead of 210, 9'x18' spaces instead of 10'x20', and stormwater, fence and curb variances. The subject property is 138 South Sycamore Street, Newtown, in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-2.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he has received a letter from Ed Murphy, attorney for the applicant, asking that this application be continued. The applicant is discussing possible changes to the plan, which could result in an amended application.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to continue the application of DeLuca Enterprises, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to November 2, 2006. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Center Club of Newtown – 11 Friends Lane

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Center Club of Newtown, 11 Friends Lane, LLP owners requesting a variance from Section 803(C-6)(1) & (5) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a 14,700 square foot athletic facility on a 1.3162 acre parcel where the minimum lot size is 5 acres with 155 parking spaces where 427 are required. The subject property is 11 Friends Lane, Newtown, in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-105.

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he has received a letter from the applicant requesting that this application be continued to the November meeting.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to continue the application of Center Club of Newtown to November 2, 2006. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of James and Janet Gray

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of James and Janet Gray, James and Janet Gray owners requesting a Special Exception under Section 1208 (C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 352 square foot sunroom on a nonconforming lot. The subject property is 22 Barclay Street, Newtown, in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-11-4.

James Gray and Janet Gray were sworn in.

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

Mr. Gray said that he would like to put a sunroom at the rear of his house. He is not part of any development, so does not need approval from a homeowners association. His house backs onto Chandler baseball fields. His neighbors have expressed support for his plans. In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Gray said that the sunroom would be at the same location as the existing patio.

Peter Bechsky, 20 Barclay Street, said that he is the next-door neighbor to the Grays, and he supports this application.

Mr. Lenihan said that he has visited the site. The location for the sunroom is already impervious. The sunroom will not have any impact on neighbors.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Mr. Gray said that the house was built in 1977.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a Special Exception under Section 1208 (C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 352 square foot sunroom on a nonconforming lot. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Mr. & Mrs. Doug Karp

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Mr. and Mrs. Doug Karp, owners requesting a variance from Section 401 (B) and (C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Newtown Meadows final plan to permit construction of a 21 feet by 37 feet paver patio resulting in 23.6% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 20% and a 37.6 feet rear yard where 50 feet is required. The subject property is 3 Dorchester Lane, Newtown, in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-37-12.

Doug Karp and Jamie Karp were sworn in.

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

Mr. Karp said that he wanted to replace his small deck with a larger patio to provide a safe play area for his three children.

Mr. Lenihan said that he visited the site and noted that work had already been started on the patio.

Mr. Karp said that his contractor did not realize that a variance would be needed.

Scott Brittingham of Sunrise landscaping was sworn in.

Mr. Brittingham explained that, although he has done a great deal of landscaping work in Newtown, this is his first time doing hardscaping here. He has built patios elsewhere in the County. He was unaware of the impervious surface limitations on the property.

Mr. Karp said that his Homeowners Association has no objection to the plan. His property backs onto a wheat field owned by Mr. Campbell, who also has no objections. His neighbors support his plan.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 401 (B) and (C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 and Newtown Meadows final plan to permit construction of a 21 feet by 37 feet paver patio resulting in 23.6% impervious surface ratio where the maximum permitted is 20% and a 37.6 feet rear yard where 50 feet is required. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of DeLuca Enterprises – 135 South Sycamore Street

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of DeLuca Enterprises, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia owners requesting a variance from Section 405(A) (B), & (C); and 902 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit subdivision of existing convent and conversion to offices where office use is not permitted; with a 0.1755 acres lot size with 42% impervious where 2 acres is required and 35% is the maximum permitted impervious, and with set back and open space variances. The subject property is 135 North Sycamore Street, Newtown, in the R-2 High Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-10.

Attorney Ed Murphy represented the Archdiocese in this application.

Father Michael Picard was sworn in.

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

Mr. Wall noted for the record that three Board members and the Solicitor are members of St. Andrew’s parish. The Solicitor has researched the matter, and he and the applicant agree that there is no conflict of interest.

Mr. Murphy explained that The Archdiocese is planning to sell the preschool building and the old convent to DeLuca Enterprises. Both properties are no longer in use. The Archdiocese wishes to subdivide the 4.5-acre lot that contains the convent, Old St. Andrew’s Church and the cemetery, selling only the convent site and its immediate surrounding property.

The Church and Father Picard have some concerns about a use of the convent property because there is still active use of the Church and cemetery. They have entered into an agreement of sale with DeLuca, which plans a low impact, non-retail, use for the convent building. This will be general office use, and no medical uses. The Church will retain ownership of the parking lot, but will sign an easement agreement and unilateral declaration and covenant, permitting DeLuca to use the parking lot.

Mr. Murphy reviewed the subdivision, noting that lot #1 would contain the Church, parking lot and Cemetery. Lot #2 would be the convent site, only. The Archdiocese is trying to keep this lot as small as possible to retain the land needed for Church use. The convent is a 3000 square-foot building. The easement for parking would be “in perpetuity”. Nothing along Sycamore Street will change. At the time of the demolition of the old rectory building, Father Picard had agreed to maintain the convent building.

HARB will review the proposed renovations to the convent building. All religious artifacts, including the stained glass windows, have been removed. The façade is to remain the same.

In response to Mr. Lenihan’s question, Mr. Murphy said that DeLuca will not be retaining use of the office space, but would either resell it or seek tenants. Based on the size of the building, there would be sufficient parking for general office use.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Murphy said that the parking easements and declaration have not yet been prepared. The applicant would agree to providing these as a condition of granting the variances.

Father Picard confirmed all that Mr. Murphy has said.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Auchinleck said that Section 405(A) of the Zoning Ordinance requires that the applicant show a hardship in using the property as residential.

Father Picard explained that the convent was built in 1930, but has not been renovated since. It is in very poor condition, in need of upgraded heating, a new roof, and replacement windows. It does not have adequate wiring for air conditioning. At one time he had been given an estimate to restore the rectory, which was in similar condition, and it would have cost $250,000 to make all necessary repairs. The kitchen is in fair condition, as it had some upgrades about fifteen years ago.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 405(A) (B), & (C); and 902 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit subdivision of existing convent and conversion to offices where office use is not permitted; with a 0.1755 acres lot size with 42% impervious where 2 acres is required and 35% is the maximum permitted impervious, and with set back and open space variances, subject to the condition that declarations and covenants, parking and access easement agreements are reviewed and found satisfactory by the Township Solicitor. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Application of Vincent A. Lombardi

Mrs. Bowe read into the record the application of Vincent A. Lombardi, Vincent A. and Sally A. Lombardi owners requesting a variance from Section 1106(G)(4)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit four signs each 6 square feet where the maximum size is 2 square feet. The subject property is 123-125 North Sycamore Street, Newtown, in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-12-11.

Vincent Lombardi was sworn in.

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

Mr. Lombardi entered as Exhibits A, B, and C a packet of photographs showing views of the buildings at 123 Sycamore Street. Exhibit “D” shows a scale drawing of the new building, with sample signs drawn in.

Referring to photograph “A”, Mr. Lombardi explained that these are three small offices, perpendicular to Sycamore Street, facing a small parking lot. Photograph “B” shows an older building, facing the opposite side of the parking lot. Mr. Lombardi explained that as cars enter the parking lot, they stop on the apron, blocking the sidewalk, while looking for the appropriate office. Sage Chiropractic and Knit Haven, both already with locations in Newtown, have moved in, as well as Affinity Insurance, formerly of Doylestown. All have placed their signs leaning against the building, and these larger signs have helped to eliminate the problem of blocking the sidewalk. The signs will be set next to the offices, far back from the curb, not obstructing the street.

Mr. Lombardi said that the older building does not yet have a tenant. The hanging sign at the older building will become an address sign. He would like a larger sign for this building, but is not sure which location on the side facing the parking lot would work best. He also plans to place a directory sign on the outside wall of the new building, perpendicular to Sycamore Street.

In response to Mrs. Bowe’s questions, Mr. Lombardi said that the signs would be lighted by the lights in the soffit of the porch overhang. This is permitted in the historic district.

In response to Mr. Katz’s request for some clarification of the Ordinance, Mr. Auchinleck said that each tenant is permitted a 2 foot sign. The site is also permitted a directory, or joint use, sign. The request is for larger signs.

Mr. Katz referred to a recent Zoning Hearing Board decision, for Raymond James, that permitted the larger sign, but limited the number of signs.

Mr. Auchinleck said that the space occupied by Raymond James is very large, and conceivably could be occupied by multiple tenants. This building has three small offices.

Mrs. Bowe said that she would like to limit the number of signs on this site. Although the offices are small, they could conceivably be leased to multiple tenants, with needs for their own signage. She gave an example of two individual accountants dividing the space into two rooms.

Mr. Katz said that he does not object to the request for these three signs, and one sign for the older building. He is, however, concerned about signs for each tenant on the stone façade of the building that faces Sycamore Street.

Mrs. Bowe said that she would like to limit the total square footage for signs on the building, and to add a condition that no freestanding signs be permitted.

Mr. Lombardi said that he would agree to these conditions. He showed a board the size of the proposed signs, and said that, to make them more visible to those entering the parking lot, he would mount them so that the far side of the sign tilts out slightly toward Sycamore Street.

Mr. Lenihan asked whether there could be another business on the second floor of the older building; unless the total square footage was limited, another business would be entitled to another sign.

Mr. Lombardi said that it would be difficult, but not impossible for a business to open on the second floor. It is currently a residential apartment.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to grant a variance from Section 1106(G)(4)(b) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit four signs each 6 square feet where the maximum size is 2 square feet, subject to the following conditions:

  • That the total square footage for individual signs be limited to 24 square feet;
  • That there be no free-standing signs;
  • All new signs face the parking lot, with no more than an 8 inch offset at the rear of the sign;
  • That there be no signage on the stone façade of the building, facing Sycamore Street.

Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 9:15PM. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary