ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF JUNE 7, 2007
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, June 7, 2007 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: William Wall, Chairman; Victoria Bowe, Vice-Chairman; David Katz, Secretary; Gail Laughlin and John Lenihan, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Michael Solomon, Zoning Officer and Donna D’Angelis, Stenographer.Call to Order
Mr. Wall called the meeting to Order at 7:30 PM.The Pledge of Allegiance
The agenda was reviewed.
Approval of Minutes
Mrs. Laughlin moved to accept the minutes of May 3, 2007. Mrs. Bowe seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mrs. Laughlin moved to accept the minutes of the special meeting of May 17, 207. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Continued Application of Third Federal Bank
Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that he had received a letter on behalf of the applicant from attorney Don Marshall requesting that this application be continued to the July meeting, as the applicant is attempting to redesign the sign which is the subject of the application.
Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of Third Federal Bank to July 5, 2007. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application of James and Darla McLaughlin
Mr. Katz read into the record the application of James and Darla McLaughlin, James and Darla McLaughlin owners requesting a variance from Section 404(B)(&(C) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit subdivision of one lot into two lots resulting in a 15.75% (lot 1) and 14.9% (lot 2) impervious surface ratio where 12% is allowed and a 50 feet lot width where 100 feet is required. The subject property is 174 Durham Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-4-38.
Attorney T.J. Walsh, representing the applicants in this application, requested that the application be continued to July.
Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of James and Darla McLaughlin to July 5, 2007. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Application of Newtown Veterinary Hospital
Mr. Katz read into the record the application of Newtown Veterinary Hospital LLC, Terry Realty Corp Inc. owner, requesting a variance from Section 803(E-20)(2) and 1001(B)(3) and 1304(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an E-2- Veterinary Clinic in an existing 10,000 square feet warehouse with a total of 54 parking spaces where 99 are required and to allow 40 parking spaces to be 9 feet by 18 feet instead of 10 by 20 feet and to permit the veterinary use on a lot that is not on or does not have arterial street access. The subject property is 107 Penns Trail Road Lot 2, Newtown, in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-95.
Mr. Wall asked if anyone present wished to be party to this application. Township Solicitor Paul Beckert responded that Newtown Township would like to be a party in support of the application, subject to the conditions that only 15 parking spaces be 9 feet by 18 feet, and these parking spaces be designated as employee parking. The Township would support fewer parking spaces, if the remaining spaces are full size. The Township has concerns for the safety of the Veterinary Hospital clients and their pets, and feels that fewer spaces will be adequate for the volume of business at the hospital.
Attorney T.J. Walsh represented the applicants. He said that the applicant would agree to the Township’s conditions. As a result of the review of this application with the Supervisors, the applicant has revised the plan, which now shows 50 parking spaces, 2 of which are ADA compliant and 15 would be the reduced size of 9 feet by 18 feet. The relief sought is for 49 parking spaces.
Dr. Timothy Ireland was sworn in. Dr. Ireland said that Newtown Veterinary Hospital has been at 671 Newtown Yardley Road since 1968. That location has 5000 square feet of space for 7100 clients with 10,000 patients (animals). He is planning to move the practice to 107 Penns Trail to a 10,000 square foot building. This is a small animal hospital with 95% of the practice treating cats and dogs. It is both an out-patient and surgical hospital. Sick animals do stay overnight, but there is no boarding kennel facility. In addition to the exam rooms and surgical facilities, there would be a pharmacy and administrative offices. The move will give the current staff, 6 veterinarians and 30-35 support staff, additional space. There is no plan to expand the practice, only to provide more space for the current practice. The staff works in shifts, so there is a maximum of 12 to 15 employees on site at any time.
Mr. Walsh entered as Exhibit A-1, a revised plan. He noted that there are no major changes to the exterior of the building, only handicapped accessibility to the front entrance. He entered as Exhibit A-2 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines for construction of new facilities. He noted the AAHA guidelines call for 48 parking spaces for a 10,000 square foot facility.
In response to questions from Mr. Lenihan, Dr. Ireland said that he would be expanding his physical therapy and rehabilitation space, but not expanding the practice. Hours of operation are 8AM to 8PM, with kennel staff working earlier and later. Much of the support staff is part-time. The estimate of 15 employees on site at any time includes doctors.
In response to Mr. Beckert’s question, Dr. Ireland said that he would agree to a condition that employees use the reduced size parking stalls.
Trisha McLaughlin was sworn in. Ms. McLaughlin said that she has been the practice manager at Newtown Veterinary Hospital for one year, and has worked in veterinary practices for 11 years.
Mr. Walsh entered as Exhibit A-3, a series of photographs of 107 Penns Trail.
Ms. McLaughlin narrated the photographs as follows:
In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Ms. McLaughlin said that a new door will be installed as a rear entrance.
Jeff Grogan was sworn in. Mr. Grogan said that he is a registered architect. He has visited the site and toured the building, which was built in the 1950’s. It has a front office with rear warehouse space. It was not built for this proposed use, but will be renovated. The two acre property has 38% impervious surface, which will remain. The only exterior modifications planned are to make the front entrance handicapped accessible. The blacktop will be re-striped for parking. Mr. Grogan reviewed the locations for ADA compliant, full size and reduced size parking spaces, noting that the reduced spaces would be toward the rear of the property for employee use. The AAHA recommends 48 spaces for a facility this size. To provide additional parking, some mature landscaping would have to be removed. The applicant is also seeking a variance for a veterinary clinic that does not have arterial street access. The property is inside the Newtown Business Commons. The applicant did not create this hardship, and the addition of the hospital will not alter the character of the Business Commons.
Mr. Wall expressed some concern about eroding the Township’s parking Ordinance and questioned the AAHA recommendation of only 48 parking spaces, where the Township requires 99 spaces.
Mr. Grogan pointed out that the Ordinance requirement is not specific to veterinary hospitals, but the “medical offices”. The AAHA recommendations are accepted in most municipalities where he has worked. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Grogan said that his architectural practice is primarily in design of veterinary clinics and hospitals.
In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Mr. Grogan said that the site’s surrounding neighbors include Microtronics, a cell tower and Newtown Office Supply.
Mr. Solomon had no comment.
Mr. Lenihan moved to grant variances from Section 803(E-20)(2) and 1001(B)(3) and 1304(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an E-2- Veterinary Clinic in an existing 10,000 square feet warehouse with a total of 50 parking spaces where 99 are required and to allow 15 parking spaces to be 9 feet by 18 feet instead of 10 by 20 feet and to permit the veterinary use on a lot that is not on or does not have arterial street access, with the condition that all 9 X 18 foot parking spaces be designated as “employee parking” and that employees be required to park in these spaces. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Brighter Future LLC
Mr. Katz read into the record the application of Brighter Future LLC, Shirley Guzikowski owner, requesting a variance from Section 601A and 803(C-3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a Kumon educational enrichment program, a C-3 Commercial School Use in the Convenience Commercial District with less than 30 spaces allocated to the use where 30 are required. Applicant also appeals the determination that this is a Commercial School Use. The subject property is 18 Richboro Road, Newtown Depot Shopping Center, Newtown, in the CC - Convenience Commercial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-11-48.
Mr. Wall asked if anyone present wished to be party to this application. Mr. Beckert said that the Township would like party status to support the action of the zoning officer in his determination that this is a commercial school use, which is not permitted in the CC- Convenience Commercial Zoning District. The Township takes no position as to the issuance of a variance to allow a commercial school.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant. He and Mr. Beckert briefly discussed the Township’s position, after which Mr. Marshall withdrew the applicant’s appeal of the action of the zoning officer.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant is using space in the building formerly occupied by Caldwell Banker in the Newtown Depot shopping center. This is a 2.6 acre shopping center that also has had a dance studio renting space. The applicant will occupy the old stone house, which is 2100 square feet.
Mr. Marshall entered as Exhibit A-1 the lease between the landlord and the applicant, along with the first rider, and as Exhibit A-2, the plot plan.
Sunil Dhavalikar was sworn in. Mr. Dhavalikar said that he is the president of the Brighter Futures franchised Kumon math and reading program. He has another facility in Feasterville. The program is based on a learning system that helps students by distributing worksheets to them and then grading them individually and advancing them incrementally. Students come to the center two or three times each week, bringing with them worksheets completed at home. The instructors then spend five to ten minutes with the student reviewing the worksheets and assigning the next set of worksheets. It is a two story building with offices on the second floor and instruction space on the first floor. There would be a maximum of thirty students, aged 5 through 15, and ten employees. The average visit by a student is thirty minutes or less. Typically, students are dropped off and picked up, although there is a waiting area for parents. The instruction hours are from 4PM to 7PM on weekdays, with administrative work done at other times. The level of activity for the business is similar to Caldwell Banker’s. There are ten parking spaces assigned to this building. Mr. Dhavalikar said that he agreed with Mr. Marshall to withdraw the appeal of the zoning officer, and to seek a variance for a commercial school.
In response to questions from Mrs. Bowe, Mr. Dhavalikar said that students come to the center by appointment on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. If the hours were to be expanded, it would be to another weekday; the business would remain closed on weekends.
Mrs. Bowe noted that there is no longer a dance studio in this shopping center, but there is an exercise studio and a bible school.
In response to Mr. Lenihan’s questions, Mr. Dhavalikar said that sometimes parents wait for their children, and it would be possible to have as many as fifteen cars, but that is not usual. The instructors are frequently high school students who come directly from school. Some take buses. The business would be similar to his location in Feasterville, where there are 40 parking spaces for five businesses in the shopping center, and parking has not been a problem.
Mr. Katz expressed some concern about the busy entrance area for this shopping center.
Mr. Dhavalikar said that his other location also has only one entrance, on Bridgetown Pike. There has not been any problem with traffic at the entrance. He noted that a number of his students are siblings arriving together. Thirty is the maximum number of students; they are not all on the premises at the same time, nor do they arrive in separate cars. In response to other questions from the Board, Mr. Dhavalikar said that the program is for both remedial and enrichment work. There are two administrative staff and up to ten instructors.
Shirley Guzikowski was sworn in. Ms. Guzikowski said that she is the owner of the shopping center and signatory on this lease. Her current tenants include a tanning salon, paint store, ceramics store, frame shop, barber, dry cleaner, dental lab, bible school, beauty parlor, restaurant and Dunkin Donuts. It was constructed as a convenience shopping center. The drainage area was donated to the Township. Other school type businesses have been approved and have occupied the shopping center. The parking lot is rarely full. There is employee parking in the rear. She said that this would be a good business for this location.
In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Ms. Guzikowski said that she has required employees to park in the rear of the shopping center, and has sent letters to tenants periodically reminding them of this. The bible school has a rear entrance and classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
Mr. Dhavalikar said that he would agree to a condition that employees park on the north side of the parking area.
Mr. Solomon had no comment.
Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from Section 601A and 803(C-3) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit a Kumon educational enrichment program, a C-3 Commercial School Use in the Convenience Commercial District with less than 30 spaces allocated to the use where 30 are required, subject to the condition that employees be required to park on the north side of the parking lot. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Continued Application of Leo Holt
In attendance for this appeal were Tracy Paul Hunt, representing the applicant, Carole Stuckley and Jane Johnson, parties in support of the application, Paul Beckert representing Newtown Township and John Rice representing Upper Makefield Township. Mr. Rice said that attorney Ed Murphy, representing Toll Brothers, had authorized himself and Mr. Beckert to act on his behalf.
Mr. Hunt said that he represents Leo Holt in this validity challenge. He apologized for the delay in his appearance, explaining that he had been in attendance at the Council Rock School Board meeting. The School Board has approved an agreement of sale for Mr. Holt to purchase 40 acres of the Melsky property. This property, along with 30 acres of Mr. Holt’s existing farm, will be preserved as open space. This is a compromise and not the perfect solution for all parties. It will allow the Veterans Administration to proceed with the purchase of land for a cemetery in Upper Makefield. He said that at this time Mr. Holt withdraws his validity challenge and also the appeal of the preliminary opinion of the zoning officer. He thanked the Board for its time.
Ms. Stuckley said that she and the other parties would like to continue with the challenge.
Mr. Auchinleck explained that Mr. Holt is the applicant and he, through his attorney, has withdrawn his appeal. There is no application to continue. Ms. Stuckley had been a party to Mr. Holt’s application, not an applicant. Her rights as a party were only to participate in the application. There is no longer an application.
In response to Ms. Johnson’s question, Mr. Auchinleck said that she cannot appeal the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision because the Zoning Hearing Board did not make a decision.
Mr. Rice said that only Mr. Holt had filed an appeal; the time to appeal the Ordinance has expired.
Mr. Wall said that the Holt hearing is concluded.
Application of Paul and Bethany Deppi
Mr. Katz read into the record the application of Paul and Bethany Deppi, Paul and Bethany Deppi owners requesting a variance from Section 404(B) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a 256 square feet rear kitchen addition and a 60 square feet rear laundry room addition resulting in a 15.62% impervious surface ratio where 12% is allowed and a Special Exception under 1208(C)(2) to permit construction on a non conforming lot. The subject property is 103 Upper Silver Lake Road, Newtown, in the R1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-15-14.
Mr. Auchinleck noted that the applicant was not in attendance. Although a friend of the applicant had been at the meeting, he had no proof that he is authorized to act on the applicant’s behalf.
Mr. Lenihan moved to continue the application of Paul and Bethany Deppi to July 5, 2007. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 10:00PM. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary