NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP

ZONING HEARING BOARD

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF NOVEMBER 1, 2007

The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, November 1, 2007 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Victoria Bowe, Vice-Chairman; Gail Laughlin and John Lenihan, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor; Michael Solomon, Zoning Officer and William Campbell, Stenographer.

Call to Order

Mrs. Bowe called the meeting to Order at 7:30 PM.

The Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Minutes

Mr. Katz moved to accept the minutes of October 4, 2007. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Mr. Lenihan moved to accept the minutes of the special meeting of October 23, 2007. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

The agenda was reviewed:

Continued Application of Sycamore Restaurant LLC/ Newtown Irish Pub - 240 N. Sycamore Street

Continued Application of Kieffer & Co. Inc./Petsmart - 2600 South Eagle Road

Application of M & N Homes – 136 Hidden Valley Lane

Application of 109 Pheasant Run, LLC -109 Pheasant Run

Application of Friends Lane, LLC – 104 Penns Trail

Application of Rite Aid Pharmacy – 1 Ice Cream Alley

Continued Application of Sycamore Restaurant LLC/ Newtown Irish Pub - 240 N. Sycamore Street

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that the applicant has withdrawn this application. The Board of Supervisors has granted the applicant conditional use approval.

Continued Application of Kieffer & Co. Inc./Petsmart - 2600 South Eagle Road

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been advertised prior to the special meeting of October 23, 2007, at which time the Board heard and decided on the application.

Application of M & N Homes – 136 Hidden Valley Lane

Mr. Katz read into the record the a pplication of M&N Homes LP, owner, requesting a variance from Section 404B of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a single family detached dwelling, patio, walkway and driveway resulting in 12.65% impervious surface ratio where 12% is permitted. The subject property is 136 Hidden Valley Lane, Newtown, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-2-3-2.

Attorney Carrie Nace represented the applicant.

Mrs. Bowe asked if anyone present wished party status for this application. There was no response.

Mr. Auchinleck said that he had received a letter from Jane Caruso of 9 Chestnut Drive, who is unable to attend this evening’s meeting, but had concerns about the application. Her letter was marked as Exhibit C-1 and shown to the Board.

Ms. Nase entered the following Exhibits:

  • Exhibit A-1 – Plot Plan to the property dated May 16, 2006
  • Exhibit A-2 – As Built Plan dated September 2, 2007.

Dean Riniker of Gilmore & Associates was sworn in. Mr. Riniker, an engineer with 21 years of experience, and project manager on this project was accepted as an expert witness.

Mr. Riniker explained that this property was part of a three lot subdivision. It is lot #3 in the plans. The project, as shown on Exhibit A-1, is a single family home on a 40,500 square foot lot in the R-1 Zoning District. The plan shows a 12 foot wide driveway and a small bio-retention basin in the rear. On Exhibit A-2, the as-built plan, there are minor changes to the plan, including a 3-car garage and a sidewalk 15 feet longer than originally proposed. A breakfast room, steps to the basement and 12 foot by 12 foot patio were added. The original plot plan shows an impervious surface of 9.2%, while the as-built plan shows 12.6% where the maximum allowed is 12%. The impervious over that permitted is 264 square feet, the size of a parking area for a car. The existing stormwater management is suitable to handle the additional impervious surface, as it was designed to exceed by 3% what would have been required for a 12% impervious ratio.

Mr. Riniker said that, in his professional opinion, the increased impervious surface is de minimis, in that it is less than 1% above the maximum permitted, has no adverse impact on adjoining properties and the basin can accommodate the additional impervious surface.

Ms.Nase entered as Exhibit A-3 a memo outlining de minimis variances

In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Riniker said that the lot is graded so that run-off flows to a basin made up of wetland plantings that serve to hold and filter the water of impurities before it is discharged into a swale on lot 1 of the subdivision. The basin has been designed above the requirement to handle 12% impervious surface. He did not know where 9 Chestnut Drive, the home of the writer of Exhibit C-1, was located.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Riniker said that to the north of this home is another home of similar size, to the west is a steep slope to lot #1 and the floodplains and creek. To the east are smaller townhomes; this is part of a large development.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant a variance from Section 404B of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a single family detached dwelling, patio, walkway and driveway resulting in 12.65% impervious surface ratio where 12% is permitted. Mrs. Laughlin seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Application of 109 Pheasant Run, LLC .

Mr. Katz read into the record the application of 109 Pheasant Run, LLC, requesting a variances from Sections 803(D-1)(5), 1102(D), and 1101(F)(6)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit conversion of an existing 11,827 square feet manufacturing facility into a D-1 office use with a 7,500 square feet addition providing 93 parking spaces where 97 are required, permitting parking 6.2 feet from the property line and legal right of way where a 20 feet set back is required from the right of way and a ten feet set back is required from the property line, and providing delivery area for UPS sized trucks rather than a 50 feet by 15 feet loading berth as required. The subject property is 109 Pheasant Run, Newtown Business Commons, Newtown, in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-128.

Mrs. Bowe asked if anyone wished party status. There was no response.

Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant.

Applicant Bruce White and Matthew Chartrand of Bohler Engineering were sworn in.

Mr. Marshall entered the following exhibits:

  • Exhibit A-1 – Plan as revised to comply with Township Engineer’s review
  • Exhibit A-2 – Title report showing the applicant as owner of the property

Mr. Marshall explained that Mr. White is a principal in 109 Pheasant Run, LLC and an employee of Johnson Kendall Johnson, and insurance company. The property is a 2.205 acre parcel in the LI zoning district. The existing building had been used for light manufacturing. The applicant intends to adaptively reuse the 11,827 square foot building for D-1 office use for Johnson Kendall Johnson’s offices. Phase II of the plan calls for an addition of 7500 square feet, to be built when needed. Currently Johnson Kendall Johnson has 64 employees, although at any given time at least 20 of those employees are on the road.

Referring to an aerial photograph, Mr. Marshall said that the applicant wishes to use the front yard for parking so as not to disturb the large stand of trees that runs along the property line to the side and rear.

The plans show 98 parking spaces; the applicant wishes to install only 93 of those spaces if relief from the loading dock is not granted. This is an office use, and as such would have deliveries by UPS trucks only. The applicant would like to eliminate the loading dock and instead provide a drop off area. The fire marshal has asked that no parking be placed near the sprinkler connection, so an additional parking space is eliminated. The applicant intends to request the Board of Supervisors’ permission for the additional parking to remain in green until it is needed, at the time of construction of the addition.

Messrs. White and Chartrand agreed with Mr. Marshall’s summary of the application.

In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Chartrand said that the truck loading area would be the size of two parking spaces, near the rear entrance. He said that there would be landscaping between the front yard parking and the sidewalk, screening the parking area.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Katz moved to grant variances from Sections 803(D-1)(5), 1102(D), and 1101(F)(6)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit conversion of an existing 11,827 square feet manufacturing facility into a D-1 office use with a 7,500 square feet addition providing 93 parking spaces where 97 are required, permitting parking 6.2 feet from the property line and legal right of way where a 20 feet set back is required from the right of way and a ten feet set back is required from the property line, and providing delivery area for UPS sized trucks rather than a 50 feet by 15 feet loading berth as required . Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Application of Friends Lane, LLC

Mr. Katz read into the record the application of Friends Lane, LLC., equitable owner, requesting a variance from Section 1101(D)(2), and 1101(F)(6)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a new self storage facility consisting of a 36,180 two-story building and a 27,000 square feet two-story building with interior parking and driveways to be constructed without curbing and to permit parking within 5 feet of the side (northern) property line where a ten feet set back is required. The subject property is 104 Pheasant Run, lot 51 Newtown Business Commons, Newtown, in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-10-94.

Mrs. Bowe asked if anyone wished party status. There was no response.

Attorney Barbara Kirk represented the applicant. She said that the applicant has already been granted a variance for impervious surface.

Walter Bronson, an engineer with Pickering Corts and Summerson, was sworn in. In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, Mr. Bronson said that he has been accepted as an expert witness by this Board in the past. He was again accepted as an expert witness.

Ms. Kirk entered the following exhibits:

  • Exhibit A-1 – The deed to the property
  • Exhibit A-2 – Sketch plan for mini-storage facility

Ms. Kirk said that the applicant is planning to build a self storage facility consisting of two 2-story buildings with associated parking and stormwater management areas on a vacant lot in the LI- light industrial zoning district. There is a 100 foot wide area along the property line containing wetlands, a sanitary sewer line and open waters that cannot be developed. The entire project has been shifted to be closer to the adjoining property line. The applicant wishes to place parking spaces within 5 feet of the property line because there is no other place to put them.

Regarding the request to eliminate curbing, Mr. Bronson explained that the water will flow unimpeded across the grass areas into a swale and detention basin. This is a more effective way to manage stormwater for this project.

Ms. Kirk said that the variances are de minimis for the reasonable use of the property. There will be no adverse impact on adjoining neighbors. The applicant will provide a fence and landscape buffer at the edge of the paved area to prevent parking on the grass.

Ms. Kirk asked that if variances are granted, the prior decision be incorporated into the new decision.

In response to Mr. Katz’s questions, Mr. Bronson said that there is a retaining wall on the plan. SLCPP is smooth lined corrugated plastic pipe. The applicant is currently working through the NPDES process.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mrs. Laughlin moved to grant a variance from Section 1101(D)(2), and 1101(F)(6)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit construction of a new self storage facility consisting of a 36,180 two-story building and a 27,000 square feet two-story building with interior parking and driveways to be constructed without curbing and to permit parking within 5 feet of the side (northern) property line where a ten feet set back is required. Mr. Lenihan seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Application of Rite Aid, KLS RYAN LP

Mr. Katz read into the record the application of Rite Aid, KLS RYAN LP owner, requesting variances from Sections 1106(H)(4)(a), 1106(H)(4)(c)(2)(a), 1106(H)(4)(d), 1106(F)(7) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an three individual establishment identification signs facing Sycamore Street where only one such sign is permitted; to permit the “Rite Aid Pharmacy” facade sign to be 95.58 square feet instead of the maximum permitted 75.58 square feet; to permit individual establishment signs to be mounted at a height greater than the maximum height of 9 feet; and to allow information and public service signs including three wall mounted "Drive-thru Pharmacy” signs to be 17.08 square feet instead of 2 square feet and higher than five feet, two free standing vehicular direction signs to be four square feet, and a three square feet “Clearance 10’0” ” sign, a 1.5 square feet “Pick-up” wall sign, and a 2.25 square feet “Exit Only” wall sign, at a height greater than 5 feet . The subject property is 1 Ice Cream Alley, Newtown, in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-3-24-2.

Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the applicant.

Mrs. Bowe asked if anyone wished party status. There was no response.

Mr. Van Luvanee explained that the applicant is seeking variances to permit signage for the Rite Aid Pharmacy within the Goodnoe’s Corner Shopping Center. The Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) has approved the façade of the building, but approval of signage has been withheld pending Zoning Hearing Board relief.

Mr. VanLuvanee entered the following exhibits:

  • Exhibit A-1 – Letter from Paul Beckert dated October 1, 2007, confirming issuance of a certificate of appropriateness for the façade of the building
  • Exhibit A-2 – a packet of signage images as they will appear on the building.

Daren Hapbell was sworn in. Mr. Hapbell said that he is a project manager with Blair Sign Company. He has worked in this business for 12 years, on 50 to 60 Rite Aid projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Rite Aid is not his only client, however. Mr. Hapbell said that he has attended Newtown Township’s Planning Commission and HARB to discuss the signage.

Referring to Exhibit A-2, Mr. Hapbell reviewed the four sides of the building. He noted that the front entrance of the store is at an angle facing the parking lot and is visible from the side facing the parking lot and shopping center toward Sycamore Street and the side facing Firstrust Bank. There are no illuminated signs on the side of the building referred to as elevation “C”, which contains the loading dock, and no signage at all on the façade “B” facing Silo Drive.

Page 2 of Exhibit A-2 shows the corner elevation, with individual mounted letters, spelling out the words “Rite Aid” in 2 foot 6 inch letters and the word “Pharmacy” in individual letters 24 inches high. These letters are back lit or halo lit. Mr. Hapbell provided a sample back lit letter for the Board to see. If these words, “Rite Aid” and “Pharmacy” were to be boxed as a sign the total area would be 95.58 square feet. For comparison, Mr. Hapbell said that the Firstrust letters are 2 feet, 4 inches high. A sign with the words “drive thru” on a blue background hangs below the word “Pharmacy”. This sign is illuminated by gooseneck lanterns.

Mr. Hapbell reviewed the other signs proposed. Along elevation “A” facing the parking lot toward Sycamore Street, are a “drive thru pharmacy” directional sign and a “1 hr photo” sign. Elevation “D” facing Firstrust Bank, shows a “drive thru pharmacy” directional sign and a “food mart” sign.

Mr. Van Luvanee explained that the “drive thru”, “1 hr photo” and “food mart” are necessary to alert customers to the services at this location. These signs are not visible from Sycamore Street.

Mr. Hapbell reviewed the various signs used for the drive through window, including traffic controls for clearance, drop off and pick up, as well as an “exit only” sign at the drive through window exit. All of the signs are to be blue and/or white.

In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Hapbell said that he is aware of the Rite Aid in Village at Newtown, but has not visited it. He does not know what services are offered or what signage exists. He again reviewed the location of each of the “drive thru” sign locations.

In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s questions, Mr. Solomon explained that the Codes Department attempted to measure the two front door signs, “Rite Aid” and “Pharmacy” by drawing an imaginary box around the letters, and measuring the square footage of that box, since the sign is not mounted, but made up of individually mounted letters. He reviewed the memo that outlined the request for variances, and explained that the establishment is entitled to one sign on each elevation. The “Rite Aid” and Pharmacy” were counted as one sign, so the applicant is seeking two additional signs on one façade. All of the signs are mounted above 9 feet, because of the size of the building and the height of the windows and doors.

Mrs. Bowe said that the “food mart” and “1 hr photo” signs are not directional or establishment signs, but are advertising.

Mr. Solomon explained that the Ordinance only considers establishment and directional/educational signage. There are no “in-between” categories. The “food mart” and “1 hr photo” signs are being considered establishment signs, and all variance requests are for establishment signs, accordingly.

Paul Newlin was sworn in. Mr. Newlin said that he is director of real estate for Rite Aid in Eastern PA. He has appeared before the Board of Supervisors, HARB and the Planning Commission for this applicant. He said that the existing Rite Aid at Village at Newtown is not a freestanding store, and has different offerings. It is important to the Rite Aid chain to have the additional signs because not every branch offers the same services. This particular store has been specially designed for this location, and is smaller than the prototype store. The architectural design has been altered to be in keeping with the Township’s HARB requirements. He understands that HARB approval will be necessary for all signage in addition to the Zoning Hearing Board relief.

Mr. Solomon had no comment.

Mr. Lenihan moved to grant variances from Sections 1106(H)(4)(a), 1106(H)(4)(c)(2)(a), 1106(H)(4)(d), 1106(F)(7) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 1983 to permit an three individual establishment identification signs facing Sycamore Street where only one such sign is permitted; to permit the “Rite Aid Pharmacy” facade sign to be 95.58 square feet instead of the maximum permitted 75.58 square feet; to permit individual establishment signs to be mounted at a height greater than the maximum height of 9 feet; and to allow information and public service signs including three wall mounted "Drive-thru Pharmacy” signs to be 17.08 square feet instead of 2 square feet and higher than five feet, two free standing vehicular direction signs to be four square feet, and a three square feet “Clearance 10’0” ” sign, a 1.5 square feet “Pick-up” wall sign, and a 2.25 square feet “Exit Only” wall sign, at a height greater than 5 feet. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Mr. Lenihan moved to adjourn at 10:15 PM. Mr. Katz seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary