ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF APRIL 1, 2010
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, April 1, 2010 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Chairman David Katz, Vice Chairman Karen Doorley, Secretary Mario Lionetti, and Brandon Wind, member. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor, John Boyle, Code Enforcement Officer and William Campbell, Stenographer.
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM.
The Pledge of Allegiance
The Agenda was reviewed:
Application of George J. Donovan & Associates on behalf of Doug & Erin Demskis – 240 N. Chancellor Street
Application of Eric & Gwen Varady – 10 Clearview Drive
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Lionetti noted that page 3, paragraph 10 should read, “…in the form of an easement or other similar document…”
Mrs. Doorley moved to accept the minutes of March 4, 2010. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Application of George J. Donovan & Associates on behalf of Doug & Erin Demskis
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Doug & Erin Demskis, owners, by George J. Donovan, architect, requesting a variance from section 405(B) to permit a 1,078 square feet addition to the existing dwelling and a 480 square feet future addition to the existing detached garage resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 17.33% where the maximum permitted ratio is 13%. The property is located at 240 North Chancellor Street in the R-2 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-12-36.
John Charles, architect on the project and Doug Demskis were sworn in.
Mr. Katz asked if anyone present wished to be party to this application.
Mr. Auchinleck explained to those residents in attendance that if they wish to be parties 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.
Margaret Holben of 213 N. Congress Street asked for party status. In response to Mr. Auchinleck’s question, she said that her property is not adjacent to the subject property, but is on a parallel street at the bottom of an incline. The subject property is toward the top of that hill.
Mr. Demskis had no objection; Ms. Holben was granted party status.
Mr. Charles explained that the applicant is seeking a variance to put an addition on the 2600 square foot single story house and a future 480 square foot addition on a 500 square foot garage. The addition will contain a bedroom, bathroom, foyer and extension of the family room. The property already has 13.6% impervious surface where 13% is permitted. The house is constructed of 8 inch block, which could not support a second story. The house will remain a single story dwelling.
Mr. Lionetti asked Mr. Charles to review the lot size.
Mr. Charles said that this is a 41,930 square foot lot. The proposed house addition will be 1078 square feet for the three extensions for a 77 square foot foyer, a 329 square foot family room addition and a 672 square foot addition for bedroom and bath. The garage addition is not planned for immediate construction.
Mr. Katz asked about the proposed decks.
Mr. Charles said that they will be slats built over the ground; no stones will be placed underneath. They will be porous.
Mr. Lionetti said that in the past, the Zoning Hearing Board has limited increases in impervious surface to a 25% increase. He is concerned that this is a very large request.
Mr. Katz asked about plans for stormwater management.
Mr. Charles said that this had been discussed at both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. He presented a letter dated April 1, 2010 outlining plans to include new downspouts to direct the run off underground to French drains and into rain barrels and a new landscaping bed. Grading around the proposed additions would keep additional run off within the Demskis’ property.
Mr. Auchinleck marked this letter as Exhibit A-1.
Mr. Charles entered as Exhibit A-2 a packet of letters from surrounding neighbors in support of the project.
The members asked Mr. Demskis for the reason for his proposed expansions.
Mr. Demskis said that the additional bedroom and bath would be for a future child. The house has 2.5 bathrooms now. The garage expansion is for a woodworking shop. This is for personal, not business, use. He wanted the addition to match the size of the existing garage.
Mr. Katz asked the applicant if he would accept as a condition the requirement to design and install stormwater management to the satisfaction of the Township engineer.
Mr. Donovan said that the applicant would agree to such a condition.
Ms. Holben was sworn in. She said that her home is at the bottom of an incline. She expressed some concern about additional run off from this proposed addition. While she has not had any problems with water in her basement, her next door neighbor has had ongoing issues. Her yard is very wet after rainstorms, with standing water remaining for a day or longer. She is very concerned that an increase in impervious surface will cause flooding in her basement and worsen the conditions in her yard. She said that she believes there is already a third structure on this property in addition to the house and garage.
Mr. Charles reviewed the plans with Ms. Holben, pointing out that there are only the two structures on the property. The house is an “L” shape and might have appeared to Ms. Holben as two buildings. The property is 41930 square feet, 318’ by 145’.
Ms. Holben said that the house is already 2,674 square feet, which is very spacious. She asked whether the Township engineer would issue a stormwater report on the proposed plans.
Mr. Auchinleck explained that if the Zoning Hearing Board imposes a condition to design and install stormwater management to the satisfaction of the Township engineer, those plans will be reviewed and the Township will inspect to determine that the construction complies with the conditions of the variance.
Mr. Charles said that he thinks the Township engineer will be satisfied with the proposed plans for stormwater management. He will agree to any further recommendations which might be made.
Mr. Katz moved to grant a variance from section 405(B) to permit construction of a 1078 square foot addition resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 16.2% where the maximum permitted ratio is 13%, subject to the condition that a stormwater management system be designed and installed to contain stormwater run off in excess of the 13% permitted impervious surface. Mrs. Doorley seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Lionetti said that the motion has eliminated 480 square feet from the original request. The applicant will have to return at a future date for relief for the future expansion. He also noted that the motion grants relief of 25%.
Mr. Katz said that the applicant can divide the additional impervious surface to either reduce both additions in size or to only build the house addition.
Mr. Charles said that he is concerned about the use of the word “design” in the motion. He has submitted a letter outlining plans for containing the additional run off. This is not a fully engineered detention basin system. He said that he is confident the Township engineer will agree that it is adequate.
Mr. Auchinleck suggested that the letter be submitted for the Township engineer’s consideration. If she finds it adequate, the letter will have satisfied the intent of this motion.
Ms. Holben said that if the Township engineer reviews and approves the plan and she has problems later, what can she do.
Mr. Auchinleck said that the Zoning Hearing Board is requiring that the applicant address run off above 13%. This should improve current conditions. The project has been reduced in size. Should Ms. Holben find she is not satisfied she would have to seek private relief through the courts.
Mr. Boyle said that the property had been posted on March 24, 2010.
The motion passed 4-0.
Application of Eric and Gwen Varady
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Eric & Gwen Varady, owners, requesting a variance from sections 404(B)&(C) to permit installation of a 34 square feet covered porch and a 850 square feet 2-story addition and a 300 square feet driveway extension resulting in 18.5% impervious surface ratio where 12% is permitted and an 11.4 feet side yard set back for the porch where 24 feet is required and 36.4 feet distance between buildings where 60 feet is required and 40.4 feet is existing. In addition the applicant requests a Special Exception under section 1208(C)(2) to permit alteration of a building on a non-conforming lot. The property is located at 10 Clearview Drive in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel #29-13-21.
Eric and Gwen Varady were sworn in.
Mr. Katz asked if anyone present wished party status in this application. There was no response.
Mr. Varady explained that he would like to put a two story addition on his home as well as a small covered porch over his side door and he would like to widen his driveway to accommodate two cars.
Mr. Wind asked how close the proposed driveway expansion is to the property line.
Mr. Varady said that the driveway would be about four feet from his neighbor’s property line.
Mrs. Varady said that the existing driveway is very narrow, and only accommodates one car. There is no paved area to step in or out of the car. The proposed expansion would be wider at the top to park two cars but the curb cut would remain the same size. The garage is very small and is used for storage.
Mrs. Doorley asked what rooms will be in the addition.
Mr. Varady said that the kitchen and family room will be enlarged. A new staircase will be part of the addition. The house has a very steep, narrow, staircase at the front. He has a handicap which might make future use of the staircase difficult. His elderly parents also need the accommodation. The second floor will have a bedroom and full bathroom. The house has one full bath now.
Mr. Auchinleck said that the Township received anonymous correspondence from a neighbor expressing some concern about additional run off from the addition.
Mr. Varady said that he did not object to Mr. Auchinleck’s showing the letter to the Zoning Hearing Board. He said he had spoken to his neighbors about his plans and all were supportive.
The Zoning Hearing Board agreed not to accept the letter as it was unsigned and the writer did not come to the meeting to express his concerns in person.
Mr. Lionetti asked about the dimensions of the existing house.
Mr. Varady said that the house has a 1000 square foot footprint, including the garage. The living area is about 1700 square feet. The addition has an 850 square foot footprint.
Mr. Wind asked whether porous paving had been considered for the driveway.
Mr. Auchinleck said that porous paving is considered impervious surface in our ordinance.
Mr. Katz asked whether any measures for stormwater management will be part of the plans.
Mr. Varady said that he will use downspouts to direct water underground and to rain barrels.
Michael Herald was sworn in. Mr. Herald said that he lives at 9 Clearview Drive, next door to the Veradys. He said that he has no problems with run off now and does not think the project will have any impact on stormwater. He supports the plans.
Mr. Boyle noted that the property had been posted on March 24, 2010.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance from sections 404(B)&(C) to permit installation of a 34 square feet covered porch and a 850 square feet 2-story addition and a 300 square feet driveway extension resulting in 18.5% impervious surface ratio where 12% is permitted, relief of 6.5%, and an 11.4 feet side yard set back for the porch where 24 feet is required and 36.4 feet distance between buildings where 60 feet is required and 40.4 feet is existing. In addition the applicant requests a Special Exception under section 1208(C)(2) to permit alteration of a building on a non-conforming lot. Mrs. Doorley seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that the Holt challenge to the validity of the Federal Cemetery Overlay Ordinance had been withdrawn by the applicant. The Zoning Hearing Board had declined to continue the hearings at that point, as had been requested by the parties to the application. The Court has decided that the parties’ to the application can continue the appeal and has sent the challenge back to the Zoning Hearing Board. Toll Brothers is evaluating whether it will file an appeal; their deadline is April 25, 2010.
Because there are also advertising deadlines for the Zoning Hearing Board, Mr. Auchinleck said that he will advertise the challenge for the May 6, 2010 agenda. It is not yet known whether any testimony will be taken. Depending on the number of other applications before the Board, this appeal might require some extra meetings.
Mr. Lionetti asked about visiting the sites on applications and encountering possible parties to the applications.
Mr. Auchinleck said that it is permissible for Zoning Hearing Board members to familiarize themselves with the physical sites of applications, but no conversations should take place with parties and no information should be received outside of the presence of other parties to the application.
Mrs. Doorley moved to adjourn at 9:10 PM. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary