ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF JANUARY 6, 2011
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, January 6, 2011 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Karen Doorley, Mario Lionetti, Timothy Potero, William Wall and Brandon Wind, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor and John Boyle, Code Enforcement Officer and Justine Gregor, Stenographer.
Mr. Auchinleck called the meeting to order at 7:70 PM.
The Pledge of Allegiance
Organization of the Board
Mr. Auchinleck introduced Timothy Potero, the newest member of the Board. He then asked for nominations for Chairman.
Mr. Wind nominated Mrs. Doorley to serve as chairman. Mr. Potero seconded.
Mr. Wall nominated Mr. Lionetti to serve as chairman. Mr. Lionetti seconded.
The nomination of Mr. Lionetti failed 2-3, with Mrs. Doorley and Messrs. Potero and Wind voting nay.
The nomination of Mrs. Doorley passed 3-2, with Messrs. Lionetti and Wall voting nay.
Mrs. Doorley nominated Mr. Wind to serve as vice-chairman. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Wind nominated Mr. Lionetti to serve as secretary. Mrs. Doorley seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mrs. Doorley moved to appoint Mary Donaldson to serve as recording secretary. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mrs. Doorley moved to appoint Mr. Auchinleck to serve as solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Wind moved to accept the minutes of December 2, 2010. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Potero abstaining.
The agenda was reviewed:
Newtown Racquetball Association – 209 Penns Trail
Mark Weglos, DMD – 759 Newtown Yardley Road
WEN- Hamilton – 54-84 Durham Road
Newtown Racquetball Association
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Newtown Racquetball Association t/a Newtown Athletic Club, owner, requesting variances from sections 405(A)(1),(B)&(C), 803(D)(D-2), 1001(D)(2), and (F)(4)&(6) and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of an 11,050 sq. ft. 2-story addition to the existing athletic facility, accessory restaurant, medical office structure on the 12.5 acre site resulting in a 71.05% impervious surface ratio where 65% is the maximum, 101 additional parking spaces where 120 additional spaces are required (587 out of 2,886 required for total site), parking within 20 feet of the street right of way and within 10 feet of the property line, placement of the loading berth in a shared parking aisle, and a sign located within 1000 feet of the Newtown Bypass and facing the Bypass. The subject property is 209 Penns Trail, in the L-I Light Industrial Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-137, 29-10-138, 29-10-39-1.
Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished to be party to this application. There was no response.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant.
Jim Worthington, owner of Newtown Racquetball Association (NAC) and Luke Teller, engineer on the project, were sworn in.
Mr. Marshall entered the following exhibits:
Exhibit A-1 – Site Plan
Exhibit A-2 – Deed
Exhibit A-3 – Deed
Exhibit A-4 – Deed
Exhibit A-5 – Detail of proposed sign
Exhibit A-6 – Letter from Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton stating that the Board of Supervisors has not taken a position on this application.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the history of the properties, explaining that in its thirty years in the Township the NAC has gone through numerous expansions and renovations, some of which have involved zoning relief already granted. The original properties were reduced and impacted by the creation of the Newtown Bypass. This application involves consolidation of three lots, tax map parcels, 29-10-37, 29-10-38 and 29-10-39-1, creating a new lot which will be 12.5 acres; construction of an 11,050 square foot fitness addition and closing of the entrance at Penns Trail and the Bypass. A new entrance will be created at Pheasant Run with an easement through tax map parcel 29-10-40, which is also owned by the NAC. The plan has been reviewed by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, which has granted preliminary plan approval pending the granting of the variances included in this application.
Mr. Marshall reviewed the variance requests. The application seeks parking relief to provide 101 new parking spaces where 221 would be required; the site will have a total of 587 spaces where 3,473 would be required. Previous variances had been granted for parking. The proposed addition will be for a larger fitness center area with a two-story ceiling, not two stories of additional floor space. This plan will help keep the NAC competitive with other fitness centers to retain existing membership. One row of 8 parking spaces near the medical office building will be located within 20 feet of the right of way and within 10 feet of the property line. These spaces are used by employees and patients of the medical office in the old Dunmore Building. There is no connection between this small lot and the main parking areas. A variance for the loading berth has been previously granted but is incorporated into this application to re-affirm it. The impervious surface request would be for 71.05% where 65% is the maximum, however a previous variance had been granted for 69.25% at a time when 60% was the maximum for this zoning district. The increase is actually less than 2%. The request for signage is to place a new sign at the old entrance directing members to the new entrance on Pheasant Run.
Mr. Marshall noted that the Township will benefit by directing traffic away from the already congested intersection of Penns Trail and the Bypass. It will keep the NAC competitive and help with member retention. The NAC is one of the Township’s largest employers.
Mr. Teller and Mr. Worthington affirmed Mr. Marshall’s presentation.
Mrs. Doorley asked whether the sign would remain once members learned the location of the new entrance. She also had some concern that the draft sign was too wordy and might be distracting rather than informative.
Mr. Worthington said that he would change the wording but that the sign would remain in place, perhaps with an arrow pointing to the Pheasant Run entrance.
Mr. Wall asked whether any traffic studies had been done; he said that NAC members cut through the Newtown Gate development to the Bypass. He was concerned that traffic would increase if the main entrance were moved to Pheasant Run.
Mr. Marshall said that the traffic study had been part of land development. It is expected that the changed entrance will alleviate some back up at the Bypass and Penns Trail. The traffic cutting through Newtown Gate would probably not be impacted at all as these are members coming from Newtown Gate and Newtown Borough and using the Blacksmith Road entrance.
Mr. Lionetti agreed that the proposed change would probably not impact Newtown Gate; the Pheasant Run entrance would be safer than the current Penns Trail entrance.
Mr. Lionetti asked whether there would be signage at the new entrance.
Mr. Marshall said that a sign would be placed at the new entrance on Pheasant Run but it would not require a variance so had not been included in the application. He said that the applicant would accept as a condition that the Penns Trail sign be directional, only.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant variances from sections 405(A)(1),(B)&(C), 803(D)(D-2), 1001(D)(2), and (F)(4)&(6) and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of an 11,050 sq. ft. 2-story addition to the existing athletic facility, accessory restaurant, medical office structure on the 12.5 acre site resulting in a 71.05% impervious surface ratio where 65% is the maximum, 101 additional parking spaces where 120 additional spaces are required (587 out of 2,886 required for total site), parking within 20 feet of the street right of way and within 10 feet of the property line, placement of the loading berth in a shared parking aisle, and a sign located within 1000 feet of the Newtown Bypass and facing the Bypass, subject to the condition that the sign be directional only. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Application of Mark Weglos, D.M.D.
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application Mark Weglos, D.M.D., equitable owner, requesting variances from sections 405 (A)(1), (B)&(C), 803(D)(D-2), 1001(D)(2), (F)(4)&(6) and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 2,100 sq. ft. medical office building with parking on a non-conforming lot where such use is not permitted, applying the area and dimensional regulations for single family residence with water and sewer rather than regulations applicable to other uses and resulting in no open space where 10% is required, 65.6% impervious surface ratio where 13% is the maximum permitted, 12 parking spaces without screening where 14 screened spaces are required, internal drives and parking aisles without curbing as required, 8 feet side yard where 10 feet is required, parking within 10 feet of property line, and no off street loading berths; and a Special Exception under section 1208(C) to permit construction on a non-conforming lot. The subject property is 759 Newtown Yardley Road, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-53.
Mr. Auchinleck advised the applicant that Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Wind would recuse themselves from this application as they have a professional relationship with Dr. Weglos.
Mr. Lionetti, acting as chairman, asked if anyone present wished party status.
David Platt, owner of Newtown Swim Club, asked that the record show that he is in attendance, although he does not wish to be a party to the application.
Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant.
Dr. Mark Weglos and Engineer Heath Dumack were sworn in.
Mr. Murphy explained that there is an abandoned house on this property which has been an eyesore for many years. Dr. Weglos proposes to demolish the house and build a dental office on the property, which is zoned residential. His plans have been reviewed by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, who have not taken a position here. No preliminary plan for land development has yet been submitted to the Township. The Township Solicitor has suggested that if variances are to be granted that they be granted subject to conditions limiting the use to a dental practice with four employees and limited hours of operation. The applicant has agreed to these conditions.
Mr. Murphy entered the following exhibits:
Exhibit A-1 – The plan for the site
Exhibit A-2 – a letter from Newtown Business Commons Association expressing support for the plan and for the demolition of the existing house.
Mr. Murphy explained that Dr. Weglos has a dental practice in leased space in Summit Square and would like to move his practice to the property on Newtown Yardley Road, which is in the R-2 zoning district. He intends to construct a new 2100 square foot, single story building. About 65% of Dr. Weglos’ patients are from Newtown.
Mr. Murphy explained that when sketch plans were shown to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors there was some concern about an additional curb cut onto Newtown Yardley Road. Dr. Weglos’ hours are limited to Monday through Thursday, with only emergency hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Because Dr. Weglos teaches dentistry one afternoon each week, the actual hours would be only 3.5 days per week. These hours should not conflict with Newtown Swim Club’s busiest times for traffic. The Township is supportive of the use variance as all agree that it would work well with the surrounding properties. If the property wee sold for any other use, a new variance would be required.
Mr. Murphy explained that members of the Joint Historical Commission had expressed some interest in the old house as it might have been a toll house at one time. Preliminary research shows that the house has been moved and probably had not been a toll house. The applicant would agree to providing access to the Historical Commission to photograph and document the property prior to demolition.
Engineer Heath Dumack of 677 Durham Road, Wrightstown, has appeared before this Board many times. He was accepted as an expert witness.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the requests, first for a special exception to modify a non-conforming lot. The property has had the same owner since before 1983, when the current ordinance was adopted. A variance is needed for a medical use on a residential lot. The property does not meet the performance area and dimensional regulations for other uses in the R-2 zoning district. The minimum gross area required is 30,000 square feet; this lot is only 16000 square feet. The lot width is only 83 feet where 100 feet is required. Variances are also needed for a front yard of 48.49 feet where 50 feet is required and the side yard would be 13.72 feet. The property is served by public water and sewer. There is a 10% open space ratio requirement for the residential use, however this is a single lot which is not being subdivided. The impervious surface will be 65.6% where 13% is permitted. A stormwater management system consisting of a large ballast pit and French drains will be installed to accommodate the full impervious surface. No run off will flow toward the swim club. The plan eliminates curbing to help with the sheet flow. The ordinance requires 14 parking spaces based on the square footage of the building. The applicant is proposing 12 spaces, but Mr. Dumack noted that the basement storage area is included in the calculation for parking spaces. Because of the width of the lot, a variance is needed to permit parking within 20 feet of the property line. Buffering plants will block the parking areas. The applicant is also seeking a variance to not provide a loading berth as deliveries will be in UPS and mail trucks once a day.
Mr. Murphy asked that the letter from Mr. Garton, Township Solicitor, be entered as Exhibit A-3.
Mr. Auchinleck asked that adjoining properties be identified on the plan.
Mr. Dumack noted the Headley Trace recreation area to the west, and Newtown Swim Club to the north and the Swim Club and a First National Bank branch are to the east. To the south, on the opposite side of Newtown Yardley Road, is Third Federal Bank.
Mr. Lionetti asked whether the zoning should be changed for the property.
Mr. Murphy said that this is one isolated property. To change the zoning would require review and approval by all three municipalities in the Jointure. The Township would have better control of the property by addressing the specific variances needed.
Mr. Lionetti asked whether access to the property could be through Newtown Swim Club and whether variances would be limited to Dr. Weglos’ practice.
Mr. Murphy said that at this time the proposed access will be directly onto Newtown Yardley Road.
Mr. Auchinleck said that variances would be granted for the property. Subsequent owners of the property would be limited to a dental practice; a new variance would be needed for any other office use.
Mr. Wall said that he was not sure the conditions suggested by the Supervisors should be part of the variance; they seem to be matters better addressed during the land development process.
Mr. Auchinleck said that this applicant has agreed to the conditions. The Supervisors chose not to oppose the application because the conditions were agreed to.
Mr. Wall said that the Zoning Hearing Board is independent of the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Wall moved to grant variances from sections 405 (A)(1), (B)&(C), 803(D)(D-2), 1001(D)(2), (F)(4)&(6) and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 2,100 sq. ft. medical office building with parking on a non-conforming lot where such use is not permitted, applying the area and dimensional regulations for single family residence with water and sewer rather than regulations applicable to other uses and resulting in no open space where 10% is required, 65.6% impervious surface ratio where 13% is the maximum permitted, 12 parking spaces without screening where 14 screened spaces are required, internal drives and parking aisles without curbing as required, 8 feet side yard where 10 feet is required, parking within 10 feet of property line, and no off street loading berths; and a Special Exception under section 1208(C) to permit construction on a non-conforming lot, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Application of WEN-Hamilton
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of WEN-Hamilton, owner, requesting variances from sections 404 (B)&(C), 803(C)(C-12)(3), 903(B)(4)(a)(1)&(2)&(5)(b), 1001 and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 87,243 square feet assisted living facility (C-12 nursing home use) with parking and storm water management facilities resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 43.8% where the maximum permitted is 35%, a front yard set back of 65.24 feet where 100 feet is required, 88 parking spaces where 224 are required, 79.44% steep slope (under 25%) disturbance where 25% is permitted, 53.02% steep slope (over 25%) disturbance where 15% is required, parking within the front yard, 19.3 feet parking set back from street right of way where 20 feet is required, only one loading berth located 40.18 feet set back from the property line where 50 feet is required and where 10 berths are required. The subject property is 54-84 Durham Road, Newtown, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel ## 29-6-6, 29-6-7, 29-6-8, 29-6-9, 29-6-10, 29-6-11, 29-6-12.
Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished party status. There was no response.
Mr. Murphy represented the applicant.
Architect Jack Parry, Mike McCormack and Mr. Dumack were sworn in.
Mr. Murphy explained that this project, an 87,243 square foot assisted living facility, has been presented as a sketch plan to both the Supervisors and Planning Commission. The project has not yet been fully engineered. The Supervisors have suggested some conditions to be added should any variances be granted; these are outlined in a letter from the Township Solicitor dated January 3, 2011. The applicant is withdrawing the request for relief for parking.
Mr. Murphy entered the following Exhibits:
Exhibit A-1 – The plan
Exhibit A-2 – a packet of photographs:
(1) - An aerial photograph of the properties.
(2) – Photographs of properties in current conditions, showing the grading of the properties.
(3) – Floor plan of proposed facility
(4) – Architectural rendering of the exterior sides
(5) – Architectural rendering of front entrance
Mr. Murphy noted that Mr. Parry has designed about ten other, similar, facilities for the same applicant. This project will consolidate seven lots at the intersection of Durham and Eagle Roads, creating a 9 acre parcel. The existing buildings will be demolished and the property will be regraded. The main entrance to the facility will be on Durham Road, with a secondary access on Eagle Road. The facility will be divided into a two story assisted living and a single story memory care unit with kitchen and offices in the central area. Loading will be at the rear. The facility will have 90 units, a mix of studios and one bedroom units for up to 120 residents. The memory care unit will have an internal courtyard.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the relief sought. He said that the property has an 18 foot slope from west to east making it difficult to create a level building. These are man made slopes created when the seven building lots were terraced. The main entrance will be on Durham Road with a circular driveway. Emergency access is on Eagle Road. A highway occupancy permit is needed for the Durham Road entrance; PennDOT has indicated approval but has not yet issued the HOP.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the planned stormwater management system, which will be a detention basin with buffer plantings. The system will accommodate the full parking build out, which is included in the 43.8% impervious surface.
Mr. Murphy explained that the Supervisors had preferred that parking be addressed at land development. The applicant proposes to construct 88 spaces and hold the remaining 136 spaces in green unless or until they are needed. This would give the Supervisors better control if, at some later date, they should feel additional parking might be necessary. All calculations are based on 224 parking spaces. With only 88 spaces constructed the impervious surface will be 35%.
Mr. Dumack said that a front yard setback variance is needed for the porte cochere only, which will have a 65 foot setback. The rest of the building will have the required 100 foot setback.
Mr. Wind asked whether the porte cochere could be eliminated.
Mr. Dumack said that this is for the safety of the residents; vehicles can pull up inside the covered entrance for pick up and discharge of residents.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the manmade steep slopes on the property, noting that the actual area of disturbance is small. Mr. Dumack also reviewed the request for woodland disturbance. While the Ordinance considers woodlands a natural resource, the proposed disturbance is for the mature trees along the frontage and between the existing houses. The small finger of woodland at the north side of the property will not be disturbed. All of the large caliper trees will be replaced.
Mr. Dumack showed the proposed parking at the front of the building, which is not permitted. The applicant would like visitor parking near the front entrance on Durham Road. The proposed parking will be shielded and the properties on the other side of Durham Road also have front yard parking, as seen in the aerial photographs. He noted that the parking, while 20 feet from the right of way, and 18 feet from the ultimate right of way, will be 50 feet from the cartway. The porte cochere is 100 feet from the cartway.
Mr. Dumack reviewed the requirement for loading berths based on the building size, but noted that this use will only need one loading berth at the rear. The loading berth is not near any residential use.
Mr. Lionetti asked about deliveries.
Mr. McCormack said that he has developed 45 senior housing facilities. The typical deliveries for such a facility would include food service delivery about three times per week, housekeeping, linen and laundry once or twice a day. All deliveries would be by panel trucks, not be tractor trailers.
The Board discussed the Sunco pumping station, which is on the rear adjoining property. Mr. Murphy said that it was his understanding that in 1982, the pipeline had not been identified by PA One Call and there was a leak at Newtown Crossing. He is not aware that there would be any concern about the pipeline during this project’s construction.
Mr. Murphy noted that in the Supervisors letter, the Board is requesting a tree bank contribution or replacement of trees and access to the property by the Joint Historical Commission. The Commission is interested in documenting one of the homes on the property as a possible Sears Catalog house.
Resident Mike Horan of 36 Eagle Road was sworn in. He identified his home on the aerial photograph. He said that he is concerned that visitors will use the Eagle Road entrance rather than the Durham Road entrance. He asked that the Eagle Road access be for exits only. He also suggested that sidewalks be added so that residents can walk to the shopping center. He was supportive of the reduced parking. He asked what kind of plants are proposed for the retention basin.
Mr. Dumack said that wildflowers, as recommended by the Morris Arboretum, would be planted in the stormwater facility. It was his understanding that surrounding residential neighbors preferred this to a pond with a water feature, which might attract geese.
Resident Shirley Milnor of 54 Eagle Road was sworn in. She said that she is supportive of the proposed stormwater management and about the plan itself. She asked about the number of employees at the facility.
Mr. McCormack said that this is not a nursing home, so there is no medical staff. There are 46 employees working three shifts, with 23 employees on duty during the daytime hours.
Resident Mark Lang Hintner of 116 Durham Road said that he is glad that the property is going to be redeveloped. He asked whether any drilling or blasting will be done, as he is aware that there is a lot of rock in the area.
Mr. Dumack said that some preliminary drilling and testing has been done finding rock at a depth of 8 feet at the east and 18 feet on the west side of the property. The plan has been designed to avoid the rock.
Mr. Murphy said that the Planning Commission has discussed limiting the Eagle Road access and adding sidewalks. These points would be considered in greater detail at land development. Regarding the parking spaces, there is some concern at the Planning Commission that 88 spaces will not be sufficient, but there is also concern about having too much paved area. By constructing 88 spaces and holding the remainder in reserve in green, the Supervisors would have control over when and if additional spaces are installed.
Mr. Auchinleck asked whether a traffic study has been done.
Mr. Murphy said that a traffic study is being done for the land development approval process and for the PennDOT HOP for the Durham Road entrance. The Township controls the Eagle Road access.
Mr. Wall said that he is not supportive of the request from the Board regarding the trees. This is not a zoning but a land development issue. The other Board members agreed.
Mr. Wind moved to grant variances from sections 404(B)&(C), 903(B)(4)(a)(1)&(2)&(5)(b), 1001 and 1002 of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 87,243 square feet assisted living facility (C-12 nursing home use) with parking and storm water management facilities resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 43.8% where the maximum permitted is 35%, a front yard set back of 65.24 feet where 100 feet is required, 79.44% steep slope (under 25%) disturbance where 25% is permitted, 53.02% steep slope (over 25%) disturbance where 15% is required, parking within the front yard, 19.3 feet parking set back from street right of way where 20 feet is required, only one loading berth located 40.18 feet set back from the property line where 50 feet is required and where 10 berths are required. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Lionetti moved to adjourn at 10:20 PM. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary