ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF JULY 7, 2011
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Karen Doorley, Chairman, Brandon Wind, Vice Chairman; Mario Lionetti, Secretary, William Wall and Timothy Potero, members. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor and Michael Hartey, Code Enforcement Officer and Justine Gregor, Stenographer.
Call to Order
Mrs. Doorley called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Lionetti moved to approve the minutes of May 5, 2011. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 3-0-2, with Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Wall abstaining.
Mr. Lionetti moved to approve the minutes of June 2, 2011. Mr. Wind seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
The Pledge of Allegiance
The agenda was reviewed:
Application of Tsilya Mensh, 371A Washington Crossing Road
Application of Yelena Zusina, 371B Washington Crossing Road
Application of Bucksrocks, LLC, 2950 South Eagle Road
Mrs. Doorley suggested that the Board consider the applications of Tsilya Mensh and Yelena Zusina together since the applicants are seeking similar relief for adjacent properties.
Mr. Auchinleck said that would be permissible if each application’s motions were made separately.
Applications of Tsilya Mensh and Yelena Zusina
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Tsilya Mensh, owner, requesting variances from sections 803(H-3)(1)(a)&(f) and 903(B)(2)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 6 feet high aluminum picket fence and a 7 feet high deer fence in the front yard, crossing a storm water easement, the deer fence will also be located in wetlands in the side and rear yards, where such fences are not permitted. The subject property is 371A Washington Crossing Road, Lot #1 Rockbridge Estates, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-13.2.
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Yelena Zusina, owner, requesting variance from sections 803(H-3)(1)(a)&and 903(B)(2)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 7 feet high deer fence in the front yard and located in wetlands in the side and rear yards, where such fences are not permitted. The subject property is 371B Washington Crossing Road, Lot #2 Rockbridge Estates, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-13-7.
Tsilya Mensh, Yelina Zusina and Yevgeny Zusin were sworn in.
Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished to be party to the application.
Mr. Auchinleck explained to the residents in attendance that if they wish to be a party to the application they would have the right to cross-examine the applicants and any of their 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.
None of the residents in attendance wished party status but asked to be heard before a decision is rendered.
Mr. Zusin explained that the two property owners are seeking variances to install 7 foot high deer fencing around their properties because they are very concerned about the dangers posed by the diseases carried by the deer. Small children and pets live on the properties and they would possibly be exposed to deer ticks and Lyme disease.
Mrs. Mensh said that she has already found deer ticks on her dogs and on her children. She is very worried about their safety and health. Herds of deer come close to the house.
Mrs. Doorley said that she did not think it was reasonable to enclose the entire properties; deer are a part of living in a more rural area. She has raised her children on 2.5 acres and has not had such concern. Plants can be treated to repel deer and pets can be treated for ticks. It does not seem appropriate to fence the entire properties.
Mr. Wall asked what the Planning Commissioners and Supervisors suggested regarding these applications.
Mr. Zusin said that they favored a smaller enclosure. The properties are to have a pool with its own fence and the second deer fence would be too close to the pool fence, creating a narrow passage.
Mr. Lionetti asked Mr. Zusin to explain the lines on the plans submitted and compare them to the plans suggested by the Supervisors.
Mrs. Mensh reviewed the enclosure on the two applications and noted the Supervisors’ suggested enclosure would only have a 3 foot high aluminum fence across the front of the properties.
Mr. Zusin explained that he grew up here and his family is eager to be part of the community. They are not trying to create a fortress appearance. The deer fence will not impact the community; it is not visible from the road or from neighboring properties. The front of the property is wooded and the fence is set back somewhat and would not be visible from the road at all.
Mr. Lionetti said that he visited the site and confirmed that the properties are heavily wooded. He asked where the aluminum fence is to be located.
Mr. Zusin said that it would be at the front, over the driveway, with a gate.
The members reviewed the wetlands and easements on the properties. Mr. Lionetti asked why fencing is prohibited in wetlands.
Mr. Auchinleck explained that the Ordinance prohibits construction of fences in the wetlands because they can collect debris and impede the flow of water.
Mr. Lionetti asked if there are other homes planned for this development.
Mr. Zusin said that these are the only two homes to be built in the development.
Mrs. Doorley asked why the applicants are seeking a fence across the front of the properties.
Mrs. Mensh said that the deer are coming onto the properties from all directions. She would like to completely enclose the property to keep them out.
Mr. Auchinleck asked the Township’s position on this application.
Code Enforcement Officer Michael Hartey was sworn in. Mr. Hartey explained that the Township Engineer and Solicitor created an alternative plan which has the support of the Supervisors. He entered as exhibit T-1 a copy of the Township’s plan for the fence. This plan reflects discussions of the Planning Commission and Supervisors. It shows a 7 foot fence around a portion of each property and a 3 foot fence across the front yards.
Mr. Auchinleck noted that the pool fence and the suggested deer fence are very close together.
Mr. Zusin said that his family did not find the Township’s plan acceptable.
Mrs. Susina said that she would be willing to enclose a smaller area, but the Township’s plan is too small.
Felix Kramer was sworn in. Dr. Kramer said that he is the husband of Mrs. Mensh, and as a physician, sees many people in the area coming to the hospital where he works to be tested and treated for Lyme Disease. He works closely with infectious disease specialists in performing lumbar punctures to test for Lyme Disease, which is very prevalent in the area. His concern is for the health of his family. He did not discover the deer problem until after purchasing the property. The fence will be invisible to neighbors. He said that he has had deer as close as his front door.
Mr. Wall suggested working to incorporate the pool fence with the Township’s suggested plan. He noted that the area behind the pool would not be used as it is heavily wooded.
Mrs. Zusina said that the fence around the pool will only be four feet high, as required by the Township.
Resident Kathleen Lanning of 25 Merion Drive was sworn in. Mrs. Lanning said that the ordinance does not permit fences in wetlands because it disrupts the flow of water. She urged the Board to uphold the ordinance. She suggested that the applicants could treat their plants to repel the deer. She also objected to the height of the proposed fence. She said that she would like to be provided with a copy of the transcript.
Mr. Auchinleck explained that the transcript is only available if it is paid for. He offered to provide a copy of the minutes once approved at no charge.
Tim Berechon of 425 Merion Drive said that he had chosen his home because of the open space and objected to the fences. They would be visible from his home in the winter months.
Mrs. Berechon (no first name given) was sworn in. She said that she has many deer on her property. The fence would disrupt the feeding patterns and force the deer onto her property. She urged the Zoning Hearing Board to uphold the ordinance.
Mrs. Mensh said that the Township has permitted a fence along the border of her property.
Mr. Wall said that it was his understanding that the Township has erected a low, split rail fence to delineate the Township’s preserved open space from the private property next to it.
Mrs. Mensh said that the wetlands are very close to the house, making the enclosure too small if it avoids wetlands. In response to Mrs. Doorley’s question, she said that she had seen the property prior to purchase. The houses were custom built but the location on the lots had already been determined by the builder.
Mr. Lionetti said that he would support a variance for the four foot aluminum picket fence in the front yard, but was not supportive of the other requests.
Mr. Auchinleck explained to the applicants that the Zoning Hearing Board is considering granting only a variance for a four foot fence in the front yard. If the other requests are denied, the applicant has the option of erecting a five foot fence around the property provided it does not encroach on floodplains or wetlands.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance from sections 803(H-3)(1)(a) of Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 4 feet high aluminum picket fence in the front yard, and to deny the request for variances from Sections 803(H-3)(f) and 903)(B)(2)(a). The subject property is 371A Washington Crossing Road, Lot #1 Rockbridge Estates, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-13.2. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant a variance from sections 803(H-3)(1)(a) of Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 4 feet high aluminum picket fence in the front yard, and to deny the request for variances from Sections 803(H-3)(f) and 903)(B)(2)(a). The subject property is 371B Washington Crossing Road, Lot #2 Rockbridge Estates, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-13-7. Mr. Potero seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Application of BucksRocks LLC
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Bucksrocks LLC, lessee, Centro Properties Group, owner, requesting a variance from section 602(A) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit operation of a music school (C-3 commercial school) use in approximately 2,700 square feet of a 6,278 square feet office building where such use is not permitted. The subject property is 2950 South Eagle Road, in the PC Planned Commercial Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-3-24-3.
Mr. Auchinleck noted that the applicant was not in attendance at this evening’s meeting. The Codes Department had informed him earlier that there had been some discussion between the applicant and the landlord about locating this use in another vacant storefront. He did not know if this question had been resolved. He suggested that the Board continue this application.
Mr. Lionetti moved to continue the application of BucksRocks LLC to August 4, 2011. Mr. Wall seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Wind moved to adjourn at 9:30 PM. Mr. Potero seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary