ZONING HEARING BOARD
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF NOVEMBER 10, 2011
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, November 10, 2011 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Karen Doorley, Chairman, Brandon Wind, Vice Chairman (late), Mario Lionetti, Secretary and Timothy Potero, member. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor and Justine Gregor, Stenographer.
Call to Order
Mrs. Doorley called the meeting to order at 7:50 PM.
The agenda was reviewed:
Application of John Widmer, 4 Hillside Road
Continued Application of Newtown Business Commons, 210 Penns Trail
Application of 200 North Sycamore LP, 200 North Sycamore Street
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Lionetti moved to accept the minutes of October 7 , 2011. Mr. Potero seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Application of John Widmer
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of John Widmer, owner, requesting variances from sections 404(B) the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 35 ft by 20 ft addition to an existing single family residence resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 19.14% where the maximum is 12% and a special exception under section 1208(C)(2) to permit construction on a non-conforming lot, the subject property is 4 Hillside Road, Newtown, in the R-1 Medium Density Residential Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel # 29-13-15.
Mr. Widmer was sworn in.
Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished party status in this application. There was no response.
Mr. Widmer explained to the Board that he would like to put a single story addition for a family room, bathroom and closet on his home. He has a daughter and baby triplets and he needs the extra room for the children. He entered as Exhibit A-1 a letter signed by his adjacent neighbors.
Mrs. Doorley asked about the rear of his property.
Mr. Widmer explained that his home backs to the open space orchards belonging to Country Bend development.
Mr. Lionetti asked if the drawing is to scale, as the driveway appears to be very large.
Mr. Widmer said that the previous owner of the house had a landscaping business and had widened the driveway to accommodate his business’s vehicles.
(Mr. Wind arrived at this point.)
Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Lionetti expressed some concern about the large increase in impervious surface.
Mr. Widmer explained that the property is at the bottom of a hill; water run-off stops at his property.
Mr. Potero moved to grant variances from sections 404(B) the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 35 foot by 20 foot addition to an existing single family residence resulting in an impervious surface ratio of 19.14% where the maximum is 12% and a special exception under section 1208(C)(2) to permit construction on a non-conforming lot. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Continued Application of Newtown Business Commons
Mr. Auchinleck reminded the Board that this application had been opened at the October meeting and after some testimony about the proposed sign and the inclusion of the Homewood Suites Hotel logo and directional arrow, had been continued to allow the applicant to provide additional information.
Richard Weaver, Executive Director of Newtown Business Commons, was reminded by Mr. Auchinleck that he was still under oath.
Mr. Weaver entered as Exhibit A-1, copies of portions of the Minutes of the Board of Supervisors dated August 24, 2005 and September 21, 2011. Mr. Weaver explained that the 2005 minutes show that the inclusion of the Homewood Suites logo had been a condition of conditional use approval for the hotel and money to pay for it has been escrowed by the Township. The minutes of September 21, 2011, show the current Supervisors’ continued support for the signage as a part of the hotel’s contribution to the health of the Business Commons.
Mr. Wind asked why it has taken six years to finally seek the variance.
Mr. Weaver said that the hotel’s plans were held up for a few years. After completion of the hotel, the information about payment of the sign was researched and permission to use the land was sought. The issue of payment for the sign has only recently been resolved.
Mr. Wind asked about the size of existing signs on the property at 210 Penns Trail.
Mr. Weaver said that the two other signs on the property are 15 square feet and 18 square feet.
Mr. Weaver said that at portion of the fence is to be removed and the sign will be erected in line with the fence. It will have a spotlight. The money for the fence is held in escrow by the Township. The hotel will not pay for the sign unless the logo is included. Mr. Weaver said that the hotel has helped the Township to attract national and international businesses to the Commons. He noted that Teletronics Technology has frequent visiting clients who stay at the hotel. Newtown Business Commons Association has held a number of functions there as well. The goal of the former Economic Development Committee had been to convert the Commons from an industrial to a professional business park. The presence of the hotel had been a key feature of the Township’s efforts to revitalize the Commons. To deny the sign would send a message that the Township does not live up to its commitments to the business community.
Mr. Potero asked what portion of the sign would be for the hotel logo.
Mr. Weaver said that the written portion of the sign will have 2/3 for the Business Commons and 1/3 for the hotel. The hotel logo would include a directional arrow to guide travelers. It will be visible from Woodbourne Road and from the eastbound direction of the Bypass and Penns Trail.
Mr. Wind noted that the conditional use was granted for two signs and he asked why the Association is only seeking the variance for one.
Mr. Weaver said that the second location would be at the Newtown Yardley Road entrance to the Commons. The property is being sold at this time, so the Association had been unable to obtain the approval of the property owner. The Association preferred to get started on the signage now and return once permission is granted for the other location, rather than hold up the first sign even longer.
Mr. Lionetti said that he no longer has any objection, in light of the information in Exhibit A-1 and Mr. Weaver’s testimony.
Resident Shawn Ward was sworn in. Mr. Ward said that he is a business owner in the Township, president of the Sycamore Street Community Association and had been a member of the Planning Commission during the land development for the hotel. He said that this sign is needed to help business people visiting the Commons to find their way. It is a minimal variance which will provide a service to the traveling public and he hoped the Zoning Hearing Board would rule favorably.
Mr. Wind said that he feels that the Township made a promise it is not in a position to keep. The sign required relief from a separate judicial body; the application has been held for years and only one sign variance is sought at this time.
Mr. Lionetti asked how long the hotel has been open.
Mr. Weaver said that he believes the hotel has been open less than two years. He hopes to return for the second variance shortly.
Mr. Wind said that he also has some concern about giving permission for a sign for only one business tenant in the Commons. He asked whether there has been any consideration of reducing the number of signs on the property.
Mrs. Doorley said that she is also concerned that other Commons tenants will seek the same relief.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant variances from sections 1106(C)(3)(a), 1106(C)(4), and 1106(K)(2)(c) the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit a 48 square feet complex identification sign where 24 square feet is permitted, closer than 4 feet from the legal right of way, and within 1000 feet of the Bypass.Mr. Potero seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Wind asked whether the variance would allow other businesses to be added to the sign, or if the hotel were sold, a new business at that property could be added.
Mr. Auchinleck said that this could be added as a condition of approval.
Mr. Lionetti amended his motion to grant the variances, subject to the condition that the only business permitted on the sign along with Newtown Business Commons would be the Homewood Suites or any other hotel located at that same location within the Commons. Mr. Potero seconded the amendment and the motion passed 4-0.
Application of 200 North Sycamore, LP (The Promenade)
Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of -200 North Sycamore Street LP, owner, requesting variances from sections 603(A)&B(1), 803E-1(6), 903B(4),(5)&(9), 1000E, 1001B(3)&(5)&F(4), and 1002&1002B of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit approximately 11,500 square feet of the first floor retail space to be occupied by a single retailer (Use E-2-Large Retail), the second and third floors to be utilized for 26 residential apartments, a minimum front yard of 6.5 feet and a minimum side yard on the northerly side of the Acme Property of 1.5 feet, a maximum building height of 42 feet and three stories in lieu of the 30 foot maximum, the 100% disturbance of the 15% to 25% category and the 25% and greater category of manmade steep slopes, 100% disturbance of the woodlands in lieu of 50%, certain of the parking stalls to be 9’x18’ feet, maintaining 116 at grade parking spaces in lieu of the 152, existing conditions for pre-development storm water runoff calculations in lieu of requiring meadow conditions in the calculation of pre-development storm water runoff, a single loading berth of 20 feet by 43 feet in lieu of the three at a dimension of 15 feet by 50 feet and to permit such loading berth to be located within 50 feet of a property side yard, a 12 foot proposed drive for one-way access in lieu of the 20 foot minimum, and off-street parking to be located within 5 feet of the property line, the subject property is 200 North Sycamore Street, Newtown, in the TC Town Commercial Zoning District, being further known as Tax Map Parcel # 29-10-7.
Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant.
Board member Brandon Wind recused himself from the hearing, as he has some business associations with the applicant.
Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone in attendance wished party status in this application.
Attorney Shawn Ward, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association and Dean and Debi Evangalou, owners of The Saloon, 203 North Sycamore Street, asked for party status.
Resident Vincent Lombardi of 125 North Sycamore Street asked for party status.
Mr. Murphy had no objection. All were granted party status.
Resident David Katz asked for party status. In response to Mr. Murphy’s questions, Mr. Katz said that he lives at 601 Parkview Way, about one mile from the subject property.
Mr. Murphy said that Mr. Katz would not be directly and immediately impacted by this project and he objected to granting of party status.
Mr. Katz said that his home would not be directly impacted, but as a Township resident he is impacted in his daily routine, as the project will impact his commutes in and around town.
Mr. Auchinleck said that his connection is tenuous and he denied Mr. Katz party status.
Mrs. Doorley said that the Board would hear public comment after the hearing but before a decision is rendered.
Mr. Auchinleck reminded that Board that some of the relief sought in this application had been granted in 2009. Because this project is somewhat different, the applicant is seeking to re-affirm the previously granted variances. The Board should consider whether the changes have been substantial enough to require that the variances be re-issued.
Peter Stampfl, architect on the project was sworn in.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-1, Mr. Stampfl’s curriculum vitae. He noted that Mr. Stampfl had testified in the previous hearing for this project. Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-2, the Zoning Hearing Board decision and findings of fact dated August 17, 2009, noting that the findings numbers 1 through 5, 8 through 33, 38, 42 through 49, 53, 59 through 68, and 71 through 83 still apply. The property and current conditions remain the same.
Mr. Stampfl was accepted as an expert witness.
Mr. Stampfl said that he has been the architect on this project since 2004. He testified at the 2009 hearing.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-3 the plan of the first floor from the 2009 Zoning Hearing Board appeal.
Mr. Stampfl explained that the plan had shown 25,000 square feet of retail space; the variance granted 23,362 square feet. There was a 24 foot wide access drive aligned with Jefferson Street to the rear of the project and a 12 foot one way access drive to the north of the project, adjacent to open space. There is a single large retain of 11,500 square feet. The expected tenant for the large retail space is Anthropologie. The original plan had shown two buildings connected at the second floor with two floors of residential space and an underground garage. The 25 residential units ranged in size from 1500 to 2300 square feet; from a large one bedroom unit to a three bedroom unit. The units were to be offered for sale as condominiums.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-4 an architectural rendering of the 2009 building.
Mr. Stampfl reviewed the features of that plan, noting the height of 42 feet for the entire building.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-5 the plan included in this Zoning Hearing Board application.
Mr. Stampfl said that this plan is essentially the same as the prior plan, except for some small changes. The new plan has 20,000 square feet of retail use with one large retail use E-1. The new plan removes the second and third floors from the portion of the building next to the Newtown Presbyterian Church, leaving a 2400 square foot, single story retail space. The underground parking garage has been removed. The plan proposes 116 surface spaces where 152 spaces are required. The second and third floors of the larger portion of the building will have 26 rental residential units ranging in size from 1138 to 1720 square feet. All are one bedroom/den units. The project has been reduced from 84000 square feet to 63000 square feet.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-6 an architectural rendering of the new façade of the building.
Mr. Stampfl reviewed the materials used for the façade, noting the similarities to the original plan. The bridge between the two sides has been eliminated and the height proposed is 41.7 feet.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-7 a comparison of the variances granted in 2009 and those sought in this application.
Referring to Exhibit A-7, Mr. Stampfl reviewed the variances previously granted:
Mrs. Doorley asked whether any of the parking will be designated as “resident only” parking.
Mr. Murphy said that the market will dictate whether this is necessary. The applicant is not comfortable making a commitment this evening.
Mr. Auchinleck reviewed the conditions attached to the last relief granted in 2009:
The other conditions of the 2009 decision reference the underground parking and are no longer applicable.
Mr. Murphy indicated that the applicant will comply with these conditions. The retail use is now a total of 20,000 square feet. The HARB review and traffic study have already been done.
Mr. Auchinleck said that the Newtown Township Planning Commission has reviewed this project and made some recommendations. He asked Mr. Murphy if this could be shared with the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibit A-8 the Synopsis of the Planning Commission meeting dated November 1, 2011. He then reviewed the conditions:
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant would agree to no full service restaurant or business with a liquor license. A possible coffee kiosk might be included in the plan.
The applicant will comply with that condition.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant feels there is adequate parking for all and there is an availability of on-street parking.
The applicant is not prepared to agree to that condition this evening. It is possible that some parking will be reserved, but no plan is in place yet. He noted that the applicant will not be able to rent the units if parking is a problem; the issue will be addressed, with possibly one space per unit reserved, but again, the applicant is not prepared to agree to a specific condition at this time.
The applicant will agree to the last two conditions.
Mr. Auchinleck asked if any of the businesses would have drive-through service.
Mr. Murphy said that the site could not accommodate any drive-through services.
Joseph DeSantis was sworn in. Mr. DeSantis has been a traffic engineer for 20 years, is a graduate of Penn State University and had conducted numerous traffic studies throughout the Delaware Valley. He was the engineer on the 2009 project.
Mr. DeSantis was accepted as an expert witness.
Mr. Murphy entered as Exhibits A-9 and A-10, graphs of weekday and weekend parking for combined residential and retail uses.
Mr. DeSantis explained that the ITE shared parking analysis shows retail needs at 5 parking spaces per 1000 square feet of space or 4.5 spaces for small retail. For multi-family one bedroom residential use it recommends 1.2 spaces during the peak. The exhibits chart the demands by time of day, There is no demand for retail parking between midnight and 6:00 AM, the peak residential parking time. The daytime peak demand is for 100 parking spaces, where 116 are provided on weekdays. On weekends, the retail has no demand midnight to 6:00 AM, when residential is at a peak. The weekend, daytime demand stays at 100 but peaks at 114 spaces.
Mr. Ward asked if Mr. DeSantis had considered the on-street parking.
Mr. DeSantis said that on street was not included in the counts, but there are 30 spaces in the immediate proximity of the site.
Mr. Potero asked if designated residential parking would impact the retail business parking.
Mr. DeSantis said that it will not impact retail and is not necessary, but it could become a resident demand at some point.
Mrs. Doorley asked where snow would be piled in such a tight parking lot.
Mr. DeSantis said that there is always 15% availability in the lot.
Resident David Katz was sworn in. Mr. Katz said that he had been a member of the Zoning Hearing Board at the 2009 hearing. He is eager to see the site developed, but questioned the removal of the underground parking garage, which he suggested was for economic reasons. He did not agree that a parking variance should be granted for economic reasons. He questioned the criteria for determining the difference between large and small retail parking and whether the setting was considered urban or rural. He noted that the Saloon restaurant was recently granted a parking variance and had offered testimony on the availability of on-street parking. He noted that the proposed apartments are large one-bedroom units with dens. The residents may be couples with two cars. They will have visitors with cars. He noted that the new variance request changes the front yard setback somewhat and he urged the Board to keep the originally granted setback variance. He said that he thinks the proposed parking will be insufficient for such an intense use.
Mr. Ward said that the Saloon had re-striped its parking lot and there was no loss of spaces in the lot and there is a shared parking agreement in place with the Dentists of Newtown.
Mr. Ward said that The Saloon (Dean and Debi Evangelou), The Sycamore Street Community Association and Vincent Lombardi are all in support of this application. They have all met with the applicants and all of their concerns have been addressed. He urged the Board to grant this application.
Mr. Lionetti moved to grant the following variances:
Subject to the following conditions:
Mrs. Doorley noted that the prior variance had been for use E-1, not E-2.
Mr. Murphy amended his application to seek an E-1 use of 11,500 square feet.
Mr. Lionetti amended his motion to grant an E-1 use. Mr. Potero seconded the amended motion.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Potero said that he would like to see one parking space reserved per each leased residential unit.
Mr. Auchinleck said that this would negate the “shared parking” aspect.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant could consider non-business hours reserved parking.
Mrs. Doorley suggested possibly reserving some parking after 5:00 PM.
The members agreed not to add a condition regarding reserved parking.
The motion passed 3-0.
Mr. Wind moved to adjourn at 10:30 PM. Mrs. Doorley seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary