NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP

ZONING HEARING BOARD

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF NOVEMBER 1, 2012

The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board met on Thursday, November 1,, 2012 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Chairman Karen Doorley, Secretary Mario Lionetti and members Timothy Potero and Michael Iapalucci. Also in attendance were: James J. Auchinleck, Jr., Esq., Solicitor, Martin Vogt, Code Enforcement Officer and Justine Gregor, Stenographer.

Call to Order: Mrs. Doorley called the meeting to order at 7:34 PM.

The agenda was reviewed:

Continued Application of David and Geraldine Platt, 761 Newtown Yardley Road

Continued Application of 15 Swamp Road LTD (Meglio’s), 15 Swamp Road

Continued Application of S&H Security, LLC, 74 Richboro Road

Application of St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, 135 Sycamore Street

Application of Thomas Ames, 61 Gaucks Lane

Approval of Minutes

Mr. Potero moved to approve the minutes of September 6, 2012. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Mr. Potero moved to approve the minutes of October 4, 2012. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Continued Application of 15 Swamp Road LTD (Meglio’s), 15 Swamp Road

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that Attorney Ed Murphy has requested that this application be continued to the December meeting.

Mr. Lionetti moved to continue the application of 15 Swamp Road to December 6, 2012. Mr. Potero seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Continued Application of S&H Security, LLC, 74 Richboro Road

Mr. Auchinleck informed the Board that Mr. Murphy has requested that this application be continued to the December meeting.

Mr. Potero moved to continue the application of S&H Security, LLC to December 6, 2012. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Application of St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church

Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, owner, requesting variances from sections 249, 272 and 803(H-3)(1)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 5 feet high black ornamental fence around a portion of the perimeter of the cemetery including front yard where the maximum height is 3 feet and ultimate right of way where fences are not permitted. The subject property is 135 south Sycamore Street, in the R-2 Residential Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-10-10.

Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished to be party to this application. There was no response.

Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant. Mr. Murphy explained that St. Andrew’s has used the property next to the Old St. Andrew’s Church as a cemetery since the 1880’s. It had been surrounded by a hedge, which has died in places and become uneven and unsightly. The Church has removed the hedge and would like to replace it with an aluminum fence. The fence would be located in between the legal and the ultimate rights-of-way. Portions of the fence would be within the minimum front yard setback. Two separate items of relief are needed, first to locate the fence in the right-of-way and second, for a fence greater than three feet in the front yard.

Monsignor Michael Picard was sworn in. Monsignor Picard confirmed Mr. Murphy’s statement. Monsignor Picard has been pastor of St. Andrew’s Church for 23 years. He said that when it was determined that the hedge would need to be removed, he selected a fence similar in appearance to the one on North Sycamore Street opposite the Presbyterian Church. The fence would make the cemetery more visible from the street, but would still protect the tombstones from the sidewalk. He selected the five foot height because it was the same as the fence up the street and he thought it would have a more attractive appearance. The fence would extend along the front of the property along Sycamore Street, then would extend along the east boundary of the property, separating the cemetery from Township park area. It would not completely surround the cemetery, leaving an opening for hearses to get closer to gravesites.

Mrs. Doorley said that she feels a five foot fence would be too high, especially in light of the Township’s efforts to improve Sycamore Street. She asked why the Monsignor had not selected a three foot fence.

Monsignor Picard said that he considered three, four and five foot fences, and felt the five foot fence looked most attractive for such a long frontage. It will serve to keep people from running onto the graves and provide some security.

Mr. Potero agreed that the fence would be too high.

Mr. Iapalucci asked Mr. Murphy to review the openings in the fencing.

Mr. Murphy noted that the plans submitted with the application had been colored with red lines indicating the fence by hand. Each copy of the plan shows the east boundary hand drawn with a slightly different length. The actual fence would extend 60 feet from Sycamore Street toward the rear of the cemetery. It will be open on the side nearer the Church and at the rear, where it will allow vehicles to get closer to the new graves.

Monsignor Picard said that the goals for the fence are to delineate the Church property and provide protection of the tombstones nearer the sidewalk.

Mr. Lionetti asked about the height of the tombstones near Sycamore Street.

Monsignor Picard said that some of these graves are within the right-of-way. They are between two and four feet high, mostly closer to three feet.

Mr. Lionetti said that he favored the five foot fence so that it would be higher than any of the tombstones.

Mr. Auchinleck asked about the height of the hedge which is being removed.

Mr. Murphy said that the hedge had been higher when it was healthy, but was about six feet tall when removed.

Monsignor Picard confirmed that the Church has not had problems with vandals in the cemetery; the security is mostly to protect the gravesites from pedestrian traffic.

Mr. Lionetti asked whether placing the fence in the right-of-way is a concern for the Township.

Mr. Auchinleck said that the property is owned by the Church, but the right-of-way allows for future changes such as street widening, sidewalks and on-street parking. If it were determined that the street needed to be widened, it would be the Church’s responsibility to remove and relocate the fence.

Mr. Murphy said that this is a Township road and has already been widened and sidewalks have been added. It is unlikely that it would need to be widened further, but the Church understands its responsibility to remove the fence if necessary.

Mr. Iapalucci asked whether the application had been reviewed by the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Murphy said that each body had expressed unanimous support for the application.

Mr. Lionetti said that he trusts Monsignor Picard’s judgment. St. Andrew’s properties are all attractive and well maintained. The appearance of this ornamental fence will blend nicely and enhance the appearance of the old Church.

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant variances from sections 249, 272 and 803(H-3)(1)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 5 feet high black ornamental fence around a portion of the perimeter of the cemetery including front yard where the maximum height is 3 feet and ultimate right of way where fences are not permitted. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion failed 2-2, with Mrs. Doorley and Mr. Potero voting nay.

Mr. Auchinleck reminded the members that the Ordinance would allow a four foot board-on-board fence along the Sycamore Street front yard. The proposed aluminum ornamental fence would be open. It would be less obtrusive than the permitted solid board-on-board wooden fence.

Mr. Potero asked why the three foot fence would be unacceptable.

Monsignor Picard said that it would be too short for the length of the property and would be shorter than some of the nearest tombstones. It would also not be scaled properly for the adjacent Church building. He wanted the fence to look attractive and to enhance the property.

Mr. Lionetti asked the length of the Sycamore Street frontage.

Mr. Murphy said the property has a 700 foot frontage.

Mr. Lionetti said that he continued to favor granting a variance for a five foot fence, however he would compromise on a four foot fence if that would gain the support of the other Board members.

Mr. Lionetti moved to grant variances from sections 249, 272 and 803(H-3)(1)(a) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 4 feet high black ornamental fence around a portion of the perimeter of the cemetery including front yard where the maximum height is 3 feet and ultimate right of way where fences are not permitted. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Application of Thomas Ames

Mr. Lionetti read into the record the application of Thomas Ames, owner, appealing the action of the zoning officer requesting a Special Exception under section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 3-bay detached garage on a non-conforming lot. The subject property is 61 Gaucks Lane, in the C-M Conservation Management Zoning District, being known as tax parcel number 29-16-4-1.

Thomas Ames and Holly Ames were sworn in.

Mrs. Doorley asked if anyone wished to be party to this application. There was no response.

Mr. Auchinleck said that Township Zoning Officer Martin Vogt has submitted a case memo to the Board outlining some concerns with this property. He has provided a copy to the applicant and entered the memo as Exhibit ZHB-1.

Mr. Ames said that he would like to build a three bay garage on his non-conforming property and needs a special exception. The new garage would not exceed the impervious surface or setback requirements. The lot is 2.306 acres where 3 acres are required.

Mrs. Doorley asked about surrounding properties.

Mr. Ames said that this is a flag lot. His surrounding neighbors, the Dunns, McDivitts and Devlins have expressed support. Foxhall Estates development’s open space is on the west side of his property. The garage would be on the east side. To the north is a vacant house.

Mr. Potero asked whether the Zoning Officer has confirmed the impervious surface.

Mr. Vogt said that the property does comply with impervious requirements. The only issue is lot size; the property pre-dates the current ordinance.

Mr. Auchinleck referenced the memo from the Zoning Officer, which states that an existing shed straddles the property line and that at one time the Township issued a permit for a front porch without requiring a special exception.

Mrs. Doorley asked whether the shed will be removed when the garage is built.

Mr. Ames said that the shed had belonged to the neighbors and had been dragged to the current location in 1979.

Mr. Auchinleck said that this could become a title issue at time of sale of either of the properties. This should be addressed.

Mr. Lionetti suggested that if the Board were to grant the special exception, it could be conditioned on moving the shed entirely onto one of the properties.

Mrs. Ames said that this is an old shed, surrounded by trees. It would be difficult to move because of the mature trees. It is 12’ X 12’ and has been at this location for years, pre-dating the Ordinance.

Mr. Auchinleck said that there is no time when the shed would have been permitted.

Mr. Ames asked whether he would need additional approvals for the shed.

Mr. Vogt said that a permit for the shed could be issued at the same time as the permit for the garage. It would require a separate permit but would not require additional zoning relief. If the shed were to be removed there would not be a fee.

Mr. Iapalucci said that he would not be inclined to grant a special exception that did not address the shed, which is in violation of the Ordinance.

Mr. Potero moved to grant a Special Exception under section 1208(C)(2) of the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance of 2007 to permit construction of a 3-bay detached garage on a non-conforming lot, subject to the condition that the existing shed be relocated to conform to current zoning before a certificate of occupancy is issued for the garage. Mr. Lionetti seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Mrs. Doorley explained that the shed would not have to be moved or removed until the garage is completed.

Mr. Potero moved to adjourn at 9:00 PM. Mr. Iapalucci seconded and the motion passed 4-0.

Respectfully Submitted:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary