17 October 2023 Planning Commission Meeting Summary
This is my personal summary of the 17 October 2023 Planning Commission Meeting. It includes comments from the official synopsis presented to the BOS on 25 October 2023.
PC SYNOPSIS: “Applicant is seeking relief for 39.3% impervious surface where 30% is the maximum to develop a 4.9 acre parcel for new construction for a 10,000 square foot daycare use, a 10,000 square foot medical office and conversion of existing detached dwelling unit to office space, with associated parking. The Commission recommended that the Board take no position on this application, as mitigation of stormwater would be addressed at land development.”
One reason for justifying the relief according to Edward F. Murphy, Esq., Wisler Pearlstine LLP, representing the applicant is “The maximum allowable impervious surface ratio in the PS-2 Professional Service District is 30%. Such a ratio is unreasonably limiting,” said Mr. Murphy, recognizing that non-residential properties typically enjoy impervious surface ratios at least double that 30% allowance in most Bucks County municipalities.”
MY COMMENTS: I find it insulting to insinuate that Newtown’s impervious surface ordinance is “unreasonable.” Also, just because other municipalities may allow a higher percentage is not a good reason to allow this appeal. Although this seems like a minimum overage of permitted impervious surface, it seems like every development application seeks such variance. Although it is “promised” that mitigation will be addressed at land development, there is no guarantee that such mitigation will be approved and/or that it will be adequately maintained (who has oversight?). Eventually, these variances will amount to a deteriorating management of storm water that may overwhelm our drainage system and result in more flooding.
At the 25 October 2023 BOS meeting, supervisors unanimously voted to send the solicitor to the ZHB to oppose this application.
- “#NewtownPA Supervisors Defend Zoning, Oppose Variance For New Daycare, Medical Office”
- “Newtown Supervisors Oppose Plan To Build 27 Townhouses at 413 Durham Road”
PC SYNOPSIS: “Applicant is seeking relief to have a total of five individual establishment identification signs, relief for sign size and height, variances already granted to prior tenants in the shopping center*. Of concern to the Commission was the proposed sign on the south wall, facing Silo Drive, where no other signs have been permitted for other businesses. After lengthy discussion (listen below), by a vote of 5-4, the Commission recommended that the Board take no position on this application.”
MY COMMENTS: As per Newtown zoning ordinance, a total of 3 individual establishment signs totaling 60 sqft are allowed. Capital Grille is asking for variances to allow 5 signs totaling 452.28 sqft - a 392.28 sqft difference! The “proposed sign … facing Silo Drive” is a huge, BILLBOARD SIZED 13-4" by 6' 80 sqft sign.
The applicant claims that such a big sign in this location will make it easier for people driving North on South Eagle Rd in the shopping center to find the restaurant. Several PC members did not buy this noting the widespread use of GPS.
Edward Murphy, Esq., Wisler Pearlstine, representing Capital Grille, said the dimensions of the sign should be measured based on the size of the lettering and that the black background should not figure into the calculation to determine if it is up to code.
PC Member Terry Christensen, however, said "changing the way the square footage of signage is calculated by only counting the letters...that's an argument that I don't think we are competent to work on" versus the wording of the ordinance.
At the 25 October 2023 BOS meeting, the Township Solicitor read the definition of area of a sign in the JMZO. It states:
“The area of a sign shall be construed to include all lettering wording and accompanying designs and symbols together with the background whether open or enclosed on which it is it is displayed but not to include any supporting framework bracing or decorative trim which is incidental to the copy content of the display itself.”
Supervisors subsequently unanimously voted to send the solicitor to the ZHB to oppose this application.
PC SYNOPSIS: “Mr. Schenkman reviewed proposed edits made by Township Solicitor David Sander to make the ordinance’s language consistent with our ordinance. Mr. Sander re-instated the words “overlay district,” as it will allow the existing zoning to remain in place while adding some new uses, etc. The Overlay will still encompass the entire LI/OLI zoning districts.
“The new draft lists the two proposed residential uses, mixed use development and Town Center Apartments as by-right uses. The Commission feels that as this is a completely new use we would like the Township to have the extra layer of control that “conditional use” would add.
“We also discussed the prohibition of “drive through” for financial establishments. We feel that our ordinance already adequately addresses the traffic impacts of drive-through windows and this could be considered if lot size permitted.”
MY COMMENTS: Before this comes to a vote by the supervisors, I expressed a need to have more discussion of the plan's details. I believe the consensus of the PC was in agreement. I specifically had major concerns about "mixed-use" development, which is a major aspect of the Overlay Plan. LISTEN: