TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MAKEFIELD
PLANNING COMMISSION
MINUTES - AUGUST 9, 1999

The regular meeting of the Planning Commission of the Township of Lower Makefield was held in the Municipal Building on August 9, 1999. Chairman Pazdera called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.

Those present:

Planning Commission:

John Pazdera, Chairman

 

Paul Gunkel, Member

 

Albert Roeper, Member

Others:

Nancy Frick, Director Zoning, Inspection & Planning

 

John Koopman, Township Solicitor

 

Duke Doherty, Township Engineer

 

Frank Fazzalore, Supervisor

Absent:

Edward Koch, Planning Commission Vice Chairman

 

Deborah Gould, Planning Commission Secretary

#490-A WILSHIRE GLEN PRELIMINARY PLAN DISCUSSION

Mr. William Dion stated they are not present for approval this evening but are seeking input on the Plan. They recognize they will be required to provide an extension. He stated they would like to discuss some of the Plan revisions they have made. He stated the most obvious is the elimination of the cul-de-sacs and the connections of the roads. He stated the interconnections resulted in the loss of one lot. He noted they have also provided turning movements at the end of the existing Pine Lane. He noted they had previously proposed 30 foot road widths and the Township engineer recommended this instead of 36 feet as required by Ordinance; however, the interconnections with both Pine Lane and Raab Drive will require that it be tapered down into the existing right-of-ways. He stated the Township engineer has suggested that they widen the travel lanes to the nearest intersection so it will not result in a bottleneck. Mr. Dion noted a drainage issue at Wilbur Road and Dolington and this has been addressed in the revised plans. They have tied it into an existing storm sewer outlet in the area.

Mr. Dion stated there was discussion about providing active recreation and they were asked to consider how this could be provided on the site. He stated originally they proposed Fee-In-Lieu of Recreation. He stated they are proposing a tot lot that crosses Buck Creek and could provide a walkway that would extend to the edges of the property line with a possible future creation of a walkway interconnection or bikeway connection that would provide access ultimately to Yardley Borough. They would like direction from the Planning Commission on this proposal.

Mr. Dion stated they feel they can comply with all other items in Mr. Doherty’s review letter although they will have to meet with him to get some direction. He noted the Skelly & Loy review letter dated July 27 which they just received today. They would like to walk the site with Skelly & Loy to get their input on some items.

Mr. Gunkel stated he feels the Park & Recreation Board will prefer the payment of Fee-In-Lieu. Mr. Gunkel also questioned the location of the proposed tot lot since it could create problems going through a stream when there is high water. Mr. Dion stated this will have to be addressed and will ultimately be governed by the Army Corps of Engineers whether they can obtain the permits for this. Mr. Dion stated they wanted to get input from the Township before proceeding any further on this proposal. Mr. Pazdera stated he feels the tot lot proposal could create problems if it were to be used by teenagers in the evening since it will be difficult for the police to patrol.

Mr. Gunkel noted the landscape plan and suggested they use trees other than white pines. Mr. Roeper noted there is a list of trees in the Ordinance.

Mr. Pazdera expressed concern with the note on the plan indicating the owner reserves the right to remove all structures which he feels means the barn will be knocked down as opposed to being renovated. Mr. Dion stated they are not sure what will happen to the barn since under their Agreement of Sale it was not conveyed to them. He feels the sellers intend to use the properties for their individual purposes. He stated they do not have the ability to commit them to save the barn.

Mr. Gunkel noted Item 6 which indicates they must relocate the wetlands boundary. He stated since everything is measured from the boundary as far as net lot size and they mustmake sure they have 16,500 in Lot #10 outside the wetlands boundaries. Mr. Doherty stated he did not feel this should be a problem.

Ms. Holly Bussey, President of the Pinebrook Civic Association, stated their traffic expert was not able to be present this evening due to short notice of the meeting. She stated she will provide a complete packet of the information that will expand on her summary. She stated recent issues in the Makefield Manor Development gave the residents in her area to have a traffic study done comparing the problems with the existing development with the potential of Wilshire Glen and its impacts on the current streets. In the study Dolington Road and Edgewood Road compare favorably in traffic volume. She showed boards to demonstrate this. She stated the traffic within the development was examined on three consecutive days - in particular South Drive and South Crescent Boulevard where local residents expressed concern and where there was a large straight piece of road. Concurrently traffic was monitored in the Pinebrook Development with concentration on Knoll where Raab and Barbara would interconnect with the new development. Two neighborhoods were compared - one with a convoluted street design - Makefield Manor and one with the proposed clean-cut design of Wilshire Glen. It was determined that despite the awkward shape of the streets in Makefield Manor automotive traffic was quite eager to cut through using inner streets South Drive to South Crescent to avoid Edgewood as long as possible even though other connecting streets were available to Edgewood Road.

Additionally, it was determined that both neighborhoods examined have approximately the same population density and equal density with approximately the same number and size of lots which they feel allows a valid comparison of the neighborhoods as traffic density is directly related to population density. The study shows that the traffic in Makefield Manor was double to the current conditions on Knoll. They feel Pinebrook can therefore expect traffic to increase to a similar amount if the project is adopted as indicated. Ms. Bussey stated the Township engineer has agreed that connecting Makefield Manor South Drive with the development of Countess was perhaps in error. She stated there is a change to stop this from happening again. She stated there are over forty children in their neighborhood and at least seventeen retirees who use the streets for bikeriding, hockey, walking, and basketball. She stated there are traffic calming measures that could be taken to aid the control of speed and volume of automotive traffic. Two measures that would be applicable here would be not widening existing roads to thirty feet at Knoll and Raab and adding a vertical deterrent at the transition points from new to old developments. She stated widening of the streets impacts visual appeal and could endanger property values and the additional impervious surface poses a possible threat to the well-being of Brock Creek.

Ms. Bussey stated they would be in favor of the adoption of the earlier plan where only two connections are provided and provide pedestrian access only from Knoll and Raab to all developments. She stated there are other developments in the Township which are significantly larger which have only one or two entrances and multiple cul-de-sacs. She stated the proposed development has only thirty houses but is proposing five entranceswhich she feels is excessive. Ms. Bussey reviewed recent housing developments which have been approved with a greater number of houses but less entrances and more cul-de-sacs including Bridle Estates/Devonshire, Clearview Estates, Fieldstone at Lower Makefield, Loberg Tract (pending), Buck Hill Farms, Pebble Court, Hidden Pond Estates, Penns Field at Farmview, Farmview (east side of Dolington), Gatefield, Longshore Estates, The Ridings, Fairfield at Farmview, Hidden Oaks, Mill Run, Makefield Brook, Valley View, Mill Road Estates.

Ms. Bussey stated in their opinion to connect and widen the roads is not in the best interest of their community and they asked that the Township reconsider the earlier plan presented in March, 1999 would be the most consistent and viable with the adding of pedestrian access only between neighborhoods with two access roads and two cul-de-sacs.

 Signed petitions were presented to Ms. Frick this evening and are attached to the Minutes.

Ms. Ann DeBellis who resides at the corner of Raab and Bel Air asked if the Planning Commission members have visited the area, and the Planning Commission members present this evening stated they have driven through the area. Ms. DeBellis asked when the Planning Commission will make the final decision on the plan, and Mr. Pazdera stated the Planning Commission does not make the final decision as it is made by the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Gunkel stated the Board of Supervisors indicated in March that what is now being presented is what they wanted to see. Ms. DeBellis asked how the current plans address the safety concerns of the residents of Pinebrook I and Pinebrook II. She stated there are already existing safety concerns. Mr. Gunkel stated he does not feel what is proposed is any more unsafe than any other place in the Township. Mr. Gunkel stated Dolington Road has a Level of Service A and there would be no incentive to cut through the new development.

Ms. DeBellis questioned the need for five access roads for thirty additional homes, and Mr. Pazdera stated it is the continuation of a grid that was laid out when the area was planned. One gentleman stated Pine Lane on the other end was vacated fifteen years ago.

Mr. Gunkel stated this goes into Yardley Borough and Lower Makefield has no control over this. Mr. Roeper stated he feels there is only one additional access which is Wilshire Drive since the others are simply continuations of streets that have been on the plan for many years. Mr. Koopman noted the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinancerequires connection of stub streets and that if a new development does not border an existing development, stub roads should be constructed so that when new developments are constructed there can be connections. He stated one of the reasons for this is to disperse traffic since the more accesses they have the better since it disperses the traffic.

He noted the Board of Supervisors could decide to waive this provision of the Ordinance.

Ms. DeBellis noted Ms. Bussey has indicated this has apparently been waived many times.

Mr. Koopman stated while there may have been some exceptions, the general rule is that it has not been waived. Ms. DeBellis stated she feels widening the streets will encourage people to drive faster. Ms. DeBellis asked if they would consider installing speed bumps on Raab and put extra patrol cars in the neighborhood to enforce speed limits. Mr. Roeper stated speeding is a problem in every neighborhood in Lower Makefield and unless you have responsible homeowners and drivers, there is going to be speeding. Ms. DeBellis stated since they are recognizing human nature, they should do something proactive to prohibit speeding. A number of Planning Commission members indicated they did not feel speed bumps would help the situation.

Mr. Koopman stated the Township Supervisors and Planning Commission Members must be responsive to all the Township residents and the Planning philosophy has been that it is in the interest of the overall residents to interconnect streets wherever possible to disperse traffic. He stated the Planning Commission has upheld this philosophy but it actually comes from the Township Master Plan, Township Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances, and these were adopted by the Board of Supervisors. He stated if the residents want to lobby them to change the basic planning philosophy, they should make it to the Board of Supervisors. He stated the feeling in the past has been that the benefits of interconnection outweigh the benefits of limiting accesses. He added that if their neighborhood is having a problem with speeding, they should discuss this with the Township Police Force and Administrative Staff.

Ms. Bussey stated if the Township Boards are to serve the best interests of the community and majority of the community surrounding the new development are in favor of the two entrances and two cul-de-sacs the Township Boards should consider their request.

Mr. Koopman stated he does not feel there is a consensus since he was present at meetings when it was discussed that only certain roads were to be connected the people who were not to have their roads connected were happy and those who were going to have their road connected were unhappy. One answer to that is to minimize the impact of interconnection by interconnecting all the roads so that the traffic is dispersed. He added if they were to open up just one interconnection those residents impacted by the one interconnection will be present at the meetings asking that all the roads be opened up. Mr. Koopman stated the Township must also take into account the concerns of the residents who will be purchasing homes in the new development and all other residents in the Township and what is best from an overall planning philosophy not just the Pinebrook residents. He added while there may be instances where waivers were granted, in most instances, the stub streets have been connected. He noted a number of developments Ms. Bussey cited are Farmland Preservation developments where the surrounding land has been dedicated to the Township Farmland Preservation Corporation and will be farmland in perpetuity so there cannot be an interconnection. Mr. Koopman stated the residents are within their rights to try to convince the Board of Supervisors to change the planning philosophy. Ms. Bussey stated she feels they could make an exception in this instance. Mr. Gunkel noted a number of people present during the South Drive discussion indicated they did not want the road closed.

Mr. Doherty stated the connection to Dolington is actually a waiver since if they followed the Ordinance they could not have this connection and they would have to go through Pinebrook.

One gentleman asked if they have agreed that the access to Dolington Road is where it will be located since there was discussion at the last meeting that it should be moved toward the center of the property. Mr. Gunkel stated they must meet sight distance requirements. Mr. Dion stated the plan as shown does meet sight distance requirements.

Mr. Steve Barrett from Knoll Drive stated at previous discussions the Planning Commission indicated they may be in favor of an emergency only access. Mr. Pazdera stated there was discussion on the cul-de-sacs and one entrance off of Dolington, however, since then it has gone to the Board of Supervisors and they have said this is what they want. Mr. Barrett asked if they could revert back to that prior plan if they can convince the Supervisors that the neighbors are in favor of the prior plan. Mr. Gunkel stated if they can convince three Supervisors of this, the plan could be changed. Mr. Barrett asked if the Planning Commission would be opposed to this. Mr. Roeper stated he represents the community as a planner and from his viewpoint the current proposal is better planning than the original plan. The Planning Commission considers all options in the beginning of the planning process but as the various agencies and the Township engineer provide input it becomes clear that a certain direction is probably the better one from a planning viewpointwhich is the job of the Planning Commission. Mr. Barrett stated at a prior meeting when the original plan was being considered he had indicated that he was concerned that if the connections were not made it would force people to walk out on Dolington Road to get to the other developments but he has since changed his position and he is concerned that his making the prior comment has swayed the Township from approving the original plan. Mr. Koopman stated they must discuss this with the Board of Supervisors since the current understanding is that the Board of Supervisors wants to see the interconnections. Mr. Barrett asked if the Planning Commission would make a recommendation in support of the residents’ proposal.

One gentleman stated the Planning Commission has spent more time reviewing the Plans and as planners they could have more of an impact on the Board of Supervisors than would the residents who are usually full of emotion and are only one part of a long Agenda.

Mr. Roeper read from the memorandum dated February 9 which indicates "At the Planning Commission meeting held on February 8, the Board moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that in connection with the development of Wilshire Glen Subdivision that the developer be directed to connect Barbara Drive to Pine Lane." Ms. Bussey stated when it went before the Board of Supervisors they decided to make all the connections and no one had recommended that this be done. Mr. Koopman stated this came after a recommendation from the Public Works Director and Police Department that they were in favor of interconnections.

Mr. Fazzalore stated Ms. Bussey has inferred that the Planning Commission has more knowledge than the Supervisors and he stated one member of the Board of Supervisors has served for over twenty-four years and another has been on at least twelve years. Ms. Bussey stated she is assuming that the Planning Commission has background in land planning and engineering which are needed to make such decisions. Mr. Fazzalore stated the Board of Supervisors expects the Planning Commission to review the plans in accordance with the Ordinances and do not expect them to go beyond those directions. Mr. Koopman stated the residents must convince the Board of Supervisors that the current plan is not the correct plan to follow since they already have one recommendation from the Planning Commission. One gentleman stated he feels it would be good to have another recommendation from the Planning Commission after the plan has been changed. Mr. Koopman stated he is not sure that they will get that from the Planning Commission. Mr. Koopman stated if the Board of Supervisors has already made a decision to proceed with this configuration the Planning Commission would be reluctant to make a recommendation contrary to a decision that has already been made. Ms. Bussey stated the Planning Commission now has more information than the Board of Supervisors did at the time they made that decision. Mr. Koopman stated since the residents have provided additional information, the place to provide that is to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Koopman noted there is not yet an approved plan, so the residents still have an opportunity to go before the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Gunkel stated he feels the plan that is before them meets the Ordinance and in his judgment is the best plan for this particular plot of land. He does not see anything to be gained by cutting off the free flow of traffic that would occur if cul-de-sacs were installed. He stated cul-de-sacs are also a maintenance problem. He stated if they review the developments Ms. Bussey cited where cul-de-sacs were installed there was a logical reason why that was done in those developments. He noted particularly The Ridings which has only one loop off Creamery Road and stated that development they only had entrance on Creamery Road or on Quarry Road and on Quarry Road the entrance would have been right at the I-95 interchange and they could not meet the sight distance requirements. He stated they cannot stop someone from developing their land and they felt this was the best plan. Mr. Doherty noted The Ridings does have some stub streets in it which could be connected at some time. Mr. Koopman noted where Ms. Bussey has noted "dead end streets" she should be aware that these are stub streets that ultimately are to be connected that same as this development now being discussed. Mr. Gunkel stated he was never in favor of the original plan.

Ms. Bussey asked that the Planning Commission consider installation of speed bumps and not widening the streets and suggested a taper from Wilshire into East Raab. Mr. Fazzalore stated speed bumps are illegal. He stated speed humps are permitted.Mr. Roeper noted at previous discussions, the Planning Commission recommended that the width of the road be narrowed to 30 feet from 36 feet. Ms. Bussey stated they are asking that the new development be tapered into the old development. Mr. Roeper stated they are not touching anything other than one lot up to the intersection. It was noted this will impact four homes. Mr. Gunkel stated it would be safer turning in if it were wider. One woman noted the location of the bus stop at the corner where they are proposing widening to 30 feet. She stated this will endanger the children and will involve removal of trees in the area.

Mr. Koopman stated it does not appear that the Planning Commission can make the recommendation requested by the residents since there are only three members present this evening and one has already indicated he feels the interconnection is the best plan.

Ms. Bussey asked how long the philosophy regarding interconnections and road widths has been in place, and Mr. Doherty estimated it be since the 1960s. Ms. Bussey asked why in two developments the newer developments have tapered into the older developments, and Mr. Doherty stated this would depend on the particular situation. It was suggested Ms. Bussey provide the name of the two developments to Ms. Frick who will look into the matter.

Ms. Ruth James from Knoll Drive stated they have worked to build their community and asked if the governing bodies could not consider the existing residents as well as the new residents.

ROUTE 332 AND I-95 INTERCHANGE DISCUSSION

Mr. Gunkel noted the letter he provided with regard to this matter. Mr. Strahle has indicated this matter will not be on the Agenda until the second meeting in September but indicated he did not only want to discuss a cloverleaf and suggested a double left for eastbound traffic on 332 to go north on I-95. Mr. Gunkel stated he discussed this matter with Mr. Doherty who provided a copy of the point of access study which listed alternative suggestions including the double left turn. Mr. Gunkel stated he also discussed the cloverleaf with Mr. Fedorchak which is on the 12 Year Plan. Mr. Gunkel noted this is also on the Official Township map as well as in the Act 209 for which funds have been collected to build the cloverleaf. He suggested they send a letter to the Board of Supervisors regarding the cloverleaf, a draft of which he has provided to the Planning Commission members. Mr. Gunkel moved to forward the memo to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Fazzalore stated there is a deadline of some date in September for this project since they have been advised that if PennDOT does not receive an affirmative response from the Board of Supervisors the funds will be taken away. Mr. Roeper asked if the Planning Commission should not encourage the Board of Supervisors to approve the proposed PennDOT plan.

Mr. Roeper stated he would prefer to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they go ahead and approve it since if they do not approve it they may face potential problems as outlined by Mr. Gunkel. Mr. Fazzalore stated the Bucks County Transportation Committee is sending a letter indicating this is vital to the development of the Lower Bucks County area. Mr. Roeper stated he feels the cloverleaf is far superior to a double left. Mr. Fazzalore stated if they had a double left turn they would have to replace the bridge.Mr. Gunkel stated he does not feel they would gain anything with a double left since the traffic would still back up.

Mr. Gunkel moved and Mr. Roeper seconded that the Planning Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors take action to encourage DOT to proceed as rapidly as possible with the construction of Alternate 2 Route 332 Interchange. In support of this recommendation the Planning Commission would like to point out that the cloverleaf is included in the Official Township Map. The Planning Commission also questions as to whether or not any other proposal would not only delay the improvement and exacerbate the problem and also require official changes to the Township all of which would be very lengthy and cause further delays.

Mr. Gunkel agreed to put something together along these lines to present to the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Roeper asked if there is any objection on the part of the Supervisors other than the fact that a cloverleaf will take up some of the Patterson Farm. Mr. Fazzalore noted there are a number of objections. He stated there is a dispute in the area regarding traffic and this is part of dispute.

Motion approved unanimously.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.