TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MAKEFIELD

PLANNING COMMISSION

MINUTES – DECEMBER 12, 2005

 

 

The regular meeting of the Planning Commission of the Township of Lower Makefield was held in the Municipal Building on December 12, 2005.  Chairman Friedman called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.

 

Those present:

 

Planning Commission:   Karen Friedman, Chairman

                                                Cynthia Harrison Vice Chairman

                                                William Taylor, Secretary

                                                John Pazdera, Member

 

Others:                                     Nancy Frick, Director Zoning, Inspection & Planning

                                                Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor

                                               

Absent:                         Frank Fazzalore, Supervisor Liaison

 

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

Mr. Pazdera moved, Ms. Harrison seconded and it was unanimously carried to approve the Minutes of November 14, 2005 as amended.

 

 

DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATION ON PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE CODIFIED ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE TOWNSHIP SO AS TO ESTABLISH A USE ENTITLED AGE QUALIFIED COMMUNITY AND THE STANDARDS RELATED THERETO AND ALSO DETERMINING THAT SAID USE SHALL BE A USE BY RIGHT IN THE GENERAL BUSINESS/INDUSTRIAL (C-3 ZONING DISTRICT AND IN THE COMMERCIAL-HIGHWAY SERVICES DISTRICT (C-2)

 

Mr. Garton stated in 1999 there were discussions with Matrix with respect to the Plan

approved by the Board of Supervisors for the property at the intersection of Big Oak and

Oxford Valley Roads.  It was originally approved as a Master Plan in the 1980s, and

re-approved as an Amendment to provide for some office space and “big box” retail.

 

He noted litigation ensued following that approval and went through the Bucks County

Courts, Commonwealth Court, and eventually the Supreme Court.  Several years ago the

Township, the Applicant (Matrix), and RAM met to try to find a way to meet everyone’s

needs with respect to the property.  

 

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 2 of 7

 

 

Mr. Garton stated that at about the same time there was interest expressed by the

developer of Chanticleer for the Township to consider an age-qualified development. 

Eventually the idea of age-qualified housing was included in the Comprehensive Plan as

something that the Township felt was beneficial.   It provided that it should be located in

areas convenient to traffic and it should be part of a community which would have access

to retail and office.  During the time when the Matrix matter was being heard before the

Supreme Court, the parties involved were also discussing how they could resolve the

matter and focused on age-qualified housing.  The Township felt that this could be an

appropriate location for age-qualified housing in keeping with what the Comprehensive

Plan had suggested and given the fact that “big box” retail was problematic for this

property. 

 

Mr. Garton stated the parties involved began to discuss density and how the project

would be designed assuming that eventually this could become the subject of a Court-

ordered Stipulation.  He stated the Supreme Court did not remand the Case back to a

Lower Court for this purpose and there was no longer any litigation pending; however,

the Board of Supervisors still felt that the idea of age-qualified housing at this location

made sense and chose to begin the process on its own to provide for an Amendment to

the Zoning Ordinance to permit age-qualified housing.  This is the draft of the Ordinance

before the Planning Commission this evening.  He stated a majority of the Board of

Supervisors was in favor of proceeding with advertising the Ordinance and it is scheduled

to be heard next Monday.

 

A copy of the Bucks County Planning Commission’s (BCPC) memo dated 12/7/05 was

noted.  Mr. Jim Fries, the Planner who is the author of the draft Ordinance, was present

this evening.  Item #1 was noted on the Format of the proposed Amendment, and

Mr. Fries stated the Township feels the Format as presented is simpler than what the

BCPC is suggesting.  Mr. Garton stated the current Format makes it easier to incorporate

it into the existing Ordinance.

 

Item #2 was noted regarding the definition of private access drives, and Mr. Fries stated

he feels what is proposed is sufficient and is in accordance with the requirements of the

Township engineer to allow for emergency access.  He stated they could make this more

clear if it is felt that it is unclear.  Mr. Garton noted the Township engineer did review the

Draft and did not feel any changes were needed.

 

Item #3 was noted regarding Dimensional Standards.  Mr. Fries stated he feels that since

the uses are defined elsewhere in the Ordinance as are the dimensional standards and

since there is nothing conflicting in this Amendment, he feels what is proposed is

sufficient.  He stated they did suggest that the word “Maximum” be added to the Chart on

Page 3 and he agrees this change should be made.

 

 

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 3 of 7

 

 

Mr. Taylor questioned the maximum building heights proposed which he feels are higher

than what is currently permitted.  Mr. Fries stated the proposal is that for some units there

will be three living floors over a garage with an elevator.  Mr. Garton stated this will only

apply in this Zoning District for these uses and is not a blanket change to the height

restriction.  Mr. Garton stated they will have to come back in with plans and go through

the Planning Process with the Planning Commission and other reviewing agencies.  He

stated he understands that during the discussions, it was indicated that there would be

three basic areas – one for single family age-qualified, one would have more traditional

townhome age-qualified, and the third would be condominium age-qualified housing. 

 

Ms. Harrison stated she does not feel what is being proposed is less density than “big

box” stores.  Mr. Taylor stated it would be less traffic, trash, etc. 

 

Mr. Fries noted the Chart on Page 3 where there is a percentage reflected as to how many

of each type of housing is permitted.  Mr. Taylor stated he would be interested in seeing

exactly where each type of unit would be located, and Mr. Garton stated they will get into

this as they go through the development process.

 

Mr. Fries noted Item #4 regarding the Resource Protection Standards. He stated in the

C-3 Zone currently there is no open space requirement and 65% total impervious

coverage is permitted.  He stated the Bucks County Planning Commission comment was

specific to the lowering of the protection of the woodland percentage and not the other

issues.  He stated the Amendment seeks to lower the woodland clearing limit from 70%

to 40%; however in no instance can woods be cleared from a more restrictive zone.  He

noted in the wetlands and wetland buffers, 100% of the woods must be maintained and

there are a significant amount of wooded wetlands on this site.  He stated the reason for

this was that the type of development proposed is seen as a walkable community and to

attain this, they need to have the units very close together.  He stated the perimeter

buffers will be left in tact as will the wooded wetlands.  He stated stormwater

management will be required and they will have to comply with the NPDES

requirements.   In addition, this Ordinance lowers the maximum impervious surface area

allowed from 65% to 60% and institutes a 20% open space and natural resource

protection minimum which is not existing in the current Ordinance. 

 

Item #5 was noted regarding the setback requirements.  Mr. Fries stated this comment

relates to wording.  He stated the category that states “retail” is for retail only

development and the other line item in the chart that says “retail/office” includes a mixed

office and retail development or strictly office development.  Mr. Garton suggested that

they clarify this.

 

Item #6 was noted regarding Parking requirements.  Mr. Fries stated BCPC wants to

insure that there is sufficient parking capacity on site and wanted some language in the

Homeowners’ Association Agreements or other appropriate covenants that protected

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 4 of 7

 

 

against garages being converted and this is something that is frequently done at the

Township level.  He stated this could be included in the Ordinance. 

 

Mr. Fries stated BCPC has expressed concern that minimum yards are not defined and he

stated this is really not necessary as this Ordinance is constructed utilizing setbacks

between buildings, setbacks of buildings from parking areas, and setbacks of buildings

from cartways.  He stated this therefore determines density, how close buildings are

together, and how close you are to roads.

 

Item #7 was noted regarding Flag Lots.  He stated these are controlled by the setbacks

that are specified in the Table.  He stated minimum lot size is included in the Chart and

provides dimensional standards.  He stated to address the County’s concern, something

limiting the amount of “piggybacking” of Flag Lots could be included to limit this to one

Flag behind one unit having appropriate frontage. 

 

Item #8 was noted with regard to Pedestrian circulation, and Mr. Fries stated this is well

handled in the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance and does not need to be

expanded in this section.

 

Item #9 regarding Road Standards was noted.  He stated they have reference a 36’

minimum cartway which is currently in the Ordinance.  Mr. Fries stated this cartway does

not preclude you from parking on the street.  He stated the Amendment has a 22’ cartway

without on-street parking and specifies that if there is to be on-street parking in an area, it

would be placed in an additional 8’ wide aisle expansion of the cartway.  He stated if you

had two-way circulation with parking on both sides with the Ordinance amendment you

would actually have a 38’ paved roadway.  He stated in areas where parking will not be

permitted, you would therefore not be wasting paving.

 

Item #10 was noted regarding Spillover Parking.  Mr. Fries stated the Ordinance

Amendment calls for two parking spaces per dwelling unit for all residential types.  He

stated the existing Ordinance calls for two spaces for single-family detached units and

two and a half for all other residential uses.  He stated the Ordinance has no requirement

for spillover parking.  Mr. Fries stated as this an age-restricted community, they feel

that many of the units will have single-person households and feel the lower parking

requirement as a general rule is more appropriate for this type of development.

 

Item #11 was noted regarding Basic Accessibility Standards.  Mr. Fries stated these are

legal issues and are not appropriate for this document.  Mr. Garton stated this would be in

the construction codes.

 

Item #12 is an Editorial Sections and does include typos in the Ordinance which

Mr. Garton agreed to correct.

 

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 5 of 7

 

 

Mr. Taylor asked what percentage of the resource protected woodlands are on this particular site, and Mr. Fries stated he feels it is approximately 10% of the total acreage. 

 

Ms. Friedman asked if they are restricting themselves by keeping it only as age-restricted. 

She asked if another type of housing would be more beneficial in C-3 should it come up

in the future.  Mr. Garton stated this Ordinance will not change the other permitted uses

in C-2 and C-3, and they are only permitting this use as an additional use.    If some other

housing type would come forth, they can consider that at the time it comes forward and

amend the Ordinance to permit it.  Ms. Friedman stated she is concerned that in the future

there may not be a need for the age-restricted housing and they would be locked into this

use for these homes.  Mr. Garton stated the Township always has the legal authority to

change the Zoning Ordinance.  He stated there will be covenants that exist which relate to

the houses that are actually built so that those who purchased those homes would be

protected from there being any other uses.  He stated the Board of Supervisors did not

want this to become an area that was available for traditional housing because they did

not want to have the negative impact on the School District’s tax base and therefore

gravitated to age-qualified.  He stated they can still adapt to existing conditions in the

future should they decided to do so. 

 

Mr. Taylor asked if there are any other areas in the Township which are C-2 or C-3; and

Mr. Garton stated there are none which would have the sufficient lot size required.

Mr. Taylor asked if these homes will be built with a deed restriction, and Mr. Garton

stated they will be built with all restrictions required by Federal law that would protect

the people who buy the units.  Mr. Taylor stated his concern is that there may not be a

need for this many units of age-restricted houses in the future.  Mr. Garton stated to

change the age-restriction, the development itself would need to obtain the legal right to

change this and would require the Township’s approval as well.

 

The Planning Commission agreed to the following with regard to the recommendations

made by the Bucks County Planning Commission:  Item #1 remain as shown in the

proposed Ordinance; Item #2  - the Ordinance should be clarified; Item #3 remain as

shown in the Ordinance except that the Heading on the Chart should be changed as noted

in Item #3b.

 

There was discussion on Item #4 and Ms. Friedman expressed concern with the 70%

going down to 40%.  She stated she would prefer that it be higher and if they need relief,

they can go before the Zoning Hearing Board.  Mr. Fries stated the other C-2 and C-3

properties have buildings on them.  He stated most of the trees on the subject property are

relatively new but still fall into the category of “woodlands” as defined in the Ordinance. 

Mr. Garton stated the 40% requirement relates to this particular property.  Ms. Friedman

stated she feels they should be broad-based.  Mr. Garton stated while this is correct, the

reality is this Amendment is about this particular property.  Mr. Fries stated there is not

another location in the Township with this Zoning that would be problematic. 

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 6 of 7

 

 

Ms. Frick asked about someone coming in who is currently in the C-2 or C-3 who wished

to construct an addition; and Mr. Garton stated they would not be part of an age-qualified

category and would not have the minimum acreage required. 

 

Mr. Taylor asked about the potential for the O/R District being re-characterized as C-2 or

C-3.  Mr. Garton stated the Board of Supervisors can at any time rezone O/R to

Commercial and could also change the required percentage from 40% to 10%. 

Mr. Fries stated were the O/R rezoned to C-2 of C-3, the 40% would only pertain to the

age-qualified community and not to the thirty other permitted uses.  He stated for this

type of community they wanted to have smaller lots and houses close together and this

does not allow them to save as many trees if they are occurring in the grid of the

developed area.

 

Mr. Taylor stated BCPC is probably concerned about this area because of potential run

off and impact on the streams.  Mr. Garton stated this would be covered in the

Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance requirements.  Mr. Fries stated they must

also comply with the NPDES regulations.  He stated the wetlands and wetland buffers

will not be impacted by the 40% because they are a higher level protection area. 

 

Mr. Taylor stated they also lose the oxygen generated by the trees and this site is between

Oxford Valley Road and I-95.

 

Ms. Friedman asked if Mr. Garton was familiar with the Middletown Township age-

restricted requirements; and Mr. Garton stated they require less tree preservation than

proposed in the Ordinance. 

 

With regard to Item #4 it was agreed to concede to having 40%.

 

Item #5 – the Planning Commission asked that they clarify the Ordinance with regard to

5a and 5b as recommended by BCPC; Item #6a - Planning Commission recommends that

they comply with the BCPC request.  Item #6b – No changes required to the proposed

Ordinance.  Item #7a no changes required to the proposed Ordinance;

 

Item #7b Planning Commission recommends that they comply with the BCPC request;

 

Item #8 – No changes required to the proposed Ordinance. 

 

Item #9 was noted and Ms. Friedman stated she is not an advocate for narrow streets in

age-restricted communities because of the driving habits of some elderly drivers.

Mr. Fries stated in the Amendment eleven foot lanes are recommend and this is in the

PennDOT standards.  No changes were recommended by the Planning Commission.

 

 

December 12, 2005                                                       Planning Commission – page 7 of 7

 

 

Item #10 was noted.  Ms. Friedman asked if it was possible to have some small sections

where they could be gravel parking lots in the more populated areas.  Ms. Frick stated

they did do this in Palmer Farm.  Mr. Garton stated he feels they could discuss this during

the planning process.  He noted they are also proposing a lot of community features and

the back-up areas for parking could be in these areas.  No changes were recommended.

 

No changes were recommended with regard to Items #11 or #12.

 

Mr. Taylor moved, Mr. Pazdera seconded and it was unanimously carried to recommend

to the Board of Supervisors that the Ordinance be approved with the noted changes.

 

 

OTHER BUSINESS

 

Ms. Friedman stated the Environmental Advisory Council had a seminar on energy uses

and hybrid which was extremely well attended.

 

Ms. Friedman reminded the Planning Commission of an issue previously considered

regarding a fence on Harvest Drive.  She stated when this was last discussed by the

Planning Commission she voted in favor of not making any changes but would now like

to change her vote.  She stated she now feels that it should be re-addressed.   The

remaining Planning Commission members were not in favor of changing their votes.

Ms. Friedman stated she is concerned that it is not clear in the Zoning Ordinance. 

She is concerned that if it comes up again, it will get missed if someone interprets it the

same way as the way it was interpreted at Harvest Drive.  Ms. Frick stated it would be

interpreted the same way.  Ms. Friedman stated she does not want what happened at

Harvest Drive happening again with a six foot fence.  Ms. Frick stated the only way they

could do this would be to change the Ordinance.  Ms. Friedman stated this is what she

wants to do to ensure that this does not occur again.  Mr. Taylor stated he feels if they

change it they could get something worse. 

 

 

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.

 

                                                            Respectfully Submitted,

 

 

 

                                                            William Taylor, Secretary