TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MAKEFIELD

PLANNING COMMISSION

MINUTES – NOVEMBER 13, 2006

 

 

The regular meeting of the Planning Commission of the Township of Lower Makefield was held in the Municipal Building on November 13, 2006  Chairman Pazdera called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.

 

Those present:

 

Planning Commission:               John Pazdera, Chairman

                                                Dean Dickson, Vice Chairman

                                                Richard Cylinder, Member

                                                Karen Friedman, Member

 

Others:                                     Nancy Frick, Director Zoning, Inspection, & Planning

                                                John Donaghy, Township Solicitor

                                                James Majewski, Township Engineer

                                                Ron Smith, Supervisor Liaison

 

Absent:                                     Tony Bush, Planning Commission Secretary

 

 

#532-A – BROOKSHIRE ESTATES (FLOWERS-MADANY) SEWER PLANNING MODULES

 

Ms. Frick stated Mr. Hoffmeister has indicated that both Brookshire Estates and the next

item on the Agenda, Minehart, are ready to go; and it is a matter of formality that they be

signed.

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if either will require new facilities such as pumping stations. 

Mr. Edward Murphy, attorney, stated Brookshire Estates does not.

 

It was agreed that the Sewer Planning Modules will be signed following the meeting.

 

 

#543 – MINEHART SEWER PLANNING MODULES

 

It was agreed that the Sewer Planning Modules will be signed following the meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 2 of 7

 

 

DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED ORDINANCE AMENDING THE PROVISIONS OF THE CODIFIED ZONING ORDINANCE OF LOWER MAKEFIELD TOWNSHIP SO AS TO AMEND THE AGE-QUALIFIED COMMUNITY USE AND THE STANDARDS RELATED THERETO BY REQUIRING A MINIMUM LOT SIZE OF FIFTY (50) ACRES FOR SAID USE

 

Mr. Pazdera noted the letter received from the Bucks County Planning Commission with

regard to this matter.  Ms. Friedman noted the comment made in that memo regarding

changing the term to “minimum base site area” as opposed to “minimum lot area.”

Mr. Cylinder stated “lot area usually means lots formed after subdivision, and “site”

usually means pre-subdivision and usually it is “net” after taking out ultimate rights-of-

way, etc.  Mr. Majewski stated the base site area does exclude ultimate right-of-way.

 

Mr. Cylinder asked the purpose of the Amendment and why it was felt important enough

to make this change.  No one present was able to answer this question.  Mr. Cylinder

asked if they set up a minimum site area of fifty acres, would this allow any other area of

the Township to be developed for this purpose or will it exclude other areas. 

Mr. Donaghy stated you cannot enact an Ordinance which has the purpose of excluding

the use by making it impossible to comply. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if any Subdivision Plans have come in for this purpose which do not

meet this proposed minimum lot size.  Mr. Majewski stated there was a Subdivision Plan

submitted several weeks ago for this purpose called The Gatherings at Yardley, and they

only have eighteen acres. 

 

Ms. Friedman asked how they came up with fifty acres as opposed to forty or eighty.  She

stated she assumes they would want to have a Community Center and a certain number of

residents would be needed to participate in that. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked how many units they could get on fifty acres, and Mr. Donaghy stated

this would depend on the type of units.  Ms. Frick stated it would also depend on natural

resource areas, etc.  Mr. Majewski stated based on the density of Matrix, they were

getting four units per acre.

 

Mr. Cylinder asked why the Planning Commission should review this if no one knows

why it is being proposed.  Ms. Frick stated any Ordinance being considered by the Board

of Supervisors first comes to the Planning Commission for their review and

recommendation.  Mr. Cylinder asked who sent this to the Planning Commission, and

Ms. Frick noted the letter from Mr. Garton included in the Planning Commission packet.

Mr. Cylinder asked if there is a time limit, and Ms. Frick stated the letter from

Mr. Garton indicates that the Board of Supervisors will be reviewing this at their meeting

on November 15.  Mr. Donaghy stated if the Planning Commission has questions as to

why fifty acres was selected, they should forward these questions on to the Board of

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 3 of 7

 

 

Supervisors.    Mr. Cylinder suggested that the Planning Commission request a

presentation of what is being requested and the rationale behind it.  Mr. Smith stated at

this point the Planning Commission is being asked to comment on the proposed

Ordinance positively or negatively.  Mr. Cylinder stated he does not understand why they

are requesting fifty acres.  He stated if no one understands it, he does not feel they should

make a recommendation.  Mr. Pazdera stated the Planning Commission needs to submit

comments to the Board of Supervisors by November 15.  Mr. Cylinder stated his

comment would be he has nothing to say in favor or against because he does not know

enough about it.

 

Ms. Friedman stated it would be helpful to know how they came up with fifty acres.  She

stated if they are considering future development of the Township, it may be possible that

someone may demolish a portion of a development; and the Planning Commission needs

to know if this will be favorable or unfavorable to certain areas of the Township.  She

stated they may want to recommend that there be a minimum of seventy-five acres as it

may make more appropriate limitations for this type of housing.  Ms. Friedman stated she

does not feel it should be less than fifty acres as she feels they would need more than 200

residents to support a community center. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if the Township constructed a Community Center for the Township,

and a developer came in with a proposal for age-qualified housing on a ten-acre parcel

adjacent to such a Community Center, they may feel this would be a good location. 

Ms. Frick stated they could apply for a Variance if it does not meet the requirements of

the Ordinance.    Mr. Cylinder stated a Variance is supposed to be based on a hardship.

 

Mr. Dickson stated the Board of Supervisors Agenda indicates that they are going to

consider re-advertisement of the Ordinance so that they will not be voting to approve the

actual Ordinance on November 15.  He stated once advertised, there would be time to

comment on this prior to it being approved at a subsequent Supervisors’ meeting.

 

Mr. Cylinder stated he feels it seems that whoever put this together wants to eliminate the

potential for a competing development from coming in at a later time.  Others present this

evening did not feel this was the intention.

 

Mr. Majewski stated when they discussed the age-qualified overlay District, one of the

items they considered was minimum tract size.  He stated they considered what size

would make it a viable community. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked why there is a rush to do this at this time.  Mr. Majewski stated there

are other pieces of land in the Township that could be developed as an age-qualified

community, and the Township wanted to insure that it is the appropriate size. 

 

 

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 4 of 7

 

Mr. Smith stated he will bring the Planning Commission’s concerns to the Board of

Supervisors indicating the Planning Commission would like to know the genesis for the

fifty acres and if there is a rush to consider this.

 

Ms. Friedman asked how this would impact “The Gatherings,” and Ms. Frick stated it

would be grandfathered since they have already submitted Preliminary Plans.  They only

have eighteen acres.

 

Ms. Friedman stated she is concerned not only about development but also the

re-development of parcels in the Township. 

 

Mr. Smith stated they may have determined that if the Township made the requirement

too restrictive, such as requiring a one hundred minimum tract, Courts may have

construed this to be too restrictive; and possibly those in the Township who researched

this, felt that fifty acres was a reasonable number.

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if they should consider a specific number of units as opposed to a

limit based on minimum acreage.  Mr. Donaghy stated what is proposed fits in with the

whole Ordinance scheme where they do have certain minimum lot areas and minimum

base site area for certain types of uses or activities.  He stated the concept of minimum

base site area is therefore not unusual.

 

Ms. Friedman asked if they should consider how many houses they would like to see per

acre in an age-restricted community.  Mr. Donaghy stated he feels this is already in the

Ordinance. 

 

It was the consensus of the Planning Commission that they should send a memo to the

Board of Supervisors that they agree a minimum lot area should be set, but are not

convinced that fifty is the correct number and questions where the number came from and

will need further clarification prior to making a Motion on the Ordinance.  The Planning

Commission does agree with comments made by the Bucks County Planning

Commission in their 11/1/06 memo.

 

 

DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED ORDINANCE WHICH WOULD AMEND THE PROVISIONS OF THE LOWER MAKEFIELD TOWNSHIP CODE RELATED TO SUBDIVISION AND LAND DEVELOPMENT TO PROVIDE FOR THE USE OF NATIVE PLANTS

 

Mr. James Bray was present and stated they are seeking approval for a Native Plant

Ordinance for Lower Makefield Township.  He stated the Board received a packet and

much of the information is self-explanatory.  He stated they are not dealing with

restoration projects in this Ordinance.  They want to counteract the destruction of native

habitats, and native plants can help amend this problem. 

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 5 of 7

 

 

Mr. Bray stated they are viewing a native plant as a plant that was here at the time of

European settlement.  He stated the Ordinance applies to developmental buffers and

Township property.  He stated it does not apply to individual homeowners or turf grasses. 

 

Mr. Bray reviewed the benefits of using native species.  He stated they are including

plants that generally grow well in the area which has been listed as the Piedmont Coastal

Plan Lower Delaware Valley area.  He stated there are also provisions in the Ordinance to

give the registered landscape architect some leeway as to what is or is not a native plant.

Mr. Bray  noted the plant list which has been generated and reviewed by a number of

experts.  He stated approximately four hundred plants are on the list.  He stated they plan

to have the list be used in a brochure to be made available in the EAC rack at the

Township Building.  He noted the number of people who have been involved in the

preparation of the Ordinance.

 

Mr. Smith asked the costs associated in implementing these requirements to the

developer.  Mr. Bray stated there is a movement throughout the United States to use

native plants; and as a result, they are readily available and there are several nurseries in

the area which specialize in native plants.  Overall the costs are essentially the same, but

the cost to maintain native plants is less.  Mr. Bray discussed the problems with invasive

species.

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if there is any disagreement as to what is considered native, and

Mr. Bray stated there is disagreement on this which is why they loosely defined “native

plants.” 

 

Mr. Bray noted that if this Ordinance is approved, the Board of Supervisors will then

consider passing a Resolution which will require that the Township comply with this

Ordinance at all Township facilities.  He stated they would not require taking out non-

native species. 

 

Mr. Smith asked about the trees planted at the Garden of Reflection.  Mr. Bray stated

originally the intention was to use a tree that was imported from Japan.  He did become

involved in this and made some recommendations and they made an alternative

selection. 

 

Mr. Bray stated the plant list proposed has four hundred plants but in actual practice,

there are thousands of cultivars which are acceptable. 

 

Ms. Friedman asked about enforcement of the Ordinance when Plans come through.

Mr. Majewski stated during the course of development, when the developer’s plant trees,

the Township engineer’s office oversees that work, and they send out a landscape

architect from their office to verify the plantings.  Mr. Cylinder asked if there is

continuing maintenance, and Mr. Majewski stated there is a warranty for eighteen months

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 6 of 7

 

beyond Dedication during which time they monitor the health of the trees.  Prior to the

release of the Maintenance Bond, they check to make sure that the trees are still alive. 

Mr. Bray stated the EAC does also review Plans and they have a member on their Board

who is a native plant expert who reviews this closely.  Mr. Majewski stated even though

the Ordinance has not been enacted, they are suggesting to the developers that they use

native plants at this time.

 

Mr. Pazdera noted Page 3 where it states the Plans should be signed and sealed by the

Township’s plant expert.  Mr. Majewski stated he feels this should be changed to “a”

plant expert, and Mr. Bray agreed. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated he is concerned with passing an Ordinance that does not specifically

require something.  He noted the bottom of page 2 where it states all major Subdivisions

and Land Development Plans “should” contain a Landscape Plan, and he feels it should

stated “shall.”  Ms. Frick stated this is already a requirement.  Mr. Cylinder also noted

page 16 G2 B, C, and D where the word “possible” is used.  He feels the wording should

be “minimum number necessary.”  Mr. Bray agreed to look into this further.

 

Mr. Smith asked if this type of Ordinance currently in effect elsewhere; and Mr. Bray

stated while it is in some areas, he feels Lower Makefield to some degree is on the cutting

edge.  He stated Solebury does have a Native Plant Ordinance, but it is not as

comprehensive as what Lower Makefield is considering. 

 

There was discussion on detention basins, and Mr. Bray stated next year the EAC will be

considering the issue of retention and detention basins.  He stated they are going to

consider the possibility of converting a few selected basins from a pass-through basin to a

water-quality basin which can have environmental and cost savings benefits. 

 

Mr. Majewski stated he does have a number of minor questions and editorial comments

that he will forward to Mr. Bray.  He noted Page 13 on “Existing Vegetation” and asked

what would happen if there was a nice buffer along the road that is not native, but is not

causing a problem.  He stated he is concerned that a developer could interpret this to

mean they could cut this existing vegetation down.  Mr. Bray stated he does not read it

this way, and in this case that vegetation could remain.  Mr. Donaghy stated he disagrees

and feels that it indicates that anything that is not native, would not be protected.  He

feels they should review this further.  Mr. Majewski noted the second sentence in the

underlined area which states at the end, “and/or approved by the Township’s plant

expert,” and he feels it should state “and verified by the Township’s plant expert.” 

 

Mr. Majewski noted a section of the Ordinance which indicates the developers are

“encouraged” to remove invasive and noxious weed plants, and asked why they would

not “require” this.  Mr. Bray stated he did discuss this with the attorney who had a

problem with this.  Mr. Bray stated he felt the word “encourage” would let the developer

know what they would like them to do.

November 13, 2006                                                       Planning Commission – page 7 of 7

 

 

Mr. Cylinder noted that just because a plant is a native species, it may not be appropriate

for certain sites, and Mr. Bray stated they have included specific language in the

Ordinance to address this. 

 

Mr. Majewski noted page 16 regarding tree replacement, and he stated he feels they need

to update this for the LID Ordinance.  Mr. Bray agreed to do this noting that they were

not sure which Ordinance would come first. 

 

Mr. Pazdera stated the consensus of the Planning Commission is that they are in favor of

this Ordinance.  Ms. Frick stated she has not been advised when this Ordinance will go

before the Board of Supervisors, but  noted it will come back before the Planning

Commission for a recommendation before it goes to the Board of Supervisors.

 

The Planning Commission members commended Mr. Bray and all those who worked on

this Ordinance.

 

There being no further business, Ms. Friedman moved, Mr. Dickson seconded and it was unanimously carried to adjourn the meeting at 8:40 p.m.

 

                                                                        Respectfully Submitted,

 

 

 

 

                                                                        John Pazdera, Chairman