TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MAKEFIELD

PLANNING COMMISSION

MINUTES – MARCH 26, 2007

 

 

The regular meeting of the Planning Commission of the Township of Lower Makefield was held in the Municipal Building on March 26, 2007.  Chairman Dickson called the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m.

 

Those present:

 

Planning Commission:            Dean Dickson, Chairman

                                                Tony Bush, Vice Chairman

                                                Karen Friedman, Secretary

                                                Richard Cylinder, Member

                                                John Pazdera, Member

 

Others:                                    Nancy Frick, Director Zoning, Inspection & Planning

                                                John Donaghy, Township Solicitor

                                                James Majewski, Township Engineer

 

Absent:                                    Grace Godshalk, Supervisor Liaison

 

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

Mr. Pazdera moved, Ms. Friedman seconded and it was unanimously carried to approve the Minutes of February 26, 2007 as corrected.

 

 

#544-A – LIBERTY PROPERTY TRUST REVISED FINAL LAND DEVELOPMENT PLANS DISCUSSION

 

Mr. John Fenningham, attorney, was present with Mr. Tony Nichols, Vice President of

Leasing and Development for Liberty Property Trust, and Mr. Patrick Doris, Chief

Operating Officer, Penn.  Mr. Fenningham stated on 1/3/07 they obtained a Special

Exception for use of the building for medical occupancy up to 30,000 square feet at the

northern end of the building.  They filed on January 19, 2007 seeking approval of the

Revised Final Plans to add the proposed driveway at the north end of the building.  They

have worked with Ms. Frick and Mr. Majewski and have various review letters.  They

propose to submit this evening an Exhibit of the site drawing depicting the driveway in

its original Application format.  Attached to that is the “RJM” Plan which is the Plan

adopting Mr. Majewski’s recommendations per his 2/15/07 letter and an Overlay Plan

showing the variations between the original Plan and the Plan embracing Mr. Majewski’s

recommendations. 

 

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 2 of 19

 

 

Mr. Fenningham stated they have also received the 1/30/07 letter from Mr. Yates

supplemented with his 3/6/07 letter which recommended approval of the Revised Plan

embracing Mr. Majewski’s recommendations.  They also received the 2/13/07 letter of

Remington Vernick regarding sanitary sewers which shows their recommendation of

Conditional Approval of the Revised Final Plan.  The Bucks County Planning

Commission letter dated 2/14/07 was noted raising for the Planning Commission’s

review confirmation of the items which were part of the original Land Development Plan

Review process resulting in the 7/2004 Final Plan approval.  He stated each of those

items have been addressed and resolved previously.  He also noted the Bucks County

Conservation District letter dated 3/15/07 indicating the Plan as revised appears adequate. 

 

The 2/15/07 Schoor DePalma letter was noted, and Mr. Fenningham stated this is what

the Applicant’s engineer has relied upon to prepare the Revised Plan.  This was marked

as Exhibit A-1 and was provided to the Planning Commission this evening.  He stated the

first page of this document is the Site Plan depicting the driveway as originally filed on

January 19.  This is superseded by the second page of the document marked as the

“JRM” Plan.  He stated the driveway has been narrowed to assure a one-way path of

traffic.  There is a buffer of 5’ with a dashed line on the inside of the arc curve.  They

have moved the handicapped parking spaces to the inside of the arc.  He stated the

notations in script and the arrows point to each change recommended by Mr. Majewski. 

By this submission, the Applicant is embracing the Township engineer’s

recommendations and feels they comply with Mr. Majewski’s 2/15/07 letter.  The third

page shows the shaded area where the original width and dimension of where the

proposed driveway was located and the shift inward within the arc to make the driveway

much more narrow. 

 

Ms. Friedman stated she felt this was being done to service approximately 1% of the

clientele that is expected to visit the medical complex, and Mr. Fenningham stated it

would be 1% to 2%.  Ms. Friedman asked how many people they anticipate this could be. 

Mr. Doris stated the two practices would have approximately 50,000 visits per year, so it

could involve 500 to 1,000 people per year.  It was noted there could be additional

practices moving in so there could be additional visits. 

 

Mr. Dickson asked if they anticipate other medical practices in the building, and

Mr. Doris stated they do but only up to the 30,000 square feet approved although the

other practices would not have the same volume that their practices represent.  Mr. Doris

stated it is a hardship for the existing patients at the locations where the practices are

currently located as in some cases they must go to a second floor and there is no elevator. 

He stated what is proposed at this new location is a real enhancement for their patients as

far as access.

 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 3 of 19

 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated at the previous presentation, some members of the Planning

Commission commented on the awkwardness of the design of the access and stated that,

based on the original Plan, it would require going through numerous convoluted turns,

passing parking stalls, etc. to get to the road.  He stated the Planning Commission

suggested that they consider putting the entrance in the front of the building and either

use the existing entrance or install a new entrance for their use on the front and design to

that to better accommodate traffic within the parking lot.  He asked if they considered

this.  Mr. Fenningham stated while they did consider this, there was competing input

including the Zoning Hearing Board which asked that the occupancy be at the north end. 

He stated Mr. Hunt and Mr. Majewski worked on the Plan to find a way to come off

Township Line Road at the bottom right, and the eventual result was the configuration

recommended by Mr. Majewski shown on Page 2.  Mr. Cylinder asked if they considered

an entrance at the front of the building; and Mr. Fenningham stated while they did look at

this, considering the joint use of the building, allowing for the directional flow of the

medical use at the northern end of the building, and providing for the parking spaces that

are required under the Ordinance, it led to staying with the configuration in the fashion

shown which was the end product of working with the Township engineer. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated there is currently an entrance at the front of the building, and he

asked why they did not use that entrance or build another entrance in the front and then

design the parking to that entrance since the Planning Commission felt that they could

come up with a much better design for the parking areas, driveway, and access by

providing access to the front of the building.  Mr. Cylinder stated the entrance at the side

of the building provides difficulties; and he feels what they are proposing offers very

little change, and these difficulties still exist.  Mr. Fenningham stated they did consider

this, but to avoid mixing populations of the joint uses, the decision early on was made

before they came in with the original Application, to keep the medical use distinct from

the general office use.  He stated they want to direct the medical occupancy to the

northern end of the building and have their entrance at that location.  Mr. Cylinder asked

about a separate entrance at the front of the building rather than at the side.  Mr. Nichols

stated they did look at putting a door in front of the handicap spots in the front, but it was

too close to the other entrance; and they would lose all of the handicap spaces in the

front.  He stated because they are isolating the use of the building to the north end,

putting the drop off at that location also accentuates that this is the entrance to the

medical use.  He stated this also frees up the access for the other uses of the building to

come in at the main entrance. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated he does not feel people will know where they are going because they

are driving to dead-end parking stalls.   Mr. Fenningham stated the RJM Plan shows the

directional signage which was part of the prior discussions to ensure that it would be

clear so that people will know where they are going. 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 4 of 19

 

 

Ms. Friedman stated she did drive to the property, and when going into the main

entrance, heading toward the north corner of the building, you have a choice to make a

left or a right.  She stated she feels there should be a sign at that point directing the driver

to go right and not anywhere else in the parking lot.  Mr. Nichols showed on the Plan

where the signs will be located; and after review, this was satisfactory to Ms. Friedman.

 

Mr. Dickson stated there is an existing building which is unoccupied and Yardley Family

Practice and Bucks County Internal Medicine are proposing to rent the building.  He

stated as a patient of Yardley Medical, he recognizes that they have a space problem at

their existing location.  He stated the building is being subdivided to where 30,000 square

feet will be deemed for medical office.  Mr. Dickson stated the other 86,000 square feet

would still be unoccupied, and Mr. Fenningham agreed.  Mr. Dickson stated they have

put an entrance to the north end because at this point, they do not want to mix populations

although they do not currently know what the other populations are.  Mr. Dickson asked

if they would characterize this addition of a driveway as a hardship Application and were

the driveway not there, Yardley Medical and Bucks County Internal Medicine could not

occupy the building.  Mr. Fenningham stated it would not be a hardship in the sense of a

Zoning hardship, but it would be a hardship for some of the patients if they did not have

this drop off close to the door to the medical office.  Mr. Dickson asked if they were to

construct a building on Township Line Road which were specific to the needs of the

medical use, there would be some communication with Schoor DePalma and the

Planning Commission such that the overall design of the building would have been

addressed at that point.  He stated his point about hardship is that they are coming to them

with a Plan for an existing building with existing parking and existing curbs; and in order

for them to occupy the building, they are indicating they need to install the driveway as

shown.  Mr. Fenningham stated  they are modifying the Final Plan to accommodate the

proposed medical use tenant, and it is a strong desire as testified by Mr. Doris that this is

something that is an accommodation to the two long-existing practices in the County.  He

stated they feel it would be a benefit to the patients to have it at that location.   He stated

they did consider many efforts to make this work, and they believe they have addressed

Mr. Majewski’s recommendations varying from their original proposal.  They feel they

have tried to address the directional changes that would focus the patients into that end,

narrowed the lane,  added the buffer area, and the crosswalk items.

 

Mr. Bush stated none of them doubt that this is a nice amenity even if it is for a limited

number of patients.  He stated they previously discussed moving the entrance to the front

of the driveway because of concerns with the flow of traffic in the parking lot, and the

Applicant has come back and indicated they cannot do this because they do not want to

mix general office population use with the medical practice.  Mr. Nichols stated in

addition to this, they would lose parking spaces; and the configuration they are showing

satisfies the tenant’s desire and also complies with the Township’s on-site parking

requirements.  Mr. Bush asked how many parking spaces they would be short if they

moved the entrance to the front of the building; and although Mr. Fenningham was

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 5 of 19

 

 

unsure, he stated they would have to seek a Variance.  Mr. Nichols stated they also want

the people for this use to get to the north side of the building where the use is located; and

their proposal creates a known arrival point to that end of the building.  Mr. Bush asked if

two separate entrances in the front could also have accomplished this same goal; and

Mr. Nichols stated he does not feel it would because everyone would still be coming in at

the same small area. He stated the way the building is built, the short end of the building

is the end they are talking about.  If it were a longer end, he feels they could do this. 

He stated if the main entrance were down further with a bay in on each side, this option

would have worked.  He stated what they have to work with is a very tight area.  He

stated the reason it is smaller is because they could have expanded the building another

bay, but they chose not to do so as they liked having more parking.  He added that had

the building been at that location, it would probably result in an easier drop-off area on

that side. 

 

Mr. Dickson stated based upon Exhibit 1 dated 1/24 it appears as if they have time

constraints as well, and they would like to occupy the building in the spring of 2007. 

He is aware that they are already attempting to rent the existing Yardley Medical offices

on Main Street.  Mr. Fenningham stated Building Plans have been submitted, and there

are expiration of Leases that involve the practices so there are time constraints. 

 

Mr. Pazdera stated he does not have as big a problem as the rest of the Planning

Commission members with the Plans as shown and with the changes that were made

from the original Plans, it is definitely an improvement from the previous version.

 

Ms. Friedman stated she would like to discuss lighting. She noted the Schoor DePalma

letter and stated she has a question about emergency vehicle access.  Mr. Fenningham

stated the JRM Plan has provided for the emergency vehicle access as requested by

Mr. Majewski in his letter.  Ms. Friedman asked about the amount of traffic going

through the one-way circle; and Mr. Fenningham stated it is a drop-off, and vehicles will

drop off passengers and the vehicle will then leave the driveway and park.  Ms. Friedman

asked why they had to have extra space for emergency vehicles, and Mr. Majewski stated

the initial Plans had an 18’ one-way aisle, and he felt this was excessive.  He felt they

could narrow it down to 15’ and make it a one-way road so that it would reduce the

tendency for someone to go the wrong way.  He was also concerned about the 20’ clear

width noting they could not have any landscaping or lighting adjacent to the curb to

provide space for emergency vehicle access.  He stated the Fire Code requires that there

be 20’ clear so a fire truck could get through if necessary.

 

Ms. Friedman asked about lights, and Mr. Majewski stated their Plan shows bollard lights

along the one-way drop-off along the sidewalks.  He stated when he did his review, he

did not see it on the Plan, and would like them to clarify this in a future revision.  He

feels what they are showing will be sufficient along with the lighting they are proposing

at the doorway. 

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 6 of 19

 

 

Ms. Friedman stated with the number of patients coming through, she is concerned with

the back line of parking as people will now have to cross all of the traffic to get to the

parking spaces.  She is concerned with the safety of people parking directly across from

the semi-circle.  Mr. Majewski stated he did not feel they met the ADA requirements for

having accessibility from the closest parking spaces to the entrance, and wanted them to

move the handicap spaces from around the side of the building to the front.  He stated by

allowing the access aisles between the handicap stalls, this provides an area that will be

easier for people to cross over to get across the parking lot.  He agreed it is always a

danger in a parking lot when you have to cross from one side to another; but one of the

reasons he preferred the handicap spots at the location they have on the Revised Sketch

they submitted is because with the handicap spaces, they will not be fully occupied at all

times, and there will be a little more visibility and room in those locations. 

 

Ms. Friedman stated her issue is that they originally worked very hard on designing the

parking lot; and since it was to be office space, it would not have the amount of

continuous traffic that they will now have with the medical use. 

 

Mr. Dickson stated since the building was built, it has remained unoccupied; and now

they are looking for some modifications so that it can be used. 

 

Ms. Friedman asked about a requirement that there be a sidewalk on Township Line

Road.  She noted the location of age-restricted residences nearby where people may want

to walk to the facility.  Mr. Majewski stated on the opposite side of Township Line Road,

there is a bikepath from the Railroad up to Stony Hill Road, and then it crosses over the

Shady Brook Farm side of the Road at Stony Hill Road and goes up to 332.  He stated

because there is a change in use, the sidewalk might be a good idea given the residences

in the area.  Mr. Fenningham noted the original Final Plan included a Waiver and

payment of Fee-In-Lieu of sidewalks.  Ms. Friedman stated while this is correct, the

original Plan did not have this use.  Mr. Fenningham stated the Applicant’s sense of this

is that it does not alter the Waiver issue, and the pedestrian use has not changed since

2004.  He stated their position is the Waiver has already been granted, and the Fee of

$23,744 was paid.  They do not feel adding a driveway for directional purposes and

convenience of the occupants alters the pedestrian traffic on Township Line Road. 

 

Mr. Fenningham stated the essence of the driveway is vehicular traffic to bring those

patient passengers to the drop-off point. 

 

Mr. Fenningham noted the 2/15 Schoor DePlama letter, and stated they will comply with

all items and these are all shown on RJM Plan which was provided to the Planning

Commission this evening and will be consistent with the Plan to be submitted to the

Board of Supervisors. 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                          Planning Commission – page 7 of 19

 

 

Mr. Bush asked if the Planning Commission is bound by the prior Fee-In-Lieu of

sidewalks which was paid; and Mr. Donaghy stated if there is a change made, the

Township would have to give the payment back.  He stated if they received a Waiver at

that time, there would have to be an establishment that there has been a change in

circumstances that would require a change to have the Waiver revoked and the sidewalks

installed.  He stated because there was a change of use and a change to the internal

driveway from the original Plan, this could be considered a potential change.  He stated

the change to the internal driveway may be less of an effect for sidewalk purposes, than

the change of use. 

 

Mr. Majewski stated on the Plan they have labeled the JRM Plan, he feels there are some

crosswalks and side extensions going across the one-way drive aisle, and he does not feel

they need those since people will walk along the sidewalks that are adjacent to the

parking area.  He noted these locations on the Plan for the Applicant. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated they are looking for a Special Exception to allow a use which could

be acceptable if it does not do damage to a Plan that was already approved and cannot be

rectified in a way that it could be acceptable.  He stated in looking at the lay-out of the

Plan, he feels that if the driveway were extended along side of the building parallel to

where they want to locate the entrance, and reconfiguring with curbs, etc. in the parking

in the front bays, he feels it would clear up some of the problems which exist today.  He

stated he feels there is a real problem as to where the driveway would end up when it gets

behind the building.  He stated he feels they could put in a cul-de-sac at that location and

then run all the parking in that side of the building with all the bays toward that driveway. 

He stated there would still be a problem getting traffic out at the rear, and he feels they

could put a turn-around at that location.  He feels what they have shown now will not

work because no matter how they design the driveway at their entrance, they will not be

able to handle the traffic coming in or going out because it goes into other parking bays. 

He stated there must be a hierarchy of movement within the parking lot; admitting it is

not laid out well to start with especially in the front, and it has to do with the orientation

of the building which they cannot do anything about at this time.  He feels they will have

to re-study the whole end of the lot in order to allow for a driveway to come through

past where they want to put the entrance and then run the bays off that driveway so

people will know what they are doing when they come in and when they leave.  He stated

currently they are going into a maze.  He feels talking about lighting and walkways is

secondary, and they should talk about that when they get the access solved. 

 

Mr. Fenningham stated if they were starting with a clean slate they might be able to

re-configure, but they have an existing site that is fully developed and are now at a stage

of time constraints with attracting these two practices to what they feel is a better location

than where they are currently located as noted by prior comments.  He stated they feel

they have addressed each of Mr. Majewski’s concerns.  He stated the Fire Consultant has

also recommended approval of the proposal, and the other review letters indicate the

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 8 of 19

 

 

Plans are adequate.  He stated he recognizes their concerns, but this would require them

to come off line, and they may lose the tenants who are interested in the occupancy. 

They also do not feel there is a need to re-configure the north end and believe what is

proposed will work. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated if they want to put a use there that requires a different kind of access

and driveway location than they have for the building as a whole, there will have to be

consequences in order to do that; and one of them may be that they have to re-design the

whole parking area in that end.  Mr. Fenningham stated they have already received a

Special Exception requiring the medical use to be at the north end of the building.  The

Plans have been reviewed, and they feel this is the best accommodation for the tenants

considering all the existing on-site parking that is Code compliant.  Mr. Cylinder stated

the Zoning Hearing Board gave a Special Exception, and the Planning Commission is to

review it as a Subdivision and Land Development Plan.  He stated the award of a Special

Exception does not automatically mean that they get approval for the Subdivision and

Land Development Plan which is the primary function of the Planning Commission. 

Mr. Fenningham stated they are asking for Planning Commission approval of the JRM

Plan so that they can stay on track.  He stated they feel this Plan meets all of the

somewhat competing objectives.  Mr. Cylinder stated if this is approved as proposed, and

it does not work well, the chances of it being changed in the future are almost impossible. 

 

Mr. Bush stated previously they indicated that they were approved for an expanded

building under the original Plans; and he stated had that been done, they would have

needed more parking.  Mr. Fenningham stated this is incorrect unless it were medical use

which requires more parking per square foot than office use.  He stated for medical office

use, they are required to have one space per 150 square feet compared to office use which

requires one space per 250 square feet.  They currently have 344 on-site parking spaces

to accommodate general office, and 200 for the medical office use.  Mr. Majewski stated

under the Revised Plan, they have the exact number of spaces required.  On the previous

Plan, they had six more spaces than required.  He stated medical office use is a more

intense use and requires more parking. 

 

Mr. Dickson stated he feels Township Line Road should never have been expanded all

the way to Stony Hill Road; but now there are a number of office buildings in this area,

and there is now an extensive amount of traffic especially at the peak hours.  He stated

with the proposed change in use, it may help in terms of traffic volume at these hours,

and the traffic will instead be spread out throughout the day so that they will not be

adding to the traffic chaos at the peak times as opposed to this being all general office. 

He stated with the remaining general office use, they will be adding traffic at the peak

hours. 

 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                           Planning Commission – page 9 of 19

 

 

Mr. Donaghy stated the Planning Commission is being asked to recommend approval of the Plan submitted 1/12/07 subject to the amendments as indicated on the JRM Plan. 

Mr. Cylinder asked if they should not have Plans before them, and Mr. Donaghy stated

the request is that they recommend approval based on the changes shown on the JRM

Plan, and they will make the changes before going to the Board of Supervisors. 

Mr. Donaghy asked if this is a request to amend an Approved Final Plan, and

Mr. Fenningham agreed.  Mr. Donaghy asked if there are any other changes to the

approved Final Plan other than those shown in the area to the north end of the building,

and Mr. Fenningham stated there are not.

 

Mr. Pazdera moved and Ms. Friedman seconded to recommend to the Board of

Supervisors’ approval of the Revised Final Amended Land Development Plan last

revised 1/12/07 subject to compliance with the Schoor DePalma review letter of 2/15/07,

subject to the Bucks County Planning Commission letter dated 2/14/07, subject to the

changes on the JRM Plan dated 3/26/07 and submission of Final engineered Plans to be

reviewed by the Township engineer prior to going before the Board of Supervisors.  The

Planning Commission further recommends that the Board of Supervisors consider

withdrawal of the prior sidewalk Waiver along the frontage of Township Line Road due

to the change of use of the building.  Also subject to full compliance with the Special

Exception granted by the Zoning  Hearing Board on 1/3/07. 

 

There was no public comment.

 

Mr. Fenningham asked if the submission of the Revised engineered Plan to the Township

engineer, could be done immediately by the Applicant so that the Application before the

Supervisors could be in April; and Ms. Frick stated they should make the submission to

her, and she will get it to the Township engineer without delay and it will then be

scheduled accordingly before the Board of Supervisors which could be either April 4 or

April 18.

 

Motion did not carry as Mr. Pazdera voted in favor and Mr. Bush, Mr. Cylinder,

Mr. Dickson, and Ms. Friedman voted no.

 

Mr. Donaghy asked if there were any other Motions.  Mr. Pazdera asked if they are going

to make a recommendation for Denial.  Mr. Donaghy stated there could be a

recommendation that the Plan not be approved or that it be approved subject to other

conditions than those in the prior Motion which was defeated.  Mr. Pazdera stated they

must send something on to the Supervisors. 

 

Mr. Cylinder moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Applicant be

requested to revise the access to the building by either moving the entrance to the front

and re-designing the vehicular access to a front entrance or arriving at a suitable design

for vehicular access to a side entrance.

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 10 of 19

 

 

Mr. Donaghy asked if he is recommending that this be approved by the Supervisors if

those revisions are made, and Mr. Cylinder stated he is recommending that the

Supervisors request that the Applicant make these changes in order to  justify an 

Approval. 

 

Ms. Frick stated there is a Plan before the Planning Commission, and she feels they

would need to make a recommendation for Approval or Denial of the Plan before them.

Mr. Donaghy stated they can recommend Approval, Approval with Conditions, or  

Denial.  Mr. Donaghy stated they already have an Approved Land Development Plan;

and if they are denied the change, it will just stay the way it is.  They will still be able to

take access from that side of the building but there will not be a driveway going into that

area.  Mr. Cylinder stated this may not be a bad idea.  Mr. Cylinder stated he was trying

in his Motion to give a reason for not giving Approval.  Mr. Cylinder stated if they

wanted to be more direct, they could just say, they recommend that it be Denied for these

reasons.  Mr. Donaghy stated they could do this or recommend that it be Approved if they

make the recommended changes; and he feels that this may have been the intent of

Mr. Cylinder’s Motion.  Mr. Cylinder stated there may be a legal problem such that if the

Planning Commission indicates it be approved subject to certain Conditions, he questions

how the deadline of April 19 would be affected.  Mr. Donaghy stated if the first Motion

made by Mr. Pazdera had been passed, the Applicant would have had to make the

changes and have them before the Supervisors at an April meeting; and the Board would

have taken action on that.  He stated the Applicant could also chose not to make any of

the changes requested, and it would be up to the Supervisors to vote for or against it with

reasons for Denial.  He stated at this point, the Planning Commission is voting to give

guidance to the Board of Supervisors.

 

Mr. Cylinder’s Motion died for lack of a Second.

 

Ms. Friedman suggested that they indicate they favor Approval of the Plan with a front

entrance design.  Mr. Dickson stated that it should be done in such a way to address the

Planning Commission’s  concern about the co-mingling of the medical population along

with the general population.  Mr. Cylinder stated that is the Applicant’s concern and not

the Planning Commission’s concern.   Mr. Dickson stated he is indicating that if this

could be addressed to the Applicant’s satisfaction, this would solve their dilemma.

Mr. Cylinder stated the Planning Commission’s concern is the way they handled the

vehicular access; and by having put the entrance at the end of the building, it made a very

difficult situation which has created problems that they have not been able to resolve.

He stated he felt that by putting the entrance at the front of the building, they would have

a better chance of resolving those issues.  He stated possibly they could resolve them by

keeping it at the end by means that the Planning Commission has not yet seen.  He stated

the parking arrangement as shown is  not workable, and they are creating a semi-circular

driveway that leads to parking bays that go nowhere. 

 

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 11 of 19

 

 

Mr. Donaghy stated while they could recommend Approval of the Plan subject to

changes, this would be very vague; and if the Planning Commission is going to go

beyond what has been specifically requested, it would be better to recommend

Disapproval because they believe the access point is not adequate at the location shown. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated if this goes before the Board of Superiors with a two-line resolution,

they would not understand it.  He asked if someone from the Planning Commission

should make a presentation before the Board of Supervisors; and Mr. Donaghy stated he

does not believe so.  It was noted the Board of Supervisors could review the Planning

Commission Minutes. Mr. Donaghy stated if the Planning Commission is not in favor of

the Plan as shown, short of specific changes, it would be better to recommend Denial for

reasons noted.  He stated what the Planning Commission is suggesting are very

substantial changes.  He stated it is possible with the recommendation made, that the

Applicant may come in with a Plan with the access in the front, and the Planning

Commission may not like that Plan either.

 

Mr. Dickson stated it appears they could word the Motion recommending Disapproval

due to the entrance on the northern side of the building as shown at its present location. 

Mr. Donaghy stated he does not feel “entrance” is correct and that it should state

“driveway access.”  It was noted that the entrance already exists; and Mr. Donaghy stated

this is why he indicated that this does not prohibit them from having an entrance as

shown.  Mr. Cylinder asked where the entrance was located, and he was shown it on the

Plan. 

 

Mr. Donaghy stated if the Supervisors were to deny the Plan, it cannot just be on the

basis of planning considerations; and there have to be actual violations of the Zoning and/

or Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances.  They would have to determine if

there were any violations; although at the present time, it does not appear that there are

any.  He added Mr. Majewski has noted the violations he has found, and the Applicants

have agreed to address them. Mr. Majewski stated they could address concerns related to

public safety which could be a basis for Denial. 

 

Ms. Frick asked if they could table this to the next meeting of the Planning Commission.  

Mr. Fenningham stated they do have deadlines with respect to Lease expirations and

making improvements to the building.  Mr. Donaghy asked if they cannot have the

driveway access at the location shown, does this mean the tenants would not want to

occupy the building; and Mr. Fenningham stated this is a possibility.  He stated it is

possible that everything would stay the same, and they would just not have the driveway

access.  Mr. Dickson stated this is what he was referring to when he previously discussed

the “hardship” issue since they are indicating that the lack of a driveway creates a

hardship in terms of the rental to Penn.  Mr. Fenningham stated he also noted that this

represents a hardship to the patients as well.  Mr. Dickson stated in terms of economics

and their rental of the building to Penn, the building has been unoccupied.  They now

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 12 of 19

 

 

have a potential tenant, and this is what they want to do in order to accommodate the

potential tenants.  Mr. Fenningham agreed noting that this was at the tenant’s request. 

Mr. Dickson stated it appears if this is not granted, theoretically the building could not be

rented to Penn; and Mr. Fenningham stated this is a possibility.  Mr. Dickson stated this

sounds like a hardship, but Mr. Cylinder stated this would not be considered a Zoning

hardship since they created this themselves by obtaining the Special Exception for this

use.  Mr. Fenningham stated from his perspective, there is no issue of hardship other than

the economic hardship of not having the two practices come to this better location. 

Mr. Dickson stated he was speaking of an economic and philosophic hardship, and he

recognizes that this is not a Zoning Hearing issue.

 

Mr. Fenningham stated they feel they came tonight with a Plan that satisfies the

engineering issues and one which the Township engineer endorsed.  Mr. Dickson stated

his understanding is that they can take their argument to the Board of Supervisors. 

Mr. Fenningham stated if they went back to a Sketch Plan, they would still have the

competing requirements such as on-site parking, handicap parking, existing sidewalks,

etc.  He stated they are not clear as to what the issues are noting that the entrance and exit

from the drop-off driveway is toward perimeter parking, but that perimeter parking is

required as part of the Final Plan Approval and is not any different from any other access

lane on site where there is vehicular traffic passing parking spaces.  He added with the

directional control signage, they feel it would be no different than any other southern end

area of the site or any other driveway in any other location in any development in the

Township.  He stated whichever way they move the arc of the driveway, there will still be

an ingress and egress area of focus.  He stated the arc was tightened at Mr. Majewski’s

recommendation.

 

Mr. Dickson asked about the time constraints with regard to the Leases, and Mr. Doris

stated their Leases end the end of June, and they are going to run into problems because

of this. 

 

Ms. Friedman asked if they should do this via an e-mail situation so that the Planning

Commission can continue to discuss this and have it resolved in a few days.

Ms. Frick stated she does not feel this matter has been scheduled to go to the Board of

Supervisors on April 4 as Mr. Majewski will be on vacation, so that they could bring it

back to the Planning Commission if it is not to be heard by the Board of Supervisors until

April 18. 

 

Mr. Fenningham stated their concern is that they had discussions on December 12, came

back with a Plan that was endorsed by Mr. Majewski, and  he is not sure where they

could go from here apart from starting with a clean slate which they cannot do because of

the other requirements.  He stated they are very concerned that they will lose the tenants. 

Mr. Nichols stated they have also looked at it from the beginning of the process from all

sides of the building, and this goes back to their initial meetings with HUP as to how they

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 13 of 19

 

 

could accommodate them and isolate their use from the other area.   He stated what is

proposed actually spreads out the parking and the traffic into the building rather than

everyone coming into the same entrance. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated his problem with this analysis, is that it is based on a checklist; and if

they meet the checklist, they get approval, and he does not feel this is how planning

works.  He stated they may meet all the Township requirements, but this does not make it

a workable Plan.  Mr. Fenningham stated there is no other way for an Applicant to

analyze how to develop the site other than to comply with the Township’s requirements. 

Mr. Donaghy stated assuming they meet all the Ordinance requirements, they are

ultimately entitled to Approval provided it does not adversely affect the health, safety,

and welfare of the community.    Mr. Cylinder stated all the regulations do is ensure a

level of mediocrity.  Mr. Fenningham stated they feel based on Mr. Majewski’s review,

the JRM Plan meets the Ordinance requirements.

 

A short recess was taken at this time.  The meeting was reconvened at 9:25 p.m.

 

Mr. Dickson asked if they received a copy of the Traffic Safety report from the Police

Department, and Ms. Frick stated they have not.  Mr. Dickson asked if this matter could

go before the Board of  Supervisors on April 4, and Ms. Frick stated it is not scheduled at

this time.  Assuming a recommendation were made by the Planning Commission this   

evening, it could possibly go before the Board on April 4; although as she noted     

previously, Mr. Majewski will not be present at that meeting.  She feels it may not go

before the Board until April 18.  Mr. Dickson stated because they have not received the

Traffic Safety report, they could postpone this until the next meeting of the Planning

Commission on April 9. 

 

Mr. Bush moved and Ms. Friedman seconded to postpone consideration of the Plan until

April 9.  Motion carried with Mr. Pazdera opposed.

 

 

DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATION OF PROPOSED ORDINANCE #368  AMENDING 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 this evening they are seeking approval of the

Native Plant Ordinance.  He stated there is a similar Ordinance in effect in Solebury

Township, and the Township Ordinance was patterned on that as well as Ordinances in

communities in Washington and Maryland.  He stated the Solebury Ordinance has been

in effect for three years; and he discussed the Ordinance with a landscape architect who

works in that area who indicated it has exceeded their expectations and the developers are

seeing the benefits, are aware of what is required, and are complying with the terms of

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 14 of 19

 

 

the Ordinance.  He stated it has not been a problem for them procuring these plants as the

use of native vegetation is now in the mainstream.  Mr. Bray stated they also asked the

Township solicitor to prepare a Resolution for the Board of Supervisors to go along with

this Ordinance.  He stated the Resolution indicates that the Township will adhere to this

for Township property insofar as is practical.   

 

Mr. Bray stated they also made accommodation for pre-existing plants as this issue was

raised as it relates to the Garden of Reflection.  He stated if there are pre-existing plants

that need to be replaced, they can be replaced with non-native plants.  Mr. Bray stated

there is flexibility in the Ordinance, and developers could seek a Waiver from the Board

of Supervisors.  Mr. Bray stated with respect to the Township-owned properties, the

Township would make the determination whether or not all the terms would be complied

with.

 

Ms. Frick noted she had a discussion with Mr. Truelove, and what the Planning

Commission has before them this evening is the Ordinance only and not the Resolution as

Resolutions are not normally reviewed by the Planning Commission.  Mr. Bray stated he

felt in the interest of full disclosure, he should mention the Resolution to the Planning

Commission as well. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if there is specific authority under State enabling legislation for a

Native Plant Ordinance, and Mr. Bray stated according to their attorney, there is. 

Mr. Cylinder asked if it would have to be under the Subdivision and Land Development

Ordinance; and Mr. Bray stated he assumes they could put it in a Zoning Ordinance if

they wished, but the attorney felt this was not the proper path to take with respect to this

Ordinance.  Ms. Frick stated she had also asked if it should be in the Zoning Ordinance to

apply to someone who is not coming in for a Subdivision or Land Development and is

only coming in to install or replace plants.  

 

Mr. Bush stated at the last Board of Supervisors meetings some people did speak about

this during Public Comment including a comment with regard to the Garden of

Reflection and the other by a private landscaper who gave the impression that this would

prohibit an individual property owner from replacing trees with non-native plants; and

Mr. Bush stated he understands this is not what the Ordinance is designed to do. 

Mr. Bush stated when this is presented to the Board of Supervisors it needs to be made

very clear that this does not prohibit individual property owners from taking out a shrub

and putting in one that is non-native although they would like to encourage them to do so. 

Mr. Bray stated this is correct, and the EAC has made this point on a number of

occasions.  He stated this Ordinance does not apply to individual homeowners.  He stated

it also does not apply to turf grasses.  He stated it would apply to developmental buffers

and street trees for Subdivision and/or Land Development. 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 15 of 19

 

 

Ms. Friedman noted the term in the Ordinance “Township plant expert,” and asked if they

are hiring someone.  Mr. Bray stated it is defined in the Ordinance, and the Township’s

plant expert is the registered landscape architect or certified plant horticulturist; and in

this case it will be Birdsall Engineering, which Lower Makefield has retained for that

purpose.  Mr. Cylinder stated in the Ordinance it states “approved,” but it does not state

approved by whom.  Mr. Majewski stated the Board of supervisors would approve all

those things taking into consideration the comments made by the reviewing bodies and

professionals. 

 

Mr. Dickson noted language in the Ordinance about tree removal which states “no tree

shown to remain on an Approved Subdivision or Land Development Plan shall be

removed without prior Township approval, unless it is the cause of immediate danger to

life or property,” and asked who would make this determination.  Mr. Bray stated this is

part of the existing Ordinance, and they did not make any change to this.  Ms. Frick

stated this is in the current Ordinance, and they must put the request in writing to remove

a tree if it is on a Subdivision Plan as a natural resource or protected area.  She forwards

this to Mr. Majewski who must investigate it and decide if they can take it out.  After his

review, she would send a letter to the homeowners as to his findings; and if it is

determined that the tree can be removed, they are permitted to take out the tree. 

 

There was no public comment.

 

Ms. Friedman moved, Mr. Bush seconded and it was unanimously carried to recommend

to the Board of Supervisors approval of Ordinance #368 as presented.

 

Mr. Bray thanked the Planning Commission and all the other reviewing agencies for the

input provided.  Ms. Friedman thanked Mr. Bray for the work he has done on this.

 

 

DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED ORDINANCE AMENDING PROVISIONS OF SECTION 200 OF THE TOWNSHIP ZONING ORDINANCE RELATED TO THE REGULATION OF SIGNS IN THE TOWNSHIP BY ADDING A NEW ARTICLE XIIIB THAT PROVIDES FOR THE CREATION OF AN OVERLAY ZONING DISTRICT TO BE KNOWN AS THE “SOPAS SPECIAL OFF-PREMISES ADVERTISING SIGN OVERLAY DISTRICT” WHICH SHALL ALLOW CERTAIN SPECIAL OFF-PREMISES ADVERTISING SIGNS AS A PERMITTED USE IN CERTAIN DESIGNATED AREAS OF THE TOWNSHIP AND TO MAKE AMENDMENTS TO ARTICLE XIX RELATED TO PLACEMENT OF SIGNS ON TOWNSHIP OWNED OR CONTROLLED PROPERTY

 

Mr. Cylinder asked what they mean by “controlled,” and Mr. Donaghy stated he feels it

means Township-owned or over which they have some sort of controlling interest, such

as by an easement, Lease, etc.  He stated the intention of this Section was that currently

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 16 of 19

 

 

the Ordinance seems to be broader than this as to placement of signs, and they are

tightening this up. 

 

Mr. Dickson stated he assumes that this came out of the problem in Doylestown where a

billboard was erected on Route 611, and the Doylestown Township Supervisors quickly

enacted an Ordinance to try to control further billboards in the Township.  Mr. Donaghy

stated you cannot Zone billboards out, but you can place controls on them. 

 

Mr. Dickson noted the fifth “Whereas” on Page 1 which states “certain temporary signs

and billboards …” and he asked if this is referring to real estate, Election, flea market

signs, etc.  Mr. Donaghy stated these are all temporary signs, but stated this is only in the

Preamble to the Ordinance itself.  Ms. Frick stated real estate signs are covered in another

section. 

 

Mr. Cylinder stated he feels something should be stated about assuring or protecting the

safety of drivers and passengers of vehicles, pedestrians, and even wildlife.  He stated

putting up billboards is a means to divert the attention of people who are on public rights-

of-way from either walking or driving.  Mr. Donaghy stated he feels this is already in the

Preamble in the seventh “Whereas” clause. 

 

Mr. Dickson stated he questions why it is replicated here with regard to temporary signs,

and Mr. Donaghy stated it is because they are not re-defining it, and temporary signs are

being dealt with as they effect location on Township property.  He does not feel that there

is any change in definition of temporary signs.

 

Ms. Friedman noted Page #4, #1 with regard to size of sign, and asked where they came

up with these sizes.  She asked if they could make the maximum size a little less. 

Mr. Donaghy stated he suspects these are probably typical billboard sign sizes. 

Ms. Friedman asked if they should go with typical billboard size signs in the Township or

could they make them smaller.  Mr. Donaghy stated if this makes it so that they could not

really put up a billboard by limiting the size, you could run into legal problems.  He

stated he feels it is a legitimate question to ask how they came up with these numbers. 

Ms. Friedman stated she would like to go with the minimum size that would not have

legal ramifications. 

 

Ms. Friedman noted #2 which states “off-premises advertising signs shall be located no

closer than 20’ from any property line excluding  Route 1 and I-95,” and she asked if

there is any property where 20’ may not be enough.  Mr. Majewski stated they may want

to add a requirement for distance from existing buildings.  Mr. Bush stated on Page 3 the

District itself is defined as “75 feet on both sides of I-95 and Route 1 and rights-of-way

that are located in O/R or C-3 Commercial, General Business and Industrial;” and he

stated there may be a way to narrow the location of the District.  He questioned if they

could limit it to “both sides of I-95 and Route1,” and he asked if this would be adequate

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 17 of 19

 

without expanding it into O/R or C-3.  Ms. Friedman stated she is concerned with size

and location and feels a 300 square foot sign could be placed 20’ away from someone’s

property.  Mr. Majewski stated it would in a Commercial or Office/Research District.  He

stated despite this, they may still want to consider if there should be a distance required

from someone who might have a house in this area.  Mr. Bush asked why they could not

limit it to I-95 and Route 1.  Ms. Frick stated while she did not have any input in this and

only received it on Friday, she feels that may be considered to be spot zoning. 

Mr. Donaghy stated his office did draft this Ordinance, but he only received it after

it was drafted.  Mr. Cylinder stated they may want to limit the size of the sign based on

setback from the road.  He stated possibly they could allow the larger signs provided they

are further back, and there could be a sliding scale. 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if someone would be permitted to install a billboard on an otherwise

vacant lot, and Mr. Donaghy stated this would be permitted.  Ms. Frick stated they do not

consider a sign to be a use – they consider it to be a structure.  Mr. Donaghy noted the

billboards along I-95. 

 

Ms. Friedman stated she is also concerned that there is not a minimum height at which

a sign could be installed so that it would not be sitting on the ground.  It was noted  no

one would put a sign up that was so low that it could not be seen.  Ms. Friedman stated

she is trying to think up places which might not immediately seem obvious, but could

result in a problem.

 

Ms. Friedman noted the comment regarding spacing so that no sign could be closer than

500’ to another sign.  Ms. Friedman stated she does not feel this may be far enough apart. 

She suggested that it be 750’ to 1000’ so that it would further limit the number of signs

that could be erected along a stretch of land.  Mr. Donaghy stated he does not know if

there was a specific reason why it was 500’ but cautioned they could not make it so

restrictive that no signs could legally be installed.  He did agree to look into this.

 

Mr. Cylinder noted Item #5 on Page #4, and stated he does not know how this restriction

would work since they may come in and say you cannot put anything here other than a

billboard.  Mr. Donaghy stated whether this is in here or not, if you had a small lot that

was in single and separate ownership prior to the Ordinance being enacted, you might be

able to get a Variance. 

 

Ms. Friedman noted Item #6, Page #5 under Section 4, which stated “irrespective of

content” and “except for official signs or election signs erected on Election Day within

50’ of Township property,” and asked if they could restrict size at some point. 

Mr. Donaghy stated the Ordinance already provides for sizes of Election signs in the

Ordinance.  Mr. Bush stated he feels the Sign Ordinance which already exists with regard

to political signs is basically not adhered to.  He noted particularly the very big signs

erected in the Township during the last few Elections.  Ms. Frick stated there are

limitations as to what they can restrict because of Freedom of Speech requirements.

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 18 of 19

 

 

Mr. Cylinder asked if someone already had the permitted number of on-premises signs,

would they be permitted to put up an off-premises sign over and above this, and

Ms. Frick stated she feels they could if the sign is in the Overlay District.  Mr. Cylinder

asked if these signs are one-sided or double sided, and Mr. Donaghy stated the Ordinance

does note “per side.”

 

Mr. Cylinder stated in some areas where they state “may be”, he feels it should stated

“shall be.”  He particularly noted “spacing and lighting” on Page 4.  He also noted Item 7

which has “recommended landscaping requirements,” and stated he feels it should state

“landscape requirements for special off-premises and advertising signs are as follows:”

Mr. Donaghy stated he feels this is just a recommendation of the type that you can have

and they have listed examples.  He does not feel it is mandated that they use any of these

alternatives.  Mr. Cylinder stated he feels it would then imply that you are not required to

put in any plants and it is just a recommendation.  Mr. Donaghy stated it states “you shall

provide landscaping,” and they must do so in accordance with the Township Native Plant

Ordinance, and they have offered some examples.  Mr. Cylinder asked if they would not

permit trees to be higher than 5’ to 6’ in height, and Mr. Donaghy stated it would depend

on what the Native Plant Ordinance would require. 

 

Ms. Frick asked Mr. Donaghy if they have time to put this on the next Planning

Commission Agenda so that he can come back with answers to some of the questions

raised this evening, and Mr. Donaghy stated he felt that they did have time. 

 

Mr. Pazdera noted # 2 on page #4 and asked how they define “established grade,” and

Mr. Majewski stated he feels they should tighten this up. 

 

Mr. Majewski stated he does have some comments which he will send along to

Mr. Truelove.  He stated with regard to the trees, they should have the height of the trees

consistent with the Native Plant Ordinance, and Mr. Donaghy agreed. 

 

Mr. Cylinder noted C – Additional Regulations which states “comply with all

applicable Zoning regulations,” and asked if it is necessary to specifically mention

Article 19 – Signs.  Mr. Majewski stated under Item D, Section 5 it does state this.  He

stated in the Code there are various Code provisions which would comply; and if they

mention one, they would have to mention them all.  Mr. Donaghy stated the other

problem would be that any time one was changed, they would  have to go back and

change it here as well.

 

It was noted this matter will be revisited by the Planning Commission on April 9.

 

 

 

 

March 26, 2007                                                         Planning Commission – page 19 of 19

 

 

There being no further business, Mr. Cylinder moved, Mr. Bush seconded and it was unanimously carried to adjourn the meeting at 10:25 p.m.

 

                                                                        Respectfully Submitted,

 

 

 

 

                                                                        Karen Friedman, Secretary