TOWNSHIP OF LOWER MAKEFIELD

ZONING HEARING BOARD

MINUTES – JUNE 21, 2005

 

 

The regular meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board of the Township of Lower Makefield was held in the Municipal Building on June 21, 2005.  Vice Chairman Mayrhofer called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.  Mr. Mayrhofer noted that the Board will only meet until 11:00 p.m. and any items not completed will be continued to a future meeting.

 

Those present:

 

Zoning Hearing Board:  Rudolph Mayrhofer, Vice Chairman

                                                Paul Bamburak, Member

                                                Darwin Dobson, Member

                                                Paul Caiola, Alternate Member

 

Others:                                     Nancy Frick, Director Zoning, Inspection and Planning

                                                Richard Habgood, Code Enforcement Officer

                                                John Koopman, Township Solicitor

                                                James Majewski, Township Engineer

                                                Allen Toadvine, Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor

                                                Steve Santarsiero, Supervisor Liaison

 

Absent:                         Barbara Kirk, Zoning Hearing Board Chair

                                                David Malinowski, Zoning Hearing Board Secretary

 

 

APPEAL #05-1306 – GARY R. O’CONNOR, ARCHITECT

 

Mr. Gary R. O’Connor, Architect was sworn in along with property owners Charles and

Nancy Linzner.  Mr. Mayrhofer noted this Appeal was continued from 5/18/05.  The

Application was marked as Exhibit A-1.  The drawing submitted was marked as Exhibit

A-2.  Two additional drawings titled “Accessory Structure” marked A1 and A2 were

marked as Exhibit A-3.

 

Mr. O’Connor stated they are present to request a Variance to the 15’ height restriction

for accessory structures.  He stated the existing dwelling does not have a basement or

attic space for storage,  and they would like the additional height to provide storage above

the garage.  The existing house is a Bucks County style stone/stucco structure with roof

pitches similar to what they are proposing for the garage, and they feel this will help

maintain the character of the site.  Mr. O’Connor noted drawing A2 which shows the

profile if it were built 15’ high, and he feels it would look like an industrial garage and

would not be consistent with the Bucks  County architecture.  He showed pictures on a

poster board of the existing home.

 

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 2 of 19

 

Mr. Mayrhofer noted while it is an acre and half lot, he asked if they have discussed the

project with their neighbors to see if they had any issues.  Mrs. Linzner stated it is a very

private property.  The only neighbor whose property would look upon the garage was

contacted and she had no problem with the height and only asked about the trees. 

 

Mr. O’Connor stated they are looking to build a structure 22’ 3 ½” high.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked the age of the house, and Mrs. Linzner stated the oldest part of the

house is well over two hundred years old and was the Carriage House for the farm owned

by the neighbor she mentioned earlier.  She stated the Carriage House has been expanded

and changed by various residents over the last couple hundred years but there is nothing

below ground level in their house. 

 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked what they will do with the second story of the garage, and

Mrs. Linzner stated it will be used for storage.  Mr. Mayrhofer asked if the area will

be heated or cooled, and Mr. O’Connor stated it will not, and there will be no plumbing. 

He stated the upper floor can only be accessed from inside the garage and it is not

intended to become something else in the future if that is of concern.

 

The poster board with the five photos of the property which was submitted this evening

was marked as Exhibit A-4. 

 

Mr. Bamburak asked if the garage is visible from the road, and Mrs. Linzner stated you

can only see some of the white latticework which is in front of the carport from the

private drive and is not visible from the road. Behind the proposed garage is an extension

of the property that was the original farmhouse.  That property fronts on Woodside Road. 

Mr. Linzner stated there are trees directly behind them.  Mr. O’Connor stated there is a

good stand of evergreen trees.

 

Mr. Dobson asked if they have an intention to turn this into an apartment, and

Mr. Linzner stated they do not plan to do this and would be willing to have this as a

condition of approval.

 

Mr. Toadvine asked if there is any existing structure where this proposed garage is to be

constructed, and Mr. O’Connor stated there is not.  Mr. O’Connor stated there are two

other structures adjacent to the proposed location which are actually on the other property

and were built by a previous owner.  These are scheduled to be demolished with the

addition of the garage.  The property does not currently have a garage. 

 

Mr. O’Connor stated the height of the existing dwelling is approximately 30’.  It is higher

than the proposed garage by approximately eight feet.

 

Mr. Koopman stated the Township has no position in connection with this Application. There was no public comment.

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 3 of 19

 

 

Mr. Bamburak moved, Mr. Caiola seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant the

Variance for the height exception with the stipulation that there be no further conversion

to living space.

 

 

APPEAL #05-1307 – PIOTR BRYLA

 

Mr. Piotr Bryla was sworn in.  The Application was marked as Exhibit A-1.  The

schematic attached dated 11/23/94 was marked as Exhibit A-2.

 

Mr. Bryla stated he would like to construct a fence on his side property which will go

through the buffer easement.  There is an existing rear fence in the easement.  He stated

his neighbor received a permit for a similar fence to what he is requesting.

 

Mr. Habgood stated the prior owner of Mr. Bryla’s property did obtain Zoning Hearing

Board relief for the existing fence in the easement in the rear of the property. 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked if there were any conditions attached, and Mr. Habgood stated there

were not to his knowledge. 

 

Mr. Toadvine asked Mr. Bryla if he would agree to a condition that in the event access is

ever needed to the easement area, that he would be responsible for removing and

replacing the fence at his own cost and expense, and Mr. Bryla agreed.  Mr. Mayrhofer

stated he would also like to see some kind of clearance beneath the fence so that it does

not impede drainage.  Mr. Koopman stated usually they address this in connection with

drainage easement areas.  Mr. Koopman stated they could require that the fence be

erected in such a way that it would not impede drainage in the buffer area.

 

Mr. Toadvine asked about the type of fence, and Mr. Bryla stated it will be aluminum

with 3” spacing between the slats.

 

There was no public comment

 

Mr. Bamburak moved, Mr. Caiola seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant the

Variance with the stipulation that in the event access is ever needed to the easement area,

that the property owner would be responsible for removing and replacing the fence at his

own cost and expense and that the fence be erected in such a way that it will not impede

drainage in the buffer area.

 

 

APPEAL #05-1309 – PICTURE PERFECT HOME IMPROVEMENTS

 

Mr. Adam Elmer and Mr. Mark Weaver from Picture Perfect Home Improvements and

property owners Mark and Donna Stawrosky were sworn in.  The Application was

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 4 of 19

 

 

marked as Exhibit A-1.  The schematic that was attached dated 5/3/76 was marked as

Exhibit A-2.

 

Mr. Toadvine advised the Applicants that there are only four Board members present and

this is a five-member Board.  As a result, they will need three out of four favorable votes

in order for their request to be approved.  He stated if they so desire, they have the option

to request that this matter be continued to the next meeting when there would be five

members present.  If they proceed tonight, they will be proceeding with the knowledge

that they will need three out of four favorable votes.  The Applicants agreed to proceed.

 

Mrs. Stawrosky stated her Mother-In-Law lives with them and all of their bedrooms are

on the second floor.  They would like to construct an In-Law suite on the first floor so

that she will have more freedom and not have to be upstairs in her existing bedroom

when the rest of the family is not home.  She cannot prepare her own meals and they do

have someone come in during the day when they are not home. 

 

Mr. Toadvine stated the Application indicates that they are requesting a Variance from

the impervious surface ratio as well as rear and side yard Variances.  Mr. Elmer stated the

required rear setback is 50’ and they are requesting that it be 24’.  Mr. Weaver stated the

side yard requirement is 15’ and they are requesting that it be 7’.  Mr. Mayrhofer asked if

they could lay out the room differently so that they would not need the side yard setback. 

Mr. Elmer stated they are putting the addition on the corner of the house.  He provided a

one-sheet document which was marked as Exhibit A-3 showing the rear elevation of the

property depicting the proposed addition.  Exhibit A-4 was marked which is the floor

plan of the existing dwelling and proposed addition. 

 

Mr. Toadvine asked about the impervious surface.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated if the lot size is

16,445 square feet the existing impervious surface would be 18.38% and after

construction of the addition of 600 square feet, it would bring it to 3,622 square feet

which is 22.02% or a 3.65% increase.  Mr. Elmer agreed with these figures.  It was noted

that 18% is permitted for this property.

 

Mr. Caiola asked the location of the adjacent neighbor’s house which will be impacted by

the addition.  Mr. Weaver stated the house is approximately 25’ to 30’ from the fence

line.  Mr. Elmer stated the property runs on an angle and as you get closer to the back

part of the addition, it gets closer to the property line.  Mr. Elmer stated at the shortest

point he feels it will be 50’ to the adjacent house.  Mr. Toadvine asked if it is correct that

the neighbor they are referring to has his rear yard abutting the proposed addition as

opposed to their side yard, and Mr. Elmer agreed that this is correct.  Mr. Koopman stated

the neighboring property is a corner lot and that house fronts on Ramsey Road.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked what other alternatives they have considered, and Mrs. Stawrosky

stated they have not considered any other alternatives yet.  Mr. Mayrhofer asked if they

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 5 of 19

 

 

have discussed this project with their neighbors, and Mrs. Stawrosky stated they did not

discuss it with the neighbor who fronts on Ramsey Road.  She also did not discuss it with

the neighbor to their rear; however they did discuss it with other neighbors who indicated

they did not have a problem. 

 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked if they could reduce the amount of impervious surface, and

Mr. Elmer stated they could shrink down the size of the addition.  The addition will

include one bedroom, one bathroom, and a living area.  There will be no kitchen. 

Mr. Caiola noted the proposed new kitchen on the Plan, and it was noted that this does

not have anything to do with the new addition. 

 

Mr. Koopman stated the Township is opposed to the increase in the impervious surface. 

He stated initially they had a concern with the side yard, but assuming the neighboring

property owner whose house fronts on Ramsey has no objection, he does not feel that the

Township will pursue that objection.  The Township is however concerned about the

increase in impervious surface where there is proposed an approximately 4% increase in

the impervious surface coverage.  He stated the Township does not have a problem with

an In-Law suite and feels this is an appropriate use; but in this case, they object to the

significant increase in the impervious surface.  Mr. Koopman stated the Plan shows a 12’

by 10’ addition and asked if this is the kitchen addition.  Mr. Elmer stated this is correct. 

This will be walled off from the In-Law suite.  The In-Law suite is 20’ by 24”. 

Mr. Koopman asked the size of the living space area of the In-Law suite, and it was

noted it is 12’ by 20’.  Mr. Koopman stated there may be a way to reduce the impervious

surface by either reducing the addition or eliminating other impervious surface on the

property.  He stated the Township is opposed to the increase in impervious surface

because of their concern with stormwater run off.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer asked when the home was built, and it was noted it was built in 1978.

Mr. Mayrhofer asked if they would like to look into revising the Plan and then come back

with Plans showing less impervious surface.  Mr. Elmer stated they could reduce the

addition and just have the bedroom and bathroom which would reduce the addition to 240

square feet and bring the impervious surface down to 20.6%.  Mr. Koopman stated he

feels the Township would find this acceptable.

 

Mrs. Stawrosky stated they would be willing to reduce it and amend the Application

reducing it for an increase in impervious surface to 20.6%.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated this

will probably also change the setback requests as well.  Mr. Weaver stated he feels they

would be closer to 10’ to 12’ from the side property line and it was agreed that they

would provide a minimum of 10’ on the side yard and 36’ on the rear.  This was

acceptable to the property owner.

 

Mr. Richard Kelly, 373 Ramsey Road was present.  He stated he feels this is a rather

large addition to the house and they do not see why it cannot be brought into

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 6 of 19

 

 

conformance with the setback and drainage requirements.  He stated there is currently a

good deal of run off from this property onto his property; and with the addition, he feels

there will be even more run off.  Mr. Mayrhofer sated they have agreed to reduce the

addition to 240 square feet and the setback on the side will now be at least 10’ and

possibly more depending on how they work it out.  The rear yard setback will be 36’ and

will be brought in closer to the Applicant’s home.  Mr. Kelly stated he feels they should

build it within the Zoning requirements, and Mr. Mayrhofer stated the way the house is

laid out on the property it is not possible to construct the addition within the Zoning

requirements.  This is why they are requesting an exception.  Mr. Kelly was shown on the

Plan what they now propose.  Mr. Toadvine asked if it is correct that Mr. Kelly’s rear

yard abuts the Applicant’s side yard, and Mr. Kelly agreed.  Mr. Kelly stated that if it is

no closer than 10’, this would be acceptable to he and his wife. 

 

Mr. Caiola moved, Mr. Mayrhofer seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant a

14’ rear yard Variance, a 5’ side yard Variance, and permitting 20.6% of impervious

surface.

 

 

APPEAL #05-1310 – JIGNESH N. PANDYA

 

Jignesh N. Pandya and Mital Pandya were present and were sworn in.

The Application was marked as Exhibit A-1.  The attached drawing was marked as

Exhibit A-2.  This is the As-Built Plan dated 11/19/01 and shows the proposed fence.

 

Mr. Pandya stated on the rear of his property he has an easement and a huge ditch in the

area.  He stated he has two small children and other children come to the property and he

does not want them to get hurt.  He stated he would like to have the fence to protect his

family.  He is requesting a Variance to place the fence over the drainage easement.

 

Mr. Toadvine stated Mr. Pandya has highlighted in yellow on Exhibit A-2 the proposed

location of the fence.  He asked if the only area where the fence will be on the easement

is on the left hand side of the drawing, and Mr. Pandya agreed.  All other areas where the

fence is proposed are permitted.  It was noted this is a 30’ wide drainage easement. 

Mr. Toadvine asked the type of fence he proposes to install, and Mr. Pandya stated he

proposes a black aluminum fence which will be 6’ high.  It will not be solid and there

will be spaces between the vertical slats.  Mr. Toadvine asked if there will be space at the

bottom.  Mr. Pandya stated it will touch the ground.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated they want to

insure that the fence will not impede drainage from the property, and Mr. Pandya agreed.

He would also agree to a condition that if necessary to gain access to the easement, he

would be willing to remove and replace the fence at his own cost and expense.

 

Mr. Koopman asked what is within the easement and asked if there is an underground

pipe.  Mr. Pandya stated he feels it is a pipe which connects it to the basin in the back. 

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 7 of 19

 

 

Ms. Frick stated there is an underground drainage pipe.  Mr. Koopman suggested that

there be a condition attached to the grant of the Variance that the installation of the fence

will not disturb any of the underground pipes or utilities, and Mr. Pandya agreed.

Ms. Frick asked if there is any way to determine how deep the drainage pipe is, and

Mr. Majewski stated the Township plans would show this.  Mr. Koopman stated it may

be appropriate to have the Building Permit Application reviewed by the Township

engineer, and Ms. Frick stated they have already made note of this.

 

There was no public comment.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer moved, Mr. Bamburak seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant

the Variance subject to the construction of the fence not interfering in any way with the

underground pipe and/or utilities in the easement, that in the event that access is needed

to the easement by the Township or any other holder of the easement, that the Applicant

would be responsible for removing and replacing the fencing at their own cost and

expense, and that the construction of the fence in no way impede surface water drainage. 

 

 

OTHER BUSINESS

 

Appeal #04-1259 – Robert Widmer Grant of Extension

 

Mr. Mayrhofer stated they received a letter from Mr. Murphy asked for an extension of

the Variance granted to Robert Widmer until 10/1/05.  Mr. Mayrhofer moved,

Mr. Bamburak seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant an Extension until

10/1/05.

 

 

Appeal #04-1269 – James Armetta Grant of Extension

 

Mr. Mayrhofer stated they received a letter from Mr. James Armetta owner of Christine’s

Restaurant requesting an extension.  It was noted that he did not give a specific date for

the extension.  Mr. Habgood stated he currently has a Building Permit in for review.

It was agreed to provide the extension until the end of August.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer moved, Mr. Caiola seconded and it was unanimously carried to grant an

Extension until 8/31/05.

 

 

APPEALS #05-1311, #05-1312, AND #05-1313 – ALLEGHENY VALLEY SCHOOL

 

Mr. Regis Champ, President and CEO of Allegheny Valley School was present with

Mr. Bernard Schneider, attorney, representing the Applicant.

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 8 of 19

 

 

The Application for Appeal #05-1311 was marked Exhibit A-1.  The attached schematic

dated 5/23/05 for the property at 2100 N. Crescent Boulevard was marked as Exhibit A-2.

 

Mr. Toadvine stated Mr. Schneider is representing Appeal #05-1311, Appeal #05-1312,

and Appeal #05-1313.  Mr. Schneider stated he would like to consolidate these three

Appeals into one Hearing.  He stated he has six witnesses present and most of the

testimony will be applicable to all three properties. He would make it clear which

property he is referring to and he feels this would speed up the proceedings.

Mr. Toadvine agreed with this proposal. He stated there are people present in the

audience who may be asking for Party status, and he would like them to come forward

and give their name and address and indicate which property they are concerned with.

Mr. Toadvine stated he and Mr. Schneider did have a conversation this afternoon

concerning the fact that only four Board members would be present this evening.  As he

explained earlier in the evening to one of the other Applicants, Mr. Schneider was given

the opportunity to have the matters continued until there was a full Board; and

Mr. Schneider had indicated that he wished to proceed.  Mr. Toadvine stated he assumes

they will not finish this matter tonight and as long as it is acceptable, he would like the

opportunity for the other Board members to be able to review the transcript of tonight’s

meeting and participate in the future.  Mr. Schneider was agreeable to this.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer stated it is possible he may not be present at future meetings, and in this

way those other Board members could possibly take his place, and Mr. Schneider agreed.

 

Mr. Schneider asked that those coming forward for Party status indicate what effect they

expect this Application will have on their property so that he can challenge standing if

necessary.  Mr. Toadvine reviewed Party status.  Mr. Toadvine suggested that they first

get the names and addresses and make a brief statement as to their objection and once this

process is done they can make those documents part of the record.  Mr. Schneider stated

he would need more than a brief statement of their objection.  He stated he would also

need to have a statement as to what they expect the effect of this Application to be on

their property because if there is no effect on their property, they have no standing and he

needs the ability to object to that.  Mr. Toadvine stated he does not feel that is something

that can be accomplished by having the Secretary take names, addresses and the brief

statement.  He suggested that they provide their names and addresses and the Appeal

about which they have a concern and once they have accumulated that list, Mr. Schneider

would be given the opportunity to question each individual as to how it affects them and

challenge or not challenge their Party status.  Mr. Schneider stated he would reserve the

right to do this after he presents the main part of his case.  Mr. Schneider stated the

number of interested people may dwindle after they hear testimony that may resolve their

concerns.

 

 

 

June 21, 2005                                                             Zoning Hearing Board – page 9 of 19

 

 

Mr. Koopman stated the Township is requesting Party status.  He stated he feels they

need to know up front who will be a Party since those who have Party status also have the

right to cross examine witnesses and participate in the proceedings.  Mr. Koopman stated

he feels they should resolve this up front and not delay it to some subsequent proceeding.

Mr. Koopman stated he feels they should briefly state up front what their concern is, and

Mr. Schneider can be given the opportunity to cross examine and the Board can

determine up front whether people have Party status or not so they know when they go

through the witnesses whether they have the right to cross examine and ask questions.

Mr. Schneider stated he understands Mr. Koopman’s proposition and in general agrees

with this; however, he has had experience in front of Zoning Hearing Board’s attempting

to open group homes and has learned that a lot of people’s concerns are addressed by

testimony and after hearing the testimony they are no longer as interested in participating

in the proceedings.  Mr. Schneider stated Allegheny Valley School through Mr. Champ is

willing to meet with any community group at any time to answer questions about the

group home.  He stated they have found that such meetings have a very good effect in

allaying concerns of property owners near the property.

 

Mr. Christopher H. DeGrezia, attorney from Drinker, Biddle & Reath, stated he is present

on behalf of a group of residents.  He stated he estimates there are at least forty families. 

He was only retained Friday and has not met with and confirmed that each of those on the

lists he was provided is really part of the group which has retained him.  He has a list of

names and addresses.  He stated they are concerned about the impact on their properties. 

He stated they will also present a number of hours of planning testimony.  Some of these

people on the list include those currently in line to sign up for Party status.  Mr. Toadvine

stated if those people on the list are present and are having Mr. DeGrezia represent them,

they do not have to list their names for Party status with the Secretary. 

 

A recess was called while those present were given the opportunity to either meet with

Mr. DeGrezia to confirm his representation or to sign up for Party status with the

Secretary.

 

When the meeting was reconvened, Mr. Toadvine stated that for the past hour they have

been taking names and addresses of those individuals requesting Party status and securing

a list of those neighbors represented by Mr. DeGrezia.  Mr. Toadvine marked as Exhibit

B-1 a two-page list entitled, “List of Group Members Neighbors Concerned About

Zoning.”  Mr. Toadvine noted these are the individuals represented by Mr. DeGrezia. 

This indicates next to their name the specific property they are concerned with.  Exhibit

B-2 was marked which is a two-page document entitled “Party Status #05-1311 – 2100

N. Crescent” and this is a list of individuals who have requested Party status for that

Appeal.  Exhibit B-3 was marked which is a one-page document entitled “Party Status

#05-1312 – 1110 Big Oak Road” and this is a list of individuals who have requested

Party status for that Appeal.  Exhibit B-4 was marked which is a one-page list entitled

“Party Status #05-1313 – 1203 Yardley Road and this is a list of individuals who have

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 10 of 19

 

 

requested Party status for that Appeal.  A copy of these documents was supplied to

Mr. Koopman, Mr. DeGrezia, and Mr. Schneider. 

 

Mr. Toadvine stated Mr. Schneider and the Board have agreed that the matters can be

consolidated.

 

Mr. Schneider suggested that they mark the Applications and the schematics for the other

two properties.  Exhibit A-3 was marked which is the Application for Appeal #05-1312. 

Exhibit A-4 was marked which is the Big Oak site Plan dated 5/23/05.  Exhibit A-5 was

marked which is the Application for Appeal #05-1313.  The site Plan for Yardley Road

dated 5/18/05 was marked as Exhibit A-6. 

 

Mr. Schneider asked the Board to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the Zoning

Officer’s determination that they did not comply with the Building Codes as opposed to

the Zoning Ordinance.  In all three of the Appeals he would argue that the Zoning

Hearing board does have jurisdiction.  He stated these are noted in the Appeal under

Questions five and eight, Argument B.  He stated the Municipalities Planning Code states

that a Zoning Ordinance may permit, prohibit, regulate, restrict, and determine the

erection, construction, repair, maintenance, alteration, raising, removal, and use of

structures.  This is Section 603B2 of the Municipalities Planning Code.  Mr. Schneider

stated that under the Township Ordinance, the Zoning Officer has to make a

determination before a Building Permit can be issued that the Sections of the Building

Code have been met.  He stated in this case Inspectors, who work for the Building

Department as opposed to the Zoning Department, made a determination that their

Applications did not meet certain regulations of the Building Code and not the Zoning

Ordinance.  One of the reasons for the Zoning Officer turning down their Application for

a Building Permit was the fact that they did not meet those Building Ordinances.  He

feels the law is clear that a Zoning Ordinance is not determined by the caption of the

Ordinance.  He stated it merely has to cover matters that are permitted to be covered by

the Municipalities Planning Code in the Zoning Ordinance.  He stated they have the

Zoning Officer applying Building Codes, and you have Building Codes incorporated into

the Zoning Ordinance.  He feels these matters are part of the Zoning Ordinance, and

therefore the Zoning Hearing Board has jurisdiction over the Appeal.  He stated under the

Zoning Code, the Zoning Hearing Board has jurisdiction over the Appeal.  He stated the

Municipalities Planning Code gives the Zoning Hearing Board jurisdiction to determine

these issues. 

 

Mr. Schneider stated his other argument is that under the Fair Housing Act, the

Municipality has an affirmative duty to grant reasonable accommodations from any rules,

regulations, or Ordinances that deprive them of an equal opportunity to live in a

residential dwelling of their choice.  He stated some of the deficiencies as they

understand them that the Zoning Officer relied upon in the Building Code are subject to

reasonable accommodation.   He noted they have been told that their shower stalls do not

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 11 of 19

 

 

comply because there is not a seat in the shower stall for the disabled residents to sit on.

Mr. Schneider stated their shower stalls have been specifically designed to allow direct

wheelchair access so that they wheel their seat into the shower stall and it would be a

reasonable accommodation to state while they do not have a seat built in, they are

wheeling the seat in.  They feel that the Township has to give reasonable

accommodations if they prove their case.  Mr. Schneider stated the Township has to have

a process for them to claim reasonable accommodation.  He stated since the Zoning

Hearing Board has jurisdiction over Appeals from the Zoning Officer’s decision, the

Zoning Hearing Board would be the correct Board to give that reasonable

accommodation. 

 

Mr. Toadvine stated that during the break while the residents were registering, he

discussed this matter with the Zoning Hearing Board members and reviewed the legal

implications, and he believes it is the consensus of the Board that they do not have

jurisdiction to decide a Building Code regulation and/or violation or deficiency and will

not decide that issue in connection with this Appeal.  Mr. Mayrhofer affirmed this

statement.

 

Mr. Schneider stated he has a number of documents to enter into evidence.  Exhibit A-7

was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-7 – Definition of

Family.

 

Exhibit A-8 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 211, Sub-

Sections A and B which pertains to the permitted uses in the R-RP Zone and uses by

Special Exception.

 

Exhibit A-9 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-15 A & B

which is permitted uses and uses by Special Exception in R-1 Districts.

 

Exhibit A-10 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-20 Sub-

Sections A & B which are permitted uses and uses by Special Exception in an R-2 Zone.

 

Exhibit A-11 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-24 Sub-Sections A & B which is permitted uses and uses by Special Exception in an R-3 District.

 

Exhibit A-12 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-27 Sub-Sections A & B which are permitted uses and Special Exceptions in an R-3M District.

 

Exhibit A-13 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-32 Sub-Sections A & B which are permitted uses and uses by Special Exceptions in an R-4 District.

 

 

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 12 of 19

 

 

Exhibit A-14 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-36 Sub-Section A which is permitted uses in an H-C District.

 

Exhibit A-15 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-39 Sub-Section A which is permitted uses in a C-1 District.

 

Exhibit A-16 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-42 Sub-Section A which is permitted uses in the C-2 District.

 

Exhibit A-17 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-45 Sub-Section A which is permitted uses in a C-3 District.

 

Exhibit A-18 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-48 Sub-Section A which is permitted uses in an O-R District.

 

Exhibit A-19 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-68 Sub-Section 26 Nursing Home which establishes conditions to have a Special Exception for a Nursing Home and defines a Nursing Home.

 

Exhibit A-20 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-87, 88 and 89, Sub-Sections A through F of 89 which deal with administration and enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

Exhibit A-21 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-98 which deals with the Applications for Special Exceptions.

 

Exhibit A-22 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Ordinance Section 200-104 which sets forth the procedures to be followed in a Public Hearing for a Special Exception. 

 

Exhibit A-23 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Officer’s determination as to the 2100 N. Crescent Boulevard property.  This is dated 5/3/05 and attached to it is the referred to rejections or deficiencies from the Building Department.

 

Exhibit A-24 was marked which is a copy of the Zoning Officer’s determination dated 5/5/05 of 1110 Big Oak Road with the rejections and deficiencies of the Building Department attached.

 

Exhibit A-25 was marked which is the copy of the Zoning Officer’s determination dated 5/17/05 on the 1203 Yardley Road property with the rejections and deficiencies by the Building Department attached.

 

 

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 13 of 19

 

 

The Exhibits were accepted by the Board.  Mr. Schneider agreed to make copies available

to Mr. DeGrezia.

 

Mr. Regis Champ was sworn in and stated he is employed by Allegheny Valley School

where he is the President and CEO.  He stated Allegheny Valley School is a non-profit

corporation and is a charity registered under Section 501C3 of the Internal Revenue

Code.  Mr. Champ stated their mission is to provide residential care and life support

services for people with mental retardation.  They provide 24/7 residential care providing

all levels of care for each individual in a variety of residential settings from small one or

two-person settings, three to six bed group homes, up to facilities with 120 to 160 people. 

Mr. Champ stated the services they provide include full support of activities of daily

living such as feeding, bathing, attending to them if they go to a social event and

providing support supervision at all times.  Their normal activities at the house could

include playing games, shopping at the local community, attending church, social events,

sporting events, etc.  Their staff also provide cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.

Other than residential care they also provide general health care services by physicians,

nurses, occupational and physical therapy, and run adult training facilities where they

would go during the day for sheltered employment, adult activities, and retirement

activities. 

 

Mr. Schneider asked how many residential care facilities Allegheny Valley School

operates in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Champ stated there are approximately ninety-two

facilities serving approximately 825 clients.  They have approximately 2200 employees. 

Mr. Schneider stated they have facilities across the State in Allegheny, Butler, Beaver

Mercer, Dauphin, Lebanon and Philadelphia Counties, and they are putting facilities into

Montgomery and Bucks Counties. 

 

Mr. Champ stated he was named CEO in 1980 and became President and CEO

approximately eight years ago.  As President and CEO he is responsible for the overall

operation of Allegheny Valley School.  He has been personally involved in the attempt to

open the houses in Lower Makefield Township.  He stated he has been involved in

deciding what areas they wanted to move into considering the demographics of the area

and sending those demographics to real estate organizations and trying to locate the

homes.  He reviewed every home that was presented including visiting the homes and

making the offers along with helping to design the renovations.  He stated they needed

homes for six people with mental retardation and some physical disabilities.  He stated

there are house parents in all their group homes which could be a single individual or

more typically a married couple many of whom have one or two children of their own

who live in the house as a family with the handicapped people.  He stated they look to

purchase fairly large homes.  He stated the house parents are critical to their operation as

they are the neighbors who are consistently in the home and are managers of the group

home.  The house parents they are looking for are stable and mature and they like to have

married couples with children because this is typically a stable family.  They look for

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 14 of 19

 

 

communities with very good School Districts as this attracts the type of house parents

they are looking for.  He stated if the house parents have a young child and are satisfied

with the School District, they will normally stay with the company for a significant

period of time.  He stated across the State their house parents average eight years with the

company and some considerably longer.  It would be rare that any house parents would

be with them for less than five years.  He stated they also had a cost parameter including

the cost of renovations.  They submitted all this information to real estate people who

then find them properties for Allegheny to review.  He stated they were able to find three

very nice homes in Lower Makefield and purchased the properties.

 

Mr. Schneider asked what other positions Mr. Champ has held with Allegheny Valley

School.  Mr. Champ stated he started thirty-four years ago as the Director of Social

Services.  He was responsible for admissions to the facility and individual plans for the

clients.  He was also Chairman of the Inter-Disciplinary Committee and met with all the

professionals on the staff including doctors, therapists, and house parents and put together

plans of care for the individual clients.  He also met with their families and provided

family counseling.  He chaired a number of additional Committees that were required

under the regulations.  In 1976 he was named the Administrator of the Pittsburgh Campus

which is a 186 bed facility on a 100+ acre campus comprised of group homes, larger

units, and recreation facilities.  In 1980 he was named CEO of the entire organization. 

As the Administrator of the Pittsburgh Campus he was responsible for the complete

operation of that facility including budgeting, renovations, capital improvements, fund

raising, meeting with the Parents Association, sitting on numerous committees including

Human Rights, Planning, etc. 

 

Mr. Schneider asked about positions Mr. Champ he has held with other providers of

residential services for people with mental retardation in the past.  Mr. Champ stated he

was the Executive Director of the Idlewood Children’s Center which was one of the

earliest group homes in Pennsylvania.  There he had the same duties as the duties

described as Administrator of the Pittsburgh Campus.  He stated he was responsible for

planning the Budget, did admissions, all social service work, ran the Planning

Committees and the Committees that put together the plan of care for the clients, and met

with all the families.  He also did all the interaction with the State and County Officials. 

 

Mr. Schneider asked how many facilities Mr. Champ has been directly involved with

opening, and Mr. Champ stated approximately eighty-six.  He has been involved with

every group home they have opened.  He stated when he was first hired with Allegheny

Valley School as the Social Service Director, one of his responsibilities was to open the

facility to make sure all the regulations were met including building regulations.  He was

also responsible for filling the beds and establishing the Budget.  He stated Allegheny

County had also requested them to open a program in an area where a facility had been

closed for ten years and they opened up a sixty-three bed, highly-specialized unit for

younger children with critical medical problems; and he was involved with this facility. 

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 15 of 19

 

 

He stated he was also involved in taking over and reopening approximately six facilities

ranging from facilities with twenty-eight beds to one hundred forty beds.  He stated these

were facilities that for one reason or another had been decertified by the State of

Pennsylvania or the Federal Government because of failure to meet licensing criteria. 

Because of Allegheny Valley School’s history, particularly in providing Medicaid

financed care and their success with that, they were asked by the State on a number of

occasions to take these facilities over, reorganize them, get them back on solid footing,

and get back their certification from the Federal Government and the State.

 

Mr. Champ was asked about his Education.  He stated he has a Masters Degree in Social

Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Health Care

Administration which he received in 1975.  His Undergraduate Degree was a Bachelors

of Science in Political Science/Pre-Law which he received in 1970 from Duquesne.

Mr. Schneider asked about licenses held with regard to residential care facilities for

people with mental retardation.  Mr. Champ stated he is a Licensed Nursing Home

Administrator.  He stated this was a License that was previously required by Medicaid

but is no longer required.  He stated he also has ongoing training requirements which he

must meet.  He stated they have a training program at Allegheny Valley School that he is

required to meet and he needs to do new training programs and review old training

programs every year in order to maintain the nursing home license.  He stated this must

be renewed every three years, and he needs to take approximately seventy-eight

continuing education credits to maintain that. 

 

Mr. Schneider offered Mr. Champ as an expert witness in the residential care of the

mentally retarded as well a facts witness. 

 

Mr. DeGrezia agreed to stipulation Mr. Champ as an expert witness.

 

Mr. Koopman asked if Mr. Champ is a Medical Doctor, and Mr. Champ stated he is not. 

Mr. Koopman asked if he has any degrees in the field of medicine or physical therapy, or

any related health care type field.  Mr. Champ stated he has the degrees he testified to and

he did take Health related courses in his Masters Program.  Mr. Koopman asked if he

personally holds any licenses, and Mr. Champ stated he does have the License of Nursing

Home Administrator.  This was obtained in approximately 1980.  This license is no

longer necessary.  The license is considered dormant and he would renew it by writing a

letter indicating that he wants to renew the license.  It went dormant approximately two

years ago, and he currently holds no active licenses.

 

Mr. Koopman asked if Allegheny Valley School holds any licenses that are related to the

group home endeavors for which they are seeking approval in Lower Makefield

Township.  Mr. Champ stated they get licenses for each of the facilities that they operate

individually.  The group home facilities are licensed by the Department of Public

Welfare.  They are licensed as intermediate care facilities if they are in fact intermediate

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 16 of 19

 

 

care facilities, but they also have a number of other designations.  Some of them are

considered Waiver Homes.  The ones they are discussing for Lower Makefield are

ICF/MR (Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded).  They do not currently

have that license yet for the three locations in Lower Makefield.

 

Mr. Koopman asked if Mr. Champ has been qualified as an expert in the field of

residential care facility anywhere in the Courts of the Commonwealth of PA, and

Mr. Champ stated he has not. 

 

Mr. Koopman asked Mr. Schneider for a definition of the field of expertise for which

he is trying to qualify Mr. Champ.  Mr. Schneider stated he is asking that he be

considered qualified as an expert in the field of residential care of the mentally retarded. 

He will be asking him questions about living arrangements for mentally-retarded people

based on his experience, about the benefits of residential care for people with mental

retardation, questions about financing of the residential care facilities in particular the

financing related to the homes they are proposing to open, and his experience and

opinions on the operation of homes and how those homes effect communities where they

are located. 

 

Mr. Koopman asked Mr. Champ if he has been published in any recognized literature,

magazines, etc. having to do with residential care of the mentally handicapped, and

Mr. Champ stated he has not.

 

Mr. Koopman stated he would like to reserve the right to object to certain areas of

testimony.  He stated he does not have any objection to Mr. Champ’s testimony to the

extent that it applies to administration of the facilities, and possibly the financial end; but

to the extent that the testimony would get into what he feels is appropriately medical

and/or planning testimony, he would like the right to reserve this.  He feels the offer that

Mr. Schneider made is overly broad based on the qualifications he has heard. 

Mr. Toadvine stated the request was to qualify Mr. Champ as an expert in the field of

residential care for the mentally retarded and did not talk about planning, etc. 

 

Mr. Koopman stated he is concerned that some of the areas they will discuss will go well

beyond the areas which Mr. Koopman feels Mr. Champ should testify to.  Mr. Koopman

stated he does not feel he is qualified to testify to all the areas Mr. Schneider has

suggested since some of them may involve medical opinions. 

 

Mr. Toadvine stated they are trying to determine what category Mr. Champ falls into in

terms of an expert.  Mr. Schneider stated as part of his case for a request for a reasonable

accommodation he has to show either therapeutic value of residential placement or

financial hardship upon Allegheny Valley School by denial of the request for reasonable

accommodation.    Mr. Schneider stated the Zoning Hearing Board is going to want to

know about the impact of the group homes on the neighborhood, and Mr. Champ would,

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 17 of 19

 

 

based on his experience with other houses, testify to this as well.  He feels this would be

more of a fact witness than an expert witness, and Mr. Toadvine agreed.  Mr. Schneider

stated both expert and fact would be in the area of financing, and based on his training

with a Masters in Social Work and his experience in the field of residential care for the

mentally retarded, he is qualified as an expert to testify as to the therapeutic value of

residential living.  He stated under Pennsylvania law, Mr. Schneider needs to prove that

Mr. Champ has either by training or experience knowledge that is greater than the

ordinary lay person that would be helpful to the Board in making determinations on the

case.   He feels he would be an expert in the therapeutic area.  Mr. Koopman stated this is

one of the areas he does not feel he is qualified to testify to as he has no medical

experience in any field, and usually when you discuss therapeutic value, you should have

some kind of degree in a related medical field such as psychology, physical therapy, etc. 

He stated Mr. Champ’s expertise is in Social Work.  Mr. Koopman stated he also feels

some financial matters may be beyond his expertise since he is not an accountant. 

Mr. Koopman stated this is why he would like to reserve the right to object as they

proceed.  He stated he feels he will not object to most of what Mr. Champ will be

testifying.  He feels it would still be appropriate to reserve to the Township the right to

object if they get into certain areas such as therapeutic value.  He feels they would need

to have someone with some expertise in the medical field or psychiatric field. 

Mr. Schneider stated he disagrees and feels when you have spent your career running

residential care facilities for the mentally retarded, have a degree in Social Work, and

have dealt with the kind of experiences Mr. Champ has dealt with, that this kind of

experience is exactly the kind of experience which under the rules of evidence allow you

to testify as to the social therapeutic value of residential living. 

 

Mr. Schneider asked if Mr. Champ has been qualified as an expert witness in this field by

other Zoning Hearing Boards, and Mr. Champ stated he has.

 

Mr. Koopman stated asked if Mr. Champ will be referring to any expert treatises or

expert knowledge he has gained through education or study to serve as a portion for his

opinion.  Mr. Champ stated he would like to discuss what he has learned through

experience as well as his education over the past thirty-four years involved with

residential facilities for people with mental retardation.  Mr. Koopman asked if he will be

relying upon anyone who is a recognized expert in the field who is published in the field

and who has testified in Court proceedings as a recognized expert, and Mr. Champ stated

he will be testifying based on his own personal experience.  Mr. Koopman stated he

objects to this as he feels he would be a fact witness, but not an expert witness.

 

Mr. DeGrezia stated with retard to a residential care facility, he would agree with the

Township on the medical testimony and the impact on the neighborhood as he does not

feel Mr. Champ is an expert or a planner.

 

A short recess was taken at this time.

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Upon reconvening the meeting, Mr. Schneider stated that prior to the Board rendering a

decision on Mr. Champ, he would like to ask Mr. Champ if he is a qualified mental

retardation professional, and Mr. Champ stated he is.  He stated they refer to this as a

QMRP which is a designation that is given through Federal and State regulations to

individuals who have at least two years’ experience working with people with mental

retardation and have a certain type of degree – Social Work Degree being one of those.

The duties of a QMRP are to put the life plan together.  This plan includes pulling

together the medical disciplines, behavioral disciplines, physical therapy, and whatever

the client needs, and making decision about which information is used in developing the

plan.  As part of the planning process he has to make determinations as to what is

beneficial for the treatment of the people with mental retardation.  He stated you pull

together the team of professionals and put it together in a plan to make sure that the

professional information is consistent with the needs of the clients.  As part of this

decision, Mr. Champ makes determinations as to whether a placement has therapeutic

value for the person with mental retardation.  He stated you do the plan specifically to

determine what type of placement and therapies they need.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer stated the Zoning Hearing Board has determined that based on thirty-four

years of experience, Mr. Champ is an expert witness. 

 

Mr. Toadvine stated the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board is

planned for Tuesday, July 5 and currently there are five other Appeals scheduled for that

night.  He suggested that the Zoning Hearing Board look into the possibility of

scheduling a special meeting on a night that the Zoning Hearing Board does not normally 

meet to consider this matter only.  He stated Wednesday, July 13 has been suggested

although they would have to finalize this date.  He would suggest that they continue the

matter until July 5 and hopefully they would be able to hear some additional testimony on

this matter after the other Appeals are heard.  Prior to July 5, they can possibly come up

with a date certain for a special meeting possibly on July 13.  Mr. Schneider stated

July 13 is satisfactory.  Mr. DeGrezia stated their planner does have a conflict on July 13.

Mr. Toadvine stated he does not feel that they would get to that point by July 13.

Mr. Schneider stated the ruling on jurisdiction has eliminated some of his witnesses, but

he would still have four witnesses.  Mr. Toadvine stated he will try to determine the type

of Applications currently scheduled for July 5 and how long they may take to consider.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer expressed concern with the distance that Mr. Schneider, Mr. Champ, and

their witnesses have to travel and asked if they are going to be able to give them

sufficient time to make it worth their while to return on July 5.  Mr. Toadvine stated

within the next few days they will try to determine how much time the scheduled appeals

will take on July 5 and try to firm up the July 13 date. 

 

 

 

June 21, 2005                                                           Zoning Hearing Board – page 19 of 19

 

 

 

Mr. DeGrezia stated he would like to have his planner available to listen to their planning

testimony.  Mr. Toadvine stated if they continue to try to schedule meetings to

accommodate everyone, they will not be able to proceed.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated

Mr. DeGrezia can provide his planner with the testimony that is given that night if he

cannot be present.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated he feels they need to move the project along.

He stated if people in the audience would like to get together separately with Mr. Champ

he would like to see that this is done.  Mr. Schneider stated Mr. Champ’s number is

412-299-7777 and they can call at any time.  He stated if anyone wants to set up a

meeting, they would be happy to do so.  They would be willing to meet at the Township

Building or in individual homes.  Mr. Mayrhofer asked if Mr. DeGrezia would like to see

that this is done, and Mr. DeGrezia stated he will discuss this with his clients.  One

gentleman asked why this was not offered prior to this time.  Mr. Mayrhofer stated it is

being offered at this time.  Mr. Schneider stated they will meet with any community

group, but they will not allow Mr. Champ to meet with an attorney advocate as part of

that group.  He stated the property owners could discuss with their attorney whatever they

hear at the meeting, but he does not want the attorney himself involved and the attorneys

present understand this.  Mrs. Ludlow, Alton Road, asked why their attorney could not be

present.   Mr. Toadvine stated Mr. Champ would not have his attorney present. 

Mrs. Ludlow stated it is their attorney that is advising them and she feels he should be

present.  Mr. Toadvine stated it is an ethical consideration.

 

Mr. Chris Escher asked if they will have standing to cross examine.  Mr. Toadvine stated

those who have requested Party status will be questioned by Mr. Schneider as to their

Party status and provided they maintain their Party status, they will have the right to cross

examine.

 

Mr. Mayrhofer moved, Mr. Caiola seconded and it was unanimously carried to continue the matter until July 5, 2005.

 

 

There being no further business, Mr. Mayrhofer moved, Mr. Bamburak seconded and it was unanimously carried to adjourn the meeting at 11:10 p.m.

 

                                                                        Respectfully Submitted,

 

 

 

 

                                                                        Rudolph Mayrhofer, Vice Chairman