Borough Council proposed sweeping changes to current zoning law and enforcement Tuesday night at the group’s monthly meeting.
The draft ordinance, which appears in its entirety below thanks to the helpful folks at Borough Hall, would amend the definition of both “impervious surface” and “base site area,” in effect making construction or expansion over the Delaware River more difficult, and would prohibit river-facing signs.
The ordinance would also address what the borough perceives as a preponderance of unauthorized business signs that pop up, and are then removed before zoning citations can take effect, and also “A-frame” or “sandwich-board signs,” which the borough says can block foot traffic. The ordinance authorizes the confiscation of “certain prohibited signs.”
Said one borough official, “We don’t just want to ticket the signs, we want to take them.”
Lastly, the proposed amendments would also change alternative parking provisions to eliminate the option of a business satisfying its parking requirement by leasing additional spaces.
The draft ordinance was tabled Tuesday evening for continued discussion at Borough Council’s December meeting.
AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOROUGH OF NEW HOPE, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING THE NEW HOPE BOROUGH ZONING ORDINANCE, AS AMENDED, TO AMEND THE DEFINITIONS OF “IMPERVIOUS SURFACE” AND “BASE SITE AREA” IN THE DEFINITIONAL SECTION; TO PROHIBIT SIGNS THAT FACE OR ARE ORIENTED TOWARD THE DELAWARE RIVER; TO AUTHORIZE THE CONFISCATION OF CERTAIN PROHIBITED SIGNS; TO AMEND THE ALTERNATIVE PARKING PROVISIONS TO DELETE THE OPTION TO LEASE SPACES; AND TO CLARIFY AND REVISE THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR A COMPLETED APPEAL OR APPLICATION FOR A HEARING BEFORE THE NEW HOPE BOROUGH ZONING HEARING BOARD
B A C K G R O U N D:
- On November 15, 2006, by Ordinance No. 2006-13, New Hope Borough Council (“Council”) enacted a zoning ordinance (“Zoning Ordinance”) pursuant to its statutory authority, the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”), Act 247 of 1968, as amended (53 P.S. §10101 et seq.).
- The Zoning Ordinance, as amended, is codified at Chapter 275 of the Code of the Borough of New Hope (the “Code”).
- Through careful study, the Council, with the assistance of its committees and staff, recognizes that the Zoning Ordinance should be amended as follows:
- to amend the definition of “IMPERVIOUS SURFACE” to include crushed stone, gravel, paver blocks and wood decks.
- to delete the first definition of “BASE SITE AREA;” and to amend the definition of “BASE SITE AREA” (found in the “SITE AREA” category of definitions) to specifically exclude streams, waters of the Commonwealth, waters of the United States and watercourses from the calculation of BASE SITE AREA.
- to revise the prohibited sign regulations to prohibit any sign from being placed in any yard on a property that is adjacent to the Delaware River where such sign would be located on, or between, any building or structure and the Delaware River.
- to declare that certain prohibited signs are public and private nuisances; and to authorize the confiscation of such signs as part of the available enforcement remedies.
- to delete the option to lease parking spaces to satisfy the off-street parking requirements in the Alternative Parking section.
- to revise and clarify the minimum requirements for an appeal or application for a hearing before the New Hope Borough Zoning Hearing Board to be considered complete and ready for acceptance.
- The proposed amendment was submitted to the Bucks County Planning Commission and the New Hope Borough Planning Commission by letter dated , 20 .
- The Bucks County Planning Commission issued its review of the proposed amendment by letter dated , 20 .
- The New Hope Borough Planning Commission reviewed the proposed amendment at its , 20 meeting.
- The proposed amendment has not been substantively altered or changed since it was last forwarded to the Bucks County Planning Commission and the New Hope Borough Planning Commission.
- The proposed amendment has been reviewed, published pursuant to public notice, advertised, considered at a public hearing, posted (where applicable) and reviewed in accordance with MPC Sections 609 and 610 (53 P.S. §§10609, 10610).
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ENACTED AND ORDAINED, and it is hereby ENACTED AND ORDAINED by the Council of the Borough of New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, as follows:
Section 01: In Section 275-6, Definitions, of the Code, the first “BASE SITE AREA” definition (currently found between the definitions of “BASEMENT” and “BUILDING”) is deleted, as being repetitive of a definition found later in Section 275-6 of the Code.
Section 02: Section 275-6, Definitions, of the Code, is amended to revise the definitions of the following words and phrases:
“IMPERVIOUS SURFACE – any surface that does not absorb precipitation and/or surface water. All buildings, parking areas, driveways, roads, sidewalks and any areas in or made of concrete, stone, asphalt, crushed stone, gravel, paver blocks, wood decks, and any other areas that do not absorb precipitation and/or surface water are considered impervious surfaces.
- BASE SITE AREA – The site area minus existing roads and their ultimate rights-of-way, utilities rights-of-way, other public easements, land which is restricted from development due to easements or covenants, streams, waters of the Commonwealth, waters of the United States, watercourses, and land shown on previous subdivision and/or land development plans as reserved from development for natural resources, recreation and/or open space restrictions.”
Section 03: Section 275.52, Prohibited Signs, of the Code shall be retitled as “Prohibited Signs; Confiscation of Certain Prohibited Signs.”
Section 04: Subsection B of Section 275-52, Prohibited Signs; Confiscation of Certain Prohibited Signs, of the Code is amended to read in full as follows:
“B. Signs Along Canal and River. No freestanding sign, except street identification and directional signs installed by the Borough or Commonwealth may be erected within 20 feet of the Delaware Canal, as defined in Article II of this Chapter. A sign may not be placed on any property adjacent to the Delaware River where such sign would be or is located on, or between, any building or structure and the Delaware River.”
Section 05: A new subsection C shall be added to Section 275-52, Prohibited Signs; Confiscation of Certain Prohibited Signs, shall be added to the Code and shall read in full as follows:
“C. Confiscation of Certain Prohibited Signs.
- Purpose. This subsection is intended to provide a method to promote the public health, safety and welfare of the visitors, merchants and residents of and to New Hope Borough by providing an effective means for the removal of certain prohibited signs located in the public rights-of-way, thereby reducing visual clutter along roadways, sidewalks, and other public ways and public properties, and reducing the potential for driver distraction and pedestrian hazards.
- Certain signs prohibited under subsection A above are often temporary in nature, inexpensive, and easily and quickly placed in the public view. As a popular tourist town, New Hope Borough experiences a proliferation of certain kinds of prohibited signs within the rights-of-way of public streets, roads and sidewalks, especially in commercial areas, which greatly increases the visual clutter along roadways and threatens traffic and pedestrian safety.
- Certain signs prohibited under subsection A above are also detrimental to the public health and safety in that they result in litter, obstructions and hazards within and adjacent to the traveled portions of the public rights-of-way, especially in windy conditions. The problems are especially acute in commercial areas.
- Existing enforcement options under this chapter, while available at any time to correct a sign violation, have proven ineffective in ensuring timely compliance with the sign regulations contained in this Article VII. By the time a violation is observed, an enforcement notice of violation drafted, mailed and received, and the violation is either corrected or appealed, the illegal and prohibited sign could be in place for up to thirty days, which is often the effective life span of such a sign. In essence, violators “game the system” and ignore the provisions of this Article VII, knowing that enforcement penalties can be evaded.
- The enforcement provisions set forth in this subsection are deemed reasonable and necessary to curtail this illegal activity and protect the public safety while guaranteeing the rights of property owners to the due process of law.
- Accordingly, those prohibited signs identified in subsection (3) below are hereby declared to be a nuisance within New Hope Borough, and when placed and/or located within a public right-of-way or on public property, are subject to immediate confiscation by the Zoning Officer and any other authorized enforcement official(s).
- Prohibited Signs. Subsection A of this Section 275-52 identifies signs that are prohibited in New Hope Borough. The following prohibited signs are specifically identified as those signs that may be confiscated when placed and/or located within a public right-of-way or on public property, in accordance with the provisions of this subsection:
- Signs interfering with any electric light, power, telephone or cable wires or the supports thereof (Section 275-52.A(7)).
- Banner signs (Section 275-52.A(8)).
- Pennant signs (Section 275-52.A(9)).
- Portable signs (Section 275-52.A(10)).
- Advertising vehicular sign (Section 275-52.A(11)).
- Signs attached to trees, utility poles, etc. (Section 275-52.A(12)).
- Special promotional devices (Section 275-52.A(14)).
- Signs confused with traffic signal controls or signs (Section 275-52.A(15)).
- Signs at intersections (Section 275-52.A(16)).
- Neglected and/or deteriorated signs (Section 275-52.A(17)).
- Abandoned signs (Section 275-52.A(18)).
- Signs on benches (Section 275-52.A(19)).
- Snipe signs (Section 275-52.A(20)).
- The Zoning Officer, and any duly authorized code enforcement officer or agent, is hereby authorized to remove and confiscate any sign identified in subsection 3 of this section that is placed and/or located within a public right-of-way or on public property. If the confiscated sign is of a permanent nature (i.e. more than a flyer, piece of paper, etc.), such confiscated sign shall be stored in a secure facility in accordance with the provisions of this subsection. Non-permanent signs may be disposed of immediately. The Borough shall have the right to recover from the owner or person placing such signs the full costs for the removal, storage and disposal of such signs.
- Within seven (7) business days of the confiscation of a sign, if the owner and/or the person placing the sign can be identified, the Zoning Officer shall notify such individual(s) of the sign violation by sending an enforcement notice in accordance with Section 275-69 of this Chapter. The enforcement notice shall also state that the sign has been confiscated and where it is being stored.
- If any responsible party believes that a sign has been erroneously confiscated and/or disposed of, that party may request a hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board by filing an application for a hearing, in accordance with the applicable provisions of this Chapter and the enforcement notice. A sign shall continue to be stored while any appeal is pending. Any party may redeem a stored confiscated sign at any time upon payment of an impoundment fee as set by separate resolution of New Hope Borough Council. Any unredeemed sign may be disposed of after the expiration of all applicable appeal periods or final disposition of any appeal.
- This subsection C is intended to provide an alternative and supplemental means for the Zoning Officer to enforce the provisions of Article VII of this Chapter. The Zoning Officer shall have the option to enforce the provisions of Article VII in the manner set out in this section. Alternatively, the Zoning Officer may also elect to enforce the provisions of Article VII of this Chapter in accordance with procedures and penalties set forth in Article X of this Chapter.”
Section 06: Subsection M, Alternative Parking, of Section 275-57, General regulations apply to required off-street parking facilities, of the Code is amended in full to read as follows:
“M. Alternative Parking. Within the Central Commercial, Highway Commercial, Mixed Use, Limited Commercial and Light Industrial zoning districts, any uses existing as of the effective date of this chapter which can be lawfully expanded, or any new use than cannot meet the parking requirements of this chapter within the lot or boundary lines of the principal use may meet the parking requirements of this chapter by paying New Hope Borough a fee-in-lieu for each required parking space. Such fee shall be determined from time to time by resolution of the Borough Council. This option may be used to meet up to one hundred percent (100%) of the parking requirement.”
Section 07: Section 275-89, General rules and procedures for appeals and applications, of the Code is amended in full to read as follows:
“A. Any appeal from a determination of the Zoning Officer, any application to the Zoning Hearing Board for a special exception and/or variance from the provisions of this Chapter, or any other application to the Zoning Hearing Board for relief shall be filed with the Zoning Officer on forms specified by New Hope Borough. No appeal or application form shall be considered complete or accepted unless all of the following are met at the time the appeal or application is submitted:
- The applicant shall pay to the Zoning Officer all requisite fees and escrows in accordance with fee schedule adopted by New Hope Borough Council from time to time.
- The appeal and/or application shall include and set forth the name and address of the applicant; the name and address of the owner of the real estate affected by the appeal and/or application; a copy of the most recent deed for the real estate; written authority from the owner(s) of the property if different from the applicant, if applicable; and a list of record owners of properties within feet of the subject property.
- The appeal and/or application shall set forth a brief description and location of the real estate that is the subject of the appeal and/or application.
- The appeal and/or application shall identify the present zoning classification of the real estate that is the subject of the appeal and/or application, the improvements thereon, and the present use thereof.
- The appeal and/or application must refer to the specific determination of the Zoning Officer (with a copy of such determination), if applicable; the specific section(s) of this chapter and/or the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code under which the variance, special exception and/or other relief requested may be allowed; and the reasons for which relief should be granted.
- The appeal and/or application shall include a plot or site plan of the property setting forth a reasonably accurate description of the present and proposed improvements and/or use(s) and any additions to be made under the application.
- A copy of any prior decisions of the New Hope Borough Zoning Hearing Board affecting the subject property shall be included with the appeal and/or application.
- Any appeal from a determination of the Zoning Officer concerning the enforcement and/or interpretations of the provision of this chapter shall be filed with the Zoning Officer within thirty (30) days, or as may be extended by the Zoning Officer in writing, after the date of the Zoning Officer’s adverse determination.”
Section 08: In addition, all inconsistent provisions of other ordinances or resolutions are repealed to the extent of the inconsistency. All other provisions of the ordinances of New Hope Borough shall remain in full force and effect.
Section 09: The provisions of this ordinance are declared to be severable. If any provision of this ordinance is declared to be invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, such determination shall have no effect on the remaining provisions of this ordinance.
Section 10: This ordinance shall be effective immediately.
ORDAINED and ENACTED this day of , A.D., 2015.
NEW HOPE BOROUGH COUNCIL
Claire Shaw, President
John J. Burke, Secretary
APPROVED this day of , A.D., 2015.
Laurence Keller, Mayor