NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> The Newtown Township Planning Commission on May 4 recommended approval of revised final plans for the Fred Beans Newtown Ford dealership on Sycamore Street.
The updated plan scales back a proposed showroom expansion from a 4,507 square foot addition to a 1,321 square foot addition on the five acre site. It also reduces the existing display area in front of the building from 10 to 8 spaces, adds landscaping along the street and eliminates the driveway in front of the building.
“Obviously the dealership is antiquated. It needs updating,” said Marshall.
The new addition won’t be materially different from what was originally proposed, said Marshall. “It’s just smaller in scale.”
Under a previously approved final plan in 2018, the township approved a 5,507 square foot addition that would have extended out to the sidewalk and eliminated the display space in front of the building.
“The business climate today is a lot different than it was in 2018, particularly in the automobile business,” said attorney Don Marshall in explaining the reason for the change. “More importantly there was a fairly substantial participation the Ford Motor Company was making on this expanded building.
They have decided not to do that. So Mr. Beans would like to reduce the intensity and size of this land development without changing any of of the public improvements proposed by that development,” said Marshall.
The public improvements include new sidewalks, street lighting and signage along Sycamore Street.
The first phase of the project, the construction of a new CARSTAR body shop, has pretty much been completed, according to Marshall. “I think it’s been a tremendous improvement to the look of Sycamore Street.”
Much of the discussion among the planners focused on the architecture of the new building and how it would fit in with Sycamore Street and Newtown.
“For whatever it’s worth, and I’m not an architect, I think the CARSTAR building looks fabulous and I think it fits my idea of what Newtown looks like,” said planner Joel Raab,” who cast the lone vote against the plan revision. “This building looks very similar to the one you have out on Lincoln Highway - a similar design. And it looks more modern than my vision of Newtown.”
Planning Chairman Allen Fidler agreed. “They did a fine job with the CARSTAR job. I was anticipating, even though the showroom was a much more contemporary look, that they would incorporate some of the stone features paramount in the CARSTAR building and carry it on through the rest of the project. But that’s aesthetics. It would be a nicer fit if it did mirror the appearance of the auto body facility.”
Planner Mary Donaldson recalled that during HARB discussions back in 2017 it was the Ford Motor Company that insisted on the appearance and signage of the original addition and that the CARSTAR building wasn’t under the same restrictions.
“If that’s the case, I can live with it,” said Raab. “But it doesn’t honestly look like it fits Newtown.”
“I agree with you, Joel. We would have loved to have seen the front of this building look the same as the CARSTAR,” said planner Peggy Driscoll.
“That’s your fault for making Sycamore look so great,” said Marshall. “This predates everything you have done on Sycamore. This was the only thing on that street,” he chuckled.
“At HARB we do try to acknowledge that we still want to be a functioning town,” said Donaldson. “We’re not Williamsburg. It is a town that still needs to function in the modern world,” she said.
“This will be an improvement over what is there now,” acknowledged Driscoll.
“I kind of like the way it looks now. It’s kind of a funky-looking building, but that’s just me,” said Raab.
“And everybody’s going to have a different opinion on architecture,” said Fidler.
The revised final plan now goes to the board of supervisors for consideration.