John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator: Déjà vu All Over Again

According to a recent article in The Intelligencer, “for the fourth time in as many years, Elcon Recycling Services is resubmitting application materials in an attempt to build a controversial waste treatment facility in Falls” about 13 miles from Newtown (read “Elcon Reapplies to DEP for Toxic Waste Facility Located Next to Delaware River”).

“Groups such as Bucks POWA [Protect Our Water & Air] and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network say they’re specifically concerned about toxic materials being released to the air and potential drinking water contamination should an accident or flood release chemicals into the nearby Delaware River.”

The site, notes the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, has several wetlands that are hydrologically connected to Biles Creek, a tributary of the Delaware. “Railcars will pass within the 50-foot regulated buffer.  It is, while outside the 100-year floodplain, is clearly within the 500-year floodplain. That sounds like its safe, but it is not. The Delaware River Basin Commission, the City of Philadelphia and other entities focusing on making their communities more resilient due to climate change and sea-level rise are now recommending that critical facilities and infrastructure should not be built within the 500-year floodplain.  The DRBC and City state that ‘critical facilities, such as schools, police departments and fire departments’ should not be constructed within the 500-year floodplain.”

On May, 11, 2016, the Newtown Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. The Resolution, which can be found at the end of this post, makes several claims.

For example, “the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions containing, among other pollutants, nitrous oxide (NOS), ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCL), volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur oxide (SOX) and total particulate matter” and “studies show that after treatments, the waste will still contain unacceptable levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead.”

No citations of the “studies” mentioned in the Resolution were included in the wording. Perhaps this resolution should be amended to include the evidence for such claims and updated with new information to make it stronger. This, IMHO, would help get the issue before the public again and reaffirm Newtown’s opposition to this incinerator.

************RESOLUTION 2016-R-10***************

A Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township in opposition to the Elcon Toxic Waste Incinerator Plant at the Keystone Industrial Park in Falls Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

WHEREAS; Eleon Recycling Services, an Israel based company, is applying to build a hazardous waste incinerator plant in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex in Falls Township, PA, 800 yards from the Delaware River, which is 13.5 miles from Newtown, PA; and

WHEREAS; air pollutants can travel 100 miles. The air quality is adversely affected within a 30 mile radius and can affect people with allergies, asthma, auto-immune disorders, elderly with COPD, and heart conditions; and

WHEREAS; The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has stated that this will be a commercial hazardous waste treatment facility that will treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries; and

WHEREAS; the plant will process 210,000 tons of raw wastewater per year that will include extremely high levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead; and

WHEREAS; studies show that after treatments, the waste will still contain unacceptable levels of Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead; and

WHEREAS; the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions containing, among other pollutants, nitrous oxide (NOS), ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCL), volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur oxide (SOX) and total particulate matter; and

WHEREAS; Elcon recycling only has plants operating in Israel and has been denied in other countries due to environmental issues created by such treatment plants; and

WHEREAS; Elcon Recycling's Haifa Bay plant in Israel, due to its history of violations of air and groundwater emissions, and its negative impact and pollution to the surrounding environment in Haifa Bay, has been ordered to shut down and relocate to a remote desert location in Israel; and

WHEREAS; Elcon has applied for 596 different kinds of toxins, producing 800 tons of hazardous sludge per year and 5,000 tons of hazardous salts to be trucked in from 10 states: MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, V A, and NC; and

WHEREAS; given the extremely close proximity to the Delaware River and located in a high residential population where over 10,000 children attend school within 4 miles and due to the high possibility of spillage, pollution would affect the Delaware River to the Chesapeake and beyond; and

WHEREAS; the Philadelphia Water Department wrote in their testimony to the Department of Environmental Protection to decline permit to build in this location. The

PWD stated that if a leak or spill were to occur, it would be a Catastrophic Event that would affect millions of people's water supply and would cause the termination of drinking water for an indeterminate amount of time; and

WHEREAS; the Delaware River is a primary source of drinking water and recreation; and

WHEREAS; while the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors realizes the need for proper disposal and treatment of all toxic waste generated, it needs to be done in a safe location with the least impact to human and wildlife populations and the surrounding local supporting eco systems of such; and

WHEREAS, Newtown Township understands the need for intra municipal cooperation across municipal lines as environmental challenges cross municipal lines; existing zoning and land development rules are not always appropriate to solve all environmental challenges such as toxic water and air crossing municipal borders; and

WHEREAS, Elcon will be in violation of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, the Wild and Scenic River Act, the Federal Clean Water Act, and the Delaware River Basin Commission Act (and Regulations) and the Delaware Estuary Toxic Management Program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Board of Supervisors of Newtown

Township, Bucks County, PA, that it does hereby oppose the construction of this facility and further urges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency and the Falls Township Board of Supervisors to consider the danger of the proposed hazardous "thermal oxidizer" facility at the Keystone Port Complex in Falls Township to Newtown residents and Delaware Valley residents.

RESOLVED and ENACTED this 11th Day of May, 2016.

Posted on 22 May 2018, 01:06 - Category: Environment



2018 Primary Results for Newtown

In Newtown Township about 1,600 Democrats came out to vote in the primary on May 15, 2018, whereas about 1,300 Republicans voted. Source: Bucks County Election Results

 

Posted on 20 May 2018, 01:07 - Category: Voting



Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super WaWa on the Bypass

Previously, I summarized the case made by the developer and his legal counsel for approval of a Super WaWa (convenience store + gas station) on the Newtown Bypass (read “Developer and Attorney Present Their Case for a WaWa Superstore on the Newtown Bypass”). In this post, I summarize comments from the audience made at the May 14, 2018, Board of Supervisors (BOS) Work Session. Since work sessions are not video recorded, I recorded the audio, which I used to create this summary.

Biggest Speed Bump: Traffic

Increased traffic volume and safety issues were a concern of many residents. “The overriding issue we have, of course, is traffic,” said Rick Fuerman representing the Wiltshire Walk Homeowners Association. “What really needs to be done here first is to have that traffic study done before anything really gets considered because that’s really the big speed bump to getting things done. “Let’s not kid ourselves. There will be billboards out there on route 95 that advertise ‘get off at this exit for WaWa’ and you will have a lot of traffic coming in off the Bypass for that.”

Quality of Life Issues

Mr. Fuerman also expressed concern regarding 24-hour lights and sounds (the proposed WaWa site is located only 0.4 miles from Wilshire Walk). It should be noted that, according to the minutes of the May 10, 2017, BOS meeting, a Supervisor said that “at one time WaWa had been in discussions with the owners of Newtown Rental Center [much closer to Wiltshire Walk] and she and Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler had participated but it seemed WaWa did not consider the rental center property desirable because of the high tension Wires.” The current location under consideration ALSO lies beneath these wires, but does not seem to be a concern this time around.

Preserving the Historic Nature of Newtown

One specific complaint often heard is that by permitting this retail use on the Bypass it will set a precedent for other land along the Bypass to be opened for retail use as well. As one resident put it: “It would open a Pandora's box for development on the bypass. Pretty soon it will look like Route 1.”

Keeping the rural look of the Bypass has been a tradition in Newtown. Several years ago a car dealership was denied its application to open on the Bypass in the same location, I believe. This decision was upheld by the State Supreme Court.

Rick Steele, owner of Rick Steele Gulf Service on Newtown Yardley Road, noted that “Stockburger tried to build out there…did not want to have the berm…you guys [previous BOS] gave him a hard time about the landscape. Now they [WaWa] want to come in and take that away.”

Typical WaWa Road Sign

Mr. Steele also asked about signage: “What kind of signs are these guys going to put up? The LED lights that all WaWa’s use? We got declined for that.”

“The reason I moved to Newtown was because of its historic nature,” said Norman Seeger of Willow Drive. “When you come in from 95, you see farms, a beautiful office complex. You don’t see a Pizza Hut. You don’t see a McDonalds. You don’t see what you see in a lot of other towns. And that’s the beauty of our town. So, I am opposed to that site.” 

Listen to Mr. Seeger’s comments, which also speak how a WaWa at the proposed site would draw people away from businesses downtown:

What’s the Economic Value?

At least two Newtown residents supported the establishment of a Super WaWa convenience store and gas station on the Bypass. Shelly Howland said: “I hope, someday, to see WaWa on the Bypass. That property is vacant land…I believe the tax revenue is less than $200 per year. I think this is a revenue generator.” She claimed that Newtown lacks the infrastructure and support for people that work in office areas. “There is no place to get a normal sandwich for less than $15. I think reasonable people can find reasonable ways to accommodate WaWa in Newtown.”

Listen to Ms. Howland's comments here:

BTW, you can get great sandwiches at Joey G’s at 861 Newtown Yardley Road for about $8. Just sayin’

Ms. Howland did not explain how a WaWa would generate revenue for Newtown when others have noted the minimal EIT that would be collected and how a WaWa would draw business away from other local businesses. Mr. Fuerman said: “Regarding office space – even if you build an office building with 20 employees you’re still collecting a higher EIT [Earned Income Tax] than from WaWa employees,” noted Mr. Fuerman. “The question is ‘what is the economic value of a WaWa?’”

If You Build It, Will They (Employees) Come?

Meanwhile, another resident (Ms. Ward), an HR manager, asked: Where will WaWa find employees? Wendy’s for example had to “face the fact that they were not going to have employees show up on a regular basis and work the hours that they [needed them to work] without suffering lapses in coverage. Children in Newtown, whether we like it or not, do not work. If you build it, they may NOT come.”

“Another thing we know, if you want to buy drugs,” said Ms. Ward, “the WaWa in Richboro and the 711 in Newtown, is where I can score any drug I want. The Bypass is going to be a perfect place to go. We’re already overtaxing our police force as it is. Do we want to add on to that?” See got a round of applause.

Next Steps

Although a traffic study was mentioned, there was no promise when that would be completed, only that it would be made publicly available during the course of pursuing a rezoning effort, which was suggested as the next step in the process. This was explained by attorney John VanLuvanne. Listen to his comments:

Given that the process of amending the zoning ordinance is already underway, it is imperative that the public partician upcoming “Jointure” public meeting. These meetings are held on the on the first Thursday of every month at the Wrightstown Township Building on 2203 2nd St Pike at 7:30 pm.

Posted on 17 May 2018, 10:06 - Category: Development



Developer and Attorney Present Their Case for a WaWa Superstore on the Newtown Bypass

Details of the application for a Wawa at the southwestern corner of Newtown Bypass and Lower Silver Lake Road were presented at a Work Session meeting of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) on Monday, May 14, 2018. No decisions are made at BOS Work Sessions.

Michael Cooley of the Provco Group, which was hired by the owners – Innovative Hospitality Management – to develop the site, presented sketches and concept images of how the WaWa Superstore would be laid out and look to drivers (see below).

Zoning

One major stumbling block is the fact that the site is within the Office Research (OR) zoning district, which does not allow retail stores or the selling of gasoline according to a memorandum prepared by CKS Engineers.

According to Article III, paragraph 300, of the Newtown Area Zoning Jointure (JMZO) an OR zone is specifically intended to “provide for special office and research, industrially related uses on large tracts of land, which will provide a major employment center for the Region while enhancing its open space characteristics and natural features.”

It should be noted that employment centers envisioned by the OR zone could generate significant Earned Income Tax revenue for the Township. Retail stores, such as WaWa, that pay a wage of $10 per hour to a minimal number of employees, do not provide any significant tax income for the Township.

 “This site is never going to be a corporate headquarters or office building,” claimed land use and zoning law attorney John VanLuvanne in remarks to the BOS. Therefore, Mr. VanLuvanne proposed to amend the CO ordinance to allow as a special condition the use of the site for a Super WaWa type convenience store with fuel pumps. Supervisor Mack questioned Mr. VanLuvanne on this issue and asked what, if anything, would be the financial benefit to Newtown. The following is an edited audio excerpt from that discussion.

If the ordinance is not amended, the developers would have to seek at least 10 “variances” from the Zoning Hearing Board, including:

  1. To permit a proposed convenience store with motor fuel sales in the OR Office Research District.
  2. To permit a minimum lot area of 5.09 acres, instead of the required 15 acres.
  3. To permit a front yard of 61.0 feet (from proposed canopy) along Newtown Bypass, and 100.3 feet (from proposed building) along Lower Silver Lake Road, instead of the required 150 feet.
  4. To permit a minimum lot width at the building setback line of 170 feet instead of the required 400 feet.
  5. To permit access to roads less than 200 feet from intersection of any street.
  6. To permit primary building or use to be erected on a lot that is less than the minimum lot area in the Office Research District.
  7. To permit a 16-foot drive aisle along Lower Silver Lake Road strictly right-in traffic only.
  8. To permit signage for a joint use that has a combined lot area greater than five acres.
  9. To permit signage for a joint use to be greater than the maximum allowed 20 square feet.
  10. To permit a freestanding sign for joint use that exceeds the 5-foot maximum.
Traffic

Another issue discussed at length was the increased traffic that a Super WaWa would bring. According to the traffic engineer hired by the developer, it is estimated that approximately 2,000 vehicles would visit the store in a 24-hour period. He suggested that of these, only 500 vehicles would be added to the Bypass traffic as a result.

Frontage

There was concern about the 400 feet of frontage (see “Street View” in the photo above) and its impact on the “rural” nature of the Bypass. Supervisor Phil Calabro, for example, noted that the Bucks County Planning Commission recommended that “the locations of the building and the fuel pumps/canopy be flipped so that the building is situated closer to the Bypass… The canopy could be positioned with the shorter end toward the Bypass to minimize the visual impact of its mass.”

“Technically you have two frontages,” said Calabro. “You have the frontage on Lower Silverlake Road and the frontage on the Bypass. Why is it more important to have [the fuel pumps] facing the Bypass than having the building facing the Bypass?”

“The simple answer,” said Mr. Cooley, “is that it is not in WaWa’s business model to have pumps located behind the convenience store off of the main road.” Although Mr. Calabro tried to make a case of it being “six of one, half a dozen of the other,” it is obvious that WaWa wants the gas pumps to be as visible as possible to the maximum number or passing cars. “That’s why the gas pumps are located where they are, so that when you are traveling down the Bypass you can see that the WaWa has the gas offering,” said Mr. Cooley. This, of course, would alter the “natural features” and rural feel of the Bypass.

Several members of the public made comments. I will have more to say about this in a future post.

Posted on 15 May 2018, 10:57 - Category: Development



Summary of April 25, 2018 BOS Public Meeting

You may not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the April 25, 2018,  public meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings. This is not a complete list of items discussed.

Topic Excerpts from BOS Apr 25 2018 Meeting Minutes
Development Drive-thru Starbucks: The Commission also recommended the Supervisors not oppose the conditional use application for Starbucks, 2896 South Eagle Road, Village At Newtown West. This application pertained to the function of the drive-thru for an E5 and E6 eating place. This is one of the new buildings approved as part of the comprehensive Village At Newtown redevelopment plan. The Commission is limited with suggesting changes to what had been approved during the subdivision and land development application. Based on demand, the operating hours would be from 4:30AM to 11:00PM, and deliveries would be made after 9:30PM. The restaurant proposes 41 interior and 26 exterior seating which would be accessible from the parking lot.

Concerns were discussed regarding the proposed drive-thru, 10-car stacking lanes, parking, time of operation, and safety of the outside seating area. It was suggested to the applicant that decorative concrete bollards be installed at the perimeter of the outdoor eating area to increase safety from vehicular traffic. The Commission was also concerned about pedestrian traffic cut-thru to Starbucks and suggested signage to promote safety stating “cross at the crossing” and to add decorative fencing to hinder pedestrian traffic cutting through the shopping center parking lot.

[Despite a recommendation for approval of a “conditional use” application for a drive-thru Starbucks cafe by the Newtown Planning Commission, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 5-0 against the application at the May 9, 2018, public meeting. Read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks"]
Good Government Fair Districting Resolution: Mary Kremser, Doylestown Borough. Jan Filios invited her to speak to the Board about gerrymandering and fair districting. She asked the Board to approve a resolution in support of an independent, non-partisan, citizens’ commission to draw the lines for the legislative districts for US Congress and for the PA General Assembly. In 2016, 80% of the primary incumbents ran unchallenged by anyone in their own party. In the November 2016 elections, 50% of incumbents had no challengers from the opposite party. She believes the reason is that politicians have drawn the districts to make their jobs safe, and resulted in the gridlock in Washington and Harrisburg. Mr. Calabro requested that a draft resolution be added to the May 9, 2018 agenda. [At the May 9, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) public meeting, an anti-gerrymandering, PA Congressional Redistricting Resolution proposed by Fair Districts PA was passed by a 4 to 1 vote. Read "Supervisors Pass PA Congressional Redistricting Resolution"]
Public Works Roadway Improvement: W. Jeffrey Nagorny, Township Engineer. The bid opening for the liquid fuel road program was held on April 13, 2018. A total of 4 bids were received, and it was determined that the lowest responsive bid was received from Harris Blacktopping and it was therefore recommended the base bid and alternate bids #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10 in the total amount of $913,019.75 be awarded. [This project includes 2.8 miles of roads, the parking lot in Helen Randle Park and a mile of line painting.] This project had to be re-bid due to incomplete documentation from some of the original bidders. Mr. Mack made a motion to award the re-bid of the liquid fuel road program to Harris Blacktop in the amount of $913,019.75. Mrs. Dix seconded, and the motion passed 4-0.

Posted on 11 May 2018, 13:16 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



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