23 February 2022 BOS Meeting Summary
Toll Bro Settlement, Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Basics of the Sunshine Act, LED Streetlights, Amending Committee Ordinances, More...
This is my personal summary of the February 23, 2022, meeting of Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS). This is not a complete nor an official summary. See my meeting notes for more details.
Access the 2022 BOS Voting Record (UNOFFICIAL).
- Toll Bros Settlement
- Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
- Engineer's Report
- Manager's Report
- Amending Committee Ordinances
The latest Toll Bros plan to build 45 single-family homes on approximately 158 acres of the All Saints Cemetery property located along Twining Bridge Road near its intersection with Durham Road (S.R. 413) was sent to over 1,800 nearby residents in a January 20, 2022, letter. This plan was part of a settlement agreement with Toll after it appealed a 2020 decision by the township that denied a conditional use application.
At the February 23, 2022, BOS public meeting, Gregg Adelman, Principal of Kaplin|Stewart Attorneys, presented an overview of a new plan to build 45 single-family homes on approximately 158 acres of the All Saints Cemetery property located along Twining Bridge Road near its intersection with Durham Road (S.R. 413). After his presentation and comments from supervisors and several residents (see below), the BOS approved the settlement by unanimous vote.
Toll Bros Presentation
Find more details of the plan in this Blog Post.
Several BOS members had comments/questions after the presentation and before voting on the agreement. Mr. Fisher was concerned about rainwater runoff along Twining Bridge Rd, which is an ongoing issue. Ms. Snyder asked about the planting of trees. Mr. Mack focused on the trail and safety of pedestrians crossing Twining Bridge Rd and Durham Rd.
Mr. Calabro focused on making a case about how much money this would bring to the township and suggested that this would mean less need to raise taxes in the future. Several residents, however, did not agree with his reasoning.
Several residents made comments and not all of them were negative. [Other residents submitted comments by email to Toll regarding this plan prior to the meeting.] Joesph McAtee said he preferred living next to a farm but he thought the settlement plan was a good compromise. He also thought that new development may impact taxes in the short term, but thought Mr. Calabro did not take increased expenses – such as school resources – into account. Mr. Andrew Neville also was critical of the "making a buck" justification that Supervisor Calabro mentioned. He felt that the BOS was "leading the witness...as to what he should be saying."
The Economic Development Committee has asked for the Planning Commission’s support for its recommendation that the Township include electric vehicle charging stations as a permitted use in the revamping of the Business Commons (LI/OLI) Zoning Districts.
The Planning Commission fully supports this, understanding that it will need to draft a new use ordinance with specific performance standards and we would recommend that once an appropriate use ordinance is drafted, the use should be permitted in other commercial zoning districts. We realize that this might require considerations like location of the stations within parking fields so as not to disrupt commerce.
The Commission is eager to work with the County and Jointure in creating a workable new use ordinance in anticipation of this need.
Chester Pogonowski, Chair of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC), agreed to include this on the agenda of the next JZC meeting on March 3, 2022. He responded with some useful precedence that I have forwarded to the BOS (see “Is your community EV-Ready?” in My Detailed Notes below). The BOS was in favor of bringing this up at the March JZC meeting.
On February 16, 2022, I attended the “Basics of the Sunshine Act” webinar, where the PA Office of Open Records reviewed what constituted a meeting covered by the Sunshine Act.
I asked if members of an official committee can participate remotely – via speaker phone or Zoom – AND be counted as part of the quorum to thereby make it an official meeting. My main concern was the viability of Newtown Township's official committees, some of which are having problems establishing in-person attendance due to concerns about COVID, busy schedules, family issues, traveling restrictions, etc.
The answer for second-class townships such as Newtown Twp was YES! Listen to this excerpt from a webinar by the PA Office of Open Records:
Township Solicitor Mr. Sander had a different opinion. Namely, that an official quorum can only be established considering only members who are physically present at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Board agreed that since most committees are advisory only, official quorums are not necessary to make recommendations to the BOS and notes from meetings without a quorum can be posted to the township website as unofficial minutes.
The Township Engineer gave an update on LED streetlights from the Feb 4, 2022, Engineer's Report: "The Township will work with Keystone Lighting Solutions (KLS) and DVRPC to be included in Round 4 of the DVRPC program for a possible construction timeline of 2023."
Basically, the township submitted the necessary information/data to KLS and DVRPC, which indicated that the decisions will be made in the spring.
Considering the current interest in electric vehicles, I think Newtown Township should lead by example by integrating electric vehicles into its municipal fleet. Purchasing an electric truck for Parks & Rec is the ideal department to be at the forefront of an effort to “establish a mindset in the community that encourages acceptance of EVs.” Therefore, I moved that the BOS table this motion until we can research that option. That motion failed and the BOS approved the purchase of the gas-guzzling F-150 truck.
I found problems with ordinances involving two of our committees that may require updating the ordinances. The committees in question are (1) the Economic Development Committee and (2) the Technology & Communications Committee. [See My Detailed Notes for specifics.]
Asked the solicitor to look into this and come back with the appropriate resolution/motion to make necessary amendments to ordinance. I also asked that the township look at all the committees to make sure there are not too many members, which makes it difficult to have a quorum of in-person attendees.*
The BOS decided to have the Township Manager research this.
* Some thoughts from Chest Pogonowski, Chair, Wrightstown Township Board of Supervisors:
Another option [to help achieve a qurom] would be do reduce the number of committee members from 7 to 5, for example, and create 2 alternate positions. We have alternates on the PC who participate in all meetings and vote when a regular PC member is unable to attend. Several other committees have alternates as well. I like the alternate approach because it gives you a better chance to fill all the chairs during a meeting. Just reducing the number on your committees can still run up against quorum issues, so the alternates really help keep things in balance.
Embedded below are my notes that I prepared before the meeting. It includes questions and links to background information and other details. You can also download the PDF file.