John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Summary of the August 25, 2021 BOS Meeting

Arcadia Land Development Decision, Single-Use Plastics Ban, Hybrid Meetings, Newtown Fire Services Resolution, ESD Report, More...

Below is my personal summary of the August 25, 2021, meeting of Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS). See the detailed notes embedded at the end of this post. Some of the issues that were discussed and/or voted on include:

Final Arcadia Land Development Plan

There was discussion about how the plan would comply with Emergency Services request. Changes in the Final Plan include:

  • Flipping the planting strip with street trees and sidewalk. Now the sidewalk is against the curb line throughout the community. This provides for fire apparatuses to now have direct access to the sidewalk to use as a pad for their outriggers.
  • Placement of additional signage throughout the community to notify vehicles that parking is only permitted in designated areas and not “on-street.”
  • Relocated fire hydrants as per Township request.

Also discussed was the proposed access alternatives. Residents are opposed to the U-turn option at Millpond Road, which PennDOT favors (read "Controversy Regarding Proposed Arcadia Newtown U-Turn Option"). Resident Peter Ancona noted that "Alternative #2 proposed in the developer's application (see image below) was rejected with minimal explanation. With appropriate signal programming and incorporation of the 2nd northbound right turn lane at Buck Rd and the by-pass included in Alternative #4 (Millpond U-turn) this alternative should address all ingress/egress needs for passenger car, commercial/service vehicle traffic and address the motorist safety concerns, as well."

The Arcadia developer agreed to have its engineers modify the plans for that option, which can be presented to PennDOT at a special meeting with HOA members (see box below).

Alternative 2 – Signal Relocation Access Propose by Mr. Ancona
Residents are in the process of finalizing a meeting date with PennDOT regarding their traffic safety concerns. Here are the parameters for that meeting set by Francis Hanney , representing PennDOT: "Specifically, the number of participants must be kept to a reasonable number so as to represent concerns but still allow for a productive conversation. Accordingly, with the number of home owner associations included in this request, plus municipal officials and the developer, we ask that no more than 2 representatives from each home owner association participate in the meeting. The township can be represented, at your request, by the supervisors and officials it so chooses. The department can offer a virtual meeting via Microsoft Teams from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on either September 7 or September 9. We hope the late afternoon option will assist with those who may have work earlier during the day."

The Board approved the final Arcadia Land Development Plan by a 4-1 vote. Kyle David cast the lone nay vote.

Resident Comments: Single-Use Plastics & Climate Change

Ms. Elen Snyder - a member of the Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) and a 2021 candidate for Newtown Supervisor - commented on the impact of single-use plastics on the environment. Ms. Snyder urged Newtown to follow other townships - such as the Borough of Narberth, PA - in passing regulations that encourage or require businesses to reduce the usage of plastic materials, eliminate the use of Styrofoam, promote the use of reusable bags, and replace plastics with sustainable materials.

Resident Comments: Plea for Hybrid Meetings

Newtown Friends Home & Village Board Chairman Terry Christiansen asked the township to implement hybrid Board of Supervisors meetings so that disabled people such as himself as well the elderly can attend & participate remotely.

Kierstyn Zolfo, who could not attend this meeting in person due to her immunocompromised medical state, requested that I read the following comment she sent me in order for it to be in the public record:

My name is Kierstyn Zolfo, and I live on Greenbriar Lane here in Newtown. For the past three years I have volunteered on the Newtown Township Planning Commission. I also have a chronic medical condition that leaves me immunocompromised. I am under explicit instructions from the specialist who oversees my treatment that I am to avoid indoor spaces with groups of people, especially those with unknown vaccine status. This is why I am not delivering this public comment in person.

During 2020 and the first half of 2021, the Planning Commission held its meeting via Zoom, and I had no difficulty participating. But the return to in-person meetings this year did not go smoothly. The only option the township has provided for those of us on the Planning Commission who must participate remotely is an old office phone equipped with an obsolete speakerphone. This hardware slowly deteriorates in quality as it is used until about 45 minutes into any call, when it stops producing human language and instead emits a stream of unintelligible blurps and squeaks.  It is an inadequate option.

Other, smaller neighboring communities have managed to upgrade their municipal facilities in order to provide hybrid meetings with audio and visual capabilities. We only have an inadequate, broken speakerphone here in Newtown for the Planning Commission.

Newtown Township has legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But more important than that, as a board, you have a duty to the dozens of volunteers who, collectively, give hundreds if not thousands if hours of their own time each year on this Township's boards, councils and commissions to ensure this community thrives. We deserve better from you than a broken phone... and more from you than months of delay. 

Please implement a phased solution to solve this problem. Please replace the existing, obsolete phone with a new model that is designed for conference call usage to serve as a temporary solution as you determine the technology upgrades needed in this facility to fulfill your obligations under the ADA.

I know I am not the only volunteer who has had to endure this obstacle in the past few months. Please take these take the steps necessary to ensure we can safely continue to give our time to our Newtown community.

Many residents like Mr. Christiansen Ms. Zolfo have difficulty or are unable to attend BOS meetings in person due to a variety of reasons. Please sign my petition in support of any and all efforts to allow remote/online participation of residents in Newtown Township Board of Supervisors' meetings via Zoom or some other appropriate technology.

Fire Services Fee Schedule Amendment Resolution

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved to amend the Newtown Township Fee Schedule to add a new Subsection 2: FIRE PROTECTION SERVICES RENDERED BY THE NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP EMERGENCY SERVICES DEPARTMENT (NESD) TO NEWTOWN BOROUGH AND OTHER MUNICIPALITIES.

For Newtown Borough, the amended schedule includes a fee of $249,277.14 for calendar year 2021, calculated by multiplying the time spent in Newtown Borough in 2020 by members of the Newtown Township Emergency Services Department on fire calls and required fire investigations (18%*) by $1,384,873.00, the Township's budget for fire services for 2021.

*The percent of NESD calls in July 2021 that were for Newtown Borough is at MOST 14% (15/109) and probably somewhat less. See "Total Calls By District" below.

In addition, a fee of $45.17 per hour will be charged for time spent by members of the Newtown Emergency Services Department for reviewing land development and other plans for fire safety issues and responding to fire code violations in other municipalities.

Download the Resolution for more details.

Meanwhile, Board Chair Phil Calabro instructed the Newtown Solicitor to respond to Newtown Borough's "insulting" offer, which was a payment of $128,439.00, based on the Emergency Services Department (“ESD”) 2021 budget, and the population of the Borough as a percentage of the Township population.

Apparently, the Township & Borough still need to negotiate to reach an agreement, unless, of course, the Township proceeds to unilaterally charge the Borough for services rendered as was previously suggested (read "Newtown Township Moves Forward With Plans to Assess Newtown Borough a Monthly Fee for Use of Its Paid Newtown Emergency Services Department").

ESD Report

The JULY 2021 Monthly Report for the Newtown Emergency Services Department (NESD) and the Newtown Fire Association (NFA) is as follows.

Calls by Municipality

  • The combined response to calls for services by NFA and NESD - 109
  • Newtown Township Inspections - 47
  • Newtown Borough Inspections - 11
Note that 90 represents calls by BOTH NESD and NFA.
The percent of those calls that were for Newtown Borough
is at MOST 14% (15/109) and probably somewhat less.

Mack's Meeting Notes

The complete notes are embedded below or you can download the PDF file here. Not all items on the agenda may be covered in these notes.

Meeting Video

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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