John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Newtown Township, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown to Consider Deleting Planned Residential Development from the Newtown Area JMZO

Newtown Township, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield, will hold public hearings on September 12, 17, and 18, 2018, respectively, to consider an ordinance (here) to amend the Newtown Area Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) by deleting Planned Residential Development (PRD) as a permitted use. After the hearings, the Supervisors of each township will consider the enactment of the ordinance.

UPDATE: At the September 12, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Solicitor David Sander introduced JMZO 2017-04, which is an ordinance amending the Newtown Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance to deleted Planned Residential Development (PRD). The Board passed the ordinance by a 5-0 vote. See video below.

According to the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), PRDs are designed to encourage innovation and variety in development, provide better opportunities for housing, recreation, and open space, and better relate development design to the particular site.

According to a November 2, 2017, email from the Bucks County Plannning Commission to the Newtown, Upper Makefield, Wrightstown Joint Zoning Council (JZC), which oversees the JMZO:

The JZC believes that Use B-15 Planned Residential Development is redundant because Use B-14 Performance Subdivision permits a mixed residential development with the same range of dwelling unit types at compatible densities. Additionally, a Performance Subdivision proposal goes through the standard Preliminary Plan process instead of the PRD Tentative Plan procedure that is proscribed in the MPC.

The PRD Tentative Plan procedure involves these steps:

  1. Landowner or agent shall file application, upon payment of a reasonable fee, containing detailed information …
  2. Within 60 days of filing, the governing body, or planning agency if so designated, shall hold a public hearing pursuant to public notice and may continue the hearing or refer the plan to the planning agency for a period no longer than 60 days after first hearing
  3. Within sooner of 60 days after conclusion of public hearing or 180 days after filing, the governing body, or planning agency if so designated, shall in writing approve, approve with conditions, or deny PRD plan and provide findings of fact; failure to act timely results in deemed approval
  4. Final approval of a PRD plan: If final plan complies with tentative approval, no public hearing shall be required and approval shall be granted

Newtown Township currently has 21 PRDs that are already approved. Currently, the Township is in the midst of the third Arcadia Green Tentative PRD application in 3 years (read “Developer Presents Third Plan for Arcadia Green Development in Newtown Township”) and has convened two public hearing meetings before the Board of Supervisors (BOS) regarding that application. The hearing has been continued to Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM.

The first two Arcadia PRD applications were denied by the BOS.

As reported in the August 12, 2018, edition of the Bucks County Courier Times (here), Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee said “Arcadia is prepared to appeal a third denial of the project to county court, as it has with the previous two plans, in cases that both are still pending.”

In an August 1, 2018, letter to Vicki Kushto, counsel to the JZC, Newtown Solicitor Dave Sander indicated that Newtown Township “strongly supports this ordinance [to eliminate PRD] and would like to see it expedited toward enactment.” This was the consensus of the BOS expressed at the June 18, 2018, Work Session.

Posted on 27 Aug 2018, 12:50 - Category: Development



Is a DAS Antenna Coming to a Pole Near You?

At the August 2, 2018, Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, solicitor Vicki Kushto reviewed the current court rulings regarding small wireless cells [aka Distributed Antenna Systems or DAS]. 

At the present time, DAS providers are considered Public Utilities and not subject to local zoning requirements. This means that DAS services could be installed in any public right of way (ROW) for which the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) provides approval. 

There is new legislation (HB2564) being introduced by Rep. Frank Farry that would severely limit local municipalities ability to regulate this use or to seek reimbursement for the use of its public ROWs.

The JZC opposes this legislation, which is being driven by DAS providers to install 5G services (see article embedded below).

The Council was concerned that HB2564 legislation could result in DAS poles/structures being installed in developments, which are now served by underground utilities.

According to a memo (here) written by Farry to all PA House members, the proposed legislation is needed “because decisions are made on a municipal level, wireless providers are faced with varying fees and different procedures that may slow and, in some cases, deter their ability to deploy this new and modern infrastructure. With an array of municipal ordinances governing wireless infrastructure, compliance could be burdensome, time consuming, and costly. This results in less robust services for your constituents.”

Upper Makefield Supervisor, Tom Cino suggested the Jointure work together to oppose this legislation. JZC Chair, Chester Pogonowski was in agreement but felt it might be more impactful if the Council raises this issue with the Bucks County Association of Township Officials (BCATO) Boad of Directors, which is already working on this issue and has previously met with Representative Farry to express concern.

Posted on 27 Aug 2018, 01:58 - Category: Ordinances



Tree Replacement Plan for the Village of Newtown Shopping Center Along Durham Road

At the August 13, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors Work Session, the Board discussed the recent removal of many trees in the Village at Newtown shopping center along Durham Road as part of the Brixmor renovation project (see here). Many residents, having seen the trees suddenly disappear along Durham Road, expressed concern via social media (see here).

Township Manager, Micah Lewis noted that many trees that were removed were deformed by PECO pruning and/or diseased or in a poor state due to age. Some were also removed to make way for sidewalks.

But what are the plans for new trees along Durham Road?

Although the shopping center is private property and the owners have the freedom to landscape as they see fit, Newtown does have a Subdivision Land Development code that, among other requirements, specifies the quantity and maximum height of trees along Township streets such as Durham Road.

Section 22-530 of that code (here) specifies that "Street trees generally shall be at intervals not to exceed 25 feet along the street right-of-way as part of a residential or non-residential subdivision or land development, with trees alternating from side to side fifty-foot maximum spacing on any one side), or as otherwise specified by the Planning Commission.” It also says “Trees shall not at maturity obstruct overhead utilities.”

Thus, on Durham Road alongside the shopping center, the code calls for 25 trees. The Brixmor landscape plan complies with this requirement.

On the west side of South Eagle Road, the landscaping plan for Durham Road calls for 5 Dura Heat River Birch Trees (10-12 feet tall). The following image shows the location of these trees plus a few of the shrubs that are included in the landscaping buffer between the road and the shopping center.

Planned landscaping Along Durham Road West of S. Eagle Road
Crape Myrtle Tree

Under the utility wires between South Eagle and Ice Cream Alley, the plan calls for 20 Common Crape myrtle small trees (8-10 feet tall) along Durham Road. The image to the left shows what a Crape myrtle tree looks like.

The landscaping plan also calls for many more trees and shrubs to be planted along the privately-owned streets in the shopping center. These include South Eagle Road – where the drive-thru Starbucks will be located – Ice Cream Alley, Silo Drive, and West Road. The Township code does not apply to these roads. Altogether, the plan calls for 103 trees along these roads (including Durham Road) plus 165 parking lot trees.

Residents are welcome to view the plans at the Town Center and meet with Mr. Lewis who assures me that his door is always open.

Posted on 16 Aug 2018, 14:10 - Category: Development



Summary of Aug 13, 2018, BOS Work Session

The following is a summary of discussions at the August 13, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) Work Session based upon my notes. This is not a complete synopsis of the discussions. Please refer to the official minutes (here) for more details. Work Sessions are intended to informally discuss issues. No official decisions are made at these sessions.

Toll Brothers Fumbles Presentation

Representatives from Toll Brothers were at the meeting to present a sketch plan for a 173-home development along Durham Road and Twining Road on land owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the presentation was cut short due to the lack of preparation by the presenters, who did have the necessary visual aids to provide to the audience, which consisted of about 30 residents from surrounding communities. “Let’s just reschedule this for next month,” said Chair Phil Calabro as he cut short the presentation.

Meanwhile, it was agreed to post the plans for the development on the Township website (here) so that residents can download them in preparation for the next go round. The plan below is plan 3, which is the proposal Toll Brothers intends to present to the town.

Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Revisited

Under “Old Business,” Supervisor Mack asked that the anti-discrimination ordinance he proposed at the July 11, 2018, BOS meeting be put on the agenda of a future meeting. Township solicitor, Dave Sander, previously provided the Board a copy of the Lansdale Borough “Human Relations Ordinance” as a starting point.

Mr. Mack suggested that Dave Bria, Yardley Borough Council Member, be asked to speak to the Board about the ordinance passed by Yardley (read “Yardley Borough Passes Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance”) and the progress they have made in putting together a Human Relations Commission, which would be charged with handling complaints and convening a “fact-finding” non-public conference concerning the dispute.

Mack informed the Board that Governor Wolf recently signed an executive order creating the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the only one in the nation (see here).

Tree Removal in Village at Newtown Shopping Center
Durham Road Trees circa Oct 2014

The Board discussed the recent removal of many trees in the Village at Newtown shopping center along Durham road as part of the Brixmor renovation project. Mr. Mack reminded the Board that many residents, having seen the trees suddenly disappear, expressed concern via social media (see here) and Township Manager, Micah Lewis, said some residents have come in to view the plans for the replacement of the trees.

Mr. Lewis noted that many trees that were removed were deformed by PECO pruning and/or diseased or in a poor state due to age (see photo on left, which shows some trees along Durham Road as they looked circa October 2014). Some were also removed to make way for sidewalks.

Although the shopping center is private property and the owners have the freedom to landscape as they see fit, Mr. Mack reminded the Board that a condition of the settlement with Starbucks was that Starbucks would provide “an enhanced landscaping” buffer around the building, to the “satisfaction of the Township Planner.” It was hoped the same applies to landscaping in other areas of the shopping center.

Mr. Lewis – who is a Landscape Architect – agreed to meet with Supervisors one-on-one and with members of the Environmental Advisory Council to go over the plans for landscaping and the details of tree replacement.

FOLLOWUP: Read "Tree Replacement Plan for the Village of Newtown Shopping Center Along Durham Road"

Mr. Mack suggested that Newtown become a “Tree City” recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation. Newtown Borough – but NOT Newtown Township – is one of the 111 Pennsylvania municipalities that are recognized as a Tree USA community!

PennDOT to “Upgrade” Swamp Road at Twining Bridge Intersection

Mr. Lewis informed the Board that on July 27, 2018, PennDOT met with Newtown Township officials and agreed to provide the following upgrades to Swamp Road at the intersection of Twining Bridge Road:

  1. Shifting double yellow along the center line 2 feet to the east to provide wider inside shoulder through the curve in the southbound direction.
  2. Install “SLOW Curve Marking” legends in both directions to provide additional warning to the motorists. 
  3. Install “Raised Pavement Markers” to enhance the visibly of roadway alignment at night and/or during inclement weather.
  4. Stabilize the shoulder with 2A aggregate to address pavement edge drop off from ST project. 
  5. Replace existing warning signs with larger doubled up advance warning signs for additional conspicuity.
  6. Replace damaged roadside delineators to define the edge of road.
  7. Bucks County Maintenance will evaluate the area to address drainage concerns

 

 

Posted on 14 Aug 2018, 13:14 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Summary of August 8, 2018, BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the August 8, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting based upon the official minutes and online video of that meeting, which you can find here.

Committees

Planning Commission: Allen Fidler, Chairman, gave a synopsis of the August 7, 2018 meeting regarding the Arcadia Green tentative PRD #3.  There were no formal recommendations made. Some of the concerns of the Commission and from public comment were traffic and pedestrian safety issues, proposed double left u‐turns at Mill Pond and Buck, development infill affecting quality of life, and roadway safety accessing and leaving their developments via Buck Road and the Bypass. Suggestions from the Commission included a pedestrian bridge, a second access to the development for use by EMS services only, and for partial open space to remain as undisturbed habitat for native plants and wildlife.

Development

Arcadia Green - Tentative PRD Hearing, Part 1: Jason Duckworth, President of Arcadia Land Company, and Attorney John VanLuvanee, presented the plan and testified. Resident Jay McGuigan, 271 High Street, Newtown Crossing, was given party status. Resident and vice president of Eagle Ridge Association Dennis Schoener, 21 Ardsley Court, Eagle Ridge, was denied party status; however, if an attorney is hired by Eagle Ridge, they may have the opportunity to be included. Mr. VanLuvanee presented the Supervisors with a binder of exhibits and addressed the history of the property and previous plans. Mr. VanLuvanee explained an offer of a mediation option for the Board to consider. Mr. Calabro asked for a motion to submit the application to mediation. The motion failed.

[In response to VanLuvanee’s request that several Supervisors be recused due to bias, Township Solicitor, Dave Sander, cited section 603 of the PA Second Class Township Code, which states: “A member of the board shall not be disqualified from voting on any issue before the board solely because the member had previously expressed an opinion on the issue in either an official or unofficial capacity.”] A motion to recuse the Board members was denied.

Transcript of the Hearing.

Part 2 of the hearing will be held at the August 22, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting.

Public Health

Water Quality: Dan Angove, Assistant General Manager, Newtown Artesian Water Company, gave an update on Newtown's drinking water. He answered questions from Supervisor John Mack about Maximum Compliance Levels of PFAS - perfluorinated compounds - in the town's drinking water. See video below and more information about Maximum Contamination Levels of PFAS here.

Public Safety

July 2018 Police Report: Interim Police Chief Jason Harris presented the Calls Report for July 2018 [Find a summary of the report here.]

Special Actions

Swearing in of New Supervisor: Mr. Dennis Fisher was sworn in as a Supervisor by District Judge Mick Petrucci.

Appointment of Township Auditor: Mr. Mark Joseph appointed Township Auditor by a vote of 4-1 (Mr. Davis voting "nay").

Posted on 11 Aug 2018, 01:03 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



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