John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Development Category

Toll Brothers Twining Bridge Road Proposal

The following is a presentation of a "sketch plan" made before the Newtown Board of Supervisors on September 17, 2018. The plan was presented by by Toll Brothers representative Greg Adelman.

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The following is an audio recording of comments, questions, and concerns expressed by members of the public following the presentation.

Posted on 20 Sep 2018, 15:17 - Category: Development

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

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

Updated Wawa Plan Presented to Newtown Planning Commission

Concepts show street view (top) and store/pumps (bottom).

At the request of township officials, attorney John VanLuvanee, representing Provco Pinegood Acquisitions, presented an updated plan for a Super Wawa at the southwestern corner of Newtown Bypass and Lower Silver Lake Road to the Newtown Township Planning Commission on July 17, 2018. Provco owns the land, which it hopes to lease to Wawa in order to build a combination convenience store and gas station. Mr. VanLuvanee had previously presented a sketch plan to the Board of Supervisors on May 14, 2018 (read “Developer and Attorney Present Their Case for a WaWa Superstore on the Newtown Bypass”).

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. Mr. VanLuvanee proposed that the zoning be modified to allow such use.

[Views videos of the presentation and comments at the end of this post.]

The photos above shows how the Wawa would look, incorporating a Newtown Township sign and brick façade, two modifications to the original sketch plan suggested by the Board of Supervisors at the May 14, 2018, work session.

Whatever the final plan may be, the process of getting it approved – if it is approved at all – may take more than a year according to knowledgeable sources. This is especially true if a change in zoning is sought from the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council. Mr. VanLuvanee summarizes the steps in the process in the Part 1 video below.

Part 1: The Plan

Part 2: The Comments

Posted on 18 Jul 2018, 01:07 - Category: Development

They Took All the Trees & Put Up a Parking Lot!

View of Village at Newtown shopping center from South Eagle Road & entrance to McCaffrey's parking lot near Salad Works. Site of new drive-thru bank and drive-thru Starbucks. Image at top shows that trees marked with an "x" in the image below already have been removed to make way for development.

I predicted that the trees would soon be gone (read "Drive-thru Starbucks is Back on Track!") but I didn't realize how fast it would happen!

There's quite a discussion on the Roberts Ridge section of Nextdoor.com about this. Karol King of Newtown Borough started it off with this: "Does anyone know why on earth all the trees were cut down at Newtown Village??? Infuriating. Unbelievable! Makes me hate it even more! In this day and age of capability, they could have relocated the trees and not chopped them down. I’m going to find out who ok’d that decision."

Well Ms. King, it was the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors who approved this project after first voting NOT to approve it despite a recommendation for approval by the Newtown Planning Commission (read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks"). 

But Starbucks went to court to contest the Board's decision, saying the Board committed an "abuse of discretion"; i.e. Failed to take into proper consideration the facts and law relating to the application and the Town had to settle - it was not likely to win the case. The irony of it all is that part of the settlement included an agreement by Starbucks to provide "an enhanced landscaping buffer around the building." At a Board meeting I commented that this probably would be some low bushes at best!

P.S. (UPDATED July 17, 2018). The Leasing Plan (image below) in the Brixmor Property Group + MRC (landlord/developer) brochure includes replacement trees.

According to the "landscaping plan" for the area around the drive-thru Starbucks it does looks like it includes replacement trees and not just bushes (see section of plan shown below). They may not replace all the trees that were removed and maybe the trees will be yoounger and smaller, but there will be trees.

Further Reading: "Tree Replacement Plan for the Village of Newtown Shopping Center Along Durham Road"

Posted on 09 Jul 2018, 11:26 - Category: Development

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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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