Posted on 22 May 2022, 01:49 - Category: Development
Newtown Township will receive $873,000 to construct sidewalk connections primarily in the township’s Business Commons area to close existing trail and sidewalk gaps.
The project includes construction of 0.5 mile of five-foot wide concrete sidewalks, stormwater management improvements, construction of ADA curb ramps, improved striping and signage, installation of benches, and landscaping.
The money comes from the PA Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) and was announced by Gov. Wolf on April 21. 2022.
The Newtown Business Commons is home to more than 200 companies, including aeronautical, biomed, biotech, engineering, medical and general office organizations. It also includes a hotel and conference center, the Newtown Post office, and restaurants.
"This project will help the Newtown Business Commons close existing trail and sidewalk gaps and improve pedestrian access while better connecting the Business Commons to the community," said State Senator Steve Santarsiero.
At the March 9, 2022, Board of Supervisors meeting, a resolution was passed to authorize a request for “a Statewide Local Share Assessment grant [see the grant application] of $994,920.00 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to be used for design and construction of the Business Commons Sidewalk Connections project." For background, read "Revitalization of Newtown Township's Business Commons District".
Comments from EDC
"I'm extremely happy to announce that one of our suggestions is coming to fruition in the Business Commons! $873,000 has been allotted for sidewalk and infrastructure improvements in the Business Commons!," said Matt Peters, Chair of the Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC), which has been working on plans to revitalize the Business Commons (op cit).
Addressing members of the EDC, Peters said "This is all thanks to YOU! This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for YOU all taking the time out of your days & I appreciate you all so much for devoting your valuable time to this noble mission to improve Newtown!"
Connection to Lower Dolington Road Trail
The plan focuses on gaps in existing sidewalks and trails. One notable gap exists between the end of the Lower Dolington Road (LDR) Trail at Yorkshire Drive and Upper Silver Lake Road where the trail was supposed to end in the original proposal. The township did not have enough money to continue the trail as planned (the trail was to cross over to the Hill Haven development side of LDR (see image below). Some residents of Hill Haven told me they were disappointed.
"I’m very excited to see it happening but also a bit disappointed to see that it appears to end at the Woods of Saxony development," said a resident of Devon Rd in the Hill Haven development, which is a neighborhood of 50 families. "As a New Haven resident," said the resident, "I feel strongly that it is unfair that we're the ONLY existing neighborhood on Lower Dolington Road that has been excluded from the current construction plan."
The plan within the grant application includes a short sidewalk on the west side of LDR that would connect with an existing sidewalk that goes further north (see image below). This would solve the problem mentioned by the New Haven resident.
But, Is There Enough Money To Do It All?
The grant award of $873,000 is $121,920 short of $994,920.00, which was originally requested. Thus, either additional money must be found or the plan would need some adjustment; i.e., downsizing. The LDR sidewalk might end up on the cutting floor: the estimated cost of this short sidewalk connection is $76,400, which is a sizable portion of the deficit (see table below).
When Will The Project Be Completed?
The grant application states "Assuming grant funding is awarded in Fall 2022, it is anticipated that design will be complete by the end of 2022, and the project will be ready for public bidding in early 2023. It is estimated construction will start in April 2023 and be completed by July 2023."
Since the funding was just awarded in April 2022, it is hoped that this schedule can be moved up by a few months so that the project can be completed before July 2023.Read More...
Posted on 22 Apr 2022, 01:45 - Category: Development
UPDATE: On April 7, 2022, the Newtown Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) approved Piccolo's application with the condition that it must remain "outdoor seating." In other words, the outdoor area cannot morph into de facto permanent seating. The trees (bradford pears) will be removed and replaced with other native trees. ZHB members did not think that parking would be an issue on that side of the Newtown Shopping Center parking lot.
Piccolo Trattoria is currently operating a restaurant use in a 4,146 sq.ft. tenant space located at 32-34 West Road in the Newtown Shopping Center. At the March 15, 2022, Planning Commission meeting, the owner (Fahmi Elabed) – represented by Joseph Blackburn, Partner with Wisler Pearlstine, LLP –presented a plan for proposed construction of a 2,212 sq.ft. covered outdoor dining area with 112 seats (see figures below).
This is just the first step that is required seeking variances for this conditional use, which needs to be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors at its March 23, 2022, meeting and ultimately approved (or denied) the Zoning Hearing Board on April 7, 2022.
The outdoor seating area will be connected to the 2,000 sq.ft. adjacent tenant space of 30 West Road (former "Dogs & Cats Rule" pet store) where Piccolo Trattoria has received permission from the landlord to expand it's current operation (which expansion will be the subject of a separate, subsequent, conditional use application).
What Variances Are Required?
Mr. Elabed recognized that in order to remain viable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants effectively require an outdoor seating component/option. In order to do this Piccolo Trattoria requires a variance to permit a 59.87% impervious coverage ratio. It should be noted that this represents a mere 0.22% increase over what is presently permitted. Also required is a variance to permit the property owner to continue to maintain 953 parking spaces, of which 169 will remain "held in reserve", whereas the patio addition would otherwise require the construction of an additional 15 parking spaces.
The members of the Planning Commission asked several questions mostly concerned with parking spaces and the removal and relocation of two trees (see Site Plan). The applicant noted that there has always been more than adequate parking at the location of Piccolo Trattoria. This nevertheless could be a sticking point given the increased number of potential customers due to the expansion of the restaurant plus patio seating. While the 2,212 sq.ft. patio could seat 112 additional customers, the application did not indicate how many additional seats would be available in the planned 2,000 sq.ft. expansion.
One Commission member asked if the trees could remain in place. Mr. DuMack, however, indicated that this would be problematic – perhaps because the trees would interfere with the patio covering.Read More...
Posted on 17 Mar 2022, 01:59 - Category: Development
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.
Toll Bros Presentation
At the February 23, 2022, BOS public meeting, Gregg Adelman, Principal of Kaplin|Stewart Attorneys, presented an overview of a new plan. See the video clip from the BOS meeting below:
The settlement plan and agreement provide for the following:
- Access to the development from the existing signalized intersection at North Drive rather than 2 accesses onto Twining Bridge Road, an option vehemently opposed by Twining Bridge Road residents early on in the process and the main reason for the township’s denial of the aforementioned conditional use application;
- Dedication of 99 acres of open space that can be used by the Township as it sees fit, including permanently prohibiting development of that acreage;
- Location of the proposed homes further away from existing residences on the bend of Twining Bridge Road, a concern that was stated by those residents early on in the process;
- A mile-long multi-use trail along Twining Bridge Road and Durham Road usable by the public: and
- Additional buffering along Twining Bridge Road and Durham Road.
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.
See the video clip from the BOS meeting below:
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.] See the video clip from the BOS meeting below:
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.
Bradley Cooper had a lot to say about how Newtown has changed due to the greed of developers and over-building. He misses the farms and the open space. He also complained about justifying this development because of "making a buck."
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."
Mr. Greg Czarnota said that although he was not a fan of Toll Bros, he thought this was a good settlement agreement. "108 [actually 99] acres for free!", said Mr. Czarnota. "We can rent it to farmers. We could do lots of things with it!", he said. One idea expressed by another resident was a senior center.
But Mr. Czarnota also said: "That's land that won't be built on." However, another resident asked: Will the land be deed restricted so that future supervisors can't build on it?
After Mr. Adelman’s presentation and after comments/questions from BOS members and the public, the BOS approved the settlement agreement unanimously.Read More...
Posted on 27 Feb 2022, 14:18 - Category: Development
Provco Pineville (Wawa) submitted preliminary plans in December 2021 for a Wawa at the corner of Silver Lake Rd. & the Newtown Bypass. The township have accepted the application as administratively complete, and is processing the application for distribution to its consultants for review.
NOTE: The Newtown Planning Commission is scheduled to review the plan at its February 15, 2022, public meeting at 7:30 PM. This is an in-person meeting located at the township complex at 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown.
Note: This plan does NOT include signage, which was a contentious issue at the ZHB hearings (read "Newtown Township Versus Wawa: Round 1, Signage" and "Newtown Township Versus Wawa: Round 2, Signage Part Deux"). The ZHB denied variances that Wawa requested, but Wawa can still appeal this decision, which seems likely as no signage plan has yet been submitted. The ZHB Solicitor admitted that “the applicant made the argument that they don’t believe that the [sign] variances are required."
It is likely, IMHO, that Provco will build the Wawa as currently permitted, but will continue to pursue the signage issue/ZHB decision in court.
NOTE: Provco still has its "Substantive Validity Challenge" to the zoning ordinance pending, which was filed prior to the addition of the gas station/convenience store provisions (read "Municipal Cure May Not Prevent Developer From Putting a Wawa on the Bypass in Newtown Township").
Also included is an updated Transportation Impact Study (TIS), which was last revised on November 23, 2021.Read More...
Posted on 08 Feb 2022, 01:14 - Category: Development