|UPDATE (February 25, 2022)|
|The third time was NOT the charm! PennDOT returned Arcadia's 3rd Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) application, which was required before the U-turn option would be permitted at Mill Pond Rd and Buck Rd allowing residents to access the Bypass.PennDOT is seeking responses to additional comments it has, including asking for plans for the area to be dedicated to PennDOT as right-of-way. I am not a traffic engineer, but that is essentially what the township traffic engineer confirmed. Download PennDOT's Response to Arcadia and see the comments for yourself.|
Arcadia at Newtown Holdings, LP, (Arcadia Holdings) has been approved to develop a 60-unit single-family home residential community (known as the “Wynmere-Karr Residential Development”), located on the southwest corner of the intersection of the Newtown Bypass (S.R. 0332) and Buck Road (S.R. 0532) in Newtown Township.
But there are sticking points related to traffic safety concerns. How are future residents of the development going to safely access Buck Road and the Bypass? Will the access to and from the development be safe?
The Controversial U-Turn
As part of a Stipulation and Settlement Agreement between Arcadia Holdings and Newtown Township an Access Evaluation Process (AEP) was performed by McMahon Associates, Inc., the developer's traffic engineers. This study considered four access options, but only one option – a controversial U-turn at Mill Pond Road – was the only option pre-approved by PennDOT. The U-turn is controversial because many residents – and the Township – feel it would be unsafe. [For background, read “Controversy Regarding Proposed Arcadia Newtown U-Turn Option”]
In 2021, Arcadia filed two Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) applications to PennDOT to approve the U-turn option. On October 29, 2021, PennDOT returned the second application for further revisions. [See PennDOT’s Response Letter]
Arcadia recently filed a third HOP application in response to comments from PennDOT and Newtown Township. Below, I present selected comments and responses from McMahon Associates. Perhaps the third time’s the charm!
Comments Submitted By the Newtown Planning Commission
PennDOT required written evidence, prior to the issuance of a permit, that Newtown Township has had the opportunity to comment on the developer’s HOP plans. As I pointed out to PennDOT via email on November 24, 2021, the Newtown Township Planning Commission (NTPC) did not have an opportunity to comment specifically on neither the first nor the second the HOP application as required by PennDOT (see insert below).
|My Email to PennDOT|
|Dear Mr. Hanney [PennDOT's Philadelphia Region Traffic Services Senior Manager Francis Hanney]:
Re: Arcadia’s Highway Occupancy Application #148702
PennDOT’s October 29, 2021, Response Letter says: “The Department requires written evidence, prior to the issuance of a permit, that Newtown Township is aware of the project and has had the opportunity to comment. Provide written evidence (e.g. municipal engineering review, council or planning commission meeting minutes, executed TE-160, etc.), which is less than one year old, to satisfy this requirement.”
On November 15, 2021, Arcadia submitted a response to PennDOT in which it said: “A copy of the latest Township review letter is included with this submission. Additionally, the email address for the Township Manager (Micah Lewis) has been added in EPS as Additional Email Address 2.” This was offered by Arcadia as evidence that the Twp has reviewed the application.
The letter Arcadia is referring to is from RVE dated May 25, 2021, which is months BEFORE Arcadia submitted its HOP plan. Also, that letter does NOT mention “Highway”, “HOP”, “PennDOT”, “Traffic”, or “U-turn.” Therefore, in my opinion this letter does NOT satisfy PennDOT’s request.
In any case, PennDOT should be aware that the Newtown BOS at last night's public meeting directed the Newtown Planning Commission to review the Arcadia HOP application with the hope that comments from the PC would be submitted to PennDOT to consider.
PennDOT agreed with me: “The letter submitted in the second application cycle pre-dates the current HOP plans,” said PennDOT in response to Arcadia’s second HOP application. “In addition, comments from the Newtown Planning Commission's review of the HOP application must also be submitted for the Department's consideration.”
Consequently, the NTPC reviewed the 2nd HOP application at its January 4, 2022, public meeting. The NTPC subsequently provided the BOS with its comments (see insert below). These comments and others from the Township Engineer were submitted to PennDOT as part of the third HOP application.
|These comments were submitted to the BOS on January 12, 2022.
Arcadia Land Holdings Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) Application Review:
This meeting was to review the highway occupancy permit in a public setting by the Planning Commission to satisfy PennDOT requirements as evidence of community awareness of the HOP. We began, for the benefit of our newly appointed members, by reviewing briefly the history of this property and the settlement plan now in place.
Eric Carlson, Arcadia VP, reviewed the four options for access to the site:
Mr. Carlson said that PennDOT rejected all but the U-turn as having severe safety concerns including weaving and merging concerns. Mr. Carlson and our traffic engineer Derrick Kennedy reviewed planned roadway improvements and traffic lights and signage to control the intersection to improve safety for the U-turn. Included in the improvements are medians and a “pork chop” at the entrance to permit right out, only. There would be an option to turn left from Buck Road to enter. The plan also proposes improved striping and changes to the traffic signals to allow U-turns only when timed and the addition of a second right turn lane at the Bypass to move traffic through the Buck Road/Bypass intersection. As per the settlement agreement, construction traffic would be prohibited on Mill Pond Road, as would through truck traffic after completion of construction. Only passenger vehicles would be permitted to make the U-turn.
The Planning Commission members had a great many concerns about safety in all directions, especially at peak AM and PM hours when traffic tends to back up in all directions. The addition of sixty new homes will add to an already congested situation. The members did not look favorably on this plan. There are concerns that drivers may become impatient if there are delays and fail to wait for the signal for a U-turn. Because the entrance to the site is so close to the Bypass, Commission members also had concerns about cars attempting a left turn into the site and cars exiting the site as traffic proceeds from the Bypass to Buck Road at higher speeds.
PennDOT had indicated favoring a new access through open space directly to Mill Pond Road but this has already been prohibited by the settlement agreement. Two residents were in attendance and expressed concerns about safety. They also expressed concern that the agreement to not create an access directly to Mill Pond road might somehow be renegotiated.
What Vehicles Are Allowed to Make the U-Turn?
The township engineer commented that the “design vehicle” for the U-turn movement on southbound Buck Road at Mill Pond Road is shown as an SUV (see figure below). The engineer requested a larger design vehicle be used to evaluate the U-turn. “The applicant should identify available right of way on the northeast corner of the intersection and quantify the impact associated with a larger single unit truck.” That is, would a truck have enough room to make the U-turn?
The response from McMahon Associates: “The proposed design is consistent with Settlement Agreement and the selected alternative from the access evaluation process with PennDOT and the Township, which includes accommodating a passenger vehicle U-turn movement at Mill Pond Road. The intersection has been designed to accommodate a full-size SUV U-turn movement as shown on the HOP plans. The U-turn movement was never intended to accommodate single unit trucks. The movement is proposed to be signed ‘Trucks’ and ‘No U-Turn’ accordingly.” [See “Responses to Twp HOP Review 2022-01-27”]
In other words, according to the developer, trucks are not allowed to make the U-turn. The only option they have would be to make a right on Mill Pond Road, drive through to Newtown-Richboro Rd, and make another right turn there and proceed to the Bypass. The only problem is that according to the Settlement Agreement referred to by McMahon Associates, through truck traffic is PROHIBITED on Mill Pond Road. This was a major issue for residents and I’m sure when all this is completed, residents will be complaining about through truck traffic on Mill Pond Road. And guess what? It will be very difficult for the township to enforce the No Through Truck Traffic plan.
Safe Access To and From the Site
Newtown Planning Commission members also had concerns about cars attempting a left turn into the site and cars exiting the site as traffic proceeds from the Bypass to Buck Road at higher speeds.
The Newtown Engineer also had concerns: “Further clarification of the operational characteristics of this movement are requested. Is this intended to be a legal movement, or emergency access only? As a double left turn lane design, there are operational concerns with allowing left turns into the service road at this location.”
The response from McMahon Associates: The proposed design is consistent with Settlement Agreement and the selected alternative from the access evaluation process with PennDOT and the Township, which includes accommodating a legal left-turn ingress movement from Buck Road into the proposed site access. [See “Responses to Cycle 8 Comments 2022-01-27”]Read More...
Posted on 01 Feb 2022, 01:34 - Category: Development
The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) issued its official written decision regarding the Application of Provco Pineville Acquisitions, LLC to build a Wawa super store at the intersection of the Newtown Bypass and Lower Silver Lake Road in Newtown.
The decision grants the applicant’s request for a special exception to operate a Motor Vehicle Fueling and Convenience Store, but denies the applicant’s requests for all variances (number of fueling stations and sign relief). The ZHB voted 3-2 on September 20, 2021, to deny the variances (read “Breaking News: Wawa's Request for Zoning Variances Denied!”).
All parties have 30 days from November 4, 2021 to file an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas from the Decision. I fully expect Provco to do so.
“Findings of Fact”
There will be one (1) charging station but it will be utilized by two (2) parking spaces.
At the April 21, 2020, meeting of the Newtown Planning Commission, it was suggested among other things that the maximum number of gas pumps should be eight with allowances for an additional four electric charging stations.
The canopy would be a rectangular roof structure that will have a peaked roof and would appear as an A-frame from the northeast and southwest sides.
A high-speed diesel fueling station (for large tractor-trailer trucks) will not be located on the Subject Property.
Members of the Planning Commission and BOS expressed concern that such fueling stations would attract more large truck traffic on the Bypass.
Security cameras that can be accessed by the Township police will be installed. There was concern that a 24-hour business like this would attract criminals.
NOTE: Although the NTPC recommended and 18-hour operation limit, the final E-30 Gas Station-Convenience Store Ordinance does not limit the hours of operation. It states merely “Lighting shall be dimmed to 50% no later than one hour past the close of business unless the use is a 24-hour per day operation.” But it also states “The Board of Supervisors may limit the hours of operation if a residential use is located within 750 feet of the subject property line.”
“24 hour lights are really out of place here, and would have a negative impact on wildlife as well.” – Comment form a respondent to my Wawa survey.
In regards to a drainage facility to be provided to dispose of the surface runoff, the Applicant has reserved a proposed storm water management facility in the southern corner, which is the lowest point of the property and the ideal place for the location of a storm water management facility.
“Question is again they are lowering the ground level to area with no sewers in place that will flood the area out as well as put running water towards the homes that don’t have any drainage and septic and wells. What about the street pollution that cars will bring to that area and then runs off to the homes next to wawa ! Something has to be done to protect the property’s next to wawa.” – Comment from Gary Fabiano on FB.
“Environmental damage to the lake and surrounding area. The water run off and trash will enter the lake. Fish and wildlife are abundant in the area. In the summer, the lake is green and struggles with oxygen balance. The Wawa will worsen the condition.” – Comment form a respondent to my Wawa survey.
The visibility of the wall sign from the Bypass would be obstructed, considering that an individual has to see through the canopy roof and all the columns in order to see the wall sign.
It was suggested by the Newtown solicitor that having the wall sign visible from the Bypass would eliminate the need for other signage facing the Bypass.
There is a ten (10') foot embankment at the Bypass line of the Subject Property and the Applicant is planning to cut that embankment to approximately four (4') to five (5') feet high. The berm has to be cut down in order to provide visibility and to make sure that a driveway can be connected.
“What about the homes near the wawa ? Reducing the berm !! Geez we hear the cars on the bypass already the homes are from the 60s here way before the bypass so now more traffic by are homes the smell of gas possibly of a spill in are wells and creeks and also more traffic noise?” – Comment from Gary Fabiano on FB.
The Applicant is going to remove some trees from the preservation area because they are cutting down the berm and there will be vegetation and landscaping that will be provided in its place.
Meanwhile, the street view shown in the plan looks like there is no berm at all!
The striped area on Ex. A-6 is intended to be a future driveway to connect to, in the event there is ever future development on the opposite side of the PECO property.
At the March 15, 2021, Newtown Board of Supervisors Work Session, representatives of Lotus Park Senior Living LLC, presented a "sketch plan" for a Lotus Park Senior Living facility adjacent to the site of a proposed Wawa (see image below). This use is not a permitted use in the OR - Office Research Zoning District.
Selected Testimony from Wawa Project Engineer
Michael Redel, a real estate project engineer employed by Wawa, made these points in his testimony (listen to his testimony: “Newtown Township Versus Wawa: Round 1, Signage”).
No drive-in windows are being proposed for the sale of convenience items.
Wawa hires employees from the local area.
There will be no signage on the canopy itself and the pumps themselves will be branded as Wawa. The pumps are located within 1,000 feet of the Newtown Bypass.
Wawa is not planning any signage offsite, such as a sign on Interstate Route 95 (I-95) or Interstate Route 295 (I-295) that might direct people to the site.
The only time when Wawa would have temporary banners placed on the property would be during the first thirty (30) days because Wawa typically fly banners that read "now open" or "welcome" during that time period.
Selected Testimony from Wawa Traffic Engineer
Matthew Hammond, Executive Vice President of Traffic Planning and Design (TPD), who was qualified as an expert in both signage and traffic, offered the following testimony tidbits (listen to his testimony: “Newtown Township Versus Wawa: Round 2, Signage Part Deux”).
The "cone of vision" that TPD looks at when looking at where a sign is located, is essentially the cone of your vision without taking your eyes off of the road in order for you not to have to turn your head one direction or another when traveling down the roadway on a roadway.
A traffic impact study was conducted by TPD in August 2018.
This Transportation Impact Study concludes "...all study area intersections will satisfy Penn DOT ILOS Standards, with the exception of the ILOS at the intersection of Newtown Bypass (S.R. 0332) and Lower Silver Lake Road/Newtown-Yardley Road, which will degrade from ILOS C to ILOS D, during the weekday A.M. peak hour. It is TPD's [traffic engineers hired by Wawa who did the study] opinion that ILOS D is acceptable in urban areas and further improvements would be infeasible at the intersection [emphasis added]."
The research provided by the ITE says that twenty-four (24°) percent of the traffic that will enter and exit this use is new to the roadway network, so if there are one hundred (100) vehicles generated during the A.M. peak hour, twenty-four (24) of the vehicles will be added to the roadway network are new.
A crosswalk would be provided along the entire frontage of Lower Silver Lake Road but no applications would be sent to PennDOT in order to put any type of crosswalk on the Newtown Bypass.
Some residents contend that children on bikes will cross the Bypass in order to get to the Wawa and that this is an unacceptable danger to the health and well-being of residents.
Selected Testimony from the Township’s Consultant
David Babbitt, who was qualified as an expert in land planning and zoning, offered the following testimony tidbits (listen to his testimony: “Newtown Twp vs Wawa: Round 3, Newtown's Expert Testifies”).
Of the twenty (20) Wawas in Bucks County, fourteen (14) have only six (6) fuel pumps. Three (3) out of the twenty (20) have more than six (6) pumps and the final three were too new to appear on Google Maps.
If a sign is designed to be legible and visible from the Bypass, it would be prohibited.
To be oriented toward the Bypass, even if it is not perfectly parallel, means that [a sign] is designed to be visible and legible from the Bypass. There are two signs in the application, namely, the monument sign along the Bypass and the wall sign, that are facing the Bypass and would be prohibited. See, however, testimony above regarding the wall sign not being visible.
If there was no monument sign along the Bypass, someone who is driving along the Bypass and turns their head 90 degrees to see what is on the site will know that the site is a Wawa. There are more SUV s, pickup trucks, and more larger trucks where people are sitting up higher and their eye level is the same elevation of the height of the berm. [See street rendering above.]
EMCs or electronic message center signs, include signs that utilize technology not listed in the definition provided by the JMZO and shall include similar technology, which may be developed in the future.
It is the JMZO, not the limitations of the site, that determine the number of fuel dispensers. There is a rational basis for limiting the number of fuel dispensers on a site less than five (5) acres to six (6) fuel dispensers, which would be that larger properties can accommodate more development and smaller properties can accommodate less development. A fuel dispenser is an example of more development because more fuel dispensers on a site would be a more intensive development than the same site with fewer fuel dispensers.
The ZHB Decision
The Board denied the Applicant's request for a variance from Section 501(B)(2) of the JMZO to permit eight (8) gasoline pumps where only six (6) pumps are permitted on a lot of four acres.
The request for two (2) additional gas pumps is solely for the convenience of Wawa, which is a criterion that does not support the grant of a variance.
Adding an additional gasoline pump to the permitted 6 pumps would actually be an increase of 14.28% in the number of gasoline pumps on the Subject Property, far from a de minimis difference.
The Board denied the Applicant's request for a variance from Section 1103.C.4 to permit the north-facing wall sign to face onto the Newtown Bypass. The JMZO provision of prohibiting signs within 1,000 feet of the Bypass from facing onto the Bypass was enacted to protect both traffic safety along the Bypass and aesthetics.
…if the sign is oriented to be visible and legible from the Bypass, the sign would "face onto" the Bypass. The Board therefore found that the Applicant did not satisfy their burden for a variance request from the terms of Section 1103.C.4 because this request would alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the Subject Property is located, since it runs contrary to the JMZO's intention of keeping signs off of the Bypass.
Message Centers Displaying Fuel Prices
The Board denied the Applicant's request for a variance from the terms of Sections 1103(D)(3) regarding illumination of signs.
The Applicant asserted that variances would not be needed, arguing that the freestanding monument signs that include fuel price modules are not electronic message centers. However, the proposed electronically controlled scrolling fuel price elements would be classified as "Electronic Message Centers" under Section 1101.A of the JMZO.
These proposed signs would be considered EMCs that would be prohibited under the JMZO because the proposed fuel prices are "portions of signs" that display scrolling images and static images that are capable of change or alteration by electronic means.
The Applicant sought these variances to allow more, larger, and taller signs than are otherwise permitted for retail uses in Newtown Township. The Board denied the Applicant's request for a variance.
While the specific E-30 use had not yet been created, the Applicant was aware of the existing sign provisions when proposing a Wawa located on the Subject Property.
Furthermore, the Board found that Applicant fail in meeting its burden because these signs variances would alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the Subject Property is located, considering that there are few if any signs along the Newtown Bypass in the area of the Subject Property and the addition of signs run counter to the JMZO's intention of keeping signs off the Newtown Bypass.Read More...
Posted on 06 Nov 2021, 10:01 - Category: Development
At the October 7, 2021, Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner, Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC), presented an analysis of the recently released 2020 U.S. Census Redistricting Data Summary Files related to the "Jointure" townships (Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield).
Her analysis, which will be incorporated into the updated Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan, covers population trends from 1950 through 2020, population change from 2000 to 2020, population by race, and housing data.
Jointure Population Trend
Ms. Wolff first reviewed the growth in population of the Jointure townships from 1950 through 2020. See the table below and listen to the audio snippet where Ms. Wolff highlights the important trends.
In the following audio snippet from the JZC meeting, Ms. Wolff talks about the trend in Jointure population from 1950 though 2020:
It is clear that population growth is declining, especially between 2010 and 2020. Newtown, for example, saw a growth of only 3.1% during this period (see Table 2 below).
In the following audio snippet from the JZC meeting, Ms. Wolff reviews more details of Jointure population changes from 2000 to 2020:
Population By Race
The racial/ethnicity profile of all three Jointure townships show a shift to a more diverse population from 2000 to 2020. Newtown, for example, was 94% white in 2000 and 82% in 2020. The biggest change was in the “Asian Alone” category – an increase from 734 residents in 2000 to 2,201 in 2020. This category includes “Asian Indian,” which I am sure constitutes the majority of “Asian Only” residents in Newtown.
In the following audio snippet from the JZC meeting, Ms. Wolff reviews more details population by race:
The last piece of data in the report is “Housing Occupancy Status,” which is summarized in Table 3 of the report.
In the following audio snippet from the JZC meeting, Ms. Wolff summarizes the housing data:
Newtown saw a 28% increase in “vacant housing units” from 2010 to 2020 (389 vs 304). At the JZC meeting, it was not clear what was included in this category. The U.S. Census Bureau website provides the following definition:
“A housing unit is vacant if no one is living in it at the time of the interview, unless its occupants are only temporarily absent. In addition, a vacant unit may be one which is entirely occupied by persons who have a usual residence elsewhere. New units not yet occupied are classified as vacant housing units if construction has reached a point where all exterior windows and doors are installed and final usable floors are in place. Vacant units are excluded if they are exposed to the elements, that is, if the roof, walls, windows, or doors no longer protect the interior from the elements, or if there is positive evidence (such as a sign on the house or block) that the unit is to be demolished or is condemned. Also excluded are quarters being used entirely for nonresidential purposes, such as a store or an office, or quarters used for the storage of business supplies or inventory, machinery, or agricultural products. Vacant sleeping rooms in lodging houses, transient accommodations, barracks, and other quarters not defined as housing units are not included in the statistics in this report.”
Ms. Wolff also reported the estimated number of acres of land suitable for future potential development in each municipality. For Newtown that number was just under 40 acres, for Upper Makefield it is a little more than 250 acres, and for Wrightstown it is a little more than 425 acres. These are just early estimates, but it is evident that Newtown may be reaching its limit for future development.
- The complete BCPC 2020 Census Data Report
- Newtown Township Land Use Trends 2005-2020
- Comprehensive Plan Resident Survey Results (Newtown)
Posted on 11 Oct 2021, 11:37 - Category: Development
I attended the in-person September 21, 2021, Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC) meeting because I wanted to learn more about “Economic Development projects for 2022 budget” – which was an item on the agenda.
This was the first mention I have seen of the 2022 budget in ANY official agenda for a public meeting. Not even us supervisors know what projects will be in the proposed preliminary 2022 budget, which will not be presented to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) until October 18, 2021.
However, the EDC discussion actually focused on the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) REVISED proposal for Planning Services to Develop an Overlay District to the LI and OLI Zoning Districts. For background, view the video: "Township Planner Presentation on Rezoning the OLI & LI Districts." Members did not have the revised proposal to review at this meeting.
The discussion focused on the process for approval of the proposal and how members of the EDC would be involved in the BCPC process if the proposal is approved by the BOS, which will vote to approve it or not on at the September 22, 2021, BOS meeting. They also discussed what an Overlay entails.
Overlay District Permits New Uses
Overlay Zoning is a regulatory tool that creates a special zoning district, placed over an existing base zone(s), which identifies special provisions in addition to those in the underlying base zone. The overlay district can share common boundaries with the base zone or cut across base zone boundaries. Regulations or incentives are attached to the overlay district to protect a specific resource or guide development within a special area.
Mary Donaldson - an EDC member - explained how an overlay to the LI and OLI zoning districts would allow for additional uses that are currently not permitted:
The EDC spent considerable time talking about possible new uses for the districts that the Overlay would allow. Restaurants, for example, were mentioned. You can find all the possible uses in a May 4, 2021 presentation before the Newtown Planning Commission by Township Planner Michele Fountain. You can also listen to that presentation.Read More...
Posted on 22 Sep 2021, 11:45 - Category: Development
Keeping the rural look of the Newtown Bypass has been a tradition in Newtown. It is a common belief among long-time Newtown area residents that the Newtown Bypass is supposed to remain an "undeveloped" greenway. For the most part, the Bypass is still somewhat preserved with trees and greenery along the route as can be seen in left side of the above photo. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Summit Square (located on the Middletown side of the road) and the NAC, to name just two of the most visible eyesores.
Preserving the “greenway” nature of the Bypass was threatened back in April 2017, when Supervisor Phil Calabro proposed that the township lease or sell two acres of Silver Lake Park, which is located on the Bypass, to Wawa (see Patch article). Although that idea never saw the light of day, a Super Wawa on the Bypass is still possible (read “Wawa is Back!”).
Will The Bypass Look Like Street Road or Route 1?
Many people fear that if Wawa is allowed to build on the Bypass with 16 fueling stations and multiple huge signs – including an electronic sign on the Bypass - it would open a “Pandora's box” for development on the Bypass and turn it into a Route 1 (right side of photo above). Fully 86% (n=288) of residents I surveyed who were against the Wawa agreed, and 78% (n=262) said it was not compatible with the historic, rural nature of Newtown. [Read “Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super Wawa on the Bypass”]
Fast Forward to 2021: The Box Opens!
At the March 15, 2021, Newtown Board of Supervisors Work Session representatives of Lotus Park Senior Living LLC, presented a "sketch plan" for a Senior Living facility to be located adjacent to the site of the proposed Wawa. The lot size of this parcel of land is only 4.83 acres! [See the map below.]
Guess what? The owners of this property - Innovative Hospitality Management – also own the property where the Super Wawa is likely to be built. When they saw an opportunity presented by the Wawa precedent, they proceeded to find a use for a plot of land that many experts consider unfit for development.
Like the convenience store/gas station use before the “curative amendment” was passed (see here), this use is not permitted in the OR (Office Research) district. To proceed with this project, the developer would need to get at least 11 zoning variances from the Zoning Hearing Board. [See CKS letter]
No decision was made at the BOS Work Session, but Supervisors had many questions and concerns. One question put forward by a supervisor had to do with the anticipated income by the township from such a facility. Recall that about 60% of Newtown’s tax revenue has consistently come from Earned Income Tax (EIT). The developer could not answer that question, but will do so if and when the application is officially submitted.
It should be noted that employment centers envisioned by the OR district could generate significant EIT revenue for the Township. Retail stores, such as Wawa, that pay a wage of $10 per hour to a minimal number of employees, do not provide any significant EIT income for the Township.
The Slippery Slope to “A Route 1” Bypass
Whether or not this proposed assisted living use application moves forward and is approved, there will be further pressure to rezone the OR district to allow other uses. The Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC) already suggested changes to the zoning of the LI (Light Industrial) and Office Light Industrial (OLI) districts to “revitalize” the Business Commons area.
The EDC memo/plan was discussed at the February 16, 2021, BOS Work Session. Although the EDC also wanted to include the OR district in its plan, “the Supervisors agreed to discuss the memo only as it would apply to the LI and OLI zoning districts, focusing on the Business Commons only, at this time.” [Download the EDC Memo to BOS Re Zoning for Businesses.]
Local Area Residents Speak Out
“I am 60 years old,” said one Newtown neighbor on Nextdoor. “I grew up in Churchville and went to school in Newtown...Council Rock then George School. What has happened to Newtown is a travesty. I avoid it because my heart breaks every time I drive through it. It used to be a beautiful town surrounded by farms and trees. Now it is one big congested, ostentatious commercial center. Even the original Goodnoe’s and dairy farm are gone. You could not pay me to live there.”
See Nextdoor discussion “Another proposed project on Newtown Bypass” for more comments from local area residents/Read More...
Posted on 19 Mar 2021, 12:07 - Category: Development