John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Zoning Category

Newtown Township Land Use Trends 2005-2020

The Comprehensive Plan of the Newtown Area Jointure, which is comprised of Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield, is the primary land use policy document that sets goals and objectives, and a vision for future development and growth. The 2009 plan is currently being updated in order to make sure it reflects the most current needs and views of the community.

The following analysis of trends in Newtown’s land use is based on the Comprehensive Plan update presented by the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) at the September 3, 2020, Joint Zoning Council (JZC) meeting. Your can view the video of that meeting here.

Newtown Township Land Use Map

There have been notable shifts in the land use characteristics of the individual municipalities of the Jointure as well as in the characteristics of the Jointure, as measured against comparable statistics from 2005. Jeremy W. Stoff, a BCPC Planner, presented highlights of those shifts at the JZC meeting (listen to his remarks below).

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Land Use Trends 2005-2020
Land Use Acreages – Newtown Township (2005 -2020). “Institutional” includes land use by the government, Bucks County Community College, Holy Family University, public school campuses, and All Saints Cemetery.
Agricultural Use

The Jointure continued to lose land classified as agricultural in the period 2005 to 2020, and losses in this category constituted the greatest change in percentage (dropping from 20.0 percent to 16.2 percent of total land use) and in number of acres (1,060 acre decrease). Each of the three municipalities saw decreases in percentage of agricultural land use. Newtown Township saw agricultural uses decline from 9.1 percent to 7.9 percent.

% Changes in Newtown Township Land Use 2005-2020.

According to the draft prepared by BCPC, “In the period from 2005 to 2020, the Jointure continued to see losses in the amount of land devoted to agricultural production and in the amount of vacant land, coupled with an increase in the amount of territory devoted to single-family residential development. While the amount of rural residential territory in the Jointure stayed relatively constant, this may not be a counter-indication of development, but may be the result of the loss of agricultural land and vacant areas to large residential lots (where the potential for further development is still present). Efforts to preserve more areas for recreational use and open space appear to have increased the amount of land dedicated to that purpose.”

BCPC added, “While additional research would be needed to draw a direct connection between decreases in land classified as agricultural and increases in single-family residential uses, it is not unreasonable to posit this link, especially since land used for single-family residential dwellings in the Jointure increased the most, both in percentage (2.2 percent increase) and in number of acres (583 acres) dedicated to that use. Newtown saw the percentage of land in the single-family residential category increase from 21.2 percent to 22.3 percent.”

Open Space

Parks, recreation and open space increased by 428 acres (from 13.1 to 14.7 percent of the total) throughout the Jointure from 2005 to 2020. Newtown added 116 acres, Upper Makefield added 174 acres and Wrightstown saw an increase of 138 in this category. According to Lisa M. Wolff, BCPC Senior Planner, a lot of this is comprised of open space in various residential developments such a Country Bend.

[Read “How Much Do Newtown Residents Like Township Parks & Recreation?”]

Newtown Business Commons

Ms. Wolf pointed out that the Newtown Business Commons, which used to be called Newtown Industrial Commons, has transitioned over the years. Currently, there are a lot more uses characterized as commercial in the Commons. In fact, one additional use – Commercial Office – will be added to the Land Use Classifications of the updated Comprehensive Plan so that it will be possible to keep track of this us in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may make working from home the “new norm.”

At the July 2, 2020, Zoom meeting of the Economic Development Committee (EDC), members Karen Miller, co-president of the Newtown Business Commons Association, and Joseph Blackburn, an Associate with Wisler Pearlstine, proposed ways that the township can revitalize the Newtown Business Commons. This is especially important after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and businesses get up and running again but find that more workers can work at home and they no longer need as much office space.

One specific suggestion was to apply under the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act (LERTA) to lower real estate taxes for businesses in the Commons. Other local municipalities are using this tool to revitalize their business districts (read, for example, "Northampton Extends LERTA Tax Break Program for Businesses") Listen to this 11.5 minute audio snippet for the details:

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown EDC Discusses Revitalization of Business Commons
Survey

As part of the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan, the BCPC hosted a citizen survey to hear the views of as many residents as possible and is ensure that the community plays an active role in developing the policies that will help shape the development in the Jointure for the next ten years and beyond.

Survey Questions included:

  • Why did you choose to live in your township?
  • What are the best characteristics of your community?
  • What do you consider to be the most important problems facing your community?
  • Overall how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the residential development within your community?
  • Overall how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the commercial development within your community?

The number of responses to the survey was reported by Mr. Stoff at the September 3, 2020, JZC meeting: 374 from Newtown residents, 370 from Upper Makefield residents, and 69 from Wrightstown residents. The survey was official closed on September 8, 2020. Results should be available at the next JZC meeting on October 1, 2020.

Posted on 16 Sep 2020, 12:42 - Category: Zoning

Newtown Planning Commission vs. Jointure Regarding Maximum Allowable E-30 "Fuel Pumps"

Newtown Planning Commission meets via ZOOM on April 22, 2020!

In a first-ever virtual Zoom meeting of the Newtown Township Planning Commission (PC) on April 21, 2020, the members discussed the latest version of the E-30 Ordinance - Convenience Store/Fueling Station - submitted by the Joint Zoning Council (JZC, Definition). For background read "Newtown Passes Joint Municipal Curative Amendment."

In the 9-minute audio snippet below, the PC members discuss their consensus as to the maximum number of allowable fueling "pumps" and "stations". The Commission members answered questions sent via email by resident Michael Horbal:

It seems that the term "fuel pumps" is used by the town, but that proposed developments have used multiproduct fuel dispensers (MPD, Definition) with their terminology and there seems to be some confusion as to what is being proposed.

As a comparison, I looked at gas stations in the nearby area and saw that:

  • Lukoil is 4 MPD's = 8 fueling stations
  • Burns Shell is 2 MPD's = 4 fueling stations
  • Kerrigan's Sunocco is 4 MPD's = 8 fueling stations
  • Rick Steeles is 4 MPD's = 8 fueling stations
  • Village Market is 2 MPD's = 4 fueling stations 
  • Citgo on State Street = 2 MPD's = 4 fueling stations 
  • Shell on Rt 413 Wrightstown is 4 MPD's = 8 fueling stations
  • BP on Rt 413 Wrightstown is 4 MPD's = 8 fueling stations 
  • Richboro Wawa is 6 MPD's = 12 fueling stations

My questions are:

Q1. Does "fuel pumps" have the same meaning as multiproduct fuel dispenser (MPD)?

Q2. How many fuel pumps are being proposed by the planning commission?

Q3. How many vehicles will be able to receive gas at the same time under the planning commission proposal?

Q4. Does the proposal put our existing local gas stations at a competitive disadvantage if new stations will allow more fuel pumps than what currently exists?

Mack's Newtown Voice · E30 Amendment Discussion: Maximum Number of Allowable Fueling Stations

[You can view the entire 1-hour streaming video of the April 22, 2020, meeting here.]

Jointure's Views on "Fuel Pumps" for Proposed E30 Amendment

At the February 6, 2020, meeting of the Joint Zoning Council, representatives of Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield township – the “Jointure” - discussed the E-30 amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance that was drafted by Newtown Township.

The following is an edited excerpt of that discussion focused specifically on the number of fueling pumps that would be allowed. This issue was raised by the Newtown Planning Commission, which suggested among other things that the maximum number of gas pumps should be eight with allowances for an additional four electric charging stations.

Meanwhile, Here's Wawa's View on Maximum Allowable "Fuel Pumps"
Wawa's Idea of Allowable Number of "Fuel Pumps"

Posted on 24 Apr 2020, 11:26 - Category: Zoning

Are Tiny Houses Allowed in Newtown?

A Newtown resident contacted me because she was interested in knowing if there were any restrictions on the types of property in Newtown that a tiny house can be placed or built on. She also wanted to know if it was allowable to place a tiny house on another person’s private property with that person’s permission.

It just so happened that I was planning to attend the monthly meeting of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC) Definition that night, so I decided to email members and experts associated with the Council to see if they had the answers. The JZC establishes policy on matters of importance to the Newtown Area Jointure Definition, which consists of Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown townships. It specifically reviews and suggests updates and revisions to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance Definition.

After some back and forth via email, the topic of tiny houses was added to the January 9, 2020, JZC agenda. The following is an excerpt from the discussion. Participating in the discussion were Chester Pogonwski (Wrightstown Supervisor), Chair, Tom Cino (Upper Makefield Supervisor), Vice Chair, Phil Calabro (Newtown Supervisor), Lisa M. Wolff, Bucks County Planning Commission, myself and others.

Evan J. Stone, PLA, Executive Director, Bucks County Planning Commission, provided the following information:

“Dear team, this is indeed a potentially complex and multi-faceted topic/issue.

“Yes, a tiny home, is a single family home just as a mobile home is a single family home however there can be distinctions depending on whether it’s on wheels and treated as a “recreational vehicle” versus one on a foundation (see first link below)

“This subject is a kin to “granny pods” and the issues of principal use, accessory use, number of principal uses on a lot etc.

“Pennsylvania is one of the friendlier tiny house states to date. A community in Elizabethtown also claims to be the largest tiny house community in the United States - an impressive title to say the least! Rural areas of Pennsylvania will likely be the easiest when it comes to finding a place to park your tiny. Be sure to check with the local municipalities for specifics.”

Here are some links to explore on the subject:

Posted on 10 Jan 2020, 10:19 - Category: Zoning

Itís Time for Newtown Township to Update Its Comprehensive Plan!

Zoning Map for Newtown Area Jointure

A Guest Opinion (see end of this post) on the role of zoning in community planning published in the August 4, 2019, edition of Bucks Courier Times, is very relevant to Newtown Township as it begins the process of updating the Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan Definition.

Newtown Township is a member of the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) Other members include Upper Makefield and Wrightstown Townships. At the June meeting of the JZC, Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner at the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC), presented a proposal to update the Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2009 (listen to her presentation below). [Download the proposal here.]

The Municipalities Planning Code (MPC Definition) recommends that Comprehensive Plans be updated every 10 years. Components of the Plan should include:

  • Objectives
  • Land use plan (including preservation areas and development areas)
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Community facilities and utilities
  • Protection of natural and historic resources
  • Protection of water resources and water supply
  • Energy conservation
  • Implementation strategies
  • Interrelationships among the plan components
  • Relationship of the plan to surrounding communities
  • Hazard Mitigation (BCPC recommendation, supported by the state)

The JZC is recommending that the proposal be accepted by each of the member municipalities. The Proposal must be considered by each Planning Commission Definition and by each Board of Supervisors with the Board of Supervisors adopting a Resolution that: authorizes the Proposal; authorizes the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan Update; agrees to splitting the cost in accordance with the Jointure Agreement; and authorizes the Chair of the JZC to apply for any grants that may be available to offset the cost. 

Lisa Wolff has offered to attend each Municipality’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings to explain the Proposal and to answer any questions that members may have.  

Newtown Township is in receipt of the BCPC proposal, which will likely be moved forward for review by the Township Planning Commission to evaluate and advise the Board of Supervisors.

 

Enforce zoning to benefit the whole community!

 

Posted on 04 Aug 2019, 01:58 - Category: Zoning

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: Zoning

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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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