John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
It's Strike Two for 27 Townhomes on Durham Road!

It's Strike Two for 27 Townhomes on Durham Road!

The Plan

At the November 13, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Durham Partners Group, LLC, submitted a Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) application for twenty seven townhomes and associated dimensional variances on the property located at 413 Durham Road in the PS-2 (Professional Service) Zoning District. The BOS heard from the applicant's professionals that the proposed townhouse use is much lower impact from a traffic and development standpoint than a permitted medical office building.

Strike One!

After extensive questioning by Supervisors, the BOS voted 4-1 to send the Township Solicitor to the December 5, 2019, ZHB meeting to oppose the developer's request for 7 variances (for more details, read "Newtown Supervisors Oppose Plan To Build 27 Townhouses" in the Newtown Patch). Supervisor Kyle Davis cast the lone "nay" vote.

According to resident Mike Horbal in a private comment to me, "this is a classic example of 'overdevelopment' or, worse, 'land grab.' This use is not permitted as a use by right, a conditional use, OR a special exception in the PS-2 district," said Horbal.

In comments before the BOS, Mr. Horbal noted that without any variances, only one single family home would be allowed at this location. He said "to propose twenty seven townhomes on a 5-acre property makes very little sense except for the developer." Mr. Horbal said that if the town is really against overdevelopment this would be a "perfect example" to oppose. "Don't come to town," said Mr. Horbal, "if you can't propose a project that meets the requirements of the zoning regulations."

Resident Joyann Charlton echoed Mr. Horbal's comments and implored the BOS to take a position against the development. Ms. Charlton mentioned the strain on already overcrowded schools and busing.

View the following video of the Q&A and comments from the BOS and residents:

Strike Two!

Heath Dumack, the engineer hired by the developer, appeared before the Newtown Planning Commission at its November 19, 2019, public meeting "as a courtesy."

Mr. Dumack responded to questions by the members of the Commission and commented that "You're being much nicer than the reception I received last Wednesday" (he was referring to the reception by the Board of Supervisors).

But the "niceties" did not last long. PC member Paul Cohen said "I don't want to be too impolite about it, but this is crazy! This is just a blatant effort to squeeze as much as possible out of this. To come in and propose - where there's supposed to be one home - twenty-seven is... incredibly bold."

Listen to the discussion at the PC:

Strike Three?

The next step for Durham Partners Group is to appear before the Zoning Hearing Board. Will the third time be the charm or will it be strike three and "yer out!"? With the Township Solicitor there to oppose awarding variances for this plan (see below), it is my hope that the ZHB denies the application.

The Variances Requested

Would it have been possible to save the township some money and just send a letter to the ZHB? I don't think so. It is my experience that developers will never give up and they are willing to spend the money on lawyers. You can't fight that with a letter!

Posted on 20 Nov 2019, 01:57 - Category: Development

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