Summary of May 13, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Meeting: COVID-19 Lockdown, E-30 Curative Amendment, More...
The following is a brief summary of the May 13, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) Zoom meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Dennis Fisher, Secretary John Mack, member David Oxley, and member Kyle Davis. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis, Township Solicitor David Sander, Township EngineerLeanna Colubriale, and Township Solicitor Jerry Schenkman.
COVID-19 Lockdown: The second comment was from Michael Roughton who stated for the past two months we have been subject to a lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus and the reason Governor Wolfe shutdown the economy was so we did not overwhelm our healthcare system and to flatten the curve. He questioned why we are still unable to open our businesses or go to work since the curve has been flattened based on Speaker of The House of PA, Mike Turzai’s letter dated May 6. Mr. Roughton provided statistics and referred the BOS and public to the May 6 letter for additional details. He continued by detailing the Newtown Township and Borough expansion over the last 10-15 years and expressed his concern that the appeal of Newtown as well as the real estate values and tax base will not be well served by a continued lockdown and if this continues many businesses will not survive. Mr. Roughton added the BOS should do everything in their power to help their community businesses reopen by expediting and approving any and all requests of businesses such as a restaurant that wants to expand their footprint to outdoor/curbside dining to alleviate indoor crowding. He said the CDC has given guidance as they think to how we can open safely and although they may be experts in their field, they clearly do not understand businesses. Most businesses can open under the CDC guidelines; however, most won't survive. A restaurant cannot operate at 25%-35% capacity for more than a couple months as the numbers just don't work. We are at a point where the cure has become worse than the virus and the government needs to give back the freedoms that they have wrongfully taken away.
Everyone is aware of what needs to be done, who is at risk and how to move forward. Americans take risks every day therefore, when we open our businesses people have a choice to make, they are either comfortable with the risk of entering our business or they are not. We have a freewill and should be able to make those choices. Mr. Roughton said the BOS and state governments need to be nimbler and more responsive to our needs as there is no revenue coming in at this point and if this goes much longer there will be nothing left to bail out.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Sander if there was a legal explanation and Mr. Sander replied the State oversees this; the Governor and cabinet decide when to allow businesses to reopen and under what circumstances. Mr. Sander understands the resident’s frustration, but the Township doesn’t have the ability to open in violation of the Governor’s order. He added the matter is outside the ambit of this BOS and must be taken up with the State executive branch and legislature. Mr. Calabro confirmed with Mr. Sander if businesses open, they will be policed by the State Police and not Newtown police since this is a state order.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commission
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Mack reported he attended the May 7 Jointure meeting regarding the E-30 Use and Curative Amendment. He said the draft was revised again and sent to the three Planning Commissions for their review. The Comprehensive Plan and resident’s survey being prepared by the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) was also discussed. He said the next step is for the BCPC to coordinate with Township managers how best to distribute the survey. The Joint Zoning Council zoom meeting is available for access by residents via the minutes section on the Township website. Mr. Mack then reviewed the Jointure budget and costs related to the comprehensive plan. He will be sending out assessment letters to the three Township Managers to cover their portion of the 2020 operating budget.
Newtown BINGO!: Mr. Mack shared many local businesses are open on a limited basis due to Covid19 and many need help generating business. He said residents and the NBA [Newtown Business Association] are soliciting local businesses for a bingo contest to benefit local businesses. So far 19 businesses have signed on. Details can be found at newtownbingo.com.
Helping Local Businesses Reopen: Mr. Mack referred to the public comment received regarding the possibility of what the Township can do to help local businesses. He suggested the Finance Committee (FC) be charged with determining what businesses might need to reopen and how the Township might be able to assist by revising the existing business survey. A discussion ensued on businesses opening and how to get the FC together. Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Lewis to schedule a Zoom meeting for the FC to discuss these matters. Mr. Lewis said if the meetings need to be recorded, then advertising is required and there is a significant cost to advertise. Mr. Mack feels it is a significant problem that needs addressing. Mr. Oxley confirmed Mr. Mack is referring to when the Governor permits us to open.
A discussion ensued on the status of opening Newtown back up. Mr. Calabro said this might be in the purview of the NBA and Mr. Oxley mentioned the FC may not be the best committee to address these issues and suggested a different committee, task force or small group might be a better strategy. Mr. Calabro asked if there were any guidelines to forming a new committee or task force and Mr. Sander replied the best way is to put something in writing that creates an ad hoc committee and defines the members, their qualifications, duties and obligations the BOS would like achieved; it would be an undertaking and meetings would still have to be advertised. Mr. Calabro said since the FC is already established, we can advertise their meeting and Mr. Fisher as the FC liaison can facilitate and ensure a quorum; they need to get instructions and meet prior to the next BOS meeting in two weeks. Mr. Sander asked for clarification on what the FC is being asked to accomplish. Messrs. Mack and Oxley explained the business survey in detail and suggested it could be revised to address the new challenges due to Covid19. Mr. Davis added he believes it’s a good idea to be ready to reopen and a committee and survey will take too much time; he inquired about special event permits for parking lots and if they can they be expedited saying we need to move fast and be ready. Mr. Calabro agreed and said it should be considered a special event and discussion ensued.
Mr. Fisher will reach out to the FC to schedule a date for the meeting and advise Mr. Lewis to advertise. Any suggestions can be sent to Mr. Fisher to be included in the meeting. After further discussion, Mr. Mack suggested having a work session to further review the challenges ahead.
NOTE: At the May 11, 2020, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting, the discussion focused on Newtown BINGO! A major topic was deciding how people can help sign up more businesses to participate. After the conversation, it was decided to include retail merchants as well as restaurants in both Newtown Township and Newtown Borough. See the video below:
On May 18, 2020, Newtown BINGO! was successfully launched. Read more about that here.
Votes on Motions
Not all motions may be included.
The following are my personal notes that I used to prepare for this meeting. I may not have asked all the questions in the notes at the meeting. You can also download the PDF version here.
Posted on 27 May 2020, 15:21 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes