Dozens of angry residents of Newtown Crossing, Eagle Ridge, and other Newtown communities attended the February 24, 2021, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) Meeting to oppose a settlement agreement with the Arcadia developer to build 60 homes at Buck Road and the Bypass.
Despite the opposition of residents who attended the meeting, the supervisors approved the final settlement agreement 4-1 with Mr. Kyle Davis casting the lone "nay" vote. Afterward, several residents expressed their displeasure with the vote. Eric Scott Gold, a resident of Eagle Ridge, for example, lashed out against me for voting in favor of the settlement. Township Solicitor Dave Sander objected to his language and Chairman Phil Calabro had to calm everyone down.
Other residents were not as abusive as Mr. Gold, but strongly suggested that Mr. Sander be fired and that I resign. Of course, there were threats that - come election time - the supervisors who voted in favor of the settlement would be voted out of office.
Listen to comments from Mr. Gold and other residents in the following audio clips from the meeting. You can also view the entire Zoom meeting here.
Even the Residents' Lawyer Recommended Settling
"Although Dave Sander was a convenient whipping boy," said Mr. Steve Harris, lawyer for Eagle Ridge HOA, in an email to supervisors, "I would have recommended the settlement, even if the plan had not been deemed approved. Given the uncertainty that would result from the land use appeal that would certainly have been filed by Arcadia from a denial of the tentative plan, I would have also encouraged the parties to explore a settlement.
"You were able to negotiate a settlement that resulted in a more than 20% reduction in the number of homes that were proposed and an agreement to have all of the homes be single family dwellings, both of which are very significant," said Mr. Harris. "Furthermore, PennDOT indicated that it would approve the U-turn at the Buck Road/Mill Pond Road/Diamond Drive intersection once the tentative plan was approved, so there was no way of eliminating that possibility. You were able to negotiate a multi-tiered approach to the U-turn alternative which begins with the developer's agreement to pursue a right in/right out entrance to the Bypass which would eliminate the necessity of the U-turn movement. That was a huge accomplishment. I do not know whether Arcadia will be able to secure a permit for that entrance, but just simply getting the agreement was very important," concluded Mr. Harris.
A "Crap Shoot"
It seems that many residents thought I would oppose the settlement and that I let them down and that I and other supervisors voted without listening to their comments.
"I don't recall you ever representing anything else to people other than you wanted to know what people are thinking and to encourage involvement," said a sympathetic resident in a personal email after the meeting. "I guess some folks read more into it than that."
Regarding listening to comments - prior to this meeting, supervisors spent many weeks listening to all parties - including residents of neighboring communities and their representatives - at public and private meetings. From October, 2020, through February, 2021, I spent a minimum of 20 hours in discussions about this case with residents via personal phone and email communications, Facebook posts, and in Zoom meetings, including the following:
- On October 12, 2020, I hosted a 1 hour Meet Mack Monday "Town Hall" Zoom meeting with residents to discuss Arcadia Litigation.
- On December 29, 2020, I participated in a 1.5 hour Zoom meeting hosted by Eagle Ridge residents.
- On January 19, 2021, I participated in a 2 hour Zoom meeting hosted by Newtown Crossing residents.
- On February 8, 2021, I hosted another Meet Mack Monday "Town Hall" Zoom meeting at which I discussed the details of the Arcadia III settlement agreement with residents.
I was sympathetic to continuing the fight - voting at least 2X with Kyle Davis to discuss how Newtown Township can help Eagle Ridge in its case against Arcadia - until Mr. Harris said at a Feb 5, 2021, BOS EXECUTIVE MEETING (which was NOT a public meeting but at which many residents and resident representatives attended) that he believed Newtown's Mandamus case was unwinnable - that no judge would overturn the decision of a colleague in this case. He also said the Eagle Ridge case was a "crap shoot." A crap shoot is not a 50-50 chance as some residents led us supervisors to believe was his opinion. After that I lost all hope that we could fight the good fight and win.
So although several residents accused the supervisors of coming into the February 24 meeting with their minds already made up, the truth is I did not hear any new convincing arguments against approving the settlement.
Looking Ahead Despite "Cancel Culture"
In the end I listened to the residents who helped craft the settlement because I believe whatever decisions we make, residents with cooler heads should be involved. It is too bad that some residents now believe getting involved does not accomplish anything. They are greatly mistaken in my view. Residents helped create a better if imperfect settlement and they raised some issues that I will pursue going forward such as arranging for residents to participate in the Access Evaluation Process with PennDOT and to make sure that promises made in the settlement agreement are kept.
But some residents were not interested in keeping the lines of communication open going forward. Immediately after the vote, moderators of the Newtown Crossing and Eagle Ridge Facebook invitation-only group pages decided to block me from seeing or making posts to their pages, which is their prerogative. "Cancel culture" at work is how one resident put it.
Posted on 01 Mar 2021, 14:32 - Category: Development