In the past two and a half years the Newtown Joint Zoning Council (JZC) has worked with the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) to update the 2009 Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan. This process sometimes was slowed down because of the pandemic and difficulties just getting JZC members together.
The Comprehensive Plan is a formal planning document mandated by the Municipal Planning Code (MPC). The Comprehensive Plan is not designed to address all aspects of township governance. In developing the plan, the JZC narrowly focused on issues related to land development and zoning.
Prior to its September 20, 2022, public meeting, the Newtown Planning Commission (NTPC) reviewed a video presentation by BCPC consultants, Lisa Wolfe and Jeremy Stoff. This video provided a high level review of the plan to the NTPC, which had some questions for the BCPC consultants at the meeting.
The plan contains nine “Guiding Principles” that will be used to guide actions and decisions of the townships within the Jointure.
As the NTPC reviews the Plan in light of its Guiding Principles, it will share its comments with the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and then back to the JZC.
What Is the Purpose of the Plan?
The plan attempts to address the challenges faced by the Jointure communities (Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown) and begins by investigating how to...
- manage future growth and development?
- continue to preserve our important farmlands, natural areas, and open spaces
- control traffic and ensure safe travel?
- protect and sustain safe neighborhoods, convenient shopping, and good community facilities?
- promote resiliency related to the impact stemming from climate change?
- live sustainably in a period of energy uncertainty? and finally
- protect the special history of our area?”
Why Is It Necessary to Update the Plan?
The current update was undertaken for several reasons. First, the Jointure had reached the time frame envisioned by the Pennsylvania municipalities planning code, which is a state enabling legislation requiring municipal comprehensive plans be reviewed at least every 10 years.
Other reasons for updating the plan have to do with documenting and analyzing changes that have occurred in the Jointure since [the Plan was last published in 2009]. These include studies, surveys and activities that each of the Newtown area townships have undertaken as well as accounting for land use changes resulting from additional growth that has occurred in the Newtown area and successful land preservation efforts by each Township.
How Is The Plan Organized?
The current Comprehensive Plan is organized into two separate parts. The first part of the document includes a discussion of the Guiding Principles for the Newtown area as related to land use (see below). This part of the plan is basically a blueprint for the future. The second part of the document located in the plan appendices includes background analyses that give a current snapshot of the Jointure with updated information on demographics, existing land use, natural resource protection, historic resources, village planning parks, and open space, transportation, residential development analysis, and a non-residential development inventory.
How Was The Public Involved?
From the outset of this project JZC members placed a strong emphasis on engaging the public and receiving community input. In addition to relying on various township boards and committees for input, a resident survey was also created to gauge what issues are most important to community members. Resident responses – find a summary here – helped to frame land use priorities and provide direction and guidance for municipal officials as they plan for the future.
This plan contains nine principles that will be used to guide actions and decisions of the townships within the Jointure. The principles were developed by reviewing the results of the resident questionnaire, examining current conditions and trends on the ground, learning from the experiences of other communities, and setting objectives for what our community should be in the future.
The NTPC members have agreed to review each principle and its subsequent strategies at its future meetings. The reviews will be an agenda item until the NTPC has completed all nine principles. After each review, the Planning Commission will report to the Newtown BOS on its thoughts and recommendations. If the BOS has comments, it will include those in its reports to the JZC.
Guiding Principle 1: Promote Smart Growth
The first of the guiding principles is to promote smart growth and this deals with guiding new growth into development areas and guiding that growth in the form of good places to live that are respectful of neighbors and to the community and that adhere to the principles of the Jointure.
This deals with accommodating any anticipated growth within development areas in all three Jointure townships to meet the area's obligations to provide for new residents in a variety of housing choices.
Guiding Principle 2: Promote Sustainable Development and Protect Natural Resources
The second Guiding Principle is to promote sustainable development and protect natural resources so development will be a accommodated in a way that protects the land area and water for present and future generations. This principle involves policies to protect the landscape vegetation, natural topography farmland resources, wetlands, and floodplains, all of which have been part of the Jointure and its standards for decades and will be continued.
Updates to these policies to address flooding problems, site disturbance, water quality degradation, loss of tree cover, and energy conservation, are all recommended as a part of this principle.
Addressing Climate Change
The Jointure also recognizes the threat to the future of our community and our families posed by climate change. You'll find a discussion of that within this Principle chapter as well. We stress that future decisions should be made with a clear view toward mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, promoting resiliency or resilience to extreme weather events, and taking all other measures needed to grow as a sustainable community.
NOTE: This was a recommendation made by the Newtown Environmental Advisory Council (EAC). Find an updated list of recommendations from the EAC here...
Guiding Principle 3: Provide for Mobility and Connections
The third Principle is to provide for mobility and connections. This deals with fostering a safe efficient and comprehensive transportation system of roads, rails, buses, transit trails, bikeways, and sidewalks where appropriate that provide a variety of options for traveling in and through the Newtown area.
Guiding Principle 4: Preserve Open Space and Protect Agriculture
The fourth principle is to preserve open space and protect agriculture. This principle deals with farming and related uses as they remain important parts of the landscape of the Jointure. But the pressure from development threatens to fragment these resources and counters the efforts to preserve them.
Agriculture and horticultural practices continue to expand. As some of these activities such as pick your own produce and farmers’ markets grow we want to help support the area's farming community and provide local food sources to help them thrive.
This principle and the plan at large support and recognize the continuation of farming within the Jointure and it supports meaningful open space as a part of the development process and through conservation easements.
Guiding Principle 5: Build and Maintain Livable Communities
The 5th Principle is to build and maintain livable communities. This Principle deals with establishing adequate community services and facilities such as police protection and schools, and dedicated space for community institutions. Community services and facilities are often what attract new residents to places like the Jointure. The residents responding to the community questionnaire similarly said that the school system and the facilities that are available to families were important factors in deciding to live in the Jointure.
Some of these Community facilities and services are provided by the municipalities themselves while others are provided by private contractors non-profit organizations or by other levels of government.
Guiding Principle 6: Provide Parks and Recreation
The sixth Principle is to provide Parks and Recreation. This principle deals with fostering the development of active and passive recreation and promoting the physical and mental well-being of residents of all ages. Parks, recreation facilities, and open space, are important improvements and vital aspects of sound communities and that idea is reflected in this plan.
Guiding Principle 7: Sustain and Support Our Commercial and Jobs Base
The seventh Principle is to sustain and support our commercial and job space. This principle deals with maintaining the area’s convenient and attractive commercial areas for the purchase of necessary goods and services, but also remaining mindful of over-commercialization of the area.
This Principle also deals with maintaining and enhancing the area's economic vitality, businesses, and industries, that provide jobs, convenient shopping and services, and a quality community life for residents. The plan is cognizant of the fact that good land use planning can direct and should direct non-residential development to areas where it makes sense.
Guiding Principle 8: Protect Historic Resources
Principle number eight is to protect historic resources. This Principle deals with ensuring that preservation of the area's historic resources are protected by regulating future growth to recognize, protect, and incorporate landscapes, buildings, and other structures of historic, architectural, and cultural value to the community.
Guiding Principle 9: Preserve Our Villages
This Principle deals with protecting the scale and the character of the villages through land use and design control so that the historical and cultural heritage of these villages in the Jointure can enhance the quality of life in the present and be preserved for future generations.
Posted on 22 Sep 2022, 11:10 - Category: Development