The Newtown Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township will hold a public hearing on Monday,
Pursuant to Section 916.1(e) of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, notice is hereby given that the validity of the Newtown Area Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance is in question, and the application, including all plans, explanatory material, and proposed ordinance amendment (LINK to online version: https://bit.ly/KRE_ValidityChallenge).
On May 15, 2023, Wisler Pearlstine, LLP, attorneys representing Kushner Real Estate (aka KRE Upper Macungie Associates, LP), submitted a “Substantive Validity Challenge with Curative Amendment” to #NewtownPA Township.
The developer seeks to amend the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) to allow a 245-unit multi-story apartment complex to be built on Lower Silver Lake Road, a few hundred feet south of the proposed Wawa (see image above). This use is not currently permitted in the OR (Office/Research) zone, where it is proposed. [Background: “20 December 2022 Newtown Planning Commission Meeting Summary”]
KRE is following the lead of Provco/Wawa, which also challenged the JMZO zoning ordinance because it did not allow for combination convenience store and gas station use anywhere in the Newtown Area Jointure (Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield).
As part of the current “Challenge,” KRE submitted a new plan (shown above) and actual wording of a proposed B-11 Apartment Use to include in the JMZO. Of course this would allow every aspect of the current plan, including:
- Dog spa or grooming facility, not including boarding or veterinarian services, only for residents of the development
- Resident amenities and recreational facilities, including, but not limited to, community pools, tennis courts, noncommercial fitness facilities and playgrounds (see below):
Aside from opposing changes to our zoning dictated by developers, I have no doubt that this project – if built – will add significantly more traffic to Rte 332 headed to 295 in the AM and vice versa in the PM.
In addition, I see this as part of a domino effect that may also involve the Crossing Community Church (across Lower Silver Lake Rd from the proposed Wawa site), which probably be next to sell a piece of land it owns abutting the Bypass to developers. I recall that at the very first public BOS meeting to discuss the proposed Wawa that representatives of Wawa said the church members "said a prayer" for Wawa to succeed!
If you think traffic is a mess on the Bypass now, wait until the developers have their way with these other pet projects. To get what they want, the developers will fight the township to get exactly what they want using every means at their disposal - including the courts as Wawa has done. In fact, KRE - like Provco/Wawa - has written the first draft of an amended OR ordinance it will try to force upon the township as if they were running the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council! Disgraceful!
Newtown Zoning Validity Challenge Survey
How concerned are you about overdevelopment in Newtown Township?
Little did I understand that Wawa's "Substantive Validity Challenge" to Newtown's zoning (read "Wawa Resurrects Its “Substantive Validity Challenge” to #NewtownPA’s Zoning") would be the beginning of what I call “Newtown Zoning Armageddon™” – an epic series of battles between developers and the township.
You might say it’s a “slippery slope” or a “domino effect,” but I prefer the term “Armageddon” because, for me, it’s a “call-to-arms” for residents who moved to Newtown to escape overdevelopment and crime. It’s not about whether Wawa is a good thing or not. It’s about Wawa weaponizing our zoning law, a tactic now being copied by other developers (read "Are You Ready for Newtown Zoning Armageddon™?").
These battles, I fear, will eventually lead to developers rewriting zoning ordinances (laws) meant to protect the promise of Newtown as “A Great Place to Live, Work, and Worship” as well as enjoy open, undeveloped space.
Results to Date (7/7/23)
Meanwhile, I was told that the Newtown-Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (aka, “Sewer Authority”) is considering building a sewer treatment plant on the site where KRE wants to build apartments.
Recall that in 2013, the Authority considered opening a $68 million sewage treatment plant located at the site of the former treatment plant, off the bypass between Routes 413 and 532, behind George School. Residents of Crown Point went bat-shit! [Read “Proposed $68M Sewage Treatment Plant Infuriates Neighbors”]
At that time, Authority Manager Warren Gormley said the “newest technology will enable the creation of an indoor plant that would not emit unpleasant odors to surrounding neighborhoods.” Where I come from – Brooklyn, NY – we have a saying: “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you!” Also, remember the Nabisco cookie factory in Philly? The area always smelled of cookies – a good smell, but not contained by the building!
Currently, Newtown’s sewage is handled by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority, which sends some of its waste to Philadelphia’s overloaded system. “The process comes with a hefty price tag for Newtown—on average, the Municipal Authority pays about a quarter of a million dollars a month to treat local waste, an expense that is passed on to ratepayers.”
Obviously, buying the land and building the facility will cost money. How much is unknown right now – at least the cost is unknown to me!
Some Recent History
At the January 11, 2023, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Mr. Gormley explained why the Authority is raising the rates it charges Newtown Township and Borough customers.
Mr. Gormley said that the Authority is raising rates for residential customers by 20% from $68 per quarter for 10,000 gallons usage to $82 per quarter. Excess over 10,000 gallons is now $12.00 per 1,000 gallons per unit versus $10 previously. It is also increasing the rates for Commercial, Industrial, Schools, Public and all other customers.
In short, Mr. Gormley cited the 16.6% increase that Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) charges NBCJMA for transmitting sewage to Philadelphia. Previously, Mr. Gormley appeared before the NT BOS to advocate that BCWSA reject its sale to Aqua PA - a private company - because rates for Newtown residents would "increase dramatically".
If you check the JMZO a public utility operation (e.g., Sewage Treatment Plant) under an F-1 use is allowed by “Special Exception” in the OR district. The key feature is that it can only occupy 10% of the total property. A “Special Exception” is a permission or approval granted an applicant before the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB). The BOS is a party to the case and may send its solicitor to the ZHB to oppose the plan, but the decision is ultimately up to the ZHB, not the BOS.
Posted on 22 Jun 2023, 01:58 - Category: Development