John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Development Issues

For too long, developers and commercial entities with deep pockets have received favorable treatment regardless of merit, or any real benefit to our town.

Our leaders should focus on "smart" economic development that will create jobs and opportunities for everyone.

The following excerpts from minutes of meetings of the Board of Supervisors offer a glimpse into past discussions and decisions of the Board related to development issues. You be the judge if the decisions were smart for Newtown!

Excerpts from Board of Supervisors Meeting Minutes

Details of previous and ongoing land development issues that have come before the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) in last few years. This is NOT a complete list of items. You can find complete minutes of BOS meetings here. Click this button Definition to access the Glossary for definitions of terms and links to related information.

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Arcadia Green

8-Aug-2018Report from Planning Commission: Allen Fidler, Chairman, gave a synopsis of the Arcadia Green PRD Definition presentation at the August 7, 2018 meeting, and the Commission asked questions of a general nature to the applicant. There were no formal recommendations made. Some of the concerns of the Commission and from public comment were traffic and pedestrian safety issues, proposed double left u‐turns at Mill Pond and Buck, development infill affecting quality of life, and roadway safety accessing and leaving their developments via Buck Road and the Bypass. Suggestions from the Commission included a pedestrian bridge, a second access to the development for use by EMS services only, and for partial open space to remain as undisturbed habitat for native plants and wildlife.

8-Aug-2018Arcadia Green PRD Hearing: Resident Jay McGuigan, 271 High Street, Newtown Crossing, was given Party Status Definition Resident and vice president of Eagle Ridge Association Dennis Schoener, 21 Ardsley Court, Eagle Ridge, was denied party status; however, if an attorney is hired by Eagle Ridge, they may have the opportunity to be included. Mr. John VanLuvanee, Esq., applicant’s counsel, presented the Supervisors with a binder of exhibits and addressed the history of the property and previous plans. Mr. VanLuvanee explained an offer of a mediation option for the Board to consider. Mr. Calabro asked for a motion to submit the application to mediation. The motion failed. [In response to VanLuvanee’s request that several Supervisors be recused due to bias, Township Solicitor Definition, Dave Sander, cited section 603 of the PA Second Class Township Code, which states: “A member of the board shall not be disqualified from voting on any issue before the board solely because the member had previously expressed an opinion on the issue in either an official or unofficial capacity.”] A motion to recuse the Board members was denied.

25-Oct-2017: Report from the Planning Commission meeting of October 24th. The proposed High Street access and under the Township's position, required a willing modification of the adjacent PRD . Modification of the PRD Definition is effectively controlled by the Home Owners Association (HOA). If the HOA wants to modify their plan to accommodate the relocation or the creation of a street into their development, they feel that is their prerogative and the Township supports that position. The applicant disagrees; they own a residential unit on High Street and believe they can use it for an access point. Mr. Davis asked if the Arcadia representatives gave a reason why they didn't address all of the issues on the Township's review letters. Mr. Fidler stated the responses were "we disagree" without going into detail, or "we disagree with the Township position" and will respond later. With the sensitivity of the time line, the longer it takes Arcadia to answer in a timely fashion, the harder it is for our job to be done in a timely fashion.

11-Oct-2017Report from Planning Commission: Paul Cohen, Secretary, gave a synopsis of the meeting held on October 3, 2017. The only item on the agenda was the Arcadia Green Tentative PRD. At the time of the meeting, Arcadia's responses to our Township professionals' review letters had not been received and the Commission didn't feel prepared to discuss the technicalities of the development plan. Some of the issues discussed at the Planning meeting were concerns about the open space apportionments, use of the common area, and the big issue was access to Newtown Crossing on High Street, and the access to the Bypass. The applicant agreed to an extension allowing the Commission an opportunity to review the plan and applicant's responses to the engineers' review letters.

11-Oct-2017Arcadia Green PRD Hearing: Arcadia Newtown Holdings LP submitted an application for tentative approval of a plan of residential development, a/k/a PRD, the site is located at the intersection and northwest corner of Buck Road and Newtown Bypass, the application seeks to develop a mixed use development on a site of approximately 25 acres. The application proposes 85 residential units comprised of 26 village houses and 29 townhouses. The application also includes open space, recreation areas and a common facility. The application also includes property owned by the Newtown Reformed Church.

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Catalyst Outdoor Sign Company

17-Oct-2016: Robert DeGoria of Catalyst gave a brief presentation on the merits of allowing a lease arrangement for a Catalyst sign on Township owned land at Silver Lake Park. Mr. DeGoria explained that the electronic billboards would be 520 square feet in size, about half the size of a typical highway billboard. The signs would be housed in an architectural feature or monument so that it would appear very attractive and in keeping with the surrounding area. One design featured a barn like structure containing restrooms, for example, and another included a silo with a second billboard. Catalyst proposed a lease arrangement which would result in profit to the Township of close to $2.5 million over the course of 30 years, with the first years' payments in the $150,000 range. In addition, the Township would be offered advertising and emergency announcement time on the billboard, whose messages change at regular intervals. Mr. Davis thanked Mr. DeGoria for his presentation and asked his fellow Board members to communicate directly with Mr. DeGoria via e-mail with specific questions. [view video]

8-Jun-2016: Mr. Calabro reminded the Board that it had recently seen a presentation from Catalyst sign company which would install signage that could generate revenue to the Township. Due to the late hour of the presentation, he felt the vendor was not given full consideration for his proposal and he would like to discuss this further. He also noted that Chairman Davis had not been in attendance. Mr. Davis said that he had met with Catalyst and seen their presentation privately. He is not sure this would be appropriate for Newtown. Mr. M. Gallagher agreed, noting that the Township does not permit billboards. He also has concerns about the other components of the sign such as the dog park. Mr. Calabro said that he was interested in the gateway concept and thought it deserved further consideration. Mrs. Dix said that she liked the farmers market proposal attached to the sign. Mr. R. Gallagher said that he thought this was a unique proposal and perhaps some of the Township's other committees would be interested in seeing the presentation. Mr. M. Gallagher said that he did not want to send the vendors to the Planning Commission or other committee if the concept did not have the support of three board members. He has some concern that there is not enough support for a large sign on the Bypass. Mr. Garton and Mr. Ferguson suggested that they, along with two Board members, could review the concept in depth before bringing the vendors to other committees or to the full Board in a formal setting. Mr. Davis and Mrs. Dix agreed to review this concept further with Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Garton.

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Conservation Overlay

10-Oct-2018: Wrightstown Township: Establishing a Overlay Zoning Definition district for properties at least 50 acres and are now or will be subject to a Conservation Easement Definition in favor of conserving the property and limiting the use. Ag uses, accessory uses to a winery, would allow micro‐breweries, micro‐distilleries, art studios, etc. Motion for authorization for Jointure Definition to advertise for a public hearing before the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors passed 5-0.

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IHM Properties, Newtown Bypass at Lower Silver Lake Road

12-Jun-2013: Allen Fidler, Chairman of the Newtown Planning Commission, gave Supervisors a synopsis of the June 4, 2013, Commission meeting regarding a land development conceptual Sketch Plan Definition for development of a ten acre parcel at the intersection of Newtown Bypass and Silver Lake Road as a 110 room hotel, two restaurant pads and a medical office building. The site is intersected by a 150 foot wide PECO property with high tension wires and utility lines as well as a stream, waters of the Commonwealth and woodlands. The applicant acknowledged that flood studies, traffic studies and tree counts will be necessary before fully engineered plans are developed or applications to the Zoning Hearing Board are made.

The members discussed some of their concerns with intense development of this parcel. The Township has been resistant to uses E-5 and E-6, eating place and drive through in the OR zoning district and advised the applicant that asking for two pad sites for restaurants may meet with some opposition, especially if fast food were considered. The applicant assured the Commission that he will be offering the site for family friendly restaurants with no drive through service. The applicant said that he intends to cooperate with Township signage regulations, which is another of the Commission’s concerns. The members discussed access to the site and sidewalks within it, so that pedestrians would have safe access among the uses.

Regarding the hotel, the Commission discussed the proposed height and location on the lot; the subsurface is rock, limiting its possible placement. It will be set back and not will dominate the view from the Bypass. The Commission advised the applicant of the Township’s history of resistance to restaurants at this location, acknowledging the desirability of eating places in easy proximity to hotels. The Commission advised the applicant to be flexible, possibly locating the restaurant inside the hotel or seeking relief for only one restaurant and having only three buildings at the site.

A traffic engineer has been brought on to the project but no preliminary work has been done yet to determine whether roadway improvements will be necessary for Silver Lake Road.

The Commission was receptive to development of this property and did not express strong objections to the hotel concept, provided signage complies with Township ordinances. There were no strong objections to the medical office building, although there was some concern about possible parking relief for the three different uses’ shared parking concept. Should the medical office change to a use with evening hours, the sharing of parking with restaurants and a hotel could become an issue.

Dr. Ciervo noted that parking is shown on the PECO property and that the three uses proposed are not permitted in the OR zoning district.

Mr. Fidler said that the Commission had some concern about the intensity of the proposed development but until the flood lines are delineated it is difficult to discuss in detail. The surrounding business community is eager to see service businesses, especially a hotel with meeting facilities, in this area. The applicant has not contracted with a specific hotel chain but is considering upscale facilities. The Commission expects this to be a very long process, but the applicant was flexible and eager to work with the Township.

More information can be found in the June 4, 2013, minutes of the Planning Commission here. Download the Property Brochure for this proposed land use, which includes the sketch plan. See "Wawa on Bypass" for an alternative land development proposal Sketch Plan for this area presented to the BOS in 2018.

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LUKOIL

21-Nov-2017: Applicant is seeking subdivision of the property to create two lots: lot 1 is approximately ~ acre and will maintain the existing lukOil service station. lot 2 will be approximately over one acre; no improvements are determined at this time. The Newtown Township Planning Commission, without a quorum, recommended the preliminary as final minor subdivision plan, subject to conditions, at its meeting held on November 7,2017. There were questions from the Board regarding the paper street (Howard Avenue) and what future use there would be for lot 2. There are no plans for lot 2 at this time. Mr. Calabro asked if Lot 2 would be developed into a convenience store, within the proximity of the gas station, is there any violation. Mr. Torrente believed it would be restricted what is permitted within that zoning district. The zoning would be grand fathered in from Lot 1 to Lot 2. Mr. Calabro understood that if the restriction was not to have a convenience store, there would not be a convenience store. Mr. Torrente opined that if there was such a restriction, that would be correct. Granted (3-0) two waivers from the provisions of the Newtown Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO Definition).

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Pickering Manor

23-May-2018: Joe Blackburn, Esq., represented Pickering Manor with respect to its pending land development located on 226 North Lincoln Avenue. Based upon their non-profit status, Mr. Blackburn made a request that the Board consider a reduction in the Parks & Recreation fee-in-lieu amount. It was agreed that the fee-in-lieu amount would be half the amount of $46,570.87. An actual amount would be determined at a later time. Applicant will also pay a traffic impact fee in the amount of $7,020.00. Mr. Calabro put the motion to a vote and the motion carried 3-1 (Mrs. Dix voted "nay").

28-Feb-2018: Proposed is an 18,000+ sq. ft. addition to the main property, expanding parking area, and underground water seepage bed. The applicant will comply with the Township Engineer Definition review letter issues, however, waivers were reviewed at the Planning Commission meeting. Concerns of the residents were storm water runoff, truck deliveries, and overall operating noise and traffic. It was recommended that the times for food supply deliveries be made in a smaller truck and be moved to a more appropriate time. The executive director of Pickering Manor urged neighbors to contact her to discuss any issues they may have.

14-Feb-2018: A plan was submitted proposing an approximate 18,200 sq. ft. two-story building addition to the main building and additions to three of the five existing cottage buildings. Expanded parking and driveway facilities and an underground seepage bed for storm water management is also proposed.

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PRD Elimination

21-Sep-2018: Consideration of PRD Definition Elimination Zoning Ordinance Amendment: Mr. Sander - Township Solicitor - explained that at the recommendation of the Bucks County Planning Commission, an ordinance is being circulated among the Jointure Definition partners to remove the PRD use from the JMZO. Passage of an ordinance eliminating this use from the JMZO Definition would not impact current applications. Mr. Davis moved to amend the JMZO to remove the PRD use from its permitted uses. Ms. Bobrin seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Read: "Newtown Township, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown to Consider Deleting Planned Residential Development from the Newtown Area JMZO"

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Wawa on Bypass

27-Jul-2018: Allen Fidler, Chairman of the Newtown Planning Commission, gave Supervisors a synopsis of the July 17, 2018 Commission meeting regarding a land development conceptual Sketch Plan Definition for a proposed Wawa with fuel canopy at Newtown Bypass and Lower Silver Lake Road. ["The informal consensus of the Commission [was] not in favor of this particular use at this site," reported Fiddler (see video below).]

[Note: At the August 7, 2018, Newtown Planning Commission meeting, member Paul Cohen objected to Chairman Fidler's characterization that the informal "consensus" of the Commission was not in favor of a Super Wawa at the proposed location on Newtown Bypass. Mr. Cohen suggested that this characterization in the minutes did not accurately reflect the conversation of members of the Commission. Listen to his comments below.]

23-May-2018: Public comment: Michael Horbal, Newtown, wanted the Board to consider voting against a change on that parcel that would accommodate whatever retail use is proposed. Based on the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, he suggested the Township should look at all potential parcels that could be developed for retail on parcels similar to the proposed Wawa location. He's concerned that a subsequent land owner may request a change to the zoning of their parcel so that it could be developed for a fast food franchise. [Read: The BrouHaha Over Proposed Wawa, Super Wawa Survey Comments, Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super WaWa on the Bypass, and Developer and Attorney Present Their Case for a WaWa Superstore on the Newtown Bypass]

See "IHM Properties, Newtown Bypass at Lower Silver Lake Road" for an alternative land development proposal (Sketch Plan Definition) for this area presented to the BOS in 2013.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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