John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Ordinances Category

Newtown Township to Consider Amending Noise Ordinance

At the September 26, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) will consider and vote on an ordinance (here) to remove from the Code of Ordinances of Newtown Township “certain provisions related to excessive and unnecessary noise and other nuisances.”

Specifically, the changes that are suggested include

Delete entire Section 10-501.1.B., which states:

“Excessive Noise Prohibited. In addition to the above, it is hereby declared to be a nuisance and shall be unlawful for any person, firm or business entity to make, cause, suffer or permit to be made or caused upon a property owned, occupied or controlled by him or it or upon any public land, street, alley or thoroughfare in the Township of Newtown any excessive noises or sounds, by means of vehicles, machinery, equipment (including sound amplification equipment and musical instruments) or by any other means or methods which are physically annoying to the comfort of any reasonable person or which are so harsh, prolonged, unnatural or unusual in their use, time and place, as to occasion physical discomfort, or which are otherwise injurious to the lives, health, peace and comfort of the inhabitants of Newtown Township or any number of residents thereof” (see here).

Amend Section 10-501.1.C. to delete the following “Special Prohibitions”:

  • Possessing, harboring or keeping an animal or bird which makes any noise continuously and/or persistently for a period of 15 minutes or more, in such a manner as to disturb or annoy any person at any time of the day or night, regardless of whether the animal is situated upon private property.
  • Operating, playing or permitting the operation or playing of any radio, television, audio equipment, sound amplifier, musical instrument or other such device in such a manner as to cause annoyance to persons in the vicinity.
  • Repairing, rebuilding, modifying, testing or operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, recreational vehicle or powered model vehicle in such a manner as to cause annoyance to persons across a real property boundary from the noise source.
  • Operating or permitting the operation of any mechanically powered saw, drill, sander, grinder, lawn or garden tool or similar device used out of doors between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. in such a manner as to cause annoyance to persons across a real property boundary from the noise source.

The prohibition of “Performing any construction operation or operating or permitting the operation of any tools or equipment used in construction, drilling, blasting, demolition, excavating, extraction of stone or other such activities between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. or at any time on Sunday” will remain. Note: This provision does not apply to domestic power tools.

Delete entirely Section 10-503, which states:

“Any person or business entity engaging in any use or activity upon property which by reason of odors, fumes, vapors, vibration or dust unreasonably interferes with the use, comfort and enjoyment of another's property, or endangers the health or safety of the occupants of another's property.”

Why is this being considered?

According to the minutes of the June 18, 2018, BOS Work Session, Newtown Zoning officer Martin Vogt said “enforcing, a sound or a smell as a nuisance is arbitrary.” Section 10-501(B) is difficult to enforce. An example cited that “the Township had responded to a complaint regarding excessive noise, [which was claimed to be] ‘physically annoying’ [due to] the hum of a neighbor’s air conditioning unit.” It was suggested that “Complainants try to draw the Township in to make their case for them to reference these things that can’t be measured.”

Also, when there is an annoyance of animals (dog barking, bird chirping) it is difficult to catch them in the act. A barking dog would be a private nuisance since it affects a few people. A public nuisance would be, for example, constructing something over a major intersection that would affect a larger amount of people. The proposed amendment would not affect the enforcement of such “public nuisances.”

Is Enforcing the Current Ordinance a Burden?

According to the August 2018 Police Report, in 2017, there were 76 “Noise Complaints” in Newtown Township and Wrightstown. Compared to other “nuisance” calls such more than 22 false burglar alarms and more than 5 false fire alarms per week, responding to 1.5 noise complaints per week does not seem like a burden. It may actually give the police a chance to get out their squad cars and talk to residents, something I’ve heard improves relations between the police and the public. That’s just my opinion.

It remains to be seen if the passing of this ordinance would have any impact on monitoring the noise level at public events such as the annual Irish Festival hosted by the Green Parrot pub. Loud music from this event has been an ongoing issue with local residents. For more on that read “The Newtown Township Hatfields Versus the Borough McCoys!”; and view this video: “Green Parrot Irish Festival 2018 Pro and Con Debate”.

Whether or not “noise” from this event is a “public nuisance” may be determined by section 10-501.1.A of the Code of Ordinances of Newtown Township. This section – which the proposed ordinance does NOT eliminate – specifies the maximum allowable continuous sound levels (measured in decibels) for various zoning districts. For example, in the TC (Town Commercial) zone, in which the Green Parrot is located, the maximum sound level between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. is 60 dBA and between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. it is 50 dBA. These levels can be “measured” by experts at the scene, which was the case at the 2018 Irish Festival event.

Posted on 19 Sep 2018, 12:08 - Category: Ordinances

Is a DAS Antenna Coming to a Pole Near You?

At the August 2, 2018, Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, solicitor Vicki Kushto reviewed the current court rulings regarding small wireless cells [aka Distributed Antenna Systems or DAS]. 

At the present time, DAS providers are considered Public Utilities and not subject to local zoning requirements. This means that DAS services could be installed in any public right of way (ROW) for which the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) provides approval. 

There is new legislation (HB2564) being introduced by Rep. Frank Farry that would severely limit local municipalities ability to regulate this use or to seek reimbursement for the use of its public ROWs.

The JZC opposes this legislation, which is being driven by DAS providers to install 5G services (see article embedded below).

The Council was concerned that HB2564 legislation could result in DAS poles/structures being installed in developments, which are now served by underground utilities.

According to a memo (here) written by Farry to all PA House members, the proposed legislation is needed “because decisions are made on a municipal level, wireless providers are faced with varying fees and different procedures that may slow and, in some cases, deter their ability to deploy this new and modern infrastructure. With an array of municipal ordinances governing wireless infrastructure, compliance could be burdensome, time consuming, and costly. This results in less robust services for your constituents.”

Upper Makefield Supervisor, Tom Cino suggested the Jointure work together to oppose this legislation. JZC Chair, Chester Pogonowski was in agreement but felt it might be more impactful if the Council raises this issue with the Bucks County Association of Township Officials (BCATO) Boad of Directors, which is already working on this issue and has previously met with Representative Farry to express concern.

Posted on 27 Aug 2018, 01:58 - Category: Ordinances

Newtown Borough Council Proposes Addition of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Use to Zoning Ordinance

UPDATE (15 August 2018): At last night's Newtown Borough Council meeting, the proposed ordinance was passed without any changes. It was noted at the meeting that this ordinance would NOT apply to Restore Integrative Wellness Center and Chroniceuticals, LLC, which has already applied to open a medical marijuana dispensary on South Street under zoning rules for a retail pharmacy (see story here).

Newtown Borough recently published a notice of a public hearing on August 14, 2018, the purpose of which is the “receive comment and public testimony regarding the proposed amendments to the Newtown Borough Zoning Ordinance adding the Medical Marijuana Grower/Processor, Medical Marijuana Dispensary uses.”

Some provisions of the draft amendment regarding Medical Marijuana Dispensaries include:

  • A Medical Marijuana Dispensary shall not be operated or maintained on a parcel within 1,000 feet, measured by a straight line in all directions, without regard to intervening structures or objects, from the nearest point on the property line of a parcel containing a public, private or parochial school, daycare center. Nor shall a Medical Marijuana Dispensary be located closer than 1,000 feet from another Medical Marijuana Dispensary or from a Medical Marijuana Grower/Processor.

  • A Medical Marijuana Facility shall be limited to hours of operation from8:00 A.M. until 8:00 P.M., seven days a week, by appointment only.

  • There shall be no emission of dust, fumes, vapors or odors which can be seen, smelled, or otherwise perceived from beyond the lot line for the property where the Medical Marijuana Dispensary is operating.

  • A Medical Marijuana Dispensary shall provide proof of a contract with a private security company, and shall be staffed with/monitored by security personnel twenty-four (24) hours a day and seven (7) days a week.

A similar amendment is under discussion for the Newtown Township, Wrightstown, Upper Makefield JMZO.

Newtown Township Planning Commission Chairman, Allen Fidler commented at a June 18, 2018, Work Session of the Newtown Board of Superviors that a dispensary is not something everyone sees as a bad thing [listen to this Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta: "Pot vs Pills"]. 

Having an ordinance gives the Township control of addressing where dispensaries would be located. Along with a 1,000 ft. separation from schools, the Township may want to consider a separation distance from a Township‐owned park. Township Solicitor, David Sandler replied that it might not be able to do that because it isn’t in State law. See video below:

Posted on 30 Jul 2018, 13:24 - Category: Ordinances

Yardley Borough Passes Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, But...

At the February 6, 2018, Yardley Borough Council meeting, members unanimously (7-0) agreed to advertise a new Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. A final vote to adopt the ordinance will me made sometime in early March, 2018 (see UPDATE below), at which time residents and businesses can submit comments prior to the vote. New Councilman David Bria introduced the ordinance.

The primary purpose of the ordinance is “to foster the employment of all individuals in accordance with their fullest capacities regardless of actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, veteran status, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to safeguard their right to obtain and hold employment without such discrimination, to assure equal opportunities to all individuals and to safeguard their rights to public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property.”

“The idea out there is that if the discrimination is related at all to the way someone identifies their sexual identity or gender identity, they would be protected,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how they identify but if it’s related to how ... we want to cast a broad net so there aren’t loopholes with this label or that label.”

Unlawful Acts under the ordinance includes:

  • Discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or access to educational institutions is prohibited under this subpart.
  • Retaliation against any individual because such individual has opposed any practice forbidden by this [ordinance], or because such individual has made a charge, testified or assisted in any manner in any investigation, proceeding or hearing under this [ordinance].

It is not unlawful, however, for a religious corporation or association, “not supported in whole or in part by governmental appropriations, to refuse to hire or employ an individual on the basis of religion.”

Bria noted that there are no state or federal laws that already protect LGBTQ – “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer” - citizens. Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act currently prohibits discrimination in housing and employment, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories. People who self-identify in these categories are not protected under federal laws like the Civil Rights Act either.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits “conversion therapy” of minors. Such therapy seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression, and includes efforts to change behaviors and eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender. The worst cases, according to Bria, are where young people are forced to stay in inpatient facilities and undergo shock therapy.

The proposed ordinance establishes a Human Relations Commission, which is charged with handling complaints and convening a “fact-finding” non-public conference concerning the dispute. If there is no resolution to the conflict, the Commission will convene a public hearing and may take additional action and remedies permitted under the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act.

Dave Bria Talks About Anti-discrimination Ordinances

In this podcast interview Bria discusses some of the reasons why he feels it is important for local Bucks County municipalities like Yardley Borough to enact anti discrimination laws.

UPDATE (July 11, 2018): On March 6, 2018, Yardley Borough became  the fifth Bucks County municipality to adopt an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (see here). That ordinance, however, may become null and void if PA House Bill 861 is passed. That bill says a municipality “may not in any manner regulate ... or enforce any mandate regarding employer policies or practices” other than its own (see article below).

Posted on 07 Feb 2018, 14:38 - Category: Ordinances

Dave Bria Talks About Anti-discrimination Ordinances

Dave Bria - newly elected Yardley Borough Council member - intends to introduce an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect the LGBTQ community in Yardley from employment and housing discrimination. In this iterview he discusses some of details of his proposed ordinance and the reasons why he feels it is important for local municipalities to enact such laws.

 

Posted on 28 Dec 2017, 11:56 - Category: Ordinances

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