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 important Development related Newtown Board of Supervisors' decisions and discussions in last few years (organized by issue in reverse chronological order). This is NOT a complete list of items. You can find complete minutes of BOS meetings here.

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Arcadia Green

8-Aug-2018Report from Planning Commission: Allen Fidler, Chairman, gave a synopsis of the Arcadia Green PRD 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. 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, 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 is effectively controlled by the 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 PRO, 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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Drive-thru Starbucks

27-Jun-2018: Consideration of Settlement Stipulation for Starbucks Conditional Use Appeal. Ms. Bobrin made a motion to authorize execution of the settlement stipulation. Mr. Calabro seconded. A discussion took place surrounding the conditions of the Stipulation Agreement. The motion passed 4‐1, Mr. Davis voting “nay.”

9-May-2018: This conditional use application is for the conditional use for an E5 and E6 eating place adjacent to the relocated Bank of America. The motion to approve the application failed 5-0. [NOTE: This was despite a recommendation for approval by the Newtown Planning Commission. Read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks".]

25-Apr-2018: The Newtown Planning Commission recommended the Supervisors not oppose the conditional use application for Starbucks, 2896 South Eagle Road, Village At Newtown West. This application pertained to the function of the drive-thru for an E5 and E6 eating place. This is one of the new buildings approved as part of the comprehensive Village At Newtown redevelopment plan. The Commission is limited with suggesting changes to what had been approved during the subdivision and land development application. Based on demand, the operating hours would be from 4:30AM to 11:00PM, and deliveries would be made after 9:30PM. The restaurant proposes 41 interior and 26 exterior seating which would be accessible from the parking lot.

Concerns were discussed regarding the proposed drive-thru, 10-car stacking lanes, parking, time of operation, and safety of the outside seating area. It was suggested to the applicant that decorative concrete bollards be installed at the perimeter of the outdoor eating area to increase safety from vehicular traffic. The Commission was also concerned about pedestrian traffic cut-thru to Starbucks and suggested signage to promote safety stating “cross at the crossing” and to add decorative fencing to hinder pedestrian traffic cutting through the shopping center parking lot.

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First National Bank & Trust Co

13-Jun-2018: Request for an extension of time to file plans pursuant to Section 1404.A.2 of the JMZO. There is a discrepancy of which date to use for the official granting of the variance. Applicant is requesting the Board of Supervisors to grant a one year extension which would ensure that the land development plans were filed on a timely basis. Mr. Calabro questioned Mr. Sander if it is a legal motion for an extension of time. No matter what date is used, whether the 2015 or the 2016 date (court decision), the issue is that this is a request after the fact. There was discussion regarding if this may set a precedent; however, each zoning case is reviewed on its own merits and treated separately. There is nothing in the JMZO Section 1404.A.2 that says when the applicant must make their request for an extension of time. The request is to grant an extension of time to the applicant for one year which would make the filing of the plans in January 2018 timely. Then the applicant could proceed. Mr. Davis made the motion to approve the extension of time. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 4‐1, Mr. Mack voted “nay”.

23-May-2018: Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler reported that applicant requesting to extend the time for filing land development plans. First National had internal issues and didn't file the plan in time. The question is when the six month period starts. The Board has the power to extend the time, according to Mr. Fidler.

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Fred Beans

10-Jan-2018: A visual concept displayed the new frontage of the showroom and the body shop, complete sidewalks, signage resulting in six less signs, and how the property is proposed to blend in with historic area. Because it was a nonconforming use, the Zoning Hearing Board granted relief, Parks & Recreation recommended to receive over 10,000 sq. ft. of open space to connect Sycamore Street with the shopping center, and the Plan has the recommendation from HARB and the Planning Commission. Motion for approval passed 5-0.

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KVK Tech

27-Sep-2017: KVK Tech was granted conditional use approval on July 28, 2004 to use 33,000 sq. ft. of building on the subject property (110 Terry Drive) for a G-2 research use, G-1 manufacturing use, B-1 office use, and G-3 warehouse use which 4,000 sq. ft. was devoted to a laboratory. The approval also provided for a maximum of 37 employees and provided 41 parking spaces. KVK's conditional use amendment application requests approval to amend the conditional use approved on July 28,2004 to increase the manufacturing area space by 4,791 sq. ft., propose to increase the number of employees on-site between 120-130 and increase of on-site parking spaces to 181. Mr. Calabro commented on why KVK couldn't put this expansion and construction into the former Lockheed-Martin property they recently purchased. Mr. Murphy replied that the Lockheed-Martin building is presently being renovated and will be focused on new products upon FDA and other governmental approval proposed near the end of the year. The motion carried 3-2 with Mr. Calabro and Mrs. Dix voting "nay".

28-Jun-2017: The Planning Commission raised certain questions about the application that were not able to be answered by applicant's attorney because a representative other than the attorney was not present to answer the business operational questions. It was suggested to KVK Tech's representative that some of the concerns and questions that we asked be provided by management of KVK Tech prior to going to the Zoning Hearing Board. The Lockheed-Martin site has security required and it was questioned why KVK Tech was seeking variances at the Terry Drive location. KVK's representative eluded that the vault was a federal requirement there would be substantial additional expense to relocate and obtain permission from the federal government to put another vault in a different location. The Commission suggested that a representative of KVK Tech to answer questions of the Commission and the Board.

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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 Land/Development Ordinance.

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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 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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Premier A‐2 Self Storage

27-Jun-2018: Approval of the agreements, documents, and plans associated with Premier A2 Self‐Storage, Penns Trail. The Final Plan approval was granted by the Board and documentation was prepared for the project. Mrs. Dix made a motion to authorize the execution of development documents for Premier A‐2 Self‐Storage. Ms. Bobrin seconded, and the motion passed 5‐0.

14-Mar-2018: Consideration to waive Transportation Impact Study. The additional peak hour trips assessed has been determined at 3. An additional waiver is required from the SALDO impact study, and the traffic engineer supports the waiver of a full and complete traffic impact study. Mr. Ferguson stated the impact fee would be $5,265 to the Township. The motion would be to approve the waiver from the SALDO ordinance requirement of a traffic impact study of Premier A-2 Newtown PA, LLC. Mrs. Dix made the motion to waive the requirement. Ms. Bobrin approved, and the motion passed 5-0.

10-Jan-2018: Reviewed the project to demolish a 17,000 sq.ft. building and construct a 27,000 sq.ft. G4 mini storage use building with interior access storage units. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the approval of the various zoning relief which was granted by the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Ferguson commented that the Park & Recreation fee will be approximately $55,000.00. Motion to approve vote 5-0.

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Villas of Newtown

23-May-2018: Certificate of Completion #1- CKS Engineers recommends that the Certificate be approved by the Board in the amount of $51,950.00. The amount of the remaining escrow is $78,119.00. the motion carried 3-1 (Mrs. Dix voted "nay").

28-Feb-2018: Authorization is sought to sign the Release of Claims regarding the unauthorized removal of a birch tree by the developer of The Villas at Newtown. Mrs. Dix made a motion to approve. Ms. Bobrin seconded, and the motion passed 5-0. [Read "McGrath, Developer of Villa at Newtown, To Pay Newtown Twp $25K For Surreptitiously and Illegally Cutting Down Valuable Beech Tree".]

13-Sep-2017: Farmhouse. The Township's condition for approval was to have the facade completed, which it is. The interior is still being renovated. If there is a dispute over losing any-leverage by issuing the CO's to the remaining units, there could be other incentives mandated for the completion of the farmhouse. Mr. Calabro motioned to issue CO's for the new units, excluding the farmhouse, upon completion and proper inspection by the Township. Mr. Couch seconded, and the motion passed 5-0.

14-Sep-2016Farmhouse. Mr. Calabro asked for an update on the Villas Farmhouse. Mr. Ferguson said that the Township issued a cease and desist order on work because some materials being removed were to have been preserved by the facade easement. He explained that the agreement with the developer will also include preservation of certain features inside the house, including the staircase and wood trims and doors. Mr. Ferguson said that when the Township and the developer began planning the preservation of the farmhouse, certain interior features were deemed to be of historic significance and the developer agreed to preserve them. The interior will be modernized but these features will be preserved and worked into the new open design. Jeffrey Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy has been working with the Township and Developer to see that the interior features are preserved as part of the settlement with the developer.

9-Jan-2013: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to release escrow in the amount of $17,464 to the developers of Villas at Newtown. Dr. Ciervo seconded. Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has a number of concerns and he would like Mr. McGrath to attend a Supervisors meeting to discuss these before any additional escrow is released. He would like some assurances as to a timetable for completion of a clubhouse, as was promised purchasers in this development. He understands that the Township was not required to hold escrow for the clubhouse and the remaining escrow is for public improvements. Mr. M. Gallagher agreed that Mr. McGrath should appear before the Board before any additional escrow is released. The motion passed 4-0.

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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 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]

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