John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Summary of June 24, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Meeting: Gaucks Lane, Invasive Plants, JMZO Amendment, HRC Applicants, More...

The following is a brief summary of the June 24, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) Zoom meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. You also can view the video archive here.

Reports of Committees, Boards and Commission

Planning Commission (PC): Martin Becker, 25 Gaucks Lane. Mr. Mack added several PC members were ok with this pending neighbor support, however several neighbors sent emails to Board members stating they opposed the application. He said the applicant said there was no opposition, however the letter states otherwise. Mr. Fidler said he did not receive that email and if they had presented an email, the PC could have read it into the record.

Mr. Sander understands the neighbors have objected as they often will and his general advice to the BOS is to reserve active opposition in sending the solicitor to the ZHB’s to those issues of much broader impact to the residents of the Township and not neighbor vs. neighbor issues. He added the Township is party to every Zoning Hearing and if the ZHB makes a decision the BOS does not like; the BOS may appeal the decision without having participated before the ZHB on the hearing level.

Mr. Calabro said he does not have a problem with it going before the ZHB. Mr. Mack said five neighbors sent an opposition email and the PC discussed the conservation management concept because it violates the CM guidelines. Mr. Mack is also concerned about residents who claimed they could not make comments at ZHB. The consensus of the BOS is to take no action and send to the ZHB.

Invasive plant species list. Mr. Mack asked Mr. Fidler about the outcome of his meeting with Jan Filios in May related to invasive species. Mr. Fidler replied he has a Zoom meeting scheduled with Jan and Katherine on the recommendations the EAC would be making and directing to the BOS.

JMZO Amendment, E-30 Convenience Store/Fueling Station use. Mr. Schenkman advised the matter is now in the hands of the BOS and the PC will have no further involvement unless directed by the BOS.

Economic Development (EDC): Members discussed ways to help businesses through the Township’s permitting procedures for such accommodations as restaurant outdoor seating, erecting tents and sidewalk sales tables for retail. Other considerations were relaxation of signage restrictions on a temporary basis to alert the public of business openings and altered business hours of operation.

The members spent considerable time discussing a possible inaugural event to promote business, an outdoor movie night at Village at Newtown’s amphitheater. This event would take place on open space near Iron Hill Brewery. Members will work with representatives of the shopping center and the Township to put together this event with the cooperation of Mr. Gold’s event company.

Mr. Calabro expressed concern with ambient music spilling over from an event at the amphitheater and suggested a remote location such as a field. He also sees a conflict with Mr. Gold’s company handling the event. Mr. Mack said the amphitheater is private property not regulated by the Township and Mr. Gold is donating his time and equipment. Mr. Calabro said there is still a concern of conflict that he will be promoting his business.

Reports of Officials

Mack on Human Relations Commission (HRC): Mr. Mack reported the HRC met on June 17 to discuss priority action items on racism in Newtown. HRC is working in conjunction with the Borough HRC on their goal of ensuring there is no place for racism in our Township or Borough.[See here for a summary of that meeting.]

Mr. Mack said there were several applications received for the HRC openings and asked if we can accept them. Mr. Calabro suggested advertising the openings on the website and TV channel to give others an opportunity to apply and then the BOS can review the applicants possibly at the second meeting in July.

Oxley on Policing: Mr. Oxley reported he met last week with Bucks County DA Matt Weintraub and discussed the current state of policing and ideas of community policing in Bucks County. Mr. Oxley met with Mr. Mack about the upcoming town hall involving the police and the community.

Votes on Motions

The following are my personal notes that I used to prepare for this meeting. I may not have asked all the questions in the notes at the meeting. You can also download the PDF version here.

Posted on 14 Jul 2020, 10:10 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Police Town Hall Discussed at Meet Mack Monday Meeting

Below is an edited transcript by John Mack, Newtown Township Supervisor, of the July 6, 2020, “Meet Mack Monday” Zoom meeting. The focus of the meeting was police accountability and Town Hall meeting. View the video archive here.

NOTE: The Newtown Township Police Town Hall will take place LIVE on July 23, 2020, at 7 PM at the Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive.

Statement by Chief Hearn

"I along with my Board supervisors felt it was important that I meet face to face and reiterate that Newtown Township Police Department is here to "serve and protect" and to reassure our community of our commitment to fairness, respect, and dignity of everyone and to continue to build trust and legitimacy. Although this is not an ideal time to encourage our residents to gather together, we felt the need to reassure our residents. As stated in the press release the number of attendees will be limited to 20 residents on a first come first basis due to COVID-19 restrictions. No reservations, however, additional meetings may occur later if the interest is there. Mask coverings will be required in order for everyone's safety, and in our attempts to get people to freely open up on topics that may be discussed, it will not be televised or recorded."

What's Your Opinion?

Despite the Chief's wishes, I am in favor of this meeting being officially recorded or televised - e.g., via Facebook or Zoom - for the public record. Or, barring that, I believe anyone attending the meeting has a right to record the meeting. If "public safety" is a concern, then people making comments or asking questions at the meeting should be able to remain anonymous.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Complete my Town Hall Questionnaire and tell me. After completing the questionnaire, you will be able to see the results, but not any personally-identifiable information of respondents.

Transcript

Posted on 13 Jul 2020, 01:15 - Category: Police



Are You Willing to Pay Higher Taxes?

The elephant in the official Newtown Township Citizen Survey, which closed on July9, 2020, is Question 15: "Would you be willing to pay higher Township taxes for increased services?"

More than 60% of general funds revenue comes from Earned Income Tax (EIT). In light of the projected loss of EIT revenue due to COVID-19, the wording of Question 15 might better be "Would you be willing to pay higher Township taxes to prevent cutbacks in current services?"

Low Property Taxes

It should be noted that Newtown Township has one of the lowest property taxes in the area. The Township's 4.5 mill tax amounts to $196.20 yearly town tax on a home with a market value of $400,000 and an assessed value of $43,600 (the approximate average home market/assessed value in Newtown Township in 2018). None of the tax money collected is deposited in the General Fund, which pays salaries of the Police, Public Works, EMS and other township departments as well as other expenses such as legal fees, etc.

Here's how your 4.5 RE tax millage is allocated:

  • 2.625 Mills go to debt servicing, which includes paying off loans for increased road repairs and the town building mortgage
  • 0.875 Mill goes to fire protection services (in support of the Newtown Fire Association volunteer fire department)
  • 0.55 Mill goes to fire hydrant maintenance
  • 0.45 Mill goes to rescue squad purposes (Newtown Ambulance Squad)

Impact of COVID-19

At the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Zoom meeting, Dan Connelly of ESI Solutions, Inc. presented an "interim report" regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 budget and beyond. ESI was hired to develop a 5-year budget plan, but in the wake of COVID-19, that seemed less urgent than accessing the Township's financial health and projecting the budget balance by the end of the year assuming shortfalls in tax and other revenue.

The following figures are slides that were part of a presentation made by ESI presentation:

Figure 1: This chart shows the Township's General Fund end-of-year balance, which is decreasing every year due to deficit spending. This balance, which is designed to pay for unanticipated expenses, has been used over the past several years to cover the deficit; i.e., budgeting for more expenses than anticipated income. Without "corrective actions" shown in See Figure 2, the balance at the end of 2020 is anticipated to fall well below the mandated 8% minimum.

Figure 2: Possible "Corrective Actions" anticipated to ensure a 2020 general fund balance of 8% (see Figure 1). NOTE: $290,000 was taken out the 2020 road program already, which means only 2 miles of roads will be repaved this year v.s. the planned 5 miles before COVID19 (read "Summary of April 22, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Meeting").

ESI will present a review of the results of the survey at a future Board of Supervisors meeting.

Posted on 09 Jul 2020, 13:47 - Category: Taxes



Newtown Police Will Host Town Hall Meeting



Statement by Chief Hearn

"I along with my Board supervisors felt it was important that I meet face to face and reiterate that Newtown Township Police Department is here to "serve and protect" and to reassure our community of our commitment to fairness, respect, and dignity of everyone and to continue to build trust and legitimacy. Although this is not an ideal time to encourage our residents to gather together, we felt the need to reassure our residents. As stated in the press release the number of attendees will be limited to 20 residents on a first come first basis due to COVID-19 restrictions. No reservations, however, additional meetings may occur later if the interest is there. Mask coverings will be required in order for everyone's safety, and in our attempts to get people to freely open up on topics that may be discussed, it will not be televised or recorded."

What's Your Opinion?

Despite the Chief's wishes, I am in favor of this meeting being officially recorded or televised - e.g., via Facebook or Zoom - for the public record. Or, barring that, I believe anyone attending the meeting has a right to record the meeting. If "public safety" is a concern, then people making comments or asking questions at the meeting should be able to remain anonymous.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Complete my Town Hall Questionnaire and tell me. After completing the questionnaire, you will be able to see the results, but not any personally-identifiable information of respondents.

This is not an official Newtown Township or Newtown Police questionnaire. It is hosted by John Mack to learn more about your views and to provide you with additional information in advance of the meeting and following the meeting. 

No identifying information will be revealed to third parties unless you wish for me to submit a question or comment to the Chief. Your question or comment may be read aloud at the meeting.

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

Posted on 09 Jul 2020, 12:18 - Category: Police



Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan Survey

Because of urban sprawl, only two farms remain in Newtown Township. Without the protection of the Jointure, the population density of the three townships was projected to double. The Jointure, in effect, uses the expected (and accepted) growth of Newtown to stabilize the developmental impact on the other two municipalities.

The Newtown Area Jointure (the joint municipal zoning consortium comprising Newtown Township, Upper Makefield Township, and Wrightstown Township) would like your help in determining future planning needs for your community.

The Jointure is beginning the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2009. The Comprehensive Plan is the Jointure's primary land use policy document that sets goals and objectives, and a vision for future development and growth. The Comprehensive Plan sets the foundation for land development standards, including subdivision and zoning laws. The plan is periodically reviewed in order to make sure it reflects the most current needs and views of the community.

At the June 2019 meeting of the JZC, Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner at the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC), presented a proposal to update the Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2009 (listen to her presentation below). [Download the proposal here.]

See 2009 Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan

The Jointure would like to hear the views of as many residents as possible, and is committed to ensuring the community plays an active role in developing the policies that will help shape the development in the Jointure for the next ten years and beyond.

Questions include:

  • Why did you choose to live in your township?
  • What are the best characteristics of your community?
  • What do you consider to be the most important problems facing your community?
  • Overall how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the residential development within your community?
  • Overall how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the commercial development within your community?

 

Posted on 09 Jul 2020, 01:34 - Category: Development



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This site is paid for and approved by John Mack: john@johnmacknewtown.info
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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