John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Newtown Parking Sarcasm in Letter to the Editor of Bucks County Courier Times

In the January 28, 2020, edition of the Bucks County Courier Times (BCCT), a letter to the editor (LTE) titled "Newtown parking joke is on all of us" states that the "board of supervisors just announced a decision ... All of the new restaurants [in the Village at Newtown shopping center] would be opened as drive-through only" (see image).

Obviously, as you read on, this is an attempt at sarcasm. Matthew Allen, the author, suggests, for example, the Iron Hill Brewery would have overhead hoses that could pour you an IPA at a drive-through window, but ONLY if you were cool enough.

Ha, Ha! ROFLMAO!

Here's my problem with this. Some people might actually believe such a decision was made by the Board. After discussions with many residents I have learned that many people do not actually know who makes what decisions in Newtown. We have the Board of Supervisors (BOS), the Planning Commission, and the Zoning Hearing Board. Sometimes I am confused as well!

But worse than that is the lack of adequate communication with residents about actual decisions made by public officials. Sure, you are welcome to attend public meetings or watch the BOS meetings on TV (when the equipment is working) or via streaming video on the Township's website (yes, there is a website, but NO Facebook page or Twitter account). Other meetings like those of the all-important Zoning Hearing Board, however, are NOT televised!

In any case, poor communications should not be exasperated by "false communications." Therefore, I would suggest to the editors of the BCCT that they should tag sarcastic LTEs as such, especially when they could unintentionally spread false rumors about decisions made by the Board of Supervisors and other governing bodies. Our work is hard enough without having to defend ourselves against "fake news."

Also Read

Posted on 28 Jan 2020, 01:14 - Category: Communication



Summary of January 8, 2020, Newtown Township BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the January 8, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Dennis Fisher, and member Kyle Davis. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis and Township Solicitor David Sander. Assistant Secretary and Treasurer John Mack was absent.

Public Safety

Police Report: Chief Hearn reported the department responded to 1,398 calls for service during December which is a 13% increase over 2018. He said 76 citations were issued which is up by 20% from last year however traffic accidents have decreased by 10%. Read details of the report here.

Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions

Planning Commission: Toll Brothers - Mr. Fidler shared that there was a discussion on the Toll Brothers site and the proposed sewage treatment plant at this meeting. Among concerns is the Newtown Joint Municipal Authority which someday may have to revert the package treatment plant through the Township system without the Authority’s involvement in the design, approval and maintenance of the plan. He said the Commission agreed it would be wise for the PC and the BOS to have someone from the sewer authority present to discuss related issues when Toll Brothers is scheduled on the agenda.

JMZO Amendment - Mr. Fidler explained the Amendment and its history and said the Commission reviewed the preliminary draft of the proposed E-25 Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store Use. He said there are some items in question including eat in dining, 24-hour operation and the size of the building, which will be revisited at the next meeting and the members will continue to review the amended ordinance and bring additional concerns to be discussed at the next meeting. He also suggested involving the other municipalities in the Jointure as the process must be completed in nine months with a consensus of the Jointure.

Zoning

Resolution for Municipal Curative Amendment: Mr. Sander explained the Municipal Curative Amendment and said the specific issue of concern is the zoning ordinance does not contain or provide for a single use that combines both a convenience store and a gas station and several court decisions currently on appeal determined this must be allowed for the zoning ordinance to be constitutional.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked if the time depends on the other two Jointure members. Mr. Sander said the time runs from the declaration and since Newtown was last to declare on December 11, 2019, there is nine months from that date to enact if appropriate. Mr. Calabro asked if either township can hold this process up and Mr. Sander said they could and added if the three do not agree and enact, there will be no cure and it will stay as is. Mr. Calabro inquired which township would this harm the most and Mr. Sander replied since Newtown has the majority of residential development and traffic in the Jointure, it would likely be Newtown Township. He said Newtown has already been subject to the filing of a substantive validity challenge proposing a convenience store/gas station in the Township; therefore, the answer to the question is Newtown. Mr. Calabro stated we need the other two Townships to pass this resolution. Mr. Sander agreed and added all must adopt this resolution and all three must agree on accepting the ordinance to amend the current zoning ordinance. Mr. Fisher asked if the other Townships were subject to the 30 days and Mr. Sander said yes.

The motion passed 3-0.

Votes on Motions

Not all motions are included.

Posted on 27 Jan 2020, 01:34 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Summary of December 11, 2019, Newtown Township BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the December 11, 2019, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, Secretary John Mack, and member Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis and Township Solicitor David Sander. Member Kyle Davis was absent.

Development

Conditional Use Hearing - Toll Pa. XVIII: Mr. Sander explained when the conditional use application was received it was advertised for public hearing this evening. Subsequently a letter was received from the applicant's attorney to extend the time which the BOS must hear matter until 1/31/20.

Ms. Bobrin moved to continue the Hearing for Toll Pa, XVIII until January 22, 2020 at 7:00 PM in the Township meeting room.

Mr. Calabro asked what will happen on January 22. Mr. Sander said we will have a conditional use hearing. He said there will be no further advertisements in newspapers or other notices mailed which is why we are opening the hearing formally and continuing...Mr. Lewis will investigate what notices were or were not sent out and ensures the residents will be notified either by Toll or the Township.

The motion passed 5-0.

Finances

Consideration to Adopt the 2020 Final Budget: Mr. Lewis reported all YTD numbers have been updated in the budget; the projected total estimated revenue is $14,413,898.00, projected total expenditures are $13,081,611.00 and the estimated net fund balance is $1,332,287.00, which equates to 10.18% of total expenditures.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Mack had previously requested to get a line item in the budget for the Savvy Citizen app and he reported they have come back with a lower cost and are offering to have sponsors cover some of the cost. He said the new estimate is $2,841 for the year including set up and marketing fee down from the original $3,600. Mr. Mack explained the benefits of Savvy Citizen and asked the Board to consider adding this as a line item to the Budget. Mr. Calabro said we already have moved to approve budget as outlined. A discussion ensued on budget amendments and the time frame. Mr. Mack said he will distribute materials and review with local businesses to determine interest in sponsorships. He will also speak with Mr. Lewis about personnel requirements prior to moving forward.

The motion passed 5-0.

Zoning

Consideration of Declaration of Municipal Curative Amendment: Mr. Sander explained according to Pennsylvania law the use of property as a convenience store and gas station as a combined use is to be provided for by law and the use contained in a zoning ordinance. He said the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance doesn't have such a use and are in the process of drafting an ordinance; in the meantime there is a procedure that allows municipalities to examine their zoning ordinances and if an invalidity is found, they have an opportunity to declare that invalidity and announce they will cure the invalidity.

Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Sander to explain how this protects the Township against the gas station/convenience store property use. Mr. Sander said from the date of declaration for period of nine months, nobody can file an application for land development that deals with gas station/convenience store use, nor can they file a challenge. When questioned by Supervisor Mack, Mr. Sander stated that this action does not apply to the substantive legal challenge to the joint municipal zoning ordinance previously filed by Provco.

The Motion passed 5-0.

UPDATE
On January 8, 2020, the BOS voted 3-0 (Mack was absent) to pass Resolution No. 2020-R-5 with the following Specific Findings Setting Forth the Declared Invalidity of the JMZO Ordinance:
  1. The Ordinance contains provisions providing for and governing both a convenience store use (Section 803.E‐1) and a gas station use (Section 803.E‐10) but does not contain provisions providing for and governing a single use consisting of a combination of a convenience store use and a gas station use.

  2. Recent decisions issued by the Courts of Common Pleas of Bucks County and Montgomery County have determined that municipal zoning ordinances that do not provide for a combination convenience store/gas station use may be unconstitutional.

  3. The Municipal Curative Amendment declared by Newtown Township on December 11, 2019 is specifically declared to determine whether the Ordinance is unconstitutional, and if so, to enact an ordinance to cure the invalidity by providing for a combination convenience store/gas station use in the Newtown Area Jointure, with provisions defining and providing for such use in the Jointure, and regulations governing such use.

 

Public Safety

Police Report: Chief Hearn reported the department responded to 1,771 calls for service during November including 6 arrests, 89 traffic accidents, 41 of which were deer related and 220 citations. The Chief thanked the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades who donated painting of police building and garage at no cost to township. He reminded all to have neighbors help retrieve packages when delivered and not to leave them on front steps or driveways. Mr. Mack asked about catalytic converter theft. The Chief said we have not yet had incident of this in Newtown. Read details of the report here.

Supervisor Reports

Comprehensive Plan: Mr. Calabro reported he attended the Jointure (JZC) Definition meeting which reviewed how to proceed on the Comprehensive Plan  Definition. They discussed contacting other committees such as Park and Rec, Finance, etc. and have a representative from each committee meet with those who are forming the Comprehensive Plan.

Bobrin Announces Plan to Leave Board: Ms. Bobrin shared that this will be her last public meeting as she is leaving the Board of Supervisors to become the Register of Wills for Bucks County.

Votes on Motions

Not all motions are included.

Posted on 12 Jan 2020, 12:04 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Newtown Township Police 2019 Year-end Report: How Does 2019 Compare to 2018?

Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn presented the Calls Report for December, 2019, at the January 8, 2020, Board of Supervisors meeting. The following is a summary. Note: Not all calls are listed. See the full (redacted) report embedded at the end of this post or download the PDF version here.

In December, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,398 total calls, 237 (17%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown and Wrightstown Townships).

The year-end report also compares the 2019 totals to the 2018 totals so we can see some trends. For example, there were 19,760 total calls in 2019 vs. 17,228 in 2018 - an increase of 13%. See below for more details on which types of calls were up and which were down in 2019 compared to 2018.
Selected Newtown Township Police Calls for Service. The yellow and green highlighted rows indicate significant increases or decreases, respectively, in calls in 2019 vs. 2018.
Traffic Citations Way Down

The Newtown Police Department issued a total of 63 traffic citations in Newtown Township in December 2019. Only 6 (10%) of these were for speeding, 4 of which were on Durham Road. It seems that the focus in December was on "Failure to Stop at Red Signal" violations. In December, 24 citations were issue for this violation, of which 17 (70%) were on Newtown Bypass. It is not known if running red lights was a factor in two recent crashes in January 2020 on the Bypass, one of which resulted in a death (read "Man Killed In Newtown Township Crash on the Bypass").

Traffic citations issued by the Newtown Police Department for the period
January through December, 2019. Although there were relatively few speeding violations issued in December 2019, the total number for 2019 (1,977) was 57% higher than for 2018 (1,256).
Some More Trends

A few trends from 2018 to 2019 were noted in the table above such as a 40% increase in domestic dispute related calls, a 58% increase in terrorist threat calls, and most disturbingly, a 41% increase in "Missing Adult/Juvenile" calls.

In December, there were 4 ChildLine referrals. These are 911 calls related to child abuse. ChildLine is part of a mandated statewide child protective services program designed to accept child abuse referrals and general child well-being concerns, and transmit the information quickly to the appropriate investigating agency. ChildLine is responsible for receiving verbal and electronic referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free hotline, 1-800-932-0313, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of suspected child abuse.

Looking at the redacted December 2019 Report below, note that "Violence/Assaults" are up 34% in 2019 compared to 2018 (51 vs. 38) and Narcotics and Alcohol related calls decreased significantly.

Full (redacted) December 2019 Police Report

Posted on 11 Jan 2020, 01:40 - Category: Crime



Are Tiny Houses Allowed in Newtown?

A Newtown resident contacted me because she was interested in knowing if there were any restrictions on the types of property in Newtown that a tiny house can be placed or built on. She also wanted to know if it was allowable to place a tiny house on another person’s private property with that person’s permission.

It just so happened that I was planning to attend the monthly meeting of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC) Definition that night, so I decided to email members and experts associated with the Council to see if they had the answers. The JZC establishes policy on matters of importance to the Newtown Area Jointure Definition, which consists of Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown townships. It specifically reviews and suggests updates and revisions to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance Definition.

After some back and forth via email, the topic of tiny houses was added to the January 9, 2020, JZC agenda. The following is an excerpt from the discussion. Participating in the discussion were Chester Pogonwski (Wrightstown Supervisor), Chair, Tom Cino (Upper Makefield Supervisor), Vice Chair, Phil Calabro (Newtown Supervisor), Lisa M. Wolff, Bucks County Planning Commission, myself and others.

Evan J. Stone, PLA, Executive Director, Bucks County Planning Commission, provided the following information:

“Dear team, this is indeed a potentially complex and multi-faceted topic/issue.

“Yes, a tiny home, is a single family home just as a mobile home is a single family home however there can be distinctions depending on whether it’s on wheels and treated as a “recreational vehicle” versus one on a foundation (see first link below)

“This subject is a kin to “granny pods” and the issues of principal use, accessory use, number of principal uses on a lot etc.

“Pennsylvania is one of the friendlier tiny house states to date. A community in Elizabethtown also claims to be the largest tiny house community in the United States - an impressive title to say the least! Rural areas of Pennsylvania will likely be the easiest when it comes to finding a place to park your tiny. Be sure to check with the local municipalities for specifics.”

Here are some links to explore on the subject:

Posted on 10 Jan 2020, 10:19 - Category: Zoning



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