John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Itís Time for Newtown Township to Update Its Comprehensive Plan!

Zoning Map for Newtown Area Jointure

A Guest Opinion (see end of this post) on the role of zoning in community planning published in the August 4, 2019, edition of Bucks Courier Times, is very relevant to Newtown Township as it begins the process of updating the Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan Definition.

Newtown Township is a member of the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) Other members include Upper Makefield and Wrightstown Townships. At the June 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.]

The Municipalities Planning Code (MPC Definition) recommends that Comprehensive Plans be updated every 10 years. Components of the Plan should include:

  • Objectives
  • Land use plan (including preservation areas and development areas)
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Community facilities and utilities
  • Protection of natural and historic resources
  • Protection of water resources and water supply
  • Energy conservation
  • Implementation strategies
  • Interrelationships among the plan components
  • Relationship of the plan to surrounding communities
  • Hazard Mitigation (BCPC recommendation, supported by the state)

The JZC is recommending that the proposal be accepted by each of the member municipalities. The Proposal must be considered by each Planning Commission Definition and by each Board of Supervisors with the Board of Supervisors adopting a Resolution that: authorizes the Proposal; authorizes the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan Update; agrees to splitting the cost in accordance with the Jointure Agreement; and authorizes the Chair of the JZC to apply for any grants that may be available to offset the cost. 

Lisa Wolff has offered to attend each Municipality’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings to explain the Proposal and to answer any questions that members may have.  

Newtown Township is in receipt of the BCPC proposal, which will likely be moved forward for review by the Township Planning Commission to evaluate and advise the Board of Supervisors.


Enforce zoning to benefit the whole community!


Posted on 04 Aug 2019, 01:58 - Category: Zoning

My "Lazy" Summer as Supervisor, Part 1: Official Activities for July 2019

This is a "lazy" summer so far. I spent only 28 hours in July 2019, on official Supervisor business! That's way below the average of 45 hours per month for the period of Jan-May, 2019.

I spent less than 3 hours attending required meetings, primarily because the township is on a summer schedule with only one Board of Supervisor (BOS) meeting for the months of July and August.

Although things are slowing down in the summer, I expect my activity to pick up substantially beginning in September.

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

Also not included in this log are the many hours I am spending canvassing door-to-door campaigning for re-election from now until Election Day on November 5, 2019. Much of that time is spent discussing issues of importance to residents.

In the month of July 2019, I spent about 6 hours attending township meetings (required and optional). The average for the 5-month period of Jan-May, 2019, was 10 hours per month (including June, the average is 9 hours).

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August), and non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In July, 2019, I attended a Human Relations Commission public meeting on July 29, and a Newtown Fire Association meeting on July 30.

Interaction with Residents
Friends of Roberts Ridge Park Meeting

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my account and via my personal account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In July 2019, I spent about 8 hours (28% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents, not including the hours I spent campaigning for re-election. Included in that were 3 hours spent at a Friends of Roberts Ridge party at my house(see photo).

What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):


When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary
The height of each bar represents total hours spent on official business that day. This includes time spent at meetings.

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 02 Aug 2019, 12:08 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

Open Records Requests Processed by Newtown Township in First Half of 2019

The Pennsylvania Right to Know (RTK) Law Definition, also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.

Thanks to Open Records Officer Micah Lewis, aka, Township Manager, I was able to analyze the open records requests processed by Newtown Township in in the first half of 2019. You can compare these data with the analysis of all requests processed in 2018 here.

NOTE: These data do NOT include open record requests submitted to the Newtown Police Department. More on that here.

In the first half of 2019, Newtown Township processed 37 Open Records Requests in compliance with the State’s Sunshine Law. That compares to 55 requests in the first 6 months of 2018 (see here).

A total of 16 (43%) were from businesses/unions. There were an equal number of request from individuals. About one quarter of requests were for building permits. There were no requests for records from the media.




Posted on 14 Jul 2019, 01:14 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

Summary of June 12, 2019, Newtown Township BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the June 12, 2019, 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 members Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis, Township Engineer Leanna Colubriale and Township Solicitor David Sander.


Pollution Reduction Plan – Public Comment Period and Responses: Mr. Lewis reported the Township has received public comment and provided engineer responses on the Pollution Reduction Plan as required by the DEP. In response to comments and the large number in favor of maintaining manicured lawn at Roberts Ridge Park, the space was reconfigured to maintain a larger area of manicured lawn near the playground. [read "Newtown Revises Pollution Reduction Plan After Hearing Resident Comments"]

Mr. Mack asked Mr. Lewis for an update on the Pollution Reduction Plan specifically regarding Roberts Ridge [Park]. Mr. Lewis said there has been no official revision of the plan yet as the engineers are still reviewing it. CKS is still responding to comments received and then a final decision will be made [read "Newtown Revises Pollution Reduction Plan After Hearing Resident Comments"]. Mr. Mack expressed concern about the risk of invasive vegetation when creating meadows and asked if there was a plan to address this issue. Mr. Lewis replied that there are maintenance procedures to follow with meadows and the Township Public Works crews will be maintaining the meadows.

Mr. Mack stated he would like to see HOA's and the public become involved in meadow conversions and a discussion ensued on this topic. Mr. Fisher then asked about having a walkway cut through in Roberts Ridge park and Mr. Lewis stated once the meadow is established it can be considered.

[Statement by John Mack not in the minutes: Public Involvement Going Forward: The US EPA says “An active and involved community is crucial to the success of a stormwater management program… the public can provide valuable input and assistance to a regulated small MS4’s municipal stormwater management program…” The EPA suggests that “the public be given opportunities to play an active role in both the development and implementation of the program.”

HOA Definition Involvement: At previous BOS meetings as well as at the June 4th Planning Commission meeting mention was made regarding the involvement of Homeowners Associations in the process. As the HOA Liaison, I would like to see the Township work more closely with the Environmental Advisory Board and HOAs to see how they can play an active role in the implementation of our Pollution Reduction Plan.]


Conditional Use – OMD Prospect, LLC – Solstice: Attorney Joseph Blackburn represented the applicant and Richard Darby-Matteoda, representing Solstice, was sworn in. Mr. Blackburn explained Solstice was a full service, sit down dining establishment which is affiliated with Shula’s Steak House. There will be no outdoor music on the outdoor patio. This location brings the restaurant allocation in the shopping center to approximately 26.78% which is still within the 45% limit and the sewer capacity is adequate.

Mr. Mack stated Solstice outdoor seating space has the most of all with 1800 square feet and noted there will be over 5000 square feet total of outdoor dining space in this section of the property. He asked if this space was included in the parking calculations and Mr. Blackburn acknowledged that it was. Mr. Blackburn also noted that this is the largest proposed area, however there will be fewer seats in a bigger area.

Arcadia Appeal: Resident Dennis Schoener provided an update on the Arcadia appeal [for background on this case, read "Newtown Township Supervisors Say 'No Means No' When It Comes to Arcadia Green III Planned Residential Development"] and expressed his concerns on the direction it is going. Mr. Sander acknowledged the update provided by Mr. Schoener was accurate. He then explained it was not legally feasible for the Township to contribute to the legal fees of the Eagle Ridge Association as requested. Mr. Sander is unable to discuss details of the case as it is in litigation and he referred Mr. Schoener to the Eagle Ridge counsel.

Public Safety

May 2019 Police Report: Chief Hearn reported there were 1,633 calls for service during May including 16 arrests, 11 which were DUI related; there was one incident where a sergeant successfully administered Narcan and one corruption of minor arrest. [Read "May 2019 Newtown Township Police Report: A Speeding Ticket Is The Best Education!" for more details.]

Mr. Mack expressed concern on behalf of residents who are concerned about speeding on Sycamore and mentioned there was recently a pedestrian accident there. Mr. Mack also inquired about utilizing LED speed indicators and blinking lights at pedestrian walkways. The Chief said the LED signs are owned by the police department and are moved to where needed. He also reviewed additional initiatives the department uses to enforce speed limits.

Supervisor Reports

Mr. Mack: Mr. Mack reported on the Joint Zoning Council (JZC) Definition meeting which provided updates on ordinances, including gas, oil and transient residential use which addresses Air B&B’s. Also reviewed was a proposal by the Bucks County Planning Commission on a Comprehensive Plan Update.

[More details provided by John Mack, not in minutes:

(1) Transient Residential Use Ordinance, which essentially is designed to limit the use of a home as it was “Pre Airbnb” because of neighborhood disruption. Ms. Kushto (JZC Solicitor) was charged with preparing a draft ordinance to accomplish that will comply with recent decisions of the State Supreme Court. Mack wondered how big a problem airbnb rentals were and suggested we do some research to see how many airbnb listings there currently are in the Jointure. "Personally," said Mr. Mack, "I would not like an ordinance that completely prohibited airbnb-type listings especially since hearing from the Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce that it may be interested in promoting airbnb’s in Bucks County to attract tourists, which are good for the local economy in my opinion."

(2) Comprehensive Plan Proposal – A proposal was presented by Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner at the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC). In response to the challenge of continued growth pressures, and the importance of staying current with changing community dynamics and activities, the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council decided that an update to its Comprehensive Plan Definition may be needed since the current plan is older than 10 years. At the February meeting, the JZC asked Ms. Wolff to come up with a proposal, including fees. Everyone on the Newtown BOS received a copy of the proposal. There was a suggestion that the plan should include a section about what the Jointure Definition needs to do to stay “ahead of the ball” – as Allen Fidler said – of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with regard to future watershed Definition pollution reduction requirements. There was a discussion of doing a survey of residents, which is optional. The BCPC would create the survey, but the JZC would be responsible for printing and mailing. I suggested that it may be possible to do an online survey, which would be cheaper and probably get more responses. The total base cost of this project is not to exceed $50,880. Payment schedule and sources of funding were discussed. Ms. Wolff said she would prepare a list of potential applicable funding sources. The JCZ will draft a resolution for each to the Jointure Townships to consider.]

Mr. Fisher: Mr. Fisher reported the Newtown Environmental Advisory Council (EAC Definition) discussed a green infrastructure topics document and the Finance Committee worked on the RFP which is in final draft [for more information, read "Newtown Applies for DCED Grant to Assess the Township’s Financial Condition"]. They also talked about conducting a business survey. In reference to the business survey, Mr. Calabro asked for the committee to incorporate the Business Commons in the survey to determine what uses it can handle and how it can be utilized in the future.

Posted on 13 Jul 2019, 01:12 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

June 2019 Newtown Township Police Report: Traffic Citations Drop, But Donít Get Complacent!

Police Chief John Hearn presented the Calls Report for June 2019 at the July 10, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting. The following is a summary. Note: Not all calls are listed. Some information is considered sensitive and not meant for public distribution. Download the full (redacted) report here.

In June, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,603 total calls, 361 (23%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown).

Traffic Citations Drop  In June, But...

The Newtown Police Department issued a total of 168 traffic citations in June compared to 208 in May. Less than one-third (52) of these were for speeding. See the chart below.

Traffic Citations in Newtown and Wrightstown Issued by the Newtown Police Department for the period January through June, 2019.

The drop in speeding citations from May to June was dramatic as evident in the following chart.

Speeding Citations Along Various Roads Issued by the
Newtown Police Department for the period January through June, 2019.
Third Time’s a Charm!

However, Newtown Township Police Chief Hearn confirmed at the July 10, 2019, BOS meeting that his department began a THIRD round of aggressive driving enforcement starting on July 8 and ending on August 25, 2019.

According to a report in Newtown Patch (here), “The focus will be on heavy truck enforcement, red light running, tailgating, the Move Over law, and speeding. Other unsafe driving behaviors, such as driving too fast for conditions, texting, careless driving, and Work Zone Safety violations, will be included.”

Move Over!

State law requires drivers approaching an emergency response area, including areas in which a tow truck is offering assistance, to pass in a non-adjacent lane if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a safe speed. Also included in the law are utility vehicles within the first 72 hours after a declared emergency or until the expiration of a declared emergency, whichever is later.

The second wave of the year's Aggressive Driving campaign was conducted March 18 to April 28 (read “March 2019 Newtown Police Report: Crack Down on Aggressive Driving!

Posted on 11 Jul 2019, 01:19 - Category: Crime

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