Welcome to “The Year 2022 in Images.”
There were many unique and interesting issues that I and other Newtown Township supervisors confronted in 2022. This is a selection of images and stories that document what I consider the most important news items and issues of interest to Newtown residents.
- It Took a Pedestrian Death
- No Gun Shows in Newtown!
- Newtown Says NO to Wawa
- Stand With Ukraine
- OLI/LI District Overlay Plan
- Did Anti-DEI Activists Drive Fraser Away from CRSD?
- 5G Antennas - Are They Safe?
- Shots Fired!
- NAS Asks for More AID
- It's Time For Solar Power!
- Bucks County Sewer Sale Stymied
- Lower Dolington Road Trail - The Longest DELAY!
- Women's Right To Choose
- Not On My BYpass!
- Movie Controversy
- "Historic" Resource Re-Discovered
- Why Did Charlie Feuer Cross the Road?
In 2019, I spoke to several residents and business owners who were concerned about speeding and pedestrian safety in the vicinity of North Sycamore Street and Silo Drive, which I labeled a “Dangerous Intersection” in November, 2021. With the anticipated increase in “walkability” and further traffic issues in that area, I was concerned that car versus pedestrian incidents would increase in the future and it may be time to discuss possible remedies.
At the June 12, 2019, BOS meeting, I expressed concern to Police Chief Hearn on behalf of residents about speeding on Sycamore and mentioned there was recently a pedestrian accident there. I also inquired about utilizing LED speed indicators and blinking lights at pedestrian walkways like the ones near Chandler Hall. As reported in the minutes of that meeting, Police Chief Hearn said the “LED signs are owned by the police department and are moved to where needed.” There was no agreement on further safety improvements.
It took a pedestrian death – not the first – on the crosswalk at Silo Drive and North Sycamore Street on December 21, 2021 for the township to finally act. In January 2022, the township engineering company provided the Township with a “Memorandum of Recommendations” for improvements at this intersection.
Piano striping was added to the crosswalks in February, 2022 and brighter lighting in the fall of 2022. Yet to be implemented is the installation of pedestrian-activated flashing beacons and possibly lowering the speed limit to 25 MPH.
- “Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons Proposed for North Sycamore Street”
- “Newtown Supervisors Act To Improve Pedestrian Safety”
- “Sycamore Street Is Popular, But Is It Safe?”
- “Pedestrian Struck and Killed on North Sycamore Street in Newtown Township While Catching an Uber”
- “Silo Drive & North Sycamore: A Dangerous Intersection in Newtown Township!”
- “Crosswalk Visibility Study: Which Type of Crosswalk is Most Visible to Motorists?”
In January 2022, there was growing concern over a “Newtown Gun Show” to be held at the Newtown Sports Training Center in March. As a result, the BOS approved a Notice of Violation to be sent to the owner of the establishment (Newtown Racquetball Assoc., aka NAC) indicating that the Training Center property was not zoned to host events of any kind.
According to a subsequent zoning enforcement settlement agreement between the Board of Supervisors and the Newtown Athletic Club, the Sports Training Center will be allowed to host event-style shows at the venue, just not gun shows. However, the Sports Training Center would be allowed to hold an event like an outdoor or camping show once a year that may have the presence of guns, but not as the main attraction or “primary purpose” of the meeting.
- “Residents Voice Concerns Regarding Newtown Gun Show” (Video)
- “Settlement Agreement”
- “Resident Points Out Flaws in Anti-Gun Show Agreement with NAC” (Video)
At it's April 5, 2022, public meeting, the Newtown Township Planning Commission reviewed Wawa's latest and what it considered its “best” Land Development Plan for a Super Store on the Bypass.
Recall that Wawa at the time was already granted a request by the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) for a special exception to allow this use, but was denied variance requests regarding the number of fueling stations and signs (read “Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board Issues Official Provco (Wawa) Decision”.
When all was said and done, the Planning Commission failed to achieve a consensus and did not recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Wawa's plan. Thus, the supervisors on October 26, 2022, by a vote of 3 to 2, denied approval of the plan; Elen Snyder, Kyle Davis, and John Mack voting NO; Dennis Fisher and Phil Calabro voting YES.
- “Planning Commission Members Driscoll & Christensen Chastise Wawa” – then Calabro chastised Driscoll! (Video)
On April 13, 2022, the Newtown Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to divest township pension funds of Aberdeen (ABEMX) holdings, which at the time included Russian securities. This was in support of Ukraine fighting for its independence from Russia. Finally, we #StandWithUkraine!
Approximately 78% of respondents to a survey I hosted supported this action.
- “Newtown Dumps Russian Stocks: Survey Results”
- “Newtown Supervisors Consider Russian Stock Divestiture” (Video)
- “Why Newtown Should Dump Russian Stock”
- “NYC Fire Pension Fund Votes to Divest Russian Securities in Support of #Ukraine”
On May 3, 2022, Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) representatives gave the Newtown Planning Commission an overview of the concept of an overlay district for the Business Commons, explaining that within an overlay some loosened requirements or additional uses could be added to the existing zoning. Recommended uses include:
- Athletic Facility
- Medical Office
- Retail Shop
- Service Business
- Eating Place
- Repair Shop
- “Food Trucks in the Newtown Business Commons?” – an alternative to brick-and-mortar drive-thrus (less traffic, more walkability)
It was reported that disagreements between some Council Rock School Board members and Superintendent Robert Fraser over COVID-19 protocols played a significant role in his departure from the district.
Another, more likely, reason for Fraser’s departure is the fact that at an August 2021 CRSB meeting, Mr. Fraser said “We will not be teaching critical race theory …critical race theory has nothing, will have nothing to do with the Council Rock School District.” Critical race theory, said Mr. Fraser, is not coming to the school district. He also said that diversity, equity, and inclusion and critical race theory “aren’t even close to being the same thing. And one of them I very much value in our school district and one I very much do NOT.”
- “Council Rock School Board Meeting 8-5-2021: Masks Are Optional; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Are NOT!”
On May 23, 2022, representatives of Pennsylvanians for Safe Technology hosted a Zoom meeting with Andrew Campanelli, Esq., who is a national expert in telecommunications law. Mr. Campanelli reviewed a draft of the JMZO Wireless/5G Antenna Ordinance and summarized several problems including lack of protections against excessive radiation, random testing provisions, effective notices to the public, and ADA compliance issues.
The Joint Zoning Council (JZC) subsequently hired the Cohen Law Group to provide legal assistance in crafting a more effective ordinance that would include responses to certain issues raised by residents, including the health effects of radio frequency emissions and other concerns.
- “Residents Raise Health Issues Caused By 5G Wireless Technology”
- “Andrew Campanelli Reviews JMZO Wireless 5G Ordinance”
- “Cohen Law Group Expert Advises JZC on 5G Small Cell Antenna Ordinance”
- “2 June 2022 Joint Zoning Council Meeting”
In July 2022, gun shots were fired within the Newtown Township Municipal Complex at 100 Municipal Drive. Newtown Township civilian staff walking along Municipal Drive at the time heard the gunshots, and observed a male in a vehicle pass them (inbound and outbound), while the male passed and circled the police station lot.
Thankfully no injuries were reported, and the gunman was apprehended and taken in for psychiatric evaluation. It is unlikely he was charged with any crime. If so, it doesn’t make me feel safer!
At the July 13, 2022, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS) Chief Evan Resnikoff requested that the BOS authorize the Solicitor to place a referendum on the November ballot to include an additional half mill real estate tax increase to fund emergency medical services.
Here are the unofficial vote tallies:
- Yes — 6,246 (57%)
- No — 4,618 (43%)
Before the vote, I decided to survey Newtown Township residents to see how they intend to vote on this issue. I received 156 responses from Newtown Township residents: 65% said they would vote “Yes”, 26% said they would vote “No”, and the remainder (9%) were undecided.
It’s official! Newtown Ambulance Squad is now “Newtown Emergency Medical Services” (NEMS). To be distinguished from “The Newtown Emergency Services Department” (NESD) – the Newtown Township paid firefighters!
On July 14, 2022, Former West Rockhill Supervisor Jim Miller gave Newtown Supervisors Elen Snyder, me and members of the Environmental Advisory Council a tour of West Rockhill’s solar array facility. This is the first solar array in Pennsylvania to provide 100% of a municipality center’s electricity!
On Facebook, Kierstyn Piotrowski Zolfo commented "EXCITING! I hope you can import that idea into Newtown." Ms. Snyder responded: "That’s the plan.”
- “West Rockhill is the First in PA to Use Solar for 100% of Its Municipal Electricity Needs”
- “Middletown Township Board of Supervisors Move to 100 Percent Renewal Energy Supply”
- “Listen to Podcast About How PECO Supports Solar Power”
Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) considered an offer from Aqua PA - a private company - to purchase its sewer (but not water) assets for $1.1 billion dollars.
After Warren Gormley, Authority Manager at Newtown Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority, addressed the Newtown Board of Supervisors on August 10, 2022, the supervisors approved a letter to Bucks County Commissioners opposing the sale, which had the desired effect – the plan was scraped!
But will that prevent future rate increases? According to S&P Global Ratings, “Currently, the system has affordable rates and above-average incomes, which we view as positive given the potential for future rate increases.”
In May 2022, the Township Engineer informed the Board of Supervisors that the Lower Dolington Road Trail project encountered some “unexpected utility conflicts” (i.e., underground cables) during construction. This “discovery” stopped the project dead in its tracks leaving behind unsightly construction debris, cones, barrels and netting. The cables had to be relocated because they would interfere with the underground infiltration trenches designed as part of this project.
The project was delayed for so long while waiting for the cables to be relocated that weeds grew through the traffic cones littering the site at Stanford Place and Lower Dolington Road.
It took until December to get the work done and the debris removed. It is uncertain, however, when construction on the trail will begin again.
By a vote of 3-1 The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) at its September 28, 2022, meeting, approved a Women’s Reproductive Rights Resolution, which by my analysis was the first and ONLY such resolution passed by a Bucks County Township.
- “BCCT Editorial: #NewtownPA Township Supervisors Should've ‘Stayed in Their Lane’ and Left Abortion Debate Alone”
- “Other Than Newtown, Which PA Municipalities Have Supported Women's Reproductive Rights?”
There has long been opposition to development on the Bypass, which many believe was intended to be a “greenway” when it was first built.
Because of potential developments bordering the Bypass (Wawa, senior home, apartment complex) and even billboards on the Newtown Bypass, I created a NEW Facebook Group – You've heard of NIMBY, which stands for "Not In My Back Yard." This group can be called NOMBY - "Not On My BYpass."
This FB group informs members about potential new developments along the Bypass and is a forum to discuss ways of preventing overdevelopment on the Bypass.
If the township continues to allow property owners to run roughshod over our zoning regulations, then the future of the Bypass destined to be a new Route 1!
- “Sketch Plan Submitted for Apartment Complex in #NewtownPA's OR District”
- “New Traffic Lights Set for Woodbourne Road Near Newtown Bypass”
Colorful flyers with a dark underlying message began showing up in Bucks County mailboxes immediately after the midterm election. “Whose Children Are They?” asks the leaflet while extending an invitation to the Green Parrot pub for drinks, dinner and the showing of a film – which claimed to be a documentary – that equates the U.S. public education system with Marxism and asks why educators are encouraging racism, sexual promiscuity, perversion and Communism in the classroom.
However, many members of the Newtown community – including several Council Rock teachers – opposed the showing of this film.
Bob Lutz – the manager and co-owner of the Green Parrot – said there were threats against him and his restaurant. Newtown Township Supervisor Elen Snyder warned Lutz that his restaurant would be picketed. “I was told it would be in my best interest to cancel the event," he said. “I felt like I was being bullied," he said.
In the end, Lutz decided not to show the movie.
On December 14, 2022, Craig Deutsch and Bill Mahler – members of the Newtown Joint Historic Commission (JHC) – visited the property off of Twining Bridge Road that Toll Brothers agreed to donate to the township as part of a settlement agreement to build 45 homes nearby. The goal was to examine the old farmhouse and springhouse on the property to determine if the site qualified as an “historic resource” according to Joint Historic Commission standards.
Guiding Principle number 8 of the Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan states “Protect Historic Resources.”
“Well, we just discovered a major one. :),” said Mr. Deutsch.
- “Newtown Planning Commission Members Discuss Possible Historic Site on Toll Bros Site”
- “A ‘Major’ Historic Resource Re-Discovered!”
- “Guiding Principles of the New Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan”
Pedestrian-activated overhead flashing strobe lights and a reduction in the speed limit [to 25 MPH] have been put forward as solutions for what residents consider an unsafe Newtown-Yardley Road mid-block pedestrian crossing at Tara Boulevard.
In response to concerns raised by the residents of Newtown Walk, the supervisors voted on Dec. 7 to discuss these suggested changes with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
After meeting with PennDOT, the township engineer informed supervisors that Newtown-Yardley Road is a township “turn back” road and PennDOT approval is not necessary for the township to lower the speed limit. However, PennDOT will need to review and approve the design of the pedestrian-activated overhead flashing strobe lights.
- “Traffic Speed Study – Newtown-Yardley Road @ Tara Boulevard Crosswalk” (Video)
- “Updated Traffic Study Memorandum”
Posted on 27 Dec 2022, 13:35 - Category: Misc