John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Meet Mack Monday

Mack Meets Residents at the Corner Bakery Cafe Before #COVID19
Join Me for a Chat

Are you concerned overdevelopment in Newtown, tax increases, traffic, quality of our roads,  preserving open space or about any issue that has or will come before the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and other township boards and commissions?

Feel free to attend one of my Meet Mack Monday (MMM) events that I host periodically, usually the 2nd Monday of the month before the first BOS meeting (refer to the Event Calendar for specific dates and access to registration form). I will inform you of items coming up for discussion at public meetings you may not be able to attend and that are not televised. I will listen to your concerns and together with other residents and business owners I will try to come up with solutions to problems that make sense for Newtown as a whole.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township meeting. The opinions expressed at Meet Mack Monday events are solely those of John Mack and the attendees of the meeting and do not represent the opinions of any other entity.

Next Meeting: 7 December 2020

Please Register if you are interested in attending the next Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting scheduled for December 7, 2020, at 7:30 PM. 

Topics for Discussion include: 

The "Hung" 2021 Preliminary Budget. At the November 25, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, the supervisors voted 4-1 to advertise (aka, "hang") the preliminary 2021 Newtown Township budget. This was NOT an approval of the proposed budget. The earliest that supervisors can vote to approve the budget is December 22, 2020.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO LIMIT A TAX INCREASE will be discussed:

  • Over 400 residents have signed a petition to oppose this budget and there is a call for a Newtown Taxpayers Alliance to oppose this and "any other insanely high township tax increases in the future."
  • Some residents are organizing dozens of people show up at the December 9 BOS meeting to protest and submit comments.
  • My plan for discussing cuts to the budget with fellow Supervisors at the December 9 BOS meeting.

Other topics to be discussed include items on the agenda for the December 9, 2020, BOS meeting: TBD

REGISTER TO ATTEND

You can join this Meet Mack Monday discussion via Zoom or via phone. Login details will be sent to you via email or text to your cell phone a few days before the meeting and again on the meeting day.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township meeting. It is hosted by Newtown Supervisor John Mack to learn more about issues of concern to Newtown Township residents. The opinions expressed at Meet Mack Monday events are solely those of John Mack and the attendees of the meeting and do not represent the opinions of any other entity.

Previous Meeting: November 9, 2020, via Zoom

Topics Discussed Included:

  • It's all about the 2021 budget - will it be a 178% increase in real estate taxes or 40% or something in between? Could it possibly be ZERO??? Read the story published by the Bucks County Courier TimesDownload a summary of the budget. An alternative was proposed: More about that here... I will discuss possible cuts that may be made to bring down the percent increase in real estate taxes.
  • Summary of Budget Cut Survey Results

Listen to the audio archive.

Budget Cut Survey Results (as of November 9, 2020; N = 10)

Q1: Which cuts related to hiring new personnel and/or increases in salary of current personnel would you like to see?

  • Limit all staff salary increases to 3%, same as police and firefighters: 100% of respondents chose this
  • Eliminate hiring a full-time Director of Zoning and Code Enforcement: 80%
  • Eliminate hiring a new Assistant Township Manager: 70%
  • No promotion of Supervisors within the Police Department: 60%
  • Eliminate hiring of 3 additional Police officers: 50%
  • Make none of the above cuts: 0%

Q2: Which cuts related to services would you like to see?

  • Reduction in 2021 road program funding (i.e., less roads repaved): 50% of respondents chose this
  • Reduction of Parks & Recreation expenses (e.g., reduce summer camp programs, staff): 40%
  • Make none of the above cuts: 30%
  • Reduction of Public Works Department expenses (less pot hole repairs, mowing, etc.): 10%
  • I have no opinion one way or the other regarding service cuts: 10%

Q2: Which cuts related to capital improvements would you like to see?

  • Eliminate police building study (to determine if new police building is needed): 80% of respondents chose this
  • Reduce number of new police vehicles purchased (currently, 3 are proposed): 70%
  • Eliminate new truck purchases for Public Works Department: 60%
  • Eliminate purchase of new computers: 50%
  • Make none of the above cuts: 10%
  • I have no opinion one way or the other regarding capital spending cuts: 10%

Respondent Comments:

  • As noted I think with the budget crunch the Township is experiences as we all are, needs to eliminate as many expenses or forestall expenditures that can be put off in 2021 so that the effects of the pandemic on ALL needs to be assessed.
  • Our opposition to this spending is not to say that these things are not important, but 178% increase when our incomes have decreased is a hard pill to swallow. If our healthcare is cut due to Supreme Court Affordable Care Act reversal, I don’t know how we will make ends meet.
  • This proposed budget is absolute insanity. Democrats already have a reputation for raising taxes, deserved or undeserved. Don't raise taxes and play into the republican narrative. It took a long time to get control of the board and I guarantee you that if taxes are raised, we will lose, and the voters will have no one to blame but those who vote for it. I have never voted for an R for anything in my life, but if someone runs on the basis of not raising my property taxes, (the SALT deduction for which is now extremely limited to $10,000), I will vote for them regardless of party affiliation. Thanks for surveying our the opinions of the average citizen John, my best as always.
  • Pay freeze and hiring freeze until pandemic settles down.

Recent Past Meetings

October 26, 2020 via Zoom

I had an informative discussion about the proposed 2021 budget with several residents at the October 26, 2020, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting. One item of discussion concerned the increase in municipal property taxes and how it will impact homeowners. The total increase proposed is 7.99 mills on top of the current 4.5 mills. The new total would be 12.49 mills - a 178% increase - if this budget is approved.

Listen to a 40-minute edited audio clip from the meeting:

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Twp Residents Discuss Proposed 2021 Budget with Supervisor Mack

October 12, 2020 via Zoom

Topics Discussed:
  • Arcadia Litigation: Re: "Mandamus" case filed against Newtown on Dec. 21, 2019. The developer argued that Newtown Township actually has approved its plans for a 76-residence community  off Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass. Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee said his client did not receive a signed copy of township supervisors’ unanimous “no” decision within the required window, according to court documents. Without a decision by the deadline, the plans are "deemed approved" by default, the developer argued in the appeal. Should Newtown Fight or Settle? Read "Arcadia Green PRD Three Peat: Denied Again!"

Listen to a 20-minute audio recording and/or read a transcript of the discussion here.

  • Proposed 2021 Budget: How much will your RE taxes go up? Will it improve the condition of roads - the #1 complaint of residents according to this survey? A public budget presentation before the Board of Supervisors (BOS) will be made on October 19, 2020.
  • Progressive Community Policing: What data should we be looking at to evaluate our departments? How many new police officers, if any, are needed to be hired in 2021? What data should we be looking at to evaluate our departments? Read "Moving Toward Progressive Community Policing."

Some comments from attendees:

I do not want any development in the woods. Trees are necessary and cool things off in hot climate. Also there was never any talk about where to put the many animals that will be affected. Just because there’s undeveloped land doesn’t mean that it Hass. to be developed.

We are concerned about (still, again, and seemingly forever) the Arcadia proposal. And road paving (the ridiculously poor patch job that was done on Commonwealth is already deteriorating.) And over-development. For the record, we are against WaWa, Old Navy, and the Toll Bros. Durham Road proposals. We are in favor of improvements to the Chick-Fil-A traffic flow (poor design from day #1) as well as more walking trails and open space.  

Protect unbuilt space.

Zoom vs  Live   supervisor meetings   I think public  access  for  supervisor  meetings  is necessary for the democratic process.  Email comments are  ok if you can't make the meeting, but  being  there in person or on zoom allows for  real time interaction and  feedback

Worried about Arcadia and higher taxes since I am on a limited budget.  I moved to Newtown  because of the lower taxes.

As a resident of Newtown Crossing I am adamantly against Arcadia Green development because of the hazardous traffic flow that will occur because of of increased number of autos.  The other reason that it should be a no go  is the idea of using Newtown Crossing as an exit pass through.    The developers should petition the state to put an exit from this land locked acreage directly onto the Newtown By Pass and the developers should be made to pay for that highway improvement.

[I wish] to share opposition to the Arcadia development. Newtown is becoming extremely over-developed and over-crowded. The intersection where this development is planned to be is already busy and crowded.  his will cause major traffic and safety issues.  Some mornings, I can not turn out of my development because the traffic is backed up. Our schools are also over-crowded.  Goodnoe's recent renovation, which included and addition, already barely meets the needs for our current school population.  We are ruining Newtown. :(

I am interested in the process of working with the police, and it looks like this will be discussed toward the end of this meeting.  I am beginning to work with the NAACP on the policing issue in Newtown, and want to stay current on what is being done in  this area.

Talking Points

See below or download the PDF here.

September 21, 2020 via Zoom

Topics Discussed: 

  • Is it time to abandon Board of Supervisors (BOS) ZOOM meetings and return to LIVE BOS public meetings? What are the pros and cons?
  • The final 5-Year Budget Plan by consultants will be discussed at the August 23, 2020, BOS ZOOM meeting. What are the details that can be revealed? Will we see tax increases and new hires in 2021 as recommended by the consultants?
  • Establishment of a New E30 Use: Combination Gas Station and Convenience Store (e.g., Wawa) in OR District (Newtown Bypass). Supervisors are set to vote on this zoning amendment at the September 23, 2020, BOS ZOOM meeting.

Item #1: Newtown Township does NOT allow residents to join regular Board of Supervisors (BOS) Zoom meetings. There may be good reasons for this (read "Newtown Supervisor Zoom Meetings Not Open to Residents"), but perhaps Supervisors should return to LIVE public BOS meetings even with limited attendance.

UPDATE: At its Sept 23, 2020, Zoom meeting, the Newtown BOS unanimously decided that future regular public meetings will be held LIVE at 7 PM in the Township public meeting room! The public is invited to attend - face masks required, social distancing enforced, 20 maximum attendees.

Item #2: Includes a possible substantial increase in real estate taxes and the hiring of 10 new personnel in 2021. For details, read "Newtown Supervisors Review Interim 5-Year Financial Plan".

Item #3: For background, listen to "Discussions of E-30 Zoning Amendment" and read the excellent summary by the Bucks County Planning Commission.

UPDATE: At its Sept 23, 2020, Zoom meeting, the Newtown BOS voted 3-2 in favor of approving this amendment. Supervisors Kyle Davis and John Mack voted no.

Talking Points

See below or download the PDF here.

August 24, 2020 via Zoom

Main Topic: Toll Bros. Twining Bridge Road Development (see below). Decision on the plan will be made at the August 26, 2020, Live BOS meeting that starts at 7 PM.

Other Topics: 

  • Econsult Solutions, Inc. Recommendations: ESI presented an Interim Report of findings and recommendations of the proposed "Strategic Management Planning Program" at the August 17, 2020, BOS Work Session. Recommendations include hiring 10 new township employees and increasing real estate taxes by 6.5 mills - a 144% increase. Download the report here. Give me your opinion of the recommendations here.
  • Will the public be able to attend future BOS Zoom meetings? Read "Newtown Supervisors May Open Up Zoom Meetings to Residents."
  • Other items on the agenda of the August 26, 2020, Live BOS meeting (TBD).

Toll Bros Decision

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors completed hearings on a conditional use application (“Application”) submitted by Toll PA XVIII, LP involving the development of land located along Route 413 (Durham Road) & Twining Bridge Road proposing the construction of 45 new single-family homes on approximately 150 acres. A full copy of the conditional use application is available for public inspection during regular Township business hours at the Newtown Township Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA (215) 968-2800.

Questions addressed: Is there a possibility that Toll Bros will "bypass" the BOS and submit a "by right plan"? How many housing units are possible under a by right plan?

Most of the topics for discussion at this Meet Mack Meeting are included in the following summary of comments received by the BOS and individual supervisors regarding this application. The names of commenters are de-identified unless they submitted their comments as part of the public record. You can also download this document here.

Additional topics covered include:

School bus safety - if buses cannot navigate the development then children will have to be picked up on Twining Bridge Road (or Rte 413), which adds to the safety issue.

Watershed and flooding - ground water is only 6 feet below the surface and Toll Bros engineers said the houses would have to be "built up" to allow for basements. That will exacerbate water flow downhill and out to Twining Bridge Rd.

Sewer Connection - only 46 sewer connections were approved for this project, which means the maximum number of home cannot exceed that no matter what the plan - conditional use or by right. But note this comment: "Rarely does maximum sewer hook ups ever really limit the number of homes that can be built when we are discussing a proposal in the Conservation Management district."

July 6, 2020 via Zoom

The following 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 took place LIVE on July 23, 2020. More information about that meeting can be found here.

May 11, 2020 via Zoom

About 12 people participated, including: Bob Lutz, co-owner of the Green Parrot Restaurant, Eric Scott Gold, Manager of East Coast Event Group, and Carol Richardson, President of the Newtown Mercantile Group. The topic during the last 50 minutes or so was about helping businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the discussion focuses on Newtown BINGO! A major topic was deciding how people can help sign up more businesses to participate. After the conversation, it was decided to include retail merchants as well as restaurants in both Newtown Township and Newtown Borough. See the video below:

On May 18, 2020, Newtown BINGO! was successfully launched. Read more about that here.

April 20, 2020 via Zoom

In this Facebook Live session I discussed items on the agendas of upcoming Zoom meetings of the Newtown Board of Supervisors and the Newtown Planning Commission.

Both these meetings will be via Zoom and not available for the public to participate as an attendee. Rather, the public will only be able to send in questions/comments via email. I will discuss the details at this FB Live event.

Topics that discussed included: diversion of tax funds from road repair to cover the general expenses of the township (salaries, consultant fees, supplies, etc.), what Newtown Township can do to help local businesses, and the next step in getting approval to alter the Newtown area zoning code to allow for a Wawa or Wawa-like convenience store to be located in Newtown, Wrightstown, and/or Upper Makefield.

Read "Summary of April 20, 2020, Meet Mack Monday via Facebook Live".

March 9, 2020

Newtown supervisor Dennis Fisher joined me at this meeting. A resident of Newtown Crossing expressed concern about a private residence on West Hanover Street that looks like a junk yard and is a "horder" house. He showed us several letters from the Board of Directors of the Newtown Crossing Community Association to the Newtown Township Codes and Enforcement office requesting that the township enforce Section 10-404 of the Code of Ordinances.

Section 10-404 of the Code of Ordinances notes that it is the "duty of any owner of land within Newtown Township to remove any nuisance or dangerous structure on premises in said Township upon notice from the Board of Supervisors to do so." Section 10-404 further provides that:

"... the Board of Supervisors may cause the same to be removed and collect the cost of such removal together with a penalty not to exceed $1,000 from the owner, to be collected by summary proceedings before the District Justice or in the manner provided for the collection of municipal claims or by an action of assumpsit without the filing of a claim. In the exercise of the powers herein conferred and to abate any of the nuisances hereinabove enumerated, the Township may institute proceedings in courts of equity."

I discussed this with District Judge Mick Petrucci, but no further action was taken with the township because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

February 10, 2020

Several residents of Newtown Crossing expressed concern about speeding on Mill Pond Road.

Followup: I was informed by a paricipant after the meeting - and after I brought this issue up with the Police Chief at the February 12, 2020, Board of Supervisors meeting - that there are now two "Stop Ahead" signs, an improvement very much appreciated by residents according to a personal note I received. In addition the February 2020 Newtown Police Report documents police activity on Mill Pond Road:

"...we did conduct a two-week enforcement initiative on both Mill Pond Road as well as varied intersections with[in] the neighborhood. The initiative yielded the following:

TIME: Nearly 16 hours (955 mins) were dedicated at varied times.

CONTACTS: 33

  • Citations: 28
  • Warnings: 05

The majority of the violators were from within the neighborhood."

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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