At a recent Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting, local officials discussed ways to create a more business-friendly environment in the township. [See John Mack's notes from that meeting].
Supervisors centered much of their discussion on the Light Industrial (LI) and Office-Light Industrial (O-LI) districts.
"If you notice the surrounding areas around the township, there's a little more economic development going on and we want to get some of that," Supervisor David Oxley said at the Tuesday board of supervisors' meeting.
"This has been a conversation for the past 20 years," Supervisor Phil Calabro said.
Supervisors also discussed the challenge of increasing the walkability of the business commons, which is currently lacking in sidewalks. Other options include allowing for more multi-family housing and expanding building heights to allow for more three and four-story buildings.
Planning Commission Chair Allen Fidler said the township could benefit from contracting with an economic development expert to identify types of uses that have been successful in neighboring communities "so we don't have to reinvent the wheel."
The Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC) is recommending an expansion of allowable services (dry cleaners, barbers, convenience shopping, etc.), more restaurant uses, expansion of entertainment uses as was granted to Rafters and the Brewery, consideration of an overlay district for multi-family housing and other possible uses that might fit into the Commons that are currently not permitted or are only permitted as special exceptions/variances.
Supervisor John Mack said "With COVID-19 forcing a restructuring of business across the nation, grant dollars may be available to pay for the county professionals to determine the best amenities and uses."
“I think it’s a great idea and making it more attractive is awesome,” said Davis. “I do, however, want to make sure we don’t change the zoning in such a way that will enable it to be bulldozed and a strip mall put in. We need to be careful of how we make those changes.”
Although it took several tries and a modified version to get a resolution passed, I believe the process raised awareness and educated the public regarding the unique trials and tribulations of LGBTQ + minority youth.
The goal of this Zoom meeting is to continue to raise awareness and to plan for declaring a special day each year in Newtown Township as "LOVE is LOVE Day." Several activists and students have been invited to speak (see below). Some will tell their personal stories of being bullied, harassed, and discriminated against because of their race and/or gender identity.
Invited Guests/Speakers include:
Marianne Alt - Kidsbridge Tolerance Center
Kevin L Antoine, JD - Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College
Council Rock students
Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP
Kristin Mallon - sponsor of the Council Rock North School Gay Straight Alliance
Marlene Pray – founder and director of the Rainbow Room
This meeting is being hosted by John Mack, a Newtown Township Supervisor. It is NOT a Newtown public meeting and attendance is not guaranteed. The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
With legal fees mounting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors on Feb. 24 voted 4 to 1 to approve a revised settlement agreement with the Arcadia Land Company.
The vote will allow the Philadelphia-based land developer to build 60 single family detached homes in the $700,000 price range behind the Newtown Reformed Church at Route 532 and the Newtown Bypass. That’s 16 homes fewer than Arcadia had originally sought to build.
The agreement also attempts to resolve traffic concerns related to the entrance to the development on Buck Road and its location within yards of the Newtown Bypass. The plan shows traffic from the new development utilizing an existing service road that parallels the bypass and is currently posted as a right turn in and right turn out only at Buck Road.
Under the settlement agreement Arcadia has agreed to ask PennDOT to allow right-turn access into and out of the site directly from the Newtown Bypass.
Chairman Phil Calabro joined Supervisors John Mack, Dennis Fisher and David Oxley in voting for the settlement.
“Even though many may not be happy with the result, it has been long, tedious and has involved a lot of residents, which is the right way to do things. Not everyone is going to be on the same boat,” said Mack. “We’ll have to see how this works out. As far as the traffic is concern[ed], I know PennDOT doesn’t have a problem with the u-turn. I hope the improvements to Buck Road will make that feasible.
Pete Ancona, the president of the Newtown Crossing HOA, said while the HOA has worked hard to find an acceptable solution, a good percentage of residents are not happy with the agreement.
“For Newtown Crossing, besides wanting to see the lots preserved as open space forever, our concerns have always been traffic and safety ...,” said Ancona. “Obviously we would all like to see the ground stay open forever, but short of someone buying the property and donating it to the township as a park, it’s not going to happen.”
My statement posted to the Newtown Crossing Neighborhood FB Group before the BOS meeting:
A resident asked: “Sir, why are we putting so much focus on [Steve] Harris [legal counsel to Eagle Ridge HOA]?"
My response: “I was very impressed with Mr. Harris in another case before the BOS. He represents Eagle Ridge. If the BOS is going to spend money helping the Eagle Ridge case that money would go to Harris. Therefore, I have to listen to his assessment very carefully if I am to spend taxpayer money on a case he is working on. And he essentially advised us that the best option was to settle.
In the tradition of “every cloud has a silver lining,” the approval of 60 new homes at Buck Road and the Bypass has brought together a partnership to fight for the future of Newtown Township.
Incumbent Kyle Davis and newcomer Andrea Ahern have announced that they will be running together for Newtown Township Supervisor in 2021.
Davis has been on the Newtown Board since his election in 2015, and has been a consistent champion for smart growth and financial responsibility. Kyle opposed the overgrowth of the Village at Newtown shopping center and fought to cut into a 178 percent tax increase that was proposed by the board majority in 2020. Kyle continued his fight by advocating against the Arcadia development.
Andrea Ahern is an Eagle Ridge resident, involved in the Homeowners Association, and was one of the neighbors who spoke about the traffic dangers that the new development will create. A vice president and small business development officer at a local bank, Andrea said she knows the struggles that local shops have been dealing with, and has been providing assistance to them throughout the pandemic.
At the Februray 24, 2021, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Fire Chief Glenn Forstythe presented the January 2021 Newtown Fire & Emergency Services Incident Report, which breaks down incidents by type, by township in which they occurred, and which incidents were handled by the volunteer Newtown Fire Association (NFA) and which by the paid Newtown Emergency Services Department (NESD).
In comparison, Newtown Township will get $552,277.09 this year versus $594,866.14 last year – a 7% decrease, which is about the same as other municipalities.
The Good News: The 2021 budget anticipated $536,096 to be used for the 2021 Roadway Maintenance Plan. With an additional allocation of $300,000 from the General Fund, the township will have available $852,277 for the program.
A franchised dog day care and kennel has presented plans to open a luxury pet resort in Newtown Township.
New Jersey-based K-9 Resorts, which has 13 locations across the country and two in southeastern Pennsylvania, in Horsham and Malvern, is planning to lease an 8,000 square foot space on a 3-acre lot at 8 Pheasant Run, located in the Newtown Business Commons.
The space will be outfitted with indoor and outdoor play areas using artificial outdoor turf designed for dogs, which can be hosed down and kept clean, according to Tim Katsch, Vice President of Operations for K-9 Resorts, who first presented plans for the business to the Newtown Township Planning Commission last month.
Planning commission vice chair Peggy Driscoll said that if concerns about noise, traffic and parking are addressed, the board of supervisors would welcome the addition of a dog day center to the business commons.
… nearby residents of the Newtown Gate community have obtained legal counsel as they express concerns over the center's close proximity to its neighborhood.
"This seems like this is being done very surreptitiously and being misrepresented to the community," Fred Kurtz, president of the Newtown Gates Homeowners Association, told the planning commission on Tuesday.
While the facility will be able to house up to 120 dogs at one time, their centers typically have up to ten dogs for boarding along with 30 to 40 daycare dogs on a given day, Katsch said.
The project will be reviewed by the township engineer and may be discussed at the planning commission's next meeting on March 2.
One of the earliest challenges for local governments during the coronavirus pandemic was holding open public meetings while maintaining social distancing.
Rep. Perry Warren, D-31, said this week that legislative rules allowing online meetings are still a concern for local officials in his district even after nearly a year of grappling with the issue.
Warren, a Newtown Borough resident, said in-person public meetings seem to be the preference among local officials here, but that might not mean remote meetings have to leave with the pandemic.
"The question will remain, given the technology ... will we be looking at local governments changing their methods of meetings? ... That's something we're going to have to talk about, both at the legislative level and with our borough councils and township boards of supervisors," Warren added.
Under state law, public meetings require a majority of a governing body be physically present in order to vote on any business before the board.
Emergency legislative rules gave municipalities leeway to hold online meetings during the disaster proclamation first signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 6, 2020. The 90-day disaster declaration has been renewed multiple times, most recently on Feb. 19.
Warren was recently appointed the minority chair of the House Local Government Committee's Subcommittee on Boroughs, a body that reviews the impact of local governance bills.
In addition to federal and state COVID-19 relief bills, Warren said he expects the 2021-2022 legislative session in the General Assembly to see legislation on online meetings and other pandemic policies that might work better than pre-pandemic rules.