Newtown News Update


Welcome to the August, 2019, issue of Newtown News Update. Back issues and subscribing information can be found here.  If you do not wish to receive further updates, please use the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of this email. The opinions expressed here are solely the those of John Mack and do not reflect the opinions of any other person or entity.

The Newtown Township-Upper Makefield-Wrightstown (aka the "Jointure") Zoning Map.

It’s Time for Newtown Township to Update Its Comprehensive Plan!

In a Guest Opinion published in the August 4, 2019, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times, Marilynn Huret, a resident of Lower Makefield, summed up why "Zoning Changes Can Harm the Community."

"Once a [zoning] change is approved — such as an overlay for a large tract or even extreme variances for single lot — this opens up a landslide of similar requests from other property owners to rezone their land to purposes other than what they were originally meant to be," said Huret.

It just so happens that in 2018, Newtown Township proposed an amendment to the Newtown Area Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance - specifically an amendment to the OR (Office/Research) zone - that was drafted by Wawa developers and their legal counsel to allow a “modern, motor vehicle fueling center consisting of a convenience store with accessory motor vehicle fuel sales” on the Newtown Bypass. 

When the amendment was reviewed by the Newtown Planning Commission (PC) in October, 2018, several objections were raised, including the sentiment that it would lead to requests from other developers to rezone their land. 

Allen Fidler, Chair of the PC, seemed to express the consensus of the majority of Commission members when he said “Play by the rules, but if you want to change the rules, change them for everybody.”

The Commission sent the amendment back to Township officials for revisions before a second look by the PC. So far, that has not happened.

The "Rules" Are Changing

Meanwhile, the "rules" are about to change as Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown (the "Jointure") begin to work on a NEW Newtown Area Joint Comprehensive Plan ("The Plan"), something that the Jointure is required to do every 10 years by the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC Definition).

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)

Several members of the public, including Mike Horbal, suggested that any proposed plans for a Super Wawa on Newtown Bypass must be considered in context of the Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan for the future to assure that it is consistent with the goals of that plan. Listen to his comments in this 5-minute audio podcast.

Next Steps

While Newtown continues to mull over creating a zone to allow a combination convenience store/ gas station, the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) is recommending that a Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC) proposal to update the Comprehensive Plan be accepted by each of the member municipalities.

The proposal was presented to the JZC at its June 2019, meeting by Lisa Wolff, Senior Planner at the BCPC (listen to her presentation here and download the proposal here.)

The BCPC proposal must be considered by each Township Planning Commission and by each Township 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 (for Newtown that cost would be more than $20,000). 

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 in September to evaluate and advise the Board of Supervisors.

The Public MUST Be Engaged!

In a written statement presented to the Newtown Board of Supervisors, Mr. Fidler said, “the Commission members discussed the Jointure’s Comprehensive Plan... Sharing information with residents and Township committees before the Plan is due would enable productive planning. Using electronic and paper sources for information and feedback would provide a good cross section of residents. All responses would need to be verified that they are actually received from Newtown Township residents.”

Links to Related Information

John Mack