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At the December 11, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, several residents commented that they were not adequately notified by Toll Brothers of the conditional use hearing for a proposal to construct a cluster of 41 single-family homes on a 152-acre parcel at Rt. 413 and Twining Bridge Road (read "Toll Brothers Submits New Proposal For Rt. 413 Property"
https://patch.com/pennsylvania/newtown-pa/toll-brothers-submits-new-proposal-rt-413-property See the plan here). They also did not realize that the hearing would be continued at a later date in January, 2020.
Resident Joseph Mcatee voiced concern about the possibility that the continuance would not be advertised. "The problem with that is it almost looks like the applicant decided that instead of having the community know about the meeting, they could continue it [and] not have it advertised," said Mcatee. "It just doesn't sound like a good community service," he noted.
"There's a little bit of bad faith here," said Eric Pomerantz. "They [Toll Bros] never came back to us …to work out the issues" as promised regarding the first proposal.
See a video clip of the "hearing" with comments from residents here.
johnmacknewtown's insight:
At the November 13, 2019 Newtown Board of Supervisors Meeting, I inquired about adding Savvy Citizen to the budget as I believe it is a useful tool that would not require much maintenance. According to the minutes: "Mr. Lewis said there is no staff to maintain it. Mr. Mack believes there is not much maintenance required. A discussion ensued on the Savvy Citizen app including the cost, upkeep, staffing and benefits to the community."Mr. Mack moved for the Board to consider revising the budget to purchase the Savvy Citizen App. Mr. Fisher seconded. The motion failed 2‐3 with Mr. Calabro, Ms. Bobrin and Mr. Davis voting nay. [Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting: I request that the 2020 budget include $3,600 to implement the Savvy Citizen mobile-based notification system that was reviewed by the BOS at the September 16, 2019, Work Session. That would cover the monthly payments of $249 for 12 months plus the one-time marketing and setup fee of $600."   NOTE: Since then, Savvy Citizen has sweetened its offer to Newtown: The estimated cost is $2,241 annually, including a one-time marketing, setup fee of $600 for a total of $2,841 (offer good until December 31, 20190. To cover the cost, Savvy Citizen offers a sponsorship program. If there is a local business that is interested in paying for Newtown’s Savvy Citizen subscription, then that business, in return, would receive a small clickable ad on notifications sent to residents. It is anticipated that a sponsor will be found. If a sponsor cannot be found within 2-3 months, the service can be terminated and the township will be charged only for the initial setup and months that the system was in use.   As a Supervisor, I will continue to  advocate for more effective digital and mobile media communications that will inform and engage residents and businesses regarding issues before the Board of Supervisors.
Plans to build a pedestrian footbridge over Newtown Creek are one step closer to reality.At the Nov. 26 meeting, the board of supervisors voted 4-0 to start the ball rolling for the non-profit Newtown Creek Coalition to look into getting state money to build a new structure using six existing stone piers of an old trolley line that was discontinued in 1923.The trolley ran along Penn Street, State and crossed the creek at Frost Lane before continuing to Doylestown.Voting to set up a three-party study group between the township, the coalition and Newtown Borough were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Supervisors Linda Bobrin, Dennis Fisher and John Mack. Supervisor Kyle Davis did not attend the meeting.“The footbridge would create a safe recreational pedestrian connection between the township and the borough,” said Mike Sellers, president of the Newtown Creek Coalition.According to Sellers, the state has a number of grants available to fund transportation alternatives, trail expansions, as well as storm water management. And he said that this project falls into all these areas where funding is available.With their vote to look into the feasibility of the footbridge, the supervisors agreed to set up a working group to formally study the proposal and for which grants to apply.The next step is for Newtown Borough Council to also approve a resolution to look into the project.
Even though state grants could help fund the project, they usually require municipalities to also contribute money, something that has several supervisors concerned, including Supervisor Mack who stated that “grants don’t cover 100-percent.”
Solstice, a new restaurant coming to the Village at Newtown Shopping Center, has released an opening timeline and menu in advance of its local debut.The restaurant will be opening to the public in early 2020, according to representatives. It will be a 9,245 square-foot indoor and outdoor dining spot located in the new building under construction on Durham Road.According to representatives, it will offer "thoughtfully prepared, seasonally curated dishes" in a "dynamic social environment."Solstice will offer a "city-like dining experience" with "modern, whimsical plating," according to Solstice representative Lisa Schwartz. The indoor dining room and bar will have 165 seats. A 2,500 -square-foot outdoor patio space will seat 92.On sunny days, the indoor and outdoor dining rooms will merge "to create a dynamic, multi-sensory environment," according to Schwartz.The patio will feature elements like a fire pit and an outdoor garden with seasonal herbs and vegetables to be used in the dishes.
Related (shows location): “Another New Restaurant Has Plans To Open At Village At Newtown”;
johnmacknewtown's insight:
When this application came before the Newtown Board of Supervisors at the June 12, 2019, public meeting, Attorney Joseph Blackburn representing the applicant made no mention of a "fire pit and an outdoor garden" in the patio area, nor were these elements mentioned in the documentation submitted to the Board! Also, it was described as "affiliated with Shula’s Steak House" (it turns out the the principals are executives with Shula’s Restaurants, which is the only connection with steak!), and not billed as a "seasonal" restaurant (read "Solstice, a seasonal restaurant, is coming to Bucks County"), which would compete with Harvest Seasonal Grille located elsewhere in the shopping center.    UPDATE: (12/6/2019) I spoke to Joe Blackburn who represents Brixmor and he confirmed that Shula-style steaks WILL be on the menu along with the seasonal entries. Something for everyone, I guess. Meanwhile, Dave Magrogan, owner of Harvest Seasonal Grill, posted this: "When 'Solstice' received conditional approval they did so stating they were a division of Shula's Steakhouse and would be serving Shula's steaks. They represented they were owned by Shulas and part of the "new model of Shula's". The achieved conditional approval by falsely representing they were opening a steakhouse and instead are now opening a direct copy of Harvest Seasonal Grill. They change their menu 4x a year like Harvest, they say they are going to be Seasonal and source from local farms exactly like Harvest. Very disappointing operators would tell the township they were opening a Steakhouse tied to a national brand so they could get approvals and will now modify their concept to capture the success Harvest has experienced since opening. The center does not need two seasonal grills, it won't have two craft beer restaurants, two breakfast restaurants and it shouldn't have Solstice trying to copy Harvest. Even their tagline in their website is a direct steal from Harvest core values. The township should examine the conditional approvals provided to this restaurant and hold them accountable to the brand they said they were opening."
At the November 13, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Durham Partners Group, LLC, submitted a Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) application for twenty seven townhomes and associated dimensional variances on the property located at 413 Durham Road in the PS-2 (Professional Service) Zoning District. The BOS heard from the applicant’s professionals that the proposed townhouse use is much lower impact from a traffic and development standpoint than a permitted medical office building.
Strike One!
After extensive questioning by Supervisors, the BOS voted 4-1 to send the Township Solicitor to the December 5, 2019, ZHB meeting to oppose the developer’s request for 7 variances.
See video here.
Strike Two!
Heath Dumack, the engineer hired by the developer, appeared before the Newtown Planning Commission at its November 19, 2019, public meeting “as a courtesy.” PC member Paul Cohen said “I don’t want to be too impolite about it, but this is crazy! This is just a blatant effort to squeeze as much as possible out of this. To come in and propose - where there’s supposed to be one home - twenty-seven is... incredibly bold.”
Listen to the Q&A here.
Strike Three?
The next step for Durham Partners Group is to appear before the Zoning Hearing Board. Will the third time be the charm or will it be strike three and "yer out!"? With the Township Solicitor there to oppose awarding variances for this plan (see below), it is my hope that the ZHB denies the application.
2019 © John Mack
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