Newtown News Update

Hello ,

Welcome to the January 30, 2020, 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.

David D. Oxley Sworn in as Supervisor!

At a Special Meeting of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors on January 29, 2020, David D. Oxley was sworn in by District Judge Michael Petrucci to fill the seat on the Board vacated by Linda Bobrin.

The Board approved Mr. Oxley’s appointment by a 3 to 1 vote. Voting in favor were Supervisors Phil Calabro, Dennis Fisher, and John Mack. Kyle Davis cast the lone “nay” vote via phone.

Mr. Oxley is currently an Advisor at Fulton Financial Advisors and a Business Development Officer at Caribbean Advanced Recycling, Inc. and has served as a volunteer on the Newtown Finance Committee for more than a year. He previously came before the Board at a September, 2019, Work Session and presented the Newtown Finance Committee's draft questionnaire designed to reach out to Newtown businesses and learn more about their needs.

A Man of The People

Oxley described himself as a “man of the people” during his interview and said that accessibility is a “true value.” He vowed that, if appointed Supervisor, he would be approachable by the public.

In his Letter of Intent to the Board prior to the interview, Mr. Oxley wrote:

“As a resident of New town for the past 7 years, I have always had an interest in finding a local position where I could add value to our township. I have been doing that with my participation within the Finance Committee, but seeing that I can effect change by being on the Board makes me excited. I feel that my extensive leadership experience and my interpersonal skills, which translate well to any team I have worked with is a true asset.”

At the podium, Mr. Oxley pondered about his "opportunity to effect change and put his own stamp on how he could make things better" for Newtown.

Comments from Fellow Board Members

Board Chair Phil Calabro said: "I feel Mr. Oxley will bring a lot of work experience to the Board. He loves Newtown Township and to govern where you love is pretty important."

Vice Chair Dennis Fisher said: "I'm excited. I know you will bring a fresh perspective to the Board and I look forward to working with you."

Assistant Treasurer & Secretary John Mack said: “Mr. Oxley brings to the Board extensive expertise in financial management combined with business development experience and volunteerism, which are perfect qualifications for the work that the Board must do in the coming months. In particular, I hope that he will spearhead our effort to work with consultants, residents and the business community to solve the township’s deficit spending death spiral.”

Oxley will have to hit the ground running at his first official meeting as a Supervisor on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. Several important decisions are coming up before the Board at that and subsequent meetings. We wish him the best.

The new Newtown Board of Supervisors.
From left to right: Dennis Fisher, Phil Calabro, John Mack, David Oxley.

Survey Says Residents Don't Want Old Navy in Newtown Shopping Center

At the January 21, 2020, Newtown Township Planning Commission (PC) meeting, Newtown/Bucks Associates, LP, West Road (Newtown Shopping Center), presented their case for supporting zoning variances needed for a new 12,500-square-foot Old Navy and a 400-square-foot addition to the kitchen of Chick-fil-A and adding a new right-turn only lane to West Road that would improve traffic flow by allowing traffic around cars waiting to turn into Chick-fil-A. Listen to the conversation here.

This application will come before the Newtown Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) on February 6, 2020 (see below for meeting details). The ZHB will have the final decision on whether or not to approve the variances requested, including reducing the number of parking spaces in the Shopping Center from 6.6 per thousand square feet of retail space to 6.1 spaces.

Survey Results

To gauge the opinion of Newtown Area residents, my “Old Navy/Chick-fil-A Proposal Survey” asks a simple question: “Are you in favor of this proposal?”

As of January 30, 2020, 223 responses have been received. Below is a summary of the results to date, including several representative comments. Keep in mind that this is not a scientific survey and may not accurately reflect the opinions of a majority of Newtown area residents.

[DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue. To have your opinion OFFICIALLY heard and recorded in public minutes, you must attend the ZHB hearing where you can address the members of the ZHB during the public comment period.]

Figure 1: Where Do Respondents Come From? The vast majority of “Other” residents come from neighboring communities such as Northampton, Wrightstown, New Hope, Upper Makefield, and Middletown.

Figure 2: Respondents answer question, “Are you in favor of this proposal?”

Overall, 63% of survey respondents are NOT in favor of an Old Navy in the proposed location, whereas 29% are OK with it. Looking at only respondents who say they are residents of Newtown Township, 65% are opposed and 27% are in favor.

Comments in Favor

There were a total 10 comments from Newtown area residents in favor of the proposal as described above. The following is a selected list of representative comments:

  • “Great Store, good prices and merchandise.” – a Newtown Township resident
  • “I think it just saddens me that a lot of people against Old Navy aren't thinking nor caring what’s best for the town itself. A lot of them are thinking with a sense of entitlement and it’s ridiculous. We have many diffeeent (sic) demographics in this town it isn’t just super wealthy… I also think it will bring better middle of the road jobs that … some people living in this town might need more of. .”
  • “I would require a right turn only exit near the Staples exiting onto 413 to drastically reduce the bottleneck at the current exit. Plus the road capacity is already there so dumping right turning autos out of chik and others there is IMO a no brainer.”
  • “I’m in favor of having an Old Navy in Newtown. I enjoy staying in my own neighborhood to shop at stores I like.”
  • “I hope modifications to Chick-Fil-A include mitigation of the long lines of cars which block the access road adjacent to the restaurant.”

Comments Opposed

There were a total 74 comments from Newtown area residents opposed to the proposal as described above. The following is a selected list of representative comments:

  • “I am in FAVOR of doing something about the Chick-fil-A traffic situation. I've had difficulty several times safely entering the shopping center when the traffic was back up to the Durham Rd intersection. I'm NOT IN FAVOR of the Old Navy development. There's a large store just 15 minutes down the road. The addition of that large store would create such traffic problems in that shopping center. I already actively avoid the Acme during peak times for this reason and I fear that further development would make it unbearable.”

[NOTE: At least 25% of commenters in the “opposed” group expressed being in favor of alleviating the Chick-fil-A traffic situation but were opposed to adding Old Navy to the Shopping Center.]

  • “ANOTHER OLD have one in Oxford valley . Can’t you put in a Trader Joe’s/ Whole Foods or a Wegman’s . Old navy is cheep trashy clothes.” [Several people expressed an interest in Trader Joe’s instead of Old Navy or similar “box store.”]
  • “…not ANOTHER new building to an already congested area. We do a good job not becoming RTE 1 on bypass but instead JAM everything into these existing shopping centers... ENOUGH already!!!”
  • “We don’t need another store of that caliber in this area, we need to have upscale stores!.”
  • “Building an Old Navy will further drive already problematic traffic issues. We need to stop developing that area, as the additional development already underway will drive significantly increased traffic and likely accidents.”
  • “What happens when a recession hits? All of these buildings will be empty, vacant, and depress our real estate values.”
  • “I’m disgusted and upset that we’ve developed this much. What’s wrong with the Newtown Supervisors? As soon as our kids are done with HS, we’re out of here. Sad. Everyone I know thinks Newtown has become overbuilt and crowded. Doylestown has been, and continues to be, the best Bucks County suburb.”
  • “I think expanding Chick Fila makes sense but expanding their children's play area in addition to the kitchen as proposed as well as seating area would be ideal. I don't feel like an Old Navy serves purpose in Newtown. I just don't feel many would necessarily shop there or maybe they would but so much of what makes Newtown Newtown and the beautiful fields of land is being taken over with all this construction everywhere! I think if the proposed Wawa will be 24 hrs and be within fair distance to the 95 ramp it would be helpful.”
  • “Newtown as a whole needs to do more to support local businesses.”
  • “As a parent of high school children who attend CR North, I do not like the idea of adding another store to the already busy shopping area, especially one that will be in such close proximity to North. Many students park near the skate park and walk through that area to the high school. North has limited parking so many students are forced to park and walk.”
  • “The traffic is already a nightmare in and around the shopping center and this would only add to it. We need a comprehensive traffic plan for the entire Eagle/Newtown shopping area first before any new construction.”

If you have not yet taken the survey, please feel free to do so now. Your input is valued.

Take the Survey Now!

Is A "Tsunami" of Citizen Reaction Coming?

After reading all the comments in my survey and speaking with dozens of Newtown residents, I sense a tsunami of citizen reaction against new “willy-nilly” commercial development that does not fit the needs of the community. It is time that Township officials – including the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, consultants, and residents – meet with commercial developers to ensure that their plans jibe with our new 10-year comprehensive plan, which currently is in the works. In fact, I suggest a voluntary moratorium on all new commercial development until this happens. I believe that having more resident input into commercial development planning will help ensure the viability of our shopping and business districts.

Meet me to discuss issues of importance to you such as the challenge to the validity of the JMZO and variances in connection with proposed convenience store (WAWA) with fuel dispensing station on Newtown Bypass & U. Silver Lake Rd. (ZHB hearing scheduled for 2/6/20; the Board of Supervisors will oppose this challenge).

Also discussed will be the variances in connection with a proposed 12,500 square foot Old Navy Retail Store  and additions to existing Chick Fil-A. The ZHB will also hear this case on 2/6/20. I will also provide an update on the ZHB 1/30/20 hearing re Variances in connection with a proposed B-8 use for 27 townhomes on a 4.49 acre lot in the PS-2 district (Durham Rd; the Board of Supervisors opposes this).

The February 6, 2020, Newtown Zoning Hearing Board meeting begins at 7 PM and will be held at the Town Meeting Room, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA.

John Mack