John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

A monthly collection of summaries of articles curated from various news, township meetings, and other sources, focused on topics of interest to local residents. The insights expressed here are those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person. Subscribe here, if you are not yet a subscriber.

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From - Oct 17, 2023

This presentation focuses on #NewtownPA Supervisor John Mack's review the 2024 DRAFT budget. Topics include:

  • Highlights – new hires, capital purchases
  • Tax Millage Rate – how much will the average homeowner pay in real estate taxes?
  • 2024 Road Program – is your road on the list?
  • Fire Protection – weekend coverage by paid firefighters
  • Debt Service – new to cover for loan payments related to new LED Street Lights, Pedestrian Crossings
  • Need for Future Tax Increases – why?

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John Mack's Insights:

The 2024 Budget discussion continues at the 25 October 2023 BOS public meeting under “Old Business” (last item on the agenda).

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From - Oct 18, 2023
At the 17 October 2023 #NewtownPA Planning Commission (PC) meeting, I spoke up about my concerns regarding the O-LI/LI ("Business Commons") Overly Plan. Find the plan here:

The PC - working with Bucks Planning Commission (BCPC) experts - is near to finalizing the Plan to recommend to the Board of Supervisors (BOS).

Before this comes to a vote by the supervisors, I expressed a need to have more discussion of the plan's details. This is an audio recording of my comments made at the PC meeting.

I specifically have major concerns about "mixed-use" development, which is a major aspect of the Overlay Plan. 
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From - Sept 28,, 2023
The stage is set In #NewtownPA township for a showdown over neon signs in what I call "Neon Signage Armageddon".

On Wednesday night [27 Sept 2023], the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors [BOS] voted unanimously to oppose a zoning board appeal by the Borscht Belt, which is seeking a variance for a neon window sign. [Read “Borscht Belt Delicatessen Seeks Variance to Allow Neon Sign”.]

Supervisor Phil Calabro made the motion to send its solicitor and the township's zoning officer to a zoning board meeting [on Nov. 2] in early November to defend the township’s sign ordinance, which states that “any sign illuminated by inert gas or any form of exposed tubes is prohibited.”

"It's important that we send our solicitor because of the abuse that has been done by this deli in regard to breaking the zoning law," said Calabro. "We need to stick up for our zoning laws."

John Mack's Insights:

At the 27 Sep 2023 BOS meeting, Ms. Peggy Driscoll, Chair of the Newtown Planning Commission said:

"The members did discuss the neon sign, the inconsistent enforcement of signage in our commercial districts and in this particular case, the outdated zoning ordinance. For many years the Planning Commission has discussed our signage ordinances and we are in agreement that it might be necessary to update the entire sign ordinance for all zoning districts."

Hence, the beginning of what might be called "Neon Signage Armageddon" ;) Stay tuned...

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From - Oct 19, 2023
At the 17 October 2023 meeting of the #NewtownPA Planning Commission (PC), some members had problems with the huge 13-4" by 6'’, 80 sqft sign that Capital Grille proposes to affix to the rear facade of the building that faces Silo Drive (see image), where no other signs have been permitted for other businesses.
Edward Murphy, Esq., Wisler Pearlstine, representing Capital Grille, said the dimensions of the sign should be measured based on the size of the lettering and that the black background should not figure into the calculation to determine if it is up to code.

PC Member Terry Christensen, however, said "changing the way the square footage of signage is calculated by only counting the letters...that's an argument that I don't think we are competent to work on" versus the wording of the ordinance.

John Mack's Insights:

As per Newtown zoning ordinance, a total of 3 individual establishment signs totaling 60 sqft are allowed. Capital Grille is asking for variances to allow 5 signs totaling 452.28 sqft - a 392.28 sqft difference!

Supervisors will decide whether or not to oppose this appeal at the 25 October 2023 BOS meeting.

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From Sept 28, 2023

Warren Gormley, Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority (NBCJMA) Executive Director, and Gannett Fleming, Civil Engineer and member of the Authority Board, presented the NBCJMA’s plan for the construction of a sewage treatment facility on Lower Silver Lake Road.

I specifically asked about conforming to Newtown zoning, If you check the JMZO, a public utility operation under an F-1 use is allowed by Special Exception in the OR district. The key feature is that it can only occupy 10% of the total property. There was some confusion regarding what the 10% refers to. Here's what the JMZO says:

“Public Utility Operating Facility. No facility nor projected area thereof as viewed in the plan view shall occupy more than 10% of the property on which it is located." Neither Mr. Gormley nor Mr. Fleming was aware of this ordinance.

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From - Oct 21, 2022

Newtown Township is compiling an eligibility list of potential candidates for the position of full time Firefighter/EMT. Qualifying applicants will be required to pass a written test, physical agility evaluation, background clearance checks, and medical and psychological evaluations. Qualifying applicants will then proceed to two interviews.

See “Preferred” list of qualifications here…

Applications will be accepted until noon November 15, 2023

John Mack's Insights:

The 2024 budget contemplates the establishment four (4) new full-time Firefighters in order to provide paid firefighter coverage in the Township during daytime hours, seven days per week.

The additional Firefighters will be paid predominantly – but not TOTALLY! – by the funds awarded from the SAFER Grant (i.e., $1.556 million; read “Grant Ensures #NewtownPA Emergency Services Has More Firefighters to Cover Weekends and Respond Quicker”).

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