John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Discussions of E-30 Zoning Amendment

How Newtown is Dealing with Wawa's Plan for a Super Store on the Bypass

The Newtown Planning Commission and the Joint Zoning Council have discussed the proposed curative amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO Definition) that would allow a new Use E-30 for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store within the Jointure Definition. All three members of the Jointure - Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield - must approve the final amendmnet before it can be incorporated into the JMZO. The process involves input from the Planning Commissions of the townships during and after edits are made at JZC meetings.

To date (15 June 2020), the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS), the Planning Commission and the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) has discussed this proposed amendment at three separate meetings:

  1. June 6, 2020
  2. June 6, 2020
  3. April 21, 2020
  4. February 4, 2020
  5. January 7, 2020

Newtown Board of Supervisors Review Latest Draft of Curative Amendment

At the June 15, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, the Board reviewed the details of latest draft of the E30 "Curative Amendment" (Definition) to the Newtown Area Zoning ordinance. This amendment creates a new use for a combination gas station/convenience store (i.e., Wawa) in each township of the "Jointure" of Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield. Supervisor Mack asked how this amendment differed from the original "sketch plan" submitted to the BOS by Provco Pineville Acquisitions LLC, which is the Wawa developer.

Mack's Newtown Voice · E30 Discussion at June 15, 2020, Newtown BOS Work Session

Here is some background:

Newtown Planning Commission Discusses Wawa's Challenge to OR Zoning

Provco - representing Wawa - has sued Newtown because it does not have a zone that allows a combination gas station and convenience store. In a separate but somewhat related action, a curative amendment was proposed that seeks to find a zoning area for the use within the jointure area of Newtown Township, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield (view the video here). Although Supervisor Calabro suggested that this is "protecting" Newtown, Township Solicitor Dave Sander said it does not apply to Wawa's substantive legal challenge to the joint municipal zoning ordinance previously filed by Wawa. Only if that challenge does not succeed will Wawa be subject to the Municipal Cure.

At the June 6, 2020, Newtown Planning Commission Zoom meeting, the members tried to understand the process and were frustrated that the township virtually has no choice but to give Wawa want it wants - i.e, modification of the OR (Office/Research) zone, which is along the Newtown Bypass, to allow a Super Wawa to be built there pretty much the way Wawa wants to build it - primarily due to the fact that Newtown does not have the funds to fight Wawa in court, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Wawa has the township over a barrel!

In addition, this will be by "exceptional use," not "conditional use," which means the Zoning Hearing Board - NOT the Supervisors - will have the authority to approve this use. The ZHB is not elected by the public, just sayin'

Mack's Newtown Voice · Newtown Planning Commission Discusses Wawa's Challenge to OR Zoning

Newtown Planning Commission vs. Jointure re: "Fuel Pumps"

In a first-ever virtual Zoom meeting of the Newtown Township Planning Commission on April 21, 2020, the members discussed the latest version of the E-30 Ordinance - Convenience Store/Fueling Station - submitted by the Joint Zoning Council. In this 9-minute audio snippet, the members specifically discuss their consensus as to the maximum number of allowable fueling "pumps" and "stations".

Mack's Newtown Voice · E30 Amendment Discussion: Maximum Number of Allowable Fueling Stations
Jointure's Views on "Fuel Pumps" for Proposed E30 Amendment

At the February 6, 2020, meeting of the Joint Zoning Council, representatives of Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield township – the “Jointure” - discussed the E-30 amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance that was drafted by Newtown Township.

The following is an edited excerpt of that discussion focused specifically on the number of fueling pumps that would be allowed. This issue was raised by the Newtown Planning Commission, which suggested among other things that the maximum number of gas pumps should be eight with allowances for an additional four electric charging stations.

Meanwhile, Wawa's View on Maximum Allowable "Fuel Pumps"

E-30 Use Discussed at Planning Commission: Part 1

The proposed amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO, Definition) that would allow a new "E-30" [previously designated "E-25"] use for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store was discussed at the January 7, 2020, Newtown Township Planning Commission meeting. This audio snippet gives an introduction to the process and includes comments from residents. According to Allen Fidler's subsequent report to the Board of Supervisors "There are some items in question including eat in dining, 24-hour operation and the size of the building. The members will continue to review the amended ordinance and bring additional concerns to be discussed at the next meeting."

Recommendation Made to the Board of Supervisors

After two meetings and much discussion the Planning Commission recommends the BOS forward the draft of the Ordinance to our partners in the Jointure along with the Bucks County Planning Commission with the following suggested changes:

  • Eliminate eat-in dining (section 13-3)
  • Limit fuel pumps to 8 and permit up to 4 charging stations
  • Specify hours of operation and limit to 18
  • Make sidewalks a requirement (section 13-19, remove "if')
  • Additionally, the Planner will be looking at specifics around the facades of the fuel pump area and fencing to ensure they are keeping within the character and architecture of the building.

E-30 Use Discussed at Planning Commission: Part 2

The proposed ordinance to amend the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO, Definition) to allow a new Use E-30 for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store was discussed at the February 4, 2020, meeting of the Newtown Township Planning Commission.

Mary Stover from CKS engineering attended the meeting to provide updates and answer questions about the JMZO. She reported that Wrightstown and Upper Makefield received the ordinance however they have not officially reviewed it. Their solicitors made some preliminary comments as follows: 

  • Change conditional use to special exception 
  • Consider prohibiting diesel pumps to discourage large trucks 
  • Prohibit the sale of alcohol and propane refill tanks 
  • Visual screen the entire area, beyond just parking and other areas suggested 
  • Limit the hours of operation if within 750’ of residential use or district 
  • Construct 8’ masonry wall if within 750’ feet of residential use or district 
  • Require indoor and outdoor security cameras that can be accessed by the township PD. 
  • Fossil fuel filters and shut off valves able to be to shut off from the site. 
  • Spill containment and prevention systems which meet or exceed all state and federal requirements 

The Commission discussed each of these suggestions at length and agreed to wait until the other Planning Commissions in the Jointure reviewed the amendment before making any additional comments or recommendations to the BOS. The idea of having a joint meeting was also discussed. The following podcast includes edited audio clips from the discussion.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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