News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
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Starbucks Takes Newtown Township to Court Contending that Township Supervisors' Vote Against Drive-thru Store in Shopping Center was "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion and Contrary to Law"

Starbucks Takes Newtown Township to Court Contending that Township Supervisors' Vote Against Drive-thru Store in Shopping Center was "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion and Contrary to Law" | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Newtown Township denied conditional use approval last month for a new drive-through Starbucks in the Village at Newtown shopping center. Starbucks began fighting that rejection with an appeal to county court Tuesday.

A zoning dispute is brewing in Newtown Township over whether Starbucks can open a new location in the Village at Newtown shopping center.

The Newtown Township supervisors unanimously voted in May to reject the proposal for the coffee shop, and Starbucks appealed that decision in county court this week.

Ed Murphy, attorney for Starbucks, said in the appeal that the store satisfies “all objective standards and criteria” in township zoning and the supervisors’ vote to deny it was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”

The supervisors heard testimony in early May about Starbucks’ proposal — a 1,925-square-foot freestanding store off South Eagle Road with a drive-through window, indoor and outdoor seating — and whether to allow a drive-through eatery as a conditional use in a planned commercial district.

Supervisors called a vote to approve the Starbucks, but no board members answered “aye.” That vote was followed by a unanimous vote to reject the store. [Read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks"]

A township zoning decision issued in June also says Starbucks did not provide evidence of meeting seven conditional use requirements for a drive-through eatery, including access to a collector or arterial street, the presence of screened trash storage and a pedestrian walkway to the store’s entrance.

Newtown Township currently has a Starbucks in the ACME market off West Road, with another Starbucks off South State Street in nearby Newtown Borough, both within a mile of the proposed new site. Neither existing store has a drive-through window.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Definition of "abuse of discretion": A failure to take into proper consideration the facts and law relating to a particular matter. Newtown Township says: "The Board of Supervisors neither abused its discretion nor committed an error of law by denying the application."

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News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
These curated news items were selected by John Mack. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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Governor Wolf Responds to Newtown Township's Gun Safety Resolution

On June 13, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding “gun safety” resolution. The resolution called for gun safety laws that would – among other things - “[Ensure] that background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In Pennsylvania, preserve the provisions of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which provides instant access to background records.”

In a July 17, 2018, letter to former Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf acknowledged receipt of the resolution and said:

"Thank you for your letter and resolution regarding gun control legislation. While improving background check laws to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms is needed, gun violence is not a singular issue. I have travelled throughout the commonwealth, listening and learning from Pennsylvanians about what they are going through and what we can do to address the safety needs of our communities. This Spring, I created the School Safety Task Force in order to address safety concerns in our educational institutions across the commonwealth that were highlighted by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. I have also called on our leaders in the United States Congress to take steps towards banning military-style weapons and dangerous accessories like bump stocks. These are common sense laws and regulations that need to be put in place in order to ensure the safety of our children, schools, and families. All of us must take steps - community leaders, elected officials, public safety professionals - to continue to work to reduce violence. Please be assured that I will keep your suggestions in mind when reviewing legislation on this matter."

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Bad Turf, Contaminated Water, Discrimination, & Birds Discussed at Recent Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Meeting

The Newtown Township Supervisors voted unanimously July 11, to approve a settlement with Adams Bickle Associates, a Royersford contractor the township hired to install turf at Veterans Park in 2012.

 

Back then, township inspectors became unsatisfied with the work that was done at the park and subsequently withheld $158,000 in payments to the contractor.

 

In the settlement with Adams Bickle, the contractor agreed to accept $122,000 as payment in full and both parties agreed to pay their own legal fees. According to outgoing Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, the township spent the difference paying another contractor to finish the work not completed by Adams Bickle.

 

In other news, the supervisors voted 3-1 to spend more than $21,000 to replace the microphone system at the Public Administration Building’s meeting room. Board member Kyle Davis voted against the plan that would see more than $13,000 paid to Horizon Information Services for new mics and over $8,000 to Video Gold Productions for installation.

 

The supervisors also voted 4-0 to appoint Micah Lewis as interim township manager after Ferguson’s departure on July 13. Lewis has been the township’s assistant manager since 2015. While Ferguson accepted a job as township manager in Lower Makefield, he has agreed to work as a consultant to Newtown, at least through the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year.

 

Meanwhile, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer John Mack wants residents to be aware of a public meeting being hosted by the EPA at Hatboro-Horsham High School from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 25. Workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with discussion to follow.

 

The subject matter is perfluorinated compounds or PFAs.

 

“Our neighbors in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington had some of the highest levels, nationwide, of PFAs – which have been found to be toxic – in their drinking water.

 

“Newtown Artesian Water Company says it follows state and federal guidelines for acceptable levels of these chemicals. But there’s controversy over what is and what is not an acceptable level and the role that the EPA plays in determining that level.”

 

Mack is also pressing the board to draft an anti-discrimination ordinance that would extend protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation regardless of race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran status and mental or physical disability.

 

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that does not extend those protections based on sexual orientation and gender identification. Yardley recently became the fifth municipality in Bucks County to approve such legislation. Doylestown, New Hope and Bristol also have passed anti-discrimination bills.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

At the August 1, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, I will present what I learned at at the Horsham EPA meeting. A represntative of the Artesian Water Company hopefully will also be there to present a report on the quality of Newtown water and to answer questions from residents.

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Newtown Residents Concerned About Trees in Shopping Center

Newtown Residents Concerned About Trees in Shopping Center | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Joni Mitchell says in her 70s pop hit “Big Yellow Tax,” “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.”

In Newtown Township, they’re putting the trees in a museum to put up a coffee shop, however.

While Starbucks just recently received approval from the township supervisors to operate a free-standing restaurant and drive-through at the Village of Newtown Shopping Center, residents were surprised recently to see a group of trees removed near the site of the proposed coffee shop in the 2800 block of Eagle Road.

“I’m crying over the trees; I really am,” said Tina Cameron, of Tyler Walk, during public comments made at the July 11 supervisors meeting. “Seeing all those trees cut down definitely brought this to light." [See a video of her comments here.]

At its May 9 meeting ... the current board voted 5-0 to deny the coffee company a use permit to grant it permission to operate a nearly 2,000-square-foot Starbucks with a drive-through at a location that sits adjacent to Bank of America.

The coffee company followed with a lawsuit against the township, however. Facing legal implications and expense, the board, at its June 27 meeting, decided – by a 4-1 margin – that it was in its best interest to reverse tide and grant Starbucks its use permit.”

“We didn’t have the upper hand here. The development project had already been approved,” said board Chairman Phil Calabro.

“They had the right to build it so there was no way we could stop them. If it was taken to court, it would have probably gone against us.”


“The way that that looks now is not at all the way that it’s going to look,” said outgoing Township Manager Kurt Ferguson. “Could they have moved the driveway and saved the trees? Possibly, except they have minimum parking requirements that they had to meet.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The "landscaping plan" for the area around the drive-thru Starbucks includes replacement trees. It remains to be seen how the area will look after the work is completed. (see section of plan shown above).

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State Rep. Perry Warren's House Bill 1400 Would Strengthen Gun Background Check System

State Rep. Perry Warren's House Bill 1400 Would Strengthen Gun Background Check System | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

State Rep. Perry Warren intends to give a gun safety measure a second chance, after lawmakers narrowly decided against advancing a previous bill out of committee.

 

House Bill 1400 would have required universal background checks for all gun transfers or purchases, beyond just short-barreled guns — closing what lawmakers have christened the “long gun” loophole. But the bill failed to reach the full House floor by a 14-13 vote last month in the House Judiciary Committee, 13 months after the bill was introduced and referred to the committee in May 2017.

 

That margin was close enough get Warren’s attention. “There are a number of things that can turn a one-vote decision,” he said Tuesday.

 

Though not a committee member, Warren, D-31, of Newtown Borough, cosponsored House Bill 1400, and now plans on introducing its successor.

 

Warren’s bill closely mirrors its predecessor, minus one provision that would have allowed firearm buyers to undertake just one background check if they wanted to make multiple purchases at a gun show.

 

If approved, the bill would require all gun purchases or transfers outside a family to be done before a licensed firearms dealer or county sheriff, a process also involving approval from the state police’s Instant Check System, used to cross-reference a prospective buyer’s background records.

 

Warren referred to a March Franklin & Marshall College poll of 423 registered state voters, indicating 86 percent of the voters “strongly favor” enhancing the gun background check system.

 

In a recent memo, he also said the current law allows unauthorized individuals to purchase long guns, including military-style rifles like AR-15s, some of which have seen use in deadly mass shootings.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

On June 13, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding “gun safety” resolution (see here). This resolution called for gun safety laws that would – among other things - “[Ensure] that background checks are required on all gun sales, including online and at gun shows. In Pennsylvania, preserve the provisions of the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which provides instant access to background records.”

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DUI Detail Report | Newtown Township Police Department

DUI Detail Report | Newtown Township Police Department | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

On Saturday July 7, 2018, the Bucks County DUI Task Force held a static DUI detail on the Newtown Bypass, in the area of Sycamore Street.  During the detail, which occurred from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am, contact was made with approximately 600 vehicles and resulted in 12 motorists being stopped for further field testing.  Of those 12, 7 drivers, one of whom had a child who was age 5 in their vehicle, were unable to satisfactorily perform field sobriety testing and were ultimately placed under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence.  They were then processed at Northampton Township Police Department, and charges are pending lab results.  One driver, who showed signs of impairment but not sufficiently to be charged with DUI, was stopped from driving and was allowed to arrange for an alternate ride home.  The remaining four drivers were able to pass field sobriety testing and allowed to continue on their way.  One additional arrest was made of a passenger who had consumed alcohol while being under the age of 21, and one motorist was issued traffic citations for careless driving and driving with a suspended license when he drove over a median in an attempt to avoid the checkpoint.

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2018 Newtown Township Road Paving Schedule

2018 Newtown Township Road Paving Schedule | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Newtown Public Works Department released the 2018 road paving schedule. This schedule, of course, depends upon the weather.

There are a couple of changes from the original list published earlier this year (see here). Quaker Drive in Devonshire Estates and part on Sentinal Avenue at the intersection of Quaker Drive are not on the list due to Sewer Authority work. The Township decided that it wouldn't make sense to repave the roads and then patch them up after the sewer work. Consequently, this road work will be rescheduled for 2020.

Meanwhile, Franklin Court has been added to the list.

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‘Human Relations’ (Anti-Discrimination) Ordinance Voted Ahead to Lansdale Council

‘Human Relations’ (Anti-Discrimination) Ordinance Voted Ahead to Lansdale Council | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Borough council could be just days away from moving ahead with a new ordinance setting up a “Human Relations Commission” for Lansdale.

 

“We’ve had a lot of discussion about this. We’ve had a separate meeting on it, that I thought went extremely well,” said Councilman Leon Angelichio.

 

“We have taken a lot of questions, we’ve eased a lot of concerns, and we are at a point where it can move forward,” he said.

 

Borough council has discussed for two months whether the town should pass a new ordinance setting up a volunteer commission assigned to hear and attempt to mediate any complaints from residents, visitors or business customers who experience discrimination in the borough. The proposed “human relations ordinance” would add gender identity and LGBTQ status to the list of “protected classes” able to appeal any instance of alleged discrimination to the commission for mediation, groups that are not currently protected by state or federal law.

 

Council discussed that proposed code at length in May and June, and heard additional feedback from the public in a special meeting on June 26. During council’s July 3 committee meetings, Angelichio and borough staff fielded several additional questions that built on those earlier discussions.

 

Who would serve on the board?

 

“Any resident or business owner that volunteers to serve on that board, and I would love to find that we have an overabundance of qualified volunteers,” Angelichio said.

 

“It is open to anyone. It would seem kind of foolish that it wouldn’t be inclusive of the groups that we’re trying to put an ordinance forward to protect,” he said.

 

Council President Denton Burnell said if and when council votes to establish the commission, members would submit letters of interest and resumes to council’s appointments committee, which would evaluate those candidates as they do for any other post.

 

“They will receive all of those applications, they will vet, probably do some initial interviews, and make recommendations, but ultimately all of council will have to approve the five people that are selected,” Burnell said.

 

Would the code apply to local schools? Mayor Garry Herbert said he has had early talks with a North Penn school board member about whether the code would apply, and said he was told that in Philadelphia, the school board and that city’s human relations commission work together to address any complaints.

 

“The issue may be brought to the (commission), but they come together and say ‘How can we work together to solve it?’” Herbert said.

 

Herbert added, in a post on his blog, that the proposed ordinance and commission would likely not change hearts and minds, nor would it impact any residents’ freedom of speech or religion.

 

“Nothing in the ordinance keeps people from attending and participating in the religious doctrines of their choosing. In fact, the legislation is designed to have all religions treated exactly the same,” he said.

 

“In the creation of this ordinance Lansdale is declaring that it is a community that is dedicated to, and values, its diversity and that we will continue to march toward a better tomorrow for all the residents of our borough,” Herbert said.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

I proposed a similar ordinance be passed by Newtown Township at the July 11, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting.

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8 Arrested, 2 Cited During Newtown Bypass DUI Checkpoint

8 Arrested, 2 Cited During Newtown Bypass DUI Checkpoint | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Eight people were arrested during a DUI checkpoint last weekend on the Newtown Bypass, authorities with the Bucks County District Attorney's office said. According to law enforcement officials, the arrests were made for driving under the influence, drug and paraphernalia possession, and underage drinking.

 

During the checkpoint, which was held Saturday from 10 p.m. to Sunday at 3 a.m., police made contact with about 600 motorists.

 

According to the DA's office:

 

  1. Seven drivers were charged with driving under the influence, one of whom was driving with a child under the age of 5. Two of the seven were also charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana, and three were charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.
  2. A 17-year-old passenger in one vehicle was charged with underage drinking and possession of a small amount of marijuana.
  3. Two citations were issued to drivers who made illegal u-turns over a median while trying to avoid the checkpoint.
  4. One driver who showed signs of impairment but not sufficiently to be charged with DUI was stopped from driving and was allowed to arrange for an alternate ride home.

 

A total of 28 officers from nine municipal police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police participated, with Northampton Township handling the processing of defendants, authorities said.

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EPA Releases Agenda for July 25 Horsham Meeting on PFAs

EPA Releases Agenda for July 25 Horsham Meeting on PFAs | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Environmental Protection Agency released an agenda Thursday for its July 25 “community engagement” session in Horsham.

The agency announced the event last month, in which it will hear community concerns regarding local drinking water contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS. The agenda details a nearly 12-hour schedule for the event.

According to the EPA the event will run as follows:

9:30 a.m.: Registration

10 a.m.: Welcome and PFAS National Leadership Summit Recap
10:30 a.m.: EPA PFAS Research and Federal Panel on PFAS Activity in Pennsylvania
11:30 a.m.: Lunch (not provided)
12:15 p.m.: State panel on PFAS activity in the Mid-Atlantic
1 p.m.: Local panel on PFAS activity in Pennsylvania
2 p.m.: Community presentation
2:30 p.m.: Wrap up of working session
2:45 p.m.: Break
3:30-9 p.m.: Listening session

The community engagement session is one of several such events the EPA is holding across the country this summer to discuss the chemicals, which regulators have discovered in recent years in water systems serving millions of Americans. Local contamination in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington is believed to be among the worst in the country, and the chemicals have also impacted drinking water in other areas of Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The July 25 event is open to the public, and those interested in attending and speaking can register in advance at www.epa.gov/pfas/forms/pfas-community-engagement-horsham-pa. Registration can also be completed the day of the event.

Those who cannot attend can still comment on an EPA public docket by visiting www.regulations.gov and entering docket number OW-2018-0270.

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School Property Taxes in Aren't Hoing Anywhere But Up

School Property Taxes in Aren't Hoing Anywhere But Up | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

FIGURE: On average, annual school taxes have increased about $1,000 per household in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in the last decade. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation; nationwide, prices have increased about 19 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bryn Athyn and Chester-Upland school districts were not included.

 

Pennsylvania’s modest $100 million school-funding increase in the 2018-19 budget was hardly sufficient to stave off another round of school-tax increases that are now greeting taxpayers from Chester County horse country to the river towns along the Delaware and the Route 422 corridor.

 

School officials in the counties blame a perennial matrix of issues, including pensions, contractual and special-education costs, and assorted state and federal mandates for the fact that more than 50 school districts have levied higher tax rates by an average of $100 effective July 1 — and an average of $100 annually for the last 10 years.

 

In the last decade, school property taxes in the 60-plus districts in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties have jumped 25 percent — in some cases better than 40 percent — outpacing inflation at a time when enrollments have been stagnant.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Also read: Council Rock Raising Taxes Again! Average Homeowner Will Pay $112 per Year MORE for Total of $4,796

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Newtown Township's Vote on First National Bank Plans Appealed in Court

Newtown Township's Vote on First National Bank Plans Appealed in Court | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

First National asked township supervisors to retroactively extend its window for filing plans for a 500-square foot branch, or else a series of variances it received years ago would be considered expired. The board voted “yes,” but a company that owns land surrounding the proposed branch site appealed, asking a county judge to overturn the decision.

 

A company owning land bordering a proposed First National Bank branch in Newtown Township says supervisors should not have allowed the bank to retain variances it received years ago.

 

Two affiliates of BET Investments appealed the board’s June vote, which gave First National a one-year extension on filing its plans for a 500-square-foot bank off South Sycamore Street, to county court Wednesday morning.

 

The bank already had submitted its plans in January but would face setbacks from local zoning code without a retroactive extension, said its attorney, Don Marshall. The code requires developers to submit plans within 6 months of receiving variances, or request a one-year extension, or else those variances expire. Because First National got multiple variances from township zoners, including permission for two drive-through lanes at a financial establishment, in early November 2015, its ordinary deadline to act was early May 2016.

 

Supervisors and Marshall both said local code lets officials give plans extensions even after they’ve been filed. But Stephen Harris, attorney for the BET affiliates, disagreed, saying in the appeal the bank “failed to present evidence to show good cause” for the extension, which he said it could have gotten before the May 2016 deadline.

 

Under the supervisors’ interpretation of zoning, Harris said, a developer could effectively extend their plans indefinitely by submitting them late and getting retroactive backing from the board.

 

The bank filed a separate request to the township’s zoning hearing board in June, asking for relief from the timing windows; that request remains on the board’s Thursday meeting agenda.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

This issue was voted on by the Newtown Board of Supervisors at the June 13, 2018 public meeting. According to the minutes of that meeting, “Mr. Harris’s client requests that the Supervisors deny First National Bank’s request because it is not consistent with the ordinance and not justified under the facts of this case. Mr. Harris confirmed Mr. Mack’s question stating that the ordinance does not allow the Board to grant an extension retroactively.” The vote was 4-1 in favor of First National’s request for a retroactive extension, with John Mack voting “nay.”

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State Bill 861 Could Undo Anti-Discrimination Ordinances Enacted in Yardley, Hatboro & Prevent Other Municipalities from Passing Similar Laws

State Bill 861 Could Undo Anti-Discrimination Ordinances Enacted in Yardley, Hatboro & Prevent Other Municipalities from Passing Similar Laws | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

If passed, House Bill 861 would wipe out municipal ordinances setting mandates for employer policies and practices passed starting in 2015. In Bucks County, that would ensnare two anti-discrimination ordinances forbidding employment discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived qualities.

House Bill 861 says a municipality “may not in any manner regulate ... or enforce any mandate regarding employer policies or practices” other than its own.

The bill, introduced in March 2017 by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County, also would void any ordinance, rule or policy passed in 2015 or after that runs afoul of that restriction, and would give anyone “adversely affected” by those ordinances the ability to seek relief through a court complaint.

On the chopping block would be anti-discrimination ordinances passed this year in Yardley and Hatboro — both of which forbid discrimination in multiple areas, including employment, based on a person’s actual or perceived qualities, such as sexual orientation. The ordinances called for the creation of Human Relations commissions in the boroughs, tasked with investigating and resolving disputes relating to any allegations of discrimination.

Anti-discrimination ordinances passed before 2015 would remain intact in New Hope, Doylestown Borough, Newtown Borough and Bristol Borough, though other municipalities could no longer pass such measures.

 

"This is Big Brother at its worst," said State Rep. John Galloway, D-140, Falls.

The bill has remained in the state House Labor and Industry Committee since mid-March 2017, but its lawmakers heard testimony about the proposal at a recent meeting.

There, staff attorney Amal Bass spoke against the bill on behalf of the nonprofit Women’s Law Project, saying it would undo municipal anti-discrimination protections at a time when General Assembly lawmakers have failed to enshrine those same protections in state law. House Bill 1410, or the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, would remedy that, but has remained in the House’s State Government Committee since late June 2017.

Yardley Councilman David Bria, who introduced the borough’s anti-discrimination bill early this year, described the state measure as a “thinly veiled attempt to take rights away from the LGBTQ community.” He also said it would hurt women, minorities and working families on account of overturning equal pay and paid sick leave ordinances in places like Philadelphia.

Grove said in a January 2017 memo preceding his bill, “Local ordinances like these (on labor policy) are problematic for our economy as they ignore the simple fact that not all businesses are the same.”

He said local mandates “create an uneven playing field” for the state’s businesses and ”(raise) the cost of compliance” inside municipalities.

Grove’s office did not return requests for comment regarding the potential nullification of anti-discrimination ordinances or whether lawmakers intend to address concerns on the matter.

Bria noted, “If Rep. Grove is actually concerned about a patchwork of laws differing from town to town, he should sign on to the PA Fairness Act, which would ensure protections for the LGBTQ community statewide. And while he’s at it, he should get behind pay equity and sick leave bills, too.”

State Rep. John Galloway, D-140, Falls, who chairs the Labor and Industry Committee’s Democratic minority, said it is likely Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would veto the house bill if it were to reach his desk. But the legislation is still a “torpedo ready to go” out of committee to the full House floor if the committee’s Republican majority were to call for a vote.

“The state gave us the right to fix this because they couldn’t,”Hatboro Mayor Nancy Guenst said. “Municipalities all across the state have acted on this and now they want to dismantle it? I think this is a terrible insult to all of our communities.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Listen to this podcast: Dave Bria Talks About Anti-discrimination Ordinances.

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Meet the 8 Applicants Vying to Fill the Vacancy on the Newtown Board of Supervisors

Meet the 8 Applicants Vying to Fill the Vacancy on the Newtown Board of Supervisors | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

As reported previously (here), Supervisor Jen Dix resigned her position on the Newtown Board of Supervisors effective June 30, 2018 and the Supervisors have until July 30, 2018, to appoint someone to fill the position. The person appointed will serve as a member of the Board of Supervisors until the reorganization meeting in January 2020.

The deadline for accepting letters of interest and resumes was 4:30 PM on Monday, July 2, 2018. The Town received letters of interest and resumes from eight people interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy. The applicants will be interviewed by the Board at a special public meeting on July 18, 2018, beginning at 5:00 pm.

 

Meet the applicants here.

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In Her Last Appearance as Newtown Supervisor, Jen Dix Alleges Decades of Township "Self-Serving Leadership" and "Corruption"

In Her Last Appearance as Newtown Supervisor, Jen Dix Alleges Decades of Township "Self-Serving Leadership" and "Corruption" | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

[Photo: Members of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors say goodbye to Jen Dix, who has served on the board for the past four and a half years. From left are Supervisors Kyle Davis, Chairman Phil Calabro, Jen Dix, Linda Bobrin and John Mack.]

 

Phil Calabro, the chairman of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, took a moment at the beginning of the June 27 meeting to publicly thanked Jennifer Dix for her service to the community.

 

Dix, who resigned from the board effective June 30, accepted an engraved plaque from Calabro in recognition and appreciation for her years of service on the board from 2014 to 2018.

 

“Sadly, Newtown has had decades of self-serving leadership and I’ll even be as bold to say to some degree corruption,” said Dix. “It’s led to a toxic environment of greed and entitlement and I know that will hopefully begin to change. It’s not going to change overnight. And I put the charge to the rest of my board members to work on turning that around. I know all of you can do that.

 

During public comment, resident John D’Aprile questioned Dix on the corruption allegation raised during her parting words and asked her to elaborate.

 

Dix was happy to oblige, sharing that earlier this year “the FBI came knocking on my door to investigate two former supervisors and some of their ties to a certain little project here in Newtown as well as some of the corruption in Lower Southampton. I’ll just leave it at that,” she said.

 

“I guess it was the Democratic FBI guys under Comey,” responded D’Aprille to some laughter from the room.

 

D’Aprile also noted that he had not walked out of the room when Calabro gave Dix a plaque “like you and Phil did when they gave (former supervisor Mike) Gallagher a plaque for his service. That wasn’t very nice, especially since you were on the board. Just because you didn’t agree with him, there was no reason to disrespect him and walk out of the room.”

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Drive-thru Starbucks in Village at Newtown is Back on Track!

Drive-thru Starbucks in Village at Newtown is Back on Track! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

At a May 9, 2018, public hearing, Newtown Township Supervisors unanimously denied an application by Starbucks to build a drive-thru restaurant in the Village at Newtown West at 2896 South Eagle Road (read “Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks”).

Soon after, as expected, Starbucks filed a court appeal claiming the supervisors’ vote to deny the application was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law” (read “Starbucks Takes Newtown Township to Court”). Newtown claimed “The Board of Supervisors neither abused its discretion nor committed an error of law by denying the application.”

At the June 27, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, a settlement agreement was presented to the Board, which approved it by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Kyle Davis voting “nay.”

Newtown listed several reasons for denying the application in a written decision and order, dated June 14, 2018. The Township claimed, for example, that Starbucks failed to prove that “cars using the proposed drive-thru stacking lane would not conflict with through circulation;” e.g. access to the shopping center via South Eagle Road. 

The settlement agreement does NOT address that concern.

 

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Last Year, in Pennsylvania, 117 People Were Killed in Domestic Violence Crimes. House Bill 2060 Could Prevent That If Only State Legislatures Stood Up and Voted!

Last Year, in Pennsylvania, 117 People Were Killed in Domestic Violence Crimes. House Bill 2060 Could Prevent That If Only State Legislatures Stood Up and Voted! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Saying, “it should be a law right now,” state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, criticized lawmakers Thursday for failing to call for a vote on her bill requiring convicted domestic violence abusers and some with protection from abuse orders to turn over their weapons within 24 hours of conviction.

Quinn, R-143, Doylestown, blamed “a bomb of mistruths...at the midnight hour,” for derailing House Bill 2060, which many had expected to pass because it had gained widespread bipartisan support. After late opposition and questions about some of the provisions in the bill, House Republican leaders ended the voting session for the summer. There’s now no chance for a floor vote until September.

“Despite claims to the contrary, this legislation does not take firearms away from responsible gun owners,” said Quinn, at a meeting in the Bucks County Administration Building in Doylestown Borough. “It takes guns away from people who lost their right to own a gun.”

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub attended the morning meeting, as did the executive director of Network of Victims Assistance, the past president of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition, a representative of Moms Demand Action and family law attorney Jessica Pritchard. All spoke to the need for legislation to better protect families and others from gun violence.

“I was very disappointed (the bill) got submarined at the last minute,” Weintraub said. “There’s a strong link between gun violence and domestic violence.” He added police officer safety is also a concern.

Last year, in Pennsylvania, 117 people were killed in domestic violence crimes, the district attorney said. Citing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, Weintraub said 44 police officers were shot and killed in the U.S. in 2017. Seven of those deaths occurred when officers were responding to a domestic violence disturbance, which is the leading cause of firearms-related deaths.

“This bill is good and it’s necessary,” Weintraub said. It has the support of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association and several other law enforcement and victim advocacy organizations.

In noting recent opposition to the legislation from a political action committee, Firearm Owners Against Crime, Weintraub was adamant. “I’m a gun owner and I fight crime every day and I support this bill,” he said.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The #1 recommendation of Newtown's Gun Safety Resolution calls for laws that prevent "known and suspected terrorists, those convicted of violent hate crimes and those with a history of domestic abuse from legally buying guns”.

(read "Newtown Township Passes Gun Safety Resolution After Emotional Student Testimony").

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Newtown Supervisors Approve Agreement that Will Allow Drive-through Starbucks at Village of Newtown

Newtown Supervisors Approve Agreement that Will Allow Drive-through Starbucks at Village of Newtown | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Brixmor Properties will be allowed to build a standalone drive-through Starbucks at the Village of Newtown West Shopping Center under a stipulation agreement reached between Brixmor and the township.

The supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday night, June 27 to approve the agreement, in which the developer has agreed to meet a list of 13 conditions, including enhanced screening, provisions for safe pedestrian access and circulation including bollards, railings and other measures, and an escape lane to prevent backups at the drive-through.

In May, the supervisors voted 5-0 to deny Brixmor conditional use approval for the freestanding coffee shop, which will be located in the easternmost end of the Village of Newtown West parking lot overlooking Eagle Road near Saladworks. It will be located next to a new pad site for Bank of America, which will be relocating as part of the redevelopment project.

The supervisors cited concerns over parking, traffic circulation and the impact the drive-through would have on the existing shopping center for their denial of the conditional use request.

After receiving a written decision from the township, the developer filed an appeal in Bucks County Court challenging the township’s decision. That appeal resulted in the stipulation agreement that appeared on Wednesday night’s agenda for action.

When asked by supervisor Phil Calabro what would happen if the supervisors did not pass the agreement, the solicitor said the township would end up in court with the court ultimately deciding whether the township was right in denying the conditional use.

In that scenario, the township would incur legal fees to fight the appeal and would lose the 13 negotiated conditions if Brixmor were to prevail.

Supervisor Kyle Davis, who voted against the original land development plan for the center, cast the only vote against the agreement. He said the plan is adding too many buildings to the site while taking away parking.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Newtown listed several reasons for denying the application in a written decision and order, dated June 14, 2018. The Township claimed, for example, that Starbucks failed to prove that “cars using the proposed drive-thru stacking lane would not conflict with through circulation;” e.g. access to the shopping center via South Eagle Road. Newtown further claimed that Starbucks “failed to prove that it will provide a pedestrian walkway between an existing sidewalk and the entrance to the restaurant, or, in the alternative, a sidewalk along the street frontage” as required by the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance. The settlement agreement does NOT include either of these assurances. More about that here...

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High-ranking EPA Officials Will Hold Public Meeting in Horsham on July 25 to Hear Concerns Over PFAS Water Contamination

High-ranking EPA Officials Will Hold Public Meeting in Horsham on July 25 to Hear Concerns Over PFAS Water Contamination | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Horsham, Warminster and Warrington had some of the highest levels of the chemicals nationwide in their drinking water when it was first discovered in 2014. The chemicals have been linked by some studies to health effects including elevated cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, low birth weight babies, immunotoxicity, developmental delays, and some cancers. Pennsylvania Department of Health studies have found elevated rates of some cancers in the towns, but results overall have been inconclusive, officials say.

According to the EPA, the July 25 meeting will be an all-day event, featuring a working session from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a listening session from 4 to 9 p.m.

The event is open to the press and public, but the EPA is encouraging online registration. Those who wish to speak during the listening session must select that option during online registration, which closes July 20.

Registration can be made at www.epa.gov/pfas/forms/pfas-community-engagement-horsham-pa.

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Why is Mass Incarceration Increasing in PA Suburbs, Yet Decreasing in Cities? The Most Rapid Rise is in Bucks County.

Why is Mass Incarceration Increasing in PA Suburbs, Yet Decreasing in Cities? The Most Rapid Rise is in Bucks County. | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

From his office in Doylestown, 25 miles north of the city that elected the nation’s most progressive district attorney last November, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub has a particular vantage point.

He sees what’s happening in Philadelphia, where officials have worked to reduce the jail population by more than 30 percent over the past few years, and where DA Larry Krasner has ordered staff to seek sentences below the guidelines on many offenses. And he’s aware of state-level efforts to reduce a prison population that’s finally declining, down 6.4 percent over the last five years, after decades of exponential growth.

It’s just that Weintraub doesn’t see what it has to do with his job of keeping Bucks County safe.

A Rapid Rise in State Prison Sentences in Bucks County
Since 2000, the number of people sent to state prison from Bucks County has risen far more rapidly than in any other local suburban county. By contrast, admissions to state prisons from Philadelphia have decreased over the same time frame.

In fact, rather than reform, he’s looking to get tougher: In the last few years, he’s been increasingly charging fatal DUIs as third-degree murders as opposed to the less-serious vehicular homicides, and he’s slapped two dozen drug dealers with “drug delivery resulting in death” charges.

That may be one reason why, though the crime rate in Bucks County fell by 19 percent from 2006 to 2015, the number of people sentenced to state prison increased by 29 percent. When parole violators are included, the number of people sent to state prison from the county increased 97 percent over that same period.


“We’re holding people more accountable for either their malicious intent or the end result of their malicious conduct, and we’ve been very aggressive,” Weintraub said. “Nobody has come to me and said, ‘You’re sending too many people to state prison in Bucks County.’ I think, by and large, people feel protected and safe.”

A similar dynamic is playing out around the nation: As incarceration declines in urban areas, it’s increasing pretty much everywhere else.

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The Annual Newtown Fire Association BBQ Picnic Was a Great Success!

The Annual Newtown Fire Association BBQ Picnic Was a Great Success! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

I attended the annual Newtown Fire Association (NFA) BBQ picnic last night at Station 55 on Municipal Drive in Newtown Township. 

 

It was a great opportunity to meet many NFA and Newtown Emergency Services members in a social setting and learn more about them and how they decided to volunteer to serve our community. They do a lot of work to be ready when needed. To serve a meal to volunteer firefighters has long been on my bucket list. I can now scratch it off my list, but more importantly, I am happy to report that my lasagna got rave reviews!

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Senate Passes Bill to Fund Safe2Say School Safety Anonymous Tip Program. Will It Help Stop the Carnage?

Senate Passes Bill to Fund Safe2Say School Safety Anonymous Tip Program. Will It Help Stop the Carnage? | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The state Senate today approved a comprehensive, bipartisan school safety bill that will dedicate significant new resources to help prevent school violence, according to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23).

 

Senate Bill 1142 would create the School Safety and Security Grant Program - Safe2Say Program - to distribute $60 million in new school safety funding that was included in the state budget. The new funding is in addition to the $10 million dedicated to an existing grant program created in 2013.

 

The Safe2Say Program is modeled after the Safe2Tell program that was created in Colorado in 1999 after the Columbine tragedy. Since its enactment, at least five other states have adopted similar programs, and Florida is currently working with the Colorado Safe2Tell office to set up a tip line there. According to data from Safe2Tell Colorado, 9,163 reports were received during the 2016-17 school year and more than 30,000 reports have been received since 2004. Between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, the number of reports received increased 58%.

 

The legislation requires the Attorney General to administer the act and to create procedures:

 

  • for anonymous reporting of unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools or the threat of the activities;
  • to ensure that the identity of the individual making a report remain anonymous to any person, including law enforcement and employees of the Safe2Say Program Office;
  • to promptly forward any information received by the program to the appropriate law enforcement agency or school official;
  • to train individuals, such as emergency dispatch centers, local law enforcement and school personnel on appropriate awareness and response; and
  • to develop education materials and promote program awareness to participating school districts.

 

The program will cover emergency and non-emergency reports, and anyone can utilize the reporting mechanism. Colorado has found that the most common tip involves suicide threats but they also receive tips on bullying, drug use, cutting and depression as well as threats to schools.

 

Senate leaders announced that hearings will be scheduled this summer to gather input from various groups regarding additional steps to improve school safety.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Keeping schools safe requires laws and actions like this, which can be applied immediately. At the same time we should continue to fight for gun safety laws although I have little hope that any progress will be made on that for for many years.

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Starbucks Takes Newtown Township to Court Contending that Township Supervisors' Vote Against Drive-thru Store in Shopping Center was "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion and Contrary to Law"

Starbucks Takes Newtown Township to Court Contending that Township Supervisors' Vote Against Drive-thru Store in Shopping Center was "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion and Contrary to Law" | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Newtown Township denied conditional use approval last month for a new drive-through Starbucks in the Village at Newtown shopping center. Starbucks began fighting that rejection with an appeal to county court Tuesday.

A zoning dispute is brewing in Newtown Township over whether Starbucks can open a new location in the Village at Newtown shopping center.

The Newtown Township supervisors unanimously voted in May to reject the proposal for the coffee shop, and Starbucks appealed that decision in county court this week.

Ed Murphy, attorney for Starbucks, said in the appeal that the store satisfies “all objective standards and criteria” in township zoning and the supervisors’ vote to deny it was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”

The supervisors heard testimony in early May about Starbucks’ proposal — a 1,925-square-foot freestanding store off South Eagle Road with a drive-through window, indoor and outdoor seating — and whether to allow a drive-through eatery as a conditional use in a planned commercial district.

Supervisors called a vote to approve the Starbucks, but no board members answered “aye.” That vote was followed by a unanimous vote to reject the store. [Read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks"]

A township zoning decision issued in June also says Starbucks did not provide evidence of meeting seven conditional use requirements for a drive-through eatery, including access to a collector or arterial street, the presence of screened trash storage and a pedestrian walkway to the store’s entrance.

Newtown Township currently has a Starbucks in the ACME market off West Road, with another Starbucks off South State Street in nearby Newtown Borough, both within a mile of the proposed new site. Neither existing store has a drive-through window.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Definition of "abuse of discretion": A failure to take into proper consideration the facts and law relating to a particular matter. Newtown Township says: "The Board of Supervisors neither abused its discretion nor committed an error of law by denying the application."

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In Wake of Truck Crashes, Newtown Township Residents Implore Supervisors to Address Their Safety Concerns

In Wake of Truck Crashes, Newtown Township Residents Implore Supervisors to Address Their Safety Concerns | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Several township residents attended the June 14 meeting of the board of supervisors to implore officials to address ongoing traffic safety concerns on Swamp Road.

[Jennifer] Brennan said that heavy truck-related accidents have increased in recent years and that in 2017 the road was rated the “ninth most dangerous in Buck County.” [See video of her testimony here.]

Other residents, including Dennis Fisher of Nob Hill agreed, demanding that Newtown Township take action.

However, because it is a state road controlled by PennDOT, the township has little authority other than local truck enforcement and issuing traffic citations.

Because of its winding road and sharp curves, Chairman Phil Calabro dismissed any major repairs as “just repaving a broken road anyway.”

Township manager Kurt Ferguson, who noted that he uses Swamp Road for his daily commute, echoed the sentiment that the roadway is overly dangerous.

“It’s an unforgiving road that has drainage and pothole issues,” he said. “We’re looking for PennDOT to put in drainage and have truck enforcement.”

According to Ferguson, the township has requested a meeting with PennDOT to determine if Swamp Road can be improved by widening the curves or making other changes, such as speed restrictions in certain spots.

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Newtown Township Passes Gun Safety Resolution After Emotional Student Testimony

Newtown Township Passes Gun Safety Resolution After Emotional Student Testimony | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The board voted 4-1 last week to approve a nonbinding resolution, which includes calls to pass laws banning bump stocks and assault rifles, requiring trigger locks on guns in homes with children and preventing known or suspected terrorists or those convicted of certain violent crimes from purchasing guns.

 

The vote came after multiple Council Rock North students addressed supervisors. All supported the resolution, and several said recent mass shootings, like that at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left them afraid to go to school.

 

Samantha Duckworth, a student who wore a shirt reading “Parkland,” told the board, “In the faces of those that died, I can’t help but see the faces of my classmates and teachers because we really aren’t all that different, except for the fact that they were killed and we weren’t.”

 

Supervisor Kyle Davis, the board’s lone Republican, also questioned the resolution’s efficacy, and argued that passing it would push “ignorancies (sic) that are out there” about gun safety.

 

“If your child dying is not a deterrent, I don’t know how a law saying ‘you need a trigger lock’ is going to be a deterrent.”

 

[You can find more details of the resolution here.]

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Council Rock Raising Taxes Again! Average Homeowner Will Pay $112 per Year MORE for Total of $4,796

Council Rock Raising Taxes Again! Average Homeowner Will Pay $112 per Year MORE for Total of $4,796 | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Council Rock School District is raising property taxes to the state Act 1 maximum for the third straight year.

A 2018-19 final budget of $240.68 million approved by the school board at Thursday’s meeting hikes taxes 2.4 percent. The board could have applied to the state for exceptions to raise taxes more than that but chose not to.

The 2.4-percent increase equates to 2.897 mills, or $112 for a landowner with a property assessed at the school district average of $38,800. It increases total millage to 123.607, or an annual tax bill of $4,796 for the owner of the average assessed property.

Many district residents also pay a 1-percent earned income tax, which is split between the school district and its five municipalities of Northampton, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Upper Makefield and Wrightstown.

Property taxes were raised 2.5 percent for this school year which ends June 30, and 2.4 percent in 2016-17.

The district also is drawing $4 million from its $24 million savings account to balance the budget.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

In 2018, for the first time in several years, Newtown Twp raised taxes by 1 mill - about $38 per year for average homeowner. Learn where your tax dollars go here.

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Curated by johnmacknewtown
I am a retired small businessman who has lived in Newtown Township PA since 1995. The opinions expressed here are solely mine and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.