Newtown Township's Vote on First National Bank Plans Appealed in Court | Newtown News of Interest |

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.