Newtown News of Interest
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BCCT Guest Opinion: Zoning Changes Can Harm the Community

[Opinion of Marilynn Huret, a resident of Lower Makefield, published in the Aug. 4, 2019 edition of the BCCT].



The word is derived from the practice of designating mapped areas that regulate the use, form, design and compatibility of development. The primary purpose of zoning is to designate uses that are compatible. In practice, it’s also used to prevent new development from interfering with existing uses and/or to preserve the “character” of a community.

It is the way governments control the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each property may be put. This includes regulation of the kinds of activities that will be acceptable on particular lots, such as open space, residential, agricultural, commercial or industrial.

It includes the densities at which those activities can be performed, from low-density housing such as single-family homes to high density such as high-rise apartment buildings. It includes the height of buildings, the amount of space structures may occupy, the location of a building on the lot (setbacks), the proportions of the types of space on a lot — such as how much landscaped space, impervious surface, traffic lanes, and whether or not parking is provided.

Among other things, zoning helps protect property values and improve safety. In communities where developers seek to convert land to uses that were not intended, it opens a larger concern for all.

Once a change is approved — such as an overlay for a large tract or even extreme variances for single lot — this opens up a landslide of similar requests from other property owners to rezone their land to purposes other than what they were originally meant to be.


Restructuring a tract to a lower standard of use or category creates an impact on a community in terms of municipal services and lowers standards of value to existing zoned areas. Can primarily residential communities be broken into other types of usage that defy the original purpose of the planners?


The cost of such changes places uncalled-for financial and infrastructural stress on the existing balance of police, fire, emergency services, roads/maintenance and schools that will take years to recoup. And in doing so, it harms the character and face of the community.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

As an example of the importance of comprehensive planning and zoning that benefits the whole community, consider Wawa’s efforts to amend the OR (Office Research) zoning ordinance to allow it to build a combination gas station/convenience store on the Bypass.


The Newtown Planning Commission balked and suggested that the amendment proposed by Wawa be scrapped and that the Township create its own version of the amendment (more on that here). This is still an ongoing process.


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