I am writing to ask for your attendance and support this week at the Newtown Supervisors Meeting on Wednesday, August 12, at 7:30 p.m.
As you may have heard, the developer of Villas of Newtown has asked for a variance to build even more units on open space he had agreed to preserve in 2007, in exchange then for building with ten times more density than zoning laws otherwise allowed.
He was also supposed to have restored and preserved an historic farmhouse and 120 year old tree on the property. Instead he has let the farmhouse rot, and recently cut down the tree.
On the agenda this Wednesday is what to do about this situation: give him the variance to build even more, despite his not honoring the 2007 agreement, as two of the Supervisors, Ryan and Michael Gallagher, support; or impose penalties, let the Township take over the property in order to preserve the farmhouse, and deny the variance, preventing building on the open space, as two of the Supervisors, Jen Dix and Phil Calabro, support. The fifth supervisor, Kyle Davis, hasn’t made his position clear.
In addition to the importance of the case itself, is the precedent it could set if a developer is allowed to build on open space he previously agreed to preserve. All open space in Newtown could be placed in jeopardy.
I urge you to attend the meeting at the Newtown Township Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive, and speak out in support of holding the developer accountable and refusing to grant him additional variances for even more high density development.
Before the meeting, at 6:30 p.m., there will be an organizational meeting at Newtown Friends Meeting, 219 Court Street, to coordinate presentation of our message, for those who are able. Whether or not you can attend the 6:30 pre-meeting, please plan to attend the 7:30 p.m. meeting. Please attend the 7:30 p.m. even if you are just there to show support and don’t want to speak yourself.
The developer did not finish the project according to plan:
• He neglected the historic home he was supposed to restore,
• He cut down a 120 year old tree he had agreed to preserve,
• He has now requested to demolish the historic home and build even more units on open space after being granted a variance in 2006 on the condition that he restore the home and preserve the open space.
• Giving a developer more density years AFTER they had final approval based on conditions that were never implemented puts virtually all developments both current and future at risk for more homes built in previously preserved open space. It is something that has never been done before.
Here are the facts regarding the 2006 agreement:
1. He was authorized to build 172 units in 2006, which is 10x the density normally allowed by our zoning laws.
2. In return for the high density he was to use the profits partially for the restoration of the historic farmhouse, which has not done to date, and partially to build a neighborhood clubhouse, which he didn’t build until taken to court over it in 2012/13.
3. He was under agreement to complete everything in ONE year….that agreement was signed in Feb 2007. No extensions were ever asked for or granted.
4. He is now submitting an amendment to the 2006 final plan approval requesting even more units on what was supposed to be preserved open space.
5. Newtown Township has never amended a final plan before to allow for more housing units. This sets a dangerous precedent.
6. Our Municipal Planning Code says that in order to amend a final plan there needs to be a hardship and a benefit to the entire Township. There is neither.
7. The developer has claimed hardship saying he is broke, but if that’s the case how is he marketing new townhomes in Doylestown? http://silvermaplefarm.net/
8. The Township owes the developer NOTHING. He has NOT acted in good faith. He has breached the 2007 agreement by:
a) taking more than 8 years to complete what was supposed to take 1
b) not building the clubhouse until he was sued by the residents
c) cutting down a 120 year old living tree, without any notice to the Township, that he was under agreement to preserve
d) neglecting the farmhouse for 8+ years and not taking basic measures to secure it (leading to recent vandalism) and keep weeds from growing all over to further it’s deterioration.
9. The improvements he’s promising the residents of Villas of Newtown if he builds more units are things he was supposed to do under the original agreement.
I look forward to seeing you Wednesday.
Member, Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council
Steering Committee Member, 350.org Bucks County