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Buckingham questions church parking lot expansion


Last week, the Buckingham Township Board of Supervisors met via Zoom.

A major portion of the work session involved the plan for a new parking lot at Covenant Church. The church, located off of Route 202, proposed an addition of 76 spaces to the current 383 already on-site. Members of the church and their legal representatives attended the Zoom meeting to receive clarification from the board on the next steps in their process.

The process was tabled after several meetings with the planning commission ended with disagreements between church and commission members on the need for further parking. The planning commission generally opposed the construction of a new lot because of the perceived environmental risk of paving a large amount of land on the property. Specifically, they worry about the future of a row of 60-year-old trees along Route 202 that belonged to the property’s previous owner.

Members of the commission were also concerned that the new spots are not a true need for the church as they haven’t witnessed full lots on multiple Sunday visits. The commission preferred a site closer to Mechanicsville Road; however, the owner of an adjacent property voiced apprehension about the viability of this area.

Church representatives emphasized that they hope to expand their services and membership in the future and require a new lot for growth purposes. They received impervious surface permissions from the zoning hearing board and ordered a parking study to validate their need. The study was not shown during the Zoom meeting but all supervisors received an informational packet before the meeting.

To assuage environmental concerns, Church representatives committed to preserving the row of existing evergreen trees and to plant sizable shrubs to screen the new lot from Route 202. Their landscape plan has yet to be completed but will be reviewed by township supervisors.

The board granted permission for the parking lot planning to continue after deciding that it cannot establish the need or lack thereof for further spots. Each supervisor agreed that the issue was beyond their purview and that their decision must rely on the direction of the zoning hearing board, which found a basic need for more parking spots in a separate meeting. The supervisors pointed to the church’s promise to protect the original trees and limit any changes to the environmental conditions surrounding them.

The supervisors shifted attention to township parks. As we enter the Green phase of the COVID-19 reopening plan, more residents are expected to use open spaces and their facilities. As a result, the supervisors decided to wait for further direction from Bucks County before opening park bathrooms to limit the potential spread of the virus. All board members also agreed to discuss the return of the popular summer concert series in late July and early August should regulations allow.

Bids for the construction of a new water and wastewater facility were presented in the work session. The board chose to avoid awarding bids, instead requesting rebidding for various parts of the building plan to find better alternatives. New bids are expected in late July at the next meeting.

To close out the meeting, the board announced the planned preservation of 50 acres on Ash Mill Road, land that once belonged to New Hope Impressionist painter George Sotter.

Board members worked with Central Bucks School District and the property buyers to ensure the protection of another piece of Buckingham history.

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