Joanne Charlton, of Twining Bridge Road, doesn’t want the current plan for the Toll Brothers development of 45 houses approved at all.
“When I bought my home, I was told that the property across the street couldn’t be developed,” said Charlton. “It was owned by the church, zoned to be a cemetery and that there can’t be development on it.
“I get that that’s what the people that handled the sale represented to me and that that wasn’t, in fact, the case,” she explained. “However, it is zoned for conservation management and you do not have to approve this use.”
Charlton commented that she had read all 266 pages of the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2009 by all three townships – Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield – located within the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO).
She polled supervisors, asking each if he had read the entire volume. Most said they had not.
“Conservation management areas are reserved for low intensity uses in order to provide for ground water recharge,” she said, “How do you know if, by voting to approve this, that you’re preserving that?”
Quoting documents she found listed within the JMZO and the Comprehensive Plan, Charlton says the Board should approve the plan only if it can prove it “promotes smart and sustainable growth, provides safe connections, preserves farmland and protects natural resources.”
The Comprehensive Plan “was intended to be a blueprint for the future for this area,” she added. “And it was approved by all three townships after years of discussion.”
“The applicant has met its burden that this is a conditional use that’s permitted in the CM District and that it meets the requirements of the ordinance that are applicable to that use,” said Sander.
“The burden is not on the applicant to prove they meet those general requirements (in the JMZO) even if the ordinance says that it is.”
“You’re going to approve this plan and it will be a mess,” she said. “It will cause congestion and it will cause safety issues. The entrance lets out right at the entrance to my house and the headlights will shine right through my dining room window.”
According to Sander, if the board chooses to oppose the current plan by Toll Brothers, it must hire legal counsel to do so. The township is already involved in litigation with Arcadia Land Company over a proposal to build homes near the intersection of Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass.
Sander also thinks Toll Brothers would win their case, on appeal. The risk, says the solicitor, is that township would lose the ability to impose any conditions, should Toll gain conditional use through the courts.
The other option the developer has is to build 60 houses on the cemetery tract and spread the homes throughout all 150-plus acres with no preserved open space. That would be considered a by-right plan the township would have neither the ability to oppose nor impose conditions on the project.
But that’s never happened, said Pomerantz, and the solicitor agreed.
“You’ve never had a developer come in with a by-right plan that was in full compliance that you were powerless to influence,” said Pomerantz. “That’s all you need to know about the power you have.”
After nearly an hour of public comments, Board Chairman Phil Calabro submitted a motion to table the decision. The otion was approved unanimously.
A full written decision that contains finding of fact, conclusions of law and an order must be delivered to attorneys for Toll Brothers by April 11. The supervisors’ decision has to be made considerably before that to allow that conclusion to be drafted, said Sander.