hether or not the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors are going to grant conditional use approval to a developer proposing to build 45 homes near the intersection of Durham and Twining Bridge roads.
The supervisors – after some rather lengthy and passionate comment from the public – voted to table a motion to consider a conditional use cluster development by Toll Brothers proposed for a site that nearby residents thought would be a cemetery.
Toll has an agreement to purchase a 158-acre parcel of land from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that was originally planned as part of All Saints Cemetery. The land – which sits just north of the Township Municipal Complex – is zoned conservation management.
The houses would be grouped in one 36-acre section along Twining Bridge Road and a large portion – more than 85 acres – would be offered back to the township as open space.
Toll presented its plan to the supervisors Feb. 26, though no motion was made to vote on the proposal. On March 11, the Board returned with a list of stipulations for the project, which includes a pair of vehicular access points on Twining Bridge Road.
The township’s conditions for approval of Toll’s plan are as follows:
Homeowners would have to sign off on a deed stipulation that they’re aware that their houses are located in close proximity to the Newtown Municipal Complex, which operates 24 hours a day and contains a firing range.
Homeowners would also have to sign off on an agreement not to disturb any agricultural soils located within their property. Forty of the 45 proposed units will be in areas that are to be preserved for conservation.
Toll would have to construct a multi-use walking trail along Twining Bridge Road in compliance with the township’s Comprehensive Trail Plan.
The township is also attaching a condition that Toll reevaluate access to the development along Twining Bride Road. The supervisors want the builder to work with the township’s traffic engineer to see if it can make modifications to the current plan. However, any revision would not require the builder to pare any of the 45 units now being proposed for the project.
Township Solicitor David Sander was quick to point out that conditional use approval does not allow the developer to commence building. Land development plans, where issues with stormwater management, traffic and the final design of the project, must also be approved by the supervisors at a later date.
Township residents lined up to comment on Toll’s most recent plan for the property.
Joe McAtee, of Twining Bridge Road was one. While MacAtee is happy that Toll scrapped a previous design, he’s displeased with the current plan to increase the number of homes from 41 to 45.
McAtee wants to see Toll revise the proposal to change access to the development to Durham Road/Pennsylvania Route 413.
“They really need to create a right -of-way that is going to cut into the property off of Durham Road,” said McAtee. “Take four houses out; make it safe for everyone including the residents that are going to purchase those properties.”
Eric Pomerantz, of Dorchester Lane, expressed concerns about language set forth in the conditions of the construction of the multi-use trail. In it, the provision states that, should Toll, in construction of the trail, exceed the amount of agricultural soil it is permitted to disturb, it should seek a variance before the Zoning Hearing Board. But it also said the supervisors wouldn’t oppose such a change in zoning.
“How do you manage that?” asked Pomerantz. “To me, it feels like if it’s one calculation, you can rob Peter to pay Paul, in the end, knowing that you’re going to get the relief on the trail.”
The solution is to require two calculations – one for the overall construction design and another for the trail – said Township Manager Micah Lewis.
Mike Ewald, of Twining Bridge Road, says he and his neighbors suffered when Newtown Meadows was being built. Ewald wants the construction entrance moved to Durham Road.
“Our road will not support tri-axel dump trucks moving up and down moving gravel and heavy equipment; 413 will,” he said. “It’s a PennDOT-approved road that can carry the weight. Our road is already breaking up in multiple spots.
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.