NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Its time to update the joint comprehensive municipal planning agreement that Newtown Township shares with neighboring Upper Makefield and Wrightstown Townships.
At the Oct. 23 supervisors meeting, the board voted unanimously to have the Bucks County Planning Commission help with the project to fine tune the document.
Voting to proceed with the proposal were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Supervisors Linda Bobrin, John Mack, Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher.
“It’s one of the most important tools that municipalities can use for planning purposes,” county planner Jeremy Stoff explained to the supervisors about the need for a detailed comprehensive planning package.
He along with fellow county planner Lisa Wolff noted that it has been 10 years since the Newtown-Area Joint Zoning Council, known as the ‘jointure’ has tweaked its comprehensive plan.
According to Stoff, the joint agreement oversees land use, housing needs and residential density in the three townships, as well as other zoning needs covering future growth and population changes.
For the past several months, the municipalities have been discussing modernizing the 10-year old plan, and earlier this year the jointure asking the county planning commission for assistance, Wolff said.
However, the cost of the update comes at a cost, with Wolff estimating the price tag to be about $50,880.
Based on its population, tax assessment and land area, Newtown Township would be expected to pay for about half of that amount.
Wolff pointed out that a state matching grant is available from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) which would cover half of the total cost under the agency’s Municipal Assistance Program.
With that in mind, the supervisors voted 5-0 to apply for the funding.
When questioned if the township would be successful in getting the grant, Wolff maintained that the state looks positively on municipalities working together on local planning issues, such as what the jointure does.
She also said that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) also has available grants which could cover up to 80 percent of the joint comprehensive plan’s cost.
Commenting on updating the plan, Newtown Township planning commission chairman Allen Fidler told the board that the township’s committees, as well as the community, should have public input about updating the comprehensive plan.
“There’s got to be a better way of getting the job done,” he asserted.
The three townships established the jointure in 1983 by adopting the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO).
Also at the meeting, the supervisors gave conditional use approval for THRiVE, An Acton Academy to operate a small non-traditional elementary school in the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC).
The non-profit school would be located in a 3,120-square-foot section in the NAC’s indoor baseball facility on Pheasant Run in the Newtown Business Commons and be set up to handle grades 1 through 6.
It would limited no more than 30 students, or what the company calls “learners” and a maximum of three teachers, or “guides.”
According to founder Anna Steinberg, the school is a “learner driven community” in which students “pick concepts they wish to master.
“Learners must make progress,” she explained, “How they get there` is a matter of difference.
“They learn at their own pace,” Steinberg told the supervisors, explaining that the innovative school will start off with two to five children and one instructor, with plans to expand in the future.
“It’s not for everybody,” she acknowledged.
The private-tuition school would operate Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and follow the regular academic school year of surrounding school districts.
THRiVE, An Acton Academy needed a conditional use variance because it is a C-2 educational facility in the township’s Light Industrial (L/I) zoned district.
She said that the school required township approval before she could obtain a license from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
There were two such schools in New Jersey and one in Pittsburgh, according to Steinberg.
As part of the conditional use approval to take effect, the facility must be granted a state license, as well as have a dedicated classroom, conference room, toilets and use of the NAC’s outdoor and indoor play areas in the baseball complex.