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NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP — Saying that native plants are better adapted to local soils and climate, the board of supervisors unanimously passed a resolution at the August 14 meeting saying that "every reasonable effort" will be made to plant native species on township-owned property.

The measure also states that the township's Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) will do everything "to educate and empower" the public to help transition private properties to include native plants.

Voting for the resolution were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Supervisors John Mack, Kyle Davis, Linda Bobrin and Dennis Fisher.

According to the resolution, native plants are "better adapted to local soils and climate, tend to be more insect and disease resistant and require less watering and fertilizing than non-native plants."

It also states that local plants are "extremely hardy," as well as have lower maintenance and replacement costs because they have evolved in this climate.

In addition, the measure claims that birds are more attracted to native plants because they co-evolved together.

More importantly, the resolution notes, local plant species protect water quality by reducing runoff and soil erosion.

That's important to the township because of newly-mandated federal and state regulations requiring that municipalities greatly decrease stormwater runoffs into local waterways.

Municipalities, such as Newtown Township, where a portion lies within an "urbanized" U.S. Census area must make a concerted effort to reduce pollutants, including sediments and/or nutrients, from entering watersheds.

Three local so-called "impaired" watersheds in the area have been identified and require protection. They are: Neshaminy Creek, Lake Luxembourg and Core Creek.

Any township storm sewer system which collects water runoff, such as roads, drainage systems, catch basins, curbs and storm drains, are covered by the requirements.

Part of the township's plan for pollution reduction calls for converting several municipally-owned areas from grasslands to meadows, as well as cleaning inlets.

Meanwhile, Newtown Township has a list of native species to help property owners with future plantings, something that the EAC is ready to advise residents in order to bring the township closer to its goal.

However, EAC member George Skladany cautioned the supervisors that this list should be updated over time.

"Because of climate change some native plants that were acceptable years ago might be on the decline now," he contended.

Planning commission chairman Allen Fidler, who labels himself an amateur horticulturist, agreed with Skladany's assessment.

"The list of natural species that may be viable for the next 20 years, might be different than today," maintained Fidler, who called on the Bucks County Planning Commission to also update its native plant list.

He also pointed out that invasive plant-eating insects, such as the spotted lanternfly, might affect what species to plant in the future.

According to the resolution, native species not only restore the ecological balance lost through development, they "can maintain, or even increase, property values," as well have therapeutic effects on residents’ mental and physical well-being.

In other action, the supervisors unanimously approved advertising for bids to hire a consultant to help outline the township’s future financial goals.

In April, the board had announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) had awarded the township a $40,000 matching grant to pay for a study which will allow the township to look at its financial situation over the next five-to-10 years.

Newtown Township must now also put in another $40,000 to pay for the financial study and choose a consultant to conduct it.

In late September, the supervisors are expected to accept the final bid and award a consulting contract.

Under the grant, local governments are required to put in the same amount in matching funds to help develop comprehensive multi-year financial plans, as well as establish short-and-long term budgetary objectives and strategies.

The DCED funding is part of the Early Intervention Program (EIP) to help municipalities in the state prepare a fiscal outlook.

Each year, the agency provides up to $200,000 in EIP money to municipalities for these economic studies.

"We have to be proactive in what we're doing to maintain our quality of life," said Supervisor Dennis Fisher, who worked with township manager Micah Lewis and the finance committee to help apply for the grant.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," he added.

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