NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Supervisor Phil Calabro will again lead the five-member board of supervisors in 2021.
During its annual reorganization meeting, the board of supervisors unanimously returned Calabro to the chairmanship after he led the board through 2020.
The board also unanimously elected Dennis Fisher as vice chairman and John Mack as assistant secretary and assistant treasurer of the board.
“I’d like to thank the board for instilling the confidence in me to be the chairman once again. I promise to be fair and helpful with decisions that come across our desks,” said Calabro.
“I’m glad 2020 is over,” he continued. “We did accomplish some very good things and I’d like to think 2021 will be better. Hopefully we will get over this pandemic, be back to meeting live again and seeing others again face to face. If anything we’ve learned to be pretty proficient on Zoom.
“Let’s look for bigger, better things and be positive for what the future entails,” said Calabro.
In 2020, the township was forced to redirect its priorities as it dealt with the impacts of the pandemic.
In April, during an online Zoom meeting, the supervisors scraped plans for an extensive $1.6 million road repaving program. Instead, they decided to pave between two-and-a-half to three miles of township streets using about $600,000 from its liquid fuels fund, money the township receives from the state and generated by the gasoline tax.
The township had originally planned to borrow a million dollars to fund a more aggressive paving program and had advertised for bids in early March.
In a major accomplishment in 2020, Newtown Township, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield adopted a curative amendment that would add a combination gas station and convenience store as a permitted use in the jointure.
On Sept. 23, the supervisors opened the door to the development of a Super Wawa on the Newtown Bypass voting unanimously to pass the amendment that will add a combination gas station and convenience store as a special exception in its office/research zoning district.
Newtown Township, working in conjunction with Wrightstown and Upper Makefield - the three municipalities, which make up the Newtown Area Zoning Jointure - began working on the amendment to its Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) after the exclusion was legally challenged by Provco, which is seeking to build a Super Wawa at Lower Silver Lake Road and the Newtown Bypass across from Crossing Community Church.
Two projects, however, did not move forward in 2020 - Arcadia’s plans for 76 homes at Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass and plans by Toll Brothers for 45 high end homes at Route 413 (Durham Road) and Twining Bridge Road.
The supervisors voted in August to deny Toll’s conditional use application to build a cluster of single family homes on 150 acres.
Because the parcel is zoned Conservation Management (CM), a cluster development is allowed by use, but not by right, so that’s why Toll needed the conditional-use approval instead of a zoning change.
And in December, the supervisors took no action on a settlement agreement that would have resolved a legal dispute between the township and Arcadia Newtown Holdings over its proposed residential housing development on Buck Road.
The agreement would have allowed Arcadia to submit land development plans for 60 single family homes at the site located behind the Newtown Reformed Church at 206 Buck Road and off of a service road paralleling the Newtown Bypass.
And at year’s end, the supervisors passed a budget that will boost the township’s police force by three full-time officers, add an assistant township manager to the staff, pave roads and boost the salaries of its township manager and Fire Chief in addition to numerous capital purchases for its police department, public works and administration.
“We are all in this together is a phase we heard a lot in 2020,” said Fisher. “Putting our minds together, we all have pretty good ideas. We keep each other in check, but we also complement each other well. 2020 did bring a lot of challenges to local government. We hope a lot of those challenges will be alleviated in 2021.”
Fisher added that he was thrilled to see the year long sewer project completed in 2020 in the Knob Hill and Devonshire sections of the township. “That was a major thing,” he said.
The year 2020 also brought a new appreciation for essential workers, added Fisher, noting that a lot of them work for the township, including public works, police and fire. “I’d just really like to thank and give a heads up to them for all they do in keeping the township running.”
Supervisor John Mack added that “democracy is still alive at the local level. And much of what we will be doing here is to build committees where residents can participate in decisions being made. I would encourage every citizen who wants to participate in local government, we’re opening the doors. Hopefully we’ll get a lot more applicants.”
Like everyone else, supervisor Kyle Davis said he’s looking forward to a better 2021.
“I don’t think our tribulations are quite behind us yet, but I’m looking forward to coming out of the pandemic and getting back to normal and getting rid of that term that I can’t stand - the new normal,” said Davis. “I don’t want to wear a mask everywhere. I don’t want to do Zooms all the time. I’d like to see us get back to regular normal.”
Supervisor David Oxley, who joined the board just before the pandemic began, expressed appreciation to the board for allowing him to bring attention to Black Lives Matter and social injustice issues.
Oxley has also spent a lot of time over the past year working on economic development issues and exploring ways to find new revenue sources for the township.
At year’s end, he strongly advocated for the inclusion of a new position in the 2021 budget - assistant township manager - a position which he hopes will devote time to working on economic development in the township.
“Thank you for being there to listen and give me good advice,” Oxley told the board. “Politics is interesting. On TV it looks dysfunctional, but here we function pretty well. I look forward to a lot more accomplishments in 2021. Let’s make 2021 the best we can.”
Among the board’s first actions of 2021 was to unanimously approve an employment agreement with township manager Micah Lewis. The board also appointed Lewis as township treasurer and secretary for the coming year.
The board also voted to reappoint Kilkenny Law and Jerry Schenkman Esq. as township solicitor; Mary Donaldson as recording secretary; Remington & Vernick as township traffic engineer, civil engineer and building inspector; Curtin & Heffner LLP as labor attorney; CKS as township planners; Keystone Collection Group as EIT and LST distribution tax collector and tax hearing officer; and Maillee LPP as independent auditor.
Supervisor Kyle Davis voted against the reappointment of the solicitor. All other appointments were unanimous.
In other action, the board appointed Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth as Emergency Management Coordinator and Fire Code Official and Micah Lewis as the township’s representative to the Neshaminy and Little Neshaminy Creek and Delaware River Plan Advisory Committee.
The board also voted to reappoint members and to fill vacancies on its various boards and committees.
The township currently has openings on its vacancy board, the Newtown Area Joint Historic Commission, the Historical Architectural Review Board, the Environmental Advisory Council, the Finance Committee, the Veterans Committee, the Economic Development Committee and the Technology and Communications committee.
Newtown Township residents are invited to apply for the openings by sending a letter of interest and their resume to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, Pa. 18940 or email oliviak@Newtownpa.gov. Resumes will be accepted until Feb. 5 at noon.
For more information about the boards and committees, when they meet and their goals, visit newtownpa.gov and click on the boards and committees tab.