NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> After taking no action last month, the board of supervisors has now decided to go ahead and hire Econsult Solutions, Inc. to prepare a detailed report to help the township plan its future financial goals.
In a 4-1 vote at the Feb. 12 meeting, the board approved letting the Philadelphia-based firm conduct the study.
Voting to award the contract were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Dennis Fisher, John Mack and newly-appointed Supervisor David Oxley.
Kyle Davis was the lone dissenter.
At the Jan. 22 supervisors’ meeting, the board did not vote on awarding a contract to because the motion failed to get the required second, and therefore died.
But the supervisors’ sentiments had since changed.
“We had time to rethink this and look over the proposal one more time,” stated Chairman Calabro before the matter was again up for a vote.
“Our township is built out,” he explained, “We need revenue and maybe these people will give us some suggestions.”
The financial study is aimed at helping the township develop a comprehensive multi-year plan, as well as establish short-and-long term budgetary objectives and strategies over the next five-to-10 years, which are expected to have significant revenue shortfalls.
Econsult Solutions will charge $69,450 for the report and recommendations, and is expected to take four to five months to complete, according to the firm’s director Dan Connelly.
The company has worked with other municipalities, both large and small, on similar reports.
At last month’s meeting, Connelly had told the supervisors that if Newtown Township does not address its future fiscal issues then it will be put in a “position that’s not great.”
Under the contract, Econsult Solutions will create a multi-year economic plan for the township with ways to implement its recommendations, such a tax hikes, if needed.
The supervisors have spent the last several months discussing the need for such an economic project, and even set aside up to $40,000 in this year’s budget to have a detailed fiscal study prepared.
Adding to delay was that Econsult Solutions was the only consulting firm that showed any interest in taking the township’s business.
Early last year the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) had awarded Newtown Township a $40,000 matching grant to help prepare the fiscal report.
Meanwhile, the supervisors also granted Toll Brothers’ request to again reschedule a public hearing on its condition-use application to build 41 high-end luxury homes on 152 acres off of Route 413 and Twinning Bridge Road.
This is the third time that the mandated hearing has been rescheduled. It is now be postponed until the Feb. 26 supervisors’ meeting.
The planning commission also has rescheduled its examination of the conditional-use application until its Feb. 18 meeting.
According to township solicitor David Sander, the requested postponement is because the developer has made some minor revisions to its proposal.
Both the planners' and supervisors’ meetings are expected to be well-attended by neighboring residents opposed to the project.
The property, which is zoned Conservation Management (CM), borders Durham Road to the east, Twinning Bridge Road to the north, Devonshire Meadows to the west and the Newtown Township Municipal Complex to the south.
However, the current proposed development is considerably reduced from the original plans for the property.
At first, Toll Brothers had wanted to build 173 new high-end homes in a variety of styles on the site which was owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and was originally envisioned to be part of the cemetery.
In September 2018, the developer had presented a conceptual plan to the supervisors during a regular board meeting. To keep traffic off of Twinning Bridge Road, the original plan had called for building a new 1,200-foot single-access road through the cemetery to connect with Route 413 and Wrights Road.
That proposal had angered many area residents, who had labeled the plan “ridiculous.”
But in October, Toll had amended its application, as well as downsized the number of proposed homes for the property. A new plan was submitted to the township which now calls for 41 single-family luxury homes to be built on the parcel.
Under the new application, two access roads would instead be located on Twinning Bridge Road.
The downsized plan which had originally called for an on-site wastewater treatment facility has been abandoned. The development would instead be connected to the township’s public sewer line.
Even if Toll does receive the conditional-use approval, final development plans would still have to go through the regular land use and subdivision process before the planning commission and board of supervisors.