NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> The Board of Supervisors took no action on a settlement agreement that would have resolved a legal dispute between the township and Arcadia Newtown Holdings over a proposed residential housing development at Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass.
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.
Arcadia has submitted three different plans to the township for the development of the 22.5 acre site just feet away from the busy intersection of Buck Road (Route 532) and the Newtown Bypass (Route 332). All three were denied by the supervisors following contentious hearings and are now the subject of litigation.
As part of the settlement, Arcadia, at its expense, would have attempted to pursue access directly onto the Newtown Bypass with a right out only. If that was unsuccessful it would have pursued a left out of the service road onto northbound Buck Road. And if that didn’t work, it would have pursued a proposed u-turn at Mill Pond and Buck to get traffic to the bypass from the development.
There were also provisions in the agreement for set backs and landscape buffering between the development and neighboring Eagle Ridge and Newtown Crossing that are not required by ordinance. And it would have included improvements to Buck Road at the Bypass and at Buck and Mill Pond.
The agreement would have also ended all litigation associated with the development.
With each denial of the plan, Arcadia has taken the township to court. It currently has multiple active suits pending against the township at the Court of Common Pleas and at the Commonwealth Court levels, including whether the township can charge Arcadia for professional consultant fees to review its PRD plans and a mandamus action taken against the township seeking a deemed approval based on notice issues.
“The end result of what is happening here tonight is that there is no settlement with Arcadia,” said township solicitor Dave Sander. “There is no action being taken therefore there is no settlement.”
That means that the litigation will continue, he said. “We’ll see where that takes us.”
On Jan. 15, findings of facts and conclusions of law are due on an appeal by the Eagle Ridge Community Association in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas of the mandamus of writ of deemed approval. There are also oral arguments scheduled in the Commonwealth Court in the new year on the professional consultants fee case. The township has also appealed the case on the deemed approval to the Commonwealth Court.
If the township loses in court, Arcadia’s most recent tentative PRD plan for 76 units would be approved and the developer would be permitted to move forward with a final plan, according to Sander.
Arcadia could also decide tomorrow to drop its PRD plans and submit a “by right” preliminary plan that meets all the township’s ordinances, according to Sander.
At the heart of the township’s opposition to the development has been traffic issues, which the developer was unable to address to the satisfaction of the supervisors throughout the review process.
At issue is the property’s location next to the bypass, which creates safety issues for traffic exiting the development from a service road and wanting to head northbound on Buck Road. Several alternatives have been explored and rejected by the township, including building a connector road linking the new development with neighboring Newtown Crossing.
The latest plan submitted by the developer for 76 homes proposes a right turn only out of the service road onto Buck Road and creating a u-turn at Mill Pond and Diamond Drive for northbound traffic. That idea is opposed by Eagle Ridge.
More than 90 residents from neighboring Eagle Ridge and Newtown Crossing joined the township’s Zoom meeting in opposition to the proposed settlement.
All the residents who spoke voiced support for the supervisors’ decision and encouraged them to continue to fight the developer in court.
“I want to thank you for doing this tonight. You can tell by how many people are on this Zoom call that we are so against this development. And we are ready to do what we need to do,” said Alesia Rodgers of Newtown Crossing. “We just want to put a stop to this once and for all.”
Christine Tripoli also thanked the board and especially supervisor John Mack who she said has had an ongoing discourse with residents and has been listening to their concerns.
“I love this town. I waited my whole life to live here and I finally moved here a year ago,” she said. “But I’m just watching our beautiful town gobbled up parcel by parcel. If we don’t stop it who will? Continue to fight the good fight,” she told the supervisors.
Eagle Ridge resident Eric Scott Gold joined the chorus of residents thanking the supervisors for its unanimous decision. “A lot of us didn’t think this was going to be a 5 to 0 vote ... We’re very happy you guys went in this direction,” he said.
Dennis Schoner sought assurances from the board that it will continue its litigation against the developer.
“We will continue to fight legally and do whatever we can do,” said Supervisors’ Chairman Phil Calabro.
“Tonight the board did not authorize settlement so we will continue to fight in court. Until the board tells me not to, we will continue litigating,” added Sander.
Resident Peter Ancona, the Vice President of the Newtown Crossing Community Association, expressed his thanks for the board’s unanimous decision against the settlement.
“We acknowledge and recognize that this is an available piece of property and that there are going to be developers who want to develop it. But we also are very interested in the safety of our community,” he said.