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Public Outcry Over Trailer Park Prompts Board to Approach Developer

Board member Rob Ciervo called a motion to approach Mike Meister of County Builders and request that he resubmit the townhome plans “negotiating our surrender.”

Concerns over a trailer park coming to town drew the largest crowd at a Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting in recent memory.

Despite the fact that the application for a 56-pad trailer park at the Newtown Swim Club site was not on the agenda, more than 150 residents attended the Wednesday meeting. Several took the opportunity to speak against the proposal during public comment.

In response to the public outcry, the board voted 4-1 to direct the township solicitor to approach Mike Meister of County Builders and request that he resubmit plans for a townhome community on that site.

Newtown Swim Club owner David Platt is working with County Builders to create a residential development on the 16-acre property on Newtown-Yardley Road once the club closes after this summer.

The application for a mobile home park was submitted in December after the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted to send its solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to defend the township's zoning regulations with regards to County Builders' 52-townhome proposal.

Fears over declining property values and the prospect of tainting the gateway to a historic community were among the reasons residents expressed distain for the proposal.

David Wagner, a Headley Community Homeowners Association board member, said a coalition of area HOAs and businesses plan to do whatever it takes to stop the trailer park from coming to the site. “We are prepared to take this as far as we need to take it,” Wagner said. “We will fight this thing until there is no more fight left.”

Residents of several surrounding communities presented the supervisors with petitions that reflected opposition to the trailer park. Communities that have offered petitions against the project include: Headley, Newtown Walk, Wilkshire Walk, Kirkwood and Raintree/Windermere. The board of the Newtown Business Commons also opposes the trailer park.

Mike Jacobs, a Raintree resident, said the proposal for the trailer park seems to be an act of anger on the part of the developer because his initial plans weren't supported. “To put something like this within 700 feet of my home makes me just shake my head all day long. Why County Builders, located in Warminster, would even think of doing this, I don’t know.”

Headley resident Lisa Mercantate said a trailer park wouldn’t only negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods but the town as a whole. “We’re jeopardizing Newtown. What we’ve created here in Newtown, we stand to loose if we let them put in a trailer park.” 

At a meeting in November, the supervisors voted 3-2 to send its solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to defend the township's zoning regulations with regards to the application for 52 townhomes. The townhome proposal required a variance because it exceeded the housing density permitted in that zoning district.

Board members Rob Ciervo, Matt Benchener and Phil Calabro voted in favor of sending the solicitor to represent the township. Since then, in response to the community’s outrage over the trailer park proposal, board member Matt Benchener said he would now support townhomes. 

“We can now say the facts have changed,” Benchener said, adding the developer is serious about the mobile home park.  “Given that, I think it’s incumbent of this board to not let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

On Wednesday, though, board member Ciervo stood by his original sentiments, calling the motion to seek out Meister to resubmit the previous plans “negotiating our surrender.”

“I think this is exactly where this builder wanted to be. He wanted to be in a room with a lot of angry people who would all the sudden support his plan. This is something that was done for many decades in Bucks County -- developers got what they wanted because they made threats,” Ciervo said. 

Ciervo pointed out the only use “by right” on the property is single family homes. Everything else for residential use – including the trailer park – goes through a through a Planned Residential Development hearing process.

“If the builer wants to come and submit another plan, he can do so. But telling him ‘you can have this number and come on back and we’ll support you’ without seeing the plans is not the right message,” Ciervo said.

Calabro, while voting in support of sending the solicitor back to approach Meister, stood by his original vote to uphold the zoning on the site. “If the builder was so confident with his plan, he could have taken it to the Zoning Hearing Board.”

“The bad guy is the builder in this case. He is the one that did not come to us for negotiation. Instead he went off with his threat and at this point, he’s winning,” Calabro said. 

Benchener said the primary goal of the board “is to reflect the will of the residents.” Zoning is merely a tool, he noted. “Unfortunately in several incidences, and in this case, it is a tool that has failed.”

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Joanne January 24, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Zoning also reflects "the will of the residents" within the requirements of state law and needs to be upheld. Unless Pratt practically gave the land away, the builder cannot make a reasonable profit with mobile homes. Why is the Board giving in rather than fighting for Newtown. Thats their job. While the builder is clearly being childish, the Board needs to stand up to this threat. This is bad precedent. Hopefully the ongoing "dialogue" with the builder will yield a reasonable result.
Newtown Resident January 24, 2013 at 11:50 PM
You should boycott the Platts and their newtown swim club.....Honestly none of this would have happened if the Platts weren't trying to get more homes on their property than zoning laws allow....It's that simple. While the builder has his own issues...the real culprit behind this are the landowners - THE PLATTS.....boycott their swim club and their 30th anniversary that they are advertising.
David Wagner January 25, 2013 at 04:48 AM
For those who think that a bad precedent was established with last nights vote would be wrong. The reason this fight has prevailed is the R2 designation on this particular tract was designated for mobile homes because of a 1980 state law. This zoning does not fit in other tracts in Newtown. The issue we were fighting over is that if the zoning were upheld, 56 pads would be allowed and if the builder complied with all the regulations he could construct the site. Other issues to consider are that additional children would be added to the Goodnoe school role without the commensurate tax revenue. Since the pads are rentals, the folks who live there do not pay school or property taxes. The owner of the land pays the taxes which do not reflect the additional children. Additionally, the Newtown Office Park which employs over 5000 people would have a difficult time attracting new business to the park which brings in even more jobs to Newtown. It took a lot of guts for Matt Benchener to admit his initial vote against the town home plans was wrong and asked the board to vote (4-1 decision) to send the Solicitor to seek out the council of County Builders. Mr Ciervo decented from the others standing "on principal" to defend the zoning which would result in a mobile home park. Does anyone who lives in Newtown really want a mobile home park at the its entrance. I applaud the 4 supervisors for voting to keep newtown a beautiful quaint historic town.
mork January 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM
TAKE THE LAND UNDER EMINENT DOMAIN LAWS USING THE OPEN SPACE FUNDS AVAILABLE FROM THE STATE THAT TOWNSHIPS HAVE TO MATCH. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO OPERATE ON THE CANCERS NOT TRY AND MEDICATE THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE CAN USE MORE PARKS
Newtown Resident January 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM
I don't want to see a mobile home park their either, but unfortunately because zoning has not been updated for this parcel....it may be too late. It now puts the town in a spot where they will have to negotiate with developer, give away more concessions than in terms of variances, etc. plus they may have to pay some money to developer to cover costs of new plans, etc. I still say that at the end of the day, none of this would have happened if the Platts were not so intent on sticking it to the town, trying to get more homes than zoning allows..Boycott Newtown Swim Club!!
Wilbur January 25, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I never heard the phrase "those people" said so many times in regards to possible residents since the civil rights days. "You people" are the bigots of Newtown Twp. The stupidity to think that supposed "low class people" would dirty up your pearly white bucolic neighborhoods is in a way down right hilarious. If it were to happen maybe "those people" wouldn't want to associate with all you uppity bigots. I guess everyone in this town came from old money and never lived in row houses in Philly or another city - but now they done "moved on up". You chicken-sh*** folded. Look at the big picture here and why DUI Gallagher boys and Flip flop Benchener are Plattites... Platt and Meister are big time contributors to the GOP. DUI Mikey (now he slapped you all in the face) is running for re-election and needs the money to run. He kisses you chickens & Platt and co. butts and the money & votes will come in. Mikey doesn't do anything without motive. Boy Genie Benchener is up in two years - so follow the money. It may not come directly from Platt to the campaign accounts but you can bet it will be filtered into their coffers in some way. All of your knuckleheads who feel the trail trash is coming have never seen Buckingham Springs. Oh but maybe it is because that is Buckingham and you are Newtown - the town that can't afford certain things to be done.
Man Landers January 25, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Hey Wilbur, I havn't seen you this upset since Farmer Zuckerman threatened to turn you into a bacon sandwich. Go back out to the barn and hang with Charlotte.
See4yourself January 25, 2013 at 06:25 PM
I agree with Newtown Resident. Platt and Meister are the real villains in this case. The three supervisors who upheld the zoning back in Nov did the right thing. Now they got to Benchener and he has rolled over like a good little doggie. This whole thing reeks. What a tremendous lack of leadership on the supervisor's part that got us to this point. I wish the residents who blindly support 52 town homes could see how they are being manipulated. The Gallagher boys, on behalf of Platt and Miester, just played all of you like a fine violin. Now our solicitor and Meister's attorney are working out a backroom deal. I'm thinking it will be for more than 52 town homes. Heck, why not just go back up to 64? After all who cares as long as we don't get a mobile home park? What a shame for our town. And yes it DOES affect future development and there are other R2 parcels in the zoning jointure.
Melf55 January 25, 2013 at 07:26 PM
I think the developer and land owner have deep seeded hatred toward Newtown because of Ciervo and his arrogance but also because the board gave the NAC everything they wanted across the street. That really puts Newtown Swim Club out of business plus the health issues of Platt. This still falls in those three supervisors laps if they simply showed a little respect and talked with builder/Platt. The builder should have asked Worthington to help negotiate with the supervisors.... Oh I forgot he put Newtown Swim Club in this position to need to sell out.
Becky January 25, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. Way to support the residents of the township fellas. Stand up for our rights and fight instead of rolling over. This is ridiculous.
CN January 25, 2013 at 09:21 PM
you are clearly an idiot who has no clue. Not once has anyone said "those people". There are no people to even talk about. we are talking about the addition of a trailer park that no one wants. in addition, if you had your facts straight, which you don't, you would know this trailer park is absolutely NOTHING like the homes in buckingham springs. shut the f up and go get a clue
R U guessing ? January 26, 2013 at 11:42 PM
U R wrong David on all counts. The Builder is playing U and the other developments like a fiddle, I can't believe everyone fell for the Trailer park scheme. I guess when U have NIMBY values, U lose ALL common sense.
R U guessing ? January 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM
OK, U Nimby People out there, the builder Would have never been able to build the amount of trailers that he said. there R other Rules and Ordinances that he would have never been able to get around. The amount of trailers that He would have ended up with would not be profitable for him to continue with aTrailer Park. Congratulations, U have given him the OK to build As many Townhomes as he wishes. I hope U enjoy The Traffic and new Townhome Neighbors (the Trailer Park neighbors would have been Better). And Thanks For Helping Newtown to be the Laughing stock of the area AGAIN !
K. Thom. March 16, 2013 at 05:34 PM
This really says alot about the state of our country as a whole. Theres an awful lot of hate I see here. Not to mention the fact that everyone seems to be worried about their rights yet are not concerned about the property owners rights. Why do so many think their rights outweigh someone elses?
R U guessing ? March 16, 2013 at 10:29 PM
It's not about Rights, it's about Greed ! Platt using past history in getting the most He can from the property and the surrounding residents worried about their property Values going Down, ( Would never happen !) Platt knew what buttons to push and acted accordingly, Panicking the residents. Now lets see what the outcome will Be.

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