A proposal to put 52 townhomes on the property that is presently the Newtown Swim Club will face opposition from the township solicitor when it comes before the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance.
David Platt, owner of the Newtown Swim Club, is working with County Builders to create a residential development on the property once the swim club closes after the summer of 2013.
His first proposal featured 64 townhomes – a plan that the township supervisors opposed in July. The swim club property, located on Newtown-Yardley Road, is zoned for single family housing and requires a variance to construct higher density townhomes.
On Wednesday, Platt returned before the board of supervisors to present his revised plans to build 52 townhomes on the 16.6-acre site. But the supervisors were not swayed. By a 3-2 vote, the board directed the township solicitor to attend the hearings to oppose the plans.
“If we don’t continue to oppose this, we should pretty much take our ordinance and throw it in the trash,” said board member Rob Ciervo, noting the higher density housing would contribute to congestion and would set a precedent for future developments.
“We should uphold our zoning. This is a main issue to our residents, the continued development of Newtown,” Ciervo said.
Mike Meister, president of County Builders, blasted the board for their lack of support for Platt. “I think it’s a travesty what you’re doing to Dave Platt,” he said. Meister told the board that if they didn’t accommodate the current proposal, he would put forth an alternate proposition for the site – a 64-plot trailer park.
“I don’t make empty threats,” Meister said.
The supervisors were not rattled by Meister’s comments. In the end, Matt Benchener and Philip Calabro joined Ciervo in voting to send the solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board in opposition to the application for a variance.
Ryan Gallagher and Mike Gallagher voted not to send the solicitor. Ryan Gallagher said he lives nearby the proposed development and does not believe there are traffic or congestion issues.
“Why would we waste money on a solicitor?” Ryan Gallagher asked.
But Calabro said sending a solicitor to defend the township’s zoning ordinance wouldn’t be a waste of money, but rather an investment. “This is something that is a major concern to the township. I would consider it an investment to send our solicitor,” Calabro said.
Benchener recognized the Newtown Swim Club as a valuable local business and thanked the Platts for their efforts to operate it over the years. But he noted the board has to look out for the wellbeing of the township into the future. “The key thing here is that this development is going to be here for decades,” Benchener said.
Platt said high-density townhomes abut both sides of his property. “To try to build single family homes just doesn’t make sense,” he said, adding his battle with cancer has made it impossible for him to continue to operate the swim club.