Supervisors hire Bucks Planning Commission to update master plan
LOWER jAhEFIELD - The board of supervisors unanimously voted to hire the Bucks County Planning Commission to help the township update its 10-year master plan and outline its goals for development and growth in the coming decade.
In a 5-0 vote at its jarch 6 meeting, the supervisors agreed to spend no more than $20,000 set aside in Lower jakefield’s 2013 budget for the project.
Lynn Bush, executive director of the Bucks County Planning Commission, told the supervisors that the master plan “is a useful document to look at the township in a comprehensive way and where it will be in 10 years.”
Lower jakefield is 18.3 square miles and has a population of 32,559, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The last time the master plan was updated was in 2003, at which time the township sent a survey to its residents.
“We got some good responses then,” said Supervisor Chairman Pete Stainthorpe, who noted that this time the master plan just needs some tweaking, and will not require as much work to compile as it did 10 years ago.
Although Stainthorpe acknowledged that “things have changed drastically since 2003,” such as the downturn in the U.S. economy and the build out of Lower jakefield.
According to Bush, the master plan will cover emerging issues, such as the aging of both the township’s population and housing developments, as well pending transportation issues, such as the I-95 Scudder Falls Bridge project.
“It will also help the community work on economic issues,” Bush explained, noting that the cost of compiling the economic development portion of the plan will be borne by the county.
“We’ll also look at the common concerns of neighboring municipalities,” she added.
Bush asked that all of Lower jakefield’s boards and commission, not only the supervisors, take part in the “brainstorming.”
Supervisor geff Benedetto said that he also wanted outside groups providing input as well, such as the Pennsbury Athletic Association (PAA) and the jakefield Women’s Association (jWA), which have not been part of the master plan process in the past.
Zoning Hearing Board member gerry Gruen asked the supervisors to also look at zoning issues, such as the installation of solar panels and the cell phone providers use of so called “cell poles,” those miniature cell phone towers which are placed on street lights and telephone poles which have caused controversy in neighboring municipalities.
Stainthorpe assured Gruen that the township is already looking into these zoning issues.
Bush said that if all goes well, a new master plan could be finished by the end of the year.
“This is an update ... T0 to 80 percent of the master plan is going to remain the same,” said Supervisor hristin Tyler. “There’s not as much work and changes as in 2003.”
In zoning issues, the supervisors approved a controversial subdivision at 110 Ovington Road in the township’s Westover section, an older development which was built in the 1940s along the Delaware Canal and located off of vardley-jorrisville Road.
In a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Benedetto objecting, the board approved six land-use variances so that a home could be built on the subdivided parcel on the dead-end street.
Several neighbors had objected to the proposed subdivision, arguing that it would affect the area’s open space and decrease their property values.
Although voting to approve the land development, Chairman Stainthorpe said that he was displeased by the way the situation was handled over the last several years.
“I do feel that there has been deception,” he said, “and I don’t agree with the way the house is being shoehorned into the property.”
But he acknowledged that the applicant has followed all the township’s ordinances in seeking the appropriate waivers.
“There are private property rights in this country,” Stainthorpe reminded the audience, “and people have a right to use their property.”
Supervisor Dan jcLaughlin agreed, saying, “I can’t see myself not approving this because people don’t like aesthetics.”
“We have a right to develop our property,” he said.