Sycamore St. vision takes leap forward
NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP - The township supervisors have approved a long-awaited ordinance to help Sycamore Street develop into a town center with shops and pedestrian walkways.
At its Oct. 10 meeting , the board voted 4-0, with supervisor Philip Calabro abstaining, to pass an ordinance modifying the town commercial (TC) zoning, which is outlined under the joint municipal zoning agreement with neighboring Wrightstown and Upper Makefield.
Both the Newtown Township and Bucks County Planning Commissions had recommended that the ordinance be approved with some minor changes.
“This has been a long time coming” said Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, “This is a way for us to take the vision of Sycamore Street ... to become part of a long term vi-
That vision, according to Benchener is “a pedestrian town center,” and he said that the Promenade on the old Acme site is “a step in that direction.”
Chairman Mike Gallagher agreed. “It took a lot of work to get it done and we think it makes Sycamore Street a better place over the next 20, 30, 40 years.
The changes to the TC ordinance state that any new building can be no higher than two stories, unless a zoning variance is sought. In addition, new businesses must have a required minimum public space, for such things as: outdoor seating and eating areas, as well as plazas.
Also automobile sales will not be an allowed use without a zoning waiver, and drivethrough lanes for banks will no longer automatically be permitted.
“We’re trying to make Sycamore Street more pedestrian friendly,” said Supervisor Rob Ciervo. “to have it be our downtown.”
According to Ciervo, there’s a few big parcels on Sycamore Street that if sold will change Newtown forever.
“I see one of them as Bill Marsh cord,” he added, “Our zoning will protect a big lot like that and ensure that it can’t just be 300 condos.”
Under the ordinance, the commercial area in a mixeduse property in the TC zoning would be limited to between 40 percent and 50 percent of the designated floor space.
“What we didn’t want is a building where only 25 percent is commercial and the rest is condos,” Ciervo explained.
In other action, the supervisors also unanimously approved to energy-related ordinances, one dealing with solar panels and the other with wood-burning boilers used to provide a building with heat and hot water.
According to township solicitor Jeffrey Garton, these ordinances were discussed for a long time by the other joint zoning municipalities, which have since passed similar measures.
“The purpose is to provide some regulation for solar energy,” Garton declared.
He noted that the ordinance regulating solar energy prohibits the panels from being placed in the front yard or along property lines, and they can be no higher than 10 feet. In addition, rooftop panels cannot exceed the maximum height allowed for a building or structure.
“These panels can’t be another 50 feet in the air,” he said.
Under both ordinances, solar panels and wood-burning boilers are allowed by right as accessory uses.