Bucks County Herald

Newtown Township settles tree removal dispute

Developer cut down 112-year-old beech tree

STEVE SHERMAN

The Newtown Township supervisors, at the Feb. 28 meeting, unanimously authorized Solicitor David J. Sander to sign a contract that releases developer McGrath Homes from any further damages it must pay for its part in chopping down a 112-year-old beech tree near a historic 1840s farmhouse at the Villas at Newtown development.

In 2015, the township sued McGrath for $85,500, saying the developer cut the tree down without permission. Though the suit was dismissed the following year in Bucks County Court, the township had considered an appeal.

According to Vice Chairman Jen Dix, the developer recently sought a certificate of occupancy for the farmhouse. The township decided to grant the certificate, she added, though only if McGrath agreed to pay $25,000 in damages for taking down the tree.

“It wasn’t as much as we would have liked but like everything else in life, it was a compromise,” said Dix, in a phone interview. “And it gives us some compensation for what he did that was wrong.”

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission recommended that the supervisors approve expansion plans submitted by Pickering Manor. The elder care facility, located on the 200 block of Lincoln Ave. near the north end of the borough, is seeking permission to expand its two-story main building by 18,200 feet in addition to expanding three of its five existing one-story cottage buildings.

The commission also supported an application submitted by Newtown Racquetball Associates to operate a day care facility at 27 Blacksmith Road. The commission added recommendations with regard to child safety, the height of outdoor fencing, playground structures and shrubberies.

The application seeks zoning relief to operate the day care center on a 66,176-square-foot lot. Currently, local zoning requires 80,000 square feet.

The supervisors also voted unanimously (5-0) to approve the written conditional use permit awarded to Nina’s Waffles and Ice Cream. Operators of the “sweetery,” which is based in New Hope. The owners are planning the opening of their sixth location at 2905 South Eagle Road in May.

Additionally, supervisors voted unanimously to advertise an ordinance amending the township code to provide for two police lieutenants. The officers would be hired from among the rank and file.

Manager Kurt Ferguson expressed his desire to conduct another active shooter drill within township administrative facilities.

“We are looking at vulnerabilities within the Township Municipal Building,” said Ferguson. “The last one we held with Sgt. (Robert) Lupinetti was very eye-opening.”

Assistant Manager Micah Lewis announced that the township’s plan to build a greenways trail along Lower Dolington Road is coming along nicely. That trail will begin near Frost Lane and Roberts Ridge Park and continue on the south side of the road to Upper Silver Lake Road.

To help pay for the project, the township has applied for a pair of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) grants that could be awarded by the end of this calendar year. The project would be put up for bids early next year, though the matching funds from the township have already been appropriated in the 2018 budget.

stevesherman222@gmail.com

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