Bucks County Herald

Theaters, galleries, shops, tasting rooms could occupy Wrightstown preserved land

CHRIS RUVO

Select businesses would be able to set up shop on certain land under conservation easements in Wrightstown if a proposed ordinance gains local government approval.

The ordinance would allow community theaters, art galleries, art studios, microbreweries, micro-wineries, brewpubs, tasting rooms and micro-distilleries to operate on properties that contain at least 50 acres and that are in conservation easements – provided that Wrightstown is named grantee or beneficiary of the easements.

Under the zoning change the ordinance would usher in, such properties would be classified into what would be a newly created Conservation Easement Overlay District.

Conservation-related special events would be permitted in the district, too. So would retail stores serving as accessories to vineyards and wineries.

The ordinance details standards that the ventures would have to meet.

For instance, a community theater, where live performances would occur, could not exceed 10,000 square feet in gross floor area, nor could it have more than 150 seats. Meanwhile, brewpubs would not be allowed to be larger than 4,000 square feet in gross floor area.

The additional uses detailed in the proposed ordinance would be allowed by conditional approval only, according to the ordinance. In zoning terms, conditional use permits come into play as exceptions that allow property owners to use their land in ways not otherwise permitted in a zoning district.

For the Conservation Easement Overlay District to become reality in Wrightstown, the township boards of supervisors that govern Wrightstown, Newtown Township and Upper Makefield must vote to approve the ordinance in public votes.

That’s because the townships have banned together through the Newtown Area Zoning Jointure to mutually regulate zoning in the three municipalities. Therefore, each municipality must sign off on zoning change ordinances.

On Aug. 7, Upper Makefield’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the ordinance to be advertised to the public – an important step in a mandated legal process that must occur before a final vote on whether or not to approve the ordinance is allowed to take place.

“The townships believe it to be in the best interest of the townships to allow for additional uses on properties (in Wrightstown only) where the owners have voluntarily agreed to subject their properties to conservation easements,” the ordinance reads.

Conservation easements protect land against development. Entities that include counties and/or municipalities might pay landowners a mutually agreed upon price – paid in part or in full with tax dollars – in return for the property owners agreeing to allow restrictions against development to be placed on their land. The owners maintain ownership of their properties, and if the land is sold, the conservation easement that legally sets the restrictions in place remains – and must be heeded by the new owner.

Officials in Upper Makefield indicated the ordinance could come up for a final vote there at a supervisors meeting in September.




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