Hilltown to vote on age qualified community ordinance
By: Emily Morris, Staff writer 06/13/2007
In response to comments from the Hilltown and Bucks County planning commissions, Hilltown Township Supervisors made the final round of adjustments and approved advertisement of an ordinance that would create an Age Qualified Residential Community (AQRC) zoning district in the township at the board of supervisors' May 31 meeting.
It is one of the final steps before the ordinance could be voted on for approval - something supervisors said they expect could happen as early as the board's June 25 meeting or possibly in July. The drafting and lengthy discussions over the ordinance occurring over the past six months are the result of a proposal by McGrath Homes of Langhorne to place a 268-unit age-qualified community on approximately 186 acres off Minsi Trail located near the intersection of routes 113 and 313.
Supervisors have carefully worked to draft the ordinance so that its standards would be applied to any area of the township where an AQRC might be proposed, not just the McGrath property or the desires of that applicant. However, in its review, the Bucks County Planning Commission requested the township identify the exact property where the zoning district would be located in order to avoid any potential challenge to the ordinance. In response, supervisors specified that at this point the AQRC district would be applied to the several tax parcels that make up the McGrath property.
While there were several other suggestions from the township and county planning commissions regarding the draft ordinance, township supervisors found that most of the suggestions had either been addressed already or were in conflict with what supervisors would like to see. The board did approve suggested changes regarding flood plain specifications and a clarification of impervious surface ratio for the properties.
Some suggestions the board did not take include recommendations on items like minimum open space percentage, pedestrian circulation system, allowed dwelling types and building setback. The township planning commission recommended the board increase the minimum amount of open space required in an AQRC to 50 percent of the property rather than the 40 percent proposed. Supervisor Jack McIlhinney said that with the 40 percent requirement, the McGrath property would provide 136 acres of open space, which he felt was adequate.
McGrath is known for forcing +55 developments on townships. This is what we hear on the grapevine:
On McGrath's first development he had RYAN homes as his partner. He got the
supervisors to rezone industrial land -- the Buel Airfield -- for a
shopping center and more than three hundred 55+ homes.
The second one in Middletown is similar to what he is now proposing in Hilltown - basically a devil's bargain - take single family homes or very high
density 55+ homes. In Middletown, McGrath promised some neighbors some buffering if they didn't
oppose the rezoning. In the end it was all about profits. Typically McGrath uses the "no school children" argument, but Middletown is
actually losing school kids due to an aging community.
In Newtown it
was a backroom deal that is technically illegal but nobody is standing
up and saying so.
Perhaps McGrath thought he could charm his way into Upper
Makefield and rezone but they simply said no and he is building within
So, Hilltown, all we need to do is say 'No'! Why didn't we think of that!
Excerpt from Supervisor's Minutes - Is Mrs. Kachline correct???
January 2, 2007
Alice Kachline of Mill Road commented that both Mr. and Mrs. Antunes,
along with herself, were the oldest members of the Hilltown Civic
Mrs. Kachline was confused by the nomination process and the lone appointment to the Planning Commission.She
was surprised and disappointed that Nancy Boice, who is very
knowledgeable and attends every Planning Commission meeting, was
overlooked for that particular appointment.Further,
it is Mrs. Kachline's personal opinion that Supervisor McIlhinney, in
one year's time as chairman of the Supervisors, was responsible for the
unprecedented exit of over half of the most experienced and
knowledgeable Planning Commission members. As a former Commission
member, Mrs. Kachline is aware of how much time and effort they spend
reviewing plans and Ordinances to provide recommendations to the
Supervisor McIlhinney stated
that when the four members of the Planning Commission who either
resigned or did not seek reappointment when their terms expired, tell
him that he was responsible for their exit, he will respond to Mrs.
Editor's note: We applaud the Keller families for their bold and visionary actions - and their contributions in perpetuity to Bucks County!
County preserves 138 acres of livestock farm
May 24, 2007 By JENNA PORTNOY phillyBurbs.com
Bucks County moved closer to its goal of preserving 10,000 acres of farmland Wednesday with the purchase of development rights for 138 acres in Springfield Township.
Preservation of the working livestock farm cost taxpayers about $1.7 million with the county paying 40 percent of costs, or $660,000. Funds allocated through the state's agriculture preservation program covered the rest.
The land belongs to John and Linda Keller of Crowthers Road and is within a mile of 1,000 acres already preserved, said Richard Harvey, who runs the county's farmland program.
It's a priority "to preserve family farms first rather than farms the owner rents out or doesn't farm," Harvey said.
John Keller has 90 head of cattle and grows corn, hay, wheat and soybeans to feed them. He began thinking about preserving the farm about a year ago to ensure the land remains pristine no matter what his three children or any future owners may do.
"Any true farmer doesn't want to see his farm cut up for houses," he said. "That's how I feel."
The Kellers' farm brings the township's total land preserved to 615 acres, including John Keller's brother James and his wife, Dolores', 167-acre farm. It's the last dairy farm in Springfield.
"It's a good way of life and I think it's important for the food supply for Americans," said Dolores Keller. "People don't always realize where their food comes from."
County commissioners are considering an open space task force's recommendation to borrow $92 million to preserve open space for another decade. If commissioners approve the proposal, the issue will appear on the fall ballot in the form of a referendum.
The task force would like to continue these programs, add a riverfront component and give built-up municipalities more freedom to buy land for trails and recreation with dollars allocated to them based on land area and population.
Jenna Portnoy can be reached at 215-345-3060 or jportnoy@phillyBurbs.com.