Thank you for the many questions and comments to my last post concerning Newtown Township’s proposed Comprehensive Sewage Facilities Plan update (also known as the Act 537 Plan) and for the concern and interest in this plan. This post will attempt to answer some of the questions posed in the many comments. Any question I am not able to answer at this time, I will hopefully be able to answer once I receive the township’s response to my public comment letter.
One of the comment posters noted that when he purchased his home, he knew where the sewage facilities were located in his neighborhood. In the new plan, most, if not all, of the easements proposed are properties which were not purchased with sewer pipes across their properties. These residents did not purchase their homes thinking that a pump station and/or a pump station access road would be next to their home. Once my public comment letter is answered, I hope to be able to publish a list of addresses where easements and pump stations are proposed.
Another comment poster asked about the location of the Goshen Road Pump Station. Another answered that the location was where Lewis Run crosses under Goshen Road. What was missing was the information that this pump station is in front of a resident's property. The comment then offered that it was the location “for now." There still seems to be a misconception about the township’s 537 Plan. This misconception seems to be that residents still may think that the plan is a “placeholder," that it can be changed once it has been approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
If the supervisors vote to approve the proposed plan, they are saying to the DEP that they intend to implement the plan as provided. They are saying that this is the plan that they stand behind and plan to build. Once approved by the DEP and once the 30-day appeal period has been met, if the plan is not appealed, it is administratively final. It cannot be changed.
As one comment noted, this is not a referendum. It is, however, a process that allows for and requires public notice in an effort to encourage public participation. Public comment is sought and the township is required to respond. The comments and responses are then sent to the DEP to be included in their review process.
Many other comments seemed to refer to my prior decisions to appeal actions taken by the DEP. Once any action is sought by the township, an entity or individual is approved by the DEP, there is a 30-day appeal period. During that time, any resident/entity with standing may appeal the DEP's action.
Many comments referred to my appeal of prior DEP actions. In the case of the previous plan, I was not the only one to appeal. There were multiple appellants as well as multiple intervenors. If any resident/entity with standing decides that they do not agree with the DEP’s approval of the plan or a planning module, they can appeal. If any resident/entity does not agree with the appeal, they can intervene in the appeal. Along with others, I chose to appeal the DEP’s actions. In my view, rather than work toward a settlement, the township chose to litigate the appeals.
One comment suggested that residents could still “opt out” of connecting to the proposed sewage facilities. Currently, we have an ordinance that allows residents to opt-out of connection. I agree with this ordinance as it is currently written. The DEP agreed that the current opt-out ordinance was fine. Why is it proposed to change?
The new plan proposes to replace the opt-out with a deferral option. Residents would be able to defer connection, not opt-out, for a period of years regardless of their onsite system’s condition. During the deferral period, residents will be asked to pay to have their system certified. If they sell their home regardless of their system’s condition, they will have to connect.
Many comments referred to confusion over the cost to individuals homeowner. Once the township responds to my public comment, I hope to have specific information about costs.
At the supervisors' previous meeting, I asked that they postpone action on this proposed plan in order to allow more time to answer residents' questions. At that meeting, the supervisors would not agree to postpone this action. It is currently planned to take place on December 27th at 5 p.m. along with a vote on the township budget.