NEWTOWN SQUARE–The bulk of a nearly three-hour meeting on Thursday evening was taken up by the township's Municipal Authority presentation.
Kevin Matson of Kelly & Close Engineers, and the Municipal Authority engineer, presented two revisions to the Newtown Township Act 537 Plan involving two special studies with the Echo Valley and Florida Park sections in the township.
Matson also presented two sewage facilities planning modules of component 4A, both owned by National Realty Corporation, L.P., for Olde Masters Golf and Retirement Village and parcels A, B, C, D of the Marville site.
According to Matson, the township joined the Central Delaware County Authority's (CDCA) sewer network in 2007. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gave back the latest version of the Act 537 Plan that was submitted by the Municipal Authority in November 2010 to make revisions. In February of this year, Matson said the Authority sat down with DEP and came up with two special studies which included the neighborhoods of Echo Valley and Florida Park.
"The idea was, we wanted to extend sewers to those areas that are in need in Echo Valley and what we came back was the plan that's in front of you tonight," addressed Matson to the members of the Planning Commission. "The plan is to extend the sanitary sewer lines to 67 homes in the Echo Valley area."
Bob Jackson, Municipal Authority chairman, relayed that a series of public meetings were held in December and a study was made of which homes in both neighborhoods–Echo Valley and Florida Park–had failed sewer systems, which led them to mapping out their proposed extended sewer lines.
"We held a series of public meetings because we heard that many people in parts of our township were unable to use parts of our ground," said Jackson. "In Florida Park, every house is in trouble. We're trying to get immediate relief to those people who have health problems and odor complaints, or couldn’t use their house."
Out of the approximate 200 homes in Echo Valley, the $1.3 million plan proposes to extend the sewer lines to 67 homes–all of the homes that were determined to be malfunctioned–and would be completed in Phase I slated for completion by the end of this year if approved, while the rest of the homes would be expected to be completed in the second phase slated for next year. In addition, Jackson said the township has the "availability of funding and the gallons of capacity."
However, Patti Wilson, a resident on Battles Lane of Echo Valley and one of the residents who appealed the original plan, shared her concerns about Jackson's comments and questioned the planning process involved with the studies.
"The township has been asked to provide the DEP with an overall 537 Plan and there is a reason for that–the DEP does want to know how much capacity that's available at the CDCA to the township that's going to be allocated," said Wilson. "So to blanketly say we have enough capacity without doing those allocations, I don't think is a reasonable statement."
Additionally, Wilson brought up the fact that four out of the nine homes that were confirmed to have failed sewer systems were not included in the study.
In a rebuttal, Jackson boldly stated, "I find it difficult to turn my back on our neighbors—two in the community don’t feel that way. If somebody doesn’t do something...we’re going to be pretty damn sorry about that. I’ve had no hesitancies about this. I’ve practiced law for 49 years. I have no problem putting my image on the line. Just get out of my way."
When asked by the Planning Commission why those homes were not included in the study, Matson responded, "There was no real reason why those four were not included. The board [Municipal Authority] is considering potentially revisiting this but for the sake of moving forward, we want to move on with this plan because if the board does decide to make any material changes on this it will set us back."
"Truthfully," continued Matson when asked why the line was drawn specifically cutting out two homes for the sewer line, "both those residents said their systems were operational–there was no reason other than that."
Matson said there would be an opportunity for those four homes to opt-in to using the system.
Wilson urged the Commission to consider looking at the public comments and planning process of this plan.
"I still want this township to do proper planning. Before Mr. Jackson says one more time, these people can't use their homes or they can't do anything, the township engineer testified that there was no one in Echo Valley couldn't fix their system," explained Wilson. "So, these are homes where people bought their homes with failed septic systems and chose not to fix them, chose to wait for sewers, so they’re pumping and hauling while they're waiting for sewers."
After a few more back-and-forth rebuttals between Jackson and Wilson, Shimon Guy of the Planning Commission made a motion to pass the plan for approval by the Board of Supervisors on condition that the Municipal Authority reviews all the outstanding issues.
"Basically it's to approve with the condition that public comments should be reviewed and responded by the authority. We’re approving the process with the condition before that it’s finally approved by the supervisors, those outstanding issues should be addressed," said Guy.
The motion was seconded by Curtis Silva and the plan was approved unanimously.
In the second special study for Florida Park, Matson said the plan was to extend a low-pressure sewer system to 80 homes in that section, in which there are a total of 97 homes.
"There are some properties along the rear of Florida Park that would be put in the second phase and need a replacement also," said Matson.
Wilson commented on this point and said, "They’re not doing the whole neighborhood. They claim that Florida Park has a health emergency...well I hope those homes that aren’t included in this plan don’t have a health emergency."
Newtown resident Nathan Glazer also questioned why those 17 homes were not included.
"What is the wisdom of not doing the 17 homes? The cost in the future will only go up if we cycle back. I don’t understand the logic. It just doesn’t seem to be in the common interest to carry forward an expense that you're going to face inevitably when there's no material reason not to do it. If it’s in worse shape, the more compelling it would be to get it all done," said Glazer.
Several of the planning members verbally agreed, including Nicholas Stephanou. "Why aren't they being done?" questioned Stephanou to Matson. "Why can't those houses be tied in? I think they should all be done at once."
Guy also shared the same sentiments, "What bothers me is that it looks like a patchwork—I don’t know if we’re causing much more expenses by doing that. Part of it we’ll have to come back and do it later. It would be better to look at it at one time but I understand the emergency right now. We have to do it right."
Matson explained that in the special study, that was simply where the line was drawn and said if homes had an operational sewer system, they would have the option to opt-out and not be required to tie into the system, but "there was really no reason."
Silva made a motion to reject the Florida Park study on the basis of "lack of clarity on how houses were excluded and the potential impact of increased costs and management at a later date."
The motion was seconded by Guy, but before it was unanimously rejected, recently reappointed planning member John Nawn made an amendment to the motion and said, "We really need to see the township-wide Act 537 Plan before this is all considered."
In regards to the Olde Masters Golf and Retirement Village and Marville planning modules the sketch plans proposed a certain amount of sewer allocations to those sites with no preliminary planning done for those sites.
For Olde Masters Golf and Retirement Village, the plan proposes to allocate 100,000 gallons to the site. Silva wondered if those proposed allocated 100,000 gallons would be taking away from the township's own capacity, especially with the previous plan that was discussed earlier for Florida Park, who were in need of an operational sewage system.
Nawn was also skeptical with the proposed sewer allocations.
"Why are we talking about 100,000 gallons for the site when don't even know if it's going to be here? Aren't we kind of jumping the gun here?," asked Nawn. "We don’t even know if that’s an approved plan there and we’re asking to approve a sewer plan that hasn’t been approved yet. Lets’ get the zoning done first."
The Marville planning module was also received by the planning members with the same light. The planning module for the Marville site proposes to allocate 125,000 gallons to the site.
"I think we first need to determine the planning process of what’s to be built there and then determine the flow out of it," said Guy.
Both plans were rejected 5-1 with planning member Jim Stefanidis with the lone nay for both modules.