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Northampton Township ZHB To Issue Ruling On Controversial Holland Super Wawa Development

Tensions were high as residents of Holland attended a Northampton Township Zoning Hearing Board meeting regarding a Super Wawa being proposed in very close proximity to residential areas.

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The following is a submission to the Lower Bucks Source “Voice of the People” by Northampton Township resident Brett Duffey. 

On June 20, Northampton Township’s Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) held a public hearing regarding the highly controversial Holland Super Wawa project. Both sides presented their cases as to whether or not Wawa’s gas operation is “entirely incidental”. These quoted words were the crux of the entire case via the Township Zoning Ordinance. Several dozen residents, including myself, attended the meeting with large “Stop Wawa” signs to show our displeasure with the project. Efforts to fight the project have gone on for over two years as residents feel that a large gas station being built just 70 feet from residential properties is thoroughly ridiculous and frankly dangerous. Residents had also asked via a sign that ZHB Chairman John Fenningham recuse himself over a potential conflict of interest with Wawa. After seeing the sign, Fenningham gave a lengthy description as to why he believed he did not have to recuse himself, saying he never represented parties involved with the development of a Wawa.

Christopher Papa, the lawyer representing residents who oppose the project, argued via a series of articles and studies that Wawa’s gas operation is an essential part of their business. John Vanluvanee, counsel for Wawa’s developer (Provco Pinegood Northampton LLC.), argued that Zoning Officer Mike Solomon’s previous determination that gas is just one of many retail products sold at Wawa stores is correct and that gas is not special or requires going through a conditional use hearing. Additionally, the Zoning Officer previously determined that the sale of gasoline is comparable to the sale of other retail products such as baked goods that the township zoning ordinance permits “by right” in C2 Commercial Zones. Many in the community found that assertion flatly ridiculous. How could the sale of baked goods possibly be compared to the sale of gas in any reasonable person’s mind?

“Stop Wawa Potluck Protest”
Credit: Submitted

After hearing the testimony, the zoning board ultimately determined it will take one week to decide the case and will issue a ruling on June 27. Residents are hopeful for a good ruling, although we are uncertain it will go our way despite what seems to be clear evidence that Wawa’s gas operation is not “entirely incidental”. Either way, the board’s ruling must be reviewed by Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Judge Denise Bowman who originally remanded the case back to the zoning board after she deemed Provco/Wawa’s previous arguments lacking “substantial evidence”. If she deems the ruling unsatisfactory once more, the case could be thrown up in the air again. Following the zoning meeting, many residents against the project held a “Stop Wawa Potluck Protest” to rally support for the cause of preventing a mega gas station in our community. The event is pictured above.

 

Credit: Submitted

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Human Interest - Bensalem Township

Voice of the People Op-Ed: Opposition to Automated Traffic Enforcement

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The following Voice of the People Op-ed was submitted to Lower Bucks Source byTom McCarey of Berwyn, PA and was edited only for style. 

Automated Traffic Enforcement

I am 100% opposed to automated traffic enforcement of any type, as well as the predatory engineering and enforcement that goes along with it.

Automated traffic enforcement  is an enforcement-for-profit racket that has nothing to do with highway safety.  Automated traffic enforcement makes the highways more dangerous.

What is needed for highway safety is best practices highway safety engineering. That includes setting speed limits at  85th Percentile Speeds,  longer yellow lights,  ending the illegal use of stop signs to slow traffic,  longer flashing yellows on school buses.

The purported rationales used to promote automated enforcement are false.

For instance, there is no need for work zone speed cameras: “Transportation Officials Using Bogus Worker Death Data” “Inflated worker death numbers used to implement…programs that have no proven beneficial safety effect,” The Newspaper.com 

For instance, there is no need for speed cameras:  “The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced today that in 2022, statewide traffic deaths decreased to 1,179 from 1,230 in 2021.

“Reportable crashes were also down in 2022, amounting to the second lowest on record since 1951.With the overall decrease in traffic deaths, fatalities in several crash types reached new lows.” WTAJ News April 27, 2023

Credit: YouTube Screenshot

My opposition to speed cameras comes from the real-world failure of the cameras to deliver any safety benefits.

Washington, D.C. speed cameras have not improved traffic safety. Accident rates have not improved in Washington, DC after issuing $500 million in speed camera tickets.

Washington, DC has been using speed cameras for more than a decade, but traffic safety has not improved. The city’s private vendors have mailed more than 7 million photo tickets and collected a half-billion dollars in revenue; injury accidents have not declined as they have throughout the rest of the country.

To make intersections safer, add 1 second to the yellow light time.  This will eliminate 70% of red light violations, making red light cameras unnecessary and unprofitable.

I urge the Pennsylvania Legislature to reject all automated traffic enforcement in Pennsylvania, and to repeal the automated traffic enforcement already on the books in Pennsylvania.  Legislators should not be in the business of raising revenue from safe drivers.  Thank you.

Editor’s Note: On Monday the Senate Transportation Committee will hold a public meeting on automated traffic enforcement of traffic violations beginning at 11 am. You watch the live stream of the hearing by clicking here. 

Sincerely,
Tom McCarey
285 Dayleview Road
Berwyn, PA 19312

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Cops, Courts & Fire - Yardley Borough

Voice of the People: Repeal Act 38 of 2020: Modified Stop-Arm Camera Law Is Unjust

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The following submission was submitted to the Lower Bucks Source “Voice of the People” Op-Ed section. The views and opinions expressed in the submission are those of the writer.

The submission is in direct response to a story published on September 24, 2022, titled ” Bensalem Police Report 25 Red Light Violations Per School Day in Spite of Bus Cameras” 

In the state legislature, Act 38 of 2020 sadly became law, and should be repealed.

This measure modified the stop-arm camera law for illegally passing school buses. It assumes a vehicle’s owner was driving, and takes away motorists rights. Will also allow multiple entities to reap profits, based upon the number of tickets, which will act as an incentive to make sure the tickets keep flowing.The goal should be to prevent illegal school bus passing, not try to rake in revenue without trying to correct a potential problem.

The law will do nothing to solve anything, as that is not the point.

Where is the requirement for a minimum flashing yellow duration? How about mandating stop-arm extenders to block the next lane? Making bus stops only on the right side of the bus to prevent crossing the roads? Adults to cross the kids, as some areas do? Moving bus stops to smaller roads and away from intersections?

If a flashing yellow is too short, what is the incentive to fix it? Same for moving bus stops to more suitable locations. In some places you may not see a bus, may not be able to safely stop, or not know if you must stop.

Pennsylvania law differs from those of most states, as there is no nationwide standard. You will not see a bus on intersecting roads.

What happens if you are already near the bus when the lights change to flashing reds? Are split-second violations issued? Also, people may end up slamming the brakes or flooring it, if they think they could get tickets. This would actually create an unsafe situation, perhaps?

James Sikorski Jr. PA Advocate National Motorists Association.

The above was edited according to Associated Press standards and guideline for news organizations only.

For information on how to submit your op-ed to the VOP section, please click here 

Credit: Submitted

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Education - Bensalem Township

We Cannot Truly Address Racial Injustice in Pa. without Fixing our Unfair Public School Funding System

The following Op-ed was jointly written by the following members of the PA House Democratic Caucus leadership team: Rep. Matt Bradford (Democratic Appropriations Chair), Rep. Jordan Harris (Democratic Whip), and Rep. Frank Dermody (Minority Leader).

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Op- ed submitted to Lower Bucks Source ‘Voice of the People’ section 

For the last three weeks, many in our country have had their consciousness awakened to long-standing fundamental inequities disproportionately impacting communities and people of color. In the wake of the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, and in the midst of a global pandemic, we have all been called to acknowledge and confront systemic racism. In Pennsylvania, the Legislative Black Caucus courageously advanced the policy conversation by demanding votes on languished police reforms, but the conversation cannot end there. We must have an open and honest conversation to address the racial and socioeconomic inequities and injustices in our public school system.

 

It has been over 66 years since the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, based upon the belief that separate schools provided for unequal access to education and opportunity. Despite this ruling, racial and economic segregation persist in public education throughout the nation. Pennsylvania is no exception. The commonwealth ranks 44th in the nation in terms of its investment in education, paying only 38 percent of the cost of education on average. The responsibility to fund education is left to local communities that have vastly different abilities to raise necessary dollars.

Consider these examples of local taxing capacity per weighted student – an element of the Fair Funding Formula – of neighboring school districts. If taxing at the same rate, Lower Merion School District would raise $32,441 per student, while Philadelphia School District and Norristown Area School District would only raise $3,685 and $7,505, respectively. In Lehigh County, Parkland School District would receive $13,260 per student at the same time that Allentown City School District would only generate $2,626. Across the state in Allegheny County, Montour School District would generate $14,805 per student while Sto-Rox School District only could expect $2,671.

White student enrollment constitutes 14 percent of Philadelphia School District, 15 percent of Norristown Area School District, 9 percent of Allentown City SD, and 28 percent of Sto-Rox School District. On the other hand, white student enrollment hits 70 percent in Lower Merion School District, 64 percent in Parkland School District, and 85 percent in Montour School District. The state and federal funding added to the mix in these poorer, more racially diverse districts does little to level the playing field. In aggregate, Pennsylvania’s wealthiest 100 school districts spend $5,284, or 48 percent, more per weighted student than the least advantaged 100 school districts.

Starting with less – less education, less access, less income, less opportunity – makes the future that much harder. The pandemic has painted it in stark contrast. Some students were almost immediately connected to their teachers through technology, while others were working with photocopied worksheets. Money matters in education. When we address the systemic racial and socioeconomic inequities of our funding mechanisms, we will make real progress toward closing the achievement gap, where on average, white students score nearly two grade levels higher than black students. Along the way, we need to diversify Pennsylvania’s 96 percent white educator workforce – the least diverse in the country.

We can combat these inequities and improve upon our near last ranking by increasing the state’s investments in education – something we failed to do in the recently passed stop-gap budget. The Fair Funding Formula is the right vehicle, but it is only as good as the amount of funding running through it – currently just 11.2 percent. That is like having a membership to a state-of-the-art gym and going twice a year.

The culprit preventing every school district from receiving its fair share is a policy commonly called hold-harmless, which is really a misnomer. For many communities of color, the effect is ‘hold-harmed.’ This policy guarantees a base amount for each school district, baking in the inequitable distributions of the past. If ‘hold-harmed’ was eliminated, Norristown would receive an additional $16 million, Philadelphia – an additional $402 million, Allentown – an additional $87 million, and Sto-Rox – an additional $3 million. What makes all of this even worse is that the stop gap budget set up a dangerous precedent of another year of ‘hold-harmed’ further exacerbating this longstanding unfair funding structure.

It is time to address these inequities once and for all. The Pennsylvania legislature must start by getting to work to pass a full budget that prioritizes a quality education for all children, regardless of their race or zip code. The only way forward is to put the politics and the partisanship aside and work together to create a better Pennsylvania for everyone.

.
 The above  was jointly written by the following members of the PA House Democratic Caucus leadership team: Rep. Matt Bradford (Democratic Appropriations Chair), Rep. Jordan Harris (Democratic Whip), and Rep. Frank Dermody (Minority Leader) 

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