County's Replies

Although the Bucks County Planning Commission did not provide answers to most of our questions, here are two important answers they provided: 

ALL Northampton residents (Holland, Churchville, Richboro, Ivyland) will pay MORE taxes for trail maintenance, police, new emergency vehicles, storage of vehicles, crossing guards, porta potties, etc.

Adjacent homeowners will have to supply their own fencing and insurance at their own cost, even though most don't want it.

These answers were enough for Northampton Supervisors to make their decisions.  Bike groups wrongly state that they need more information and that township supervisors withheld the County's information from the residents.  These questions were provided to the Bucks County Planning Commission at the Northampton Township Board of Supervisors Meeting held at Richboro Midde School September 15, 2016.  The County did not provide adequate answers to most of our questions, and their inadequate replies were allegedly made October 14, 2016 to the township administrator on blank paper, not on letterhead, and were provided to the three residents who asked them, on December 5, 2016.  Why the delay? The replies are published here.  Again, the important answers are above in red.

Here are Jeff's questions and their reply to Jeff:

Jeff's Questions

I have some written questions which I will provide the Bucks County Planning Commission and our supervisors.

• How and why should the supervisors decide on whether to conduct an engineering study, without even having some basic information first?

• In fact, why are we being told we have to approve an engineering study to answer some basic questions, while there are 20 technicians and planners on Bucks County salary who

could have provided these answers already? Familiar tactic, like when we have to pass Obamacare into law in order to see what’s in it, like passing a motion on the trail in order to see what’s in it.

• How many on the Bucks County Planning Commission and staff toured our neighborhood along the tracks and spoke to adjacent homeowners? How many talked to the bike organizations or went to their meetings?

• What is the economic benefit to the township to justify more expenses and taxes?

• How many people will be using the trail daily, weekly, monthly, yearly?

• Which police force will be responsible for patrolling and responding? (Northampton, state troopers, county park rangers)? How long will it take them to arrive at a call?  What is the policing cost, including personnel, vehicles, etc. In fact, shouldn’t an economic benefit cover the costs? Or should the bikers cover it? Or the people here who are supporting it?

• How many thousands of trees will be cut down for this alley way?

• Where will you be planting trees to compensate for the woods and wildlife destruction?

• We have a high water table, and homes built on Grant Drive, Jefferson Court and Penn Circle which abut the tracks, were built without basements due to the water shed.  Trees help with water absorption, and you are calling for the detrimental removal of the trees. We can’t afford any more storm water that will be shed onto our properties. The current basin is at maximum capacity behind Jefferson Court at the Pine Run Creek. Isn’t that part of the wetlands? Has there been a water table test?

• Please provide me with copies of the studies and documents you cite, so I can see what you are NOT saying and I can say it at the next meeting.

Reply to Jeff 

 

  1. Bucks County Planning Commission staff has provided some basic information. The Bucks County Planning Commission staff is responsible for the planning and ordinance needs of the 54 municipalities of Bucks County all have planning, including review of development plans, preparation of ordinances, economic development studies, housing assessments, etc., in addition to the countywide responsibilities for transportation planning, recycling, open space preservation, farmland preservation,  hazard mitigation, housing, solid waste management,  and other tasks assigned by the County Commissioners. In addition to lacking the staff capacity to undertake the next level of assessment, we need the expertise of trail designers and engineers to take a closer look at the specific trail and community needs,

  2. BCPC staff members engaged in this project have been on site and have seen the rail line and the adjacent neighborhoods. Many staff members are working on other projects in all par ts of the county and have no reason to participate in this trail project.

  3. Trail users - We do not have projections on the number of users. There has been a very new program started by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Cori1:mission to count trail users. There may be some data on existing trails elsewhere in the region.

  4. Police - Itis my suggestion that the township ask local police chiefs from communities with active trail systems to address your concerns. I understand that you would feel better hearing a discussion on potential crime problems directly from law enforcement professionals with experience in similar situations.

  5. Tree removal and tree replacement -An engineering assessment is needed to see if any trees need to be removed and where buffers and additional landscaping would be desired or required.

  6. Water Table -This is question that must be answered bu t can only be answered as part of the engineering design and assessment.

 

 

10/14/16

Here are Bruce's questions and their reply to Bruce:

Bruce's Questions

• Northampton Township has the longest portion (4.5 miles) of the proposed Trail compared to all of the other Bucks County municipalities. The Bucks County Planning Commission has already made presentations over the better part of the past year to all of the other townships. Why is Northampton Township the last of these presentations?

• Describe how the opening / closing of the proposed Trail will be enforced on a daily basis along its entire length in Northampton Township

• Who will enforce it? How many additional police will be required?

• Have you analyzed the operational and financial impact of this proposed Trail on the Northampton Township police department? If “yes”, please provide your data.

• In an April 4, 2016 article that appeared in the Bucks Local News, County Planner Richard Brahler in addressing crime concerns stated that “the possibility of crime happening is limited to some minor theft and property damage.” Define “minor theft and property damage”. It certainly is NOT a small matter to the victims. Will the County reimburse property owners who will be victims “of some minor theft and property damage? Is this the new standard of living that will exist for those property owners? When did this become the acceptable standard of living in Northampton Township?

• Will the Trail be closed entirely at any time during the year? If “yes”, when? How will that be implemented and enforced?

• What will be the cost (salaries; benefits; equipment) for additional police personnel & equipment such as bicycles for police; 4 x 4 “gator”; motorcycles; snow mobile; training to operate new equipment?

What is your estimated cost for court time for police regarding trespassing and other criminal activities by persons cited for these activities while on the Trail?

• Cost for crossing guards at Old Jordan Rd; East Holland Rd; Holland Rd; Bustleton Pike

• Cost of Porta Pottys? Who will purchase them, maintain them, how often will they be serviced and at what cost?

• Operating costs – who is responsible and what are the costs for: trail maintenance; daily trash pick- up; mowing grass; clearing debris; repairing vandalism; shrub / tree and other

encroachment control

•  Homeowners issues:

Will the County pay / reimburse property owners for the cost of increased liability  insurance?

Will the adjacent property owners be added to the County insurance policies as “additional insured”?

Will the County indemnify property owners that are adjacent to the proposed Trail?

Will the County enter into a contractual agreement for 99 years with adjacent property owners to pay for:

fences on private property and maintenance / repair of these fences; survey for fence; removal or trimming of trees on private property that overhang the proposed Trail; security systems and installation; security system monitoring monthly fee; pest control as wildlife will scatter as their habitat is destroyed during trail construction and will lack natural predators

•  Jordan Corners HO Association has about 350 yards that abuts the rail line as part of our 21 acres of posted private property. On the advice of Counsel, we will not accept or even discuss a fence, plantings or any type of screening material on our property as part of any engineering for a Trail; will not grant any easements to our property to any governmental entity; business, or person(s) for any reason and will strictly enforce our no trespassing policies at all times by calling the police and pressing charges against those cited for trespassing on our land. Given these parameters, what assurances can be given from the County that there will be no trespassers on our posted private property or the properties of JCHA members; that there will be no trash strewn on our private property or homes by Trail users; that JCHA property owners will not suffer any property damage by persons who access our neighborhood by the trail? Will the County reimburse JCHA or individual Association members in the event that any of these events occur?

Reply  to Bruce

 

  1. Schedule of meetings - We met with municipalities as schedules permitted. We needed to get on agendas in various communities, and we do not control those agendas. In some cases it required coordination of staff availability and municipal schedules. We began with Upper Southampton because their officials have been asking for a trail for many years.

  2. Opening and closing the trail -The hours of trail accessibility would be the topic of future discussions if the township chooses to move ahead.

  3. Police Needs -It is my suggestion that the township ask local police chiefs from communities with active trail systems to address your concerns. I understand that you would feel better hearing a discussion on potential crime problems directly from law enforcement professionals. Several of the questions deal with police costs, which are best answered by municipal police departments with trail systems.

  4. Toilet facilities -None of the local trail systems tha t have been developed in Bucks County have toilet facilities, unless they are located within parks. There is no anticipation that these would be  provided.

  5. Operating Costs - Existing trails within Bucks County municipalities are all currently maintained by the municipality.

  6. Homeowner Issues - No, the County will not pay for added insurance or miscellaneous costs requested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/14/16

Here are Joe's questions and their reply to Joe:

Joe's Questions

Northampton Township Rails to Trails Meeting 9-15-16

 

All questions and comments are directed to Lynn Bush unless otherwise noted. I will read them off, and supply you with a copy when finished. In an effort to conserve time and allow others to speak, I would prefer the answers to these questions in writing asap, except for the last one.

 

Ms. Bush, in gathering trail crime and crime committed against adjacent home owners statistics, has your staff used the FBI's national Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)?  Have they also contacted all of Bucks County's local police departments to gather quality of life and nuisance crimes that typically to not appear on UCR reports but are kept locally? Have the trail lobbyists provided you with crime data? Have you included studies found on the internet and how have they been verified? When will the County's crime studies on trails and adjacent homes be made available to the public?

 

How many trail users are estimated for Bucks County's portion of the PennyPack trail? Yearly_____ Monthly_______ Weekly_________Summer__________ Winter________

 

What written evidence has SEPTA or Bucks County provided Northampton Township (NHT) regarding SEPTA's legal authority to sublet the the Newtown rail ROW for other than rail road purposes? Does this evidence date back to the 1870's when the land was given? How many NHT land owners made a deal with railroad in the 1870's? Are all of those transactions similar? In the spirit of transparency will the county planners provide this information?

 

How is the Fox Chase/Newtown line currently listed on the Surface Transportation Board's system map? Has Septa officially filed this line for abandonment with the board? If yes, please explain the details? If no, why not?

 

Is the Newtown rail line part of the federal rail-banking program?

 

Is the Newtown rail to trail conversion an official Rails to Trails Conservancy project? If yes please explain what that means? If no, why not? In the spirit of transparency, please make public the written RTTC endorsement.

 

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The Bucks County planning board recently received an update from SEPTA's Director of Strategic Planning and Analysis on Projects in Bucks County. To summarize, SEPTA's increased funding from multiple sources “will allow for a backlog of $5 billion of fixable assets to be completed and growth within the company." The emphasis here is on growth.

 

It has been reported that SEPTA will retain the right to reclaim the rail line at any time regardless of its current use. That being said, would the NHT rail trail be a permanent or temporary use?

 

As a matter of public record and in the spirit of transparency we would like a copy of the lease SEPTA is offering Southampton Twp and NHT so it can be publicly reviewed.

 

If Northampton votes NO on the Newton rails to trails, will Bucks County pull out of the project? If yes, is it possible for the other municipalities to apply for same or similar grants to develop their portion of the trail if they so chose? Could they spend their local taxes to develop their portion of the trail? Could the lobbyists raise millions of dollars and donate it to develop their portion of the trails? So when I read in the local paper “the whole project is dependent on NHT approval” is that true or false and misleading?

 

Mr Gordon you were quoted in the Advance 4-07-16 about this project, “were not trying to railroad this.” Said Gordon, ”We're not trying to force this on any one.”  I want to thank you for that statement. I believe you are sincere, my hopes are the other county planners and elected officials feel the same as you. Based on the tactics and half truth's the lobbyist are putting out there I believe it's win at any cost for them. Now in the same article, I'll paraphrase here: local municipalities (Newtown Boro) would be responsible for trail maintenance ie: mowing, weeding, trash removal and crack sealing. Worst case scenario $5400.00 annually for 1/2mile of trail. Mr Gordon, in the spirit of transparency, please provide NHT with the line item break down of the $5400 cost. It was also reported on 01-26-16 in the Courier Times, and again I'll paraphrase do to time constraints, Bucks County Environmental planner Paul Gordon said bicyclist tell him they are tired of riding the loop around Core Creek Park. They want to go some where else. The emphasis here is on the word "want". Let me say, rail trails are a want of a few but an expense for all.  Again thank you for your comments sir.

 

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How much in private cash donations have the out of town lobbyist groups and those who have allegedly signed their petitions donated to offset the 8 to10 million tax dollars that will be needed to build the 8.5 mile temporary trail in Bucks County?

Lower Makefield based - Bike Bucks County $_______

Their parent corporation – Phila Bike Coalition $________

Washington DC based – Rails to Trails Conservancy $________

Southampton based – Penn-Tammany Greenway Coalition, The Group, Build our Trail or whatever other name of the day this group of 8-10 choose to call themselves $_______

 

Ms. Bush, according to Bucks County Planning minutes Your staffers have attended Penntamany and Bike Bucks County meetings. They have supplied these lobbyist groups with information to hand out at events such as Northampton Days and have phoned them with regular monthly updates on trails.

 

To date, how many tax dollars has the county spent on developing the Newtown rail trail? Lets not forget these are tax dollars spent without NHT approval. Correct me if I am wrong NHT is by far the largest stakeholder in this project. Why wasn't NHT approached first?

 

Last question is a yes or no. I would prefer an answer when I have fished speaking.

 

Ms. Bush, in the spirit of fairness and transparency I respectfully request to be included in a monthly conference call with your staffers and the lobby groups Bike Bucks County and or Penn-Tammany Greenway Coalition for trail updates. Will you instruct your staff to do this and personally enforce the order?

 

Also, Mr. Chairman and NHT Supervisors, should NHT approve Rails to Trails, I will personally incur cost totaling over $11,500 for fencing, tree removal, & increased liability insurance. This will be a financial burden for our family. I would also be forced to keep shades down and lights on in the day time for in home privacy. Exterior security lights will be on from dusk to dawn.

Living in a fish bowl and worrying about my family's safety especially when I'm away from home will become my norm. This undue stress will adversely affect my well being. I hope you will consider these facts in your decision process.

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Reply to Joe's Questions

 

  1. Crime Statistics - First, I am not sure wha t is meant by the "trail lobbyist." This appears several times and I do not know what that means or who that is. It is my suggestion that the township ask local police chiefs from communi ties with active trail systems to address you r concerns. I understand that you would feel better hearing a discussion on potential crime problems directly from law enforcement professionals with experience in similar situations.

  2. Trail users -We do not have projections on the number of users. There has been a very new program started by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to count trail users. There may be some data on existing trails elsewhere in the region.

  3. SEPTA -SEPTA assures us that they control the line and can lease it to municipalities for trail use.

  4. This is not an official "Rails to Trails Conservancy" project. I do not know what their function is in local projects. We are proceeding with our projects just as we would with any other park or recreation project.

  5. Term of lease -We understand that the lease is for 30 years. The intention is that it be a permanent facility, but no one cannot predict what the needs will be in 30 years. If and when a lease is considered for signature by the county or the township, it will be public record because it has to be considered at a public meeting. We do not yet know who, if anyone, will be signing a lease.

  6. The question before Northampton Supervisors is whether or not they would like to work with the County to seek funding for an engineering assessment for a rail trail. If the Northampton supervisors indicate that they are not interested in doing a study to learn more about how the trail could be designed to provide a recreational opportunity for township residents while respecting the property and quality of life of neighbors, then the County will concentrate on other projects. The Upper Southampton section will be built up to Bristol Road.

  7. Maintenance Costs would be better defined as part of the engineering assessment. We would need specific information on trail width, alignment, buffers, etc. Itwould be best to get actual numbers from other communities with trails. In the extensive Bike and Hike trail system in Doylestown, each of the municipalities involved maintains its own trail sections. As par t of the engineering assessment, details on maintenance tasks and costs can be determined.

  8. Cash Donations - I know nothing about any cash donations. Obviously the County would not be involved in this.

  9. Coordination with Nor thampton - We met with municipalities as schedules permitted. We needed to get on agendas in various communities, and we do notcontrol those agendas. In some cases it required coordination of staff availability and municipal schedules. We began with Upper Southampton because. their officials have been asking for a h·ail for many years.

10. Conference calls -There are no regular conference calls. People call us from time to time, some more often than others and some on a regular basis. As public employees, we speak to all residents who call us.

10/14/16