The Planning Commission are Your Neighbors

The Buckingham Township Planning Commission is made up of 7 members of the community who volunteer their time to be a part of an advisory body that makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors regarding issues of development, open space and community growth. They are the first body to review a plan submission when it comes into the Township.

These residents take the time out of their busy schedules to volunteer for their community by reviewing all subdivision and land development plans that come before the Township at their monthly meetings.  Working within the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code, Township Ordinances and with the direction of the Township Planner, Engineer and Landscape Review Consultants, the Commission scrutinizes all plans submitted for development and presents their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for consideration once the land development or subdivision plan is in front of them. 

The Board of Supervisors CANNOT participate in the process at the Planning Commission

The Board of Supervisors has the ultimate responsibility for decisions on a land development and subdivision plan; they act much like a “judge”. Because the Board of Supervisors will be making the final decision after reviewing all the information provided, they cannot participate in the process unless and until the plan is in front of them for review.  If any Board member shows even the potential for bias or the appearance of non-objectivity it may be enough to constitute a violation of “due process”.[1] This potential violation of due process can lead to the applicant (developer) calling for the recusal of the Board from reviewing the warehouse plan meaning the Township could have no part in the decision.

The Township wants Our Residents to be able to Participate

The Township has been made aware of a potential concerted effort to overwhelm the Township Planning Commission meeting with people including non-residents from non-bordering municipalities and their friends in response to the Township’s decision to not change the meeting location (venue). The Township welcomes participation of our residents and neighbors but hopes that people are not trying to prevent Buckingham residents from attending and participating by stacking the meeting. We urge only those who have a real interest in the project to attend.

Because of an email campaign to overwhelm the Township Manager with email requests to change the venue, the Township received 40 total emails from both residents and non-residents requesting the Township change the meeting location for the upcoming Planning Commission and all subsequent meetings on the warehouse proposal. Since a couple of the emails had additional inquiries, those received a slightly different response; most received the response below. 

Text of Township Response to the Request to Change of “Venue” (Meeting Place)

“Buckingham Township is encouraged to see the level of interest in and participation of the community in the proposed warehouse in the planned industrial zoning district.  We understand that the upcoming Planning Commission Meeting will likely be well attended, and we welcome the community’s participation in the process.

The Township has received several similar requests as part of an email campaign to change the venue of the Planning Commission meeting and all subsequent meetings on the proposed warehouse to a different venue. The Township has considered the requests and has chosen to hold the meeting at the Township building.

Residents rely on the fact that all township meetings are held at the township building.  Whether it’s the Board of Supervisors, the Zoning Hearing Board, the Planning Commission, or the Environmental Advisory Committee to name a few of our boards and commissions, all of their meetings are at the Township building and all are open to the public.  Residents know that if they want to attend a meeting they must only look to the date and time and they know exactly where to go to participate.

Other residents don’t want to pay to move the venue. Moving a venue if even available has costs.  Whether it be the cost of the rental room itself, the costs of staff both at the Township and the venue, and the costs of advertising the change in meeting place, the vast majority of residents don’t want the Township to use taxpayer funding to move a meeting each time it is requested.  If the Township were to move the venue for this proposed development, especially at the Planning Commission meeting stage, it would need to move all future meetings on this proposed development and open it up for any future requests to move the venue for meetings on other proposed projects or issues.  

The Township meeting room can accommodate more than you think. At the last Planning Commission meeting there were a good number of empty seats spread out throughout the rows that can be filled. For standing room, people can spread out along the perimeter of the room both along the back and the far side of the room rather than congregating at the doorway area.

The proposed warehouse is not the only item on the agendas. While we understand that the proposed warehouse is an important topic for many, there are other topics of discussion on these meeting agendas that are equally as important to your neighbors. If the Township were to change the venue for only certain public meetings, those residents who want to attend public meetings on these other items may find themselves at the wrong venue and unable to participate.

The Township has hosted many large meetings on important topics to the township residents throughout the years and all have taken place in the township meeting room. We thank you for your interest in the community and your patience as the Township tries to balance the interests of all residents who want to participate in local government. “ 

The Township considered the request and made the decision based on the considerations listed above.  We have great respect for our residents and hope we can all work together. 

[1] Springwood v Bd. of Suprs. of N. Cornwall, 985 A2d 298 (Pa Cmwlth. Ct. 2009), a supervisor who, inter alia, “was elected as a member of the Board of Supervisors (Board) in November 2007 and took office on January 7, 2008. (Supervisor) Kelly ran his campaign as an opponent of commercial development in North Cornwall Township and spoke out in opposition to Walmart during the conditional use hearing process” In disqualifying the supervisor the court noted,...[A]dministrative or adjudicative tribunals must be unbiased and must avoid even the appearance of bias to be in accordance with the principles of due process. Thornbury Twp. Bd. of Supervisors v. W.D.D., Inc., 119 Pa.Cmwlth. 74, 546 A.2d 744, 746 (1988) (citations omitted). See also Christman v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Twp. Of Windsor, 854 A.2d 629 (Pa.Cmwlth.2004) (member of local governing body, acting in performance of its quasi-judicial functions, should recuse himself where the record demonstrates bias, prejudice, capricious disbelief, or prejudgment).

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