Plot Thickens in Newtown
A few things I left out:
There was a blow up last week between Supervisor Jack Dipompeo and Solicitor Bruce Irvine.
While going over some legal issues concerning the BPG by-right plan with Dipompeo and Supervisor Linda Houldin, Irvine allegedly made a crack about how Dipompeo would run back to BPG with the info because of his being in BPG's back pocket.
Dipompeo exploded and told off Irvine in no uncertain terms and left the room furious.
"I lost it, I admit it," Dipompeo told me. But explained he was sick of what he considered to be Irvine's unprofessional needling and insults.
Dipompeo said he has been in favor of the Town Center project over the alternative from the beginning. He has said that he didn't blame BPG for being frustrated with the how they've been treated. He said the normal township process for negotiating and approving development haven't been followed in the case of the Town Center.
He also said that the township did work well and quickly to help BPG get the Bryn Mawr rehab medical center approved and built. But while BPG officials admit that working with the township on that project was better they were still held to different standards than other developers.
They cited the fact that they were required to provide 15 traffic studies before getting approval. Contrast that with developer Claude de Botton getting a zoning change and approval without presenting a single traffic study. The one study he did provide the township was turned in a month AFTER his approval.
The disparity between how the BPG town center project and how Claude de Botton's proposed lifestyle center have been treated is rather stark. BPG makes a pretty good case and shows the different standards that have been applied.
While Supervisor Linda Houldin was proclaiming the importance of holding BPG to a density limit recommended by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Claude was issued a permit to develop his site at nearly twice that density rate.
Her claim to me that "I don't even know Claude de Botton" is being openly ridiculed by people who heard Claude refer to her as "my good friend" at a public gathering not too long ago.
The speed with which the township approved Claude's lifestyle center does seem pretty amazing.
Rumor has it Newtown GOP leader Mike Gillin isn't happy with all the attention being brought to his happy little berg. Why should he be? For any political leader scrutiny is never welcome. Things can be twisted or misunderstood too easily.
I called him over the weekend for his views on the most recent Town Center controversy but he didn't get back to me.
Being a political leader is an art. Have too heavy a hand and you lose the loyalty of your people. Have too light a touch and people aren't afraid enough for you to control things.
In the Town Center deal, Gillin, though he has publicly supported the plan, has tried to stay removed and let the elected leaders do their jobs. But they've screwed it all up.
Now Irvine is in BPG's cross-hairs. He is perceived by the developer as having worked against their project while giving Claude a pass.
BPG's view: We're paying the township solicitor while he actively works against us and he's overcharging us to boot. They're making a stink about it. And, of course, I'm helping them by publicizing it. But only because I think they've made a pretty good for themselves.
A lot of lawyers overbill their clients, which is why they have legal fee arbitration boards. But when taxpayers money is at stake it is a little less likely for those fees to be watched closely and challenged. And it is even less likely when the fees are coming out of the "deep" pockets of a developer who has more of an interest in not making waves and getting his project approved than cares about being nickel and dimed by a township.
In Newtown, the solicitor and the supervisors gave BPG no incentive to keep its mouth shut about the way the township has acted and the way they feel they've been treated.