THE YMCA
PROPOSAL TO REZONE MULTIPLE  PROPERTIES SO
BET INVESTMENTS CAN DEVELOP THE YMCA PROPERTY  TO THEIR LIKING


NEXT MEETING :
  Planning Commission Meeting  Feb 27th, 7:30 pm at the Township Building

          The developer has cancelled his second meeting with the community, despite having told everyone at the first  meeting that he would hold another . They would have been able to  make it clear to their Commissioners and to the Developer that another was needed, had he not misled them while they were there.
          The developer, BET,  further says that they will make changes based on the input from the first meeting, but they seem to be refusing to share those amendments with the residents --telling us they will present the ( already outdated) original proposal tot he Planning Commission.
      In doing so they are
refusing the public the right to see how they intend to incorporate the comments made . This robs from the residents  the opportunity to come with researched comments to the Planning Commission meeting.
             At the meeting on 1-29-18 the developer was asked to have multiple meetings if needed ----  clearly NO meetings were needed by the developer so the intent here was to try to satisfy the needs of the residents. This is clearly not being done. Will your Commissioners intervene?  I think we can acknowledge this omen is reflective of the developer's past  and of what is to come.  This developer will be manoeuvering things to his own advantage at the
expense of fair and transparent dealings with the community. In Upper Dublin, the same developer sought to remove the resident's rights to conditional hearings. They discovered it when they requisitioned documents via the Open Records /Right to Know process.

 
Anticipated Meetings to follow
 Feb 28  Code Enforcement  Committee  - the day after the Planning Commission - where they will ask to advise the Board to advertize for a hearing .
March 8 Board of Commissioner's Meeting where they will ask to have the advertizing for a hearing finally approved



If you would like to get connected into this YMCA/Zoning Change  loop - Please contact me

AbingtonTerrace
 

                                                          If you find any errors or do not understand something, please let me know so it can be fixed.

    The Nutshell  : A senior apartment building 5 stories high , 225 units for seniors with a parking garage underneath it and all the "greenspace" built on top of the parking garage  - ie every inch is built . But that is not the issue here . This is not about 1 development- although it is confgusingly being presented that way .  If this passes it will enable MANY  developments  that could be markedly different and even worse than this one, which is pretty bad. 
         
                   
The issue is Developers seeking to change our zoning to suit their needs, which, to avoid spot zoning, means they also claim for themselves the right to rezone unlimited numbers of other properties throughout the Township. They are traditionally not even being required to identify all these other properties when they first come to request  a zoning change - and even when they do, there is little hope that their assessment is accurate.  Their plan changes the nature of what exists all around their property,  other properties, and it also tampers with overall issues of density, traffic, crime, cost of services, police numbers,  etc .
         
                  All qualifying properties under the new zoning  would have ( or apply later for ) A/O (Apartment /Office) zoning. They would need to be on at least 4.7 acres  ( multiple properties can be lots bought separately and pushed together ) and they also would  have  to have 1. A hospital  located within 2,000 feet. 2. Frontage on two roads. 3. Access to public transportation  within 400 feet. 
 
The questions  here are : 1)  should developers be zoning our communities to suit their needs - which are often "profit first" ?
                                        2) what will happen to the next developer who wants to violate all our rules once this precent is set ( attorney filed day )
                                        3) why have the rights of residents been put last rather than first? The rezoning proces needs to change

  Links & Documents          
           
    11-20-17    The Nov 20th Letter to the Township requesting consideration of the text amendment and map change
                11-20-17  The Ordinance As Proposed 11-20-17 with Plot Plans
                11-20-17    The Fiscal Analysis as of 11-20-17
                1-11-18   Video of the Board Of Commissioner's meeting  presentation by BET   click here 
                1-29-18    Video of the Developer's first meeting with the community   click here  
                The stormwater management Ordinance  click here  
                To find your Commissioners phone and email click here

   The Issues  -  Not only is the proposed development  undesirable as it is - consider also :

1) It sets a precedent  regarding  aquiescing to all those who want to change our code township-wide and obtain far more than our zoning  offers them. If  we do that for them, why would another be turned away?

2)  The interests of the applicants wanting to change our code are most often, as they are here, simply larger profit --- This profit comes  at the expense of the home values & quality of life of  nearby residents . The values of every home in Abington is affected by increases in traffic congestion, noise , crime, density etc . When these are done for the benefit of the few , and for the riches of the developer, rather than something that is done for the benefit of the many, this explains how we end up with the wrong zoning to make a good community  

3 ) It sets a precedent  for a bad process where Commissioners move the  applicant forward with no need to do so before they learn from their residents if this is what they want.    When Commissioners are willing to put residents rights second and a developer's first, we can expect our comminities to reflect  the developer's dream , not ours.   tNo agreement to move forward on a change to zoning should happen without a demand for the proposed development by the residents that the Commissioners are elected to serve . After, and only after residents are satisfied their questions have been fully answered and they want to move ahead, should the developer be approved to move to any formal meeting, like Planning Commission. Otherwise residents get put on the fast train and hold no bargaining chips to have the developer actually anser their questions fully.

4) It represents zoning done on the fly, rather than thoughfully. The last zoning changes took years with many, many places for resident input.  Many , many factors were considered. This is a complete departure from what the zoners  agreed was the correct zoning for that plot.  It is just nowhere close to what was envisioned- or reasonable.

5) It will apply in multiple other locations . As of the end of January, no others were  notified of what was happening, all the other possibilities were not identified - unless they are suggesting that only Meadowbrook Apartments would apply . Without true and proper information on this immediately  others who might be affected  may lose their rights before they know they are at risk. 

6) It follows the usual "bargaining manoeuver" where absurd numbers and dimensions are requested , so when they reduce them to perhaps just double the rights they should have had , everyone thinks they "compromised" 

7) It sets up a situation where we could be overrun with legal challenges of others wanting the same rights

8) It sents a trend for overwhelming numbers of  rental units that  might easily upset the balance  of a "homeowner owned" community versus a "tenant occupied/ corporate controlled"  housing community. I can promise you the interests of those two groups are not fully in sync and are often quite opposite . If ever you want to understand it - this is the case to do so....Meadowbrook Apartments has been named as another place where this kind of intense development could take place. What are the odds that any of those tenants, already living in multi-story corporate owned facilities,  would come to meetings to fight for the rights of homeowners being challenged in  zoning matters?

9) The loss of recreational lands and ventures that are not replaced also affect the values of everyone's homes - again , for the profit of a single property owner.

10) Unfair tactics are being used to pass this - with many citizens, who stand to  be greatly impacted,  not even being told of the project. This will be a gift to many developers - at the expense of many residents . It may even be impossible to know how many could qualify, as multiple parcels can be bought and joined, or conditions can be requested to be waived, or legal challenges could provide unhappy results.

11) Our code is being ridiculously "riddled" with silly "conditions" to prevent spot zoning so one developer can profit. These silly conditions make sensible zoning a joke . Do you really think someone 500 ft from a bus stop should have enormously more rights  than someone 400 ft .

12) Monstrosity :  One of the words used by Commissioners to describe what is being presented was "monstrosity" -  is this a developer that you want to give more rights to? 

13) The developer has already renegged on a promised 2nd meeting witht he community. In a neighboring Township,  the same developer was found, through a Right to Know on the internal documents, to be trying to get the Township to quietly quash  the rights of the residents that were due as a part of the conditional use zoning.   Shall we invite this developer to have free rein in Abington?

13)   Stormwater, greenspace, buffers and environmental concerns are literally non-existant  It would set a precedent that would literally repeat every failure that you see in poor city planning and transform Abington into an urban setting - with many of the same urban problems ....

14) The Commissioners had NO OBLIGATION to move this forward before residents had received ample information to give an intelligent and informed response as to wherther this rezoning was in their interest . The process needs to change so that NO zoning challenge like this ever again puts residents last .  Public meetings such a Planning Commission are NOT the best means of deriving information. Open video-taped meetings with back and forth freely allowed are the only way of securing information fully for residents

   Who, When  and Where  :  In November 2017 BET Investments  sent a formal letter with documents proposing to develop the property most know as the Abington YMCA property at the corner of Old York and Susquehanna Rds in the heart of Abington and at one of it's busiest intersections.  The YMCA, a treasured facility that has served preschoolers to seniors in such a variety of capacities for so many years would soon become vacant by virtue of the plan for Abington  & Hatboro YMCA's combined new "super" facility planned to be built on the site of the former Willow Grove Day Camp on Davisville Rd in Upper Moreland. BUT this is not what this is about . This proposal allows for resoning elsewhere and it may NOT look like what is being proposed here at all .

   The Proposal : It is by BET Investments and  involves 2 steps to change the zoning -  a text amendment and a map amendment - and then a proposed development  on the site  of the newly rezoned YMCA property.  Presenting these together often makes it confusing for residents - because once the zoning is approved,  another development on a different site  that has been simultaneously rezoned ( required, because "spot zoning" for one property is not allowed)  may look nothing at all like the YMCA project, yet this is what's being used to obtain zoning in multiple places. As of  the end of January 2018, tno others in  other locations appear to have been notofied.    If they don't know & therefore don't come, however, this zoning  will be much more likely to pass, because there will be far fewer voices against it  and then a property directly ajacent to them will have those excessive uses by right.... the residents'  input will no longer be necessary  .  This is the situation your Commissioners are setting up.  In addition, unless a special clause or resolution is included to prevent it , there is nothing stopping the YMCA property from "changing it's mind" either - and building anything that fits in the guidelines, once the new zoning is secure.  Zoning stays with the land .  at the 1-29-18 meeting Markman said , in essence, he would make assurances of what he would build as was decided via the process to approve.

  Where Else  This zoning change must include other locations, otherwise it would be considered  "spot" zoning  which is not allowed . As of the end of January, no other residents  were  notified of what was happening, and all the other possibilities were not identified.   On 1-29-18 Commissioner Spiegelman   said only Meadowbrook Apartments would apply besides the YMCA . It does not appear to me to be accurate because multiple properties can be pushed together and  because zoning can be changed to A/O won the whim of the Commissioners. They also failed to even  consider Einstein , which , although it is in Cheltenham, the Abington properties across the street  would be within 2000 feet of a hospital -and therefore it seems they are also fair game if multiple properties were bought. 

  What is the Key  Issue ?   In addition to the properties not being identified,  what affects the township the most is the trend of  developers coming in, going around all the normal zoning processes and asking for such excessive increases to their rights ...such  that every one in the Township is affected.  That is the key issue here . Will it be allowed - and what will the process for such applications be?  They had no requirement to move forward with this until the residents were in agreement that it would be a benefit.  So why did it move forward - challenging the residents  to get quickly up to speed and to try and stop the on-coming train. Those are not Commissioners working for me . Those are Commissioners working for Mr Markman and BET.

The 2 steps that are needed to change the zoning :
1)
Map Amendment to Rezone the whole property to A/O  Currently there is  split zoning between Community Service (CS)  ,  and mid density residential (R3), with only a small part as CS .  Most of the lot is R3 and the part that is next to most of the  the existing homes is R3 The developer wants it all to A/O ( Apartment-Office) .  A/O is certainly a far more intense use than R3, which would allow one house on  a 75 x 100 parcel with 30ft front and rear buffers and 12 ft  side buffers

2)
Add Extra Uses & Rights with a Text Amendment to the A/O district:   To benefit himself only, the  developer wants to add "H12 Senior Apartments" to the A/O zoning uses where they get superior rights to all other A/O owners by increasing the height &  the density, reducing buffers , greenspace,  & parking requirements  etc. etc etc --- all for "fiscal benefit" .
   New township -wide zoning just passed in April 2017 (deliberated for 4 years because zoning is important) updated our entire zoning ordinance and allowing for far more rights in nearly every district than was previously had.  This application plans to far exceed even those new-found gains. New-found gains for A/O districts, for instance, already included 1st floor grocery stores, laundry facilities, sitdown restaurants, and  a host of other "gifts" that weren't previously part of A/O and that some of us don't think wise to include everywhere. Offices, run generally in the daytime , are far better partners than grocery stores or restaurants  who want to stay open as late as possible & have thousans of customers in and out for brief periods, as well as deliveries all times of the day and night, noise, odors  and other side effects such as , early morning dumpster activity and excessive signage for specials , etc

How "Spot Zoning"  Plays a Role Here
A
property owner may not ask to have justhis  own property  rezoned differently for his own benfit & convenience. That is called spot zoning and is not legal. However,  he  may propose a brand new ordinance, or amend a current one, as is being done here with a "Text Amendment" . Although this developer could have just used the A/O regulations that exist ( for other, more ordinary people) and built a development with 80 units -- he doesn't want to do that - becasue it won't get him enough $ .So ,  he has, apparently, chosen one other property that he believes would get rezoned too - and on1-29-18 .  He admitted that he put in regulations to limit other properties.  So this zoning is not good for other property owners, except for himself and he thinks one other property..... Meadowbrook Apartments ,. does that seem to anyone as though it honors the intention of the zoning laws, that do not allow you to spot zone your own property.  I would sincerely doubt that they intended that you could spot zone two of them, either.   I am personally not fond of developers who seek to pinnacle away around my zoning laws so they can have way more than everyone else in the same position.

 
    Unfair Notification Practices & Procedures in General :
  When did they know & when did residents know ?   I first learned that the project was being talked about at the County and the Township in June of 2017. A formal letter was sent November 20, 2017 to the Township. Yet, Commissioners who didn't notify their residents until just days before the Jan 11th  meeting were saying  they had "just found out".  Really?  Such an important development that affects every one of us in so many ways and the Township never told them. The Economic Development Committee never discussed it?  . The Commissioner in whose Ward it is (Sanchez) was kept in the dark?  Do we really believe that ?  The YMCA was finalizing plans  in January 2016 to move to Willow Grove. Does any of you really think that your Commissioners not telling you  anywhere along the way was an "accident",  unavoidable, or unknown to them?  I don't.

 
Choosing a meeting where a vote would not be only "advisory" but would be valid:   
        I would wager that it is NO  coincidence that the project was not put on the December Committee meeting either, where, once seen at eh December Committee Meeting, tresidents would have tiome to formally protest and organize before the 12-14 -17 Board of Commissioners Meeting - In January  there is no January Committee meeting - so Commissioners deceitfully tried to declare that the "public meetings" are hte best or only place to get information . In fact, these meetings ( the Planning Commission and the Code Enforcement/ Land Delelopment Committee meeting are the WORST places for residents to get real answers. Developers typically are given hours to drone on and present charts and graphs . The the Planners or Committee members get to ask their questions. Residents have very limited time at the end ot hte meeting to ask any questions at all - and "back and forth " is rarely encouraged . At a free and open meeting where residents are allowed to question freely and control the flow of the meeting , far more is learned.  Commissioners know that . So they did the residents ( their constituents)  a disservice to not allow that FIRST and to allow the feedback from their residents AFTER free and open ( videotaped ) meetings and before deciding to take any action at all.  That and only that would have been in the best interests of the residents . Instead, after deceitfully trying to imply they could only get information at the public meetings,  9 Commissioners voted  it through, giving the developer everything he wanted and sticking the residents with the worst end of the stick.

 The Commissioners had no obligation to move forward before important questions were answered . Here are the 9 that voted in a manner contrary to the interests of the residents that let them strongly know this was not OK.  They have now been stuck with an obligatory path to follow, meetings to attend and research costs to incur,  no matter the outcome of the residents information sessions. Simultaneously Township-wide residents cannot join their voices because they don't know about it . 
9  voted for that scenario, instead of putting it on hold until the residents had their questions answered and offered their judgement on how they wanted the representaive THEY elected to serve them
. Here are the 9 that chose the developer's over residents' rights : Sanchez Ward 7  ////  Spiegelman Ward 11 ///    Brodsky Ward  2 ///  Rothman Ward 3 ///  Hecker Ward 10 /// Gillespie Ward 13 //// Myers- Ward 8 ///  Luker Ward 5  // Schreiber  Ward 14

  
What areas might be affected ? 
        
1) We are all affected by overbuilding, lack of greenspace and stormwater absorption areas, traffic, and especially by any process that allows developers to obtain such one sided- egregious conditions  just by asking .   Overall Township density, traffic, crime, cost of services, police numbers, flooding,  sewer capacities, etc. are affected. And the urban look and feel of our street where the sky is blocked out by large buildings....
         2) People within 2000 feet of a hospital  are even more threatened-
 
There are many properties that don't fully comply now but with one or two changes could.  The Commissioners have not been averse to authorizing changes in many cases . The Abington Shopping Center , already owned by Markman, is inside one circle - that's in Ward 10 . He says he has no plans to rebuild that in any way  - but in the future that tune might change and he might be able to put an intese use like this there . So it is important to consider the density of this zoning change - and the lack of buffers and greenspce etc.  There is nothing good about setting a precedent for a use so out of character . 
          
3) But really everywhere is fair game  - because as you will see below, this area is not A/O -  the developer is  just asking for it to be changed to A/O - knowing what intense building would result.  He expects the Commissioner will approve it.   There is no place they can't do that if they want to - and  a lawyer could very likely make a good case that there is nothing particular about being near a bus stop or a hospital that makes his property much different than this YMCA  property. It is a ridiculous little clause that was only intended to give this property owner more rights than another property owner. And if the Commissioners do it here - why would they not do it elsewhere.

Here's a link that will help you draw circles like below

Abington Hospital area -
Abington Hospital

Holy Redeemer Hospital area -
Holy Redeemer


Einstein / Moss Rehab  Hospital area -
einstein-mossrehab

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Note :  The Joseph C Scott Medical Center at Rydal Park does not fall withing the definition of "hospital"
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    What is the zoning on the YMCA property now ????  HERE YOU CAN SEE THAT THIS IS MUCH MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS THAT ALLOWS COMMISSIONERS TO "GIFT " ZONING CHANGES, THAN IT IS ABOUT WHAT KIND OF ZONING YOU NOW HAVE .
Most all of the property is R3 - a perfectly correct  zoning to abutt the Huntingdon Rd  neighbors . The kind of zoning you would like to abutt your house - not a 5 story behemoth looking down on your back yard .
The YMCA  is on  a portion  of the the gold/mustard color labeled Abington Cemetery, which is R3 residential . 
So R3 is allowed 1 house per 75x100 lot  which is 5.7 units per acre--- They are asking to put 47.8 units per acre .
There is also  a little bit of CS Community Service blue color . Where the brown and blue meet is the cemetery at the corner of York & Susquehanna .  It is zoned  CS . The Y is behind that. The part that is zoned CS  does NOT come up to the  neighbor's back yards - so any use more intense than residential should not abut the neighbors' homes.
 

            WhereTheYIs-SortOf    legend for map

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   We welcome your comments  to share either anonymously or with your name attached with your  fellow Abington residents.   Send  any updated information, comments, corrections or questions  to: lel@abingtoncitizens.com    We especially hope if you see any errors, you will help us get the corrections made .