Board of Commissioner's Meeting 10-11-18 
7:30 pm Twp Building
The Commissioners were asked to PLACE THIS ISSUE ON THE AGENDA  for discussion  so they could be asked  to stop allowing developers to continually challenge the residents and their resources  in a manner that is  contrary to all rules of fair play. They have thus far refused to do so- which leaves residents only with 3 minutes to speak (on any topic) at the end of the meeting . They should  be  able to request  addressing the Commissioners at the beginning rather than the end .  It would be best to ask your Commissioner to help you do that.
      Some form of legislation may be needed to amend the process that allows developers to challenge residents unfairly. But if we cannot even get them to put this on the agenda , then there is little hope that we have  a responsivve government that acts in our favor.  The hopes are that a motion would be made to discontinue any consideration of the the current plan which the developer has had over 10 months to try to modify sufficiently and to return to seeking a developer who will develop the property as it is currently zoned.
Please consider signing on to the residents' letter , placing a sign, or contributing towards a sign, and
signing up  to receive the "Newsloop" with updates on this and other important local happenings

 Gone are the buffers and greenspace that is " suburbia" - hello urban development -  hello "Center City Abington"

The most important part of this issue is that the developers, Abington residents Bruce Toll and his CEO Michael Markman of  BET Investments, are writing the zoning to please themselves, and against the wishes and interests of their neighbors and fellow Abington residents, a huge majority of whom have spoken against the project. Passing this will open the door for many, many  other developers to seek out only 8 Commissioners to overrule the voices of those that they govern.





       The Nutshell  : In November 2017 Developer BET announced their intent to try to change our Zoning Ordinance to allow them to put their project ( see Links & Documents below) on the YMCA property which they had bought on contingency along with two neighboring parcels . Their project was to be a senior apartment building 5 stories high, with 225 units and a parking garage underneath it all ( virtually all the "greenspace" built on top of the parking garage -- nearly every bit  of the property was to be  built upon.)
 By September,  2108 it was just under  a year that residents had found themselves challenged nearly every day with some task to try to protect their zoning rights. The developer was being allowed to present version after version - and residents had to try to analyse, speak coherently about it, organize, inform others to help, etc . 
      But this is not about 1 developer or development.  If this passes :
 1. It would enable other (perhaps many) developments with these expanded rights because they are not allowed to "spot zone" on a single property.
 2. Every other developer will ask for more than he bought and to try to use this method of circumventing all our protective  laws & codes/
 3. In essence, the crazy rules used to limit who can use the zoning, are an attempt to "spot zone" anyway.  

                                   AND  NEEDING NOTHING MORE THAN 8 COMMISSIONERS TO SAY YES

      To avoid "spot zoning", they have to make their zoning apply to any other properties that fit the specs of what they propose as the "new zoning".  In this particular case  BET CEO Michael Markman , an Abington Ward 2 resident and former Commissioner, has said only one other property, Meadowbrook Apartments, fits these specs.   How could that not be "spot zoning" - when you have set ridiculous perameters that you believe that only you and one "friend" could meet?
        But Markman  may not be presenting this fairly.  Despite trying to "spot zone for 2", he has failed to allow for :
1) the fact that other  developers might buy multiple properties and merge them.... Or ..
2) the fact that other properties might do just what he is doing - ask to change the zoning, ie from CS to AO - which then would give them that use by right once it is created - despite all the protests over this intense zoning .  Or that ....
3) other properties will use his as an example that "none of the perameters in our zoning matter at all -- If heights, setbacks, density, greenspace etc  is all altered for Mr Markman and Mr Toll - why shouldn't other developers have the same rights?  And....
4)  what about  other AO properties with "older apartments" on them? They might fit all the specs and have only been ruled out because they are developed - what if they redevelop? At the Planning Meeting 8-28-18 Cathy Gauthier  suggested  others would have rights, too  ...but no one has defined exactly who those others might be so that we fully understand the impact of this zoning . 

  To hammer home #3 -- If the Commissioners are doing this for  Bruce Toll, Michael Markman and BET, what would allow them to deny others?    Anyone see a lawsuit, or two, or three,  coming....?
  Imagine opening the door for developers  to claim for themselves the right to rezone unlimited numbers of other properties throughout the Township. They are being traditionally not even  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.  Yet people contiguous to a property changing its zoning are supposed to be notified.  This plan tampers with every facet of the property of others as well as  overall issues of density, traffic, crime, cost of services, police numbers,  etc . which are not taken into account as they are when overall zoning changes are made.          

         All qualifying properties under the new zoning  would have to have ( or, as we mentioned, might apply later for ) A/O (Apartment /Office) zoning. They would need to be on at least 4.7 acres ( did that jump to 5acres in August?  who can keep up? ) ( 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. (If a lot was 2500 ft from a hospital, that lot could not have the same priviledge?)
2. Frontage on two roads.  ( If a lot fronted on only one, that lot could not have the same priviledge?)
3. Access to public transportation  within 400 feet.   ( If a lot was 450 ft away that lot could not have the same priviledge?)
          Other 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 ?
                            3) why have the rights of residents - and voters - been put last rather than first? The rezoning process needs to change!

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   
                4-10-18   The appeared with their original plan before the Planning Commissioners - had not changed a single thing - no good faith effort                 
                6-26 -18 They appeared with a second Plan before the Planning Comissioners
                8-28-18  They appeared with a 3rd plan before the Planning Commisioners
Acting Planning Chair Ron Rosen said go ahead and  go for a 4th  try - with no
to the residents' time  and finances. "Death by Meeting " or "Death by a Thousand Cuts"
   See Timeline / Chronology below for more details of what happened on the above dates / events


                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 communities to reflect  the developer's dream, not ours.   No 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 a Planning Commission review. Otherwise, residents get put on the fast train and hold no bargaining chips to have the developer actually answer their questions fully.
And our communities are developed according to the vision of those profiting, not of those who live and work here.

It represents zoning done on the fly, rather than thoughfully. The last zoning changes took years (about 8 ) 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.  And it takes rights away from others .  It is just nowhere close to what was envisioned - or reasonable and it makes a mockery out of the process that required people to give their time to develop the zoning plan in the first place. 

5) It will apply in multiple other locations. As of the end of January, no others were  notified of what was happening, and all the other possibilities were not  even identified .It was suggested that only Meadowbrook Apartments would be affected - but those contiguous neighbors were not properly notified.  Without true and proper information on this immediately,  others who might be affected  may lose their rights before they even are 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 sets 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 want to come to meetings to fight for the rights of homeowners being challenged in  zoning matters? Or for excessive density? Or for Corporate Landlords to keep their share of the greenspace? etc They have almost no motivation  to work to retain those import things, because they are not homeowners.

9) The loss of recreational lands and programs that are not replaced also affect the values of everyone's homes - again , for the profit of a single property owner. The YMCA was bequeathed as a place where the children of Abington  would benefit. Once that is taken, what is replacing it?

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, with meetings that were allowed to be set without any public approval, with residents being told that they could not legally ask to have the project stopped, with renderings that showed "sight-lines" from ridiculous angles that did not accurately reflect the visual impact, the number of shenanigans that were played to removed residents rights was astounding.  This will be a gift to many developers - at the expense of many residents.  The Commissioners, if they approve this - are not working in their constituents interests.

11) 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.  He has not answered simple questions like where the water will enter the Tookany.  He has not offered the full side by side of the currently zoned rights versus what he is asking .  He put in the most "disingenuous "view" that I could ever imagine seeing . A neighbor made the real view to show his attempt at deceiving the residents.  Shall we invite this developer to have free rein in Abington? Once he has the zoning, he does not really have to build what he has shown us. 

12) 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  from one? And these ridiculously worded  conditions are providing a field day for the lawyers - many lawsuits have been prompted by just these kinds of convoluted conditions being crafted. They are in nobody's interest.

13) 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? 

14)   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 ....

15) The Commissioners had NO OBLIGATION to move this forward before residents had received ample information to give an intelligent and informed response as to whether 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 - and Commissioners and Planners may attend such meetings as well, to really understand what their constituents want.

   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. But will anyone even remember to put that into writing ? Will anyone remember that if he doesn't? And who's gonna actually sue him if he doesn't ......?

  What Else will Change?  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.  We were not shown what the building at Meadowbrook apartments   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 :
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

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
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 of your own like the ones below where we put a 2000 ft. circle around each hospital

Abington Hospital area -
Abington Hospital

Holy Redeemer Hospital area -
Holy Redeemer

Einstein / Moss Rehab  Hospital area -


Note :  The Joseph C Scott Medical Center at Rydal Park does not fall withing the definition of "hospital"

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



2015 or earlier – YMCA is planning its exit from Abington

1-13-16   By Jan 2016  The YMCA is already getting approvals for the Zoning on the new intended property in Willow Grove .

4-21-16   The new planned YMCA in Upper Moreland at the old Willow Grove Day Camp site  will affect  the Hatboro and Abington YMCA's

4-27-17  The Township passes its new Township wide zoning  -- almost immediately afterward word of this BET Senior Apartments project is circulating in the rumor mill -and approx.  2 months later the plans are being requested of the Township - so it seems evident the plans had to have been  underway before the re-zoning was finished.  Michael Markman, President of BET is  still a Commissioner --- and has been  the Economic Development Committee’s  liason .  Whose interests have been  put first as he has been acting ?  Just a month ago  was also the time that the Firewall discussion was underway, where some very simple steps could be taken to save the more stringent rules that provided greater protection for Firefighters and for residents – but would cost Developers more.  Markman certainly has had ample opportunity for input on the zoning of the property and regarding the safety issues  for Township residents and firefighters as Commissioner. 

7-10-17  Right to Know requests for the BET  plans are being made by Eric Harris Environmental Consulting, Inc .  Yet the residents most crucially affected are not still not notified to put this on their radar. They won’t be for ½ a year.  

7-13-17  Michael Markman steps down as Commissioner  but the plans were crafted while he was still a Commissioner.  Despite the ability he had to impact the zoning process, it appears that he was instead crafting plans to change it on his own rather than with the blessing of the whole zoning  committee.  The zoning next to the residents’ homes  remained residential zoning - not A/O—or worse.

8-3-17  Residents have still had no word about what is in the works according to those I asked….. yet it is a project known openly among Township personnel.  Are we to believe they are keeping the Commissioners – Sanchez , Hecker &  Speigelman particularly , whose residents would have the greatest chance  of being affected, in the dark? Or is it just that the Commissioners are keeping the most affected residents in the dark  - telling them just days before the 1-11-18 meeting of the project?  Commissioner DiPlacido also has a Cheltenham hospital within 2000 ft.  of properties  in his ward. 

11-20-17  A letter requesting the passing of the 2 ordinances that would enable the project is sent by  Joe Kuhls, the attorney for BET.   The  2 ordinances if passed, would give BET the use by right for their development plan on the property -- no need for resident input if it passes. They enclosed a $2,000 application fee,  & will bring a $10,000 check for the Professional Services escrow. (Is that returned if they are not allowed to proceed to a hearing....? …even if many services have already been used?  Residents should learn the conditions of such an escrow.)     The  2 Ordinances are 
  1)  a map change so  the entire YMCA Parcel + the two properties next to them to become   A/O -Apartment/Office and
 2) a text amendment modifying the regulations applicable in A/O districts  - higher, denser, etc.  

12-26-17 Zoning Officer Mark Penecale sends the project to the Montco Planning Commision for review. How do they have a right to use  Township and County Services without any approval from the Commissioners that they are willing to consider their request.

12-27-17 Penecale sends an updated marked-up draft to
the Montco Planning Commision. Who has marked it up. What other services are being used before permission is given to consider the request ( which won't happen until Jan 1, 2018)  ?

1-5-18   Commissioners should have been  provided the date of the meeting in their Friday Packets - yet it will be 4 more days before residents are actually notified & understand what is on the agenda. The Township Manager has responsibility for what appears on the agenda. He labels this only as a request for  Commissioners "to consider" this development. He does not indicate that they are asking for a vote to be moved forward into the formal process of Planning Commission, Code Enforcement Committee etc.  The actual motion usually appears there , but no motion reflecting their request is on the agenda.  By Manger Manfredi  doing this in this manner, residents were further not alerted  to the fact that "action would  or could be taken" to move BET  toward a hearing. Because residents were there speaking against any action before they were informed, there was no vote to formally accept the re-zoning request – and resident meetings were negotiated as the first step.   

1-9-18 Commissioner  Ben Sanchez mails out the news of  a meeting on this issue --- literally 2 days before the meeting.   ( Have plans already for that date? Too bad )  Here are a few of his words black - with my comments in red :  
 …….. "this is really sort of the first step in the whole public process of a developer's request for a re-zoning.  It will appear as an agenda item during our regularly scheduled Board of Commissioners meeting ( 
yes Commissione,  if no one protests so that  this Committee DOES NOT  reject it – it WILL appear on the Board agenda. So it is THIS meeting that is important to attend  - although 2 days makes for very little time to  learn what is going on, to organize & share ideas with others, and to speak up with informed opinions….   ) 
............ a full hearing will likely be scheduled to occur during our March 8 regular meeting  ( 
Yes.  Again, if residents didn't do everything they could to tell the Code Committee why it should NOT be recommended for a hearing, that could have happened, despite what residents may wish.
…………This threshold step on Thursday would simply authorize the advertisement of the future hearing ( as if that were no big deal....... It is. A VERY big deal. Once it is slated for a hearing – no matter what is said at the prior meetings, it can be quickly and surprisingly approved.  On the hearing day- no matter what the residents say then, or said before, the Commissioners can STILL say “ all in favor --Aye” in the wink of an eye. Usually the couple of Commissioners with the residents who are the most affected look like they  strongly support the residents – while the others play “bad cop” & vote it through. And while the residents ability to speak or present at a hearing is very limited, the developer is given nearly unlimited ability to present his case. You have zero control left  at a hearing. No matter what is said . Commissioner - you know this is not in your residents' best interests )
………… and for the developer/applicant to continue with the public process, which will include a future public hearing before the Abington Township Planning Commission and formal review by the Montgomery County Planning Commission.  As always, I will be willing to coordinate and host supplemental neighborhood meetings, if there is interest.  Thus,  I encourage anyone to come out on Thursday if they would like a "first look" at the project, but as the Board typically seems to grant these requests for full hearings at a later date, public attendance and comment is not crucial at this point as there will be several additional opportunities for public comment (and with a broader scope during those later opportunities as full hearings will then be conducted .( 
Leading the lambs to the slaughter!  If the residents had not come out in force, that is exactly what would have happened- a recommendation for hearing would have been made. At the meeting just 2 days after he wrote this,  Sanchez tried to say  he had encouraged people to come -  Read again what he said. It sounds like quite the opposite to me. ) 

1-10-18 Commissioner John Spiegelman similarly leads the lambs to the slaughter telling them that what Sanchez laid out in his email  begins the process of "proper and responsible consideration and vetting " and he confirms that a hearing would be likely to occur at the March meeting ( 
and it would have if the residents hadn't come out in force ). But not to worry- he says- he promises to meet with residents and be sure their questions are answered, that they are all on the "same page" and that the neighbors voices will be heard .
OK Commissioner – Sunshine Laws protect that they have a right to be  "heard" – but  rarely do the Commissioners act as though it has been heard . They ask you to vote nay - you vote aye….that’s where the problem lies .) 
1-11-18   At this  Board of Commissioners meeting,  BET gave a very brief slideshow and asked the Commissioners to agree to consider the re-zoning and to send them to the Planning Commission and then to the Code Enforcement Committee meeting, where they made it clear they would be asking to advertise for a hearing.     Because there are no Committee meetings in January -  this request was not vetted prior to tonight's meeting as it would have been in nearly any other month.   Add to that the fact that the Manager gave no hint any kind of a vote would take place in the wording of the agenda item. Add to that Sanchez telling everyone it was no biggie coming to this meeting.  Do you get the flavor.....?   Had no one come, it would have surely gone right to the Planning Commission next – likely without a meeting  between the Developer and the residents first. If there had not been a roomful of people clearly unhappy with this and asking for more information before any hearing was set or any such meetings were held it, it would surely have gone straight through to a  hearing .  And by March or April it would have been all in favor "Aye".   It would have happened so fast no one would have been up to speed.   
       The Developer agreed to have multiple meetings with the residents, He did not  agree to have  "as many as they needed" - but agreed to multiple meetings, at least. 
    At this meeting Sanchez and Spiegelman both said that they had notified residents at their earliest opportunity. Do you believe that?  There were plans last June at the Township.  

1-19-18  The
 Montco Planning Commision  issues  their report and recommends approval of the map amendment but does not recommend approving the text amendment.  They have concerns about the increase in density n-dimensional  acquirements, ask whether there is a dramatic increase in demand by seniors.  If the Township is interested in increasing density, it should reevaluate its comprehensive plan. they recommend increases in density be accompanied with premium greening and sustainability elements  and transit elements. and it should be evaluated on its ability to positively affect the intersection for both vehicles and pedestrians. and there are a few other comments.
1-29-18 Meeting with the Developer.  He agreed at the end of this meeting to meet again Feb 12th  but later reneged on that promise – so he held on ONE open meeting with residents.  He refuses  to discuss the Firewalls and whether they will be made of non- combustible materials -- saying only & repeatedly that they will follow the code .  That was a huge deal with the Fire Marshal - who stressed the importance of continuing the non-combustible materials regulation for safety.

2-7-18  The developer cancelled his 2nd meeting with the residents that was supposed to take place February 12th.  He will not show any changes he has made based on the comments from neighbors. He will instead go straight to the Planning Commission  on Feb 27th, 2018  ---  not with an amended proposal, (as was the intent of meeting with the neighbors first )  but with the original proposal no progress has been made.  Residents cannot see how he interprets their comments and to what degree he is willing to compromise. 
    In Upper Dublin, the same developer sought to quietly remove the resident's rights to conditional hearings. They discovered it only when they requisitioned documents via the Open Records /Right to Know process. 

2-27-18  The Developer  cancelled the  Planning Commission meeting -- It was postponed to March 21 .

3-21-18   Anticipated Planning Commission meeting, but again  that was put off til 4-10-18

4-4-18 Committee Meeting - This was not on the agenda . There was concern that if  BET took this  to the April 4th Committee meeting, having  made it known they wanted to ask for a hearing ... that one might be granted then . So it was important to understand  if the Planning Commission and Code Enforcement Committee meetings were considered  formal or informal ones in regard to this issue because if they requested a hearing on April 4th, they would have  perhaps asked for the request of a hearing to be formally and officially granted at the April 12th  the Board of Commissioners meeting . That did not happen.  So the timeline is extended.

4-10-18  Planning Commission meeting.  BET  presented the exact same thing- made no changes whatsoever.  They  apparently intended all along to have ANOTHER  Planning Commission meeting -  though that was not requested of the Board and approved in a public meeting .  The Planning Commission meeting is also out of the ordinary. The purpose of the Planning Commission is to distill all the views of all who testified and of all the Planners and then to make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.  For some reason the Planning Commission is not planning to do that.  That means that this meeting was a sincere waste of time  for the residents  and other stakeholders  - while Mr. Markman  & BET  "tested the waters" at the expense of everyone else's time.

6-26-18  Yet another appearance before the Planning Commission -- with yet another plan -- and yet again a whole room full of people not in favor . Very little has changed .   Where was this  2nd Planning Commission meeting approved? Again , no "product" will be obtained from the Planning Commision . How is this being orchestrated?   Again Mr. Markman and BET "tested the waters" with a slightly less egregious plan . He has now purchased ( wherether conditionally or outright ) at least one of the neighbors' houses who is most affected.  The time and efforts of the residents again is  completely disrespected.  The P\planning Commission once again felt no obligation to render an advisory to the Board of Commissioners as is their mission.....  Surely if they had it would have been a request for the plan's denial if the residents testimony had been actyually "heard " and respected.  

8-9-18   At the Board of Commissioners meeting residents asked to have the whole thing dismissed  and a letter from the residents is read into the minutes. There was no response to either . 

      Yet another plan ---  this being the third version ---  was presented on this date before the Planning Commission.  A letter in opposition with over 100 signatures was supported by the testimony of resident after resident in opposition, by the a resident association president representing over 500 residents and a strong letter in opposition was read by a representative  from the Environmental Advisory Council.  All of this in contrast with 4 who spoke in favor of the monstrous construction - one saying that it made us look "prosperous". 
     The neighbors behind the construction spoke of the destruction and division of their neighborhood (BET's potential purchase of one home  would separate other neighbors from each other.)  They spoke of their view, of the lack of protection that we all will be subject to if our zoning laws can be changed on a wish or a whim. It was stated and repeated that we have one chance to get the construction in the heart of our town right --- and this is not the vast majority of people think is right or reasonable. 
      Where exactly did BET go in order to get approval for attending THREE  Planning Commission meetings?  It appears that the Planning Commission themselves, rather than do their job of listening to the residents and then reporting back to the Commissioners, decided NOT to report back  2 times in a row - refusing to render any report, which is the whole purpose of attending a Planning Commission review. Since they could not give a favorable report  that would fly so drastically in the face of all they had heard, they offered none.  In fact, in 3 tries now it has been unable to secure a majority of its members in favor .  But  rather than do their job and report that , they simply told BET to "try again".  
     Had BET  gone before the Commissioners after their first Planning Commission meeting, which is what was approved in public  on January 11th, they would clearly have been turned down.  But instead, with a total and complete disrespect for the time and  the rights of the residents who need to protect their properties from this attack, Acting Chair Ron Rosen said he was making a motion for them to ..... are you ready for it........ try again. 

     A fourth submission.   With all that entails for those defending their property rights.  Mr Rosen apparently did not hear a thing that the residents said - or perhaps he just doesn't believe that the laws, codes and rules are necessarily something that need to be upheld. But,  the most deeply affected neighbors are joined by many, many of us in the community in asking that ALL our agencies uphold our zoning ordinance - including the Planning Commission and Zoning hearing Board  - and that  the Commissioners work in the interests of the people who elected them --- not in the interests of  wealthy developers - even though these developers may be persons they count among their friends. Perhaps especially when these persons are counted among their friends.

 Please contact me to receive updates on this and other important local happenings



   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:    We especially hope if you see any errors, you will help us get the corrections made .