One builder's vision .....just not ours
 Gone are the buffers and greenspace that is " suburbia" - hello urban development -  hello "Center City Abington"
Find out when the next meeting is -- and be there !

              Developer BET  bought the YMCA in the center of Abington and wants to rewrite the zoning to make  density greater than anything we have in our code or than we have seen.  The rear area behing the  main Y entrance is zoned R3 and would  allow  a little over 4 units per acre. They  would like 36 units per acre (originally requesting close to 50). The front is zoned Community Service. They want to remove that CS use for  more apartments at 36 units per acre. Higher heights,  reduced buffers and or greenspace, more impervious coverage, as well as setbacks, emergency vehicle access, who on the "receiving end" of the "improved "stormwater , etc .... all these and more are concern to us . What BET is writing for themselves will set a precendent for nearly every other.  
  In addition, the Commissioners are acting in ways that are NOT safeguarding the interests of their residents, including  allowing endless meetings, violating the promised processes,  and even scheduling the final Hearing a week before Christmas ( Dec 18th ) when they know even the most interested may not be able to attend.
On Nov 8th BET was actually  granted a Hearing for the Conditional Use of their specific project before the zoning text and map change were approved. In other words - the appropriate zoning did not even exist when the hearing was placed on the agenda ...and approved.  How did that happen?  So much has not been in the interests of their constituents. Only in the interest the developer.... whose President, Michael Markman  is a former Commissioner himself and friend to at least some of the Commissioners, as is the Principle of the firm, Bruce Toll .
 Please read on .......  but please also make sure you take action  by :
 ----- Signing on in support of the residents' letter,
---  Requesting a sign for  your lawn - ( only $5 per sign  or $2.50 if you split one with your neighbor) 
---  Funding a sign for us to place - or flyers for distribution
 --- Printing out a flyer to share with your neighbors who are not connected by email   
 --- Email your Commissioners - here are the addresses  and ask why they would even consider approving  such a thing 
      (you can post your letter or the response you received on the R.O.A.R.Z Facebook page where you also can join in the discussion)

 --- Sign up to receive the "Newsloop" to get alerts on meeting dates and other information on this and other issues.

---The "Nutshell" below explains the situation in more depth and the photos tell the story well  of what they intended

--- The main issues , below, are important for you to understand

--- There is both a simple timeline and a chronology of events below

---  Learn more about the current zoning and see the zoning charts

---And the next meeting is listed just below this paragraph in red in RED ( check back here for snow info or cancellations or changes-
                       The Township website is the official place for that, but if I am able, I try to post what I learn here  )


 Please attend the meetings listed below under Next Meeting 
a date when they know very few will be able  to make it



                                           NEXT MEETING (S):
Dec 11th Planning Commission  - this is the  new date for the cancelled Nov 15th meeting . Planners are Advisory - but they still should be concerning themselves with who it is they are serving - residents or developers.  They were appointed by the Commissioners that we elected.
Dec 13th - Board of Commissioners -
-  you have an opportunity at the end of the meeting to share your thoughts on this whole  idea of a zoning change as written by and for a developer and if you are unable to be there the 18th, tell them at this meeting how you want them to vote.  Ask  your Commissioner to allow you to speak at the beginning of the meeting, not the  end so you don't have to wait 2 or 3 hours to say one quick thing in 2 or 3 minutes. And wouldn't we like to hope that a motion to rescind the Dec 18th Hearing & reschedule in January was on the agenda requested. Ask your Commissioner  if he/she  made that motion.

Dec 18th - ill timed Zoning and Map Change  Hearing  
Every.... needed .....!

SPEAKING OPPORTUNITIES:  At the  meetings there  is always an opportunity for you to speak -  Please come prepared to do so.  It really is far more effective when you speak than if you just show up and they don't know how you feel. Even if you keep it very simple .......   Also they tell you not to repeat something - but briefly you should say, for instance, "I agree that setbacks are important " without redoing the whole 9 yards about that topic. If you don't, they are left with the impression that there is ONLY ONE VOICE saying it ! 

 You can /should also tell your Commissioners that  changes in this process need to be made - so
1) Residents are not under attack for a year or more, as  these residents were, reviewing version after version by a developer with only his own interests in mind.

2) Residents should  be allowed equal time to speak and to present in order to PROTECT their property rights against developers wanting to  TAKE  them away. 

3) Residents shuld have a clear path and RIGHT to get something onto the agenda for discussion. Sanchez prevented it entirely- and I believe he falsely informed residents about their rights and the process for doing this.

4) All meetings should be filmed (including EDC meetings) and all the links to the issue should be on a single, developer funded  page on the Township website.

5) Our zoning rights should be upheld unless the developer convinces the RESIDENTS that elect the Commissioners that this is a desirable project .

6) A single page with all the links to an issue like this should be available on the  Township website.

                                                     None of these things are being afforded to the residents by the people that they elected. 


This was BET's first proposal - Is their vision what we want for our town?  


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

1) Signing on in support of the residents' letter
Placing a sign on your lawn - they are only $5 per sign -( go in with a neighbor for $2.50 each )
4) Clicking here to get a flyer to print out and deliver to your whole street  or click here and I'll email you one
5) Fund us -!!!  contribute to  signs   that we can put on the main corridors and to help us print and distribute flyers
6) Sign up  to receive the "Newsloop" with updates on this issue, meeting dates,  and other important local happenings
7) Email your Commissioners - here are the addresses  ( and share back with us what their response was )

   THE NUTSHELL  :  Understanding what is happening.
n November 2017 Developer BET Investments, Inc  announced their intent to try to REWRITE  our Zoning Ordinance  with a text & map amendment.
Our zoning ordinance was newly passed in April 2017 after years of hearings, focus groups, etc.
 BET  = Abington residents  Bruce E Toll, Principal  ( yes of  Toll Brothers fame) and  former Ward 1 Commissioner  Michael Markman, President. Our AbingtonYMCA and  the Hatboro Y are building a  new mega-facility at the former Willow Grove Day Camp site on Davisville Rd.
They expect to open the new site  near the end of 2019 - it will be awesome. But we will miss them in Abington.  
BET  bought the YMCA "Cube" building, the historic YMCA building,  the grounds, the house next doors  and the funeeral parlor. --
They were bought on  contingency  of getting the zoning that they wanted.
The rear acres next to the houses on Huntingdon Rd are zoned R-3 ( about four houses per acre) .  BET is asking for 36 per acre.The properties in the front along York Road are zoned CS - Community Service   - we could use MORE not less community service use  in our town.
BET wants to rezone all the properties they are buying to A/0, Apartment/Office -- but that is not enough for them - they want a much greater density. A/O offers 16 units per acre -  BET  has invented a new use,  H-12 - that they think will only apply to them and one other property
We think they are greatly mistaken, and that Meadowbrook Apartments will not be the only property seeking  to use that new, dense zoning. 
The new use, H-12,  initially requested a use of 50 units per acre .  In Nov 2018, when they asked for a hearing, it was still as high as 36 units p/acre
The proposal is for  a senior (55+)  apartment building - but people as young a s18 can live in such units as long as 1 person is over 55
At 50 feet looming over the neighborhood behind it, with 225 units (reduced  to 4 0 ft  now near the neighboring homes) it is disturbingly large
The parking garage underneath it all covered nearly evey inch of the property developed with virtually all the "greenspace" being on top of the parking garage.
Modifications in height, # of units etc have been made multiple times, dragging neighbors to meeting after meeting
During all these meetings,  and all the 52 or more changes they say they made, they have refused to make any significant reductions in density and setbacks

They are still asking more rights than they bought -- even if  they were to be "gifted" a change in zoning from R3 and CS to A/O to accommodate the project.
Why does BET believe they & 1 other property owner should be gifted a use that is far more dense & intense than any other A/O property owner has ?  
In order to supposedly limit this zoning  to themselves  & to Meadowbrook Apts  they put in ridiculous conditions that only these two properties could meet
There is little doubt that this would open the door for every other developer to want to do the same thing. A developer's dream.
What would be the  commissioners grounds for saying no to other developers wanting to write their own zoning for themselves once this is passed.?
Not only will the neighborhood behind the YMCA be deeply impacted, but there is little doubt that the whole Township will be, too |
Residents want their zoning codes enforced.
 They protect our rights and help preserve the value of our investment.
Almost the whole town wants development that does not reflect New York City. That's why we moved here.
On  November 8th the Commissioners violated their own promised process in favor of the developer and did NOT require an OK by the Planning Commission before setting a Hearing, which they were under NO OBLIGATION whatsover to set. The developer dragged this out for a full year and then asked them to set the hearing literally a week before Christmas, when very few residents would be able to come.
It is surely not concidental that Mr Markman  has overtly had a the very closest of relationships with many on this Board.
How can Commissioners pretend that they are serving the people that elected them when  they schedule such an important Hearing that affects our whole Township at a time when they know that many will not be able to attend?

Over 700 resident voices have been registered as opposed to this at this point and either have spoken up themselves, sent their association leader, signed petitions or otherwise registered their disapproval.  4 ( Count 'em FOUR)  spoke in favor at the 8-28 meeting .  D
espite the overwhelming disapproval by the people who are supposed to be served by these "representatives of the Commissioners,   Acting  Planning Chair  Ron Rosen  suggested on 8-28-18  they should have another "stab at it" - at the expense again of all the residents whose time counts, apparently for nought.
Commissioners Myers told me her residents were all for the giant structure - but I stood outside her poll for almost an hour and virtually no one knew about it and when I showed them, htey almost uniformly said "no way".  Commissioner Spiegelman on 11-8-18 said he had people who called and were against it - but ones who were for it , too .  Our own experience is that this is running hundreds against it to every one for it . Can Commissioner Spiegelman's ward be so far the reverse?

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  Forthe Text Amendment 11-20-17 with Plot Plans

                  11-20-18  The Ordinance Amending Articles 7,21 & 23  to add H-12 to the AO District  (
                 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 
                                  Meeting agenda -link coming   Meeting Minutes - link coming
                  1-29-18     Developer's first meeting with the community   For video click here   
                                    Meeting agenda -link coming   Meeting Minutes - link coming  
4-10-18   The appeared with basically their original plan before the Planning Commissioners - same plan as  11-20-17 & 1-11-18
                                  They  had not changed
their plan  after talking to residents - no good faith effort   
                                  Here is the video - the 2nd 1/2 is inaudible Meeting agenda -link coming   Meeting Minutes - link coming      
                  6-15-18  Another Plan  i dated 6-15-18-link coming  not sure if this was used  or otherwise  distributed  ??? for EDC or other?           
                  6-26 -18   They appeared with a second Plan before the Planning Comissioners  In this plan we see options of other styles
                                             Here is the video           Here are the Minutes       
                 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 regard
for residents' time and toil. 
Death by Meeting  
See the 8-28-18  Renderings here       See the 8-28-18 Text Amendment and new dimensional charts here
10-3-18   Sanchez refuses to discuss how residents can get an item on the agenda so improvements to the process can be legislated-
                                     He will not tell the resident requesting  how  they may access their legislators to use their governmental process. They requested in writing, too.
                                     The developer has had no problem accessing the legislators to ask for what he wants.
SeeSanchez refuse to give help :  video



         10-26-18  Letter with this date is submitted  by BET to Township requesting to attend the Nov 8 meeting & at that meeting  to request
                                    in essence 4 hearings: a hearing for the text and map amendments ,  the 2 separate plots would be merged to one,
                                    and in the same meeting they would like a Hearing on their Conditional Use application, which was requested before the  lands were zoned for it .
10-30-13 EDC meeting has a presentation by Markman on the economic impact.   Only ONE side i s presented - the income . Residents were not even notified.
                                    by Commissioner Sanchez or otherwise.                             

                      11-1-18   New links are coming soon. The Developer will come to the Nov 8th meeting 
                                and request to go to the November 15th Planning Commission and request a Dec 13th hearing . ( That ended up being Dec 18th)
                 11-8-18   Residents were completely ignored when asking to have the proper process as promised ( where the  Hearing
                                would not be set until after the Planning Commission approval, as was laid out January 11, 2018 )
\                              The residents were also even ignored in their simple request not to have it at their busiest holiday time .
                               The absolute refusal by 12 of the 15 Commissioners to even
 give this tiniest of considerations was astounding.
                               A Nov 15th Planning Commision was set and a Dec 18th hearing .
                   11-15-18 Mother Nature sends a snow storm. The Planning Commission meeting is cancelled and tentatively reset for Dec 11.

See the  detailed  CHRONOLOGY  
below for more details on the above dates / events


               Montgomery County's Comprehensive Plan - Montco 2040: A Shared Vision
              The Township Zoning Ordinance as passed 4-27-17 
              P 25= AO   //  P 28-29 = AO chart //   P21 = R3  // P 351 & 352 =Maps      

             The Old York Rd Corridor Study Completed 3-2-10   Chapters 1-3         Chapter 4-6 plus appendices 

             The Township Comprehensive Plan

             The Pa Municipalities Planning code                                                                                                        

   THE MAIN 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 :larger profit -nothing more --- This profit comes  at the expense of the home values & quality of life of  nearby residents, and via the precedent set, more congestion and traffic for us all . The value 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, and desired by 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 from the residents ( the ones 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 even answer their questions fully. And what good is having questions answered if afterwards we have no say in whether it should go forward or not?
Our communities need to be  developed according to the vision of those who live and work here, not the vision of thos profiting. 

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 - such as properties that could be merged and bought  - others who might have their zoning changed just like this one is  having, on the whim orf the Commissioners.  Without true and proper information on this,  a visible example of  what could be build at Meadowbrook Apts ( which immediately qualifies)  and other properties  and without notification of those who might find themselves next to such a development, we are doing all of Abington a disservice.

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....  why should one have them and the others be denied?

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.

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. And how about setting a Hearing a week from Christmas.....?

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)  Spot Zoning: Our code is being ridiculously "riddled" with silly "conditions" to prevent the "appearance" of what really is "spot zoning"  so that this 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. Ah yes- except the developer's.... 
13) Monstrosity :  One of the words used by Commissioners to describe what is being presented -  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 ....  Rel
ated Info : the Stormwater Management Ordinance  click here  
15) Once passed they can build whatever they want - not what they proposed.... The changed zoning would enable their use as proposed - but also would give them the right to build something totally different - as long as it fit in those guidelines  that were newly passed. Ie: no need for any more resident input if it passes - they would have the use by right . At the 1-29-18 meeting Markman said , in essence, he would make assurances that he would build as was decided via this process to approve. But will anyone even remember to put that into writing ? Will anyone remember this promise if he doesn't?  And who's gonna actually sue him if he doesn't ......?

16) 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.

17)  Commissioners need to legislate  better rules to protect us   The Commissioners have been 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.   Ask your Commissioner to help  that get done. Some form of legislation is definitely 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 tof having a responsive government with elected legislators acting in the interests of those who elected them. Any Commissioner is able to make a motion to discontinue consideration of the the current plan which the developer has had 11 months to try to modify sufficiently . Residents by and large would like the property developed in accordance with its current zoning - or if exceptions to that are made then they would be DESIRED exceptions. 

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 at 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".  Would one believe the Commissioner in whose Ward it is (Sanchez) was kept in the dark?    The YMCA was finalizing plans  in January 2016 to move to Willow Grove. Do you think that your Commissioners not telling you  anywhere along the way was an "accident",  or unavoidable, or unknown to them?

19) How we are all affected by over-building : lack of greenspace ,stormwater absorption areas, traffic, etc.   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.... 

 Currently there is  split zoning between Community Service (CS)  on the front where the YMCA complex and the other 2 buildings are  and mid density residential (R3), on the portion behind the YMCA that also borders the residences on Huntindon Rd.   The developer wants it all to change to a more intense A/O ( Apartment-Office) use.   R3 would allow one house on  a 75 x 100 parcel with 30ft front and rear buffers and 12 ft  side buffer - 5.7 units per acre--- They are asking to put 47.8 units per acre .

current zoning was just passed in April 2017 and was in the works for 8 years, because zoning is important.
The proposed zoning by the developers was not carefully considered at all. It benefits the bottom line of the developer and a few tenants - not the community. 

     The newly passed  Township wide Zoning ordinance  already included  expanded rights for A/O zoning, such as: 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 anyway. Offices, run generally in the daytime, are far better next door neighbors to residential uses than grocery stores or restaurants  who want to stay open as late as possible & may have thousands 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.  These expanded uses will already be felt by those who were next to A/O properties.

The new requirements for this zoning would change buffers, heights, densities and more and require  :
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?)
4. They would need to be on at least 4.7 acres ( did that jump to 5acres in August?  who can keep up? )


             WhereTheYIs-SortOf    legend for map

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" - however there are properties within 2000 feet of that facilitiy that should give pause --- given a developer's propensity for asking for a " a slight exception " here and there ...and having no trouble being acccommodated.



2015 or earlier – YMCA is planning its exit from Abington as it plans to merge with the Hatboro YMCA & build a mega facility on the site of the former Willow Grove Day Camp.

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    BET Investments  sent a formal letter with documents to the Township with their proposal  to develop the YMCA property - requesting the passing of 2 ordinances that would enable  BET . Once passed the changed zoning would enable their use as proposed - but also would give them the right to build somehting different - as long as it fit in those guidelines  that were newly passed. Ie: no need for any more resident input if it passes - they would have the use by right . 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. 

I would wager that it is NO  coincidence that the project was not put on the December Committee meeting either, where, once seen at the  December Committee Meeting, tresidents would have time to formally protest and organize before the 12-14 -17 Board of Commissioners Meeting 

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 Sanchez'  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.....?   Add to that that Commissioners deceitfully tried to declare that the "public meetings" are the  best or only place to get information . In fact, these meetings ( the Planning Commission and the Code Enforcement/ Land Development 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 .  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 with them, at least. ( He renegged on that later - after the 1st one)     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 known at the Township.

 The Commissioners had no obligation to move forward.  Here are the 9 that voted for it and against the residents. 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

 Residents have now been stuck with an obligatory path to follow. They will have , meetings to attend and research costs to incur, no matter the outcome of the residents information sessions.

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.  (I am not sure what date that report reached the public. ) They have concerns about the increase in density & 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 was again put off .... this time until  4-10-18

4-4-18 Committee Meeting - This project 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... with or without any proper approval from the Planning  Commission ... and were the Planning Commission and Code Enforcement Committee meetings  considered  formal or informal ones? Could they expect that the Planning Meeting on April 10 was formal - and if they received a "thumbs up", could  they ask 2 days later at the  April 12th  the Board of Commissioners meeting for  a Hearing to be advertized  ?  (Okay - whether they had hoped to do that or  did not happen.  So the timeline was extended beyond April 12th ).  

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 Markman  & BET  "tested the waters" at the expense of everyone else's time.  Thare are municipalities that do not allow attack after attack without anm ample period of time between them where residents impacted can have the peaceful enjoyment of their property.

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?  Was it considered  a continuation of the same plan  submitted in November 2017.  All parties  will have to study it and define the elements and their impact again.  And again, no "product" will be obtained from the Planning Commision.  They are simply acting like they haven't heard it at all -- a disrespect to all who had to take their time to attend.   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 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.   Are the Commissioners, Planners and others that are installed with our tax dollars working in our interests?

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 . 

8-28-18       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 both sides ( and particularly to the residents whom the Commissioners who appointed them are kcharged with serving )  t and then reporting back to the Commissioners, consolkidating hteir various views, decided NOT to report back  2 times in a row . No report all all... 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".  The votes this time were No from Lucy Strackhouse ( by letter) No Daryl Baker , No Russel 
     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. 

     Yes -  a fourth submission is being suggested.  With all that entails for those defending their property rights. But not one with specific guidelines  to correct the problems with the 3rd one. Once again, it appears the Planners are allowing BET to come up with a whole new version - changing whatever they care to change.  Mr Rosen apparently did not hear a thing that the residents said . They clearly want their laws and codes upheld and don't want developers rewriting our zoning to please themselves.  Perhaps Mr Rosen  just doesn't believe that the laws, codes and rules are necessarily something that need to be upheld. But many of us do. 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   developers whose own bottom line drives density and purpose.  Even though these developers may be persons they count among their friends, the people deciding should be working in the interests of the constituents who VOTE here....perhaps especially when these persons are counted among their friends.

10-3-18  At he Board of Commissioner's Meeting  Commissioner Sanchez is asked to explain his response to residents that there is nothing he can legally do to respond to their claims  of putting and end to the consideration of this project.  But his own solicitor appears to disagree with him. Solicitor Michale Clarke said that the developer could submit the project as many times as he wants - but the Commissioners did not have to hear it .  That is what Sanchez' constituents have been asking him to consider.  Sanchez, in his demeaning and uncooperative exchange refused to realte how residents could get an item on the agenda for their legislators to consider Rules are also needed to  expand the speaking rights of those who are under attack by development projects and for other protective measures.  Commissioner Sanchez is a legislator - but the residents seem to have no way to get him to do that in their interests ----  while the developer seems to be getting as much leeway as he wants.  See his complete lack of help here and please decide for yourself if this is what you'd like in a
 legislator :

10-26-18  Letter with this date is submitted  by BET to Township requesting to attend the Nov 8 meeting & at that meeting  to request   in essence 4 hearings: a hearing for the text and map amendments ,  the 2 separate plots would be merged to one,   and in the same meeting they would like a Hearing on their Conditional Use application, which was requested before the  lands were zoned for it . They were granted all of that.   Which means that the Commissioners must be going into the  Text and Map portion with a bias that it would be passed.           No Conditional Use application, it seems to me,  should have gotten past the zoning officer that reviewed it, let alone onto the agenda  to request a Hearing.   They simply were not in possession of  the Zoning that would allow the Conditional Use.  Once they obtained the zoning, then they should have  a right to request a Hearing. That gives residents the time to fully research and understand what WAS approved and what their rights in that regard are. And isn't there an "appeal " time that should have been respected, before a conditional use  would be decided ? On top of all this - they would like the hearing to be Dec 13th- right between Hanukkah and Christmas - a time for family and celebration.  Residents protested the holiday timing  too - but rather than have it taken out of the "holiday rush time" ,  the developer would later be granted a date even closer to Christmas - Dec 18.... a near impossible date for much resident participation. Even those most directly challenged might have trouble keeping such a date free.

10-30-18  10-30-13 EDC meeting has a presentation by Markman on the economic impact.   Only ONE side i s presented - the income . Residents were not even notified by Commissioner Sanchez or otherwise.  Markman presents that the project  is going to  enrich the Township & School by   over $600,000 with  aprox 100,000 going to the Township ( the amount they just gave to a church as a gift) with most  going to the school  Michael Markman on behalf of BET  persuades that the monies he pays for permits and inspections are a  one time "benefit" to the Township rather than something that he receives a service for in return - so the Township receives no benefit - or shouldn't be.  Markman presents a one sided view of the financial benefits to the EDC - failing to mention any of the costs .  Residents  were not notified that he  would be presenting an economic impact statement to the Economic Development Committee on this date. One resident noticed it late the night before - and the meeting was at 7:30 am the next morning. . Only one side was considered. The money coming IN side. What money or quality of life figures were "going OUT " were not presented. The loss of Community Service  land, the loss of a treaured historuic landmark. The loss of the low impact residential use that is currently zoned behind hte neighbors on Huntingdon Rd , the precedent of developers writing so much more into their zoning just for their bottom line and the lawsuits that will result as others demand the same rights, the cost of the "improved storm water management " where now MORE water than before will be collected and sent off site while the impervious surface will be increased .  Markman was allowed to present his one time costs ( for permits and fees ) as an economic benefit rather than as a payment for the services he needs to have provided.   Although the lack of notice  prevented residents from coming with prepared statistics, the EDC chair Doug Callentine did not accomodate  such a gaffe by allowing extra time for residents to be heard.  He allowed but a smattering to be heard.  In fact, though,the way it was viewed, by the Committee seemed to be that money from taxes was the only real concern and that projects such as this have no other "economic " costs in a community.  How absurd.  If that were the case, every property in Abington should just be allowed to build double or triple what they now own, and that would be a great boon to the Township --- at least that is how THIS  EDC seems to be operating.

11-1-18 - This is the first time that the residents learn of the October 26th letter and  about the new plan and the Hearing request. They have just 1 week to research, prepare, read , strategize, organize others.......  The Developer wants to attend the Nov 15th Planning Commission and wants a  Hearing Dec 13th  . They want it approved BEFORE the Planning Commission  gives it a thumbs up ( they have had 3 failed attempts to get one.)   They picked Nov to ask because, just as they did in January, they could go right to the Commissioners full Board  meeting and not bother with the pesky Code Committee where things are supposed to be  fully aired with resident participation first.  After residents see the lay of the land and how Commissioners have lined up - they have another opportunity at hte full Board meeting to address their concerns again.  Markman has made sure that none of these advantages are there for the residents. And the Commissioners, elected by the residents to serve their interests  have been pretty much dishonored by their representative yet again.  Clearly 1 week's time  is not sufficient for people that don't have a staff of  people to serve them and still hold full time jobs and have a family to tend. Markman knows this ----- but so do your Commissioners so it is astounding to see how overtly they have favored the opponents of their residents.   
                      In three solid tries the Planning Commission has failed to produce a majority opinion in favor of the project. This is  completely inappropriate "jump of the gun" as the r
esidents are treated as if their time and efforts are worth absolutely nothing. And....... aw gee .....what am I saying?  They  don't  want to spend their holiday time with  family & friends or in preparation for beautiful  gatherings....  They  are  hoping instead to read documents, strategize and  attend yet another meeting or two.  I'm almost certain of it. The Commissioners must have known that . Forgive me.

11-8-18  If you aren't outraged, you simpl
y aren't paying attention. After Hearing residents yet again make a plea for the proper process, as was laid out on Jan 11th , 2018  Commissioners denied it and did exactly what the developer wanted.  And..., after hearing them beg for the Hearing, if it were to be set, not BE SET AT CHRISTMAS , they proceeded to set it at Christmas. In fact, even closer to Christmas than first requested -  Dec 18th . 

     Commissioners voted yes one after another -- some not even sure what they WERE voting for  til one Commissioner finally asked  whether the Dec 18th date was included in the motion they were all voting on  ( that was asked after 12 yes votes).  In the discussion that ensued, the developer and his attorney convinced  Commissioners  that if they needed to they could even jam a few more meetings into everyone's holiday time if more meetings were needed. So he had not heard that holiday time meetings were the problem.  So, yes, this developer is happy to take more of the residents' holiday time to accommodate themselves and get their quick approval.  Despite them not even having the appropriate zoning yet on the property, they were asking for the Conditional Use Hearing to be held on the same day as the zoning change approval. They didn't want to trouble themselves with duplicating what they viewed as similar testimony. 

    And the Commissioners protested not at all. 3 of them (
Gillespie, Zappone and Kline) voted no citing the December date ... but only after a sufficient number had voted (12) to make the motion pass. Would have been nice if they had protested on behalf of the residents before  the vote was started. Or sought to amend or rescind the action after realizing it was.      It is my personal opinion that they all knew what they were doing.

11-15-18  The scheduled presentation to the Planning Commission is snowed out. New tentative date is Dec 11th.

11-15-18  A Right to Know Request is made for all the BET  documents - to try to understand the many irregularities like how the Conditional YUse Hearing was scheduled on a property with no zoning to accommodate it.  Those documents - or a response as to why they are not being provided - are due in 5 business days ( by 11-26-18).

11-27-18  The
Right to Know response did not arrive by its deadline. But a day later I was told  that  documents were posted.... 

11-27-18  The posted documents did not, by any stretch, of the imagination ,  satisfy the Township's obligation for a response to the request for all the documents in this matter ...... but it did reflect a first !!! In 12 years' time I have  never been able to get them to post the documents, meeting dates and all the information on an issue such as this chronologically  and on a single page --- so residents didn't have to look all over the place or hunt up old emails from their Commissioners to review the project.  This was the very first time that this had been done.  Separately from the Right to Know request  I had asked for this page once again.

12-5-18  At the Code Committee meeting Commissioners were asked to rescind the hearing scheduled for Dec 18th because there were irregularities at the meeting where the date was set ( at least 1 Commissioner believed he had to vote  for it before Christmas to meet a Municipalities Planning Code deadline.  Perhaps there was concern that the  Conditional Use hearing triggered that . The Conditional Use Hearing  never should have been part of the motion as there was no zoning to accommodate it.  It was eventually removed after complaints were made --- but how many other Commissioners may have been led to believe there was a deadline?  The Conditional Use application itself should have been rejected because of the lack of zoning. How did that get on the agenda? That should be understood.  Who reviews that. The Zoning Officer , Mark Penecale . If not...who??   That it was then subsequently approved showed a mindset going into the zoning change Hearing that they expected it would pass . Can you say "bias"?)     There were other irregularities, too.  The Planning Commission was supposed to advise them as to whether this was a project worthy of moving forward for a hearing. How did it move forward anyway.....before any approval from the Planning Commission ( in threee tries)  proposed that it should?  And further, any meeting whatsoever being held  7 days before Christmas is not in the interests of the residents who elect the Commissioners.  No matter what your faith, you know this is an impossible time for most to attend! Who are the Commissioners servingwith such actions? Explanations for these things should be forth-coming. But transparency is not  something we have any overabundance of.


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