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St Michael The Archangel
Fox Chase Rd, Jenkintown
Adding  400+ capacity "dining room / social hall"
and other renovations

 If you find or know of anything that appears inaccurate please let us know so we can correct anything that needs correcting. We are striving to put accurate information out for all to understand . 


UPDATE
In Early 2015 St Michael's was approved by the DEP to build the 11,640 sf  "Banquet Hall".  The entire process was a disgrace from the time of the change of zoning to the final approval by the DEP to allow the project to go through the sewers.
Regarding the final step, when I asked how they could possibly approved,  I was given a most bizarre explanation for how their thinking managed to "allow them" to approve something that never  added up on any sheet and for which many crucial figures were neither accurately provided nor calculated into the end result, in any meaningful or transparent way.  This process was a debacle from day one  -- and continues to be problematic for those of us who have read the laws and done the math.  I will hope to provide additional information as soon as time allows.


Click here to receive news and updates
               ( & changes in meeting dates like the one above)
 

WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT  ?
  St Michael's - which was once all residential property and is ajacent to residential homes,  is expanding -for the 3rd time.  The Proposal that was been approved (5-10-12)   includes a 448 person capacity  11,640 sf  "Banquet Hall"  with rear patio and deck and a new  dwelling ( Rectory ) for the priest and his family to live in, additional parking  spaces and for several years the planning has included an on lot septic system because of a sewer moratoium in the system to which it would flow if public sewers were used.  Neighbors with grave concerns ( and past experience with )  about about noise, traffic,  parking , fences, tree maintenance, trespass, etc. have had their rights upended by a lack of cooperation from Township officials to put them in an information loop and to address the issues that prevail.  As of mid 2013, there may be some prosect of getting approval for the public sewer , but  the correct numbers for adequate EDU's have never been reported according to information and calulations by residents . This will undoubtedly affect people downstream 

  SOME OF THE NOT SO PRETTY DETAILS  ..

Yes - even though others are required to pay to get off septic use, it appears that this is headed for final approval and they are going to be a large institution, with little control over its numbers, that is allowed to put in septic. And there are major concerns about the size of the septic that has morphed so dramatically over the process of this zoning change. 

 Besides the septic,  there have been multiple outrageous  procedural issues ....
      Residents not having had half of the facts before the waivers were passed
      Residents not allowed at meetings and in fact removed from meetings while being filmed unaware
      Residents not given proper information or timely information or having crucial  information withheld
      The unbelievable continuation during this time of myriad zoning regulations  violated for up to 20 yrs
      What  they will be allowed to build bears  little to no  resemblance to what was  advertized
      At each step of the game, the plan was changed, and residents were given only partial information
      Zoning approvals were passed before many  knew and understood their rights.   
      Septic plans were approved , despite all preliminary approvals being  conditional upon sewer use
      Residents were treated rudely and refused the right to speak even as outsiders were allowed that right 

       Had the entire plan as it now appears been presented at the beginning the board would have almost certainly been obligated to turn it down.  Instead, each step of the way a new change was added and residents comments and rights were virtually ignored.  And meeting after meeting after meeting, the project grew .
 Advertising 2008 :   6,000 sf building for meeting, breakfasts ( and the like)   & a rectory
 Obtained 2012 :   11,640 sf Banquet Hall with a rectory and an "Inn"  ( see below)
 If you ask me, the original advertizing and zoning.

This Church bought land zoned R1 residential and had a very small church  that was permitted because of its low impact on the neighborhood. That church changed dramatically in nature and residents have testified to the impact that is no longer so pleasant, and rather than mediate that for the residents, the current officials have instead approved a grossly larger facility that will impact the community on a much grander scale. the issue at hand is whether the rights of one property owner should be able to usurp the rights of so many others.  At last count, the church had approximately 50 township residents or families - a small percentage of its constituency.  A small group of public officials have skewed the rights of the church owners, giving them rights that intruded upon those of the adjoining neighbors. 
 

         Despite an  11,640sf  building and a (professed) congregation of 550+,  a very low number of Banquet Hall visitors was used to calculate the septic capacity needed  209 max per event)  - while a much larger  number can use it - ( 448 can be seated auditorium style - and that leaves much of the building supposedly unused) Ah yes - if they only serve "danish"  and not a full meal it will make all the difference .... Yes you had to be there to hear that one.....       It has been a mind boggling process to watch the people who are in charge of our public health and to see how the regulations are "overseen". 

        If larger numbers attend and use the facilities  the septic system can fail. We sent the DEP a chart based on their figures and got no response to it at all. In our chart, using their numbers,  the system fails, every way we worked it . Failed septic can do more than just cause smelly air.  It can pose a hazard to neighbors in proximity - and some neighbors right in the area of the septic have experienced flooding and water problems over the years. We think an answer to our chart is not only a courtesy but should be a requirement. 
  
        Testimony of 800 -1600 in attendance on holidays etc and with large numbers weekly even before the addition, suggest that the numbers plugged in will be difficult, if not impossible to enforce. So many of the regulations the church had were overtly violated in the past - for over 20 years in some cases, despite residents notification to officials. 

      Frequency of use is also an issue that has been skirted and this affects not just the septic situation, but also noise, parking , trespass etc.  With weddings, Holy Communions, baptisms etc for a large congregation, the concerns of past use of amplified music etc has become more of a concern.  A church that bought in a residential area has obtained waivers that could and probably will change the very nature of that neighborhood.

     The original Masonry dwelling is designed to become what I can only characterize as a Hotel/Inn/Guesthouse.  It is for visiting clergy.  I'm not sure  what else you call it when you have  a building separate from your dwelling where you invite people to sojourn for a brief period.  perhaps if you have an Inn and you don't get paid, you don't have an Inn anymore. But I would assume that there would normally be some rules and regulations to the running of a Guesthouse or Inn that seem to be falling out of the purview here.  If anyone has further info on this, please enlighten me.  By the way, the Masonry dwelling  is larger than the new dwelling being built, though the reason for needing a new one  was under the pretenses of it being too small. It was only to small because several others had been invited to live there too - that also contrary to standard housing code in Abington, I believe

       The greatest concern of all, in the opinion of this writer,  is the manner in which residents rights have been handled and the lack of response to zoning and code enforcement issues and the treatment of residents both behind the scenes and at the podium by those in charge in this township. Some violations have  been on-going for over 22 years - and were still unfulfilled at the time of the approval of new conditions and as of summer 2012,  despite repeated pleas to the Township to enforce them.  The horrendous outcome for these residents pales in comparison to the revelation of the methods that were used to usurp their property and personal rights.

RECENT ACTIONS  

 

Chronology --continued  See the prior chronology with all the actions ( that we know of ) on this property

_________________________________
RESOURCES

  List your Email - (Click & say "add me")
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              St Michael's ....

The Proposal - The most recent proposal including a 448 person capacity "Dining Hall"
             with rear patio and deck and another dwelling r Rectory for the Priest to live in.


  Soil Issues - A Full Soil Report on the church property has been obtained

  Sewer  & Septic  map of the area sewer lines / Septic guidelines -discussion, map, etc

  Township Codes - re: Flood Plain Conservation District, Noise, etc. 

  1990 Letter of Intent and Plan from St Michael's to Residents
-  stating  : 
                      no " large scale expansion " planned 

  Satellite Map - Map showing satellite view of the property & neighborhood

  Street Map - Map showing street view of the property 

QUESTIONS   Click here for Chronology details

CHANGES to THE PLAN THAT WAS ADVERTISED ORIGINALLY -- how many changes were they allowed to make .... ? The plan they submitted for the original exceptions/ waivers look nothing like the plan they have now . What was applied & advertised for was 6,000 sf, not 11,640sf ////  no additional parking  not 40 more spaces //pubic sewers not septic//  classrooms and places for religious  training, not a Banquet hall/// etc, etc, etc .....

SEPTIC SUITABLE-- is it possible they will be allowed to put on-site septic  on a property  that has a pond just outside one end and wetlands type soil  on the other end  -  more sewer discussion  

SEPTIC SIZE---will septic system have to be large enough to accommodate several hundred  that will sometimes be using it, or   they be able to have a smaller system based on using porta potties  ( and who in the world would use the porta potty when they are dressed up and  a regular bathroom is available...? ) what IS the full capacity - with the deck & patio considered ? more sewer discussion  

DISAPPEARING FLOODPLAINS--  the floodplain district, noted on the 1990 plan in the same spot where the banquet hall is to be built, may have been required by the authorities back in 1990  just because of the soils - which are typical of wetlands and not great for building on ( allevial soils).  It is now believed that there may have been a simple error by the Plan -maker in transferring the soil configurations , which is why the floodplain looked like it was right in the building site on the 1990's plan - but out of it on the 2008 plan See :  soils and the floodplain  for more on these issues

CHELTENHAM'S   WAITING  LIST-- Cheltenham has a moratorium so they have not been able to go out the front -The moratorium has been on since 2005 - and Cheltenham notified St. Michael's in letters  before the approval of the plans that they neither had capacity, nor did they have St. Michael's on any waiting list for capacity - even as late as 12-09. So why did the plans not reflect that? Why were residents not given this information?  Why was no application for EDU's made by Abington for St Michael's ?  Are they on the waiting list now ? Was there really an intent to go that way? more sewer discussion  

EASEMENTS -- residents approached with requests for easements should be advised to consult an attorney .  Click here for more

NOISE--- noise issues have not been enforced and police logs of the calls have not been kept - Noise is still a concern   From 2008 through to 2012  residents have not heard about why  this persists   click here for more

DRIVEWAY /PARKING -the driveway seems still not to be to code despite recommendations that there should be a double wide driveway.  And parking is still a huge concern...click here for more

BUFFERS   -  no definitive buffers seem to have been  specifically planned to screen the neighbors from the activity-- despite testimony that there was life vegetation the facility and that there would be ample buffers.  Clearly the developer's idea and the residents ideas differ. Will evergreens be planted? Will the mature trees removed for construction be replaced?

EMERGENCY ISSUES -  there was a concern that easements through the back neighborhood might be a " pathway "into the rear community - perhaps sparked by St Michael's seeming resistance to the double wide driveway .  Could an easement be requested in order to accommodate emergency vehicles?  Residents generally seem not to want a road that enters into the neighborhood.

CHANGING ZONING LINES - The Zoning lines changed from the 1990 map to the current one .  It is possible that this happened in a Township wide rezoning in 1996 -- no clear data yet  click here for more

SOILS--  the HA soils once required  to be designated  as floodplain conervation district are no longer deemed so - but there is still concern about these alleuvial soils whith septic in the picture   See Soils Information.

WHAT WILL  BE WRITTEN AS CONDITIONS?
Will buffer specs, noise  enforcement and other agreements be WRITTEN as conditions
The last time the Church was given their zoning based on conditions, the conditions were ignored . Residents together should be making a list. click here for more

HARDSHIP - Wavers and Variances require a "Hardship" to my understanding ( this application included a variance and a Special Exception. The hardship given for building the Rectory was that the Priest did not have enough space in the current home.  Upon testimony, however,  part was used for an office ( office space will be in the new building ) .  Upon further testimony it appears there were empty rooms in the home and upon further testimony, apparently there was also a lady living in the Priest's home . Upon even further testimony there were apparently 2 ladies living there  -- and a portion of it dedicated to office space (?) other uses . ....
  Renovation of the old home was, in testimony, not considered possible because of the expense.  But the decision was to keep the old home in use even after the new rectory was built  ( thereby requiring the expense of maintenance of 2 homes )  and the cost of building a new 3000 sq ft new home -- seens to undermine the contention that the problem was money.  Their new plan requires far greater expense. 
     The exceptions/ variances were all granted anyway.


CONSEQUENCES OF THIS WAIVER-- St. Michaels did not have natural land rights to do what they were doing without a variance/special exception. Yet because of the exceptions being requested -residents, whose own rights should be protected,  are faced with the endless hours, documents, testimony, calls, meetings, research,  plan reviews, and possible need for attorneys etc etc . Residents also have had to pay tax money to afford the staff time that  also had these same demands . The fees that the applicants  are charged cannot come close to the cost.  These costs are borne by everyone in the Township .
     The end result creates enjoyment , benefit and increased property value for one, while eroding enjoyment and  decreasing property value and causing a great deal of cost and aggravation for others.  Should our laws/codes/regulations be upheld? Or should our paid and elected officials grant exceptions as they please - regardless of the voices of the residents affected ? click here for more

 

CHRONOLOGY  view the exhaustive process to which residents have already been subjected ........

_____________________________________________

THINGS NEARBY :

 SAINT BASIL'S ?
- I believe that the application to develop on St. Basil's property is currently on hold - if anyone hears otherwise please let me know.

ANOTHER NEARBY FACILITY THAT HOLDS 300
2011  The former Ukranian Church at 875 Fox Chase Rd has apparently been bout ( rumored to be in the 700,000 range - we have not confirmed this information 
 http://www.prufoxroach.com/8097760__CMNCMN__875-FOX-CHASE-RD-8097760.html
      

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   We will bring more details as they are known and welcome your comments  to share either anonymously or with your name attached with your  fellow Abington residents.   
Send  any updated information, comments or questions  to: lel@abingtoncitizens.com 

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Abington Township recently completely revamped their website at the end of 2015 . All links directed to the old site were broken. We will be reinstating links as we find them and if the data is still available.  
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