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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 

        Zoning Re-writes & Zoning changes Township-wide are under discussion now
  Sign up to receive our periodic Newsloop to stay informed and get the latest meeting date
and please be sure to send any corrections, additions  to the info below
 

 FIRST : GET THE PLANNING & ZONING MEETINGS ON TV...  Our government access  channel (Comcast 43 Verizon 24 ) at 9 am, 3 pm and 9 pm should carry all the zoning, and planning meetings, as well as all zoning rewrite meetings so the public can see what is happening . Meetings are long & often full of other issues but we need ALL our resources to be working . WHEN THEY ARE TAPED AND TELEVISED WE CAN SHARE THE INFORMATION AND GREATLY INCREASE  TRANSPARENCY.  Most of you have no idea how your neighborhood or the Commercial area near you is being re-zoned . We need every available resource. They have been denied since requested in early 2006. Please ask your Commissioner to GET THE PLANNING & ZONING MEETINGS ON

 THE ZONING REWRITES HAVE BEEN RELEASED -

OVERVIEW http://www.abington.org/resident/zoc.pdf Which does not tell you the details
ALL 400 PAGES  http://www.abington.org/resident/zoningdraft.pdf 
FOR QUESTIONS CALL
 zoc@abington.org  or  call zoning dept official Mark Penecale at  267-536-1017 
Frustrated : Let me know

 The only way to know what has changed,
 
is to have  a list of line -by-line changes
Otherwise our rights are removed without knowledge or consent

 In Feb and March  2014 general meetings were held . These were attended largely by staff and by those involved in your governmnet process or in parts of the rewrites.  Only a tiny handful of citizens were there that did not have some role in the zoning or were not  part of the usual gov't works.  And even they did not understnad the zoning .  The township is well aware that out of 56,000 residents even the ones getting the harshest changes to their own home zoning have not been notified . And of those that were notified, few understand it. And when we have questioned, we have received completely false responses. When I first asked, I was told the only change to my zoning rights (R1)  were Acessory Dwellings . That  was so completely off it wasn't even funny.  It is over 2 months that they have been out  and I STILL do not have a proper  answer to that question.  I was not intially told about  the use by right to build a municipal complex in my zoning district- nor was I told about changes to the sign portion of the ordinance that would now allow signs in the R1 zoning.  They refuse to do a "side by side"  despite REPEATED promises that they would inform people and that there would be able time to get up to speed and to comment.  The reality is quite the opposite. The presentations given are like the "reports" that were offered earlier -  they do not explain any of the crucial details. 


 WHAT DID RESIDENTS REPEATEDLY ASK FOR IN SURVEYS AND AT THE PODIUM ? 
Less Density -Less Density- Less Density - Less Density  
Less traffic
Pedestrian friendly  SHOPPING districts for US - ( not  for new people who will live in the new Mixed
        Use Apartments   while those that live ( and vote) here now will park further away from shopping
         & "pedestrian" areas -
No parking garages, shared parking or narrow spaces where doors open into & ding the car beside you
More greenspace and buffers  - especially against residential
Movie Theaters  ( obtained through incentives )
A plan to attract the kind of businesses we were interested in having
Not to have schools more crowded or have to build new schools
Not to have more apartments which impact our taxes & add children to the district for a fraction of the cost
Not to have higher heights

--   Instead they are getting the  opposite .

The head of the Zoning Committee Steve Kline responded in march that he did not even know the 10 top priorities for the residents, nor the 10 things they most didn't want  after all the many polls, surveys, focus groups etc .   How could you lead rezoning and not know that?

We are getting parking garages  & shared parking  ( drive around til you find where it is)
Density  in mixed use districts is being INCENTIVIZED
Signs are being added back in to residential districts

   WHAT DID WE GET ?   
UP TO THE SIDEWALK The new zoning will  bring many commercial buildings  right up to the sidewalk - the theory is that this will make the corridor  "pedestrian friendly. It will not . Just see  York Rd in the center of Jenkintown with sidewalks next to speeding cars.  No one walks there . What it DOES do is prevent anyone from widening the road as the density increases ( which this zoning also does)

HIGHER HEIGHTS The new zoning  will  allow heights above the  35 feet  (see  Rydal Park for an example) and all that does is increase density - largely benefitting commercial owners  - which gives them more say as well as more money.

REZONING RESIDENCES TO COMMERCIAL You may learn that the residence next door to you isn't going to be a "residence " for long - some have been rezoned, as your house or street may have been,  to Commercial use and some have been given the use by right to have a Municiple Complex there - not need to even "ask"  what the neighbors think.  Some residents will therefore soon live next door to a medical office owned by an investor rather than  the homeowner, or a professional office instead of a home.   


Tools That Are Needed for Zoning Rewrites
1 Searchable files for maps , charts etc. within  the text  - Done
2 All presentations taped and archived for access at any time on the website or  you-tube
3 A side –by – side presentation /page of all changed regulations (current vs new)
4 A Q&A page where questions posed by the public are listed and answered.
        so that we can  benefit from each other's wisdom and not duplicate….
5  Most important of all – one simple, speedy , efficient overview video of the zoning  would be the best   
       tool to   circulate widely and inform the populace

 Questions/comments on the overall plan  

PARDON THE REPETION - HAVE HAD LITTLE TIME TO REFINE - PLEASE ALERT ME TO ERRORS OR REDUNDANCIES

 Buffers /"Build to" lines  /setbacks  along streets
Reduced green areas in front result from  "Build to " up to the sidewalk recommendations
Reduced  Buffers accommodate increased  buildable area & benefit developers           
The reduced areas are like  York Rd in  Jenkintown  - or the "billiard" strip in Willow Grove
Reduced buffer areas  are not pedestrian friendly - pedestrians do not choose to walk near busy roads
As  traffic increases, corridors get clogged - options to relieve traffic will be eliminated
If building right up to the curb or sidewalk, you can't then widen the road  --- anywhere
You can't  create  turning lanes or  bus pull-offs  . You can't add an extra lane  where needed
If build to lines were set BACK - not moved up - you could accommodate improved traffic flow
Parking is  more  difficult to find  when  you drive  quickly past one storefront then another
Areas where parking is difficult to find  lose business (  i.e. York Rd in Jenkintown again )
The "sky " is removed from the driver's view - an urban feel in our most travelled corridors prevails
Property values change in  areas with little green         

           
Open Space / Recreational Space / Overall % Of Green space /
The change in buffers reduces green space is  largely to give businesses more buildable area
The Community loses the suburban feel  & green look  
Neighboring properties lose value , being closer to business & in a twp. with less green
Residential properties suffer more from the sound/ lights/ air quality  and quality of life
Changes in  % of impervious  affect storm water runoff
Changes have not been analyzed for each property to show its effect on the overall Twp. green %       
  
Building heights - 
From 35 ft. to 50 ft. or 50 ft. to 75 ft.  ??
The urban feel of blocked out sky
Added height  will add  unnecessarily to the density   ( traffic / crime/ congestion/ expanded schools or
                    infrastructure   compared to exactly what benefits? )
          have the numbers been crunched  as far as costs vs benefits     
               
Mixed use areas / Density
Touted as creating  pedestrian friendly  areas - will it really?   Will more than  a small  handful of  current residents  who actually elected the zoners and planners proposing this benefit .  Would the majority of the existing residents  benefit just as easily from a well-planned  commercial district  that had offices rather than residential units, mixed with pedestrian friendly retail shops and then had movie theaters and meeting areas for residents to use at night .
1) OTHERS BENEFIT - NOT RESIDENTS ( new residents ) The residents living  in these units would likely  be "imported" rather than  those living and voting here  now . Increase of density …..
2) PARKING Residents currently living here now  would likely have to park in a parking garage or outside of the pedestrian area . Multiple trips "to the car" would be needed for multiple purchases  and current residents would pay for parking in a parking garage possibly or perhaps face the drive all around til you find one"  joy of shared parking  - (see more under "Parking" below )
3)  NOISE & ACTIVITY  Residents do not mix well with either 3am/early morning delivery noise  trash trucks etc. or with  night time entertainment  &  activities.  Movie theaters, for instance,  would pose noise problems if residents were nearby.  Not so if office units were mixed with the retail rather than residential units . And theaters, meeting and other community activities  could abound at night bringing even more income  to the commercial district.  
4) LOWER PRICED UNITS  OR HIGH END?  When residential is in the middle of a commercial zone, the units tend to be lower priced.  Apartment developments  and other large scale endeavors are often greatly affected by the  economic  state of the commercial district they are in or by the  swings of  the economy in general.  Seniors appreciate the convenience of mixed use but complain about the noise and disruptions . See Financial Impacts below …

Financial Impacts

SCHOOL TAXES BURDENED Lower priced units  skew the balance of  taxes - especially school taxes.  They generally pay less in income taxes and real estate taxes than the  same  units of single family housing - yet sent a great  number of kids to the schools at over $20,000 per students and requiring new schools at up to 20-30 million 

INCOME TAXES  ARE LESS  Lower priced units attract  lower income  residents or  college students  and  young singles starting out  i.e.: little or  no income tax, little money to spend in the commercial districts, frugal spenders.

 QUALITY OF LIFE :  OWNERSHIP CREATES PRIORITIES  IN PRESERVING QUALITY OF LIFE  AND LONG TERM COMMUNITY VISION   When the voters of a community are invested in the community with an intent to stay, they generally  vote for representatives that  preserve the quality of life issues  in their community .  Residents who are temporarily here with a plan to move elsewhere do not have the same interests, and often vote for what may provide a quick convenience  at the time rather than a long term improvement .


CONVERTING AGE RESTRICTED When age restricted units meet financial hard times, they often request to be allowed to remove the restriction - now keeping them afloat to avoid one financial disaster, but bring an influx of students to the schools, so creating another financial disaster.  Such mass disasters are rare in owner occupied, independent single family homes .


BUSINESS DISTRICT  IMPROVEMENTS  TAX ABATEMENTS AND OTHER SPECIAL BONUSES
Commercial & Business districts often apply for others to "support  " them by way of business district improvements  etc. Tax abatements and gifted landscaping, hardscaping etc for some is an added tax on all those not receiving it . They have the same expenses. Special Bonuus simply "shift the wealth"  and represent unfair competition.  Blighted Commercial districts bonuses like tax abatements  also reward those that allowed their properties to become blighted rather than the other way around ( by enforcing our zoning code provisions to keep our communities nice).  You always get more of the things you reward. So more "blight " will come - or at least be claimed.  When one beneficiary  receives a tax abatement, all the others have to pick up that share of taxes.  You may be forcing another business into hard times.

ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL IMPACTS RARELY CALCULATED Increases in density should not be allowed without a comprehensive  financil impact statement .  The beneficiary is usually the developer .  The community picks up the losses.

SHARED PARKING  Further financial impacts are borne from increase waiting in traffic , driving around  and around to find "shared “parking , parking garages that ultimately charge for parking ,  increased police & emergency services , infrastructure expansion and other measures mentioned  under other topics  in this list

 Parking / Shared Parking / Parking Garages
-Shared parking & parking garages  change suburban shopping experiences into more  urban ones and begin to put the cost of parking on the residents rather  than on the business to provide the parking needed for his or her  business. Transfer cost from businesses to individuals.
-Shared parking & parking garages  have been  protested by residents  whenever they are proposed
-Shared parking & parking garage  calculations never take into account the time  spent "finding a space" It   -It means that when you shop, you often don't know how far or near  you will be.
-It means  that at times  you will  not purchase as much as you might if your car were  nearby  and
your  purchases could be easily deposited in the trunk , especially if heavy or cumbersome
-Shared parking & metered parking in Jenkintown is like that now - and  the town's success is much tied to the parking
-Shared parking often touted as "sustainable - has an equal number of "unsustainable factors that must be considered

Expanded Tax Base / Density / Increase in population

-Where are the "crunched numbers " showing  factors included - how is it calculated to be a  bonus ?
    are all the factors listed  --- or largely only the "benefits "
-Age restricted units have the potential to be LATER converted to  units that have kids
-Increased student costs ($20-25,000 per student  ) plus new schools ($20-30 million )
-Increased infrastructure street/street lights , sewer, crime costs  etc. are rarely in the picture
-Increased traffic and congestion - doubling the time it takes to get from A-Z
-How many additional units are  the result of each parcel's change - where are the figures ?
-Is the overall effect of the changed zoning being calculated and quantified?
-Density can bring  increases in  traffic, crime,  and detract greatly from the "suburban" lifestyle

Sewer Upgrades
-What were the numbers from the act 537 sewer facilities plan from 2012 /2013 that              
       reflected the  cost of the upgrades for the expected increase in population & businesses .
-We underwent an 11 million dollar wastewater treatment  upgrade  within the last  7 years -
        What amount of increase in units will trigger the next needed upgrade
-Sewers being lined will be narrower - once they are lined they will handle what we have now --  but the plan
        seems to be to allow MORE add -ins every time they improve a portion.  That seems to be a plan for failure...........
Sewers have had vents plugged to prevent storm water inflow. Plugged vents  have caused gas
         backups in people's houses .  Pur TV channel recently began adding  warning slides for gas back ups --
         but few people understand  t the township's role in the back-ups  by having plugged the vents  

Signs .  .  Re digital and neon/flashing  signs: There is currently a vast  mix of signage , including many new, rapidly changing,  neon/ digital signs that seems to defy what I thought was  a rule about changes only 2x a day ……  I'm not sure if these were obtained by waiver or if  entire sections of the ordinance were changed ( currently )  - and I will assume each district has new sign rules that are quite different from what they were previously . I recently learned that they are planning to add Commercial signs in the residential districts . They tried that once before and received enough feedback that they quickly reversed it . But this time they are making certain most  don't even  know about it. rE BILLBOARDS Abington is currently  ( as of 2-14 ) in a continuing lawsuit with the company that is challenging the ordinance. We are insisting that we have the RIGHT  to word our ordinance as we have - no changes will be made to that ordinance currently.  Re digital and neon/flashing  signs: see above  .

Inability  to enforce implementation of the "vision / Grandfathering, etc.
There is in general no ability to force people to comply with the new zonings and hence the "visions" that  prompted  the zoning changes.  In essence they now have the new rights plus the old rights -  i.e.:  one property might build up to the road immediately while a dozen of the properties around it do not build up to the road - perhaps for  20 or 30 years - or ever. When  a particular property is rezoned, it is  immediately out of compliance with the current ordinance .  They are not  required to bring their property into immediate compliance . Instead their property is considered a non-conforming legal use .  The  “grandfathered  use” goes with the property, even if it is sold.  In other words  the zoning could make even more of a disparity and "mess" in the very areas  that they intend to "improve" it with their vision and all the lovely drawings.

______________________________________________________________________________________

 Again :

 The only way to know what has changed,
 is to have  a list of line -by-line changes
Otherwise rights are removed without knowledge or consent
Just a few  that may or may not be changed  in the final version are :

 Residential concerns .....  These are just questions . I do not have the answers . Steve Kline does - but isn't telling you much.

REQUIRED BUFFERS FOR ALL STRUCTURES - what are they? what has changed?

REQUIRED BUFFERS  FOR A SHED --- on a smaller property might put the shed smack in the middle
 of the useable backyard   Reconsideration to the wording and specs on this would be wise . What is it ?

TRANSITION ZONES  If you have residential near commercial , the "wisdom" may have been to turn your property ( or your neighbor's ) into light commercial  ( because Commercial and residential don't mix .  Perhaps if you're moving you'll like this - your property may even increase in value due to the expanded use . If you're staying and you thought you bought in residential, you may now find yourself in the midst of apartments, offices  etc. --- or if you were buffered by that row of residential you may now be next to commercial.

NO CAMPING ALLOWED ON PROPERTY ….  This should be carefully written  so that the only “camping “that is excluded is long term camping that “houses” additional people who do not live there . Residents should all have a RIGHT to sleep under the sky or  in tents if they like ( as often as they like )  and  kids having sleepovers should be allowed , or tents put up during religious festivities   such as Sukkot. What are the rules and changes? 

MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS ( and similar institutional or other uses ) once allowed  conditionally  may be allowed by right  .  Previously they may have needed permission and a hearing  and you would have had a right to comment.   The impact on each house and the impact on the neighborhood  should be known . These things are not being discussed with you .  Where are they possible. What will that mean.  Once this zoning changes - they won't need to ask you.    

TRUCKS WITH ADVERTISING…… weren't allowed before - Now ARE THEY  allowed by right  OR NOT? Don’t know . Mark Penecale indicated  they may not have changed this --- I sat in on  a meeting where the consensus seemed that they would .

IN Law Suites are needed – but Acessory buildings might not do the trick --- 9separated from main building – what happens after the parents pass away --- you have two  buildings on a lot – another way to subdivide

HOME BUSINESSES ---Low impact , high impact . What is allowed now in your zone  - What will be allowed?
What might you end up having next door ?   And now ... signs will be allowed in residential districts. This should not be. Can you imagine a staunch Catholic with his home next door to someone advertising "Abortion Counseling"  Advertising should stay in the commercial districts .  Our homes should be free of commerce.  If low impact home businesses do  not allow clients or people working there  - why do they need signs ?  Our rights as homeowners are being sold to the highest bidders. 

GENERATORS  ( for power outages )  especially those that need to be tested every few weeks or months  were regulated with a recently passed ordinance . I imagine this has not changed

 TREES  - maintenance or cutting down & replacing . Ordinaces are needed to dictate the care of trees in bad condition  that are at risk of falling on  or threatening other homes, yards or electric wires - but I don't think that's in here either .

CHICKENS AND OTHER LIVESTOCK , BEEKEEPING, FISH PONDS  etc. The rules have changed for some of these - but have you been notified?   You should have been .


SOLICITATION IN RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS
-Residents choose NOT to be in commercial zones, and one reason was safety.  Safety is one of the
grounds upon which  solicitation in residential areas can be prevented Local townships  allowing commercial solicitation have had  IMMEDIATE safety issues . Residents do not want solicitation at their homes and on hte grounds of safety can avaid it . Despite the police having ample reports of safety violations from solicitation, they are not supporting residents in this safety measure. The little "baggies" in the driveway mark houses whose owners are away  & violate litter laws - police know that this is more dangerous as they have warned people not to let thier hoses be marked by cancelling mail and subscriptions. Yet they do not help us by providing testimony about safety that allows us to avaid the solicitation in our neighborhoods.

WHY DON'T YOU KNOW THIS STUFF

 WHERE’S YOUR CIVIC ASSOCIATION we should be appalled they are not telling you about these changes and asking your input as a group . They should be compiling lists of concerns and desired zoning  -- and they should be pushing for side by side comparisons and  FAQ  pages  with ANSWERS for the questions

Why HASN’T YOUR COMMISSIONER ALERTED YOU - I have even recently seen newsletters go out where none of the issues are discussed.

 

 Now is the time for us to join our voices. Get your neighborhood linked in - so that  all can learn the facts and be notified when meetings are coming up.      Sign up to receive our periodic Newsloop to stay informed

))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

 


   BEGIN TO PUT YOUR TOOLS TO USE ... see our "tools" page
             Ask your Commissioners and your Township manager  specifically to :
              1) post a webpage for each issue that has the links to find meetings,
                            lastest updates & all the plans etc
              2)  tape  all meetings on the topic & air them on our public channel -
                             so you can review or if you missed a meeting. This is actually important .
                             The devil is really in the details
              3) post all the taped meetings on-line with time  reference points and fast forward features
              4)  notify everyone  in the township that there is a list for updates on this subject-
                          invite ALL residents to get onto the list
              5)  provide a meeting space ( already paid by your taxes ) for neighbors
                             to hold their own open discussions  whenever they choose -
                             to share information and formulate questions- not moderated by authorities.
              6) to provide residents with any changes that are being proposed in summary form
                            - preferably in "2 column /compare " style
              7) please make your meetings open to all  - If you try to limit transparency for others
                             and then you will be perpetuating the system where others can limit  you


Email me if you need help contacting others.   I also have a great deal of information about how our processes work and what is happening elsewhere in the Township that might be helpful to your situation.


Meeting Minutes - Please let us know if you would like some of the the documents ( Maps and Minutes) that are available to see these issues for  yourselves. Just contact us & mention your street

____________________

WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS FACETS OF THE
RE-ZONING 
UNDERWAY TOWNSHIP-WIDE?

All info should be  checked out with your Commissioner & if I have made any errors,
please be kind enough to
get back to me
  Sign up to receive our periodic Newsloop to stay informed
 

 Prong 1 The Old York Corridor Rd plan  -
      See in particular Chapter 4  -  http://abington.org/downloads/OYR/Chapter_4.pdf  
      4 particular nodes in this plan:

 *** Noble train &  The Fairway area---(the FTD is already a horrific example of what's to come
 *** Susquehanna & Old York Rd  area-
 ***  London Center by Target & Giant    - billboards/ hotels and a host of issues
 ***  Roy Rubicam  area .
 

CONSEQUENCES OF THE CHANGES
 *** Increasing  traffic on the busy York Rd thoroughfare  up to 17,500 trips a day   (5000 in any given area)   *** Increase Commercial impact on our township in no small way.
*** Your Township is not "building" these elements ( Hotel, Parking Garage etc ) but even worse:  these are in their  "vision" for development  and they are  putting into place the  zoning mechanisms  that would allow for them.
By the time there is a developer at the door, it will be too late. He will have zoning rights
Residents don't know what to protest because they can't see it .


    The Old York Rd Study ---  a VERY  few of the issues include :
------  p 119  rewriting our sign ordinance ?
------- p 117 - adding additional 17500 vehicle trips on Old York Rd ? ( and that is just a very fractional 
           count of what is underway in the OVERALL vision for the township.)  
-----  p 113 taking business FROM the mall - the same mall that is possibly being considered for 10
         years of  tax abatements for help ????  How can this make sense?
------ p 137 " if the road is 60 feet high the buildings should be 60 ft hi "  ( 4-5 stories???)  "and sited right
          up to the sidewalk "   ---   When you increase traffic on a road and then bring the buildings in closer
           to the street, the change that you are creating is unmistakable.
----     Take just ONE example from the proposals -  the vision presented in this study  for the London Rd /Target/
          Giant shopping area considers the possibility of  a parking garage, hotel AND  apartment buildings, retail 
         and twins  . Consider the already numerous vacant properties , consider  that this is not a plan to make an area
         more pedestrian friendly to the current residents - it is ADDING residents for  whom no drive to the area is
         necessary. For current residents, they would instead now have to park in the parking garage - quite distant from
         certain stores they may want to visit. when there are so many vacant properties where these elements could
          already be built without over-building here. Residents requests to NOT increase density and to NOT install
          parking garages ( from testimony heard at various prior meetings ) have not been heard .
          In the suburbs, we LIKE pulling up to the stores where we shop.  That's why we live in the suburbs rather than a
           mile or two away in the city where
these  features abound.

----  Still no movie theater in the vision……?   Is it possible there is one coming to the Willow Grove area?
          After the prior surveys where this was a very, very frequent request, one might hope that we would have
          this issue addressed. 
 
Prong 2   Other Commercial areas all over the Township are being considered for changes & up-grades  to more intense uses or more varieties of usage.  A couple of areas might be somewhat downsized.  It would be difficult to even try to calculate the traffic impact  and other consequences of these many changes. They will happen over a period of years - but, again, the zoning changes  that will allow them are happening right now.
 
Prong 3  Residences near Commercial   Zoning rewrites are being  discussed in some residential areas where the residential might meet up with high level commercial use.  But instead of tree lined buffers or other changes to the commercial entities,  what is being discussed is the creation of  "transition zones" where the houses nearest the construction might be rezoned to allow offices, or condos or apartments or twins or other "light commercial" use.  The theory seems to be that by going from heavy commercial to lighter commercial, it will create a buffer zone or transition zone. This will, in my opinion, only increase commercial presence and  actually bring some form of commercial closer to the properties  further in, rather than "buffering" anything.
 
Prong 4   Rewrites to the zoning of  all residential areas  (R1 thru R4 )are under way.  We have not been able to get a summary - but for instance,  possibly Municipal Complex might be added as a "right" rather than a conditional use - so you might have no say in their ability to build next door to you. And will trucks with advertizing be allowed to park on your street....?  And  possibly  "overlay" zones like Land Preservation Development overlays would be rewritten and allowed to  increase  residential density on (one section of) a property.  Theoretically this would leave large green areas for  group or public use - but sometimes these get sold off or given a variance later on,  when memories have faded or no one is paying attention.  So these various changes are important to people - and they should know in time to understand and have a say in the FORMULATION process  of the zoning changes - in a time early enough for the word to spread, for neighborhood discussions and for them to inform themselves before they are brought to a hearing to speak.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY  ZONING RE-WRITE  ?
         
The discussions underway to re-write our zoning code do not mean someone will be bulldozing your house. Instead, the zoning will take place now and the actual changes will take place over a period of years. When your neighbor sells, will the new owner have the right to build an office?  Residential districts through-out the township R1, R2, R3 or R4 may find themselves in an overlay area- or with slight zoning changes that they barely notice. But if, for instance, they don't appreciate trucks with signage  parked on their street, and if that is one of the changes being proposed, they should be aware this is happening. Their comments and feelings should be helping Committee members  in the process. After changes have been formulated and agreed on by the committee, it may be more of a challenge to convince the committee what the constituents actually want.  And many neighborhoods  next to commercial areas have had  red-lines drawn around them  and are also under discussion for changes. In the words of the head of the Re-write Committee these reflect 
“an ongoing process examining all possibilities to deal with the consistent conflict between certain residential communities and commercial/institutional/industrial areas throughout the township”.  But if your house is in a conflict or "transition area" that  might be re-zoned from strictly residential to allow offices, condos, apartments or another higher density use, you might not appreciate the manner in which the conflict is being resolved. And I personally am perplexed by watching another area be developed where residential is being purposely sandwiched between the commercial uses .  Are we creating new conflict zones?

    If our current vacancies ( like the Baederwood Shopping Center, the Williard) were filled to their allotment - our traffic would increase . Additional zoning allowances will  create another level of  traffic entirely. Will a heavily trafficked throughway might have you sitting a lot longer in traffic to get to the soccer game . Or  will your sunny open suburban street  have 5  story buildings built right up to the sidewalk - more of a city feel?  Yes of course we want better shopping and nicer districts.   But how much? And how do our voices get recognized?  I don't recall seeing a movie theater yet? Is one in the plan?   And what are the consequences of the stronger commercial "voice" .
       Originally I was told they were trying to  possibly finalize this by September 09. If so, the main hearings then would  likely be held in July & August when the majority of residents are on vacation or cherishing summer time with their kids. These are well-known "low turn-out"  months. Commissioner Kline tells me that there is no timetable on the process other than as soon as possible.  The Committee has been at this for over a year & the Commissioners have had the R1 through R4 draft for several months now, allowing them time to absorb & question. But residents will have to get up to speed quickly when  they finally are notified & 
nearly no one I have spoken to has a clue yet that this is underway.

WILL I BE NOTIFIED ? WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?
   
 Yes, of course , there is notification to residents and an opportunity for them to speak in all Township affairs - and especially in ones that might change their property rights.  Nobody is claiming there are or were  "secret meetings"  or "conspiracies"  --- words  thrown into the mix to discredit those getting the word out.  But the open, public meetings have been going on since at least March of 2008 and virtually no one I have met in the township was aware of them. That includes folks whose houses are under discussion to be rezoned or who live adjacent to areas that will be re-zoned rather dramatically.  These are complicated issues. They involve many facets of Zoning & Planning that Township personnel & Commissioners have gotten up to speed on little by little- and already were much more conversant in. Understanding the overall, interactive consequences of this  is a task that will not be easy for residents. In addition, should they want to unite their voices, that  is a task that takes another  great length of time - and is rarely accomplished unless a few dedicated people invest fully to do it. Further, residents comments are limited and they rarely understand the whole issue, so precious comment time is often spent asking questions. And by waiting  until the whole comprehensive  township wide plan is "unveiled",  a situation will be created at the presentation meeting where no individual section  will be focused on, diluting the ability to make a certain area's desires really known. Changed meeting times & dates, etc etc - there are a thousand reasons that residents in each area should have been informed more specifically about what was going on in the early stages, when effecting a change in the process is much more likely. The Eminent Domain meetings in Roslyn  that were going on since early 09 or before, might have been of much more interest to those who might stand , in the overall scheme, to have their properties re-zoned as part of such an overall "revitalization".

It is really important to get as many informed as possible, to know when the meetings are and how to unite your voices. And please share back with me anything that you learn that should be on this site.

WHERE ARE THE SOME OF THE AREAS UNDER DISCUSSION  ?
The 4 main areas of the Old York Rd Corridor improvement  are :
Noble train &  The Fairway area---////  Susquehanna & Old York Rd  area-- ////  London Center by Target & Giant -////  Roy Rubicam  & the Crestmont train  area 

Then these are largely the areas where residences meet commercial  that were red circled
1   Abington Library area  Old Orchard  Canterbury Woodcrest  Harte hilltop Wyndale Baeder Rd
2   Ardsley  between Mt Carmel, Jenkintown & North Hills Ave - Cricket Tennis Maple Central Hamel Elm
3   Ardsley Station area Jenkintown Road ---Maple Hamel  Monroe Harrison Jackson
4   Willow Grove - Blinds To Go area   Moreland Old York  Strafford   Rockwell
5   Willow Grove  - Moreland Road near Fleming Osborne Lukens Coolidge
6   Willow Grove Mall area Old Welsh Reservoir  Rubicam and Easton Road
7   Willow Grove  - Crestmont Station area  Ferndale Roy Rubicam Hamilton Tremont Rockwell old Welsh
8   Abington Hospital Area - Highland and Wheatsheaf  from Susquehanna to Old York Rd -
                Keith Rockwell key woodland Horace Wheatsheaf Susquehanna
9   Hollywood  Shady Lane  Berkeley San Diego Gibson Redondo Los Angeles Fox Chase
10  Glenside  Jenkintown Rd  & continuing  up Easton Rd to Tague Cross & a little more
11  Glenside Keswick area Oakdale Woodlyn Fairhill
12  Elkins Park Hospital area- Township Line  Holme Barry Perry Runner Ray  Church  Susan Rolling Hill
13  McKinley  Cyprus Lime West Cadwalader Tupelhocken Huron Odessa  high school Road
14  Roslyn - Avondale Radcliffe Lafayette Independence Colonial Brookdale Woodland Arlington Norwood
          Kenderton Bradfield  -- and they have just voted to take the property on Easton Rd from an elderly
         owner by Eminent Domain to make a nice "Town Center " in this neighborhood.
15 Abington - from Susquehanna to the hospital along old York Road-  Guernsey Eckard Horace
16 Rockledge -Cedar Road Henrietta Huntington Pike old Huntington Pike Longstreth
17 Jenkintown - Township line Gordon Lenox Wyncote 

 + ......Additional Maps  exist of :
Glenside -Easton-  Menlo /Mt Carmel area -
Glenside  Geneva Weldon
Willow Grove - Ferndale & Rockwell  near Welsh
and there are 4 maps thus far of   business districts in my possession

 

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WHY DOES  THIS MATTER ?

The impact of these many, many changes will undoubtedly change our township dramatically over the course of the next decades ---   and residents should understand  & have  a reasonable opportunity to have input. These changes are underway  now - and I do not know if there is any possibility of reversing them once they are in place.
     Do residents know that the York Rd Plan suggests that where streets are 60 feet wide, buildings should be 60 feet wide (4-5 stories )  and that is is being recommended that they be built right up to the sidewalk in places along Old York Rd . That would create a "city" feel - and in fact would prohibit any widening or addition of a public transportation lane when the traffic became oppressive years down the road . In my opinion bonuses should be given to those who move back from the road and allow for adjustments to that busy corridor. There is much talk about "undeveloped areas"  - well that's why some of us like living here - because the (old) zoning didn't allow for every square inch to be developed. We don't all want the zoning changed.  I don't think these little details, that make so much difference, are being highlighted.  

     If you live in a  neighborhood  "under discussion"  to be a transitional area, you may feel the greatest impact as the zoning changes might affect what is all around you in the coming years.  In 10 years will your area  still have a "residential" feel - will it still be largely a neighborhood of homeowners or  will it be landlords and tenants ?  How are some residences being chosen for transition zones because residential use conflicts with commercial, yet just down the road residential units are being PLANNED to be smack in the middle of the commercial.

     All residents of this Township should be aware of the impact these changes could have on  traffic, noise, infrastructure improvements, the need for increased services, and perhaps most importantly of all the increased Commercial voice in our Township that may be heard above the Residential voice .  Residents are the voters.  But Commercial interests have an over-representation on our Boards including the Economic Development Board which voted in the consideration of the abatements.   The residents are the ones who voted the officials into office to safeguard their interests.  But all too often we see Commercial interests being put ahead of  our own.   This is our Township- and taking care of it requires our attention.

Traffic changes on the Old York Road Corridor alone might see an increase of  17,500 trips a day. It may be impossible to calculate the additional trips from the many, many other changes being proposed elsewhere along Old York.

Who is paying for street lighting, sidewalk repairs, landscaping , wastewater treatment up-grades,  etc . You might be surprised to see some of the expenses that residents have borne. And who might be getting up to 10 years of tax abatements, leaving residents to shoulder more than their share of the burdens of the services received by newly improved businesses (in certain areas that fall under guidelines of the LERTA laws?)  

 HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT ?
        In 2007,  a Comprehensive Plan update was completed & approved  for Abington Township.
In conjunction with that and in conjunction with other development issues on-going in the Township, ( like the more than 10 million dollar Old York Rd Revitalization Project), your Commissioners and others are re-writing zoning codes, theoretically to meet the needs expressed in the new Comprehensive Plan.   (But, as I recall, there was no real input from neighborhoods on that either - not of the significant kind that we are trying to establish - where your voice is the one that guides the "authorities" rather than the other way around.  There were opportunities for residents to speak but little was done to gather communities to have a say in their futures
        So, in the Comprehensive Plan,  they may have identified a shortage of  multi-family dwellings and apartments in Abington, or senior units. So they are aiming to amend that --- by simply allowing for more units than we currently have . Between you and me, the lower density  is one of the treasured features appreciated by residents of our township. Many of us moved here because of the lack of congestion and the green space and the beautiful single family homes in strictly residential neighborhoods. There are plenty of  "mixed use neighborhoods" right in the Northeast.  But we chose Abington instead.    


WHAT'S THE LATEST UPDATE

6-23-09Zoning  Ordinance  Rewrite Committee meeting - many of the transition zones were discussed - Commercial areas continue to be discussed as desirable when mixed use including residential is considered while other areas are considered "in conflict" when residential is in close proximity to commercial.  One reason offered  to explain this  was that these new "planned" units will be occupied by people who "know" they are buying in a commercial district. But didn't the others know that they were buying "next to" a commercial district --??? That knowledge didn't create harmony........  Other residents in attendance questioned why we were changing residential areas to commercial, however light , and increasing commercial areas when we had so many unoccupied and unutilized. 

6-3-09 Presentation to Commissioners by the hired consultants of the Old York Rd Corridor study -after which residents spoke We offered some of the "downsides" that had not been shared, and residents asked about the plans on their properties and registered strongly against rezoning  their residential properties.  While I was accused of offering misinformation, I asked again for help understanding whatever had been misunderstood . Some  residents were given "indirect answers" about whether their house was or was not being considered for re-zoning.  Misinformation and  false accusations were made  from the dais . For example: a woman from Rydal did NOT write the anonymous letter . The Hospital Rep who sits on the zoning re-write Committee DID, in fact, make comments about expansion. (They can be seen in the minutes which I will gladly email you.)  The Old York Rd.  plan  DOES include specific recommendations about re-zoning,  contrary to one Commissioner's assertions. And the answer that should have been given to a resident who asked if his house was under consideration for rezoning  would rightfully have been a simple "yes" .  That's just a smattering of what came from the dais. No lies or slander were spread by those of us hoping to get the message out. We were alerting people that this was going on, & advised that it might take a while to get up to speed - which included running all information by their Commissioner - as this site also directs. We all have to recognize that at times people misunderstand, or our words may not be chosen carefully enough not to have more than one meaning.  But when Commissioners bash the messenger, while simultaneously leaving their residents uniformed ( or misinform them) about meetings & details  that might be important  to them,  we have a problem that needs to be fixed.  
Still have received no summary of the R1 -R4 changes.

6-2-09 Mr. Matteo has promised a summary of the R1 - R4 changes so we can discern what's new about the Draft Revisions.  The Zoning Rewrite Committee  today discussed form-based & hybrid  zoning and talked about using  two test areas as examples of this - among other things.

6-1-09  My Commissioner - who earlier said he would not share with me the info needed to understand the R1 through R4 changes until AFTER the meeting,  is now suggesting he may not do so at all.

 5-23-09   I got the R1, R2, R3 & R4 notes today -in the form of Draft Revisions  to the Ordinance. This is the part that was discussed Mar 08 to Nov 08.  Now I just need to know what parts were CHANGED - or I would tediously have to compare them to the current  ordinance to know.  And I got the April minutes.

5-21-09 Got all 17 maps today -actually 21 altogether . Still need April meetings and the summary or notes from Mar 08 to October 08 .

5-21-09  I  had information that a summary had been issued - but I think that had been confused with the Old York Road Corridor Summary .  I have just received some more maps that I'll download tonight and April's minutes .  But I find it a travesty that the residents don't know what is happening in their own neighborhoods.  Commissioners making great noises about communication need to communicate vital information when our property rights are at stake.  I have been trying for a year to get this information . I was told that the plans were to perhaps try to finalize it by September - that means that in the summer - with kids home and family vacations  when no one wants to hunker down to business, the hearings would be held. Can anyone say foul play?

May 17th 09 I have been to about six neighborhoods, talked to many many people and found not ONE who knew about these re-writes.

May 09 We finally have in our hands  some information ---  neighborhoods in Abington are being "circled" and scheduled for rezoning.   Residents need to know about this . Nearly no one in any of the circled areas I visited was aware their home was included . Are their Commissioners  aware this has been happening for over a year?  Or have they just not informed their residents? .

December 08 - Commissioner, we find out later have been given a summary or the R1 R2 R3 R4 changes. We are not afforded the privilege - we do not find out til May that these exist.

June 08 - April 09  The meetings are open to the public - but the "report"  to the Commissioners at public meetings includes  nothing that informs us  about the kinds of changes being discussed - so people are not alerted to the importance of these meetings.

6-08 We have not yet gotten word of what changes exactly are being done but we will try to update you when we know.  Knowing about these changes is an  important part in having a voice in preserving the things we love about our township.  If you and your neighbors are unaware of what changes might affect your ward, call your Commissioner to find out ---- and then let us know, too, please so we can update others.   You can point your neighbors here to learn & share more.

May 27th, 2008  was the 3rd Zoning Re-Write meeting .  We began to ask what they were encompassing.  An idea of the scope & what was to be re-zoned.....

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WHEN ARE ZONING REWRITE MEETINGS ?   
          Regular Zoning Re-write meetings
are being held  5 pm  every  the fourth Tuesday .   They are held at the Township Building  ( Planning Commission Meetings are held at 7:30 after these meetings)   Please double check with your  Township (267-536-1000 ) or the website to check for changes, which have been frequent .   Or ask your Commissioner . The final Old York Rd Corridor presentations was to have been the one Nov 5 2009  - then the language was to be "tweaked" with the results and it would be expected to be scheduled for approval by your Commissioners).

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  Our codebook is in 2 parts
Part 1
  Township's Codebook    except for  zoning
Part 2 Zoning Portion of Township Codebook

or go to http://www.abington.org/info/newcodebook.htm

 

   BEGIN TO PUT YOUR TOOLS TO USE ... see our "tools" page
             Ask your Commissioners and your Township manager  specifically to :
              1) post a webpage for each issue that has the links to find meetings,
                            lastest updates & all the plans etc
              2)  tape  all meetings on the topic & air them on our public channel -
                             so you can review or if you missed a meeting. This is actually important .
                             The devil is really in the details
              3) post all the taped meetings on-line with time  reference points and fast forward features
              4)  notify everyone  in the township that there is a list for updates on this subject-
                          invite ALL residents to get onto the list
              5)  provide a meeting space ( already paid by your taxes ) for neighbors
                             to hold their own open discussions  whenever they choose -
                             to share information and formulate questions- not moderated by authorities.
              6) to provide residents with any changes that are being proposed in summary form
                            - preferably in "2 column /compare " style
              7) please make your meetings open to all  - If you try to limit transparency for others
                             and then you will be perpetuating the system where others can limit  you


Email me if you need help contacting others.   I also have a great deal of information about how our processes work and what is happening elsewhere in the Township that might be helpful to your situation.


        

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    Please feel free to send your  information to us  and please be sure to  tell us about any information you believe to be incorrect - write  lel@abingtoncitizens.com

 

 

BROKEN LINKS ALERT  

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.  
Please  let us know if you find a broken link . Send us the name of the link and the page it is on , and if we can reinstate it, we will.

 


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The information on this page or in this site may have unintentional inaccuracies, and also has opinions. It should not be relied upon as fact until investigated personally by the reader.  Please read our full  Disclaimer
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