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

 

Old York And Susquehanna Rds.

Traffic Improvement
Multiple Grants = $2.8 M

FIRST AND FOREMOST - THE TOOLS OF TRANSPARENCY THAT YOU NEED  :   Citizens should not have to struggle to get information and have to provide it to other citizens.  Ask your own  Commissioner and Board Presidents Manager Manfredi ( rmanfredi@abingtonpa.gov ) and Code Chair  Commissioner Thompson ( mthompson@abingtonpa.gov )  all to provide a single page with this project's name which should be found under DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS  our Township website. Our website has befcome a mess where little is able to be found
     The project page should give you a full recap of the history of this project, the multiple grants, all up coming  and past meeting dates, links to meeting minutes, meeting videos,  grant documents, diagrams, plans, etc. . These should be presented in the  chronological order that they appeared. There is a great deal of information to manage. This is how a government serves its residents so their rights are not lost before they understand who is doing what in their town via the actions of the legislators they voted to serve THEM.

 

  Summary of the issue  : $ 2.8 million of taxpayer money is going into this project and from the last view that we had, very little of it seems to be slated for serious improvement of the traffic situation at that intersection . That is what would benefit ALL the residents in the Township.    In fact,  it is of great concern that it was suggested that a million or so of the money coming from grants might serve to benefit a developer in his project - on the property that the County Revelepment Authority has  bought or is buying with taxpayer funds, while just a  very tiny piece of the land, as seen in plans at the July 11, 2019 meeting and again at the Planning Commission 9-22-20 meeting, looks to be slated for use in improving  ithe intersection.  Information has been difficult to get.  That is another issue of concern.  

See the tiny blue sliver of light blue --- that is the land that the 3 millions dollars will get us -- oh yes ... and a bus stop  ( the circle) --- and perhaps a broader sidewalk along old York.    Those are the benefits to the residents at large  ( if you even think a bus stop in such a busy intersection is a good idea at all..or is instead a gift to CHOP   so they can bring  out of towners and to the developer who will build behind the bus stop.  A bus will  bring  him clients .)   So the taxpayers - rather than the profiting entities - are paying for all that development, while the intersection get a slightly better turning radius to benefit residents -good -  and a bzillion more cars in it  to run over the residents --very, very bad.   The taxpayers are further paying to have buildings razed and driveways widened for the developer.  So the very definition of economic development in our Township appears to be  " out of my pocket and into the developer's ". 

Tiny Sliver For Rd Imprvmt

   Here are the documents from the 9-22-20 Planning Commission (originally scheduled for  8-19 or 8-25-20 )  where  you can see their intent to build with great density and great height right  at the busiest intersection in Abington.  Literally a month earluer, Manager Richard Manfredi said they had no plan. He assured residents

Here are the properties slated for purchase  in total  I believe the ones along Old York Rd have already been bought by the Montgomery County Redevelopment  Authority as of this time ( 9-20) .  The ones along Susquehanna  are not all bought and as of  January 2021 the one nearest the corner  has been the most intense subject for discussion - with the phrase "Eminent  Domain" in the wording. 

Properties Slated For Purchase

    tHE 9-4-19  Public Affairs Committee Meeting  & the ATTEMPT TO QUICKLY CREATE  an Economic Development Corporation -
WHICH EXPLAINS THE
 MYSTERY  OF THE HOLD UP
ON THIS PROJECT FOR SO LONG
:
The Township began a quest to set up an   ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION  ( click here)-  This is essentially  the Township would  "become the developer"  themselves - while simultaneously distancing themselves from the  development they are choosing to do.  They would simultaneously be the overseer, responsible to see that  the regulations were properly followed, as well as the ones benefitting ( especially if they weren't)   They would be the ones  handing out the grants --- essentially to themselves.  They would be enforcing the codes, essentially on themselves. They would be approving the zoning..... for themselves etc.  You get the idea here .

The roll-out /debut of the Economic Development Corporation itself  was fraught with  corruption as  they tried to pass a "blank slate" - hoping no one would notice.  At the  the September 4th, 2019 Public Affairs Committee Meeting, they showed us just how corrupt the process can be.  The ByLaws were not even filled in on the documents they agreed to pass along to have the full Board approve.  They could have put in any terms they wanted.  But they didn't .... and then Manager Manfredi put it on the so-called "Consent Agenda"  -  where, despite no Commisioners having publy given their consent - the Manager gifted himself the right to remove certain items from any proper discussion before the vote at the  full Board meeting.

    The Old York Rd project was to have been the first that this entity would seek to undertake.  I believe all Abington residents should be deeply troubled by the creation of such an entity which is intended to be a separate entity, with it's own  legal firm,  incorporated by our Commissioners  but then taken over by a "separate entity" not responsible to us directly, yet the Board to be appointed by our Commissioners and their intent would be to do business with your  properties, your grants,  the help of your staff and   your resources  --- and yet be answerable to few if any of the obligations that the Board would have had, if they, themselves, tried to do business with your tax dollars in the same manner.... No bids, for example are required of this entity.  Preposterous - when tax dollars are involved. 

   So it was disturbing that the  proposal - with blank by-laws,  was swiftly and unanimously approved at the Committee meeting withoutout any presentation of the caveats that would be of great concern to us .    And  even more disturbing to see the Manager put it on the "Consent Agenda" at the next meeting  - meaning it was deemed agreeable by all that it would pass and warranted no further discussion and should just be approved.  Of course that was the opposite of it's disposition with residents.  One Commissioner allowed it to be removed and to have the discussion.

     In a Township that already is spending your resources to conduct "business"  while letting their prime responsuibilities go by the wayside - allowing residents to continue flooding, properties that really ARE blighted to receive no citations,  roads to remain unpaved long past their due time,  trash to abound  in some areas, etc  - we should start to look more closely at how our money IS being spent.   

As it turns out - they could not gather the steam to approve the Economic Development Corporation in their desired time, and Commr Spiegelman said at the  9-23-20 Economic Development Corporation meeting  that this project was no longer going to be undertaken by the Econ Dev Corp.  The Old York /Susquehanna project has grants with deadlines . They would find another developer for this .  But just the day before, this project turned out to have the same kinds of warts and flaws.

View From the South of Development area   the are where development is intended

   WHAT ABOUT PUBLIC SAFETY ?
Old York and Susquehanna  is an intersection that many, if not most  of us travel every day.  It has been called  the highest crash intersection in Abington - and for that honor it was one of 3 to get red light cameras  right out of the gate.   For many, many  years it has needed a redo - but was ignored .  Now, despite 2.8 million of taxpayer monies, the focus seems more on building businesses owned by others than seriously addressing the intersection improvements with all those tax dollars.

   WHAT ABOUT THE USE OF OUR TAX DOLLARS  ?
We are a Township who has not been able to manage all the flood projects needed to give residents relief ( and at one point, 2 residents died because of flood projects that were put off.)  We are now considering taxing people a separate  "stormwater tax"  because rather than taking the money that was already taxed to do this, we want to take tax money to develop the "bottom line" of a contractor  at York and Susquehanna.  No one has asked for a model of what that is going to bring us  in revenue and how we will benefit from it. They want us to approve whatever it is they decide to do in the future whether it helps or hurts us.   Will there be apartments with school children.  What does it cost to send a child to school in Abington .   We can't afford to relieve people's flood  projects and also give a million dollars to a developer to develop the corner of York and Susquehanna Road.  We have roads in need of paving that actually are dangerous, we have  parks and other areas that need weeding and regular trash clean up that we can't seem to manage.  We have many, many things that  need attention - but what will take precedence when relationships with wealthy builders are at stake and when dollars that might be used to build political friendhsips are there for the asking?  Ask yourself this....  will you be somehow worse off if someone doesn't develop mixed uses at  the corner of York and Susquehanna?  For me, I know  I will get through the intersection faster.  


  HOW MUCH WILL A DEVELOPER benefit PERSONALLY WHILE the intersection IS MADE Just a very tiny, SLIGHTLY bit better than it was ?
Normally when developing a property, the developer is responsible for the infrastructure improvements  that are needed ......Here we are making a tiny, slight nearly inconsequential improvement to the intersection, not even creating a sepaarate turn lane, and then we are paying  a giant sum to create what the developer needs  to incentivivize deep density development that will make the intersection WORSE and nullify the  monies  spent on the imporvement .  Not unlike what we did at the Baeder Rd  intersection for the Wawa circa 2012

 Here are Manager Manfredi's words on 7-11- 19 . (from this video  https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=9WiMZUQBCD2p  - go to 1 hour 22 minutes in ):

 There are three pieces to this – there are two grants from DCED and one from PennDOT  the total was 2.8 million for the whole project . We approved the previous (one) for these properties.  The Solicitor's in the process of acquiring 1907  
(Karate studio) negotiating –1907 . That will take care of these. This grant is to acquire and demolish these as well. The ultimate goal isn’t so much to develop this property, although that is one goal – but the ultimate goal is as an economic development initiative to make improvements in turning lanes at Old York and Susquehanna.(2nd picture is now up showing the small section of the corner  that is marked off to improve the intersection ……   note added normally the developer must make necessary traffic  improvements ) 
So if we were to demolish these properties and if the Township were not to develop it, you're going to be hearing more discussion and the board would be debriefed on economic development initiatives and corporations and other benefits by which to develop this property, but if nothing else by going through these grants in these locations we will be able to make the necessary transportation intersection improvements so that down the line, once this is all done, if you decide not to develop this on our own or through another entity we will at least have made a million dollar investment that will reduce the cost for someone else to come in and develop this corner in a manner and in a way that's acceptable to the Township.   So that's what this second $900,000 is for. Once this gets approved we will sign off on the agreement with PennDOT for the rest of the monies to come to us – and the monies we have to provide for the match have been budgeted.


   BROKEN PROMISES ON RESIDENT PARTICIPATION
7-11-20  Manager Richard Manfredi   promises that they have no plan for how they might develop this property.  Really? You can get economic development grants without so much as a basic  plan? Wow.   
7-11- 19 . (from this video  https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=9WiMZUQBCD2p  - go to 1 hour 31 minutes in ):


Resident  WHO LIVES JUST 2 DOORS FROM THE DEVELOPMENT AND ACTUALLY BORDERS IT IN PART : " Here is my house Right now it is underwater because the Vintage has no storm water containment and it has been expanding over the past 10 years . There been several changes that have increased that - that's aside -  not  my problem right now.
   I went over this project with my commissioner several years ago when this  was presented to this group. The money that you were looking for was to buy these buildings. I was also promised that I would be in on discussing some of these project considerations.   I'm affected by it a lot. I have not heard anything. I have not heard anything. I’m very angry. Very angry. I have looked on your  website and I cannot  find anything. All I have is a program that was presented three years ago. It  was a presentation ….a PowerPoint .  There are problems at that intersection - serious problems. The owner of the Vintage says he's putting in storm water drainage . That’s not true.  I would like to be in on this.   I would like something to help. Those of us who live on the edge are vulnerable to all your decisions --especially me.  thank you,

Manager Manfredi answers: ... I wasn’t here when project originated, but I can tell you that there is no project as of yet. There are three component pieces to moving this forward and  designing it . The first piece is acquiring the properties with the grant funds. That was done. The second would be …..the ones you pointed to closest to the  intersection are a different grant . That’s  not this grant. The ones on the agenda for today, see the little yellow Post-it note , are those properties it , above the Vintage and above. And its for acquisition and demolition.
And then the third piece of it is the third grant from PennDOT which is on the other map and are closest to the intersection.
There is no plan is my point. And I'm quite certain, knowing Commissioner Spiegelman who was the chair of that Committee and this Board, that there will be a public process for anything that happens as we go forward.

 

  9-22-20   Seems Mr Manfredi was wrong --- fibbing...? or had  other wise  managed in RECORD time to put the  whole darn shootin' match  of a plan together  --- since the  the Planning Commission had this matter as a finished product  scheduled for literally ONE month later (8-25-20)  . That got pushed off til 9-22-20 . And yes ,  our very own banished son, Steve Kline was back as a player. From his post as Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, he submitted  the  request to rezone this property (his name was the signature line on the documents )   What Manfredi suggested about a public process sounded like a "yes " to the resident's request for inclusion.  But it was not.

 The public process came after everything was decided.... there was no public input whatsoever  on what residents would prefer to see there - or how high or how dense they wanted it to be.   They (oops) forgot to notify anyone . They proposed exactly the  kind of density and height and zoning  that residents regularly decry. So.....whose town is this anyway? 

  Teir proposal was complete  with plenty of drawings and all the necessary engineering and references to comprehensive plans etc etc. What they hoped that no one would understand was that once they put this zoning in  ( the heights, density , greenspace,  setbacks etc -  and gave iit to a developer ( or their Economic Development  Corporation) , that the residents would have no further ability  to say what could be built there. That would become the property owners right .  If they could just  keep claiming that they had no plan till it was too late, they could get aaway with it.  Without a single meeting with residents before all the (expensive)  drafting was completed.  The lack of notifications of the  planning meeting , including even to the  above contiguous resident is contrary to codes and required procedures,   besides a violation of public trust .  In addition, certain things  they were attempting to pass were in   violation of the very law that covered their activities.  Properties that were being declared blighted were not vacant, had not even received notice that this would be coming before the planning commission, did not know their properties were even considered blighted . Some were far from  blighted ---  and even if they all had been, the law requires them to be given an opportunity to fix the situation if they can


The  township just wanted to be able to take them, with your tax dollars, and gift them to the developer. anyone see a problem here?  It was clear that the planners were aware of this . you could  hear the back peddling as they say ..oh no,.. we aren't really going to consider everything on the agenda --- just the blighted properties ,  not the stuff that makes up virtually the entire agenda.....  How do we manage to get  people  who rise to this level of deceit yet remain in charge of the things that matter so much in our lives?  How do we have a Manager and a president and Vice president of the Board who care so little for the constituents rights and interests?

iF YOU ALLOW THIS, THEN YOU ARE ALLOWING THAT  THE  TOWNSHIP CAN TAKE ANY ONE OF YOUR PROPERTIES  JUST BECAUSE THEY THINK SOMEONE COULD BUILD SOMETHING NICER.  THIS , IN A TOWNSHIP THAT IS NOT EVEN CAPABLE OF ENFORCING ITS OWN PROPERTY MAINTENANCE CODE.

 

__________________________

SEE THE PLANNING COMMISSION DOCUMENTS HERE https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=16365



 

The redevelopment process consists of three steps:
1. Certification of an area as “blighted”, and in need of redevelopment.
2. Preparation of a Redevelopment Area Plan.
3. Preparation of a Redevelopment Proposal by the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority (MCRDA). The Abington Township Planning Commission must examine existing conditions and certify the area as “blighted” before the MCRDA can prepare a redevelopment proposal or exercise eminent domain as part of the area’s redevelopment.

The planning commission's certification of a redevelopment area shall be made in conformance with its comprehensive plan. The Urban Redevelopment Law requires that the Planning Commission find one or more of the following conditions to be present in order to certify an area as “blighted”:
• Defective design and arrangement of buildings
• Faulty street and lot layout
•Economically or socially undesirable land uses
•Unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded conditions of dwellings
• Inadequate planning
• Excessive land coverage by buildings
• Lack of proper light, air and open space

B. BOUNDARIES OF THE AREA
The Old York Road and Susquehanna Road Redevelopment Area is comprised of 1.36 acres, consisting of the following properties fronting on Old York Road and/or Susquehanna Road:
• 1100 Old York Road
• 1102 Old York Road
• 1104 Old York Road
• 1106 Old York Road
• 1114 Old York Road
• 1116 Old York Road
• 1124 Old York Road
• 1907 Susquehanna Road
• 1911 Susquehanna Road
• 1915 Susquehanna Road

The properties have frontage on the northeast side of Susquehanna Road and/or on the northwest side of Old York Road. The specific properties included in the redevelopment area are shown on the map in the appendix. 5 Old York Road & Susquehanna Road Redevelopment Plan Abington Township

C. STANDARDS OF POPULATION DENSITIES, LAND COVERAGE, AND BUILDING INTENSITIES


Zoning Standards in Redevelopment Area Zoning District NOW   are in this chart
This is the  existing zoning district (MS-L Main Street – Low Intensity/Density)

MainStLowIntensity-current zoning



F. PROPOSED CHANGES IN ZONING, below, the township will consider rezoning this to MS-H Main Street High Intensity/Density in order to better accommodate more intense development than is currently allowed.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE THIS BEFORE HAVING A SINGLE DISCUSSION ABOUT IT WITH THE RESIDENTS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO REPRESENT ??  

 E. LAND USE PLAN The land use plan for the Old York Road & Susquehanna Road Redevelopment Area is for
the full 1.36 acre area to be used for mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, transit-supportive development.
The plan is for retail (which includes restaurant and a range of other subtypes) to be located on the ground floor of the development along the street,
with office and/or apartments or residential condominiums development located on upper floors.
Parking would be located to the rear.
 Specific uses in the mixed-use development are those allowed by the MS-L Main Street-Low Intensity/Density Zoning District.


F. PROPOSED CHANGES IN ZONING Population Densities

The maximum residential density in the MS-L Main Street—Low Intensity/Density District is 10 dwelling units per acre. The township will consider increasing this density to accommodate redevelopment. ( but didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

The township will also consider increasing the maximum building height from 35 feet, the maximum currently allowed under MS-L Main Street: Low Intensity/Density District zoning to 45-50 feet to make an increase in density/intensity possible. ( but didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

Land Coverage Existing zoning provides for a generous minimum green area. This will be the standard applicable to the redevelopment area.
( residents are required to maintain 50% green/pervious  - they didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

The township will consider increasing the effective allowed building intensities and densities by amending the zoning map from MS-L to MS-H .... by increasing or eliminating the maximum building footprint, and increasing the maximum building height from 35 to 45-50 feet. ( but didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

If maximum allowed density and intensity were increased, its impact would be mitigated by preservation and possible expansion of zoning and subdivision and land development ordinance requirements affecting architectural components and variation, green space requirements, and buffering and screening. (( these could be required anyway - but  they didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

If maximum height is increased within the regulating base zoning district, increased height would only be allowed in appropriate portions of the district.
( appropriate according to whom - they didn't ask residents first, as they promised )These might be confined based on areas at or near major intersections, commercial and mixed-use areas, near transit, or with a minimum site acreage. The township would add additional architectural and site design requirements to the MS-H District for sites. ( that is all utter nonsense - if they want to add achitectural requirements they don't have to give away other things to do it  - they didn't ask residents first, as they promised )

These changes would ensure that future redevelopment would harmoniously fit Old York Road & Susquehanna Road Redevelopment Plan Abington Township
( but if they  had residents first, as they promised the residents might well have had some very different ideas about what was a harmonious fit - when do the "represented  get to  have any say in how the representing is done? )

.  PERHAPS SOME HAVE FORGOTTEN WHAT AMERICANS LOVE ABOUT THEIR DEMOCRACY.........our democracy recognizes that the only legitimate source of governmental power comes from those subject to the government's exercise of power—the consent of the governed. Under our Constitution, neither the federal government nor the state governments are sovereign; nor do these governments somehow share sovereignty. In America, the People alone are sovereign; all governments (federal, state, and local) are mere agents of the People, subject always and in every case to their ultimate authority. 


    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