The construction of a new academic
building - coupled with a request to rezone both certain
residential units both in and out of the Penn State
campus and to amend our zoning laws to make zoning favorable to
Colleges & Universities . (Manor and PSU
PSU Academic Building
YOUR HELP NEEDED
Please call /email your
and also your
Manfredi, and ask for a
SINGLE PAGE to be created on the Township
website for this issue.
This page would
have all the links to relevant documents,
information on this issue- to be stored on
the page chronologically. And ask
them to video tape all meetings for those
whose schedules may have conflicts - or who may
not have learned about this until later and need
to go back and review. Having the right tools is important to having
success in protecting your property and personal rights.
ISSUE AT HAND -
Penn State conceived the idea,
perhaps circa 2015 or earlier, of having a new academic building
located on campus where the small "Conference
Center" now is, between the Cloverly Building and the Rydal
( see campus map here :
FOR NEIGHBORS 9-3-19 --- well OK -
theoretically. The crowd in the room was largely PennState
people & affiliates involved in some way with the
project.... but there were neighbors there, too!
Below are some rough notes from
that meeting - if you spot errors please help us
correct them -- Use this as only as a guide to help you verify
be of interest and confirm any facts before you rely on
CURRENT ZONING CS Community service is found on
Page 35 in this Zoning Code passed 4-27-17 and the
use matrix is on page
The R1 ( Single family residential) can also be found
9-3-19 MEETING NOTES
YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED SECTION NEAR THE END TO
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS
The new building will be between the
Cloverly building and the Rydal building in the place of the
conference building that is now there.
All three of these buildings are relatively small.
There will be a new driveway on
to Cloverly. A small additional parking lot will go right next
to the one that is there.
There are houses all around that driveway that are owned
by the University
- 3 parcels with one house
demolished and 2 remaining are particularly in the crosshairs .
We all had a chuckle as the traffic
engineer told us there would be a
“nearly nil” by way of a traffic increase
with this new building
Shuttle routes - There are
7 routes served by 6 small van shuttles and 2
The shuttles go every ½ hour – and some
“on demand “ rides or specialized service is also
included in the over-all picture
PARKING 50 additional spaces at
Target were mentioned ( I missed that discussion so fill me in
if you know ) and
the new lot will add more spaces, too. That will be an extension
( of lot K I think ).
75-80% of students drive. Circulation in the area while looking
for a parking spot is an issue
Assigning spots is difficult
because people are sometimes there for only a short while – not
all day .
TRAFFIC CALMING There were
discussions about speed humps – eliminating driveways ,
chicanes, rumble strips, multi-way stops, etc All options will
need to be further considered .
They did studies from 6 am to 9 pm and studied 23
ZONING BY TEXT AND MAP - NOT VARIANCE
: The zoning change will be by way of a text
and map amendment -
Every developer's favorite new way of going around our zoning
laws. Marc Jonas of Eastburn Grey said that they would be
intending to create specialized zoning for Colleges and
Private Schools and Public Schools have very different needs
than Colleges and Universities.
may I add in here that when the Colleges and Universities are
writing the zoning for Colleges and Universities we have a
problem. That is…. the neighbors/residents/citizens
who actually ELECTED the
legislators to serve their interests and build
communities the way
would like them to be, are left largely out of the picture.
Unless when you voted, you thought you were electing
someone to find developers, hospitals and universities that
would decide how your town should work for them, not for you.
For them that might mean bringing in lots of outsiders, and
expanding non-profit uses to the max. Or having more concrete
so as to have more "clients". The shoe seems to be on the wrong
foot. I don’t think the
college had even ONE vote in any election - why is their voice
given preference over the citizens who did vote. Who exactly is
putting residents second….instead of first? )
The Township was rezoned in 2017 and people
from both the hospitals and the colleges were part of the
process. Commissioner Kline said that because those 2 uses were
so different, he expected that it would go this way ... that
they would write the zoning more appropriately later via text
and map amendment
Commissioner Kline did , in fact, try to zone things
differently on behalf of some of these entities.
I personally worked with people in 3 transition zones where the
effort was to try to turn residential housing into “light
commercial”. In the case of, for instance Highland Ave, next to
Abington Hospital, the neighbors learned about it warly on and
told him, in no uncertain terms, NO. Doing this would have
paved the way for non-owner occupied
medical offices around Abington Hospital, and affected
yet another row back into the neighborhood. Something similar is
happening here where a request for CS zoning of residential
parcels is representing the efforts of the school to expand into
the community further. At
Abington Hospital the residents revolted and
demanded it get taken out
BEFORE they were dragged through hours and hours
of meetings until they were worn down. A similar early effort
here could prevent hours of painful meetings and could make for
a very different ending ---- unless neighbors are happy
with the school expanding into the neighborhood. )
RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES Jonas went
on to say that they intend to ask the Township to allow limited
use of the houses across the street….
Neighbors wanted everything to remain as residential as
possible. There are three residential properties they want to
change to a community service zoning rather than residential (2
of them have houses - 1 house was already demolished.
From the neighbors I believe that the houses
owned by Penn State, on their side of Cloverly are :
1639 (already demolished), 1665 , and 1681 and their
carriage house, 1687 is also there. Across the street
there is 1718 and 1694. If this is not correct please let
me know. I don't want someone to be shocked their house is
mentioned here when it is not involved .
If I understood it correctly, there
was talk of expanding to something beyond R1
single family residential use in the ones across the street (
perhaps to apartments????) but no specifics were given ), but they would remain residentailly zoned . But I have to get
all that straight first. Help me
out if you have any of the docs or know the facts on this . We
need to get hold of the slideshow and the documents ….
It is a shame this meeting was not
on video so we could
review anything we might have missed or misunderstood.
Commissioner Kline has been asked to video and share docs and
links since he arrived in 2008 - ---over 11 years ago. He
still refuses. Your rights are dimisnished when you can't
learn the facts in time.
One resident said that they sued Penn State
years ago and they required them to develop from the inside out
- I will try to get more on this.
It was also asked why they would build on
green space when they could build on the concrete where the
parking lots are. Didn't hear the
Kline explained the difference between the
request via the text and map amendment and a zoning change that
is requested via a variance:
A variance is a quasi judicial process - you make your
application before the Zoning Hearing Board and you need a
hardship. Penn State
is looking for purely a "legislative" process, meaning that the
legislators, your Commissioners, have the right to zone anything
anyway they want to zone it- and they will need only 8 votes ( a
majority) to win the zoning.
Kline said we can put some stipulations in
the ordinance- we can work with resident’s concerns
Yes they can, but they often don’t.
new way of zoning things has come up only in more recent years.
Previously it was considered that people’s zoning rights were
protected and that developers, universities or other
challengers had to follow the law via variances or waivers to
make changes in the zoning. But some years back, a little more
than 10 years perhaps , developers began to get the idea they
didn’t need to go through all of that hassle at all because they
could go around it and still avoid "spot zoning" by taking other
parcels along with them. Let’s face it,
they almost never had a hardship and often would lose.
The Wawa wanted 24 variances - but had no hardship. So instead
they just asked their friends, the commissioners, if they would
approve a brand-new zoning use.
The residents filled the rooms and were lined up in the hall to
speak - still they were ignored and the developer got what he
One of our first challenges with a text and map amendment
was the Baederwood Shopping Center debacle… Commissioners Kline
and Peacock said they were making better zoning --- residents
largely disagreed. Their wishes were ignored and 246 units
were approved on eight sloped acres that would at most
have had eight homes. The slope might have prevented even all 8.
But common sense was also ignored. The floodgates of
"legilative zoning" were thus flung open for
the Wawa , the BET/YMCA
and other developerss who now freely write zoning for
their own properties however they like it, just as the college
is doing here.
spot zoning, they often have to zone or provide the
same conditions for other properties, as well -- changing our
zoning protections along the way.
When they rezoned the Wawa,
we had trouble getting them to tell us what other properties now
could have gas pumps by right - and didn't have to even ask the
neighbors. One such document sought
to eliminate all normal zoning processes and allow the
Commissioners to alter what they wished almost at will.
The public is largely oblivious.By
the time they understand it, multiple steps are already
approved. If we are not paying attention or not
savvy enough, our rights get written away by developers ( or
universities or others). Again, in the text and map amendment
style of zoning only eight commissioners need to say yes in
order for the zoning to change.
56,000 residents might wish it to be the other way but
only eight need to say yes.
I hardly need tell you what a set up for corruption that
Marc Jonas tried to explain the advantage
of the text and map amendment over variance method. He said all
of this will be in black-and-white. The worst thing he said is
to have something happen by variance….
(no it is not - because you can ask your Commissioners to have
your Zoning Hearing Board members removed if they
repeatedly approve variances that are in nobody's interest)
It was asked whether the three houses are
paying taxes. Kline said no. ( Universities are nonprofits) then
the president of the University said yes they were.
( I guess, apparently, because they are residential
and not zoned as part of the non-profit community service use
they aren’t nonprofit . I’m not sure what other
reason there might be.
Question : how much impervious
surface would be left at Penn State and Jonas said they were not
close to maxing out
Question : if these buildings were
all built and decades down the road the University decides we
don’t need these buildings anymore ( okay they could conceivably
move the college or funding could become an issue or something
else we can’t anticipate)
he asked if there are safeguards about how such a complex
could be rezoned
Jonas answered by saying that zoning is
always up to the commissioners and Kline followed that up by
saying anyone can request anything to be rezoned, unless
prohibitions were put on the deed
. And any CS
use would be allowed .
All the properties that are or become zoned CS(community
service) would be able to be used for any community service use
CS Community service is found on
Page 35 in this Zoning Code passed 4-27-17 and the use
matrix is on page
Jonas added that the zoning stays with the
Question : what other schools are affected?
Kline said in 2017 they went through the changes of uses and
then he explained the Hospital and University issue and the fact
that these 2 propertiy types were very different so the Zoning
Ordinance Committee decided not to do anything ... and to
let hem come in
and propose what’s useful to them in the manner that this is
( as I said above- I don’t buy that hook line and
sinker - they did indeed try to make some changes but met with
resistance - and didn't want to sour the whole rezoning
endeavor, I think).
.Question: about what the projected
date of completion was? The President of the University said
this is his fourth year and the project itself was approved
before he came. The project manager said it’s still a long way
away and it could be a 16 to 18 month design -And another
18 months of construction
Jonas said the zoning processes
would be expected to take several months- perhaps 6 to 9 months
- or a year with
state agencies’ reviews
Kline said they hadn’t submitted anything
formally. 1½ years ago they met with neighbors. The first step
would be to go before the board and ask to advertise for
instance in an October meeting. (Sometime in November they would
then possibly hold the hearing
Question: about the zoning
process---we were told
that they would come in 1st for a zoning map and text
amendment--- they probably would do a reverse subdivision
later…. But there would be more say for residents before the
ordinance was approved.
but possibley in hours long meetings where the developers
drone on and the residents are given just minutes. )
Jonas said to some degree that is true,
but the critical part is land development. The
building is on land that is already zoned CS. Kline agreed -
but he said I want things written into the ordinance
( This is the biggest
deceit, in my opinion, that I see again and again and again. See
Jonas said when we did Lions gate we had a
meeting with everyone and then he remarked how nicely he thought
that came out. And
there were a few more questions about Memorial Field and Penn
State being proactive with traffic and controlling student
behavior, putting up traffic signs that tell students to slow
down etc.. The President agreed they could do things like that
Kline said that the school has contributed $30,000 a year to
police for patrols
The bolded and underlined part above is something that I find to
be a complete disgrace over and over in this Township.
I have sat in meeting after meeting after meeting where
residents were told that land development was where their issues
were largely addressed and they needn't bother so much wiht the
text and map amendments . Although Kline said that he wanted to
write things into the ordinance, what he did not tell everybody
is that very plainly and simply the Commissioners have
no obligation whatsoever to entertain this request for a text
and map amendment. That should allow for a
massive advantage to the benefit of the residents . But instead,
the leverage is being given away to the advbantage of
If they went for a variance, the law requires that their
request for a variance be heard. But when they are going outside
of the system in this manner, the law allows that the
commissioners do not even have to hear their
request for a change in
zoning done in this
manner. The Commissioners are elected to serve the people who
elected them. Not thier own interests. Not the interests of
oursiders. Yes Penn State is an entity under Kline's
purview - but they do not vote. They should be there only if and
how the residents of that political subdivision choose to have
them. Otherwise....whose interests are the Commissioners
As you can imagine
this gives the commissioners every ounce of leverage that
they would need to negotiate
on behalf of their residents.
(You know, the people who elected them.)
Kline is going to be leaving. Possibly before the end of the
year, if the grand jury report is ever
released, or at the very least by the end of the year
because he is not continuing as Commissioner in 20120.
Tom Hecker and Christina
Baker are vying for the Ward one job starting in January.
So this is not a fortuitous time for the residents in
Ward 1 to be meeting a mega challenge of this sort.
And Commissioner Kline did not share with you the fact
that the Commissioners have no obligation to hear this
application for an academic building at all.
So in whose
interest was that?
In the case of the YMCA, the residents learned this
information on the very night that the commissioners gave away
the farm -- agreeing to let BET start the formal process, when
they had no obligation to do so. The residents were drug along over
a year long process, with crucial meetings during the holidays
and all kinds of shenanigans. The developer attended FOUR
Planning Commission meetings and apparently planned to keep
attending until he got approval, with no push back from the
Commissioners whocould, at any time, have stopped it.
What they should have done was had the developer and the
residents meet until full or near full agreement was arrived
at on many of the major principles, in informal forums where
residents had the same unlimmited time to speak that developers
have, and then, when residents were in at least general
agreement, they could
tell the developer they were ready to approve the formal
process. This is what you
do when you have all the leverage in the world and you really
ARE working in the interests of the people who elected you .
Instead as you heard in the discourse above, there is
possibly going to be a play for the text and map amendment
process to begin in October. That would be a disgrace.
If they are coming to an
October meeting, I can promise you, you have very little time to
get up to speed on what your rights are and what all the details
of this are …..because it will go lickety-split after that.
And once the text and map amendment are approved, there
are just a few details in land development that will be able to
be tweaked...location of driveways, positioning of lights and so
on. Not that these aren't important- but you will no
longer be able to change what they re-zoned. The school will have obtained it's expansion on
its own terms - with your voices just a quiet wimper - and the
zoning won't be able to be undone
Please know that I have done my best
to scribble these notes from the meeting - and to share
along with them tidbits of the experience I have
glaened from 13 years of observation and
participation in Township zoning matters. Time is going to be of
the essence for the residents if the School intends
to bring this to the Board in October.
Please also see
the link from the front page for the newly intended Economic
Development Corporation. This could, conceiveably also be
a factor here ...or anywhere in Abington.
welcome any corrections you can share and I will share them back
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