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

Penn State Abington
 Academic Building / Rezoning  

 

EXPECTING THE MEETING ON NOV 10TH  TO BE THE HEARING .....
  But Tom Hecker has said again that he will meet with a small group of people and leave the drest of us out . That is just plain NOT RIGHT

There are many who should be heard . How dare he hand pick a few  ( not even including all of those around the college  border ) 
This is shameful behavior by a politician .....It cannot stay .

Hearing on both ordinances was to be held on Oct 14, 2021  6:30 pm -- but Tom Hecker made a personal plan with a small group of residents to cancel it -- and did not alert any others  before the meeting . Others may have been  studying the ordinance - preparing their comments - lining up sitters..... Tom didn't care . He and the Manager refused to print for the public what  Hecker had been willing to put in writing for a few .  Shame on you Tom Hecker and Richard Manfredi. 


Find the information here : 
https://www.abingtonpa.gov/Home/Components/News/News/6027/16  including the Zoom Link
This ability  to some of the information all in one place on an issue like this came after a long letter that for years they had sent us on a goose chase to get the information needed for a meeting - so this time THE MEETING info at least is all in one place on the front page calendar click. Hurray.

Will it happen twice . Every issue should have ONE place where all the info is stored . 

issues as yet unresolved that should be resolved BEFORE THE HEARING

ORDINANCE 2186
The request they HAVE made icludes buildings (plural) that could be as long as 300 feet and  55 feet high. Whenever 2 buildings ( that are not accessory buildings ) are  being considered for development, there must be a Masterplan. So that clearly defined that  the zoning proposal was not just about the ONE academic building.  In July 2021 they  said that they only had space for one building . So I asked why that language was in the ordinance  and I was told the others would be "infill" building . But they have thus far on multiple occassions refused to define that exactly and give all examples of  it  that would enable residents to determine how much expansion to the campus that would provide .  

They also failed completely to notify Manor College neighbors that all these meetings were taking place ---- So Manor residents had NO PART in crafting the ordinance that will impact them

ORDINANCE 2187
Although verbally we were told the  3 residences they own on the Penn State side of Cloverly Lane  would retain their  residential  nature after they are zoned to CS, there is nothing in writing to back that up. Residents deserve to know IN WRITNG that this promise will be hored in perpetuity and theat they will not try to build a 55 foot high 300 ft long building by joing these - asking for a few little variances or waivers  in the future . To make sure a hi-rise doesn't end up in that corner of the campus right opposite  residential something needs to be written. 


 


  WHAT'S THE PENN STATE REZONING IT ALL ABOUT ?  
 

A LOT OF SMOKE AND MIRRORS  DISGUISED a rewrite of the zoning code as a simple attempt to build a new Academic Building . It was an overt attempt to deceive the public rather than to explain  the process properly. It was not just an Academic Building at all : 

1)  IT WAS THE REZONING OF MULTIPLE CAMPUSES  ( PSU and MANOR)  TO ALLOW DENSER AND HIGHER DEVELOPMENT 
2) IT WAS A REQUEST TO CHANGE 3 RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES ON THE CAMPUS SIDE OF CLOVERLY TO CS ZONING
3) IT WAS  ALSO AN ATTEMPT TO ZONE 2 RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES  ON THE  OPPOSITE SIDE OF CLOVERLY WITH SCHOOL AND COMMERCIAL USES THAT WOULD  HAVE IMPACTED MANY R1 RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES THROUGHOUT THE TOWNSHIP

  
 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  350
https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6055   The  R1 ( Single family residential) can also be found there .

 

THE CAMPUS  MAP  
https://www.abington.psu.edu/map

 

  Or find them in the heart of Abington
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Penn+State+Abington/@40.1152664,-75.1106259,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xdddc30c9cdaf01d7!8m2!3d40.1152664!4d-75.1106259

 

   YOUR HELP NEEDED  ---   just to get the right tools in place  
Please call /email your Commissioner and also your Township Manager 267-536-1001 Richard Manfredi,
Emails found here : https://abingtoncitizens.com/TwpGovt/Commissioners.htm
and ask for:
        A SINGLE PAGE on our website that has: All the links to relevant documents, meetings, minutes, videos, power points etc
   all held  chronologically. 
 
        ALL sessions  to be video tapeD, including PSU's informal meetings with residents, for review by those who  missed them  or to get a better handle on the details
   
          ASK FOR YOU COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO BE RESTORED where you have the most robust speaking rights -
Currently the Commissioners  removed most of your speaking rights  in a very under-handed manner..... calling it an expansion of your rights. 
They created the Committee of the Whole... to follow a monthly  full Board Meeting which effectively  jammed 2 months worth of meetings together . So, you may be on a zoom from 630 at night until 10 or 11 PM. This is intended to have people give up and go home-and it is positively contrary to the health and welfare of the citizens of this Township. All health experts warn against staying on your devices late at night, as it interferes with good sleep patterns. And sitting for 4 hours might even cause clots or circulation problems in some people, especially seniors. The commissioners are charged with our health, safety and welfare. This is contrary to all 3

  The Committee of the Whole   would review ALL the items for the following month ...... but you would not hear or see the review of the item before your 5 minutes of comment.  Once you did see it, your comment time would be over. So you just wasted your time at that meeting. And the commissioners know that.  And, by the way, they also are not asking many questions. So the least amount of information is being learned in an entire long meeting .   One item, for instance,  was called "Rental Inspection Ordinance" and you had five minutes to talk about it - without having a single clue what was intended. There is no one that doesn't know that is wrong.  But they refuse to fix it.   And they won't until each one of you decides that you will speak up about it . As long as you're accepting it, well what the heck, it works well for them.

     At a proper Committee Meeting the  item is presented and explained and after the explanation and the  Commissioner discussion,  you then you have 3 minutes  to comment ....before any vote. After you speak - the Commissioners can still adjust their views before the vote, if your comments  gave them a change of heart on anything.   That is the proper way to do it. At the end of the Committee section yuou have 3 minutes to address  the Commissioners on any topic of your choosing.  This feature was one that we worked hard to get instituted, because when we asked our commissioners to put something important on the agenda, they sometimes refused. So by having an open period, it allowed residents to bring to the attention of all commissioners and their fellow residents a matter that their Commissioner may not have been accommodating about. It is an important part of our public speaking rights.

    SKIPPING OUR IMPORTANT COMMITTEE MEETINGS :  When they instituted the Committee of the Whole, they gave them the right to send a matter anywhere they wanted to rather than following a clear path as they had always done for many years. One of the choices was to skip over the committee meetings and go directly to the board of commissioners where it might get a final vote. As you can imagine, that feature has been used endlessly and our committee meetings have almost all been skipped over - taking our open comment rights away, taking our informed comment rights away, and leaving an issue only to get whatever vetting the commissioners decided it would get. Effectively they cut the citizens out of the process when they did that.

    THE GOAL  OF THE REMOVAL OF OUR RIGHTS :  The goal is also problematic. One goal is mentioned above is that they have used the Committee of the Whole to skip OVER Committee meetings - and have skipped over nearly every single one since they started.  But at the 5-13-21 meeting,  while they were considering restoring the 3 minutes of speaking after each item at the CoW, one Commissioner asked  why not just restore the the Committee  Meetings?  All Commissioners can attend those and often do.  Comr  Hecker said but everyone can't vote there. That is correct only committee members vote but they are just in advisory capacity... so  all commissioners ultimately will  vote the way they want in the end . All certainly had equal opportunity to ask questions. So Comr Hecker was willing to throw our speaking rights under the bus so that he could vote on the Committee matter -- and remove the right of the Committee to vote in a different way . He removed your rights so he can vote  he really was not supposed to vote. He is supposed to trust the judgment of the committee that he appointed.    You need to spend a few minutes thinking about some of what seems to be going on here. .........  

    THE TIMING OF THE REMOVAL OF YOUR RIGHTS:    Given that these speaking rights were amended just as we encountered a slew of onerous projects that would dramatically change our Township : the Willow Grove Mall, Penn State rezoning both campuses, the economic development Corporation (where commissioners want to "become developers") , Toll Brothers  proposal for 120 homes at St Basils, Manager  Manfredi's desire to rework our zoning ordinance to be the way he wants it to be --- which has been to facilitate developers while cutting out the opinions of the public ( which was actually directly written in one document), and more......  we need to really open our eyes to what is going on here.     


     COMMISSIONER HECKER SINGLE HANDEDLY DEMOLISHED ANY ATTEMPTS TO FIX THESE TRAVESTIES   You should demand that your speaking rights be put back the way they were. There was a proposal brought to the 5-13-21 meeting that was at least going to replace the useless five uninformed minutes speaking time at the beginning of the CoW  with a more productive 3 minutes for  each item after it was presented......  Commissioner Tom Hecker personally tanked that . First moving  it to the END of the very, very long, late meeting, then allowing  an unscheduled long presentation by the new Penn State Dean ( instead of properly presenting the agenda item which was the ordinance on College Campuses - and then at the end of the meeting he kept over-riding everyone's request to just get to the voting to add the better speaking rights ..... and instead he kept the argument going over whether or not it was too late  to HAVE the discussion - which was argued long enough to have resolved it - but eventually everyone was exhausted near or after  11 pm and wanted to go home.  Those are all actions that should NEVER be undertaken by the Chair of any meeting. They are a violation of any good parliamentary procedure ---   completely contrary, for instance, to Robert's Rules of order  which was "sort of " adopted by the Township ... however - they recently decided that although they quote Roberts's Rules as our guide - they also said they are
only loosely following it - so that means they aren't - at all- unless they feel like it.  So...  no rules for them.  Can't be held liable for violating rules that don't exist.

Is that OK with you all?  Because it is being used
against  you. 
  

Having the right tools is the most important part of  achieving success in protecting your property and personal rights.      

 

 

 

 FORGIVE THE JUMBLE OF INFORMATION - BUT NO TIME TO ORGANIZE & EDIT BETTER -  MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO HAVE IT THAN NOT HAVE IT BECAUSE IT'S NOT ORGANIZED !


  BRIEF HISTORY
2014 -- Penn State updated its Comprehensive  Plan and conceived the idea of having a new academic building located on campus   where the small "Conference Center" now is,  between the Cloverly Building and the Rydal building.
  ( see campus map here : https://abington.psu.edu/photo/13664/2017/06/13/campus-map )   They have famously been repeating that they haven't had any new building since the 70's - but that is because they built everything up -- and what was left was on steep slope or other problematic areas .  After many meetings it was  described as being in the Steep Slope Conmservation area -- then -- miraculously it was not. 

On 11-19-20  After multiple meetings going several years back , they met again with residents but revealed nearly no significant information about how they planned to rezone. Their rezoning witll impact Manor College as well, but Manor neighbors have not yet been included in the conversation. The taped session is not posted. Residents have no documents in hand

On 12-17-20 they met with Ward 1 Commissioner Hecker, who assured residents  that some of the issues would be resolved before they were allowed to move forward with their application.

On 5-13-21 the ordinance is presented in the documents in a bizarre meeting where Manager Manfredi says they haven't  made a submission yet - but they had, in fact, submitted their first version ( see it below ) and it was included in the meeting documents  and there was an agenda item  that everyone read- including the manager and Comr Hecker and  the Dean of Penn State who was at the meeting . That agenda item had with a motion to approve it  which Commissioner Hecker danced around so the manager at one point had to try to clarify what he was saying .  It was then approved to be sent to the neighbors meeting ( and per the motion which was not amended, then to the Planning Commission and then back to the Committee of the Whole .......  )   

  5-13-21   THE FIRST VERSION OF THE ORDINANCE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE  PRESENTED  and then one would expect that Commisioners would ask questions and  clarify parts of it . That never happened.  Instead  an UNSCHEDULED introduction of the new Penn State Dean  Chancellor and her vision for the college filled up the Commissioners discussion time and  then the motion was voted on without any direct comment on the ordinance at all ---- much like what happened at Willow Grove where we got the  History of shiopping instead of   a presentation about what was being voted on. 

Here was the advertised agenda item motion -- LATER DESCRIBED AS AN ACCIDENT ....    Commissioner Hecker kept talking around the motion and never read the motion properly for the vote— but never amended it either here is the way it was advertised and how the motion should have been read before the vote: 

 Consider Penn State University Abington Campuses request to amend Zoning Ordinance of the Township Of Abington providing for and regulating a college/university campus,   by Penn State first holding a neighbor meeting to inform and seek input from the affected neighbors, and to refer this ordinance to the Townships Planning Commission for their review and recommendations to be returned to the Board of Commissioners Committee of the Whole. (Mr. Hecker) 

Here is the Ordinance they proposed .... finally....   Found in the Committee of the Whole agenda  in the Agenda  Packet documents . this is the one ultimately called an accident  ...... but not at the meeting where everyone saw it being presented - including the Dean and the Township Manager and  and Commissioner hecker .  ( Found here : https://abingtonpa.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=1 ) - highlights added by me  in the reprinting below

               TOWNSHIP OF ABINGTON   MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

                          ORDINANCE NO. ________________

AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF ABINGTON, PROVIDING FOR AND REGULATING A  COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY CAMPUS USE IN THE CS COMMUNITY SERVICE DISTRICT

WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Abington has the  authority pursuant to section 601 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. §10601, and section 1502.1 of The First Class Township Code, 53 P.S. §56502.1, to enact and amend land use ordinances;

WHEREAS, the Township of Abington is home to highly respected educational institutions of higher learning which significantly contribute to and enhance the vibrancy, appeal, and culture of the Township;

WHEREAS, section 900.A of the Zoning Ordinance states that the intent of the CS Community Service District is to “[p]rovide for the education, medical, municipal,religious, and recreational needs of the Township community….”

WHEREAS, the Zoning Ordinance does not expressly provide for a college or university campus use that recognizes the uniqueness of these institutions and promotes the redevelopment of land currently used for college or university purposes within the Township; nor does the Zoning Ordinance provide appropriate design and regulatory standards for college and university facilities that will mutually benefit the Township and the institution;

WHEREAS, the CS Community Service District of the Township seeks to provide for the educational needs of the Township community, allowing reasonable and

measured growth of facilities and physical plant, while addressing the compatibility with nearby properties by minimizing potential impacts caused by traffic, noise, and lighting;  E-18: University Campus Use C:\Users\EASYPD~1\AppData\Local\Temp\BCL Technologies\easyPDF8\@BCL@740F5029\@BCL@740F5029.docx  Page 1

WHEREAS, permitting reasonable and controlled development of current collegeand university facilities will help to ensure the vitality of these institutions and

provide continuing and significant community and economic benefits to the Township; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Commissioners has determined that the amendment of the zoning ordinance is appropriate and necessary to promote the development and redevelopment of land used for college and university purposes in the Township.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Board of Commissioners does hereby ENACT and ORDAINas follows:
Section 1. The Comprehensive Use Matrix in the Appendix to the Zoning Ordinance, referred to in Section 901. Permitted Uses of the CS Community Service

District in the Zoning Ordinance, shall be amended by the addition of Use E-18,University Campus, as a permitted use in the CS Community Service District

Section 2. Section 902. Dimensional Requirements of the CS Community Service District of the Zoning Ordinance shall be amended to read as follows:

SECTION 902. DIMENSIONAL REQUIREMENTS: See Figure 9.4 CS Community Service District: Dimensional Requirements (Table).

A. The Dimensional Requirements for a Use E-18 University

Campus shall be as follows:

1. The maximum building coverage shall be 25%.

2. The maximum impervious coverage shall be 45%.

3. The minimum green area shall be 55%.

4. The maximum building height shall be 45 feet, subject to

the exceptions set forth in Section 2601.G, Height

Exceptions. Building height may be increased to 55 feet,if the front or other yard setback along a public streetexceeds 100 feet, if fire access lanes are provided for the


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_____________________________

structure, consistent with recommendations of the township fire marshal, and if a high-intensity buffer isused along property lines adjacent to a residential zoning district. For properties greater than 25 acres, newbuilding facades may exceed a length of 160 feet provided that they include minimum 10-foot deep horizontal building offsets at least once every 100 horizontal feet of façade length. However, in no case shall a new building façade exceed a length of 300 feet.

5. The site must have direct access to a public street.

B. Where any dimensional or other requirements in the zoning ordinance, e.g., Figure 9.4 CS Community Service District:

Dimensional Requirements (Table), conflict with the  dimensional requirements set forth in this section and Section

2103.E-18, the specific requirements of this section and Section 2103.E-18 shall apply.

Section 3. Section 2103.E of the Zoning Ordinance, Community Service Uses

(Institutional Uses), shall be amended by the addition of a new Use E-18, University Campus, which shall read as follows:

Use E-18: University Campus: A college or university comprising one or more buildings, lots, parcels, facilities and uses that provides academic instruction or support to individuals enrolled therein, and that are authorized to award associate, baccalaureate, or post baccalaureate degrees. This use shall comprise accessory and ancillary uses to serve the needs of the institution’s students, faculty, and staff,including, but not limited to: academic facilities, performance facilities,recreational/athletic facilities, social facilities, eating/dining facilities,administrative facilities, support facilities, health facilities, faculty housing facilities, parking facilities, and retail facilities. A mixture of these uses, including retail, office, or institutional, and residential uses,may be located within the same building without being classified as a Use J-1, Mixed-Use Building. The following additional standards shall

 P3
______________________
apply and shall supersede any conflicting requirements in the Zoning

Ordinance:

A. Properties zoned R1 Low Density Residential with existing houses owned by the college or university which (1) abut the college or university campus or (2) which are separated by a public or private street may be used for faculty housing by conditional use. This includes temporary housing for visiting professors and scholars, and administrative functions, including, but not limited to development, alumni relations, business office, and admissions.

Administrative functions shall be limited to the first floor. These uses shall not exceed 140,000 square feet of property and amaximum of two structures.

B. Architectural standards:

1. Building elevations/renderings shall be submitted to determine  compliance with this criteria. Views presented shall include those of  each new building façade visible from the street, as viewed from the street. Views of new parking areas from the street shall also be provided, where visible from the street.

2. It is recommended that all new buildings and expansions be compatible with the architectural theme of existing buildings and structures on-campus and on abutting streets. Factors for consideration include, but are not limited to:

(1) Colors (2) Materials (3) Style and pitch of roof (4) Use of differentiated materials (5) Wall-to- window-and-door ratio (6) Architectural features and trim (7) Door accentuation 3. Security features, including lighting, shall be non-intrusive relative to nearby residential uses.

P4
_________________________________
Utility, mechanical, and HVAC facilities shall be screened from public view, consistent with §2403. Buffers and Screens,  Subsection C. Site Element Screens.

4. Trash, storage, tanks and loading shall not occur within 100 feet of a street. Submission of a master facilities plan is required for all new floor area of at least 50,000 square feet, or new outdoor facility area of at least 2 acres, unless such a plan has been submitted within the past 3 years. The master facilities plan shall meet the requirements of a tentative sketch plan. In addition to the requirements of a tentative sketch plan in the SALDO, the applicant shall show:

(1) Proposed driveways and parking areas.

(2) Student and faculty count.

(3) Approximate building heights.

(4) Floor area of existing and proposed buildings.

(5) Proposed timeline for building construction.

(6) Building and impervious coverage data.

(7) Elevations for building within 300 feet of a residential use (showing façade[s] facing public street or residential use

within 300 feet).

5. Setback from Residential Uses. The following uses shall be set back at least 300 feet from residential uses: (1) Buildings, except storage or utility. (2) Organized activities such as graduation ceremonies or camp activities. (3) Active recreation fields or structures.

6. Traffic Study

(1) Purpose. The Traffic Impact Study will enable the Township to assess the impact of the proposed development on the transportation system in the Township. The purpose of the impact study is to insure that proposed developments do not adversely affect the transportation network and to identify any traffic problems associated with access between the site and the existing transportation network. The study’s purpose is also to delineate solutions to potential problems and to present improvements to be incorporated into the proposed development.

p5
_______________________________________

(2) A Traffic Impact Study shall be prepared by a qualified traffic engineer and/or transportation planner with previous traffic study experience. Procedures and standards for a Traffic Impact Study are as set forth in the SALDO (if such provisions are incorporated to the SALDO at the time of the proposed land development). The applicant may provide funds to the Township to enable the Township to hire a traffic engineer of its choice to conduct the study, if this procedure is deemed appropriate and approved by the Township.

(3) A Traffic Impact Study prepared in accordance with the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as part of an application for a state highway occupancy permit may be submitted to the Township in fulfillment of this requirement.

(4) In preparing the Traffic Impact Study, the most recent edition of the Trip Generation Handbook of the Institute of Transportation Engineers shall be used.

C. Excavation in or disturbance of a steep slope area shall be permitted if the development within that area includes retaining and/or foundation walls. The landowner shall submit an erosion and sedimentation control plan during land development.

D.

E. Existing parking lots shall not be subject to the landscaping requirements of § 2402.A.2.Parking areas on the same lot are not required to be interconnected.

F. There shall be provided one (1) off-street loading berth per building or facility that is erected with a gross floor area over twenty thousand (20,000) square feet where the principal use of the building requires the regular receipt or distribution of materials or  merchandise by vehicles.

G. In the event of a conflict or inconsistency between any zoning  regulation governing a Use E-18: University Campus and any other

p6

__________________________________

zoning regulation in the Abington Township Zoning Ordinance, the specific regulation for Use E-18 shall apply and control.

Section 4. Section 2304, Parking Use Requirements, subsection E, Community Service (Institutional) Uses, shall be amended to add the following:

18. Use E-18: University Campus: A “parking space” shall be at least 9 feet x 18 feet in size. The computation of required parking spaces shall include both on-site and off-site parking spaces. A University Campus use shall have one (1) parking space for every classroom, plus one (1) space for every two and a half (2.5) students who regularly attend classes on campus, plus one (1) space for every ten (10) fixed auditorium seats, plus one (1) space for every three hundred (300) square feet of gross office area. The required number of parking spaces may be reduced by a maximum of thirty percent (30%) if the college or university provides and makes available all of the following:

1. a regularly scheduled shuttle service, which shall include service to a commuter rail station;

2. a ride-share program; and

3. to the extent such programs are readily available, car-share and bike share services.

Section 6. The Comprehensive Use Matrix in the Appendix to the Zoning Ordinance, referred to in section 901 of the Zoning Ordinance, shall be amended by changing Use E-14, School or College – Public/Private, to Use E-14, School –Public/Private.

Section 7. Section 2103.E of the Zoning Ordinance, Community Service Uses (Institutional Uses), Use E-14, School or College – Public/Private, shall be amended by amending the name of the use category and the introductory paragraph as follows:    Use E-14: School – Public/Private: A facility, building, lot, parcel, use, or group of facilities, buildings and uses that provides a broad educational curriculum

p7

_______________________________________ 

 to individuals enrolled therein, and is licensed by the State Department of Education, including private and public kindergartens, elementary, junior and senior high schools:…

Section 8. Section 2304, Parking Use Requirements, subsection E, CommunityService (Institutional) Uses, subsection 14 shall be amended as follows:

14. Use E-14: School – Public/Private: Elementary and secondary schools require 1 parking space for every classroom plus 1 space for every 4 students in tenth grade or higher, plus 1 space for every 10 fixed auditorium seats.

Section 9. Repealer. All ordinances or parts of ordinances inconsistent herewith or in conflict with any of the specific terms enacted hereby, to the extent of said inconsistencies or conflicts, are hereby specifically repealed.

Section 10. Severability. In the event that any section, sentence, clause, or word of this ordinance shall be declared illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such declaration shall not prevent, preclude or otherwise foreclose the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

Section 11. Effective Date. This Ordinance shall be effective as of the date of

enactment.

ENACTED and ORDAINED this _____ day of ______________________,

2018.

TOWNSHIP OF ABINGTON

Attest:

_________________________ By: ______________________________

Secretary John L. Spiegelman, President Board of Commissioners



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



 
WHAT THEY WANTED IN 2019   

1)   They wanted  a new Academic Building  - between the Cloverly Building and the Rydal Building

2)    They wanted  properties on their side of Cloverly  re-zoned  to CS -Community Service . ( Beware - as CS, they could  merge those lots most likely to another large building there) .

3)    They want expanded uses for the residences owned by PSU across Cloverly ( they mentioned offices at one meeting  ––previously mentioned  uses were for fundraising or hosting visitors. )  Retaining residential use but with an expansion . It would still  allow professors to live in these homes but not allow "hotel" use or other uses  - retaining more of the residential feel .   (Beware - "spot  zoning " is not allowed - where you rezone your own property for you benefit, but others with the same zoning do not have the same privilege.  So beware that inserting text into the R1 uses could, conceiveably affect all R1 uses in Abington. )

 

4)  They wanted  in 2019 to rezone the campus with a text amendment   to our zoning code that would transform  NOT just their campus - but all college and universtiy campuses in Abington.  (Manor and PSU currently but it is unclear if other things would apply without seeing their text.)

      That means there is a really far reaching impact that comes with this request - it is not just for Penn State. And certainly not just for one building. 
If this is still the plan in 2020 , then this should be labelled what it is :  Changes to Zoning for College and University Campuses  in Abington.  There is sa huge amount to "unpack" in such a proposal - and it will affect many residences, many neighborhoods, and our whole Township ultimately.  But because they would clearly be rezoning  to accommodate their new building in the process, it is all being done together.  The academic building  would be a "use by right" after the rezoning .   But what I find highly objectionalbe - and I think you should, too, is that the whole very intense set of changes has been largely labeled  "Penn State's  New Acadenic Building"  when it was ( at least a year ago,)  far, far  more than that. 

 

   The specs they propose - and the full scope of their requests-  should be posted well in advance of any meeting so residents can understand this. Meetings become unproductive when people use all their question answer time  trying to just learn what's being done - and then are out of time to share their thoughts and opinions about how they want their Commissioners to act on the matter.  

 




 CHRONOLOGICALLY 

2014 Penn AState updates its Comprehensive Plan  
with an eye toward increasing the available academic  space/ facilities
.

 9-3-19 MEETING WITH NEIGHBORS

SEE YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED SECTION NEAR THE END  TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS  THAT  PROVIDES FOR COMMISSIONERS NOT TO ENTERTAIN THIS PROPOSAL AT ALL - - UNLESS THE VOTERS THAT ELECTED THEM WANT THEM TO.  The crowd in the room was largely Penn State people & affiliates  involved in some way with the project.... but there were some neighbors there, too!
 
The new Academic 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 TRAFFIC  Shuttle routes  - There are 7 routes  served by 6 small van shuttles and 2 yellowbird buses.    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 external intersections

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 Universities  because Private Schools and Public Schools have very different needs than Colleges and Universities.
 
(Editor's thoughts :   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 their communities the way they 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. )  

 REZONING 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 response.  

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.  This 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 wanted. 
    
          
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.

      To avoid 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 is........ 

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  350 here :
     https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6055
)

Jonas added that the zoning stays with the land.

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 being done   ( 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.  (Yes 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 below

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 developers.
 
    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 serving? 

      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. Now granted,  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.

  I welcome any corrections you can share and I will share them back out widely.

Lora

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      JANUARY 2020 -  Meeting with some of the neighbors ?  If anyone has a brief summary, please send it.

     11-19-20 MEETING  WITH NEIGHBORS
 
12-17-20  meeting with Commissioner Hecker

  MAY 2021  :  Committee of the Whole   5-13-21 Committee of the Whole
After many "neighborhood meetings" , t
he actual ordinance (
FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN ON THIS PAGE ) first officially appeared   in the documents of the 5-13-21  Committee of the Whole meeting. It was intended to create zoning favorable to "Colleges & Universities" and would  allow MULTIPLE such buildings as the New Academic Building  on both Penn State an Manor College  campuses and they could be  up to 300 ft  in length. It also would have allowed the rezoning  of certain residential units ajacent to PSU both on the campus side of Cloverly and across the street, which could have set unhappy precedents for other properties that they bought in the future.  So it was quite substantially more than just an academic building.  At the 5-13 meeting, Manager Manfredi said  they hadn't made a submission yet - but of course they had, and it was in hte documents - so the residents aren't getting the truth on all fronts.

JUNE 2,  2021  :  MEETING HOSTED BY PENN STATE   On June 2nd, 2021  we were told that it was a "mistake " or "accident" that the item was on the Committee of the Whole agenda in May ----  (of course, it had to have been submitted or they wouldn't have had the text to put in the agenda documents........ and the Dean of Penn State,  Comr Hecker and others were there and said nothing about the "mistake" as it was happening and as per the language of the "mistake".... they did set a neighbors' meeting 5 days later...... so that's all pretty hard to swallow that all of that was a "mistake"  ... but at any rate they were  dropping any rezoning of buildings on the opposite side of Cloverly Lane from the campus and might even sell them --- and dropping their  intent to rezone both campuses  for now.... they'll be back later with that (yup - and by July they were already back with it) .   They said they were planning to submit an ordinance now only go forward with the  new Academic Building via a map amendment to change a small part of the campus from residential to CS, so their entire campus will be CS. They do not intend any intense uses  where these former residentialuses were.   They expect it will take a year of prep work for the new academic building and then 18 months of construction once all the permits and everything are approved. (Neighbors are rightfully concerned about the noise over such a long time - and about the staging area for their trucks, etc.)

  Before the July 27, 2021   Planning Meeting  there was another meeting of the immediate Penn State neighbors on School Lane, Cloverly & Woodland   with Commissioner Hecker . 

   July 27, 2021  Planning Commission Meeting
  Two ordinances were on the agenda separately for this advisory Board to consider.  The first was just to take the 3 properties  that are on Penn State's side of Cloverly Lane and to change them to CS ( Community Service ).  The Planning Commissioners were  ready to  recommend that be passed. And I don't think the neighbors disagree.  Penn State has also said, yes, it will probably sell the 2 houses on the  other side of Cloverly.
But the third issue- the rezoning of both campuses brought forth some problems .  First of all, the site that they chose for their new building is on a flood conservation plain --- and that has very stringent guidelines for development . There may be steep slope involved there as well.  The Architect on the job is none other than Ward 6 Commissioner Michael Thompson - and  Abington has quite a history with Commissioners compromises, laws policies and principals for profit or for their clients, so that is also problematic. The College's Engineer knew that this was (at least in part) in the  conservation plain area and went ahead with the plans anyway. How did that happen ?  Our Township Planner, Michael Narcowicz has been involved.  Did he not know.  One has to question whether they just hoped it would slide by quickly - no one would ask any questions and no one would know.   More to come on this.

Also they were failing to address the multiple buildings mentioned in the ordinance .....  when questioned they reponded that there would be infill building .  My understanding of that is reconfiguration and expansion of existing buildings. But that has never been shown .  So more about that needs to be known .  There was aslo great discussion about the buffer or setback  from the road .
More to come on all of this .....
 

   August 24, 2021  MOST RECENT TOWNSHIP MEETING  Planning Commission Meeting ----  
Planning Commission August 24, 2021 
There were shenanigans yet again at the last Planning Commission meeting - where the attorney for Penn State was allowed to pick and choose whose questions he answered and whose he did not. And then,  the issue did not go back to the Committee as it should after a review by the Planning Commission .......

  10-14-21  Hearing on both Penn State  ordinances will be held on Oct 14, 2021  6:30 pm
Find the information here : 
https://www.abingtonpa.gov/Home/Components/News/News/6027/16  including the Zoom Link
This ability  to find the information all in one place came after a long letter that for years they had sent us on a goose chase to get the information needed for a meeting - so this time it is all in one place on the front page calendar click. Hurray.

issues as yet unresolved that should be resolved BEFORE THE HEARING

ORDINANCE 2186 Please click here to view Ordinance 2186.

The request they HAVE made includes that Manor College will get this zoning - and also the Horse Farm  possibly - as Manor is negotiating for that as I write this .  Manor residents have NOT been notified - nor have they been included in the crafting of the ordinance through the many meetings that were held . The ordinance  includes buildings (plural) that could be as long as 300 feet and  55 feet high. Whenever 2 buildings ( that are not accessory buildings ) are  being considered for development, there must be a Masterplan. So that clearly defined that  the zoning proposal was not just about the ONE academic building.  In July 2021 they  said that they only had space for one building . So I asked why that language was in the ordinance  and I was told the others would be "infill" building . But they have thus far on multiple occasions refused to define that exactly and give all examples of  it  that would enable residents to determine how much expansion to the campus that would provide .  
They decided first that it WAS in a steep slope conservation district – but then that it wasn’t…..
Re Buffers - I have not checked to see where the buffer distances ended up – you’ll have to check that  - p4 , for instance, some activities are just 100 ft from residential

As noted - they failed completely to notify Manor College neighbors that all these meetings were taking place ---- So Manor residents had NO PART in crafting the ordinance that will impact them.  

ORDINANCE 2187
Please click here to view Ordinance 2187.

This is for Penn State only..... . Spot zoning?   Although verbally we were told the  3 residences they own on the Penn State side of Cloverly Lane  would retain their  residential  nature after they are zoned to CS, there is nothing in writing to back that up. Residents deserve to know IN WRITNG that this promise will be honored in perpetuity and that they will not try to build a 55 foot high 300 ft long building by joining these - asking for a few little variances or waivers  in the future . To make sure a hi-rise doesn't end up in that corner of the campus right opposite  residential something needs to be written. 
Concerns that you have?  

 



                                    __________

 

     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

 
 


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