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

Saint Basil's Academy

NEXT TO & ACROSS FROM MANOR COLLEGE ON FOX CHASE RD IN WARD 3
Ordinance proposes to allow 150 Age Restricted Carriage Homes . It was  submitted in Jan 2022
but no docs seen by residents until May 24th, 2022

2022-01-20AR150CarriageHomes

  AUG 31,  2022 - 7 pm  the Age Restricted Carriage Home Overlay request -- complete with a possible Spot Zoning  request to apply this to just one map area in the Township --- will come before the Comprehensive Plan Consistency Committee.
Find the zoom link here in the rirst paragraph - and find the documents by scrolling down -
https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/3929e3e3-6e41-11ec-85e3-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1661448847.pdf

THE ORDINANCE ITSELF  IS FOUND ON PAGE 14 OF THE AGENDA PACKET
https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/ea91b91a-8f71-11ec-972b-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1660834744.pdf


This is the THIRD MEETING in less than one month - and it happens also to be the heaviest vacation month  of the year as families enjoy the end of the summer togehter and then find themselves  busy getting kids ready for school and getting back to work .  The Overlay and is expected next to go to the Sept 8, 2022 --This was a SPECIAL FAVOR TO THE DEVELOPER AND AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF THE RESIDENTS OF THE TOWNSHIP  OF ABINGTON. No report has yet been received from the Planning Commission that can be reviewed - the minutes from that meeting are not available in time to read them before this meeting. This Documents were improperly withheld from the Agenda Packet at the Planning Commission  and I believe were improperly sent by our Planner to influence the August 23rd Planning Commissioners  without the knowledge or approval of the public.
In addition, we were told emphatically that the Comprehensive Plan Consistency Committee would make sure that all applications adhered strictly tot he Comprehensive Plan ------ but our  current Comprehensive Plan does not promote this manner of building in our Community Service Districts.  The current Manager is acting in a manner that is contrary to the welfare of the residents  that are supposed to be being served.  Governing is supposed to be done on by and with the "consent  of the governed" - we have fully lost sight of that since Richard Manfredi's arrival.

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 and connect you in with your neighbors



  AUG 4th  then
AUG 23RD , 2022 – ST BASIL’S IS AT THE PLANNING COMMISSION
  twice in just  3 weeks time -
during  premier vacation month they held 2 meetings  to hurry St Basil’s along.   Please take one minute of your time to email your Commissioner and Manager Manfredi to ask that these meetings also be filmed and aired ….  having the meetings  filmed so they can review a meeting  if they were on vacation, had to miss it or wanted to review is an important tool. When we originally got the cameras installed we were promised that ALL major issues would be filmed and aired.

What happened August 4th  ===  thanks to an attendee for the update
They talked a lot about the buffer….. will it be all grass or will trees and bushes be there?  They would like to see a walking path thru the property but they did come to a decision on if  the path would be for the residents only or would it be for the general public, too? Residents who prefer not to have strangers walking  past their  backyard all day wondered  why Alverthorpe’s public trails could not be open longer.  Toll Brothers doesn't care either way the trails are decided. If a path is put in for the general public who bears responsibility for it?  Example - if somebody slips and falls, do they sue Abington or do they sue Toll Bros?

The Planning Commission members were also vocal about the amount of buffer  for the neighbors and how densely packed the houses were. Did they want the houses spread out thru out the property?
Planner Michael Narcowicz wanted to push for  opening the little side roads. Neighbors were totally opposed to it. The last issue was the garages are on the front of the houses. The Planning Commission wants them on the back of the house.

They did not vote to move it forward. They will discuss it one more time at the next Planning Commission meeting. Aug 23

  The Nutshell     St.Basil’s sad demise is/was at the end of the 2020-2021 School year.  An equity interest in the property has been bought by the Toll Brothers (perhaps as of Feb 2021).  To see more of what  happened earlier see the Chronology below  but the nutshell is:  Toll Brothers held a meeting May 3, 2021  with over 200 residents in attendance. ( video here :https://rrhc.sharefile.com/share/view/sac019b7855824f4a8adcc2f41ee39af9  )  Clearly, all but a few, were against the original proposal of 120 single-family homes on small lots on the 46 acres . That would equate to approximately 1/3 of an acre each.  Toll said that was in order to keep more green space (elsewhere) - a common promise that years later often is forgotten.   On Nov 4, 2021  they returned to offer 105 in a different configuration ...or if the residents didn't like that proposal which would need text and map amendment approval, they showed the 543 units they had the right to build on that property without any special approval needed.  Residents began to resign to more single family homes, if they could be age restricted to prevent kids in the school at $22K each. 
    On 12-2-21 they returned with  a proposal for 150 age restricted ( 55+)  Carriage Homes.  On Jan 20th, they submitted that plan to the Township. The residents however did not see the actual plan until May 18th, 2022  just a few days before the May 24th meeting on the matter . On the 18th they were posted only in the agenda packet, not in the Calendar on the front page where most people would look him. It even looked as though there was no meeting until just 1 day before. The Plan was making its way  through all the reviews, but the residents were not given the same courtesy of the time to read the details.

   The problem, of course, for residents, is what  Toll or another developer  else can build there "by right" if the 150  residential homes proposal is turned down... the 543 institutional units. 

   Besides withholding the documents from Jan to May, and besides not posting where residents would look for both the meeting and the documents - there was a third matter of the Comprehensive Plan Consistency Committee being actually scheduled for May 4th.  That meeting was cancelled and where a developer SHOULD have to wait for the next scheduled meeting if he misses a meeting, they did him the favor of  rescheduling this as a "Special Meeting" on a date convenient to them ---- a huge disservice to residents who have little opportunity  to be properly alerted .....abd trhe developer has  the added benefit of  them not needing to post  info more than 24 hours in advance -- so that little trick of not putting in the Calendar item til the day before was OK for a "Special Meeting "  ( those were intended to be for emergencies when they were first set up.

     In addition they are asking for this Special Zoning  just for themselves - as an overlay district - not for any other properties. Generally, that would be considered spot zoning  .....to ask to have special zoning just for one's own property.  If no other parcels can do the same thing, then it would most definitely seems it would be  "spot zoning" .... as in : a sweet little deal just for yourself. There is already a Senior Neighborhood residential ordinance allowed in CS districts  that is quite similar - they would have only slightly less density.   The solicitor was asked about that and only said he didn't see it as spot zoning - he didn't say why.

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   BACK IN 2021 : we were  expecting Toll Brothers to submit a full proposal  to the Township and it would then come before the Committee of the Whole. But that Committee is no more as of 2022 . Committees were all revised the end of 2021 in order to remove even MORE of our speaking rights . (Residents should be demanding to have their speaking rights back - but if you don't even ask - you'll know who to blame)  There is a possibility their new proposal will go right to the Planning Commission - with no required notification to neighbors as another  project recently did - and then  and could have then gone to the Board to be advertized for a hearing. They are turning " due process " on it's head - removing our rights & ability to see and participate in what is before the Board.  This leadership , led by Comrs Hecker and Vahey are trying to pass things quickly with no proper vetting before hte public.  It really is up to you to reverse that. You need to be a broken record and demand to have your speaking rights and rights to vet all projects fully returned. We should know where this is expected to show up next - but we don't .
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  12-2-21 MEETING : 
3RD OPTION IS OFFERED  150  AGE RESTRICTED (OVER 55) CARRIAGE HOMES  :
           

 ON 12-2-21 Toll Brothers presented 150 age restricted ( 55+) units for St. Basil's Academy land which is 46 acres - and my guess is that that's going to be the one that gets the least resistance that they will submit -- which they are expected to do soon. it will have a clubhouse in a pool hundred and 25 feet of separation between them and the houses outside a lot of GreenSpace in the rear woodlands (floodplain area) and they expect a 5 year construction process before they're all sold. 51% open space which includes the buffer which could be a trail around the whole complex or whatever is decided in the next stages or by the HOA later.  This property is very different than most of the other properties that face development -  Toll Brothers actually would have the right to develop this with the 540 some units that they presented earlier, that were far less preferred by the residents. 

     
Yes there is a concern that this option will go into the CS districts in other areas.  Meaning that the approval of these units could allow for an unknown number of additional units in other CS districts.  Where residents have been shortchanged before by their politicians could be corrected this time by the politicians being sure that a full presentation is given on the other CS districts and how they would be affected.  Since this is On 46 acres, the senior resident option could be written in a way that required a large number of acres and that would restrict it from some of the other CS districts that exist.  
Any developer who is asking to change the text of our zoning ordinance, should be required to present a map showing the other parcels that are affected and explaining how it will affect them.    That will be up to you to convince your Commissioner to make sure that’s required ---- most especially if you are next to a CS district ( which you might not even know) and also for the rest of us because it affects the traffic and the congestion and the requirement to expand services like Township personnel and facilities , or libraries, parks, trash, etc.  
 


  What are Carriage Homes ?   See an example : https://www.tollbrothers.com/luxury-homes-for-sale/Pennsylvania/Creekside-at-Blue-Bell   Carriage homes are characterized by typically 3 or 4 units connected together, which is how they get a little more GreenSpace . 
   The other 2 previous options are not off the table yet. The 105 single-family homes option formerly presented has to be approved by the community ( well ok – just the Commissioners – but with YOU in their ear ), the other option  with 543 life care units, does not. That comes “by right” with the CS district. (Don’t you wonder who wrote that in there? 
)  


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    MEETING    Nov 4,  2021    

 TOLL BROS OFFERS  105  SINGLE FAMILY $700k TO $800k HOMES   or  543 INSTITUTIONAL UNITS   
    
Toll Brothers bought an interest in St Basil's – but their interest is in doing single family -not institutional. They would hand that off. .  The St Basils property   is zoned CS (Community Service) and that allows  institutional uses (a senior housing or life care facility)  by right . Originally they proposed  120  homes with a 50 ft buffer  . In a zoom on  Nov 4, 2021 they proposed to reduce that to  105  homes  with a 100 ft buffer and berm. The houses will take up 20.7 acres of the 46 that are in the plot . Theres an underground stream or hydrick ( flood plain ) soil in the back part. They would sell about 40 homes a year so it would be 3 or 4 years til it’s all done. Then a homeowners association would take over.  .  If the residents don’t want the single family homes – that will bring 1-5 kids to the schools we hear, then they would give it to another developer to build 543 units in a mix of Independent Living, Assisted Living , Life Care , Alzheimers , etc    . Kids in the schools was a big  concern. At $21K  per student – it matters .

The meeting was a good and productive meeting  that was, for Abington unusually transparent. Thank you Commissioner  Rothman . People were allowed to see one another’s faces  openly – and see all the attendees. ALL our zooms should be like that  ( are you listening Mrs Spiegelman, Hecker and Manfredi )   Comr Rothman advocated twice for extra time  from Toll so more questions could get answered. It was advertised widely and there was no effort to exclude people. I even thought the developer gave  reasonable responses to most of the  questions. So a lot was learned and accomplished.  If I had to nit pick one thing, picking the speakers out of order would be what should be changed – because obviously that can allow manipulation of what appears to be free comment – just picking the ones whose  leanings you are aware of. I didn’t have the sense that happened.  Other than that, I would love to hope this becomes the norm. 

Ok – wait I do have one little bone to pick –alright … not so little …… Comr Rothman assured residents the Commissioners would keep a careful watch over stormwater and engineering issues etc to be sure everything was done just right . Hold your horses,  Commissioner. You KNOW that is not  the history here in Abington and in fact a shim sham flimmy flam is going on at Willow Grove Mall right now that you could stop at any moment – and I encourage you to do that.  And we have a horrible history on that front altogether  -- with the corrupt players who kept people in life-threatening conditions even being promoted to higher office  … and there were just 2 of us who stayed in the game til the bitter end to prevent a septic system that was ½ as big as it needed to be from  being installed at St Michael's.  And you have failed to get your OWN  constituents properly in the Manor College rezoning loop - so they have missed every meeting where they could impact it.  So no – those parts  are still  off.  But I am still going to applaud you for being open and direct  in most every OTHER way at the 11-4-21 Toll Brothers meeting.  We need more of that !!!


This link to a video of this November 4 meeting that Comr Rothman shared is not working for me – if it doesn’t for you email Comr Rothman if you want to review the last meeting
https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:8a5af323-df23-4983-951a-7fa239bff6a3

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  FINDING & UNDERSTANDING THE ZONING:   If you look on p 361 here  https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6053   you’ll see the USE chart.
 There are NO standard  residential uses for CS… h. However :  there is  .  an institutional residential component on page 357 
2017 was when the new zoning was instituted.  I haven’t compared the 4-27-17  CS uses with the prior ones  ones – but after that date at least, these things were allowed  (
 by Conditional Use- meaning you can’t stop it but you can put conditions on it):

 Life Care Facility (Continuing Care)

Nursing Home


Community Service Planned Development--- (see p169) Conditional Use Criteria: In order to obtain a conditional use for a CS Community Service Planned Development, the applicant for a development tract must meet the following criteria to the satisfaction of the Board of Commissioners:
 a. School. An existing school building may
       (a) be preserved,
       (b) be demolished up to 50%, based on floor area, provided the front façade is left intact, or
        (c) have 50% or more of the school, based on floor area, demolished by conditional use, provided a site plan has been submitted and approved by the Board of Commissioners.
 b. Residential Impact. Impact on neighboring residential uses must be minimized and mitigated, as appropriate. The increase in traffic resulting from the new development must be limited to 5% or less.
 c. Open Space. A minimum of 80,000 square feet of contiguous open space shall be provided that is suitable for at least two baseball or softball fields with minimum 60’ baselines. Additional open space in the form of a park or landscaped plaza (including benches, shade trees, walkways, public art, and/or a water feature) shall be provided, located proximate to Easton or Parkdale Roads. d. Master Plan. A master plan showing compliance with the above criteria shall be submitted.

Also allowed in CS  is  School , Hospital , Art Gallery , Patient Lab,  and more . These are  allowed in CS -a more complete list:
 Commercial antennas  /   roof or structure mounted telecommunications equipment /Chapel /chickens limited keeping of chickens / clubhouse / commercial vehicle parking day care center adult /daycare child center /driving facilities /farmers market temporary or seasonal conditional use only /fences and walls /nonresidential accessory structure /outdoor driving /outdoor recreation/ uses accessory to outdoor recreation /play structures /residential accessory structure /swimming pool /St tennis/sports courts /Bank - accessory use /cemetery community center /community service planned development conditional use only /daycare center adultor child by special exception /emergency services by special exception /hospital by conditional use only /Library Museum or cultural center conditional use only /life care facility-continuing care conditional use only /municipal complex conditional use only /nursing home conditional use only /place of worship class I conditional use only /place of worship class 2& 3  /school or /college-public or private /laboratory and testing-patient /medical clinic or office accessory use /art gallery or museum conditional use only /conservation recreation preserve /recreation outdoor conditional use or accessory use /


DOES IT HAVE TO GO TO THE ZONING HEARING BOARD
?

NO :
To change it to residential use it will need a text amendment to alter the zoning.   They have chosen to create a Carriage Home Overlay District to put in the CS Districts --- that does NOT  go to the Zoning Hearing Board. It only goes to the Planning Commission and  from there  to the Comprehensive Plan Consistency Committee  who will recommend it to the Board of Commissioners to approve it . Only a majority of the 15 members is needed- so, only 8 votes  needed to approve it.  Since a Plan for such a change is NOT in the current Comprehensive  Plan, there is no clearcut  document showing it was the Commissioners' "vision"   ---- so, as was noted Mar 6, 2022 by the Montco Planner, it really is "spot zoning"  - seeming to apply to just the one property . If it applies to others, it may escape spot zoning  problems - but these property neighbors were not alerted and have not been part of the  creation of the zoning change that would affect them .   When a text amendment is approved to add to the  CS District, it would then apply to ALL parcels zoned CS  that have the same conditions.  So they seem to be skirting some of the rules. 

YES : If they are using one of the “uses” by right in the CS district, all conditional uses would have to go to the Zoning Hearing Board – or any use would if they are asking for variances from the by right use, for instance.   

Double check me on all this – – ask your Commissioner to verify and let me know if they say anything different


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  ABINGTON ZONING MAP
The full zoning ordinance was revised ( with the input of hardly any of the 56,000 residents of the Township, although that had been promised ) and passed 4-27-17.   It  is found here  http://www.abington.org/home/showdocument?id=6053  with the   Zoning Map (a section is below)   is found at page 352 .  The blue areas are all zoned CS ( Community Service).

If you scroll a few pages above the map to the mauve colored charts, you will  find CS along the top column menu and go down that  CS column on each of the charts to see what uses apply in the CS district. 

CS  comes with many interesting uses , and some brand new uses "by right"  bestowed in the 2017 zoning.  Despite those new rights, developers are still coming in and asking for MORE
. Each time they amend a section
, like CS, it applies to all the other CS districts.  So all the amendments are messing with what should be a clean document. It already has many features that are way more complicated than they need to be.

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The Horse Farm :  A side note about more possible nearby  construction : Manor College intends to buy  the Sisters of St Basil Faculty House and a "significant portion" of the Horse  Farm as of hte end of 2021 . So what portion is left - and what is the plan for that?  See https://manor.edu/manor-college-sisters-announce-letter-of-intent/

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  WHAT ELSE WILL BE SIMULTANEOUSLY REZONED?  If they add the residential use on their CS parcel, all the other CS blue districts will get the same rights (unless there is some other way to zone for the 120 houses that I don't understand.... And to be frank, I learn something new every day so help me out on this if you know something different) .  It is imperative that we do not add residential to all CS districts. It would enable a massive change in the Township and a massive influx of students to the school. 

 

Township wide : just a few ...



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   The blue rectangle at the top with the tiny label "St. Basil's Academy" is the section under discussion here.   It is directly to the left of the Ukrainian Center.  and above Manor College --Yes I should have circled and labeled that specifically ..... in my free time!
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   OUR ZONING ORDINANCE  :You can find the whole  zoning ordinance and the whole zoning map are here   http://www.abington.org/home/showdocument?id=6053    map at p 353  Use Matrix p 357 to 361 --- both  near the very end ...

Here's the map with all the other CS ( light blue areas that would get that zoning) at the above link it is interactive  and easy to read

Zoning Map plus Legend
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   OUR ZONING MAP  ABOVE    St Basil's is in the lower right hand quadrant - and  you can see, even there in that quadrant , how much CS land there is - plus there is Hillside Cemetery and other plots of land that, if you added up all the possibilities could add a phenomenal number of units under the right circumstances.

Find CS  (Community Service) on the top line of the use matrix  and go down the uses to see what could be built there. I have listed them above  in green.  You can find the zoning details in this zoning document - the use matrix is near the very and just before the maps... Find CS community service and go down the uses to see what could be built there. 

   Toll Brothers  and BET Investments  are often confused ( BET = Bruce E. Toll ).    BET Investments did the 402 apartments at the Promenade  in Upper Dublin across from Lowes in Willow Grove, with commercial on the bottom - and Toll Brothers is doing the  single homes  behind the Promenade.

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   TRAFFIC  One of the chief concerns of the residents at the first zoom, was traffic and how the cars from this development of 120 homes so perhaps 200 or 250 cars would probably be seeking shortcuts through their neighborhoods even though toll was promising them only one driveway. (I'm not sure one driveway would be allowed because of fire access- there is usually a 2nd entrance required for emergency vehicles)
Toll said they would have 50 ft buffers  and a walking trail and green area .   Ask for the fim to be aired so all residents can view it. .
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      MANOR COLLEGE'S NEW ZONING  The  expanded zoning that Penn State will present  at the Committee of the Whole on 5-13-21  for all Abington Colleges and Universities would also impact Manor College.  It permits 300 foot long buildings and other  conditions you might have a concern about.  So everyone in this area should keep their eye on that as well and attnd the zoom on 5-13-21. (It is the 2nd meeting, not the 1st)
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    MANOR WOODS  Note also that  Manor Woods  has a Masterplan that action was budgeted for in last year's budget ( $100,000)  and  the Horse Farm should stay on your radar, as a  plan was made for that years ago ( 126 units????) when they were calculating what might be needed  for sewer upgrades / EDU needs. 
Seems there could be a lot of expansion in the very near future in this little corner of the Township.  If you learn any more about any of these, please let me know so we can keep  neighbors informed. 
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  TOWNSHIP WIDE REDEVELOPMENT 
To learn more about development throughtout the Township,  see the  Summary of Development in Abington .

Any information that you can pass along will be welcome. Now is the time for neighbors to become informed about zoning laws and connected.  (
I can help you get connected, too, if you need help. )

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  ABINGTON PUBLIC COMMENT AND PLEASE CARE THAT THE COMMISSIONERS ARE DOING EVERYTHING TO REDUCE YOUR PUBLIC COMMENT RIGHTS (CLICK HERE )  WHILE THIS ALL OUT ASSAULT ON GIANT MIXED USE  DEVELOPMENT IS BEING LAUNCHED  ...............  YOU WON'T KNOW HOW IMPORTANT public comment  IS UNTIL  YOU SPEND 3 HOURS AT A MEETING AND AREN'T EVEN ALLOWED A FEW MINUTES TO COMMENT.

     A little history about the Sisters  of St Basil is included in this 4-17-22 article on the Sister's humanitarian efforts for the Ukraine in the war with Russia  In Jenkintown, an order of nuns works to get medicine and supplies to Ukraine. The prayers ship free. (inquirer.com) OR  https://www.inquirer.com/news/pennsylvania/basil-nuns-philadelphia-donations-russia-ukraine-20220417.html

 

 


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