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                365 APARTMENTS AT THE WILLOW GROVE MALL

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                                      WGMallApts-OverheadView          

   NEXT MEETING
 

         11-9-20  Zoom meeting will be held at 7 pm by the law firm Kaplin Stewart representing PREIT, the owner of the Willow Grove Mall.   To sign up ( 24 hours in advance)  email Jessica Welch  at  jwelch@kaplaw.com.  She will send you this registration link where you must register to get the Zoom information  https://kaplaw.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAsceuqrzMrGd1o5mwJNLmp2gHf9ucUYaUP

Be sure to see ( and help us add to ) the list of QUESTIONS we already have underway for PREIT, found at the very end of this page.  

THE NUTSHELL 

           On Nov 1st 2020 residents received a letter from the law firm
of Kaplin Stewart, representing PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust), the owner of the Willow Grove Mall, saying that PREIT  wishes to build 365 apartments just south of the pond along Easton Road, near the corner of Moredon Road on the mall property.

           The property is zoned BC (business commercial) and they propose to amend the text of the BC District to suit their new development plan. A request to make a text amendment to the zoning is something that the Commissioners do not need to act upon. They can choose to deny it or take no action at all.   They should not allow them to move forward unless residents clearly want them to. (When they did that at Abington Terrace, residents spent over a YEAR fighting it in meeting after meeting after meeting  .... and ultimately were forced into a  less that wonderful compromise. There was no need for that to have happened. They should never have been allowed to more forward unless a majority of residents wanted it.  

            Since we do not yet know what changes they are proposing, it is unclear whether these changes would apply to other BC Districts.
But changes in the BC District generall, except to the use matrix, or other areas designated just for Willow Grove Mall, would apply to all BC Districts.  

         It is my belief as of this writing that the Zoom meeting on November 9, 2020 is not being held by the Township but by PREIT itself, via their attorney Kaplin-Stewart. Members of the Board of Commissioners may or may not attend. And it is unlikely that our Solicitor would be in attendance, though, of course, he might.

         The matter of the text amendment is a legislative change .  The Board has the right to zone property within the Township at its discretion. This is a new concept that developers have caught on to, and they no longer apply for variances and exceptions, that require hardships or other conditions . They now  just reach right out to the Commissioners to ask them to rezone the property the way they would like it. This of course is a great disservice to residents, who deserve to have the land around them zoned securely to protect the value of their house. Image that you bought your house  without a giant structure  next to it - and all of a sudden a giant  structure is there.  Because it is a legislative process, it  goes before the Board of Commissioners, not the Zoning Hearing Board... This way they do not need a hardship, as one normally would for a variance. 

         Any changes that they propose to the BC (Business Commercial) district, except for changes to the use matrix, or other  sections  that are just for Willow Grove Park,  would also impact other BC ( business commercial)  districts in my understanding of what is happening here. We will learn more about it after the meeting November 9. And check back, because I will make any corrections that are appropriate .

         The meeting is at 7 PM &  you must request the zoom information and to attend the meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. 24 hours would put it on Sunday so you might be best to request by Friday - a working day.

               PREIT filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on Sunday 11-1-30 . It is anticipated that they are planning to restructure, not close down.  So if the apartments go through, there will be an active mall and 365 rental units.  PREIT OWNS ABOUT 20 PROPERTIES, INCLUDING HE wILLOW gROVE mALL

                 The prepackaged financial plan ensures $150 million in funding to "recapitalize the business and extend the company's debt maturity schedule," it said in a statement. The plan has "overwhelming support" from its lenders and it's looking to quickly emerge from the process.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/02/investing/mall-bankruptcies-cbl-properties-preit/index.html
Preit has about 20 properties – 24% of tenants are now restaurants, gyms, movies etc
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/business/crushed-by-the-coronavirus-preit-and-other-mall-operator-file-for-bankruptcy/2581065/

Letter to Residents  11-1-20



 HELPFUL   FACTS

Here is the newest Code, passed on 4-17.  The BC Business Commercial District  guidelines can be found in it :
https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6053

 page 53 - The intent of the BC district as well as the intent for Willow Grove Park  ( Read all at the website link)
J . Additional Intent Specific to Willow Grove Park: 1. Serve as a regional shopping center, providing for the daily shopping needs of Township residents, employees, and those from the larger region. Require a mix of retail and office uses, while allowing community service uses. 2. Provide for outparcels and some development along external streets, particularly Easton Road. 3. Accommodate automobile-oriented uses while establishing a pedestrian-friendly environment. 4. Improve connections with Willow Grove, including the business district, train station and Willow Grove Shopping Center. 5. Require strong buffer and lower building heights near single-family residential district.
  
page 65 to 67  - Dimensional requirements

page 227 -Signs and single use properties and joint use properties

pages 347 to 351 is the use matrix - be sure to choose the middle column listing Willow Grove Mall as there are multiple BC districts

page 352 has the map showing the mall in red in the upper left -- But all the red spaces would be included in any changes that were made generally to BC districts that were not specified for a particular district.



     JOB FOR YOU - RESIDENTS SHOULD  REQUEST TO HAVE ALL MEETINGS
VIDEO TAPED  AND AIRED
Ask your Commissioner and /or The Township Manager  for this meeting,and all related  meetings, to be video-taped  & aired and stored on a single page with an individual link on the Township website that is easily found and shareable  ( like this page ). This helps  those who can't make it to meetings, or those who learned about it late or those who need to review something

  JOB FOR YOU -RESIDENTS SHOULD  REQUEST THAT  SPEAKING RIGHTS BE AMENDED TO FIX WHAT IS BROKEN - Talk to your Commissioner.  Measures currently in place that stifle the voices of residents should be removed and/or amended  to afford residents proper access to their government. We need to have a process where residents can properly explain their concerns . A recent move by Manager Manfredi was touted as "expanding rights" but actually reduced them yet again.  Our representatives must clearly  understand what their constituents want them to do.
        See this page for the list of things that we need - and for a history of the speaking rule changes. Our voices are needed so we can keep our communities from being developed or operated in ways that we do not condone.  The residents who live and vote here want to craft our communities to work for us - we want those we elect to represent us, to actually.... represent us


  
JOB FOR YOU - Help us learn some of the following details IN ADVANCE AND HELP ADD TO THIS LIST OF QUESTIONS FOR preit   so that we can go fully prepared into the meeting on November 9. If each person does a little bit we will know a lot that will be helpful at the meeting. Ask your Commissioner . File a Right to Know ( which takes at least 5 days for a response- they can then take an additional 30 days for a legal review )  . Or otherwise  research these and share any answers you get back here so I can post them :

Does the proposed development have a name?   

Has the mall appealed its tax assessment in the last 10 years?   If so was it successful?

Taxes the mall has paid in the past five years    Earned Income /// Business-Mercantile /// Real Estate ?


Taxes the new unit is expected to produce     Earned Income /// Business-Mercantile /// Real Estate ?

What is the mall's assessed  Real Estate Value  as it currently is today

What is the # of apartment units recently built or underway in Abington and in other areas near Willow Grove?

What is the #  of  corporate housing units in the township versus number of homeowner -owned units ?

What is the intended range of the rents per unit at the new development

What income (range) must one be in in order to afford living in these units?

What is the Date (s?)  of any township meetings where this issue is expected to be presented?

How many children do you expect these apartments would have that would be of school age ?

How many seniors do you anticipate might find these apartments desirable? 

What amenities will the apartments have?

A shared meeting space would be a  perfect 
 space as a "give-back " to the community 
             
- the mall meeting spaces have been limited to non-profit use  and have  inconvenient hours & availability    

What is a ball-park estimate of traffic increase in and out each day ?

What re the parking intentions at the Holidays when the lot has traditionally been full -up at the mall ?

What is the estimated increase in stormwater run-off  and what that will do to the retention basin (pond) ?

What is the change in greenspace / impervious surface?

How much of the impervious  space that was intended as mall parking will be used ( how much sf and how many spots?


How many additional students  will our schools be expected to accommodate after the apartments are complete?

If  you were to obtain the zoning on the property, via this application, what is to keep you  from selling the property immediately with  the new zoning -- which means simply that development in Abington expands – and possibly in a way  that is different from your proposal that we might like far less ? (This was just done at the YMCA)

How do you have the funds  ( or the ability to obtain funds) when you have filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Are you allowed to NOT pay back your full debts to some, while you use your funds to enhance the future value of your property at the same time?


What will happen if you run out of funds and have to include the new project in the bankruptcy? Is that a possibility?

What is your unstable financial condition  ends up putting the new project into  bankruptcy- where would that leave Abington? 


In all of the open discussions I have seen on-line, the vast majority of residents find this to be a bad idea.  They do not want the traffic,  expansions of  their schools, library and other services, or the  disappearance of their  skyline and green spaces  or the increase in rental housing versus home ownership, which increases corporate voices over their individual voices.  The Commissioners should not be taking up projects that the people they represent are opposed to ---- so what arguments would you make to  try to convince the Commissioners that this in in everybody's interest?






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