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

 

      Click here to receive the Newsloop  with more news like this
  Click here to see a BRIEF  OVERVIEW and explore how much can be built

THE WILLOW GROVE MALL
  THIS IS the "details page" WITH AS MUCH INFO AS WE COULD ARCHIVE
 POORLY ORGANIZED DUE TO TIME CONSTRAINTS|
   BUT BETTER TO HAVE IT SOMEWHERE FOR  YOU,   THAN TO  NOT HAVE IT AT ALL
SOME THINGS  BELOW ON THIS PAGE MAY BE  OUT OF DATE - AS THE PROJECT HAS ALREADY BEEN THROUGH 9 MEETINGS  - THE FIRST 6 SHOWED VIRTUALLY NO CHANGE WHATSOEVER - BUT THEN A FEW  CHANGES WERE MADE

In November Mall owner, PREIT,  tried to make it look like they were asking for one 365 apartment building on the Bloomies parking lot - first announced  in Nov 2020.  But they submitted documents that allow for far, far more and even discuss conditions that need to be met for other structures that will be buildt. While mocking our attempts to estimate how many units they ACTUALLY would be able to build if this passes, they finally conceded OK  a second  could be builtcould be built on hte Macy's parking lot.  But many other properties are within the 2500 linear feet from a train  that would also obtain the rights . For a full year, we have had lies or been denied answers to our questions, and never been shown  a single analysis that shows a benefit to the Township or to the taxpayers. 

The continued refusal to acknowledge  what Bruce Goodman's  properties, Parkside (Dick's strip) and Park Place  (Visionworks strip)  could become if they were sold and  what might be done at the former K-Mart (now called At Home)  as well as the refusal to provide any realistic numbers on how many children  could be sent to our schools,  at $22, 000 per child, is a disgrace . It is  just one of many reasons that John Spiegelman and Tom Hecker should be asked to step down from their positions as President and Vice President of the Board. We can't have people who withhold information and don't know how to provide a financial analysis to see if something is in our interests or not.

 Comrs Spiegelman and Hecker  will have not just drug residents through 9 fruitless meetings up to October 12,  2021 on this matter  - but they also have worked sucessfully to simultaneously remove our speaking rights (while calling it an expansion rather than a removal ) in order to get this and other onerous things passed.  The two have  taken  control of ALL the Committee meetings ( run by Hecker ) and of the Full Board meeting (run by Spiegelman )-  wresting  control out of the hands of the other Committee Chairs simply by skipping OVER the Committee meetings whenever they wanted.  Hecker lamented that although they could attend those meetings, they couldn't vote. No - their vote was intended to be at the next stage.  The Commissioners elected by the public were to have control of the various Committees.  Hecker did not like that - and so has interfered with any proposals to change it . Spiegelman and Hecker  have failed to answer questions for residents and taken away the meetings where our questions are to be given the most time and consideration and our speaking rights are the most robust.  

When they showed a 2nd possible building in the Macy's lot, increasing  the number of units from 365 to 700  and still failing to account for many others -- no financial considerations of the impact of even that 2nd building  were shown at he EDC meeting. A dupe on the public .

A Planning Commission member estimated there were 78 acres  within the 2500 linear feet that will get these rights. PREIT had recently conceded to 16 units per acre so that would mean there were 1248 units that could be expected with the passing ofthis ordinance . Not all at once , of course, but over time - and without the right of anyone to protest it in the future. No matter how much it caost the Schools. A School District member sitting on the Economic Development Committee said it could cost $40 million to build a new school.  It would be a "use by right" for the other properties - so after this passes it won't matter how much it costs the schools .

While  they refuse to provide a proper picture of the overall impact of ALL the properties being rezoned, or any proper financial analysis, the residents are unclear  exactly what would make the Commissioners entertain this massive prospective loss . This ordinance  this simply provides more money for the property owners & new developers  involved at the expense of the  congestion of our streets, need fuller schools, fuller parks and an unhappy urbanization of our township for the rest of us.   

Some people thing that this is a done deal - and that kind of thinking will make it a "self-fullfilling prophecy".
Instead , please understand that if you do NOTHING - then things will be done for you - or to you.  Instead - if you do not want this - make sure every one of the Commissioners hears you loud and clear .
Here's where they can be found :

https://abingtoncitizens.com/TwpGovt/Commissioners.htm

Demand answers and actions that are in YOUR interest.

 

365AptsAsPresented2-23-21-PC

The artist's eye might note that  Bloomies 3 story building appears  larger than their new  5  story building.

   thE  10th MEETING  October 12, 2021  7:30 am - again it is not appropriate to put public meetings at 7:30 am

   thE  9th MEETING   September 28th 2021 Held at 7:30 am to be sure very few attend 
 
T
he June 22nd meeting of the Economic Development Committee was cancelled - and finally rescheduled for Sept 28 .  What a joke.  First of all, Bruce Goodman attended it - he did not recuse himself, even though his properties will benefit with enormously increased rights if this ordinance passes.  PREIT did literally launch again into  the "history " of the Mall - including not a stitch of actual financial information as to how this would help the Mall one single bit.  Bloomies will be selling their parking lot area to Bel Canto -- causing a crisis at holiday shopping time when every space is filled  ( except during a pandemic ).

     Bel Canto will benefit handsomely -- but apparently very much at the expense of the Township taxpayers who will be eating 100's of thousands of dollars of the expense up to  perhaps millions  - because the  chart they produced was rife with absolute inaccuracies.

   Their chart included financing for just TEN students - less than 1/2 of even their OWN estimate.  But the National Homebuilders estimates 61, v according to statistics shared at that meeting,  - and the actual School District numbers start at 80 and climb to 105 possible students in just the FIRST 365 unit building! Remember their  request allows for 3 or 4  times that if this ordinance passes. 

   It also , included only a fraction of the expenses the Mall will cost the Township besides being  WAY, WAY off on the most important part - the calculation of the number of students at $22,000 per student. This is INEXCUSEABLE. 

   The real numbers show that there is a great likelihood the Township will suffer a great loss of between several hundred thousand and several million if htis ordinance passes --- and that is without any calculation of expanded streets, improvements to clogged intersections,  traffic signaling, curbs and sidewalks,  the cost of the loss of greenspace, of your time sitting in traffic , of the more polluted air from cars idling at lights ( the  traffic all the way into Roslyn is clogged up every rushhour of every workday -  with 1248 units and a possible 2400 additional cars  - what will the impact be ?  They want you to believe ZERO)

     Stormwater facilities may need expansion - our police force also may .... and Township administrators are already spread so thin and so focused on new developers that they are ignoring basic Township services like code enforcement and property maintenance, among other things.  The parks, librairies  will be fuller and may need to expand ... NONE of those expenses are in the developers chart. The whole meeting  was just a whole bogus dog and pony show.  Thank you Mr Callantine. If you are unsure what a financial analysis looks like, please solicit professional help.

The Chart that PREIT used  for the school side and the Township side  assumed completely different   "property assessments "  If there was some reason for that, no explanation was given.  I think we are just dealing with "I don't care -I only need 8 votes and I already know whose they are.  So why should I bother with all this?
    
       It is stunning to see what John Spiegelman and Tom Hecker are allowing developers to do.  They are aiding and abetting people who are not playing straight with the taxpayers of this Township.
   

The Econ Dev Committee, by the way,  is the very Committee  who already declared they they didn't have much expertise in development ... so we needed an Economic Development Corporation to help them out.  It is also the  Committee that Bruce Goodman sits on ... Bruce is the owner of a significant portion of the very real estate that will gain millions and millions of dollars worth of new zoning rights should this ordinance pass. He is not even an Abington resident.  Why is he sitting on our Committee in the first place? Of course he'd recuse himself  if the matter came for a vote by the Board ..... what .... he didn't.... even when the Committe Chair was notified - he still participated in the discussion etc?   Oh my.  Are we fully a Banana Republic...?  Rules and laws and codes and policies  don't seem to mean much in Abington.
ChartSept28-2021Finances

   On June 10th, 2021  at the Committee of the Whole , the 8th meeting that residents  had to endure, not a single question was asked of the applicant - residents who attended had no opportunity to question the applicant or to hear Commissioners ask the questions that we have wanted answers to......most notably: how many units could  ANY developer possibly build on that property, once the  ordinance passed.   The Planning Commission report was not in the  documents of the meeting - though that Committee's opinion was referred to . The  particular opinions that the Commisioners seemed to have was NOT  available to the public.  Residents speaking time was over before they had any idea whatsoever what the Board was considering doing (forwarding the matter to the  Econ Development Committee) - so their 5 minutes was just plain wasted. That's how Mr Hecker and Mr Spiegelman prefer it.
       The Board chose to do something that was nowhere on their  "Zoning Process Nonsense  Chart "  .... the one that "clarifies the zoning process"  by saying : ( you can't make this up )  that Commissioners can do whatever they heck they want at any meeting. In other words : there IS no process.  Yup. That clears it all up!

 So John Spiegelman, out of the blue, and not advertised with the item,  suggested it go to the Economic Development  Committee (EDC). Right after this meeting,  they  promptly  cancelled the next EDC meeting and the next and the next. They have not put up proper news system in so anybody would even know where to look to know why or when to next expect it. It's all astounding .

 Please don't think that this is normal. There is nothing normal about this. In the worst of times in earlier administrations, they did better than this. I want to also mention that I attended an earlier Economic Development Committee meeting where Bruce  Goodman, who owns a huge portion of the property that is going to be rezoned, and Mr. Manfredi were both in attendance and the discussion with one of the other EDC members was about how to convince the public that this was good for them. And there was a suggestion that they should put together a financial analysis ( you know, at your expense) to show how important the mall is. Again that would play into the full scenario that without the residential the mall would go away..... And I think we've presented enough information to show that it's very likely that that would never happen because it is one of the most successful malls in the area 2nd only to King of Prussia in this area. So sending it to the EDC, instead of requiring the developer to come up with figures that prove that what they are proposing is a benefit to our residents is a very backwards approach.

   On May 25, 2021, the Planning Commission turned it down  in a meeting that was the 4th time at the planning commission and the 7th meeting overall.  However, the Planning Commission report was not amongst the scant documents  that were provided for the June 10 Committee of the Whole  meeting, as it should have been - because they were sent there to be advised before deciding further .  Once again we are not being given, under Mr. Manfredi's watch, the proper documentation and accessibility to information. This is a chronic and very serious problem. He knows that we cannot properly access our government when he withholds information - and it is a regular occurrence.

You might want to view the Planning Commission  "turn down"  more as a “delay” and an opportunity to regroup ……  They are not going away. You will have to be loud and call out all the improper and even illegal things that have been done to try to pass this. One dupe after another ….. And this  May 25th meeting was no different .  The Chair allowing the blatant misconduct of the applicant as he interrupted the actual voting  to lobby for votes on his behalf ….  yes, literally right in the middle of the vote itself.  Stunning to watch.  Eventually Chairwoman Strackhouse  stopped him  ---  thanks to Cathy Gauthier  for trying to get that done sooner. How does a meeting like that not bring sanctions on the applicant.  I think that should disqualify his application.  If anyone knows the law on that please call me and let me know.

Planner Nick Brown, apparently was unable to hear properly.  After listening to four meetings of residents telling him nearly unanimously  they did not want this,  he put forth a motion saying that the planning commission was in favor of the concept.... Whaaaaaat? With friends like those who needs enemies? Fortunately his motion failed.

Ultimately Planner Ron Rosen first read a document from Planner Glenn Cooper who asserted that he was not ready to vote for this - and then Mr. Rosen put a motion forward that  the Planners would not recommend this proposal . That  passed. 

See more below  and if you haven’t signed the petition please do
https://abingtoncitizens.com/petition/wgmall.htm  

 Still Mr. Kaplin would not come clean about the actual number of units that would be possible at the mall business district if this ordinance passed. He complained that our estimates did not include limitations that would lower them substantially, but he did not offer any numbers of his own, so the only opportunity we could take is to"guesstimate" . Given that he has shown 700 units possible on the right-hand side, it seems more than possible that another 700 or more would be available on Parkside, park place, and the TMJ at Home Store. No financial analysis. No description of the ownership so we know who is profiting. We have none of the things that we need to make any proper assessment of the costs of this project. It is quite possible that taxpayers will be stuck with a very heavy load. ..... 

     The April 27 Planning Commission........ Their 3rd trip in the 6th meeting overall..........  where they did not vote or solidify the changes and garner consent on what changes were being recommended. Instead, Chair Lucy Strackhouse seemed to indicate she would pass along every single  comment made from all the meetings. That kind of defeats the whole role of the Planning Commission who is to review all the information and make recommendations. Also,  I didn't see any of the Planners vote to agree to have their vote taken away and to have Lucy do that  unilaterally with no consensus on such a process. Or is business being conducted out of the purview of the public again.
A great number of  significant changes were made and when a document is substantially changed it is, by law, supposed to return to the Planning Commission. The "law" doesn't seem to  matter to anyone involved with this - as the first 5 meetings were deceitfully focused on one single building - and finally at this 6th meeting another building was shown..... but that was only by ignoring about half of the property they intend to rezone, and all the units that can go on those parcels.  

"Petition to Amend our Ordinance (submitted  12-10-20) "  (that's the submitted request    the ordinance they propose )

Yes they recorded this - and all  3 of the Planning meetings - but refuse to play it on the channel or make it available on the web. Making it harder for residents to review  or catch what they missed ----- again, all decisions in favor of the developer.  



 
  CITIZEN INFORMATION SESSIONS I will be holding regular zoom meetings for anyone - small group- large group - even individuals who want to know more about this issue.  Email me : lel@abingtoncitizens.com if  you are interested
|

  Here is A  PAGE WITH A BRIEF OVERVIEW   It  condenses the voluminous  main points and  explores what COULD BE BUILT  https://abingtoncitizens.com/aaISSUES/Development-Zoning-CodeEnf/WillowGroveMall/2021-03-21-MO.htm

  The PRIOR MEETING :   3-23-21 PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING . Again almost no questions answered
    Attorney  was supposed to go over the ordinance line by line. He didn't. He just jumped to a few favorite places Planning Chair Lucy Strackhouse, and Planners Cathy Gauthier, Ron Rosen and the others let him do that. They also didn't require him to answer residents questions. One speaker gave up her time to have the prior speaker's questions answered -

      Kaplin was asked again how many residential units could be built there ..... the 300 lb Gorilla in the room ..........he refused to answer it again, he denigrating the questioner and mocking  efforts to calculate the number . Again , Chair Lucy Strackhoues and the Planners allowed hom to do that - when they could, and shoud, be asking that question themselves .  Clearly the Planners , like the Commissioners do NOT want the answer to that question  given to the public. A simple request from any one of them to answer that question would have solved the problem -but that should make you extra angry at a process that so cuts you out.

       We learned very little more at this lengthy meeting than we had at the others. It was remanded to yet another Planning meeting.  in keeping with the "Death by Meeting" way of operating. Keep in mind the 2-23-21 Planning meeting was witten on the agenda as a motion  to approve the project.  In the middle of the meeting the agenda was  tawmpered with and changed to  read:  a motion to "consider" rather than a motion to "approve".  It was NOT approved.  So technically that should have been a  "No" vote - but like the BET proposal they are getting around any rules that may indicate waiting  before submitting the same proposal  by holding  endless ( and useless)  Planning Meetings  where the developer isn't even required to answer questions or change any of the  things he is asking for.  

GO HERE TO CATCH UP ON WHAT HAPPENED PRIOR TO THE LAST MEETING  

 

ENJOY A BIT OF WILLOW GROVE PARK  HISTORY - There is a wonderful video at this link that will help you appreciate the 8 decades of the Willow Grove Amusement Park  https://montco.today/2021/08/willow-grove-mall-amusement-park-delighted-locals/   or here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIYtP-J-4ws


    
the ACTUAL documents  submitted  :   "Petition to Amend our Ordinance (submitted  12-10-20) "
Quite different from what they told us when they first presented, as your Commissioners, Manager, paid County Planner and Solicitor stayed quiet as church mice while you were misled.
  
They all knew that you were not getting a proper presentation.   

   
 PAGE 53  OF OUR ZONING CODE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT  RESIDENTIAL IS NOT INTENDED FOR WILLOW GROVE PARK  MALL BC DISTRICT  
  
   "A. Accommodate a mix of sustainable, complimentary uses, to include retail, office, and community service (and with the exception of Willow Grove Park Mall, residential)."

To find
the Use Matrix and Maps are at he very end  of the zoning code- scroll down to find them - mauve color charts .   


WHAT THEY SHOWED on  11-9-20  : The  giant new building (as pictured  at the top of this page) ...pulled right up tight to Easton Road  with 365 rental apartments (no condos) and a garage in the middle of them .  They shared NO documents whatsoever with those attending so we could review them in advance - and  refused our request to post a copy of the meeting so we could review what they said during their presentation.  Who allowed them to act in this manner.  Ward 5 Commissioner Julia Vaughn knew you hadn't had a proper meeting but allowed htem to get away with it  on 12-10-20 when she voted them to the full Board Meeting.

WHAT THEY SUBMITTED on 12-10-20  .....SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT  The building pictured at the top of this page  is but a fraction of what they would be able to build if their ordinance passed.  So you should be quite taken aback at the level of deceit - and the waste of your time at the first meeting.  In fact, the ordinance submitted will rezone substantial parts of the Mall lot ----  which appears to include the Mall and Dick's and the At Home Store , and the Visionworks Complex  and Macy's and Bloomingdates. This would explain why not a single question was asked about the Mall by any of the Commissioners - all were complicit in allowing hte deceit to the public who still did not understand what was being done.

A FEW OF THE NEW CONDITIONAL USE "RIGHTS"  ALL THESE ENTITIES WILL HAVE
Can build over  85 feet high – ( that  changed in april21 to 65 ')
Commercial can be on the roof, penthouse floor and first floor 
3 floors of residential in between those commercial floors
10 % apartment and 20% commercial mix is required

They can go right up close to residential ( just have to build a bit lower if within 100 or 200 feet )
No outside access to stores – must come inside
 


   BELOW IS THE BUSINESS CENTER WILLOW GROVE PARK DISTRICT  ( in red and a satellite view  )

 
     BC-WGMallDistrict  Map-BCDistrictSatellite


FOR WHAT PROPERTIES  WILL THE NEW ZONING APPLY ? 
        It appears that portions of  nearly all of the properties  in the BC District  ( the red part in the image above )  are within the 2500 linear feet. Only a small part of the building apparently has to be within the 2500 ft for the whole building to qualify so you can see how   That would include Goodman Properties Parkside Shopping Center   ( Dick's to Planet Fitness ) and Goodman Properties Park Place including Visionworks /Floyd's Barbershop /Ideal Image, Chipotle, etc   and also the At Home Store (former Kmart now  owned by  a Texas  company?) as well as Macy's, Bloomies and the Mall itself . 
You can see here below all the parts of buildings that qualify  - the black lines indicate the  2500 linear feet from a train
 
                                         small TOD circles 
     
 FIRE SAFETY   Marc Kaplin, PREIT's attorney actually just got approval in March 2021 on the 8 acres behind the Baederwood Shopping Center for  244 apartments - again, rentals.  But the building did not even meet the fire codes properly when approved and there is some concern as to how it GOT approved in that manner.  There is little that I can think of that should override the  important codes that regulate tenant safety  -  even when a 3rd party has been called in to "beef up" other systems by way of compensation for the missing things and who can shoulder or share any blame.  There, Kaplin is demanding approval without proper safety regulations and here at the Mall on behalf of PREIT he is working to overturn our more stringent fire guidelines that require non combustibles like metal framing instead of wood  so that he can save his client $ - bottom line first . Saftey of residents.... later.... maybe... or not at all. 

SPOT ZONING ISSUES ..... AGAIN A HISTORY WITH  MR KAPLIN -     Kaplin, on behalf of his client Brandolini , on the property  over behind the  Baederwood Shopping Center, originally  claimed  their 8 acres behind the Center were " reverse spot zoned " . In other words,  others were allowed more intense uses all around him, so he should have it, too. But  as with the Mall, your attention was kept on that single 8 acre property while Steve Kline, Ernie Peacock, et al said they would "fix it all" by creating the Fairway Transit District that supposedly was zoned in your interest.  No it wasn't. It simply rezoned far more property  and gave others expanded rights that you would not have allowed .   Most residents never realized all the things they were zoning in, supposedly just to fix this one 8 acre plot.  It was a planned escapade. 

 KEEP YOUR EYE ON THIS WHILE I REZONE THAT..... Now, we see a similar thing here -- by the same attorney ---- and many of the same characters.  Everyone's focus is on a simgle building that PREIT  that may or may not ever build - but which is being used to rezone so much more. And they are refusing - after 5 months and 6 meetings in mid April to tell us the truth about any of it - even when we ask directly.
How many units in total are being authorized here. Not even a few realistic  guesses are being offered.  My guess has been close to 2000  

CAN EVEN MORE PROPERTIES OVER THERE OBTAIN THIS SUPER DENSE ZONING?      One could even question whether any of the BC  properties NOT  given the 2500 ft zoning  rights might be able to claim they were spot zoned or reverse spot zoned "out"  ....... After all, PREIT is arbitrarily choosing how many feet from a train qualifies for all this extra building that improves the value of the properties within that 2500 ft area.  It purposely and arbitrarily leaves some properties "out". If others in the BC district get special new rights, why shouldn't they all?    A judge would have a hard time with that argument, I would think.    Spot zoning occurs when a property has the same conditions as others but gets treated differently.....   They are "concocting" a condition that makes their property , and certain chosen others, now worth much more money .   REMINDER  :  A traditional transit oriented  district  is (?traditionally or officially? ) defined as  2640 feet from a train - (1/2 mile)....   not the arbitrary 2500 feet they have chosen.

  
  ON THE MAP BELOW ( WITH TOD CIRCLES SHOWING 2500 FEET FROM THE TRAIN STATIONS) YOU CAN SEE WHERE IN THE TOWNSHIP THAT BUSINESS CENTER DISTRICT IS LOCATED

                    TownshipZoninglMap

      THE ACTUAL SUBMIssion by PREIT  WASN'T AT ALL ABOUT  A SINGLE APARTMENT BUILDING   --  INFORMATION ABOUT HOW MANY UNITS MIGHT BE POSSIBLE  WAS NOT GIVEN IN WHAT HAS NOW BEEN  5 LONG  MONTHS AND 5 LONG PRESENTATIONS - Even when  asked direct questions about it, they always avoided  them. When we made our own calculations  they said NONSENSE - but still would not give us even a range. 
 
     
 
HERE IS THE ACTUAL :  "  Petition to Amend our Ordinance (submitted  12-10-20) "   It is also on P368 of the Agenda Packet for  the 2-11-21 Planning Commission Meeting - good luck finding that thanks to Mr Manfredi's seemingly purposeful rearrangement of our website that has everything in a mess. He has been asked repeatedly to fix it and simply refues to even respond. That should concern you... especially while he assigns no end of manpower and resources to developers and and other endeavors that the residents are opposed to.
 
      THE NEWEST ABINGTON ZONING Code was passed on 4-27-17 . It is  the document they want to amend.  By adding their own text  they will increase the density even farther than Steve Kline already increased it with his 2017 revision that was little more than a giant GIFT to developers. The Zoning Code is here:  https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6053 
 

     WHAT IF WE HAD TO TAKE A WILD GUESS HOW MANY APARTMENT BUILDINGS COULD BE BUILT THERE To repeat - my guess is around 2000 --- before any lawsuits from others wanting the  same treatment .....   See the   Brief Overview and explore how much can be built  ( but be mad that the developer is not being required to tell you the answer )

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

OUR QUESTIONS ARE NOT BEING ANSWERED.......
 WE  CANNOT UNDERSTAND THIS ORDINANCE & ITS IMPACT   UNLESS WE UNDERSTAND .......
***  The lot breakdowns - what does PREIT own?  What is owned by other entities?
***   Which of those lots are inside  the " 2500 linear feet " - no graphic was provided to show either land or buildings in that zone
***   Since zoning runs with the land - not buildings - can an additional building be built in Dick's parking lot, for instance, or Macy's?
***  If the tip of a LOT qualifies in the 2500 ft - does the whole, entire lot qualify?
***   If the tip of a building qualifies - does the entire building (  the Montco Planner. has said yes , he believes so...)

***  Where could  they ultimately build  85 feet high ?
***  Show an example of what could be built  next to Preston  & Columbia Ave at just  50 ft away from the fence ( or at the build to line)
***  Show an example of what could be built  next to Preston  & Columbia Ave at  101 ft  from the fence
 ***  Show an example of what could be built  next to Preston  & Columbia Ave at  201 ft from the fence
***  Show an example of what could be built  across the street from High Ave in Macy's lot - or Macy's itself
***  How many properties in the BC Willow Grove Park District could potentially be built that are of similar size  to the 1st?
***  How many properties  were  "spot zoned" out of H-13 because PREIT chose 2500 ft instead of 2640ft or 2800ft
           of 2640 or some other arbitrarily chosen number. I want him and him...not him. 
***  Why is the developer not required to post video /power point & fact sheet   to show the above information so we are informed ?
***  Why was there no acknowledgment  that the presentation 11-9-20 did not reflect what was submitted 12-10-20 ?
*** Why does the ordinance not limit the 1st building as shown in the diagram to 365 units?  What keeps them from building more 
***  Why was another residents meeting not held once the material released proved to be different than what was presented ?
***  Why did Commissioners not ask a single question about the Mall,  how it would be helped & what the plan for it was? 
***  Why has PREIT not been required to show  exactly what  the plan IS  to preserve the mall
***  Why has PREIT not been required to to show a worst case scenario of how many units might be built in the long term ?
***   Why was Attorney Kaplin allowed to denigrate the idea that possibly over 2,000 units might result, without his "actual" number?
***  How many individual tenants do you anticipate ( a range is fine - obviously the low end is 365  for just the ONE building -
***  Isn;t PREIT  just  doubling, or tripling the value of their  real estate without promising  how much shopping might be left ?
***  Mightn't PREIT just sell it once it is zoned, and only 20 % of the total  BC District in the 2500 ft  would have to be commercial?
 

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  WHO WILL PROFIT ....IS THIS JUST A SUBDIVISION AND A SALE TO PROP UP THE MALL'S BOTTOM LINE?  Since Bel Canto is actually investing the $100 M in this and said that they keep their properties,  it appears so. But in order to accomplish this, and avoid Spot Zoning, they have to allow other properties with the  same conditions the same rights. That would be the better part  of the other entities that make up the  Business Center Willow Grove Mall (BCWGMall ) district .  So far, it seems the Primark /Sears anchor  corner and Nordstrom Rack's corner and the Sears Auto Center appear to be the only ones excluded. Since the developer to now (  the end of May) has not been required to disclose any of this, nor to disclose how MANY apartments  the changed zoning could ultimately render, we just don't know . Somewhere between 1800 and 2500 is our best guess but since none of our officials is being  honest with us we have to guess. That includes not just the Commissioners, Manager Manfredi, County Planner Michael Narcowicz , our Solicitor Michael Clarke and the Planning Commissioners led by Lucy Strackhouse. They all had the ability and the obligation to put the cards on the table and have not done that.  The level of deceit after 6 meetings is stunning. 

   Are abington residents going to take a loss every year ?   PREIT ( the mall owners) claimed that we might anticipate 22 to 31 students from their FIRST 365 unit apartment building -- (remember this ordinance is enabling far more than 365 units – possibly 3 or 4 or  more times that amount  or more) -- but I spoke to the School District and our local apartment complexes produce a rate that is more like 22% to 29% --- which would effectively mean we could be looking at 80 to 105 students - 3 times what they are suggesting.      PREIT is not promising 365 one bedroom studios -- in fact, they are not promising anything. At $22,000 approximate cost per student, that would be $1.7 million for the 22%....  or $2.3 million for the 29%.  They claimed that we should be thrilled with the $1 M they will be paying in taxes.  Effectively, it appears we all could be paying them to build here. As everyone knows, Abington Schools are one of the biggest reasons people move here. So it would make the best sense to get statistics from Abington, wouldn’t it  ------ not take them from some national chart ?  I was told that when buildings are brand new, sometimes that percentage can be lower, but then changes upwards. The 22 – 29% reflects  the statistics of current apartment complexes. Those should be relevant numbers.



RENTAL APARTMENTS OR CONDOS?   By the 12-10-20 submission, it was no longer rental apartments, it was an "Apartment/Condo Transit Oriented Building" but , to repeat,  they still told nothing of all the details .  Transit Oriented  is a loaded term as funds are available  for Transit Oriented  construction  - which is within walking distance of a train. They again wasted our time with  exactly the same irrelevant  "history of shopping " presentation and a demographics  diatribe that was designed to assure us that no-one with kids would ever rent there. 
        They presented it as 365 rental apartments  first.  Then, on 2-3-21 at the Land Use hearing for the Baederwood 244 appartments, Marc Kaplin said Baederwood would be rentals because there is not a great market for Condos. Of course, he had just changed the Mall to an "apartment -CONDO " building =- whatever that is .....  So when asked about that prior comment he said the Mall would be rentals. Of course, residents had concerns about so many units in Abington not owned by the homeowner . So it appears they just threw the word Condo in there to allay fears of rentals/ corporate ownership........ even though they will still be rentals. 


  WHERE IS THE FINANCIAL ANALYSIS ? There has been none - for 8 full meetings now and 7 months - as of the end of  June . And not even ONE Commissioner has asked them to produce one . Who does that look like your Commissioners are working on behalf of ?

  WHAT ABOUT THE SCHOOLS ? PREIT ( the mall owners) claimed that we might anticipate 22 to 31 students from their FIRST 365 unit apartment building -- (remember this ordinance is enabling far more) -- but I spoke to the School District and our local apartment complexes produce a rate that is more like 22% to 29% --- which would effectively mean we could be looking at 80 to 105 students - 3 times what they are suggesting. PREIT is not promising 365 one bedroom studios -- in fact they are not promising anything. At $22,000 approximate cost per student, that would be $1.7 million for the 22% or $2.3 million for the 29%. So effectively, we all could be paying them to build here. As everyone knows, Abington Schools are one of the biggest reasons people move here. So wouldn't it make sense to get statistics from Abington ?

"TOD" -  TRANSIT ORIENTED DISTRICT" ?   WHY WAS THAT ADDED TO THEIR  DESCRIPTION WHICH BECAME A "TRANSIT ORIENTED BUILDING" ?    A Transit Oriented District  is normally an area 2640 ft (1/2 mi) from a train. This designation makes  more State and Federal Funds more available  to those willing to build densely around train stations and transportation hubs.  But PREIT's was 140 feet shorter than the standard 1/2 mile  from a train.  Why ? We don't yet know.  Perhaps because it would have flowed over into areas they didn't want to include? But the Transit Oriented term means some of your hard-earned tax dollars will be rewarding developers who build  in a way most suburbanites DO NOT WANT --- densely. 
SEE MORE ON TODS AND TRIDS BELOW

"TRIDS - TRANSIT REVITALIZATION INVESTMENT DISTRICTS   While TODs are  1/2 mi from a train - anything in a 1/4 mile  radius  can become a TRID - A Transit Revitalization Investment District -- where the density (residential  units per acre)  is increased and any extra income above what currently comes from that project can be plowed right back into the district to make it denser faster.  And to give developers more of our hard earned tax $, too. 
See more on Transit Oriented  zoning on this page    SEE MORE ON TODS AND TRIDS BELOW

  HOW CLOSE TO RESIDENTIAL WILL THEY BUILD THESE MULTIPLE PROJECTS?  Within 100 feet of residential it can only go 35 feet hight ...from 101 feet it can be 55 ft high and at 201 feet it can be 85 feet  high.  So, quite obviously  they have beaqueathed themselves the right to build very, very  close to residential ( while deceptively showing you a building that is quite far away.  Preston Ave, Columbia, High Ave --- are you taking note ?  

 "DEATH BY MEETING'   --  WHY  THEY ARE WITHHOLDING INFORMATION  The  many insanely long meetings where you are not even allowed to speak if you waited hours -and which sometimes lasted til after  10 pm because this issue  was purposely put near to the end of a long, long agenda have a purpose.  It is called "death by meeting" and is a time worn tradition for developers that only can be done with the help and complicity of the Commissioners - who, meeting after meeting, asked nearly no questions, got no further along and just let it get to another meeting. By June we were up to our 8th meeting, at which, once again, no questions were asked, no report of the Planning Commission was given ( and the report was missing from the public package)  They know at each endless meeting, some are likely to have already gone home before speaking even starts, some will  vow never to waste their time at another meeting where they couldn't even speak.  The developer can purposely drag their presentation out ( and they did in every meeting )  There is only one reason that these tactics are being used and the  ACTUAL facts are being withheld.... and it is because they know you would not like them. They want to get as close to the finish line as they can before you find out what they are really up to.

  SHOULDN'T MY COMMISSIONER HAVE ALERTED ME?   Most newsletter have not even mentioned the mall.   I have seen responses from Commissioners to residents who asked questions that are fully and completely false. others simply answered "something else - not even addressing he question asked.  It is stunning what some Commissioners have been willing  to say.  Share back with me what yours did - and I likely be able to send you  documents that show something completely different. 

WHAT ABOUT THE CONDITIONAL USE ?   The property owners that end up benefitting  from these changes would obtain a conditional  "Use By Right" to develop in this dense manner. A conditional use is one that the Commissioners would be able to put some " conditions "  on  their proposal -- but could not deny it  altogether.  So it would be a done deal after Mr Kaplin's, and PREIT's deception. 

   NON-COMBUSTIBLE ORDINANCE THROWN OUT  Commissioner Peggy Myers did a quick "oops"  at the 1-14-21 meeting. She said she  voted without reading it - ( roll eyes everyone - really . An ordinance that she knows will change Willow Grove and our Township forever and she forgeot to read it.  She was credited with helping Kaplin get this before us -  how did she not know what it was....? ) She then insisted we don't want our  non-combustible ordinance thrown out  ....that would make residents less safe. And she , outwardly at least, really seemed to make  an effort to get that issue fixed  then and there before it moved on.     But.....  then our Solicitor talked her out of it.  That was a huge disservice to the citizens.  Isn't that what multiple meetings are supposed to be for - so multiple changes can be made and they don't all have to be dealt with at the same time? And we don't have to waste our speaking time on what we have already decided shouldn't be in the proposal.... 
    Our Solicitor, Michael Clarke, rarely makes decisions that are beneficial to the residents. In the Colonade case, according to signed court testimony, he could have been charged by the PA Attorney General's office for his dangerous and deceptive activities. Instead the Grand Jury  report  has been quashed or withheld and here he is further favoring developers and wealthy property owners over the citizens. And allowing a suit to press forward with a measure that I think he thinks  will go to court. He told the Commissioners at one point not to say any more about the non-combustibles.  But court would be costly to the residents and there would be a risk that they Judge might not choose to rule for the extra safety of the residents.  If the Commissioners had not been talked out of it by Solicitor Michael Clarke, the Commissioners could have simply said: "we are not  guaranteeding you will get this text amendment  in the end, anyway --- but if you wnat to move forward at all, you will need to drop that clause, adhere to our non-combustible ordinance and vow never to sue on that issue &  and all that would be in writing . In otherwords, you have to put the safety of Abington residents first .  

    RENTALS, CONDOS-- or whatever they feel like......  ?   Kaplin, when asked on 2-3-21 why the Baederwood was all rentals, said that there wasn't a great demand for "apartment-condos". We asked at the Planning Commission why he said that,  yet was planning apartment condos at the mall.  He said, they would be rentals there ...........   so perhaps  he just added in the Condos part to placate the  many who expressed that "homeowner owned units"  should not be out-numbered by corporate owned units. (Who knows?)

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 MORE POINTS

COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR ALL OUR LAWS AND CODES: 

THEIR ORDINANCE AS WRITTEN IS NOT EVEN VAGUELY LEGALLY IN CONFORMANCE WITH OUR LAW -  How in the world did our own Manager, Richard Manfredi  pay and/or  direct or oversee our County Planner in the writing of an ordinance that violates our zoning ordinance so completely  in the service of a particular property owner and a few of his chosen friends wishing to expand his/their  own uses and further enrich themselves?  Not  to mention, how would our Manager or the Commissioners allow the creation of a document  with so many contradictions that it is a lawyers dream?  It is simply one  giant  document full of violations and complications - just as the Fairway Transit Ordinance and the Baederwood ordinance were - and the utterly senseless number of costly lawsuits that took place there should be a staunch warning to all. We have the same solicitors at work here - on both sides. 

-------  Section 1800 found on page 117 of our zoning code  says that no land shall be used or occupied and no building nor sturcture erected, altered, used or occupied except in conformity with the regulations established in this ordinance. So it simply is inviolation of our ordinance. Period. To get around the violation, they simply state repeatedly  that THEIR ordinance takes precedence wherever the two disagree.
Our ordinance does not allow that. It already has provisions for what happens hwen they disagree.

---------- Their ordinance states multiple times it does or must meet the requirements of section 1806  of our zoning code but it is actually in complete violation of  section 1806 on page 120 of our  zoning code  
              SECTION 1806. CONDITIONAL USES: The Board of Commissioners shall have the power to approve or disapprove conditional uses when this Ordinance specifically requires the obtaining of such approval, in accordance with the following provisions:
               A. In granting a conditional use, the Board of Commissioners shall make findings of fact consistent with the provisions of this Ordinance. The Board shall not approve a conditional use except in conformance with the conditions and standards outlined in this Ordinance.
               B. The Board of Commissioners shall grant a conditional use only if it finds adequate evidence that any proposed development submitted will meet all of the following general requirements as well as any specific requirements and standards listed herein for the proposed use. The Board shall require that any proposed use, and its location among other things, shall be:
                  2. Consistent with the spirit, purposes, and intent of the applicable zoning district. ( It is NOT - the zning district provides the Township with Commercial uses - not residential ones )  
                  3. An improvement which is not a detriment to the properties in the immediate vicinity, ( the homeowners say it is one)
                  4. In conformance with all applicable requirements of this Ordinance.... ( it clearly is not as this paragraph proves )

-------- Section  1806c of our zoning code  says  that they must meet ALL requirements and objectives of the zoning ordinance, including those specifically set forth in Article I. They do not:
             Article 1 Section 102 B on page 1 of our ordinance says  they must :  Promote a landuse pattern which recognizes cultural, historical, and natural features unique to each community and which provides for the separation of significantly different use intensities, with transition zones where feasible, to preserve community character;    This BC District  currently meets that directive.   The new ordinance would violate that,  simply to enrich one property owner.
            Article 1 Section 102  H Says it should:  Strengthen the viability of commercial areas and adjacent residential districts while mitigating the impact of the former upon the latter. This does just the opposite
            Article 1 Section 102  K says it should:  Use landscaping to enhance aesthetics and the visual character of the Township’s roads, neighborhoods, and commercial districts; separate incompatible uses; and mitigate the impact of more intense or dense uses upon less intense or dense uses.  This violates that directly . Our roads would have a 5 story  WALL - and our open spaces, already too sparse, would be reduced - all for the enrichment of one property owner

It appears as if PREITS way of handling all the violations of our ordinance is to simply say, we are special and do not need to follow any of your rules and laws - only hte other properties that are not 2500 linear feet from a train have to follow them --- oh yes - and all the otehr properties in Abington.....................  except us.

   

ALSO  in violation of our laws, our NON-COMBUSTIBLE ORDINANCE WAS THROWN OUT THE WINDOW :  the right to build  with  Frame Construction, despite Abington's ordinance and fight to maintain the safer non-combustible (ie brick or block) construction.Safety over profit please. This will set a precedent Township wide - but because we don't HAVE to entertain ANY text amendments, we can say : won't move you ahead unless you use non combustibles


SUBDIVISIONS OF THE CURRENT PROPERTIES IS ANTICIPATED:   There is a requirement to have a "Master Plan"  when subdividing and building on other parts later.  Make PREIT show some examples of the kinds of different subdivisions that could occur. 

CONSTRUCTION  RIGHT NEXT TO THE RESIDENTIAL AREAS IS ANTICIPATED:  the only residential that adjoins the BCWGMall district  is Preston, Columbia and Moreland - is there clearly  a plan to build all over the  property? Or do they mean only next to THEIR residential building? Why would one building be all residential when the ordinance requires all the others to be mixed?
 

RIDICULOUS AND PERENNIALLY UNDESIRABLE HEIGHTS - The have given themselves the  right to build 85 ft high ( not the under 60 feet high as shown in the drawings) with architectural features going even higher

  NO SERIOUS DISCUSSION OF THE FATE OF THE  MALL WAS EVER HELD - It was said that the goal of the added residential was to "save the Mall "  but no serious discussion of this and how these 365 units would accomplish that was held.  No math presented. And wouldn't you think it odd that the ordinance REQUIRES mixed use with at least 20 % commercial , so it is requiring competition for the Mall - ok unless that IS how the whole Mall is allowed to be "reborn" --- which seems like the plan - but is NOT what residents were told. 

HAS ANYONE EVEN ASKED THEM HOW MANY UNITS IN THE  FINAL ANALYSIS THIS COULD CREATE?
After all, it appears as if at least the whole mall is going to be developed residentially - AND with Commercial  that number would be huge. And  when you look at the TOD page you can see that possibly the entire BCWGMall district could use the same zoning codes that they will have "by right"    So has anyone asked how many units all that could yield?   I have not yet found anything that would prevent the whole Mall and BCWGMall district from being built upon with this ordinance. 

  NOWHERE IN 3 FULL MEETINGS WAS RETAIL ON BOTTOM AND TOP   DEPICTED ---- nor was there any presentation that elaborated on the requirement for every project to be mixed use or showed what 85 ft high structures looked lile.   It appears that the 1st building they are proposing  would not meet their own standards as submitted.  It was not mixed use - which is required it appears for every other property.  A minimum mix requirement  exists of 20 % retail /// or 10 % apartment. 

WHY WOULD THERE BE NO ACCESS FROM THE OUTSIDE  TO THE RETAIL? Many of us will have to drive, as we always do, to the shops here.  Forcing us to go inside and not park near our destination has always been a complaint. Having the shops each with an outdoor access AND indoor accessibility is a far better layout for regular patronage. I have  often bought something at Macy's because I could get to it quickly and it was a much longer walk to a boutique store that had the same type of goods. Do others have the same experience?


THEY WERE CATAPULTED AHEAD TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION WITHOUT A PROPER RESIDENTS' MEETING  Manager Manfredi (on 12-10-20) made reference tot he fact that it is well known that the residents want and should be granted open meetings BEFORE any decisions are made as to whether the Commissioners should undertake consideration of a TEXT Amendment ( in this case, 4 or 5 of them ). He referenced it as though that is what was done . But it was clearly not . It was not even held on the same concept as what was submitted, residents questions went almost totally unanswered and  their time was so seriously wasted they each should be PAID for their time, having been falsely duped into attending a useless meeting.   Even in the 2nd, the truth about what had been submitted whas not divulged.

RESIDENTS NOW FIND THEMSELVES PREMATURELY ZIPPING ALONG  THROUGH THE  PROCESS TO APPROVAL The formaL  meetings ( Planning Commission, Land Use, etc ) are not where  anything is properly geared for residents to get answers and have appropriate input.   It  normally is just meeting after meeting after meeting where residents are required to sit through presentations as long and as tedious as the  developer would like to make them and perhaps when 1/2 the room has left for home, residents questions will be entertained.  If they DON'T go they risk it being approved because there was no one there to contest it.   At the 12-10 -20 meeting folks who had been on since 6 pm left because this issue  didn't come on til after 9.  ( That's what happens when you jam 2 month's meetings into one night )    The developer, starting after 9 pm  on 12-10-20 started the SAME presentation as the residents had already seen - causing more to go home.  At the 2-23-21 Planning Commission meeting - it was put last on the agenda. Most likely the hope is that no one will stay that long. A proper residents' meeting is still due and should come before any other action. 

  “BUILD TO” LINES MAX AND MINIMUMS  ARE CONDUCIVE TO DEVELOPERS PROFITIZING EVERY INCH - Most suburbanites do not want the kind of urban development that is being forced upon us . With ridiculous "Build to " lines requiring  construction pulled right up to the road, removing sky and greenspace as you travel through Abington, an urban feel is created . I believe the Commissioners are very aware that "urban" is not what their constituents want - but that they have regularly  breached the trust of their constituents in this matter.  They have allowed for the developer to  apparently build as close as 20 ft from the curb …  with a max of 75 ft away.  So even if an owner wants to grace Abington with more greenspace and sky, he won't be allowed? 

PREIT INSISTS THEIR NON-CONFORMITIES SHOULD  REMAIN ---- while everyone else is required by code to fix them when redeveloping.

TODS AND TRIDS

  PREIT PUT IN THE  LITTLE  TRANSIT REQUIREMENT OF NO MORE THAN 2500 FT FROM A TRAIN ---  we were not shown where that would be . We are stymied as to why PREIT would take the standard tod 2650 ft from a train rule  and change it to 2500 ft . Who did they intend to leave out? wouldn't it STILL be spot zoning ......?  See the sparate page of the TOD discussions

TOD’S ----  no discussion was held of TOD’s (Transit Oriented Districts) --- where the area around a station that qualifies for special consideration (it normall doesn’t run 2500 feet  from a train – it is ˝ mile radius around a train- 2640ft) .  So given that perameter, why wouldn’t another building be allowed the same rights if they were close to  a train if the precedent had already been set by this building? Would a judge think that 150 made all the difference in the world?  - see the sparate page of the TOD discussions


HERE IS A BIGGER APPROXIMATE VIEW OF THE 2 STATIONS, CRESTMONT AND WILLOW GROVE AND HOW  A 2500 ft TOD IMPACTS THE SITE
The Co-author of the document, our County Planner said  that if the 2500 feet  touches a "part" of a parcel, that whole parcel  retains the right to develop in that manner.  Marc Kaplin and PREIT have not presented ANY of the info needed  to resolve such questions, nor will they show us where, and how much.  building might occur. That the Commissioners and Planners have all been complicit in this, staying silent or accepting "non-answers" to such questions, to me speaks volumes. 


                       Map-TODsOverlappingBC

TO SEE MORE TRAIN TO MALL DISTANCE  RENDERINGS ( done to the best of our abilities )  click the page on TODS and TRIDS   This all  should have provided this information to us in the very first presetation....or maybe the second.... or the 3rd ..... or the 4th ...... or a 5th time at the Economic Development Committee -  are we headed for a 6th.

SPOT ZONING --- no discussion  was held on Spot Zoning Rules  which dictate that you cannot grant one property special rights and considerations when other property owners  that have the same conditions are not permitted those  same special privileges.  See the spot zoning memo on this page  ( and this issue is addressed above in more depth) .  It appears quite clear that they have DECIDED exactly who will be "in " and who will be "out" of their zoning priviledges. I'll include this friend and this friend with me.  But wait - if it were the standard TOD 2640 feet ( 1/2 mile ) it might include someone else I don't want ot include,  so I'll decide it to be 2500 ft .  How is that not "spot zoning"........

THE CODE THIS WOULD CHANGE  WOULD AFFECT  MULTIPLE PARTS OF ABINGTON'S ZONING ORDINANCE  - As noted, the original 365 apts would not even meet their own new code - it is not mixed use ---- but the question is - how many other things might they have decided they don't have to follow because for some reason they are "special" .    We have been given no clear assessment of what is being changed and what properties or even other Business Center Districts this might affect.  Just blanket statements that their ordinance takes precedence - and any that differ are repealed --- so which would those be?????  It is a travesty the way this is being done.  Massive non-transparent changes .  


THEIR CODE TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER OURS – wherever their code and our code might disagree, they want theirs to take precedence – so ours could be violated by  the developer ( and other developers) again and again.  This is even contrary to their own requirement to  recognize per section 1806 that our Zoning Code is the defining code whenever there is a disagreement .  It is one of the first articles of the Zoning Code . They want to  "king" themselves and build however they like.    Stunning, isn't it, that they would have the chutzpah to  put that in there?

WHAT ABOUT OUR SCHOOLS? The went on endlessly about the many demographic groups that might rent here that had NO KIDS . But no kids was nowhere in writing . 3 bedrooms.? In a good school district? And if you have an empty apartment, my guess is you'll rent it to anyone with the cash.  So how many kids at over $20K per child might we get ?  Kaplin  said a particular  study or guideline allows them to claim that just 20-31 students would result from 365 apartments in just the FIRST building  ( He's still not as of 3-23-21  saying how many  units totally are possible ...

CALCULATING  APARTMENT UNITS BY SQUARE FOOTAGE
 
--- residential is usually calculated as units per acre not by square foot --- so how many square feet are there???? 
Bloomingdales is 237,537 sf - Opened in 1982  ( $79,000 sf per floor so 5 floors would be
Macy's is 225,000 ft.˛ opened in 2001   (perhaps 75000 sf per floor so 5 floors would be 375,000 sf )
 A parking garage with 800 parking places that is 212,000 ft.˛ built in 2001
The carousel at the third floor entrance was also added in 2001 as part of the $25 million renovation of the mall
Sears is 96,000 ft.˛ now - a larger Sears opened in  in 1987 and now rents the 2nd floor to Primark
Primark leases 77,500 ft.˛    mainly on the second floor above Sears - starting in July 2016
The Cheesecake factory is 10,310 ft.˛ and came in 2007
The Yard House uses 7500 ft.˛ and opened in Dec 2019
Forever 21 -  17,000 sf    on 2 stories Opened in December 2011
The former JCPenney closed in  2017 and was to become Sudio Movie Grill in early 2020
Nordstrom rack at 41,000 ft.˛ arrived in 2012 as the smallest anchor store

The Willow Grove Park Mall also contains :
    many  smaller stores  100-130
    a food court with 11 spaces
    a third sit down restaurant  - TGI Friday's ( besides the Cheesecake Factory and Yard House )
  

The combined square footage of all these is unknown  - But - PREIT certainly has the figures and these are integral to figuring out how much residential could possibly be built in all of these spaces. They are refusing to discuss it.

ARE 562 STUDIO'S POSSIBLE AT MACY'S ???
Macy's is 225,000 ft.˛ opened in 2001   (perhaps 75000 sf per floor so 5 floors would be 375,000 sf )
   
  So, even if it is NOT on the chopping block now,  what if this Macy's closed a few years down the road ...?
        ( Macy's also operates Bloomingdale's .....)
       https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/06/macys-m-is-closing-dozens-of-stores-this-year-heres-the-full-list.html
       A studio apartment might be as small as 400 sf , so 3 floors, each 75,000 sf of studio apartments could yield 562 units -
       a mix of studio and 1,2 or 3 bedroom apartments might be similar to the proposed building in Bloomies lot -  365 units or so
       But remember they are building internal garages - so Macy's Parking lot might be at least partially incorporated
 

When the mall was approved in 1979 it included downsizing to three anchor stores from four, due to concerns from residents about the size of the future mall.   The mall has already been blessed with the ability to expand. However, it did not account properly for a market where online retail would so severely impact the shopping habits of mall goers...... even after the handwriting was on the wall, it added more Mall space. It seems to have failed to adjust to that threat.  The pandemic just put the nail in the coffin.
But many, many businesses ( and individual homeowners  and renters were hurt in the pandemic )  Our community  would be ruined if we simply let everyone expand exponentially because they weren't making the profits they wanted to make. 

PREIT assumed full ownership of the mall in 2003 acquiring this share that belonged to the Pennsylvania State employees retirement system which was 70% share $122.3 million
Today it is asseessed at just over $100  million and with a common level ratio of  2.13  that renders an approximate market value of $213 million.... although Commercial real estate actual value is affected by many factors  and is not that straightforward .

 

Keep in mind,  besides the Mall , it appears , PER our best calculation, that  others  will BE ABLE to get this same DENSE zoning :

Goodman Properties Parkside  Shopping Center   with Dicks Sporting Goods, Old Navy, Rally House, AAA, Planet Fitness and Mattress Wareouse  and possibly their parking lot separately would get this zoning
https://goodmanproperties.org/goodman-properties/parkside-shopping-center/

Goodman Properties Park Place with Visionworks, Floyds Barbershop, Chipotle and Ideal Image
https://goodmanproperties.org/goodman-properties/park-place /

The At Home Store ( former K-Mart) a Texas company   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_Home_(store) Marc Kaplin touts their 25 year lease as "protection' against their conversion to apartments - but  in a continuing pandemic, many more stores may fall victim to a lack of shoppers. Or the Owners may try to arrange modifying part of the store while the business remains active in another part.

Bloomingdales - operated by Macy's

___________________________________________

AND WHAT ABOUT JOB CREATION -  They said they are creating 155 jobs with just the 365 apartments  . They must think we are really, really bad at math.  If the 365 apartments had just ONE job seeker per apartment we could be as much as 210 jobs in arrears after their "creation". People that live here are likely to seek to work near their home..... unless  they like long commutes.  In fact, our current jobs could have as many as 700 or 800 or more people now vying with you  for a spot in the best local companies .   The real advantages and consequences of inviting so many people here should have been a long and well managed discussion with real take-aways.  But that was never facilitated .  How DO we get what WE want in our communities ?  Not by letting those who profit do whatever the heck they want to do.   

WHAT ABOUT THE BANKRUPTCY ?  PREIT  filed for Chapter Bankruptcy the same day they announced their plan for  365 Apartments on the Willow Grove Park property.https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/02/investing/mall-bankruptcies-cbl-properties-preit/index.html
 They will continue operating - they reorganized under Chapter 11 .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. Shareholders were not wiped out but PREIT also didn't eliminate any debt during the bankruptcy process......PREIT is now paying higher interest rates for some of its debt than it did before the bankruptcy filing.COVID caused many of its tenants to close stores, fall behind on rent, or file for bankruptcy & occupancy for its core malls fell to 90.3% at the end of 2020, down from 95.5% a year earlier ....and funds from operations  turned negative in 2020. But that happened to LOTS of businesses after a year of Covid. So the fact that they were hit so hard has more to do with the business they are in and the pandemic than it has to do with the Mall not being able to thrive with just shopping.  We need to concern ourselves with whether this was a convenient way to more than  "double their assets"  rather than letting go of more  of their assets to accommodate the hard times -  the same hard times  businesses all across America were  experiencing.  https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/this-reit-survived-bankruptcy%3A-these-are-the-2-keys-to-a-recovery-2021-03-14  . Let me ask you - if I had 18 to 20 vacation houses - and hard times hit so I had trouble affording them all - would you let me double my sq ft to earn more in each one - or make me sell some to pay my debts. 
This is nothing more than a gift to an exceedingly wealthy entity .


WHAT ABOUT  PREIT'S OTHER MALLS ?    They have 18 NMalls that they own . They are fully in a business that was already struggling  with the Amazon/ on line shopping factor that was devastating to brick and mortar stores ....  In 2011, Amazon had 30,000 full-
time employees in the US, and by the end of 2016, it had 180,000 employees.- and yet the most I saw  of the Mall trying to do something other than retail uses was an effort to  add Studio Movie Grill circa 2019 and  2020. (Studio Movie Grill also went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct 27, 2020. Perhaps there were other attempts to diversify -  just none I'm aware of.  In fact, while brick and Mortar was declining it seems they were adding  more mall retail space ...As  mentioned by 2011 Amazon was a force to reckon with. But in  2012, with online retail competition in full swing,  they added Nordstrom Rack.   

 
The mall brochUre they offered at   Plymouth Meeting has far more diverse uses than they are offering in Willow Grove : https://morethanthecurve.com/preit-partners-with-cbre-to-seek-new-uses-to-further-redevelop-the-plymouth-meeting-mall/   Putting residences there was turned DOWN by the Board then they went to the zoning hearing board to ask anyway,  because unlike Willow Grove  there are some allowed residential uses ( I think a senior care facility or something similar ) . They though that would enable their own version of residential.  By Nov 2020 they were trying to get their way  by filing in court ... at some point their request was for  an  11 story 503 unit building - showing a complete lack of respect for honoring what the residents via their elected officials want in their community   Just what we need - developers suing our Townships to develop the way THEY want.
      Their  brochure seems to show a
whole spectrum of what can be done at Plymouth Meeting - far more diverse than just retail and residential that they are offering  at Willow Grove .....It shows offices, space for research & development, medical  innovation, education, light industrial, life sciences  etc
If you scroll to the bottom (almost) of their brochure – you get an idea of the possibilities. This is  job creation without the addition of the job seekers. Wouldn't that make a lot more sense?  https://www.preit.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/PlymouthMeeting_Brochure.pdf

  IF I'M HAVING TROUBLE WITH MY MORTGAGE PAYMENTS, CAN I JUST TURN MY PROPERTY INTO A MULTI-FAMILY ZONE ?  I mean,  my finances could be restored if I'm allowed to make my home a triplex and  maybe add  a little multi-townhouse unit in the back and a McDonald's in the side yard . Then  I could meet my debts and  sell it for a lot more, too.  I would be sure to be grateful if you'd just allow me to do the same thing the mall wants to do. I'd pay more taxes, too - wouldn't that be a great benefit to my Township?

WHAT IS THE BUSINESS DISTRICT'S RESPONSIBILTY  TO GREENSPACE Almost all of the residential zoning districts in the Township require they maintain somewhere close to 50% of greenspace - which cleans the air, helps manage stormwater ( way better than any rainbarrel.  How does a corporate or business entity get the priviledge of not doing his/her share just so they can make more money. And money is taken from me and you for the solutions to the problems they are creating . We ALL   need to carry the burden. If I were allowed to build on all but 15 or 25 % of my property, my bigger house would fetch  me more money... oh and the Township would benefit with higher taxes. Too bad for all my neighbors who have to clean the air themselves and provide greenery and manage my stormwater.   Why are they allowed to do that and I am not? It is not only unsound policy - but it is unfair. 

    what about all those wonderful taxes they will pay They are going to try to convince you you NEED to allow this or you will lose the taxes from it.  So first of all - taxes are charged for a reason . Before you calculate what they are going to be "gifting" you. please calculate WHY those taxes were charged and remove all the services from the equation. Also, besides normal services  remove Traffic measures including signaling , crime, code enforcement, tax abatements, infrastructure, TOD  grant money or  funds that benefit developers, meetings with landlords and  developers,  etc., etc.,etc.,.   Taxes are not a "gift" to the Township. And these types of giant influxes cost our Township plenty of expenses you never know were caused by this prect. 
       Did you know the Township did major traffic signal and intersection work at the mall lnowing this was on its way?  Did you know that they had never properly finished their right of way work and  your former HUD director sought to use HUD funds for that.  There was a great deal of outlay "in advance": of this "surprise"  annmouncement.... because it was only a surprize to us, not to all of  "them". They've been on top of it for a long, long time.  And our wealthiest landlords have learned the very best pathways to receiving "goodies"  or "gifts" from us to them.  For instance... nice of our well paid Planner to  help write their ordinance, wasn't it? Saved them a bundle - and cost you one.  See the next item, too.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST  Yes, yes - they say the developer escrowed funds that paid for our Planner from the County to Co-Write the Developer's Ordinance  ... but those escrow funds collected  weren't supposed to be for doing their work for them. It was to review their work.  Our Planner said the earlier they get involved the better they can massage it  to meet our needs.  Well, if that were the case, how did violations of our Non-Combustible ordinance and violations other municipal codes and stipulations get right in there? It is a completely illegal ordinance - saying that wherever it is illegal, it repeals the laws htat make it so ( really! see section 4)  And  who's keeping track of the hours our Planner  or the others in the Township who worked with him  spend anyway?    I dare you to try to get an accurate accounting.    ( wanna guess who I think did most the work?) So, don't let them pretend they are gifting you a million dollars --- believe you me, they are not.  Remember that whole row of $800 lamp psts that went in front of the dying Baederwood Shopping Center ?  Enhanced that property at your expense.  Can I get a couple of those  at my house?   The list of "corporate goodies" goes on and on and on.   A great deal of $$ changes hands over ridiculous lawsuits that the corporate players love to engage in - to the tune of some very big $$$ amounts.

TODS AND TRIDS - MORE OUT OF YOUR POCKET AND INTO THEIRS
        Please click here to see t
he bottom of this SEPARATE  page on TODS and TRIDS and understand a Transit Oriented  District is to get things from you - not to see how much they can give TO you.  They want to double  or triple the  value of every inch of "underutilized space" and helpful government funds will do that faster. But the "walkable communities" have to bring in the "pedestrians"  from elsewhere. We won't be any closer than we now are to all the " supposed pedestrian friendly" things. We'll still have to drive....it will just be harder to park. That's an urban thing - a city thing. We largely do not want to be urbanized . 

CORPORATE LANDLORDS  VS RESIDENT OWNED HOMES. Imagine you are a corporate landlord with thousands of units . Do you think you want the same things for the community as the residents who own homes here?   Whose voice do you think will  be stronger when policy is made if the influx of corporate units continues?   It makes a difference.  They can PAY people to attend the meetings. You have to take off from work.  Be aware of how much homeownership matters if  you don't want "the bottom line" to rule all our policies.  That's why we have  a lack of bowling alleys, roller rinks, ice rinks, clean community pools,  low cost movie theaters that feature family films and are a wholesome place to go where alcohol ( a bottom line enhancement ) is not served. Abington has lost most of these things in recent  in the recent "bottom line"  years. Bottom lines are not what makes a good community.

SO HOW DO WE SAVE THE PARTS OF THE MALL THAT WE WANT  TO PRESERVE?  That is a "discussion" that would need to be had .......one your Manager and Commissioners didn't see fit to include you in --- or create at all. If you don't insist that they turn this down and HAVE that discussion..... then you become  a part of the reason that we have all the things we DON'T want and very little of what we want .

WHAT HAPPENS TO A GIANT STRUCTURE WHEN IT IS OLD ENOUGH TO BECOME " UNSTABLE?" .  Wouldn't it be a good idea for a "cash cow to be putting funds aside for that day so a "white elehant" is not left  on a property where the owner has declared bankruptcy, but just the cost of removing the old structure becomes too costly for any new buyer? Do we have any such requirement? Seems like we should.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.  So what do you think about YOUR appointed Land Planner, with a  stipend or consulting fee or whatever they would like to dub it, paid by us to the county , being  directed by your Commissioners & Manager to "work with others in the Township"  to write an ordinance 100% in the developer's favor - and even in direct violation of our ordinances   & codes in places.    Does the phrase "Conflict of Interest "  mean absolutely nothing here?  Our zoning code says, for instance,  where there is a conflict, the Zoning Code prevails. Theirs tries to remove that right and our Planner and others in the Township helped to write that.  Shouldn't our Planner .... and our Township Manager and personnel be safeguarding OUR interests?  

  CONFLICTS : IS OUR PAID COUNTY PLANNER THE VERY PERSON WHO REVIEWS THIS PLAN ON BEHALF OF THE COUNTY? Steve Kline was just at a Cheltenham meeting with residents and when challenged that as Chair of the County  Planning Commission he would be reviewing his own project. He insisted that the County Board did NONE of the  reviews - only the appointed County Planner did that for each municipality. So according to him, Mike Narcowicz who co-wrote this text amendment for PREIT would review his own work. Mr Narcowicz was asked about that - and on  1-26-21  said that was not the case - the County Planning Commission members review it and have input, too ".   But in the end I think we have to get to the bottom of how a "County Review" is done when a county team member is  "co-author"  and how that Conflict of Interest  impacts such a project, especially when so much language was added that our own ordinances, there to protect us, will just be repealed if theeirs differs.  An independent review would be something quite different than what we have here. Prompts one to return to childhood where we would've said "whose side are you on , anyway?" 

  OUR "speaking"   RIGHTS  ....WHY CAN DEVELOPERS USE  THE AUDIO VISUAL TOOLS AND WE CAN'T ?  Residents are regularly refused the right to use the overhead that turns a document into a slide viewed by all,  refused the right to present a video.  Why is that?

MEETING TRANSPARENCY DENIED : When we attend a meeting   we can see who else is in attendance and we can see what Commissioners and other officials are there. Why is that denied during zoom . We also can see whose hand is reaised and in what order they were taken. Why is all that denied? The CHAT feature could be used to resolve problems that arose during the meeting .    When the videos are played the pictures if Commissioners speaking are removed... why .  Audio and video together enhance understanding   Whyare developers given such rights and we are refused? 

HOW DOES ALL THIS TURN AROUND? 
WHAT CAN RESIDENTS  DO ....?


 HOLD YOUR COMMISSIONERS ACCOUNTABLE.

WRITE your commissioners . DEMAND WRITTEN RESPONSES TO  THE QUESTIONS ABOVE AND  SHARE THE ANSWERS BACK WITH US SO OTHERS CAN TRY AND UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE DOING THIS.  EXPECT TO GET AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTIONS YOU ASK .

DEMAND OUR SPEAKING RIGHTS BE RESTORED - MAKE SURE COMMITTEE MEETINGS ARE RESTORED AND THIS IS FULLY VETTED  (
SEE MORE ON THAT HERE)

      
REQUEST TO HAVE ALL MEETINGS VIDEO TAPED  AND AIRED  and stored on a single page for this issue ( that has  an individual linkthat yopu can share  )  This helps  those who can't make it to meetings, or those who learned about it late or those who need to review something .... and it was PROMISED WHEN WE GOT THE VIDEOS UP AND RUNNING THAT  THIS WOULD BE DONE

 

  THIS AFFECTS ALL OF US.  WE HAVE TO JOIN TOGETHER TO GET  OUR GOVERNMENT to act in our interests AS IS  INTENDED.  NO GOVERNMENT "OF THE PEOPLE" ALLOWS A DEVELOPER TO DECEIVE THE CITIZENS AND HIDE PERTINENT FACTS.

A note about who is driving the deception
 

When  Manager Manfredi and Board President John Spiegelman and Vice President Tom Hecker  took your speaking rights away by adding  the "Copmmittee of the Whole" , they falsely  touted as "expanding  speaking rights". It was the 2nd or 3rd time since Richard Manfredi's arrival as Manager in  May of 2017 that your rights were further  removed. And it seems clear now that they had  some clear purposes in mind that explain the desire to have as little input as possible /  Since his arrival in 2017,  your Manager  has regularly missed posting deadlines- even for important things like  400 + page budgets, where speaking rights were improperly curtailed to just a few minutes while he has simultaneously  been responsible for raising  your taxes higher than anyone in the over 40 years I have lived in Abington.- making scrutiny of his  budget all the more important.   The only benefit of the pandemic was that it interrupted his last planned hike. He  did NOT cut taxes in the face of  $5 million in pandemic revenue losses - instead he took $5 million out of your Fund Balance.
    

       Our representatives must must be held accountable for the unconscionable handling of this and other issues, accountable to properly inform their residents and do what their constituents want them to do. to actually represent us .
 

        See this page for the list of speaking modifications  that we need - and for a history of the speaking rule changes


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ViewFromOverhead-365apts

A  BRAINSTORMING for IDEAS

Our Commissioners do not have to ( and should not ) grant PREITany extra rights unless we are clear they are granting something that  the residents that elected them and that they are supposed to be serving  will benefit from .  Putting hundreds and hundreds ( perhaps thousands ) of hi-rise apartment units here will benefit only PREIT    while we just sit in traffic.   2800 rental units are already either just completed or in the works already within just a few miles of this location

So : hundreds or thousands of apartments  that offer the rest of us no benefit at all... or


 Aquarium  or similar attraction

Arcade -Dave and Buster’s

Concert Venue  or  Performing Arts & Cultural Center :   shows, concerts, musicals, operas, symphony, exhibit and more

Family games / activities /  entertainment –  escape rooms, laser tag, dance club, group dance lessons, family interaction nights   ( Club Med style), karaoke

Roller rink , ice rink, bowling alley, etc.  


 Out Door and Indoor  Activity  Center  Exercise Park with yoga classes, strength training sessions, trapeze, trampoline,  etc

Movie Theater for kids and families (affordable ) 

Movie Theater for adults with food ( which tends to be expensive)

More restaurants – ( smaller, independent ones or  popular chains like  Hard Rock Café)


QVC   or similar

           
Expanded Medical for  Hospital needs –( docs offices, MRI, PT  etc) keeping hospital growth out of neighborhoods
 
Research Facilities….Med or  dental labs , electronics, robotics, genetics, digital think tanks

Training center  job training, tutoring
,  

Hotel and Conference Center

 
Entertainment for adults and /or seniors axe throwing, 

Developers giving back ( for any bonuses they DO get )
         
Child care  facilities
         Small space gathering rooms for meetings, music circles, lectures,pet training, political education,
              financial education, seminars on all subjects, tutoring,  discussion groups, community improvement meetings, etc 

Real estate offices   - for the people fleeing Abington as it becomes over-crowded


      
APARTMENTS  EARN A BIGGER BUCK - BUT A COMMUNITY IS NOT A COMMUNITY WHEN YOU REMOVE ALL THE THINGS THAT  ENRICH THE LIVES OF THE RESIDENTS

 
CREATE AN ONGOING, OPEN TO ALL, CITIZENS COMMITTEE TO WORK ON IVITING USES TO THE MALL PROPERTY  THAT WILL BRING TRAFFIC TO KEEP THE MALL VIBRANT. 
 
     MORE RESIDENTS HERE WILL NOT BENEFIT US. PREIT HAS NO MORE RIGHT THAN ANY OTHER PROPERTY OWNER IN ABINGTON TO ASK TO DOUBLE OR TRIPLE THE VALUE OF THEIR REAL ESTATE HOLDINGS  BY ADDING USES THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE BY RIGHT. 


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THERE IS A FRIGHTENING COMPONENT OF THIS
we were not given any of the real facts --- our Commissioners, Manager Manfredi and Planner Narcowicz  all being complicit in not just allowing  this, but  by enabling now ( by the end of March ) 6 totally bogus presentations, where none of the salient points were addressed.   Planner Narcowicz even chimed in at the end to say what a great thing the 365 apartments were ....  knowing that the truth had not been laid out .   And...
IN THE END, IT TAKES ONLY 8 COMMISSIONERS TO OVERRULE THE VOICES OF 56,000 RESIDENTS.  

HERE IS SOME BACKGROUND ON TOM LEONARD AND THE OBERMAYER LAWFIRM HE FOUNDED - HE ALSO FOUNDED BEL CANTO , THE DEVELOPER
FROM
6-07  https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/breaking/20070625_Details_emerge_on_Fumo_deal_with_Verizon.html

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JUST FOR FUN -
REMEmBER when WILLOW GROVE PARK was an amusement park 

              https://www.amazon.com/Willow-Grove-Park-Images-America/dp/0738539139

 here what has gone on in the past  

ok - apologies - this is still a big mess I have to sort out  - but I'll leave it here in case there is something you need and get to the sorting as soon as I can

         

  PRIOR ACTIONS 

11-9-20  - Fake neighbor's neeting --- what they discussed little ressembled what they actually later submitted
11-12-20  - They were ushered on to the January Board meeting ---skipping OVER the right  to have residents question them sustantively at the Land Use Committee Meeting , and also- they submitted something completely different from hwat was presented at both meetings .

1-14-20  Several of us were kept out of   the meetings because of supposed difficulties with the mechanical process and even once in, there were problems raising hands  and being recognized. The Commissioners  have been asked since April to institute  plans so that wouldn't happen.  They spend a great deal of time getting their own issues corrected and then do nothing to help the residents who are affected They refused .   Precious time was wasted reiterating those complaints  and suggestings to improve -- and if you want to know if it was on purpose, just consider the fact that they had tome to restore those minutes . 

  THE COMMISSIONERS - HAVING ASKED NOTHING BY WAY OF DETAILS- WERE READY TO PASS THIS THROUGH TO THE FORMAL PROCESS
         Again  a brief, sham meeting held for the residents on 11-9-20 . Only 4 questions were "sort of answered"  and  the heart of the details was completely NOT presented. They urged us to submit  questions  in advance -- they were also not answered  but did not answer them.  On Dec 10th, 2020  at the Committee of the Whole, the full Board hear mostly the same old, same old   "history of shopping" and then with very few cogent questions asked at all, were ready to send it to the Planning Commission to begin the formal process. A devastating blow for the residents - and completely NOT in their interests. 

     Because it was presented at  a Committee of the Whole, which is only a "preview"  committee  - they couldn't do that  ultimately  - but their intent was certainly evident .  It had to be forwarded, instead,  to the  full Board meeting on January 14th.

     Absolutely NO DISCUSSION was held on all the many projects that could be  begun the minute that this request is granted. The H-12 use that they created and want to add  to that entire  red section in the  image above ( the BC Willow Grove Park District ) could allow for thousands of residential units, as well as more commercial.   Every property in that District will now have that use as a right if this passes .

  WHAT WE  WERE TRYING TO CONFIRM
 : We were trying to confirm  whether  all the other properties in the red district above , ( including the former K-Marts (now"At Home" " lot and the Dick's strip mall  and the Visionworks plot and the mall itself ) could also  have access to this zoning use - this intense density, these heights - this ability to build right up to the road.  We have yet to learn how much of the Business Center Willow Grove Park District is  within 2500 linear feet of the train station or other transportation line that qualifies .   Please help on that if you can.   There is a mapping tool that does that - but I ran out of time looking for it. . If you can help, please do.  We do need to know how much more real estate might acquire the new H-12 designation and might be able to develop in the same fashion.
In addition, the Commissioner never declared a "Transit Oriented District".  So barring that, the issue of spot zoning should come into play.  The other properties in that "red" district above may have recourse to demand the same treatment -  spot zoning is about treating properties differently  to benefit one. 

SCROLL TO PAGE 61 HERE TO FIND THEIR PROPOSAL - the actual ordinance
https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/7d0e526a-01a4-11eb-80dd-0050569183fa-89f7711d-756c-4bd0-b21c-a2fc67157d29-1607377910.pdf

   Tell the Board  ON JAN 14 -- -  NOT to allow them to begin ANY FURTHER STEPS IN THE  process UNTIL A PROPER RESIDENT MEETING IS HELD .  Require that first they hold MEANINGFUL  public meetings where ALL questions are answered and people don't have to sit through  the "history of shopping" only to have the discussion closed down after  a very questions were asked and no real answers provided. They also were not at ALL up-front about the plan for "Transit Oriented Development". There was no place provided for residents' suggestions.  The Board has no obligation to move them forward - they are requesting a text amendment. The Commissioners can even refuse to hear it tonight if they want to. Once they move it to the formal process it will barrel ahead with nearly NO rights for residents. How dare the the Commissioners not discuss this - after removing all the rights we had to speak at a substantive time in the meeting the  meeting  


AND YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS : THE TOWNSHIP'S PLANNING CONSULTANT, THAT YOU AND I PAY FOR , HELPED THEM TO DRAFT THIS PROPOSAL.
The Township is helping to orchestrate this,  and our paid Planner Michael Narcowicz commented with praise after the presentataion as though he were just another interested citizen. No hint whatsoever that he would be, on the salary we pay him, co-designing the project. Laterthey down-played his role - but that was after they were called out for the conflict of interest

The Committee of the Whole  and your speaking rights:   

This is where this was first formally  presented . The Committee is very newly formed purposefully to take MORE of your rights away. It requires that you use your entire 5 minutes of comment before the matter is presented --  and before you even hear what your Commissioners have to say, or hear  the questions /answers that are asked when it is presented. So your comments are uninformed and meaningless. They might go off in a totally different direction than you imagined they would.
   
      Then after that affront- the Committee of the Whole allows them to SKIP OVER a proper Committee Meeting  with the topic - and move right to a hearing or a formal vote  at a full Board meeting.  Skipping the Committee meetings is simply a full removal of your rights.  There you would have 3 minutes on this item when presented,  plus 3 minutes  of OPEN COMMENT ( the most valuable) to address each Committee Chair . That means  3 to comment to the  Land Use Chair about how they voted, and another 3 to address  the Chair of Public Safety on the safety matters involved ,  plus  3 minutes  with the Chair of Public Affairs  to address, for instance,  the removal of speaking rights and the fact that developers encroaching on your rights are allowed often HOURS of free, undirected speech, while residents trying to protect their rights are allowed just 3 minutes after patiently sitting sometimes for hours.


THERE IS A REASON FOR THE LANGUAGE  USED: "TRANSIT ORIENTED APARTMENT/CONDOMINIUM building "
A transit-oriented district is one where withing a half  mile radius, the development is  made very dense and very intense. It is centered around  transportation hubs, like train stations. And Federal or state funds are  available for these dense developments. So this would be just the beginning of very intense  development --- as we have begusn to see with the Davisville Rd  276 unit apartment that upper Moreland allowed - and there is more in Upper Moreland that is underway. The  Federal money is not available if you do not agree to work towards the density standards. This information was revealed years ago as the rezoning efforts got underway.  Our Township was 98% built up at that point.  The rezoning added greater height, shared parking, frontage pulled up to the curb and a dozen things that would open us up for business again.  

SO HOW MUCH OF THE LAND IN THE RED DISTRICT AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE CAN BE BUILT LIKE THIS?  

MAYBE ALL - WE DON'T KNOW YET . PLEASE PITCH IN TO HELP WITH THIS TASK.

YOUR REPRESENTATIVES ARE NOT REPRESENTING YOU: 
This is, in effect, our Township selling out everything that the Commissioners  have heard the residents asking for year in and year out about over-development, too much traffic, too many rental units to dimish our home values and quality of life  And ...... using the residents' money to do it. You should be concerned that the people that you elected to act in your interests completely shut off your open speaking rights ffrom March to December - a full 9 months as of this writing by  simply refusing to hold proper Committee meetings.

   A FEW FACTS  FROM THE NOVEMBER  9,  2020 PRESENTATION
365 apartments plus an internal garage, pool and amenities
Rents expected to range from $1,552 to $3,295
A lot of studio apartments,  5% will be three bedroom
5 stories high   (11 ft floors / 9 ft ceilings – ultimately under 60 ft high)
$1 million in property taxes will be paid to the Township
$100 million will be the overall project cost
Job creation: 440 during construction
Long-term jobs : 155
“Hip, cool and convenient”
Parking will be available on each floor
Cars per household are on the decline, they insisted
Average age of 1st time homebuyer went from (29 To 34)  
The 27 to 34 age group is increasing in the numbers of them that opt to be “renters by choice”
They expect : empty nesters , dinks (double income no kids), nurses just out of college  ….(and he named just about every group he could think of that wouldn’t have kids….so you wouldn’t get scared about building new schools)
We were to send our questions to Jessica Welsh  jwelch@kaplaw.com– they warned there wouldn't be any long email discussions….. apparently there weren't to be any ....or any answers provided to the questions we did submit . 
Method of Request: a zoning " text amendment"  . They are zoned BC ( Business/Commercial) and want to change the uses and specs of BC to accommodate this appartment use.  It would normally be "spot zoning' - or have to apply to all the other BC districts- but when Steve Kline and cohorts  rezoned in 2017, they allowed each of the Business Districts to be an independent, separately named district. Now those districts are going for still MORE rights..... while residents seem to have NO ONE protecting THEIR rights. 



AN IMPORTANT THING TO  KNOW :  the commissioners have no requirement to even hear this proposal
    
The Commissioners have no obligation to move them forward with this proposal  -- and THEY SHOULD NOT IF IT IS NOT IN THE  INTERESTS OF THE RESIDENTS THEY SERVE.  AND THEY SHOULD TRUST US TO KNOW BEST WHAT IS IN OUR INTERESTS. You may see this differently - but to me, I see this only as a benefit for the  Mall owner. The extra monies that will be coming in will be to service the needs of the new inhabitants.  They already have enough to take care of my trash, roads and other services. And if there are more people to now share in the paving of the streets, there are also more cars on the road and more people at my parks and pools, etc. My town is more urban - and we all know where that goes next....  Only the residents/voters who elected the Commissioners  should be deciding how their representatives are to represent them. Whether they want more density -- or less!

       Attorney Marc Kaplin acting for PREIT, the PREIT reps themselves and Developer Bel Canto have not properly allowed the public to ask the questions that they said they would answer - They need those answers to decide if this is in their individual interest or in the interest of the Township as a whole. Residents have a right to have full and clear discussions  and to understand how the plethora of new buildings will impact their  former community that was filled with homeowners and far fewer rentals. They have a right to get FULL, TRANSPARENT  information and then then to tell their representative, their Commissioner whether they want them to move forward into the formal process or not.  In the formal process, the developers will get hours to speak,  you will get 3 minutes. So without full transparency, I would recommend you tell your Commissioner to ask ALL of the Commissioners to vote NO on allowing them to proceed to the formal process.   

         In the past, residents have falsely been told that the formal process is the proper way to learn about the project and gather the information they need to make their decision --- and they say residents will have "pleanty of time" to comment.  Neither of those is true.   Again and again they are false and leave residents disadvantaged  by the very people they elected to work on their behalf.  Once this is in the formal process, residents have lost all their leverage, and will have little to no control. If you think it is fair for you to have  3 minutes to protect YOUR  property rights, while someone who wants to expand his and encroach on yours has unlimited time to speak and to present, then you have a different concept of "fair" than I do.  If residents are not able to follow up on something they heard later  in the meeting - or get something clarified fully- "well, too bad" say the developers and the Commissioners who allow this, even though it is not in your interest.  
   
        The formal process, very simply, most often leaves residents frustrated at a disadvantage...and the constant losers. 

        SO ..VIA  EMAIL TO YOUR COMMISSIONER, AND AT THE NEXT (ZOOM ) MEETING  TELL YOUR COMMISSIONER NO FORMAL PROCESS TIL RESIDENTS DIRECT THEIR COMMISSIONERS TO DO SO...
whether you are for this or against this project, a fair and open process benefits everyone. 

 
THE NUTSHELL  on the proposal   _ SOME OF WHAT'S IN IT
          
  

They are proposing to add a use ( h-12) that does more than a few onerous things . It allows wood construction in high -rises - rather than the non-combustible materials, it allows non-conformities not to be fixed as our ordinance requires - and amazingly even allows a path for expanded non-comforming uses , It allows actuall for 8 ft wide parking spots - our doors started getting dinged when we ent from 10 ft to 9 ft.  It allows for 85 ft heights  and allows for things to get pulled right up to the curb --- losing our skies and our green-space. Green space itself can be as little as 15% .  Are any of these in our interest yet ? Shouldn't we just move to the city  if we like all that ? With an arrogance above all others - it suggests that anywhere their ordinance and our ordinance disagree, theirs takes precedence.  Wow.  I mean really....... Wow. Name me the Commissioner who has decided this is good for you ?

           The property is zoned BC (business commercial) and they propose to amend the text of the BC District to suit their new development plan.   BUT IT WILL ALSO IMPACT MANY OTHER PARCELS IN THAT DISTRICT - how many we don't yet know. 
     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  ..with just 3 minutes to speak versus hours for the developer - 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 and/or it could be shown to be such a wonderful benefit for the community that everyone was ecstatic with it. Not feeling defeat by the very people they elect to serve them.    

        
   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 that would cause their excessive demands to fail. They now  just reach right out to the Commissioners to ask them to rezone the property the way they would like it. It takes only 8 of the 15 to waive it through. So eight people to overcome the voices of 56,000.

        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. Imagine that you bought your house  without a giant 5 story structure  next to it - and all of a sudden a giant  structure is there.  Your property value might tank.  Because it is alegislative 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. 

THE PLAYERS

PREIT  Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust is the owner of the mall and has recently  (11-01-20) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy .  They expect to reorganize  and stay in business as the Willow Grove Mall. PREIT owns about 20 similar properties, including the Willow Grove Mall  

BelCanto is the Developer  and contractor  -“Bel Canto is a vertically integrated apartment development, asset and property management company headquartered in Greater Philadelphia with a national footprint .”)

Jennifer Nevitt – CEO of Bel Canto

Bob Koch from Fugleberg Koch is the architect https://fuglebergkoch.com/

Dan Herman  from PREIT ( he is in charge of development / redevelopment / construction / tenant coordination at PREIT

Meredith West from PREIT  was in charge of the 60 slide PowerPoint presentation

Marc Kaplin from Kaplin Stewart  -Attorney  https://www.kaplaw.com  - infamous also for zoning to put 244 units on 8 steep slope acres behind the Baederwood Shopping Center and designing an appartment building with inadequate fire access and doing everything he could to bully it through

Ward 5 Commissioner Julie Vaughn  jvaughn@abingtonpa.gov   215-756-2586


 




FIND THE RELEVANT PARTS OF THE ZONING : page 53 - The intent of the BC districT (at the time our current zoning was passed )  as well as the intent for Willow Grove Park    :   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 Park 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.


11-1-20  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 Willow Grove Park, 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.  It was, apparently the same day ( or close) to when they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

here was the first meeting notice received
  From PREIT
           It came to a few residents near the mall on 11-1-20



 11-6-20   WE submitted QUESTIONS AS INVITED TO DO : (after 6 meetings, the majority still unanswered )   we found out a month later that a 365 unit building was not what  they were requesting -- it was far , far more than that .

How many lots are there in the BC-WGMall District?
How many qualify for the H-12 use? Does the Mall itself qualify for the H-12 use ? 
How many residential units could potentially be built there ?
Has the mall appealed its tax assessment in the last 10 years?   If so was it successful?
What taxes has the mall  paid in the past five years ? ( Earned Income /// Business-Mercantile /// Real Estate ? )
What additional taxes will the 365 Units produce?  Earned Income /// Business-Mercantile /// Real Estate ?
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  -
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 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?
Trying to understand if Bel Canto retains ownership or if PREIT retains ownership of the Apartments? I thought Bel Canto said they retain properties they develop for 10-15 years?
What will happen if you run out of funds because the mall does not bounce back - could the new project, now on the mall grounds, be included in a  bankruptcy?   Can't bankruptcy proceedings go on for years sometimes ?
Macy's just asked for and received a reduction in their tax assessment . That can also be a warning sign. Although Macy's owns its real estate and is not the property of the mall, the fact that it is a prime anchor store could play a role in the stability of the mall - or the property - as a whole.
What if your reduced financial strength, given multiple other properties that are also susceptible to the new economy, puts you back in jeopardy, even after reorganization and perhaps drags 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?


       THE FIRST MEETING WITH RESIDENTS  on  11-9-20  Zoom meeting was held by the law firm Kaplin Stewart representing PREIT, the owner of the Willow Grove Mall.   The suggested we send questions in advance to  Jessica Welch  --- jwelch@kaplaw.com.  But they did not answer them and refused to video the meeting . They took only about a half dozen or so questions despite the attendance of many, with hands still raised as they ended the meeting.  In other words, they showed little desire to really cooperate with the residents or to be fair and transparent. They left us with the impression they would be headed to a request for the formal process next. 


  12-10-20
the Committee of the Whole, the full Board was ready to send it to the Planning Commission to begin the formal process. Because it was presented at  a Committee of the Whole, which is only a "preview"  committee  - they couldn't do that - But their intent was certainly evident .  It had to be forwarded to a full Board meeting on January 14th. Absolutely NO DISCUSSION was had on all the many projects that could be  begun the minute that this request is granted. The H-12 use that they created and want to add  to that entire  red section in the  image above  could allow for thousands of residential units, as well as more commercial. 
Agenda and documents found here  https://abingtonpa.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=1 



 

  1-14-21     HERE IS THE AGENDA PACKET - THE WILLOW GROVE PROPOSED  ORDINANCE  IS ON P 88
WE ASKED MANAGER RICHARD MANFREDI TO PUT IT ON A SEPARATE PAGE OF ITS OWN WITH A SEPARATE  LINK  .THAT WE COULD FIND EASILY AND SHARE---  WE WERE AGAIN REFUSED,  WHILE OUR MANAGER SIMULTANEOUSLY FREELY OFFERED OUR STAFF TO HELP WRITE THE DEVELOPER'S ORDINANCE FOR HIM ......
https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/2245b672-3e1c-11eb-bc32-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1610557754.pdf
 
HERE IWAS THE AGENDA found on page 88, sespite a zillion requests to put such things on a single shareable link that is not buried in hundreds of pages of documents . we are accommodated none of what we need while the manager freely loaned out our Planner and others int eh Township to help the developer write his ordinance . 
https://docs.google.com/gview?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgranicus_production_attachments.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fabingtonpa%2F07d2b06d5307b62bae4975ce9968b0c50.pdf&embedded=true 

   On 2-23-21 The Township provided the documents in a way that would be most difficult to find:   buried on page 368  of the 2-23-21 agenda packet here:  https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/69e63acf-4497-11eb-920e-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1613753072.pdf  

Tell your Commissioners this is nonsense. An issue this impoortant should have a single page and all the components of it should be a single shareable link. It matters whether  your government is working for you, or hiding things from you


 2-28-21 CITIZENS TOWN HALL ON THE WILLOW GROVE MALL   SUNDAY  2-28-21 We covered a brief overview of what they are asking and the problems with theordinance PREIT submitted . But then a brainstorming of  WHAT WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE   rather than thousands  & thousands of residences, cars, children in our schools, and  competitors for our local jobs, ensued.  The Commissioners seem to have forgotten to hold one of these. They don't think we deserve any more information than they feel like giving us  ....which is not even the basics.  Why do we respect ourselves so little that we would allow the people in charge of our air, our water, our traffic safety and pretty much everything else to behave like that?  I am hoping someone will read this and give me a good answer to it.  I really need to understand.

     2-23-21  PLANNING  COMMISSION     As many as 45 people were in attendance  and in the public comment section  4 or 5 people asked about how much MORE could be  built besides the one building. NONE got a substantive answer. Residents said it was too big, and devoid of the barest green or any outdoor  common space. They spoke about the non-combustible construction. One resident, an artist, noted that the 85 ft building that is supposed to be 5 stories in the foreground was drawn to be  smaller than Bloomies which was 3 stories and in the background. (At the first meeting  Planner Michael Narcowicz said it was 30 feet lower than it should be )   There has been deception at every turn, including the completely irrelevant "history of shopping"  and " intense demographics review that was meant at multiple meetings just to waste time  Many people asked about what else could be built there if this  ordinance they are proposing passes. No clear answer was given --
Yes they recorded it - but refuse to play it on the channel or make it available on the web. Making it harder for residents to review  or catch what they missed and making all decisions in favor of the developer

|
   3-23 -21  PLANNING  COMMISSION It was listed 4th (last)  on a long agenda.  Most would not even recognize this as the Mall project.  All the agenda said was : 
d. Consider a motion to approve the submitted petition to amend the Township's Zoning Ordinance by PREIT.    It does not even mention the Mall or the Willow Grove Mall - so people looking for it would have to know that the Mall owner was PREIT. And this is not the first time Manager  Manfredi  has been asked to write agenda items so the public can understand them. Our  ( new in 2017) Manager needs some help understanding transparency and his role as public servant.  Of great concern also is the Manager's apparent desire to revise our zoning again ... so soon after the last revision. Especially when we can see that the  choices that he has been making are in direct contradiction to the wishes of the majority of the residents he is being paid to serve. Yes they recorded it - but refuse to play it on the channel or make it available on the web. Making it harder for residents to review  or catch what they missed and making all decisions in favor of the developer


4-27-21 PLANNING  COMMISSION  Last meeting was the April 27 Planning Commission........ where they did not vote or solidify the changes  and garner consent on what they were recommending. Instaead, Chair Lucy Strackhouse seemed to indicate she would pass along every comment made . That lind of defeats the whole role of the Planning Commission and I didn't see any of the Planners vote to agree to have their vote taken away and to have Lucy do that  unilaterally with no consensus. Or is business being conducted out of the purview of the public again. This was  their 3rd trip to the Planning Commission and the 6th meeting overall to review the "now  infamous"
"Petition to Amend our Ordinance (submitted  12-10-20) "  (that's the submitted request)
A great number of  significant changes were made and when a document is substantially changed it is, by law, supposed to return to the Planning Commission
. The "law" doesn't seem to  matter to anyone involved with this - as the first 5 meetings were deceitfully focused on one single building - and finally at this 6th meeting another building was shown..... but that was only by ignoring about half of the property they intend to rezone, and all the units that can go on those parcels. Yes they recorded it - but refuse to play it on the channel or make it available on the web. Making it harder for residents to review  or catch what they missed and making all decisions in favor of the developer
Here is the agenda 
https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/6a17eba8-4497-11eb-920e-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1619039450.pdf 


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