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                       THE WILLOW GROVE MALL

    

FAR MORE THAN THE 365 APARTMENTS THEY WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE IT IS


ON THE SAME DAY THAT THE  MALL'S OWNER , PREIT ( PENNA REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUST) FILED  FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY FOR THE MALL,  IT ALSO  ANNOUNCED  A PLAN FOR 365 APARTMENTS, NOT IN THE MALL, BUT OUTSIDE, PULLED RIGHT UP TO EASTON RD, NEXT TO THE POND,  NEAR  THE CORNER OF EASTON & MORELAND RDS.

 THEIR  REQUEST IS FOR  A  TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT, NOT THROUGH THE STANDARD VARIANCE PROCESS.
COMMISSIONERS DO NOT HAVE TO ENTERTAIN THEIR REQUEST AT ALL, AND THEY SHOULD BE PROTECTING THE RIGHTS RESIDENTS HAVE AND SETTING UP MEANINGFUL DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HELP THE MALL - 

IN THE END, IT TAKES ONLY 8 COMMISSIONER TO OVERRULE THE VOICES OF 56,000 RESIDENTS .  SO THEY ALL BETTER KNOW YOU ARE WATCHING.....

                                                       Click here to receive "Newsloop" updates to this issue and  more news like this
              
 WGMallApts-OverheadView BC-WGMallDistrict                             
the bogus proposal
 On the left - the new building is shown just above the pond and pulled right up to Easton Road. That would be bad enough. But what actually was submitted did not reflect either what was presented on 11-9-20  nor on 12-10-20.   The presentation did not alert residents to the dramatic changes, like the removal of the non-combustible ordinance, the addition of required commercial/ residential mixed use percentages ,  the  proximity to the curb allowed, the intent to build ajacent to residential, the actual circumference of a transit Oriented District, and the various other places where this ordinance, being written by the fox for the henhouse, could apply.  
They told residents it was an all residential 365 unit complex. And focused just on that. But that was HaagenDaaz. What was submitted will apply to many more projects --perhaps in the red BC zone- perhaps throughout the Township, would compete with the mall, and potentially offer a precedent for ALL the  BC (red) District properties to build in the same intense way- the mall included. If this precendent is set, a few small legal skirmishes and the same laxity seen here by the Commissioners could leave us with thousands and thousands of units  after  the dust settles.  That discussion needs to be had. Residents are the final line on this battlefront .

A BOGUS MEETING WITH RESIDENTS  
In earlier text amendment issues, where Commissioners have no obligation  to hear the issue at all, residents demanded that Commissioners require the developers to first meet with residents  so they could have all their questions answered outside of the public process (where the developer traditionally can present for hours while residents have to attend meeting after meeting to speak just 1 x at each one for just 3 minutes... and rarely even get answers) . Residents demanded a meeting where their questions would be answered and they could pose more than 1 or 2,  where they really were able to learn what the impacts might be , and what was intended.  If the time ran out in the first meeting, another would be held until they could say to their Commissioners, yes - this is a good project . Let's move it forward.  

This developer did just the opposite of what residents wanted -  a ridiculously lengthy presentation on none of the relevant points. No one came to hear the history of shopping malls . The appartment complex proposed had nothing to do with the mall history, other than tht it was intended to to provide it more customers. How THAT would work was not presented. No one needed all the stats on why a developer might want to develop there.  But, even then, the things they proposed in the meeting on 11-9-20 were vastly different from the ordinance they submitted at the next meeting on 12-10-20 . At the November meeting just 3 Abington  residents got vague answers to their couple of questions -so virtually NONE of residents  questions were answered, even things submitted  in advance per attorney Kaplin's instructions were never answered.   Clearly they were confident the Commissioners would waive them through to a vote anyway.   At the second meeting they never told us that, oops, sorry----- we decided to submit something completely different than what we presented.  If you thought you didn't like those 365 apartments - well, I'm afraid you're going to like this even less!!!!  Nah...they just clean forgot to tell us that.

 BEWARE - BECAUSE OTHERS - EVEN THE MALL ITSELF, WILL LIKELY BE USING THIS NEW ZONING... YOU KNOW, THE PARTS THAT WEREN'T PRESENTED  On the right, in red image above, is  the  "Business Center Willow Grove Mall District". How many of those plots will be able to use this same precedent and  develop the same way?  Not 2500 feet from the train, write your own for  3,500 ... you know with retail and residences mixed ...If they can do it why can't you?   Besides the new building that is in the picture on the left  ( which will also retain the right to add rooftop and penthouse and first floor  retail /commercial and other such things) , there is the mall itself, there is  Dick's strip mall, the At Home building formerly K-Mart, and the Visionworks  block .... What would this look like once these all went the same way ?  If this property owner is allowed not only to add the residential factor and the height, but  these actions would make the next ones no longer SPOT ZONING, because such zoning would already exist.

This is spot zoning at its finest.  A definition of spot zoning is found at the very end of this page. But the uses of the BC District currently are all commercial.  Opening the residential to one owner would enable all the others to appeal for the same rights. If you are going to use, as your example of residential, the residential that is OUTSIDE the BC District, then the entire BC District could appeal to have the same rights. And by the way, then the whole residential district could appeal to have commercial, since they are next door to it.  And there goes ALL your zoning protections.
       The arbitrary and nonsensical requirement that it has to be 2500 feet from a train, would be a ridiculous variant.  That number could easily have been 3000 or 3500 feet.  Or more .... a TOD ( Transit Oriented District) actually  extends for 1/2 mile radius around the transportation hub.  Look for the red in yellow highlights at the very bottom
 
:  
SPOT ZONING MEMORANDUM
   This is a big deal folks !   Imagine the amount of development that could follow.  RESIDENTS DESERVE A PROPER MEETING  BEFORE THEY ARE ALLOWED TO GO TO THE FORMAL PROCESS.

NO SERIOUS DISCUSSION OF THE FATE OF THE  MALL WAS EVEN HELD - NOR OTHER IMPORTANT POINTS ... 
The formal process is not where anything is properly geared for residents to get answers. as mentioned, it  is 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.  At the 12-10 -20 Committee of the Whole,
(a bizarre forcing of 2 months meetings into one month just so Commissioners could skip over the Committeee Meetings and remove residents’ speaking rights)  folks who had been on since 6 pm left because this didn't come on til after 9.   That's what happens when you jam 2 month's together.  The developer, starting after 9 pm started the SAME presentation as the residents had already seen - causing more to go home. The Commissioners never brought up a single question about how this was going to revive the mall.... and never brought up all of the egregious aspects of the proposal - which included
--- the removal of our non-combustible materials in construction
--- the 85 ft height- which had been falsely portrayed in the drawings
--- the building pulled right up to the road (removing sky and greenspace as you travel through Abington)
---- the lack of a requirement to fix non-conformities ( as near all others are required to do)
---  retail that is allowed both on the first floor , penthouse and the roof top
--- a minimum mix requirement of 20 % retail /// or 10 % apartment. 
---  clearly this is being prepared for other development - anything in 2500 ft of the train - we were not shown where that was
---  ridiculous "Build to lines"-- 75 ft is the MAX  but it only has to be 20 ft off the curb
--- 35 ft heights on buildings within 100 feet of residential zoning --- does that sound like it's for THIS building -
          Imagine  where on this BC parcel these measures might apply.. and other business districts could ultimately add the "H-12" use as well 

 

NONE OF THIS WAS PRESENTED TO YOU .......  THE COMMISSIONERS DECIDED 12-10-20 TO  MOVE THIS ON FOR A VOTE on 1-14-21 TO LET PREIT and MR KAPLIN  START THE FORMAL PROCESS.  THAT IS THE PROCESS WHERE DEVELOPERS HOLD ALL THE CARDS - AND RESIDENTS ARE THE LOSERS.  TELL THE COMMISSIONERS NO.  FIRST THEY MUST BE UPFRONT WITH THE RESIDENTS

 

IN ADDITION, ATTORNEY FOR PREIT, MARC KAPLIN TOLD US WE SHOULD BE PLEASED TO HAVE SUCH A NOTABLE FIGURE AS TOM LEONARD FROM BEL CANTO INVOLVED.  TOM'S OTHER FIRM, OBERMAYER (et al ) IS THE ONE TRYING TO GET OUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION UNDERWAY.  YOU KNOW, THE ONE WHERE THEY USE OUR STAFF FOR $1.00 A YEAR, USE OUR MANAGER FOR FREE AS THE CEO,  OFFER NO BID CONTRACTS AND OTHER FEATURES TO "DISTANCE THE COMMISSIONERS FROM THE OPINIONS OF THE ( PESKY ) RESIDENTS". AND 
HERE'S ANOTHER LITTLE RELATED TIDBIT TO EXPLAIN WHY MR KAPLIN AND I DISAGREE
.
FROM
6-07  https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/breaking/20070625_Details_emerge_on_Fumo_deal_with_Verizon.html

 

PLEASE ATTEND THE ZOOM 

Meeting Information:   1-14-21  

  1. Join by computer, tablet or application: https://zoom.us/j/91432826808
  2. Join by telephone: 1-929-436-2866 and entering the meeting ID number 914-3282-6808 when prompted.
  3. Meeting ID: 914-3282-6808

    HERE IS THE AGENDA PACKET - THE WILLOW GROVE ISSUE IS ON P 88
    https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/abingtonpa/2245b672-3e1c-11eb-bc32-0050569183fa-ca2b9c28-b9cf-4f17-b573-dd2752d4679e-1610557754.pdf
     
    HERE IS THE AGENDA
    https://docs.google.com/gview?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgranicus_production_attachments.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fabingtonpa%2F07d2b06d5307b62bae4975ce9968b0c50.pdf&embedded=true 

         

THERE IS A MEETING BEFORE IT AND A MEETING AFTER IT - SO IT MAY START LATE.

 

  PRIOR ACTIONS 

 

  THE COMMISSIONERS - HAVING ASKED NOTHING BY WAY OF DETAILS- WERE READY TO PASS THIS THROUGH TO THE FORMAL PROCESS
         There was 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. Questions we were encouraged to send in advance were also not answered .  On Dec 10th, 2020  at the Committee of the Whole, the full Board hear mostly the same "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 Mall 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 Mall 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 --- AND BEFORE VIA EMAIL -  NOT to allow them to begin the formal process.  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. 

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)
You can send your questions to Jessica Welsh  jwelch@kaplaw.com– but they are not going to get into any long email discussions…..
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 thiose districts are going for more rights while residents seem to have NO rights. 

See more info in the "nutshell below . 



   NEXT MEETING   1-14-20 BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS


WHAT YOU SHOULD 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
           On Nov 1st 2020 residents received a letter from the law firm
of Kaplin Stewart, representing PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust), the owner of the Willow Grove Mall, saying that PREIT  wishes to build 365 apartments just south of the pond along Easton Road, near the corner of Moredon Road on the mall property.  It was, apparently the same day ( or close) to when they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.   BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THEY ARE DOING AT ALL.  The consequences of the adjustment to accommodate theirs will accommodate many other parcels - including quite possibly the mall itself - depending on how far they are from the transportation requirement . 

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 a legislative process, it goes before the Board of Commissioners, not the Zoning Hearing Board... This way they do not need a hardship, as one normally would for a variance. 

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

 
  MORE INFO ON PREIT'S BANKRUPTCY    The prepackaged financial plan ensures $150 million in funding to "recapitalize the business and extend the company's debt maturity schedule," it said in a statement. The plan has "overwhelming support" from its lenders and it's looking to quickly emerge from the process. PREIT has about 20 properties – 24% of tenants are now restaurants, gyms, movies etc
https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/02/investing/mall-bankruptcies-cbl-properties-preit/index.html


       WHAT IS THE CURRENT ZONING CODE for BC-(Business Commercial) Willow Grove Mall   
         Here is the newest Code IN OUR CODEBOOK , passed on 4-17.  https://www.abingtonpa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6053 
          The Use Matrix and Maps are at he very end


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 Mall as there are multiple BC districts

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


       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. 

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

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

  JOB FOR YOU -RESIDENTS SHOULD  REQUEST THAT  SPEAKING RIGHTS BE AMENDED TO FIX WHAT IS BROKEN - Talk to your Commissioner.  Measures currently in place that stifle the voices of residents should be removed and/or amended  to afford residents proper access to their government. We need to have a process where residents can properly explain their concerns, get answers to their questions and not be cut off. 
       A recent move by Manager Manfredi was touted as "expanding rights" but actually reduced them yet again.  That was the October 2020 addition of the Committee of hte Whole - which  allows 5 whole minutes to speak on spmething you have NO IDEA  WHAT IT IS ABOUT
Our representatives must clearly  understand what their constituents want them to do.
        See this page for the list of things that we need - and for a history of the speaking rule changes. Our voices are needed so we can keep our communities from being developed or operated in ways that we do not condone.  The residents who live and vote here want to craft our communities to work for us - we want those we elect to represent us, to actually.... represent us


  
JOB FOR YOU - 
questions

SEND ONES YOU THINK SHOULD BE ASKED !
Help us learn THE ANSWERS TO THESE  
s
 How many

Does the proposed development have a name? 


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 ( nevermind commercial /office or retail ) could potentially be built there ?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What amenities will the apartments have?

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

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

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

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

What is the change in greenspace / impervious surface?

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


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

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

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

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

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?



here was the first meeting notice received 11-1-20


Letter to Residents  11-1-20


On Dec 10th, 2020  at 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. 



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SPOT ZONING MEMORANDUM


 

 

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