Residential Explosion in ABINGTON

It's not just  WILLOW GROVE MALL and the entire Business District the Mall  is in....

but throughout the Township they are fast tracking plans to change zoning,
increasing residential units and eliminating single family homes
 and mixing residential into the commercial districts
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Nov 13th from 1-3 the Comprehensive Plan team will be at the Crestmont Clubhouse
for an outdoor "visioning session".   If this is not your vision -  that is a good time to tell them.

PART 1 - THE MALL  up to 1248 new units   PART 2 - TOWNSHIP-WIDE too many to count

  PART 1 -  THE MALL  
In November 2020  a proposal was made to build apartments at the Willow Grove Park Mall Business District.  From day one and straight through today the applicants keep telling you that they want ONE SINGLE building with 365 apartments.  A developer (Bel Canto)  would buy parking lot space from Bloomingdales.  Bloomies would then  use the $ to create a state of the art store - saving the  mall with that single move.  ( In a Disney movie, maybe . No actual financial analysis in sight  on that part of things )

    Unfortunately,  there is a thing called "spot zoning". You are not allowed to just have your own property rezoned to enrich just you.  Others whose properties have the same conditions have the right to have the same benefits.  So in order to get their building, they  created a special TOD or  "Transit Oriented District"  ----  ( where, coincidentally) federal  or state  monies are  available to developers who build densely  around  train stations /transit hubs.   So.....the mall owner, who is the applicant here,   created its own special TOD - saying that buildings  2500 linear feet from a train could build.   There are 2 trains near the Mall, Crestmosnt and  Willow Grove . If you draw the 2500  linear feet lines, the property now able to get that zoning includes Bruce Goodman's 2 shopping  strips Parkside (Dick's strip ) and Park Place  ( Vision Works strip )  and it includes part of the At Home/Former Kmart and part of Macy's.  They can put commercial  on the bottom, commercial on the top and 3 or 4 levels of residetntial in between.  Initially we calculated there could be over 2,000 units  -- but they finally agreed to 16 units per acre  so we could somehow count them... but they didn't agree to that until  6 or 7 meetings in ..... and  at 11 meetings in now, with the 12th coming up at the Nov 3rd  Land Use Committee, they still have not been forthcoming about how many units could be built if this ordinance passes.  And your Commissioners have not required them to tell. 

      PREIT ( Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust ) mall owner and applicant here, has been doing all the heavy lifting. Their lawyer was Mark Kaplin, ( who gave us the 244 Brandolini units behind  the Whole Foods strip that has no proper fire access driveways and other unhappy facts of life)  We haven't seen a lot of him since his out burst in the  middle of the voting at a Planning Commission session where he tried to sway the vote in his favor.  That wasn't the only violation of process in this saga either.  PREIT  own 17 shopping centers altogether, Willow Grove being its most ( or one of its most ) successful.  They submitted the application on behalf of Bloomies but despite them  telling us it is one 365 unit building they are asking for  ( repeated again in meeting 11) ---- but don't believe that for a minute.  That is NOT what has been submitted .  As mentioned , many other properties would get the same rights -  and the ordinance is written specifically to accommodate on-going applications from multiple builders .

  Students....?????  A completely bogus financial analysis showed only 14 students  from the 1st 365 units, Apparently their financial consultant  thinks they will largely be going to private schools, because that's why people move in to Abington - to go to other schools. Right?  I can't even begin to tell you how many things were wrong with that report - and we can start with the fact that the report even proclaims that's just a "for instance "  --it might not be  365 units and they are also not limited to any particular configuration of 1, 2 or  3 bedroom units. The consultant decided that ZERO children would come from the 3 bedroom units.  Stunning, isn't it?
      But  the study they used doesn't give me the same figures.
Here's one of them  What do you get? I get way more than 14.  

     The School District tells me they have no figures on what % go to private schools - they simply do not have that information.  Don't they have to go after truancy anymore?  Well, either way,  PREIT used a very self serving figure.

   Their report also declared that each child cost  $13,500 . But that is not the case either .  Yes,  there is some federal $ involved - but you pay that, too. It's not from the Tooth Fairy.  And yes debt service is not a "per child expense, but still has to be divided by the number of students to determin a cost per student. So there was some real smoke and mirrors in the report.     At $21 - $22,000 per year cost to educate each child, an inaccurate count of children and inaccurate financial report could be a disaster for our wallets. 
  1)  Per the Schools figures:   Similar size apartment buildings, though with somewhat lower priced rents, produce 22% - 29 % children per school district figures.  Even removing the studio apartments that would be 44-58 students not the 14 that PREIT wants to claim. 
   2) Township wide view:   The 21,000 households overall in Abington produce over 8,293 students (as of Oct 2021)  - that is one for every 3 households at least.  So even if  we removed all of  the studio apartments, the potential for 70 students instead of  14 would apply  by that measure. 14  would be a deadly undercalculation.... 
  3) from the studies the consultant quotes, I get  22-39 students not 14 

So, sure,  the mall needs help -- but we don't want to be TAXED to gift these wealthy mall owners money. We want to allow them to do good business where they make their own $$.  This looks like BAD business and only someone bad at math would want this.  So, besides our roads and other services, what will this do to our schools and our tax rates?  I think the answer is quite plain.

      And timing is everything  John Spiegelman, Board President, twisted himself into a pretzel Oct 14th , 2021 at the Committee of the Whole  trying to make sure that PREIT would be able to get their hearing, not just before the end of the year,  but at every developer's absolute dream time to have a meeting : the holidays !  No one will be there ...unless their shopping, wrapping, cooking  are done and guests are all gone home, too.   Nice work, John - perhaps you forgot all the not so nice things  your own Ward 11 residents had to say to you about that before - when you did that with the YMCA meetings. Thoughtful.  As of  Oct 28 we hear the Land Sse meeting  has been postponed - so perhaps we can expect the conclusion right AFTER the holidays - stay tuned

  Please see all the details on the MALL issue here,  including when the next meeting is. Click here.... where you can see pictures of the FIRST building - which  will not be the last building - the ordinance will  enable a multitude . Learn about TOD's. Understand more. ( And when you see Part 2- you will see there will be even more)


It is completely inappropriate to re-zone via Comprehensive Plan. Proper zoning on such a scale would take years of analysis and examination of the consequences. Focus group informed on the details in each section of the Township. The last rezoning took 8 years . And we are only  just now  beginning to see the results of the increase in density from those new rights. More of that is to come...and will ALSO involve more children to our schools  ----    but on Oct 19, 2021  the Comprehensive Plan Committee produced the below map showing a plan to literally put Mixed Residential Overlays  on properties that are currently in Single  Family Home neighborhoods throughout the Township -------  without any analysis as to how many plots are affected,  what the possible impact could be on schools, traffic , facilities like parks, librairies etc.  
     The  Mixed Residential  overlays are indicated by the grey circles.  Mixed use residential includes duplexes, apartments, townhouses, etc.  Please note that the ENTIRE  Willow Grove Park Mall Business District is grey . The Mall itself is in a grey zone and would now be able to add residential .  You also will be shocked to see the Huntindon Valley Shopping Center all grey- it is the patch of red to the far right.  And both shopping centers include single family homes around them.  As do the grey areas in the Easton Rd and York Rd corridors. 

    They also drew dotted lines to indicate Transit Oriented Development areas  which are marked by greater density and often are mixed commercial and residential . We have to  wait to  get a "description " of what they are using.


And if we were concerned about our schools  because of what  PREIT is doing......
Well ... buckle-up ---  here are some statistics showing what you can expect if you turn our neighborhoods into corporate controlled rental units - rather than single family homes, owned by the person who lives there. The below chart is found here: 






 Are we sure they intend to open the Zoning Code and change it ?  Yes - we are pretty darn sure. On October 14th, 2021  at the Committee of the Whole meeting, Manager Manfredi  gave a presentation  found here  Follow his words.
Manfredi:   (16:30 mins
)" again making sure the relevance and consistency are measured against the Township’s mission and vision  to enhance the livability for Township residents, considering any amendments to the zoning or subdivision or land development ordinance (16 :54 mins) we have sitting , right now, amendments to the zoning ordinance that have been worked on for a year. That’s going to have to be vetted - the zoning ordinance is going to have to be amended- (inaudible) and you can be sure when the zoning ordinance changes, & the subdivision ordinance changes that any text amendments that might come about are measured against the Comprehensive Plan that so many people have spent so much time working on
( 17:05 mins): And, of course, focusing on chapters that are currently being developed, and in particular the housing and future land use plans for the surrounding area. And talking about future land use goes right to the heart of inclusivity. How we live and work - how we ___ (inaudible) ____ so that would also be for when the Comprehensive Plan gets (?completed?)

  As yet, we do not know :  whether there will be some limitations to the use of the Overlay - or whether everyone will get the use by right, which means you would have no say whatsoever if a property owner proposed something that was in it after the Comprehensive Plan was passed. 

Draft chapters of the Comprehensive Plan are available for public viewing here-

  Yes, your help is needed !   What we DO need immediately are 2 things  from Ward 6 Comr Mike Thompson and Michael Narcowicz, our County planner, who are both running the Comprehensive Plan  Team :  
Use these emails ;
lease write them to ask for :
1)  A copy of this map above that is overlayed on a street map that is expandable - (like our Township zoning map is)   where you can read exactly what streets and what blocks are included in the TOD's and Overlays and you can expand a section . 

2)  A copy of the guidelines of the Mixed Residential Overlay District - exactly what is permitted in it -- and of the TOD district

   Please also add your voice by calling your Commissioner after you understand the details
            Please attend the October 30 meeting 1-3 at Crestmont Clubhouse to voice your  own "vision" to the team.
            Please volunteer to help with signs, petitions, writing letters to the editor, etc
            Please share this page out with as many as you can
            Please sign up for the Newsloop so you get updates

  Here is a site where you can begin to appreciate the over-development already underway -
even before this Comprehensive Plan  is instituted . Scroll below the map on this development page to see individual projects like St Basil's or 770 Jenkintown Rd.  This amount of everdevelopment will affect our home values, our quality of life and everything about the "suburban place" we now  call home.  it will change our township forever


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