TOWAMENCIN — A proposed zoning change that could allow new uses near Towamencin's busiest intersection is moving ahead, and will be up for more discussion soon.
The township's supervisors heard an update Wednesday about a proposed ordinance amending the township's Main Street village overlay district, which could be up for further talks later this month.
"The idea is to revitalize, and bring things into the community that the community wants, and that a developer can market," said Township Manager Rob Ford.
"This is the site where the old township building is located, the Specht fields, the pedestrian bridge, all of the space back there, which has been fairly vacant and unused for at least 15 years," he said.
The Main Street village overlay area is located surrounding the intersection of Sumneytown Pike and Forty Foot Road, in adjacent zones denoted as "Village Commercial" and "Village Overlay District" on the township's zoning map. That space once housed the North Penn School District's J. Henry Specht School and former township administration building, and now is largely owned by developer Philadelphia Suburban Development Corp., according to Ford. That developer has held talks with the township's planning commission since early 2018 on changing the uses allowed in that area.
"This village overlay was originally designed in the early 1990s, and the idea is that things might have changed. That's why the property owner wanted to come in, and get different pieces moved around, so he could market it better," Ford said.
"The planning commission had some concerns about how that would look, and some setbacks and different uses," he said.
Those discussions centered on building height restrictions within the various sectors, preservation of open space and buffers along adjacent Reiff Road, whether to allow age-restricted residential uses, and whether medical office, hotel, independent living, and/or parking garage uses should be allowed within the overlay area, according to Ford and minutes from recent planning commission meetings.
"After several, several meetings over 14 months, they finally, on Monday night, came to a consensus that they think it's ready to come to the board of supervisors," Ford said.
Discussion by the board was originally slated for July 10, according to Ford and supervisors Chairman Chuck Wilson, but was tabled for two more weeks because of additional feedback from the planning commission during their meeting two nights earlier.
"There are some changes that are being made to the ordinance as a result of the planning commission. They weren't able to turn those around in time for the meeting this evening," Wilson said.
Those changes should be incorporated into an updated draft in time for discussions to begin at the supervisors level on July 24, Ford said.
"The applicant wanted to put the tweaks in from Monday night, that the planning commission recommended, some final touches, so it would be kind of a clean document when it came to the board," Ford said.
"It's not a hearing, it's consideration to advertise a hearing. But the board, I'm sure, will comment on it if they see anything they think should be changed," he said.
State law requires multiple public discussions before any zoning change is approved, according to the manager. After a first discussion on July 24 the draft would likely be publicized for residents to examine ahead of the formal hearing.
"On the 24th, and especially whenever that hearing is held, the draft ordinance will be available for folks to review, to get familiar with it," Ford said.
"We'll have consultants, and the developer will have consultants, we'll present it to everybody first, and ultimately bring it forward for consideration to the public," he said.
That discussion would lead to further talks in August, at either or both of the future board meetings currently scheduled for Aug. 14 and 28.
"Once we advertise the ordinance, if there's any significant changes in it at the hearing, we have to re-advertise and do it again," Ford said.
"If there's something the board thinks should be left instead of right, or something small, they may make those tweaks and go ahead and schedule the hearing, but by state law and township law, any land use ordinance has to be advertised twice before the public hearing," he said.
Towamencin's supervisors next meet at 7:30 p.m. on July 24 and Aug. 14 and 28, all at the township administration building, 1090 Troxel Rd. For more information visit www.Towamencin.org.