LOWER SALFORD — A hearing for new proposed zoning changes to two tracts on which earlier plans were turned down following opposition from crowds of residents is set for March 4.

In November of 2018, Metropolitan Development Group's requested zoning change to allow 87 townhouses on a 12.34 acre property at Oak Drive and Harleysville Pike (Route 113) and 46 twin homes on 43.24 acres on Maple Avenue was denied by the Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors.

That doesn't mean the tracts will never be developed, though, township officials and Metropolitan representatives said at the time. During 2019, Metropolitan and the Lower Salford Township Planning Commission reviewed options for new plans. 

Information about the previous plans and the new request are available on the Lower Salford website.

Under the new proposal, 27.063 acres of the Maple Avenue tract would be rezoned from its current Administrative Office zoning to Medium Density Residential, matching the zoning for the rest of the tract. There would also be changes to dimensional requirements for full cluster housing developments with a central open space. The Maple Avenue plans include 48 single family homes, minutes from the September 2019 Lower Salford Township Planning Commission show.

The current Office Limited Commercial zoning for the Oak Drive and Route 113 property would not change under the new proposal, but the township's zoning ordinance would be changed to allow duplex and triplex housing in the OLC district if other requirements are also met.

"Petitioner is proposing to develop the Property with a mixed residential development containing 62 dwelling units comprised of a mix of two-family buildings and triplex buildings," the petition for the requested Oak Drive change says.

The March 4 hearing is for the zoning amendments only. Land development plans would subsequently also have to be approved.

At the supervisors Feb. 5 meeting, during which the vote was taken to schedule the hearing on the proposed zoning changes, board Chairman Doug Gifford said two minor changes were being made to the submitted request.

"We're not changing anything that was submitted. We're kind of prettying up the documentation," he said. 

Metropolitan representatives at the meeting said they agreed to the changes made.

Supervisor Kevin Shelly said he thinks the Maple Avenue plan is generally consistent with the township zoning, but has concerns about the Oak Drive plans.

Those issues will be discussed at the hearing, Gifford said. 

The vote to schedule the Oak Drive hearing was passed by a 4-1 vote with Shelly dissenting. The vote to schedule the Maple Avenue vote passed unanimously. 

The hearings will be at the board's 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4 meeting.

In other matters at the Feb. 5 meeting: 

• Resident Donna Scheuren, who is also vice president of the Souderton Area School Board, asked if the township had received any reply to its request to the county that more voting scanners be added at township polling places. Gifford said there has not been any response. 

In December, Scheuren said she had been notified that three of the township's six polling places have more than 2,000 voters and the others are approaching the same amount. One suggestion was to add polling places, but that would have to have been done by year's end, she said.

It's also difficult to find poll workers or places to do the voting, Gifford said. 

"We already have two polling places at one location," he said. 

That's at Oak Ridge Elementary School and the reason the two polling places are at the same place is "because we couldn't find another one," he said. 

In order to deal with the large number of voters per polling place, it was decided to send a letter to the county asking that additional vote scanners be added.

At the January meeting, Scheuren said there's now another issue to be considered. Changes in state law have added mail-in voting, for which the ballots will be scanned in at polling places after the in-person voting ends on election days, she said. Early estimates are that it could take days for the counts to be completed, she said. 

"So, if all these mail-in ballots have to then be scanned, and we already have 2,000 to 2,200 voters in three or four of our polls, can we fire off the letter again?" Scheuren asked. 

"Yes, we can and we will," Gifford said.

• The township-owned Lederach Golf Club took in $70,000 more operating revenue in 2019 than had been projected, Gifford said. 

"We're looking at putting some of this money back into the course in the way of deferred maintenance," he said. "Stuff we have not been able to afford to do, now we can." 

The course was helped last year by good weather, Gifford has previously said. 

This year's warmer than usual winter also put the golf course ahead of projections for January, he said. 

"Hopefully this year will mirror last year," Gifford said. 

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