Zoning change proposal questioned at UDPC meeting
Tempers flared over the latest proposal to develop the 4-acre tract adjacent to Dreshertown Plaza at the Upper Dublin Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night.
Brandolini Cos., which owns the shopping center and adjacent parcel, presented a proposal to rezone the 4-acre tract from A-Residential to Shopping Center and put a freestanding drugstore on it.
The center is also within the Dresher Overlay, which calls for a transition between commercial and residential, and is suggested as a site for mixed use under the township’s comprehensive plan.
About a year ago, a proposal by Brandolini to build 140 residential units on the tract and rehab the shopping center was opposed by township officials and residents as being too dense and likely to exacerbate traffic and storm-water problems in the Dresher triangle. Other proposals over the past five or six years included a four- to five-story apartment house and complete remodeling of the shopping center, dividing the parcel into two lots with a bank on one and restaurant on the other and, under a former owner of the property, an assisted living facility.
None gained the approval of the township boards or residents.
Marc Kaplin, an attorney representing Brandolini, indicated RiteAid could move from the interior of the center to a 14,673-square-foot stand-alone depicted on a sketch plan.
“There is no deal with anybody; we have a concept,” Kaplin said. “We’ve had some brief discussions, but can’t do anything definitely until it can be rezoned as part of the shopping center.”
Leonard Karp, a member of Upper Dublin Zoning Hearing Board who spoke as a resident of Glenecho Road, which is near the shopping center, criticized the developer for failing to meet with neighbors and said the plan presented did not comply with the Dresher Overlay.
“The overlay district is meant to be a transition to a residential neighborhood … a more villagelike setting, to be more pedestrian friendly,” Karp said. “A [drive]-thru pharmacy is not a village concept.”
If the zoning was changed, a variety of uses could go on the tract, which might not be appropriate to a transition, he said. Additional protections would be needed, he added.
“I’m not opposed to what is planned, I’m opposed to the lack of communication and there needs to be more protection,” Karp said.
Commission members asked if the plan included a facelift for the shopping center, which Kaplin said might be done in stages.
Responding to a question from commission member Jeff Albert, Brandolini President Fred Snow said land shown next to the new store would be used for storm-water management and as a buffer.
Albert said he was “generally in favor of trying to move forward with something,” but concerned over traffic and flooding on Dreshertown Road.
Commission Chairman Wes Wolf, who noted the Montgomery County Planning Commission had “felt [the plan] was in line with the township’s comprehensive plan,” said, “My interest is to protect the adjacent property owners … my concern is what would happen on the green space” and whether some additional protection would be needed if the zoning was changed.
“I’m not for changing the zoning or the overlay,” said commission member Deb Brecher, adding she preferred seeing an office or day care center, which are permitted under the overlay, on the tract.
“This is not a request to change the Dresher Overlay,” Snow said. “The underlying zoning is A; it doesn’t make any sense to develop under A.”
“You can’t sell a house on that property because of the location,” Kaplin said.
Kaplin, frustrated over the lack of reception for the zoning change, which he noted an Upper Dublin commissioner had previously suggested, said Brandolini had “spent a fortune on engineering and planning” on previous proposals, had waited as requested by the township until its comprehensive plan was completed and had made presentations on various proposals at numerous meetings that were objected to by a different group of neighbors.
“This man’s been as patient as can be,” he said, referring to Snow. “The Dresher Overlay has not worked because it is not economically feasible.”
Kaplin said he was “flabbergasted that a member of the zoning hearing board is talking like we just walked in here.”
“I said I was not opposed to this,” Karp shot back. “There needs to be more dialogue. If you’re planning to do a development you need to reach out to the neighbors.”
“The neighbors keep changing,” Kaplin said, but agreed to set up a meeting with before the plan is again discussed at the planning commission’s September meeting.
Sal Paone Jr., a developer seeking to subdivide the 94-acre Piszek tract that lies in both Upper Dublin and Springfield townships fared better at the meeting.
Paone, who has an agreement of sale on the developable portions of the property that is divided by Pennsylvania Avenue, wants to create a three-lot subdivision, with two areas that would be developed and the third remaining as open space.
The county recently rescinded an open space grant to the Montgomery County Lands Trust for the 34 acres of open space on the grounds that the agreement of sale with a previous developer had expired.
Albert said he was uncomfortable not knowing what would happen with the open space, but Ed Mullin, an attorney representing Paone, said the Piszeks would “give that round to the Lands Trust,” and if the township didn’t want Paone to settle on the two parcels until the open space was transferred, “we will do that.”
After reviewing some deferrals for sidewalks and curbs and some waivers, the planning commission voted to recommend approval of the minor subdivision to the full board of commissioners.
Jake Lea, director of land preservation for the Lands Trust, said Wednesday that negotiations with the Piszek family were ongoing regarding the land.
“They [Piszeks] are willing to give it at a substantial discount or perhaps outright donation,” he said.