Rezoning hearing to continue
Discussion on request for the Walter family’s property is scheduled to resume on Jan. 25
The conversation continued Wednesday night on plans to rezone a property on Cowpath Road in Hatfield from industrial to residential — and that conversation will continue for at least two more weeks.
“Tonight you’ll, for lack of a better term, stand down, and do your presentation at the next meeting, on Jan. 25,” commissioners President Tom Zipfel said.
Last month, a team of consultants presented plans on behalf of the Walter family, who have been seeking a change since summer of their property’s zoning to allow construction of 64 homes on a 35-acre parcel at Cowpath and Township Line roads.
Attorney Robert McNelly represented neighbors near the site in opposing the rezoning, and said he, land planner Creigh Rahenkamp and about half a dozen residents had prepared comments based on the testimony from last month. They were prepared to testify Wednesday, McNelly said, until the experts speaking in favor of the rezoning added new testimony and documents.
“It might make more sense, if we’re going to do it again, for (Rahenkamp) to put together a complete plan. He can do it at the same time, twice or once,” McNelly said.
Last month, attorney Frank Bartle led a team of consultants in nearly two hours of testimony describing the proposed plans, the
zoning of the property, the zoning in the surrounding area, and the Walter family’s history of splitting off other parcels for separate sales and asking for the zoning to be changed from industrial to residential.
Bartle and land planner John Kennedy updated that testimony Wednesday with several new exhibits, including a map Kennedy prepared that showed the Walter property, an adjacent parcel currently zoned industrial, and acres of surrounding parcels all zoned or used for residential purposes. That map, Kennedy said, was made to show that the residential zoning would not be out of place, and puts in colorized form his testimony from December.
“Last time, I made the representation to the board that this was essentially the ‘hole in the doughnut.’ This was the plan that was colorized to present that,” Kennedy said, pointing to the Walter property, which was surrounded by a sea of yellow-colored residential properties.
Kennedy and Bartle showed the zoning of that parcel on several historical township zoning maps, which Kennedy said he received in response to a right-to-know request after
the December hearing. Maps from 1950, 1976 and 1989 show progressively more industrial parcels being split up into residential uses, including a mobile home development located on Cowpath just next to the Walter parcel.
“At each stage, we’re seeing a number of properties that are converted from light industrial to something else. This is simply a graphic depiction of that fact,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy and Bartle said since the December hearing, their proposed rezone has been reviewed by the township and the Montgomery County planning commissions, and both have given their approval to the rezoning request.
“They pointed out that the zoning map amendment is in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan, Montco 2040, which was just adopted in 2016, and they recommended the
rezoning of the property,” Kennedy said.
He and Bartle also presented a fiscal impact analysis prepared by a third party and dated Jan. 3, 2017, which purported to estimate the impact to Hatfield Township and the North Penn School District of the proposed project. Adding the 64 new homes and based on multiplier factors, the development would have a net positive impact of roughly
$88,500 to the township, but a net negative impact of $426,000 to the school district, Kennedy said.
McNelly said he and his planner would need time to review the color-coded map to see if it corresponded with tax map parcels, and said he would prefer the financial impact statement be covered by testimony from its author, not by Kennedy and Bartle, who read excerpts.
“My job isn’t to convince you to do something, because you’re being asked by the applicant to do something,” McNelly said, referring to the request to rezone. “The applicant has no right to force you to do something. I’m just saying what I think is wrong with their request to rezone.”
Based on talks ahead of the start of the hearing last month, McNelly and Bartle said both sides had reached an agreement that both would be allowed to respond to any testimony, with enough time to prepare responses. Bartle said because of the holiday season between the December hearing and today, the 30day period in their informal agreement could not be met this time, but could be going ahead.
“We have absolutely no objection to affording him the opportunity that we said we would, and allowing him the opportunity of reviewing that document,” Bartle said.
No citizens offered public comment on the rezone request during Wednesday night’s meeting, and Zipfel joked that was because “everyone wants to wait until the 25th.”
The commissioners next meet at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the township administration building, 1950 School Road. For more information or meeting agendas and materials visit www.HatfieldTownship.org or follow @HatfieldPA on Twitter.
This is a concept plan for a proposed complex of 64 single-family homes to be built on a 35-acre parcel on Cowpath Road at Township Line Road, as presented to Hatfield Township Board of Commissioners on Dec. 7, 2016. The site plan is provided courtesy of Hatfield Township and was developed by Kennedy & Associates.