Zon­ing change pro­posal ques­tioned at UDPC meet­ing

The Ambler Gazette - - POLICEREPORTS - By Linda Finarelli

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.

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