Board holds hear­ing on pro­posed over­lay

New map could al­low low-im­pact uses on un­der­uti­lized prop­er­ties

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @Dan­sokil on Twit­ter

UP­PER GWYNEDD >> A new over­lay dis­trict meant to spur de­vel­op­ment along Sum­ney­town Pike is an­other step closer to be­ing on the books.

The town­ship com­mis­sion­ers held a for­mal hear­ing to dis­cuss a new Sum­ney­town Pike over­lay, al­low­ing new uses on a stretch of sev­eral neigh­bor­ing prop­er­ties.

“Once the text is adopted, you can al­ways ex­tend it, with a fu­ture map amend­ment if you want

to ap­ply it to other prop­er­ties up and down Sum­ney­town Pike,” said town­ship so­lic­i­tor David Ono­rato.

Since Fe­bru­ary 2018, staff and the board have dis­cussed ways to al­low dif­fer­ent types of uses and en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment along the stretch now pro­posed for in­clu­sion in the over­lay, on the north side of Sum­ney­town Pike roughly be­tween Al­len­town Road and Broad Street.

Dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ Nov. 19 meet­ing, the board held a for­mal pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed over­lay, and Ono­rato and plan­ning and zon­ing of­fi­cer Van Rieker gave de­tails.

“What it does is, it lays out by way of an over­lay dis­trict an area of Sum­ney­town Pike for dif­fer­ent uses, pro­vided cer­tain con­di­tions are met,” Ono­rato said.

The north side of Sum­ney­town Pike where the over­lay has been pro­posed is cur­rently zoned for a mix of R-1 and R-2 res­i­den­tial, with a par­cel of in­sti­tu­tional zon­ing just west of Al­len­town Road and com­mer­cial zon­ing sur­round­ing the in­ter­sec­tion at Broad Street.

“The over­lay is just what it sounds like: it’s a twopart zon­ing dis­trict. The un­der­ly­ing zon­ing will not be changed,” Rieker said.

The over­lay text amend­ment dis­cussed dur­ing the hear­ing spells out the terms and con­di­tions for those prop­erty own­ers to seek per­mis­sion for a new use by fol­low­ing the town­ship’s con­di­tional use ap­proval process.

“Tonight is the text only, which amends the zon­ing or­di­nance text. Your next step would be to ID the par­tic­u­lar prop­er­ties,” said Rieker.

“We think we have some in mind: six or seven, ba­si­cally op­po­site the Merck frontage. That is not the dis­cus­sion tonight, but it will be, per­haps in a month or two,” he said.

Sev­eral of the prop­erty own­ers had con­tacted the town­ship to ask about op­tions, Rieker told the board, and the or­di­nance de­vel­oped by staff has been vet­ted by both the town­ship and Mont­gomery County plan­ning com­mis­sions.

“It sets for­ward what the ap­pli­cant needs to present to the town­ship in terms of plans, traf­fic im­pact study, land­scape plan, ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings, things like that,” Rieker said.

Staff are en­vi­sion­ing the first draft of the over­lay to en­com­pass prop­er­ties be­tween the rail­road over­pass that crosses Sum­ney­town, farther west to in­clude the prop­erty just east of Keif­fer’s Ap­pli­ances and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“The uses that would be al­lowed by con­di­tional use, that are not now al­lowed in the un­der­ly­ing zon­ing, are: mini stor­age fa­cil­ity, multi-fam­ily dwelling not to ex­ceed eight dwellings per acre, low-im­pact busi­ness or pro­fes­sional of­fice of not more than 6,000 square feet in floor area,” Ono­rato said.

“Those are the uses we’re tar­get­ing for this area, which would be over and above what are al­lowed now,” he said.

Rieker said those uses were se­lected be­cause all would likely have min­i­mal im­pact on traf­fic in that area, and ex­pand­ing the area could be ad­dressed as the town­ship up­dates its com­pre­hen­sive plan in 2019.

“We’re look­ing for uses that would not have high (traf­fic) vol­ume as the end re­sult,” he said.

The ex­hibits in­cluded in the hear­ing on Nov. 19 in­cluded a draft of the or­di­nance, a proof of pub­li­ca­tion, and a re­view let­ter from the Mont­gomery County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Rieker said a sim­i­lar let­ter had not yet been re­ceived from the town­ship’s plan­ning com­mis­sion, but mem­bers had vis­ited the sites in ques­tion and would likely is­sue their own let­ter in De­cem­ber.

Com­mis­sioner Jim Santi asked if for­mal­iz­ing or ex­pand­ing the area un­der the over­lay would re­quire any ad­di­tional changes to the text of the over­lay or­di­nance it­self. Ono­rato said it would not, and once the over­lay is on the books, only changes to the map would be needed.

“We have max­i­mum flex­i­bil­ity at this point,” Ono­rato said.

Up­per Gwynedd’s com­mis­sion­ers next meet at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, 1 Park­side Place.

IM­AGE COUR­TESY OF UP­PER GWYNEDD TOWN­SHIP

A por­tion of Up­per Gwynedd Town­ship’s zon­ing map show­ing dif­fer­ent zon­ing ar­eas along Sum­ney­town Pike. From left to right on the north side of Sum­ney­town are a shop­ping cen­ter dis­trict, town­house res­i­den­tial, gar­den apart­ments, R-2 res­i­den­tial on the north side and R-3 res­i­den­tial to the south, and of­fice cen­ter at Sum­ney­town and Broad. On the east side of Broad Street is a com­mer­cial dis­trict, then more R-2, then an in­sti­tu­tional zone sur­rounded by R-1 res­i­den­tial, all across from lim­ited in­dus­trial zon­ing for Merck fa­cil­i­ties on the south side of Sum­ney­town.

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