The Horsham Township Council received a whopping “zero applications” for members to oversee what could quite possibly be the municipality’s largest land redevelopment process ever.
So, instead of drawing from a candidate pool, the Republican-controlled governing body seemed to stay within its comfort zone in appointing four current Horsham Land Reuse Authority members – including two sitting Horsham Township councilmen and a former councilwoman - to pick up where the existing board left off in repurposing 861 acres of the shuttered air base.
“It’s trying to keep the transition from planning to reuse smooth,” said Horsham Township Council President Mark McCouch, one of five members appointed Monday. “We don’t want any bumps in the roads.”
In addition to McCouch, Horsham Township Councilman and current Horsham Land Reuse Authority Chairman W. William Whiteside will serve on the board, along with former Councilwoman and existing HLRA board member Joanna Furia. Other HLRA members, William Donnelly and Hatboro-Horsham School District Superintendent Curtis Griffin were also appointed. Griffin is the lone appointee who lives outside of Horsham.
The council said previously that all of the new board’s members were required to be Horsham residents, but solicitor Mary Eberle told Patch that the member needed to either live, work or do business in Horsham.
“It was important to have a representative from the school district,” Horsham Township Councilman Gregory Nesbitt said. The district intends to build a new middle school on 40 acres of the base property.
The appointees received unanimous approval from the three council members present Monday. Councilman Andrew Santacroce and Councilwoman Deborah Tustin were absent from Monday’s meeting.
Whiteside said he expects some overlap between the dissolution of the existing HLRA and the emergence of the new board, which is called the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority. Particularly until the federal government “recognizes” the new authority, which Whitesaid could take months, it will be difficult for the new board to hold meetings or conduct business.
Officials said it was not clear when the seven-member HLRA would cease meeting and when the new five-member board would begin scheduling its meetings.
One of the first steps for the new Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority is to apply for grants to cover the costs of hiring consultants to guide the process of applying for an economic development conveyance and redeveloping the site.
An economic development conveyance would require “some sort of upfront payment,” as well as a commitment of future revenues, but would give the community “maximum flexibility,” said former HLRA consultant Russell Archambault, who, along with his firm, RKG Associates, has overseen 50 military base redevelopment projects.
Described previously as a type of “layaway,” HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee said during a past HLRA meeting that the notion of an economic development conveyance – in which the newly formed authority could serve as the site’s master developer – in no way encumbers future boards or local government to follow that protocol.
The appointees and terms
- Curtis Griffin, Hatboro-Horsham School District Superintendent, was appointed to a one-year term which expires on Dec. 31, 2013
- William Donnelly, a Republican Committeeman and volunteer on several township boards, was appointed for a two-year term through Dec. 31, 2014
- Mark McCouch, Horsham Township Council president, was the only appointee not currently serving on the Horsham Land Reuse Authority. McCouch’s three-year term expires on Dec. 31, 2015
- Joanna Furia, a former Horsham Township Councilwoman, was appointed for a four-year term that expires on Dec. 31, 2016
- W. William Whiteside, a Horsham Township Councilman and current HLRA chairman, was appointed to a five-year term that expires on Dec. 31, 2017.
Once the members’ terms expire, Whiteside said reappointments would be for five-year terms. Terms could continue for the foreseeable future as McGee told Patch last week that the entire site redevelopment could take 25 years, "if we're lucky."