Calling it a "housekeeping item" following the closure of Willow Grove air base and its runway, the Horsham Township Council again put the wheels in motion to amend zoning in the area surrounding the shuttered military base.
The governing body voted 4-0 Wednesday to introduce an ordinance to eliminate the so-called ACNOD, or Airport Crash and Noise Overlay District and to remove development restrictions currently in place. Councilwoman Deborah Tustin was absent Wednesday.
The governing body had originally introduced the ordinance in April 2011, prior to the Horsham Land Reuse Authority’s denial last summer of an airport on the bulk of 862 acres eyed for redevelopment. Then, in August 2012, the council had again introduced the ordinance, but did not adopt it.
Councilman W. William Whiteside, who chairs the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority, told Patch after the meeting that the governing body had not succeeded in adopting the ordinance within the 90-day window as required.
"Every time it came up, we ran into some sort of timing issue and it died," Whiteside said, adding that the elimination of the district is "just a housekeeping item."
Horsham Township Manager Bill Walker said the township will notify the 143 property owners situated within the ACNOD.
This time around, a public hearing is set for Feb. 13 at 7:45 p.m. Final adoption could follow that hearing and Whiteside said, "I think we'll get it done."
Council President Mark McCouch said previously that the council had enacted the ACNOD in 1998 as a way to protect “and not shut down” the air base. The ordinance resulted from a Navy study, which outlined potentially dangerous areas, particularly in the event of an aircraft crash.
The Navy specified a safety zone, McCouch said, “we came in with the ACNOD and made it a bigger circle.”
Keith Valley Road goes through the existing ACNOD, which abuts parts of County Line Road, as well as Commonwealth National Country Club, Deep Meadow Park, Samuel Carpenter Park, Valley View Estates and Lakeside Youth Service. Park Ridge Industrial Park is located within the ACNOD.
The current ordinance designates three different zones – an “accident potential zone,” a “clear zone,” and a “high noise exposure zone” – and restricts development based on the severity of danger. For the most part, zoning allows for agricultural uses, parks and light industrial or warehouse uses. Banks, restaurants, hotels, churches and daycare centers are not permitted uses in any of the three zones, according to the ordinance.
Regardless if the runway is ever used again or not, Walker said the existing ACNOD is irrelevant.
"The military's not coming back," Walker said. "Even if it was going to be a general aviation airport, it's a different study."
If the ACNOD is eliminated, Walker said property owners within that district could have greater development possibilities eventually. For the time being though, Walker said many still have federal restrictions in place.