Air Base Plan Signatures Away from Submission

The plan will be sent to the federal government by Friday; the Horsham Township Council considers forming a new authority to manage the development process.

The final roadblock for submitting the approved redevelopment plan for has been cleared, officials said Monday. 

An agreement has been reached related to a legally binding agreement for a roughly seven-acre parcel earmarked for homeless housing on the 862-acre tract, Horsham Township Manager Bill Walker notified the governing body during Monday night’s meeting.

“As of this afternoon we do have an agreement,” Walker said. “Signatures are expected Wednesday.”

From there, the mixed-use blueprint for the bulk of the 1,100-acre former military base will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Department of Defense on Friday, Walker said.

The finalized plan, which has been seven years in the making, had been . But, last week Horsham Land Reuse Authority Executive Director Mike McGee told Patch because of the inability to come to terms on a legally binding agreement for the submission.

Now, signatures away from being complete, Walker said that next step can finally be taken.

Looking ahead

With the redevelopment plan approved locally and awaiting review by federal officials expected to take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, Walker said the next logical step is for the township council to create an implementation authority to pick up where the HLRA left off.

Once formed, this new body would carry out necessary steps for the base property to transfer from the federal government to the yet-to-be-formed authority as an economic development conveyance. . 

As officials consider the projected for the base’s redevelopment, Walker noted that grant considerations are also an important part of the project.

“They normally will not give funding and a grant for an economic development application without having an implementation authority in existence,” Walker said.

The governing body took no action Monday night. Instead, Walker said staff would draft an ordinance for the council’s review at its May 9 meeting. It could then be considered for adoption during one of the council’s June meetings.

Walker said it is a roughly nine-month process to complete the economic development conveyance application. Once it’s submitted, negotiations would begin with the Department of the Navy, he said.

Horsham Township attorney Mary Eberle said, “what’s going to happen next is just as dramatic” as the redevelopment plan and approval. The economic development plan, she said, would demonstrate to the government that what has been proposed can work financially.

“In the ideal world, if everything went right we’re looking at all this to be completed by 2015,” Walker said. “We have a lot of work to do.” 

you've got to be kidding April 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I think this is bogus! my fiances parents have talked about moving for yrs but now that the shelter is going to be built they are listing their house this weekend because of the fear of their home value going to shit because of something like this. I might seem heartless but like some others have said if you look at other homeless shelters the level of crime increases and the areas value decreases. Im looking to buy a home and now know to stay far from willow grove. Built this in an area of bucks that already has low income because those will be the people moving into the shelter
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 01:32 PM
First, a homeless shelter is not - and has never been - part of the plan. Permanent supportive housing, in the form of 70 townhouses, will be built and first preferences will be given to veterans. http://patch.com/A-s44b Second, please refrain from using foul language on this site as it violates Patch's terms of service.
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 06:56 PM
What was a "slip in"??? ... the homeless conveyance??? If that's your contention your completely misunderstanding. The homeless conveyance is a federal Congressional mandate for BRAC'd properties. The conveyance was presented and voted on by the HLRA in very, very public meetings. The redevelopment plan would NEVER be approved or released to Horsham for development without the homeless conveyance being included. If my interpretation is wrong here, my apologies. But then I don;t know what "slip in" you're talking about.
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 07:01 PM
We're speaking of homeless veterans. I think we owe it to them to give them especially a hand up!
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Without a runway they'll just have to relocate somewhere that does have a runway .... like McGuire AFB where all the other flying units went. I'm not sure why we're even talking about this ... other than using it as a wedge to re-open the runway/airport door for all the flytoys. Not gonna happen ...
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 07:13 PM
It's NOT going to be a shelter! These will be homes where the occupying homeless U.S. MILITARY VETERANS will be required to have jobs and apply 30% (I think) of their earnings towards paying the mortgage. This encourages upkeep, proper maintenence, involvement, responsibility! People need to educate themselves before engaging their keyboards. Seriously, if your reason for selling your home in Horsham is because of this attempt to give homeless VETERANS a hand up, don't let the door hit you on the derriere on the way out!
David Pitcairn April 25, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Theresa, please correct me if this is wrong but I believe they said in one of the meetings that the homes would not be turned over to the residents, they would be maintained by the Bucks County Housing Authority. I take that to mean they will ensure the units will not become an eyesore. Unfortunately I can't find absolute confirmation of this. Your article says that the homeless would pay about 30% of the rent which implies to me that the BCHA is the landlord and would be responsible for upkeep. http://uppermoreland.patch.com/articles/hlra-set-to-adopt-air-base-plan-429d89ee
JG April 25, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Call it what you want. Not happy and that is my opinion. No need for names, or stupid responses. And yes I feel like that was a slip in. And don't call it homeless housing if that term is incorrect because I am using this article for updates. What I do understand is that generally, no matter who inhabits these types of properties, the end result is still the same. Poor upkeep. I don't deny anyone a helping hand or a fresh start but don't you play the military card for sympathy either. Let's just see how these look in 10 years. Where do you live? Maybe we could put it next to your house? Maybe your idea of well kept and mine are entirely different. And let's not act like Horsham doesn't have some real eyesores here. Oh and I loved having the A-10's etc. I would have loved it!
David Pitcairn April 25, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Are you suggesting that the PA Air National Guard should relocate from Horsham to NJ so we have to beg NJ for disaster support? Just teasing you but it does sound like it.
Captain Homeless April 25, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Captain Clueless: Educate yourself! The Federal Government is REQUIRED to remediate any environmental contamination present at the site BEFORE handing over the land officially or allowing any development. Seriously, people should check things out before running around with their Cap Locks on!
Mike Shortall Sr April 25, 2012 at 09:23 PM
New Jersey isn't exactly a foreign country. Nor are they located thousands of miles away. And the last time I checked the Horsham-based ANG units are not the only ones located in Pennsylvania.
David Pitcairn April 25, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Mike, True, there are two other PA ANG units. I suppose they could change the name of the 111th to the NJ Air National Guard since they would not be in PA any more. And the Army units could leave also, the ones Charles was talking about with his helicopter question that started all this, which had nothing to do with the runway debate as he pointed out. We misunderstood his question, obviously. See this for more information about the ANG. http://pa.ng.mil/ANG/Pages/default.aspx Glad to see you at least appreciate our homeless veterans, even as you propose that our still serving veterans should move out of PA. I do agree with you about the homeless veterans housing by the way.
David Pitcairn April 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Mike, You are incorrect. That used to be the case however now the Federal Government is only required to return the property to EPA standards for industrial use, not residential. Apparently the cost and hassle to return it to residential status is not something they want to deal with anymore so the rule was changed. That means Horsham township or a private developer (depending on who ends up being the master developer) will be responsible for any required cleanup to residential standards. Since you make is sound like you have done research to educate yourself on this issue, I will leave it to you to post the official web link you have found that backs up your claim ( I know the official information is out there because I looked it up and read it last spring). In the meantime, here is a news story excerpt quoting RKG that touches on the subject: Pointing to the environmental cleanup at the base over the last several years, Archambault said the military will not be cleaning the site up to residential standards. "If a housing development is considered, the cost of further cleanup has to be factored in. Is that cost-effective for that area? Those are the sort of things we have to look at." http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/the_intelligencer_news/article_35894c37-285c-55b6-ba23-22cba4691884.html
JG April 25, 2012 at 11:54 PM
JG April 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
OK but when you stated homeless housing, for those of us not going to every town meeting it sounds like something else. I still expect those "temporary" homes for people to be kept up. I would think if people have fallen on hard times (and we have been there twice btw) they would be financially incapable of keeping their homes up. And if the BCHA is taking care them I would agree with DPitcairn below. And someone please educate me as to why Bucks County Housing has control? Or is Bucks just in the name of this Authority? Is this actually a Bucks County thing? If so, isn't this Montgomery County? I realize we still think it's Willow Grove because of the name. Please clarify this for me. Thanks.
David Pitcairn April 26, 2012 at 12:22 AM
JG, I think the confusion comes from the claims by the no airport people that the redevelopment decision is not a regional issue when in fact it is mandated to be a regional decision as to what occurs there. That is why the HLRA voting members include a person from Montgomery County and also Warrington in Bucks County. In addition, since the homeless housing is required by the base closure process, a proposal had to be accepted. If an identical proposal had been submitted by a Montgomery county homeless organization, then it could have been accepted instead.
JG April 26, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Thanks for the info DP. In the end I think they get to do what they want with the space around us.
Want to be informed April 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I don't understand why they would use that for the homeless? I am wondering why the empty housing on the old Warminster air base is not being used for such purpose? It's all just sitting there, empty.
Mike Shortall Sr April 26, 2012 at 02:20 AM
a) I never had a problem with the airbase when it was functional. b) I live in Horsham, about 1/2 mile from the fenceline. My apologies if my tone offended. I get a little annoyed when people act as if certain aspects of this process was "pulled over their eyes" or slipped in, when this has been a very public, very law-driven (as in Congressional law) process. I still think the very least we can do - if we MUST accomodate a homeless conveyance as prescribed by law - is provide a few homeless vets a chance to get back on their feet. I do not think that's "playing the military card for sympathy." Just my opinion ...
Mike Shortall Sr April 26, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Dave, you're a real peach. You remind so much of all your flyboy friends trying to convince all of us that an airport would be "so good for Horsham". So I'm hardly surprised that you would misrepresent - quite purposefully I believe - what I said. I never said "our still serving vetereans should move out of PA". It's ONE unit under the very unlikely scenario that Pennsylvania ever gave them another flying mission. In that case, they could simply fly somewhere else, be it New Jersey or Pittsburgh or wherever. Nice try though ..
Mike Shortall Sr April 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Well, Dave, once again ... Not what I said. I said remediate. I never got into what level of decontamination was required. There's plenty of uncontaminated ground that can be used for residential development. I'm pretty sure that Horsham - or whoever - would never be allowed to place residential development on contaminated grounds. Are you guys really that desperate to keep the airport issue alive?
David Pitcairn April 26, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Mike, I think you are being unfair to me but that is OK since I am the one teasing you, I will continue to strive to not misrepresent anything, despite what you might think. Maybe I should have inserted the word "some" so that you would not mentally stick in an "all", as in, all our still serving veterans should leave, which you did not say but you did sort of imply by saying they could move to NJ (we understand it could be elsewhere in PA but it still means leaving Horsham and the Army might then have to leave also). I think people can see what you meant. I was just teasing you, as I tried to warn you by saying as much in my earlier comment. I will stop teasing you now. Sorry. That said, you should look in the mirror when you make claims about my intentions. You may always believe what you say however I have not found you to be 100% factually correct, unbiased or not misleading with everything you say, whether it is deliberate or not I do not know. I strive to not misrepresent and misinform (except when I teased you and said as much, at which time you could have let it go at face value) and am happy to be corrected by facts. At the same time I try to do enough research before commenting such that I have the facts when I make a claim or statement. Not saying you don't mind you, it is very hard for either of us to know everything.
David Pitcairn April 26, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I do not know the answer to your question however they did consider the Navy Lodge earlier in the process, the plan was to turn it into apartments for the homeless. That later changed to the current plan. Here is an except from and article and a link: Instead of being situated at the site of the Navy Lodge, the 70 townhouses – a change from the 30 one to two bedroom apartments – are planned for a roughly 10-acre area near the Horsham Air Guard Station. http://horsham.patch.com/articles/hlra-set-to-adopt-air-base-plan
David Pitcairn April 26, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Mike, Fair enough, however I simply responded to what you typed and I stand by my comment as completely fair, and appropriate. Sure you did not say residential however you were responding to a comment about residential use specifically and you used the term "any contamination" which I took to mean the same as all contamination. If you had said the words you are now saying was your intended point, I would not have commented so thanks for clarifying.
David Pitcairn April 26, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Mike, One last thing. I don't see why my commenting on homeless housing, that is required with or without and airport, should be inferred as having anything to do with an airport. It is an independent issue. I agree with you that residential housing will not be placed on land that does not meet EPA standards. RKG has said that they will look at all that if they have not done so already. Like you, I would hope they will either place it on land that does not need to be cleaned up or they will try and estimate the cost to clean it up if necessary. They said in one HLRA meeting that the cost to tear down the buildings will be spread across all tenants, or something very close to those words. I wonder if pollution cleanup will be handled the same way, assuming it is needed.
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Hi, If you're referring to Shenandoah Woods, I believe part of that is going to be used to accommodate the homeless: http://patch.com/A-k48K
JG April 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Mike-Yes it is your opinion and I appreciate you removing your tone. These are all of our opinions and there is no need for tones. And regardless, the "slip in" for me is that there was really never any chance that I or anyone else ever had the power to veto something like this "military support housing" or whatever the term is for this. It was a decision that was going to happen whether anyone wanted it or not, whether it's the right thing to do or not just like the base closing really had nothing to do with the people who live in the township. Again, I just want the housing to be kept up and maintained and historically there is a certain level of degradation that comes from having "housing" such as what will be zoned in the old Airbase space. Frankly, there are people in my own neighborhood who can't keep their houses up and that makes me mad too. I will miss the airbase, the planes and the amazing skyline that I would see on a beautiful sunset evening. There are no views like that around here and now even that will go away. So in the end Horsham, like all the other townships, has caved into the usual boring, shopping centers, housing developments etc. How original for us. Just keep it clean!!!
History April 27, 2012 at 12:37 AM
I am not sure what went on in the Willow Grove Air Base but let me tell you about its sister site. Here’s a little story about the old Johnsville NADC in Warminster. It was listed as one of the top ten hazardous waste sites in the USA. Many years ago when we were fighting in WWII they were busy trying to develop chemical and biological warfare right there in Warminster. Many 55 gallon barrels of classified undocumented chemicals were buried there. I know because I grew up here and knew officers who were retired from there years ago. When they started building Anne’s Choice and the other businesses, I remember the reaction from a retired Vet before he passed. He told me you better hope they found all those barrels, and God help us all if any of them break open. There are 8 Aquifers that feed Warminster’s well water. One of them is directly below the old NADC. To this day the EPA has some sort of machine that is constantly testing the water only at the one Aquifer at the old NADC and will set off bells if it detects something. When I spoke to the EPA concerning the issue they informed me the only problem is they can’t test for the unknown. They can only test for acidy and chemical bases.
James Kephart Jr. May 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Okay then - To Monday morning quarterback all of this: I think the Pitcairn family should have had the opportunity to buy back the land at the same price the gov't guilted them into selling it for. Then all of us in the peanut gallery wouldn't have a say. It looks like the Pitcairn's would have kept the runway and incorporated a small airport (no fed ex/ups flights) into the development of the entire site. Just wait and see what the costs are to clean up parts of this site for use as residential property. A site in Sunnyvale, CA was estimated to have exceeded 1 million per acre back in 2000. Hope the contamination @ Willow Grove is minimal.


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