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Hatboro Looks to Reinvent Heavy Industrial Area

The borough council is considering an overlay district which would permit residential, retail and office uses in the heavy industrial section of town.

Hatboro municipal planner E. Van Rieker points out where an overlay is proposed on Hatboro's zoning map. Photo credit: Theresa Katalinas
Hatboro municipal planner E. Van Rieker points out where an overlay is proposed on Hatboro's zoning map. Photo credit: Theresa Katalinas
Homes adjacent to industrial businesses?

It could happen if the Hatboro Borough Council moves forward on a proposed zoning overlay envisioned for its existing heavy industrial area. 

In a nutshell, the recommendation from municipal planner E. Van Rieker
calls for the rezoning of a portion of Springdale Avenue and the creation of overlay zoning that would permit additional uses along portions of Jacksonville Road and Bonair, Lincoln, Springdale, Summit and Tanner avenues.

Van Rieker presented his suggestions to about two dozen community members and the Hatboro Borough Council in an informal gathering prior to Monday night's council meeting. He first presented the concept to the council in November.

The intent, Van Rieker said, is to build on the success of the former Stove Works manufacturing facility, which has since evolved into the Hatboro Lofts apartment building. 

The overlay, he said, would serve as an "exit strategy" for industrial facilities seeking a new life, particularly one of a residential nature. 

"That doesn’t take away any of the uses that are already there," Van Rieker said. "The underlying uses and the underlying map remain as is. Nothing changes."

Meaning if an industrial business would like to continue operating as it has been, the overlay would not impact its ability to do so. 

Under Van Rieker's proposal, overlay uses would be approved on a conditional use basis provided that applicants are able to meet requirements set forth by the council. 

Hatboro resident Ron Battis voiced concern that the overlay, could, in essence, result in residences being built right beside heavy industrial businesses. 

"That’s a risk for the first guy to take," borough attorney Christen Pionzio said, adding that the hope is for property owners to combine their parcels and move forward with collaborative efforts. "That underlying zoning can stay and those guys can stay and anybody who moves in needs to understand that."

The overlay, if enacted, "adds a strategy in terms of your ability to sell to someone else," Van Rieker said. 

The borough can not rezone the area to something else altogether, Pionzio said, adding that heavy industrial uses are required to be designated under the law. 

"(Hatboro) has to have some heavy industrial somewhere in the borough or we’re in big trouble," Pionzio said. "We’re providing the heavy industrial, but giving an option for residential."

Council President John Zygmont confirmed that the overlay conforms to the law, which requires uses to be provided under the borough's zoning. 

"As long as we’ve got it on the map, we’re good," Zygmont said. "We haven’t zoned it out of existence."

A draft ordinance, taking into account comments from residents, would be drawn up as soon as possible, Pionzio said. From there, a public hearing would be scheduled for a future borough council committee meeting, according to Zygmont. The ordinance would be adopted at the governing body's regular meeting two weeks following the public hearing, he said. 

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