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With Airport Rejected, Roads Through Base Approved

The Horsham Land Reuse Authority acted on 17 notices of interest submitted for various parcels of Willow Grove air base, including roadways that would be extended through the property.

Transportation is king for the Willow Grove air base redevelopment.

And, with an , the Horsham Land Reuse Authority agreed Wednesday that including other modes of transportation, such as bike trails and roads, is key. 

The HLRA gave the ok for further consideration to just under half of the 17 notices of interest for various entities looking to acquire land for free or at a dramatically reduced cost. For the most part, that means the HLRA’s consultant, RKG Associates, will incorporate those greenlighted applications into one of three potential redevelopment plans to be presented at the HLRA’s Aug. 17 meeting.

“Our approval or acceptance of an NOI provides direction,” HLRA Chairman W. William Whiteside said. “Approval tonight is also not a guarantee that the use will integrate well.”

The alternative to an airport, the extension of roads through the air base - in essence cutting through the existing runway - was one that received the board’s approval.

for a series of roads – Maple Avenue, Norristown Road, Precision Drive and Privet Road - bordering the air base. The plan, township manager Bill Walker said back in March, involves extending the roads through the 1,100-acre property to allow for better traffic flow.

"Our problem in town is not necessarily going east and west," Walker said prior to the township’s application being submitted. "The problem is going north and south. There’s no way through the base."

Horsham also received approval for its two other applications:

  • Plans to increase its existing park land and open space from 814 acres to 942 acres (a request of an additional 128 acres of base property)                                                                                
  • The base’s 1.8-acre fire station, which would provide service to the new development and could potentially be leased to the county for hazmat equipment storage

The Bucks County Housing Group’s request for a 75-acre parcel used to construct 105 permanent assisted living residences for homeless individuals and families generated lots of questions and concerns prior to the HLRA’s approval.

Officials said the 105 units, as proposed, would meet 85 percent of the need for homeless housing in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Several residents seemed to take issue with that assertion.

“Why are we worried about another county’s identified needs?” A man asked.

Others worried that, since the base redevelopment could take decades to move to fruition, the need for homeless housing could increase, resulting in the 105-unit proposal growing to something much larger.

HLRA board member Donnamarie Davis said 105 would be the cap.

“The number will never be above 105,” Davis said. “It can be lower than 105.”

The received greater assurance Wednesday that its will remain in Horsham, even after the base is closed. The HLRA approved a joint application that DVHAA submitted with Montgomery County for a park and an expanded aviation museum.

HLRA consultants said the plan requires some fine-tuning, particularly since DVHAA applied for five separate base locations with varying land requests. 

“We need to understand the concept of what’s being planned and how it fits into the overall plan,” said consultant Russell Archambault of RKG Associates.

Additional NOIs approved: 

  • A for to build a new school within the next 30 years. Superintendent Curtis Griffin, an HLRA board member, said the district is a “long way” from constructing a new facility. “We put in for the land for consideration to have a better understanding what the needs are with the redevelopment,” Griffin said. “We may withdraw the request based on development needs.”                                      
  • Horsham water and sewer authority requested eight easements and/or fee title for construction of future water/sewer mains throughout the base, as well as a water storage facility

NOIs denied for free/reduced fee land:

  • YMCA of Philadelphia and Vicinity                                              
  • ACTS Retirement Communities, which proposed building 300-350 independent living units; 40-60 assisted living units and a 60-bed skilled nursing facility, was a use that the HLRA thought should be included in the redevelopment, just not as a public benefit conveyance                                                                  
  • ESI Equipment Inc., which proposed using base property for a training center for rescue personnel was rejected because the organization did not qualify for a public benefit conveyance and data submitted was incomplete.                                                
  • Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue was interested in using the base’s fire station to house regional operations that support public safety agencies. The HLRA said the group could be considered later, just not as a public benefit conveyance.             
  • ATG Learning Academy proposed moving its special needs school from Warminster to Horsham. The HLRA said that could be a possibility, but the land would not be granted for free or at a reduced cost.
  • Play and Learn Inc., proposed using existing 6,000 to 12,000 square feet, or new three to five acres for a childcare facility. Since childcare is not an allowed use for a public benefit conveyance, the HLRA opted not to include this in its redevelopment plan.
  • America Responds With Love was interested in securing 20,000 square feet for donations; land for growing flowers; and land to build a 40-unit handicapped housing facility.

  • Philadelpia Stand Down proposed using a portion of base property to provide service to homeless veterans. 

Mott1 July 28, 2011 at 09:40 AM
First, a round of applause to Patch for some great reporting over a long period of time on this issue. I supported an airport but pledged that I would accept whatever the HLRA voted for. Congrats to the No Airport supporters and their efforts. Time to move forward. Horsham was and will be a great place to live as we go forward.
Craig Peters July 28, 2011 at 12:16 PM
+1 for Patch -- keep up the great work.
Allen Presley July 28, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Excellant reporting. thanks for the continued job of excellence.
Joe July 28, 2011 at 03:24 PM
Why would they deni the YMCA? Has anyone seen the Hatboro Ymca and how cramped they are at their current location?
Carol Inman July 28, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Teresa et. al: I, too, would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of people who thank you for your excellent reporting as well as light handed responses, when appropriate, to a highly contentious debate. Patch was created to carry local news stories that are no longer being covered by major media sources which is in and of itself a service to the community. But it. As has become evident during the course of these mini discussions is that patch also provides a venue for dialogue among citizens. I can say that for myself and I believe for many others who are concerned about this issue,I have benefited from listening to other people's viewpoints and I've learned a lot from my neighbors, Thanks to Teresa and her team for providing us all with not one but two critical services!
David July 28, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Excellent reporting, thank you for the update. Are they planning on building a homeless shelter 'beside' a new school? -Father of two young girls (who will be attending Simmons)
Siobhra DeWar July 29, 2011 at 12:01 AM
They are planning a lot of things that don't bring in taxes. But will cost money to maintain. Parks, schools, fire house etc. The must leave some land to people who will pay tax. And remember most of the NIMBY's who own the township are rich and are not interested in the YMCA. And they don't want a lot of low income families coming into the area.
Pete Krenshaw July 29, 2011 at 04:46 AM
I agree with you Siobhra. In my post on the other article I probably used too much sarcasm which may have been hard to read into. Horsham Township NIMBYs are calling all the shots and are not looking at the big picture. They seem to only care about themselves and their own little world. It doesn't matter that within this REGION we have Willow Grove Mall, Valley Square and countless other strip malls. All of which are having a tough time filling their stores with viable businesses. And lets not forget all the office space along 611 and Dresher Road, just to name a few. So I really don't see how a towncenter concept could offer anything good to our region.
Mike Shortall Sr July 29, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Several points must be made here: 1. It wasn't the Hatboro YMCA that was requesting a Public Benefit Conveyance. It was the Philadelphia branch. 2. The YMCA NOI was rejected - if I recall correctly - because it did not have the necessary and required support from a recognized PBC-eligible federal agency. That's a requirement from federal BRAC law. 3. Siobhra: You attempts to paint the Horsham "NIMBYs" as uncaring towards low income familites is just sour grapes on your part, since your earlier posts here were in full support of an airport and you did not get your way. 4. Pete: The problem is that you have such a hard time comprehending that federal BRAC Law deliberately puts the decision-making process in the hands of local people, whose backyards are - in every sense of the word - the ones MOST AFFECTED by any decisions. That includes the consequences of not getting a healthy, economically feasible re-development plan in place should we fail. 5. If you have a problem with the way Horsham looked out for their own here, you can blame all the larger regional authorities, who sat on their hands while Horsham did what was necessary (i.e. applying for LRA status) to control the fate of the JRB-WG site.
Mike Shortall Sr July 29, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Two things, David ... 1. Federal law REQUIRES that 10% (I think) of any BRAC-disposed property must go to homeless housing. It was a Congressional requirement, I believe. 2. Whatever homeless initiative gets included, there was no determination where on the site that it would be placed. That will be decided somewhere down the road. In fact, it could very well (and more probably) end up being housed in Warminster/Ivyland, where housing associated with JRB-WG and controlled by the HLRA as part of their redevelopment responsibilities. This twist occurred because both of those communities decided to punt those decisions to the Horsham LRA. (Thank you very much!)
Mike Shortall Sr July 29, 2011 at 03:24 PM
I would also like to add my thanks to those expressed above. You could not find adequate coverage of this issue on the regions "major" news media. It was always refreshing to see The Patch represented by Theresa at the meetings!
Pete Krenshaw July 29, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Hatboro Mike, you do raise valid points. And as another person commented back to me on the sister article by Theresa, it is by a technicality I live on the other side of County Line Road. So even though my back yard is literally at the base, I don't have much of a say since I don't even live in Montgomery County. As I said in a comment in the other article, I would hear the drone of the turbo-props and the roar of the planes taking off. Yet I still believe an airport would have benefited the region as a whole. Alas, my view was not shared by the majority and now we move on. I can only hope we are not adding more of the same which would struggle to find success.

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