When asked if he would rather have the existing businesses at 332 S. York Road demolished as part of a government buyout, or move a land development application forward and build 16 two-story apartments, Jim Case suggested it was a coin toss.
"Do you have a coin?" Case, a representative from Horizon Property Management asked Patch.
When pressed, Case and his partner, George Kiriakidi said a buyout is the preference for the flood-prone property where Manja Pizza and a handful of auto repair shops are currently located.
Despite the preference to demolish instead of build, Case, Kiriakidi and their attorney, Herb Rubenstein on Tuesday night began the first review of the land development plan with the Hatboro Planning Commission. The advisory board took no action on the plan, which involves the demolition of everything with the exception of Manja. As proposed, 16 two-story apartments would be constructed in addition to the restaurant.
Several commission members inquired about why they were even reviewing the plan since the applicant is in need of relief from the zoning hearing board and most of what was submitted is related to zoning.
Diane Hegele, assistant borough secretary, said the additional review was made on behalf of the governing body.
"Council wants to make sure this follows all the procedures and gets out to the public for comment," she said.
The virtually empty meeting room had very few members of the public present on Tuesday. Hatboro resident Bruce Hart, a regular at government and school board meetings, said he's lived in Hatboro since 1955 and has seen flood waters "over the top of the bridge."
Case said the property's high water mark is four feet and said that the residences would be built one foot higher than the highest water level, which would mean the first floor would be elevated five feet.
"Who would move into the floodplain?" Hart asked.
Case suggested that residents would know far in advance of impending flooding and could take appropriate action.
"The floods in this area only ever happen if there’s a hurricane," Case said. "Every flood is connected to a hurricane."
Certainly the last major flood of the South York Road property happened during Hurricane Irene
"I’m tired of this," Battis said, adding that residents of the proposed apartments would probably have to be "rescued at one point or another. Are you going to give us a boat?"
Because the property has housed auto repair shops for so long, Battis said it is likely contaminated and asked what Horizon Property Management would do to remediate the site.
"That’s a disaster down there," Battis said.
Case said "there’s no contaminants on that lot" and said that inspectors "drill holes all over the place" to check.
However, in order for the plans to advance, Horizon Property Management must obtain relief from the zoning hearing board to permit building in the floodplain. The applicants are slated to go before the zoners on March. 13.