Open Letter to the Whitpain Supervisors
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
August 17, 2020
There are two proposed ordinance changes going through the Whitpain review and approval process. After much discussion with township residents and staff, as well as input from the Planning Commission meeting of August 11, it has become obvious that both proposed ordinances are meaningfully flawed, albeit for different reasons. The board of directors for WhitpainResidents.org (WRO) has voted to oppose each of these initiatives and requests the Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors take action at its next meeting to withdraw these proposed changes.
Ordinance #4-254 - Independent/Assisted Living Facility/Personal Care Home overlay
Ordinance #4-254 details a zoning overlay for the property on Skippack Pike informally known as Reeds Restaurant/Bar. Approximately two years ago and again in February, North Point Development Corporation completed informal presentations for their plan to build an assisted living facility with residential townhomes in the back of the property. At both presentations, many questions and concerns were raised. These concerns were left unaddressed as the plan has not changed in two years. This proposed ordinance is a clear attempt to short-cut the standard review and approval process for the plan, giving the developer a by-right path to construction. It shifts the risk to the township by allowing the developer to construct any plan that meets this text regardless of what has been presented. There are many concerns unanswered about the wetlands, flooding, traffic, and especially density of the townhomes. This is not opposition to the plan per se; we are opposed to the short-cut that would be enacted via this zoning change. There is no appropriate reason to bypass the existing zoning hearing and review process for this development plan, and this ordinance should be withdrawn.
Ordinance #4-252 - Updates for “Family”, “Group Home” and “Sober Living Environment”
Ordinance #4-252 is intended to update code definitions for Family, Group Homes, and Sober Living Environments. Based on our experience with the 2018 proposal for 813 Stonybrook, we recognize the importance of such an update. While there are several clear improvements in this text, this proposed ordinance falls short and should not move forward until this is addressed. During our conversation with Solicitor Alex Glassman and again during the recent Planning Commission meeting, it was confirmed that if this text were in place at the time, the sober house attempted for 813 Stonybrook would have been enacted by-right for up to 7 residents. It follows that if this proposed ordinance is enacted, a change-of-use request for that property would result, eliminating everything that was accomplished last year. Several options for modifying this ordinance were discussed with the solicitor to provide a greater level of awareness and oversight, and it became clear that sufficient due diligence has not been completed. The defense of the as-is wording was that municipalities cannot restrict these groups any more than traditional families. However the proposed text already includes added requirements, nearby municipalities have additional constraints, and even the PA law signed by Governor Wolf in December 2017 contains extra conditions (although none have taken effect yet). Therefore additional requirements are possible; the question is which ones should be included for Whitpain? Until the text contains sufficient protections, this proposed ordinance must be put on hold.
At the time of this letter, both proposed ordinances are anticipated to be on the agenda for the September 15 Board of Supervisors meeting. We request that the Supervisors take action at their August 18 meeting to withdraw these proposed items from the September agenda.
Thank you for your time, attention, and action.
www.WhitpainResident.org, Board of Directors