County sells land to East Norriton for trails

Dan Clark of the Times Herald reports:

NORRISTOWN >> For $5, East Norriton purchased five parcels of land held in the county’s repository hoping to turn the empty lots into part of a trail that will eventually connect to trails in Plymouth Township and Norristown.

Montgomery County commissioners approved the sale to East Norriton at their meeting on Thursday.

“My office works very hard to be proactive and come up with a lot of ways for different levels of government to work together,” county Treasurer Jason Salus said. “To that end, several months ago we undertook an initiative whereby we notified all the surrounding property owners and school districts where parcels in the county property repository were located.”

Salus explained that repository properties are those that have gone unsold at tax sales.

“As part of that effort one of our notices went out to East Norriton Township notifying the local elected officials that there were a number of abandoned parcels, five, along the Sawmill Creek that were available for purchase,” Salus said.

Officials from East Norriton had expressed interest in the properties because they were in the process of obtaining other parcels of land for a pedestrian trail along the Sawmill Creek, Salus said.

The parcels of land are all in the flood plain and not big enough to develop on, he said.

“We’ve acquired about 20 of these properties along that stream already and we’re trying to join them all together and eventually build a trail that will connect to Norristown’s Sawmill Creek Trail that they’re in the planning process of with Montgomery County,” East Norriton Township Manager Donald Delamater said. “And in the other end connect to the Plymouth Township municipal complex trail. It would be a regional link that we’re hoping to achieve there.”

All of the land was given to residents as door prizes by movie theaters early in the 20th century. A previous article in The Reporter, a sister publication of The Times Herald, movie theaters would offer small plots of land as door prizes to encourage people to come to the movies.

However, the landowners often did not pay the taxes and did not do anything with the land. The land that ended up in the repository could not be sold at a tax sale.

“They gave these away as some kind of door prize, but then people had to pay property tax on them and it wasn’t exactly much of a gift,” commissioners’ Vice-Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh said.

Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro commended Salus for finding a way to take the land off of the repository and for finding a good use for it.

Click here to read the entire article.

Conshohocken dog park proposal ramps up

Jenny DeHuff of the Times Herald:

CONSHOHOCKEN — A group of canine confederates rejoiced after Wednesday night’s borough council meeting, when council adopted a resolution supporting a new dog park in the area.

While a location has yet to be determined, the Friends of a Conshohocken Dog Park are eager to see the wheels in motion.

Council President Paul McConnell said, during a recent council workshop meeting, the Friends submitted a business plan and proposal outlining how the township might work with the dog park group to work out the kinks of the project.

The motion, made by Transportation and Parking Committee Chair Jason Salus, passed unanimously.

Raj Gupta, Friends committee member and candidate for borough council in the first ward, said cost totally depends on the location.

“It was a big win tonight just to get the council to support it,” he told The Times Herald.

“So now we’ll work with the park and recreation subcommittee to find a location based on that. We want to put together a proper dog park. Our message to council has always been that this will be privately funded, with no taxpayer dollars.”

Click here for the entire article and video coverage.

Boathouse agreement approved

After many years and grand visions for bringing Conshohocken residents to the waterfront, last Wednesday Council took a concrete step to initiate a joint venture with area schools that will result in a new boathouse along our waterfront.  When complete, the new boathouse will provide recreational access to the river for Conshohocken residents.

from Jenny DeHuff of the Times Herald

CONSHOHOCKEN — In a move dubbed a “breakthrough” for the borough, Conshohocken council unanimously approved an agreement with developers to construct a boathouse along the riverfront.

Members of the council said Wednesday night that acquiring a boathouse is a huge step in connecting the Conshohocken community with the waterfront.

The boathouse is slated for the borough-owned plot of land, commonly known as the “100-foot strip,” located between Ash and Cherry streets.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Conshohocken in the spotlight

During my term on the Planning Commission we reviewed the proposed development of a new office building at 125 E. Hector Elm Street.  Many of us know the completed building today as somewhat of a landmark.  Its design is striking, and it includes a number of sustainable features, including the redevelopment of a brownfield, use of a green roof, integration with public transit and the bike trail and reduced impervious coverage.  Today, the building is home to the Delaware Valley Financial Group.

We should all be proud that earlier this month the Montgomery County Planning Commission recognized this building with its 2010 Land Development Award for excellence in planning and design.  Under the leadership of Chris Stetler, Conshohocken is fortunate to have a very strong planning and community development department.

You can read more information about this property and the award by downloading this attachment.

Zoning Hearing — 528 Fayette Street

I recently received a number of inquiries about the proposed Continental Bank on Fayette Street.  The Conshohocken Zoning Hearing Board will consider the applicant’s zoning requests at their meeting on Monday, February 15 at 7:00 PM at Conshohocken Borough Hall (720 Fayette Street).  This is a continuation of a prior hearing and the record for the hearing is closed.  The Chair of the Zoning Board will have the discretion to take public comment.  I encourage all interested residents to attend.

100 Block of Fayette Streetscape Improvement Meeting

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.

Conshohocken Borough Administrative Office, 1 West 1st Avenue, Suite 200, Conshohocken, PA  19428

Conshohocken Borough is in the process of bidding streetscape improvements for the 100 block of Fayette Street. Improvements will include paver treatments on bump outs at the intersections of 1st and 2nd Avenue, some pedestrian lighting, curb replacement, installation of a paver strip at the curb line and the installation of dura-therm crosswalks.

Grant funding for this phase of the project has been limited and even with the addition of Borough matching funds, there will be insufficient funds to complete all aspects of the project as completed in other blocks of Fayette Street.

The Borough will hold a meeting for property owners and tenants on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. at Conshohocken Borough Administrative Office, 1 West 1st Avenue, Suite 200, Conshohocken, PA  19428. Representatives from the Borough and from Remington, Vernick and Beach Engineers will be present to discuss the project.  Areas to be discussed include the possible sharing of sidewalk replacement costs; how to deal with the numerous Bilco doors on the block; the time frame for construction, including an estimated start date and duration; access to businesses during construction; who to contact during construction when problems arise; and maintenance responsibilities.

Please plan to attend this important meeting, and inform any of your tenants who might be affected by the project.  Those requiring special accommodations to attend the meeting should contact the Borough Administration Office at 610-828-1092 as soon as possible to make arrangements.

March 3 Zoning Hearing for Proposed Riverfront Development

On Monday, March 3, 2008, at 7:00 PM, the Conshohocken Zoning Hearing Board will deliberate on an interpretation of the Borough’s Zoning Ordinance as it related to developing along the floodplane.  The interpretation is requested by a partnership related to O’Neill Properties Group and the proposed development in question is a 200,000 square-foot riverfront office building, including structured parking and “related accessory structures.”  The hearing will be held at Conshohocken Borough Hall, 720 Fayette Street and the public is encouraged to attend.

Hammer’s Junkyard Development Proposal

Local developer Ratoskey and Trainor is proposing building 24 or 30 condominiums on the Hammer Junkyard site (West 2nd Avenue and Wood Street). Such a development would require changing the property’s zoning. Towards that end the developer has drafted its own zoning classification for the site.

The developer will hold a community meeting to present his proposed zoning change and development concept on Monday, February 25th at 6 PM at Conshohocken Borough Hall, 720 Fayette Street.

The next night, Tuesday, February 26, at 7:30 PM, the Planning Commission will review the proposed zoning change and make a recommendation for Borough Council’s consideration. This meeting will also take place at Borough Hall.

The public is encouraged to attend both meetings to get all of the facts and make sure that your voice is heard.

Building affordable housing in our region

Here I am pictured with my boss, Farah Jimenez

I am pictured above on the front page of the Real Estate section of today’s Inquirer with my boss, Farah Jimenez, in one of 11 townhomes that my company built last year for first-time homebuyers that make no more than 80% of the area’s median income.

The front page of the Real Estate section of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer features a lengthy article about our region’s need for “workforce housing,” or housing for middle-class workers such as police officers and school teachers. Last summer my company, a non-profit Community Development Corporation in the Mt. Airy section of the city, completed construction of 11 townhomes for first-time, income-qualified homebuyers. I am proud to say that 10 of the 11 homes are currently occupied. I encourage you to read the article.

Skyrocketing housing prices throughout our region, including Conshohocken, have brought some great benefits and probably some unexpected wealth to long-time homeowners. However, those prices have left many prospective buyers squeezed out of the market. It’s a challenge we’ll need to work together to address.