August 13, 2019 Planning Commission Meeting Minutes

CALL TO ORDER: Chairman McKnight called the August 13th, 2019 meeting to order at 7:05 PM.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE: Chairman McKnight led the Pledge of Allegiance.

PRESENT: Chairman McKnight, Members Kline, Battis & Shaefer, Manager Hegele, Community Planner Mohr & Engineer Goff.

Member Farnen was absent.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Member Battis motioned to approve the June 11th, 2019 meeting minutes, motion seconded by

Member Kline, all ayes.  Motion carried 3-0.


Mr. Mahoney, Attorney for the applicant stated they have updated their plan based on comments from the June meeting.  He stated his client is in the process of purchasing 4 parcels from the Y.  He stated given the nature and location of these parcels, plus the designation of the adjacent property owned by the current Victorian Village as an O Office zone, they want to extend that zone to include these two parcels.   He stated the Borough currently permits as a conditional use, Active Adult Communities per Ordinance 27-1002D(1) and (2) and as defined in 27-202, Victorian Village currently exists within O Office.  If property is rezoned his client would seek to merge the parcels.  Architect Kraemer stated they have made changes based on the prior County review letter, they have changed the traffic movement, extended walkways and extended the two communities.

Member Kline questioned the Crooked Billet Road access, she stated in June there was none proposed and today there is left turn egress from Victorian Village.  Mr. Kraemer stated yes, they are using Crooked Billet.  Member Kline asked about fire access.  Mr. Kraemer stated the access is still the same, access for fire apparatus from front and rear without issue.

Member Shaefer had questions about the proposed sidewalks.  She feels the sidewalks are too close to York Road.  Mr. Kraemer stated they kept the sidewalks in line with others but are willing to look at and possibly redesign.  Mrs. Shaefer asked if there would be any retail in Victorian Village II. Mr. Kraemer stated no retail.

Chairman McKnight asked about sidewalks on Crooked Billet.  Member Kline stated there are no sidewalks in that neighborhood currently.  Manager Hegele stated sidewalks would be discussed during land development and Council can discuss and if they want sidewalks then they can have the developer install.  Chairman McKnight stated he would like to see the sidewalks connect to the passive recreation on the plan.

Member Kline stated she is opposed and has issues with the development putting cars onto Crooked Billet.  Member Shaefer stated TD Bank has a no right turn into the neighborhood but customers still do it.  She stated people already use this to avoid Horsham Road light.  There are kids and school bus stop there.

Member Battis asked if there were curbs.  Mr. Kraemer stated yes.  Member Battis stated he has concerns over stormwater.  Crooked Billet/York floods, he asked the developer if he would commit to installing a culvert in that intersection.  Manager Hegele stated stormwater would be addressed during land development and all these issues will be addressed.  She reminded the commission that Borough staff is aware of the flooding and have discussed some of the borough staff concerns already with the Borough Engineer.

Community Planner Mohr discussed the County letter dated 7/26/19.  She stated the County is in support of this application.  First, they need to change zoning.  The County has no objection to zoning.  Member Kline stated there are people with houses that back up to this project.  Community Planner Mohr stated the height and setback issues would be addressed during Land Development.  She stated the applicant must work with Penndot on the HOP for York Road and changes to the School Lane intersection.  Community Planner Mohr indicated the Borough may want to incorporate a provision into Part 18 of the zoning ordinance requiring preservation of existing features of historic or cultural value to the community as a condition of the conditional use.  Member Battis asked Community Planner Mohr if she compared this with the zoning chart, she presented at the June meeting.  She responded that she did not as she does not have a fully designed land development plan.

Member Battis stated the applicant can add more height.  Mr. Kraemer stated it would not work with parking needed for their project.  He stated Victorian Village wants to replicate the same success with this project they had with first one.  Member Battis stated Building C is taller than A, he would like the new buildings to be shorter.

Member Shaefer stated the houses that abut this project are not shown on the plan, she asked why not and stated it would be helpful to see this.  She stated if you look at Horsham Road homes, Victorian Village towers over them.  Member Kline stated there is about 100 feet from the property line and neighbors that must look at this.  Mr. Kraemer indicated they will be doing some planting’s which will eventually grow.

Engineer Goff reviewed her letter dated 7/17/19.  She stated the comments in her letter will mostly be discussed during Land Development.  Member Battis questioned the open space requirements.  Mr. Kraemer stated required is 20%, they are at 37.1%.  Member Battis stated he likes that the project sits back and will look nice on York Road.

Member Battis asked if School Lane could be widened to help with Crooked Billet Road traffic. Mr. Kraemer stated this could be looked at during Land Development.

Member Kline asked for clarification on setbacks.  Mr. Kraemer stated the minimum is 35 ft.  They are 75.4 in the front, 38.9 on the side and 72.6 in the rear, these are setbacks to the property line.  Community Planner Mohr stated the PC can adjust setbacks; it would require a change to Part 18 in the standards.

Member Kline stated there is no intent to come back and do something different, want to build apartments there is a demand for apartments.   Mr. Mahoney stated height, distance, historic building being saved, the PC should recommend this.

Member Shaefer asked if they could build 3 stories.  Mr. Kraemer stated saving the Historic Building is costing money, they are donating the building/land across the street, they need 4 stories to make this work.

Bruce Hart, Earl Lane asked what the rental prices are.  Mrs. Haggerty stated they are looking at $2400.00 per month, she stated the current units are rented for $1900 to $2400 per month.  She stated that the taxes on the current property are $800,000 to Borough, the new property is proposed to be $220,000.

Member Kline asked if they are rentals and why not selling.  Mrs. Haggerty stated they are still in preliminary stages of discussion.  Mr. Stefanovic stated there is an option to sell, they ar doing the same as they did with Victorian Village 1.  Mr. Kraemer stated the market will have an impact if they rent or sell.   Member Kline stated if the zoning is changed, we need to live with it.

Natalie Forbes, Horsham Road asked what the point for zoning laws is if we change.  She stated Council is taking money and this is a bribe.  Mr. Mahoney stated this is not a bribe, the applicant is giving the Borough park space and a historic house is being saved.  Mr. Kraemer stated all of this benefits the Borough.

Member Battis stated and asked that the minutes reflect the following statement: “Changing zoning and passing this project establishes precedent for arbitrary zoning changes in any part of the Borough for a project developer.

Member Battis stated this is not a bad project, he likes it, traffic is not an issue, try living on Moreland Avenue, he stated this project will be less traffic then the Y.  He stated there is no financial hardship for this project, R-1 could allow a developer to build 3 houses and tear down the historic house.    Mr. Battis reviewed current available space at risk, 500 S. Warminster, 10 acres – R1 Residential in a flood plain.  Pennypack School, grounds and building – R2 in a flood plain.  If meet requirements – can build in a flood plain.  He reviewed with the members recent dense housing units constructed.  Victorian Village 2, new 51 units added to 168 already build, total 219 Apartments.  Hatboro Station, density, 71 units, condo.  Jacksonville Greene, 85 apartments.  He also reviewed neighboring housing projects.

Member Battis stated Council will go for this, he is a former teacher and he can read faces, Council has been bumbling with enthusiasm, they have been bubbling during meetings.   He stated if Council says no, they get taken to court because they have done this already.  He stated Wawa picked apart our zoning.

Member Kline stated this is the same as Wawa, spot zoning.  Mr. Kraemer stated this is not spot zoning, it is not a great site for R-1.

Nancy Sewell, Victorian Village stated the Y property could sell to someone else and they could tear down the house.  She asked what else could go there.  Member Battis stated the Y is a non-profit, they originally were small and grew, it is an unsightly building and tearing it down is doing us a favor.  He stated Victorian Village wants to do something and save the house, another developer may not want to.   Mr. Mahoney stated they are not setting precedent; this is a nontraditional R-1 lot on York Road which borders R-4 and RC.  He stated there was one offer for a day care that fell through, no other developers to his knowledge have shown an interest.  Member Battis stated there were density issues at the Abington Y.  Mr. Kraemer stated Abington changed to medical with a daycare in the back.

Richard Sewell, Victorian Village stated there is a concern over precedent, did this happen before.  Member Battis stated in the north end of town overlay ordinances were put in place, but in his 75 years no R-1 ever become something else.

Karen Shubick, Fulmor Avenue stated she lives everyday with Hatboro Station and that is a mess, there are stormwater issues, Stutz parking lot is a mess every time it rains, traffic issues from 72 townhomes that according to the MCPC that green space should have been left alone and not developed.  She likes her nice new neighbors but agrees with Member Battis about precedent.

Member Battis stated he has concerns about 500 S. Warminster Road, it is R-1 and a developer wants to us townhomes there.  He has concerns over Pennypack School, who Council believes is going to donate the land, he reminded everyone that he worked for the district and they do not give away anything for free.  He stated these are the last pieces of developable lots left.  They are in flood plains, setting precedent concerns him.  He stated he is watching projects in neighboring communities, Station at Willow Grove, this concerns him there is no open space and 275 units.  Another issue he has is with the Promenade Upper Dublin, they have the blessing of the MCPC, it is a $120 million-dollar project with 402 apartments and over 35 commercial spaces on 1.5 acres.  He stated there is little open space with this project. Mr. Mahoney stated there is 37% open space with their proposed project and his client understands his concerns with these two projects, but they have nothing to do with Victorian Village.   Mrs. Haggerty stated the extra lot behind will not be built on and will be open space for the residents.

Nicole Benjamin, W. Lehman Avenue stated that zoning changes done before process in place to address issues. More opportunity to vet in process.  Zoning is a newer concept, zoning decided what there then, it is an ongoing process that is open to change.  What made sense before may have changed, she does not see a precedence.

Member Kline stated if project passes, she has concerns, does not want history to repeat itself.

Member Battis asked Community Planner Mohr if this was precedence.  Community Planner Mohr stated she does not feel it is, she stated the zoning is legal and she understands the fear amongst residents and reminded everyone that the Hatboro 2040 plan future land use map can be used as a guide going forward to look at zoning/projects.   Mr. Kraemer stated this is not spot zoning, it is not illegal, it is an expansion of an existing development in a logical manner.  The Borough will not be accused of spot zoning.

Mr. Stefanovic stated he is the developer; it is not a bait and switch and he is offended by the suggestion.  He has been in Hatboro for 10 years and he is uncomfortable with that statement.  He stated he can sell the building, donating it to the Borough brings value to the project and the plans help with his residents.  He stated he is playing by the rules.  He is not a full-time developer, this is his only project, his heart is in Hatboro, and he is the deal.   Mrs. Benjamin stated the purple shaded parcel that is not included with remain R-1, so the developer is showing good faith.

Chairman McKnight announced that the Planning Commission was going to take a brief recess.

Member Battis made a motion that R-1 zoning for this location be changed to O Office for this application and any deviation from the site plan that the zoning revert to R-1.  There was a discussion about including lot parcel numbers in motion, exact wording, concerns from the developer that if a setback had to be moved for something in land development that was beyond their control as a result Member Battis withdrew his motion.

Mr. Kraemer stated they would stipulate that the southern end of building, setbacks closest to Crooked Billet they would not move.

Mr. Battis resurrected his original motion to include above and the stipulation by the applicant, motion seconded by Member Shaefer.  A roll call vote was taken as follows:

  • Member Shaefer – aye
  • Member Kline – abstaining (reason – has issues not addressed to her satisfaction)
  • Member Battis – nay
  • Chairman McKnight – did not vote, stated as Chair he does not vote


Manager Hegele stated the PC has a proposed ordinance in front of them that has been written by the Borough Solicitor.

Member Battis stated that the ordinance lists the zoning districts and stated apartments are allowed in some zoning but asked if someone who is a renter can sublet out their apartment to someone and who is responsible for inspection.    Manager Hegele stated a lease may address a renter in an apartment renting out a room, it may be a violation.

Member Kline asked about group homes, she stated there are homes for recovering addicts, unrelated persons, how does this relate to this ordinance.  Community Planner Mohr stated this is an ordinance that addresses registering and inspections.

Member Battis stated Council is rushing this through.  Mayor Guenst is pushing for this.  Manager Hegele stated that is not the case, she along with staff have been to training, zoning meetings and this is something that has been in the works for a number of months, she has been working with the Solicitor’s office on drafting as a result in the interest in Air BNB’s.  Manager Hegele stated this is about safety.  Member Battis asked what would be inspected.  Manager Hegele stated there is already ordinance on the books that outlines what the Fire Marshal can look for while inspecting.  Member Battis asked about fees. Manager Hegele stated when this ordinance is before Council for a public hearing at the same time a resolution will be introduced asking Council to approve the fees.  Member Battis stated this should be in the ordinance.  Manager Hegele explained that all fees are adopted by resolution.

Member Battis made a motion to table this matter until the September meeting, motion seconded by Member Shaefer, all ayes.  Motion carried 3-0.


There was no old business to come before the Commission this evening.


There was no new business to come before the Commission this evening.


The Chair allowed this during the meeting, there was no further public comment at this time.


Manager Hegele stated that the Planning Commission will need to meet in September to continue discussion on the Short-Term Rental Ordinance and also the Medical Marijuana Ordinance.  Manager Hegele stated that the 9/3 date does not work for herself and Community Planner Mohr.  The members discussed and agreed to meet on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019.  Manager Hegele stated the new date would be advertised and announced.


The August meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Diane C. Hegele

Borough Manager/Secretary