Monday, August 12, 2013

Zoning Workshops and Other Public Meetings

This week's social calendar:

Tuesday, August 13, 7 pm, Municipal Hall - Planning Commission will discuss the development at 1202 Dekalb. That's the "24 homes on 2/3 acre" project. Norristown's version of "How many clowns can you fit in a compact car?" Please come and let our planners know that this new trend is NOT acceptable.


Tuesday, August 20, 7:30 pm, Municipal Hall - The assumption is that this Council meeting will include a vote on the hiring of the new municipal administrator, Crandall Jones (no agenda on website yet). More on this on the Diary in a couple days, but lots of residents want this vote slowed down to invite more investigation and comment. Please show up, so we can remind council who they work for.

I went to the Zoning Workshop last Thursday night. I counted only about 5 or 6 residents there who weren't employees of the county or Norristown or the firehouse. At least 3 of us were from the 3rd district, because we have the only council rep who actually passes on information (Linda Christian). Unfortunately, Linda had the impression that all 3 workshops would cover the same material, so if you missed one, you could go to one of the others. This, it turns out, isn't true, but I don't fault her. I fault Norristown's traditional method of disseminating info, which is "Whisper Down The Lane."

Anyway, this first workshop covered the residential zones, that is R1 and R2, that I mentioned last week. You can read particulars of the new zoning for R1 at  and R2 at In short, R1 = single houses on large lots, and R2 = everyone else. However, since the new zoning is supposed to be done block-by-block, in theory, these differences shouldn't matter.

Block-by-block means that whatever buildings normally exist on your block determines what can be built in the future. A "block" is defined as both sides on your street (not the houses across your alley). "Normal" is defined as 3 existing structures of one type. That is 3 single houses, 3 twin sets (6 houses), 3 sets of duplexes, or 3 sets of row houses. For instance, on my block, we have 4 single houses and 9 sets of twins (18 houses). Rowhomes and duplexes aren't normal for my block, therefore, they shouldn't EVER be built here.

Unless, of course, someone asks for and is granted a variance. Variances will always be the bane of our neighborhoods. Mainly because there seems to be so little common sense applied to variance decisions. If you ever receive a notice that someone has asked for a variance on a property near you, PAY ATTENION. Go to the meetings on it. It might be nothing, but it might also block the sunlight from your house, or flood your backyard with runoff, or eliminate parking you need.

But back to the zoning codes. Before I pass judgement on the residential zones, I'd like to see the proposed paragraphs describing block-by-block zoning. The R1 and R2 codes sound okay as far as they go. The only inconsistencies I could see on the map was for certain single houses that also have large lots that are included in R2. Since I don't live in one of those, I'm not going to argue the point. If you live in a single house and you're worried about, show up at the next workshop--Thursday, August 29th, 6 pm, at Municipal Hall.

The next 2 workshops are supposed to cover areas with commercial and other codes, but I'd assume they'd answer residential questions, too. Or, there's a Q&A meeting for one-on-one questions on September 12th, but it's at 11 am-2 pm, while most of the world is at work (great way to avoid questions).

Still, if only a half-dozen residents show up for any of these meetings, the Planning Commission, Development Department, and Council will do whatever they please. Yes, I realize everyone can't come -- how about one representative from each block or two? PASS THE WORD.

I don't mind being an advocate for Norristown's residents, but one voice in the wilderness isn't going to change anything.

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