Monday, September 30, 2013

Up This Week

First, to ruin your appetite for Wednesday, there's a Council Meeting Tuesday. The 1202 Dekalb development is listed on the agenda. I'm thinking of bringing my video camera so I can film council members playing with their phones and not paying attention. If you want to read the rest of the agenda, click here.

All Wednesday evenings in October, from 5  to 7 pm, participating restaurants in Norristown will have a Sip & Dine happy hour. The event's facebook page says discounted drinks and appetizers, but the restaurants may be offering different deals. Diva's Kitchen, for instance, says they'll give you free appetizers and wine with the purchase of a meal. Here are the participating restaurants so far (the link will take you to their website or Facebook page):

Almaz Café (Ethiopean, American) - 22 W Main
August Moon (Korean, Japanese) - 300 E. Main
Banh Mi Bistro & Bar (Vietnamese) - 31 West Main
Cafe' Miro Spanish Grill - 10 W. Main
Casa Bonito International Cuisine (Mexican, Korean, Central American, American) - 801 Dekalb.
Diva’s Kitchen (Southern/Caribbean) - Johnson Hwy and Pine St
Jus’ Java -1601 Dekalb
Zachery’s BBQ (Southern comfort food) -1709 Markley

Then, on Thursday, you can line up for a free flu shot at the library (Powell & Swede). The clinic will run from 10 am to 1 pm and is run by the Montgomery County Health Department. Any resident of the county can go, but definitely recommended for school-aged children, anyone over 50, and those with health issues. If you can't make this clinic, you can find a list of other locations and dates, as well as more information at

In the last week, a few Norristown residents (me included) have set up "neighborhoods" on, in an effort to improve communication of the sorts of events listed above and other borough news. It's kind of a social network, but just for residents of Norristown. It's much more private than Facebook (basically, each neighborhood gets its own private website). Neighbors can also use it to let each other know about missing pets, crimes in their area, closed streets, etc. If you're interested, go and type in your address (you'll be able to hide your house number). If your house is in a neighborhood that's already set up, just join. If not, you can set up your own neighborhood, up to 2000 houses. Right now, the West End has neighborhoods called Riverfront Park and Norristown Farm Park. About half the North End is a neighborhood called Elmwood Park. And over on the far East End is Cedar Commons. Join up and keep informed.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Last Zoning Summary (for now)

Last night's zoning meeting had better attendance than the last--8 residents and a developer, besides our planners. The good news is, I think, that most residents' concerns have been addressed.

The meeting started by explaining Commercial-Retail areas (dark peach color on map), that is, our shopping centers. This includes places like Logan Square/Astor Plaza, Sandy Hill, the end of West Main (U-Haul and Dr. Carp's Dental), the corner of Johnson Highway and New Hope, and the little strip on Johnson between New Hope and Arch Sts (Eve's Lunch). There's an empty lot at Fornance and Tremont, across from Curren Terrace Apts, also zoned C-R (which could provide something like a convenience store for the apartment dwellers). Basically, the new zoning proposes that new stores should be oriented to the street, with parking on the side or in back. They should be accessible by sidewalks, and present a nice facade to the street (no blank walls). Access to parking should be a drive and not a wide free-for-all zone (as at Astor Plaza, which, if it were busier, would be dangerous for both cars and pedestrians). All of these C-R zones are more or less on the fringes of town.

The Multifamily Residential (M-R) zones (brown) are basically where we already have large apartment buildings: Curren Terrace, Norris Hills, 450 Green Apts (across from Stewart M.S.), Sandy Hill Terraces, and Regatta Apts (behind Sandy Hill Shopping). These also are mostly on the fringes of town. Besides apartments, a developer could also put up duplexes, townhouses, stacked townhouses, and twins in these areas. This is where the high-density development SHOULD go (here and at the riverfront), not in the middle of established residential neighborhoods.

The block on which Montgomery Hospital stands has been zoned Office-Residential (light purple). The building could be converted to an office building, or even a college, but is probably best suited for senior housing. Small neighborhood retail or a restaurant could be permitted on the first floor. A developer could choose to knock down the building and put up houses, but the houses would have to fit into the surrounding neighborhood (almost exclusively twins). From a cost point of view, this isn't very likely.

What was the healthcare corridor on Dekalb (bordered by Green, Basin, Willow and Brown--in purple), is due to be zoned Office-Commercial-Retail. Medical offices would still be allowed, as well as other businesses run out of the existing houses. Bed and Breakfasts could be opened here, in the large houses. The only new residences allowed would be single homes on large lots. A shopping center could be allowed providing the lot was big enough, but no strips. New stores must be oriented to the street, parking behind. Facades must follow historical area restrictions where applicable. The Human Resources Center could be turned into a shopping center or office building. The planners thought Dekalb Street should be made two-way eventually, but that has to be years in the future, after the Markley and Lafayette St. projects are complete.

At the end, Jayne Musonye, our Director of Planning, explained that the proposed zoning code now goes before Norristown's Planning Commission (you know, the group that never seems to have a quorum). That meeting will be open to the public, so you still have a chance to express concerns.

As it stands, I like the new zoning proposal. I think it gives the Zoning Board, Planning Commission, and Council a better guidebook than the old code. Rules can't be fudged as easily. And if questionable development is proposed for your neighborhood, the new code give you better ammunition with which to fight it. I hope the proposal doesn't get watered down in the approval process.

So, we still must be vigilant. And we need to vote in Council representatives who'll actually listen to the residents and not be afraid to vote no, because zoning rules aren't enough. The Pennrose proposal for Airy and Dekalb, and the 1202 Dekalb development are proof of that.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monument to Prosperity

Last reminder: The final zoning workshop is tonight at 6 pm, Human Services Building at Fornance and Dekalb.

This morning on Facebook I saw this ad for the old bank building at 1 West Main (at Swede St.). They've newly renovated the place, though the interior was always one of Norristown's most beautiful architectural spaces. I remember going inside with my dad when I was a kid. It always brought to mind the bank in "Mary Poppins"--like a Hushed, grand cathedral of capitalism. The building itself was perhaps the best manifestation of Norristown's prosperity in the first 60 years of the 20th century. You looked at it and felt the town would always be economically stable.

When I was growing up, there were scads of banks on Main Street--Commonwealth, Continental, Peoples, American, etc. Now we don't have even that many in the whole town. Lots of ATMs, sure, but we're not seen as a place where residents want to sit and talk to a banker about investments, business loans, college funds or safe deposit boxes. And all the banks are probably afraid they'll be robbed here.

I doubt the first floor of 1 West Main will ever be a bank again--banks don't want the "Mary Poppins" look anymore--but it would make a dandy restaurant, or a multi-use space--sit-down restaurant on one side, kiosks on the other, all open to take advantage of the light from the immense windows.

1 West Main is currently our tallest structure downtown. The Citizens Bank building on Lafayette is second, I think, and has had trouble keeping tenants since it was opened. The Montgomery County Intermediate Unit finally decided to make the Lafayette Street building its new home last fall. I've heard rumors that the County may also use the Post Office building. Yes, I know we're the county seat, and the county has to have offices, but filling all our empty buildings with county employees won't help our economy as much as bringing in new businesses.

Still, I have to wonder about all this talk at the zoning workshops about putting new 10-story buildings on Main Street. If we can't keep tenants in the existing tall buildings that we have now, how will more empty high-rises help? Better to fill our existing vacant stores on Main with goods and services that all those extra County employees will consume on their lunch hours. Once the Lafayette corridor's done and the Riverfront development's underway, we can reassess the demand for office space in new Main Street high-rises.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Good Developers Do Exist

First, I'll start by reminding everyone that the last workshop on the proposed zoning rules is tomorrow, Thursday, 6 pm, at the Human Resources Building, Fornance and Dekalb (the old Sacred Heart Hospital). The first workshop went 2 hours, the 2nd, about 70 minutes (they rushed us through so they could get to the reception for the new municipal manager, which, of course, should never have been scheduled the same night). Hopefully we won't let them rush us tomorrow, and all our questions/concerns will be addressed. The workshop will cover the old hospital zoning area primarily (ie, how it's being zoned now that we no longer have hospitals there), and a few other spots in the North End, but you can bring questions about anywhere else in town. And you should. This is your last chance.

Next, I want to talk about a couple of the other projects approved by Council at last week's meeting. Here are examples of developers who are following the zoning rules, or at least, asking for reasonable waivers. From what I can tell, these projects should be good for Norristown.

The Curren Terrace apartment complex (Fornance and New Hope) wants to erect another building with 36 units, plus a clubhouse with a pool. There's a large empty lot on their property and it's already zoned for apartments. One house-owner in the area sent a letter expressing concern about street parking. The plan, however, shows that the apartment building would be between the street and the parking lot. The entrances would be on the lot side, to discourage apartment dwellers from parking on the street (they'd have to walk all the way around the building to get in). So that seemed to answer that concern. Otherwise, no one objected.

The old Kennedy-Kenrick High School and land surrounding it at Johnson Highway and Arch Street is due to become a senior housing center for residents aged 55 and older. The campus would hold 208 housing units, ranging from apartments to small cottages. A building with retail space and medical offices would also be included. The corner is zoned for apartments. While there are houses across Arch Street, there is currently no street parking there to quibble over, and that part of the development won't be dense.

The Kennedy-Kenrick developer did ask for a waiver on the number of trees required. Norristown has a zoning law requiring a certain number and circumference of trees per acre on new development, plus a requirement that any trees removed during construction will be replaced. Because of the size of this lot, the number required was about 2,000 young trees. The number removed would be 200 larger ones. The developer asked for a compromise of 700 trees, and is willing to add extra bushes instead. This was agreed upon. I thought it was sane, unlike the landscaping waivers at 1202 Dekalb, which seemed to go too far and didn't even replace the number of trees on the property.

How else does Kennedy-Kenrick differ from the much-protested development at 1202 Dekalb?  For one thing, the whole project averages only about 17 housing units per acre, about half that of the high-density developments on Dekalb. The Kennedy-Kenrick project is on the edge of town and is situated so that it shouldn't impact the neighborhood in a negative way. It puts to good use a large vacant building. It serves a need we already know exists--that is, the senior housing facilities in town all have long waiting lists. Residents shouldn't be hard to find. And since it will also house some who are pre-retirement age, they'll be paying earned income taxes at least another 10 years. The businesses on property will also pay taxes.

Sarah Peck, the developer for 1202 Dekalb, was quick to point out that her development provided .2 more parking spaces per unit than Kennedy-Kenrick (whatever that means, since you can't park 2/10ths of a car). But many of the residents at Kennedy-Kenrick won't drive because of their age. If you check out the parking lot at Rittenhouse on a weekend (when the nursing staff isn't at the rehab center), you'll find plenty of spaces. Even during the week, I've only ever had to park on Pine Street once while visiting someone. This isn't a problem since the houses across the street are large enough to have at least 3 spots each in front of them.

Only time will tell if Curren Terrace and Kennedy-Kenrick will be good, high-quality developments that enhance Norristown, but I'm more like to trust a developer who tries to work within the zoning, especially ones who understand the concerns of the neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Andrew Porter Day

Today is the 270th birthday of General Andrew Porter. And you're asking why you should care, right?

I've been saying for decades that one of Norristown's best economic resources could be our history. I've traveled a lot, and I've learned that history buffs, particularly Civil War history buffs, are the most reliable of tourists. No matter how lousy the economy, history fans will make pilgrimages to all sorts of places to hear the stories of great people and events.

Of course, no big battles were fought here, but we've got plenty of stories to tell about Norristonians who made huge contributions to American history: 2 Pennsylvania governors, a Presidential candidate, several Civil War generals, at least 7 US congressmen and one senator (plus baseball players, authors, musicians, etc.) Norristown was also a MAJOR hub on the Underground Railroad.

But the borough is also famous, or rather infamous, for something else--knocking down historic buildings. General Hancock's family house is gone. Governor Hartranft's house, on Washington, near Hartranft St. is now the site of an apartment building. His family's hotel is gone, too. At Airy and Swede, the original First Baptist Church--that played a pivotal role in the Underground Railroad--was demolished to put up One Montgomery Plaza.

So we should be glad Selma Mansion is still standing, though developers have tried to level it over the years. Selma was the name for the "plantation" that took up most of what is now Norristown's West End. Andrew Porter retired there after the Revolution and built on to the existing small house to create the Selma Mansion we see today, located at Airy and Selma Streets. To get an idea how grand this place was, drive up Airy Street, past Buttonwood. If you look to the right, up the alley before Hamilton, you'll see the original stone pillars that marked the end of the mansion's drive, almost a quarter mile from the house.

A little about Porter himself: he was born in Worcester in 1743. At the age of just 24, he opened a school for mathematics and English in Philadelphia, which he ran until 1776, when Congress appointed him as one of the first captains of the newly formed Marine Corps. Because he was so good at math, he was transferred to the 4th Pennsylvania Artillery, where he progressed through the ranks until becoming a colonel.

After the war, he was offered the mathematics chair at the University of Penn, but preferred to stay on in the Pennsylvania Militia. He served as a state commissioner, helping to set boundary lines in Pennsylvania. In 1801, he was promoted to brigadier-general, then major-general, then appointed as the state's Surveyor-General in 1809. He died in 1813.

However, he also gave us his sons: Robert Porter, who became president judge of the 3rd District Court; David Rittenhouse Porter, who served as Pennsylvania's 9th governor; George Bryan Porter, who was appointed governor of the Michigan Territory; and James Madison Porter, who served as Secretary of War under President Tyler, as well as president judge of both the 12th and 22nd districts, and principal founder of Lafayette College.

If you want Civil War connections, Andrew Porter's great-granddaughter was Mary Todd Lincoln (yes, THAT Mary Todd Lincoln), and two of his grandsons were General Horace Porter and Civil War Brig. General Andrew Porter.

Selma's history went on long after the Porter family. I'll cover that in another blog. But today--Andrew Porter Day--we need to make a commitment to preserving and restoring Selma Mansion. It would make, I think, the best place for compiling and presenting our town's historical stories. In doing so, we could probably attract history buff tourists, and that can only help our economy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Looking Up

I'm feeling optimistic about Norristown today. Of course, I haven't been to a council meeting in 6 days, and I still have 3 days before the next zoning workshop, but it's more than that, really. Something amazing has begun in our town and you all need to sit up and take notice.

We have a lot of volunteer organizations in the borough. Some have been around a while, but many are less than a year old. It's as if Norristown residents have finally decided to take matters into their own hands. We want safe, clean streets, and a future for our kids, and government isn't helping. Enter the Men of Excellence, the Norristown Project, Town Watch, Norristown Nudge, Norristown Area CTC and Violence Prevention Initiative, ACPPA Community Arts Center, the Dragon Boat Club of Norristown, any many others.

But what's really neat is that, lately, these groups are beginning to hook up and do great things together. The Dragon Boat Club of Norristown teamed up with The Norristown Project to clean up Riverfront Park (it looked great on Saturday!). The boat club also teamed up with ACPPA Community Arts Center to produce a mural on the boat house. You can't go onto Facebook anymore without seeing all these groups sharing each others' announcements and events, supporting each others' efforts, cheering each other on. If you go to any town event, no matter who sponsors it, you'll likely see representatives of many of these groups, just because they WANT to be there.

So I appreciated that, at Riverfest, Norristown actually formally recognized a lot of these groups for their work, pointing out that they're all volunteers. The only motive for their work is to make Norristown better--safer, cleaner, healthier, more creative, and a great place to raise families.

One other note, in the interest of communication: While I was writing up this post, Shae Ashe of The Norristown Project contacted me. He found an online app called It's sort of a social network specifically for neighborhoods. You can post events, crime and safety info, traffic alerts, etc., and share the posts with other nearby neighborhoods. The Police Dept. or Council members can join their neighborhoods and disseminate information.

Shae set up a neighborhood called "Norristown Farm Park," for most the West End, I set up one for about half the North End called "Elmwood Park." We can share posts with each other and cover much of Norristown. If you join, you need to enter your address, but you can change the setting to keep your house number private. If your address doesn't fit into an existing neighborhood, you can set one up yourself (and help us reach more residents). The program will send alerts to your mobile phone or email.

So volunteer if you can. If you do, team up with and support other organizations--we get more done that way. If you can't, support the volunteers by helping to spread news about our great organizations. At the very least, stay informed through something like or Facebook or by checking the calendar (but, remember, they don't post everything there).

If we can improve communication, and support our incredible volunteer network, nothing can stop Norristown from changing for the better. Not even our government.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Norristown-Based Art

It's Friday, so let's talk about something fun--community-based art. What is it? Instead of commissioning one artist to produce a work, members of the community come together to create a mural, sculpture or other artwork which will then be displayed in a public space. You might ask an artist (ideally a resident of the town) do the design, but all the work is done by the community.

We have a prime example of this kind of art--a mural on the Dragon Boat Club's Boat House, painted by the students and teachers of the ACPPA Community Arts Center (a school of art, dance, music, and design for kids, based at Grace Lutheran Church) in cooperation with the Dragon Boat Club. The final unveiling of the work will be tomorrow at Riverfest (11 am to 4 pm, 1 Haws Avenue), so come out and see it.

Last Friday, I watched a segment on PBS NewsHour about community-based art, and it got me to thinking that we could do more of it here. We're supposed to have our sights set on becoming an arts community, right? So picture Norristown as a sort of open-air art gallery, with murals, sculptures, mosaics, all done by the residents.

For instance, a church congregation might create a sculpture for a devotional garden beside the church, or a quilt to be hung in a window. Schools could paint murals or, like the students of Chestnutwold Elementary in Havertown, create different, colorful birdhouses, which they then hung outside the front entrance of their school. Neighborhoods could get together to dress up a blank wall (with the owner's permission, of course), or some such project to brighten, and unify, their block. Business districts could get together (or recruit volunteers) to paint trash cans, or create some work of art to bring interest, and shoppers, to an area.

Here are some projects done by other communities, to hopefully inspire you:

Maze of cement and mulch.

Tiles on a bench

Picture 2 or 3 of these in a playground.

Community quilt, where everyone brought a mateless sock

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ignorance Is NOT Bliss

I was going to write a blog on the lack of communication in Norristown, but I realize it's so big of an ongoing problem, I'm going to have to approach in steps. So today, installment #1.

The only reason I went to last Saturday's Mexican Independence Day Festival was that I attended a Norristown Nudge meeting at Coffee Talk on West Marshall that morning. Otherwise I wouldn't have known about the festival at all. When I got home and posted to Facebook about the amazing chicken quesadillas I had, people posted back saying they wished they'd known--they would have gone, too. Not just Norristown residents, but friends from other surrounding communities.

So why was this festival such a secret? Why no publicity? If there's one thing Norristown does well, it's throw a party. Our festivals could go a long way to changing the bad opinions of our town, toward bringing in outsiders, and toward uniting us as a community.

Council claims they post everything on their website, but this weekend, for instance, while they list Riverfest, they don't list the other festival that's taking place at Elmwood Park. The first I heard about that was an announcment at the Council Meeting Tuesday night. Like West Marshall residents last week, no one in the Elmwood Park area (including me) seems to know anything about it. It would be nice to be able to plan for things like parking and extra noise. Then again, maybe no one will come because it's a secret.

In the interest of communicating, our first RIVERFEST will be held this Saturday at Riverfront Park, 1 Haws Avenue, from 11 am to 4 pm. Kids activities, Dragon Boat Rides and Races, food, music, etc. You may not hear this anywhere else, so spread the news.

Here are some excerpts from a Norristown Nudge Facebook posting. I can't say it better than they did:

On Saturday, September 14th, West Marshall Street was the scene of a wonderful festival commemorating Mexican Independence Day. Unfortunately, most of the non-Latino community, including some long time West Marshall merchants, had no idea this was happening until Friday, September 13th, when "no parking" and street closure signs were posted along the street. Some claim they knew nothing of the activity until the actual day of the festival.

Calling this a profound lack of communication is like saying the Mojave Desert gets a little warm at times.

A festival of this size was not approved and pulled together in a day or two. The wheels had to have been turning for at least several weeks prior to the festival. Once the permit was issued by the municipality we feel the festival organizers had an obligation to inform ALL the merchants on West Marshall Street of the impending activity. In fact, the two gentlemen who staff the West Marshall State Store claim this has happened on more than one occasion.

This was not a backyard soiree or a vacant lot carnival. It was a decent-sized affair that impacted parking, transit, and in some cases, economics. More courtesy should have been extended.

Some blame must be leveled at the Municipality as well. After issuing the permit they should have insisted on some forms of timely advertising, be it banners, posters, or even word of mouth. Their diligence regarding such matters is often mercurial or offhand at best. They, along with the festival organizers, will simply have to do better.
. . .

This was a wonderful, colorful, vibrant , festive affair with authentically amazing cuisine and great music--a cultural, sensory overload. Did the municipality reach out to other communities, inviting them to partake in the festivities? Most local and Philly papers have Weekend Happenings sections. Were blurbs placed in any of them? Were there any posters placed on supermarket bulletin boards?? If so, no one we know saw them. We do know Norristown Patch posted something, 2 hours prior to the start of the festival. One of our Nudge members actually met her dentist there. He and his family happened on it by accident. They loved it. They live on the Main Line.

Enticing outsiders to experience little gems like this festival should be a priority of the Municipality. This is how we change the perception that keeps non-residents away. This is how baby steps become leaps towards sustainable revitalization.

If Norristown is going to proclaim and profess strength in diversity, then it's going to have to beat its drum just a little louder.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

So Close, So Depressing

Norristown Council had a chance last night to do something extraordinary. At least, extraordinary for them. Otherwise, the action would be perfectly normal in any democratic government working the way it should.

Council had the chance to compromise. By doing so, they would have shown respect for both residents' concerns and Planning's recommendations, and would have brought much more reasonable development to the corner of Dekalb and Basin. But what they did was, in my opinion, worse than a simple vote.

First, the developer stated how her Arbor Heights development had changed the area around Dekalb and Elm. She said the neighborhood was "starting to turn," implying that it was now safer and saying the values of the surrounding houses have gone up, all because of Arbor Heights. No sources given for this information. She went on to say that the 1202 project would save not only that immediate neighborhood, but the entire hospital district. (I'm surprised she didn't promise it would improve the weather, too.)

She said she wasn't in it "just for the dollar," but wanted to help Norristown.

Next, Councilwoman Linda Christian read a very moving statement, expressing her concerns about the project, and about how she believed the rest of the Council members weren't listening to the residents in this matter.

The Planning Director, Jayne Musonye, gave her recommendations: Her department would approve the project but asked that the number of units be reduced to 18. The developer was willing to consider this, if Norristown would help her find additional funding. A rather interesting discussion followed regarding where funding might be available. It looked like common sense might prevail.

Councilman Marlon Millner, instead of contributing to the solution, went off on a long tirade about how he was "deeply offended" by Ms. Christian's statement. He blamed the residents of Green Street, calling them "argumentative" (despite their having offered a compromise on the number of units and placement of the driveways). He said Dekalb Street's architecture was "diverse" enough for the development to fit in (showing a complete lack of architectural knowledge, or even a grade school student's ability to choose in games of "Which of these things is not like the others?")

Ms. Christian tried to respond and apologize. Mr. Millner cut her off, saying to Mr. Simpson that she was out of order unless recognized by the President.

Mr. Simpson, to his credit, tried to restore sanity, turning back to Ms. Musonye, who mentioned another source of funding that could be used. Ms. Christian was finally allowed to get a word in edgewise, apologizing to Mr. Millner, and saying she would support a reduction to 18 units. Things looked hopeful.

Then Councilwoman DeSouza raised her hand and asked for an immediate vote on the 24-unit proposal. In less than a minute, a motion was made. In less than two, a vote was taken. Only Mr. Simpson and Ms. Christian voted "No." Mr. Millner and Ms. DeSouza were obviously vehemently in favor (if either would care to tell me why, I'll quote them right here). As for the rest (Cathy Lawrence, Cy Burke, Bill Caldwell), I couldn't tell. Perhaps they simply didn't realize that a No vote would have put the compromise back on the table.

Even the developer didn't seem to realize what had happened. She said she was still willing to voluntarily try to reduce the number of units. Mr. Simpson pointed out that they'd just approved her 24-unit plan so there was no need. She went away looking like she'd lost instead of won. In a way, she did lose, because her overcrowded development will never be popular in that neighborhood. She'll never be a hero to those residents. And she COULD have been, and so could all of Council, if the compromise had been worked out.

So, as I said, Council had a chance to shine last night. And they blew it. Remember that when you go into the voting booth.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Being a Citizen

Back in 2004, I helped with a survey designed to find out how many people were intending to vote in the presidential election. I worked specifically in a 6 block area of my neighborhood, going door-to-door or calling people. I didn't tell them who to vote for, just asked if they were going to vote, and if they knew where the polling place was.

When I called one house on Freedley Street., the woman who answered replied in distaste, "Oh, we don't do that." I asked, "Don't do what?" Her answer was that she and her husband didn't vote, nor apparently did they ever mention politics or government in their house. As if they'd made a conscious decision not to. As if being a citizen were some sort of deviant lifestyle choice and they were keeping themselves pure.

Today is Constitution Day--the anniversary of the day the US Constitution was signed. No one gets off work for it, you won't hear about any town having parades or other observances, and no stores have special sales. No one ever remembers this day at all. But because of it, we've got a government in which we're allowed to participate. It's not mandatory, though, like voting is in Australia. So, while most Americans don't make a conscious decision to avoid participation, like the couple on Freedley, we get busy with our kids, our elderly parents, our jobs, trying to pay bills, trying to keep our houses in decent repair, and all the rest. If we even think about attending something like a Council meeting, at the end of the day, we're tired. It's too tempting to think "Someone else will go. I don't have to."

I know we have good citizens in Norristown. At that 2004 election, we did an exit poll, too. District 3-1 and 3-3 had a 70% turnout rate. The national average that year was about 57%.

So on this Constitution Day, think about honoring it by coming to Municipal Hall tonight at 7:30 to see how your local government is or isn't functioning. Bring your neighbors. You don't have to say anything. Just your presence will improve government. I guarantee, if Council starts seeing a bigger crowd keeping an eye on them, they'll be more careful about how they proceed.

I'll leave with two quotes on being a citizen, the first from a comment on yesterday's blog:

"I need to dedicate my time to stay in the loop and in the know, and actively watch and participate in what is going on down there from here on out. It doesn't stop at this project. This could and most likely will happen in other sections of Norristown."

And one by journalist Bill Moyers:

"Constitutional democracy, you see, is no romantic notion. It's our defense against ourselves, the one foe who might defeat us."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Demand Democracy

I'm not sure what I can say to light a fire under any of you and get you out to tomorrow night's Council Meeting (7:30 pm Tuesday, Municipal Hall). Or at least get you to write to your council people. I just know, if you live in Norristown, you've got neighbors who need you to do something NOW. If you don't, you could very well find a mess of "stacked townhomes" next door to you in the near future, zoning rules or no zoning rules. But more than that, our local government is now ignoring democratic procedure.

Yesterday, the Times Herald reported on last Tuesday's Planning Commission Meeting, saying the 1202 DeKalb development had been approved 2-1, with one abstention. However, if the vote was reported correctly, the project could NOT have been approved.

Quick lesson Robert's Rules of Order--the parliamentary procedures used to run government meetings in the US: For a vote to be valid, you have to have a quorum in the room--that is, a majority of the total members who can vote must be present. That way, a couple people can't take advantage of low attendance to push through their own agenda. The winning side of the vote MUST be a majority of the quorum.

The rest is math. Our Planning Commission has 7 members (Matt Edmond, Hugh McGhee, Arlene Gordon, Michael Davis, LeTonya Clark, Hakim Jones, and Jean Holland). For a quorum, 4 of them have to show up to a meeting. For a valid vote, a majority--at least 3 of the 4--have to vote the same way.

In August, only 3 members attended the Planning meeting, so a vote couldn't be taken. Last Tuesday, 4 attended, however, Michael Davis reclused himself due to a conflict of interest. That meant only 3 people were able to vote, so a quorum was NOT present. The matter should have ended there. The vote should have been put off another month.

But that didn't happen. The vote was taken anyway. Matt Edmond and Hugh McGhee voted yes. Hakim Jones voted no. Remember, there MUST be 3 yes votes for a motion to pass. Yet, Chairman Edmond said it passed with 2.

The Times Herald reported Michael Davis's "vote" as an abstention. It doesn't matter. Call it a reclusal or an abstention, it still means that Mr. Davis didn't vote. Or, according to Robert's Rules, by-laws may be set up to consider an abstention a "no" vote. If that's the case, the vote was valid, but was a tie.

As stated above, these procedures are in place (and have been in place over 120 years) to keep a small minority from taking advantage of absences to push their agenda through. With 7 Planning Commissioners, there's NO WAY, in a democratic government, that 2 can approve anything on their own.

So this needs to be brought up tomorrow night. If Council acts correctly, 1202 DeKalb will be sent back to the Planning Commission until a valid vote can be taken.

We also need to ask Council to replace those members of the Planning Commission who haven't been showing up for their monthly meetings.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm fed up with a government that's being run so poorly.

If you're as angry about this as I am, write to your councilpeople now.

Linda Christian:
Gary Simpson:
William Caldwell:
Marlon Millner:
Mary DiSouza:
Cyril Burke:
Cathy Lawrence:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Zoning - Some Answers, Probably More Questions to Follow

Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half talking to John Cover, Chief of Community Planning for Montgomery County. I was the only attendee at his question and answer session in that time. I suspect I may have been the only attendee all day. Henry Sekawungu, Norristown's Assistant Director of Planning stopped by, and I'm glad he did because he helped to answer my first question:

Why is the County running these workshops and not the Norristown Planning Commission?
The County authored the proposed zoning document, but only after input from a Zoning Steering Committee that met 28 times between April 2010 and July 2013. The members of the committee were

Rick Gallo, contractor
Brian Billings, an architect who was Zoning Board Chair
Paul Piantone, realtor
Gary Simpson, councilman
David Hodo, former councilman
Jayne Musonye--Norristown's Planning Director
Henry Sekawungu, Norm Windle--Norristown Planning
Joe Januzeli, Code Enforcement
Esare Pierre, resident
John Cover, County Planning

Since MontCo authored the document, it was felt that Mr. Cover ought to be the one to explain it to the public. I pointed out that it gave the public the impression that the County was running the whole show, and that we needed to hear from the people who would be accountable for following the zoning codes, ie., Norristown's Planning Commission. I asked if Jayne could lead the next workshop, or Henry. That idea seemed to fall flat, but I think I communicated the need well enough that our Planners will be more a part of the next workshop (Thursday, Sept 26th at 6 pm, at the Human Resources Building, Fornance and Dekalb). That session will cover mainly the hospitals/healthcare area, Logan Square and the coding for apartment complexes.

I asked, "Why the trend toward walkability?" The answer was "Young people want to live in walkable neighborhoods," and that Norristown wants to attract new young residents. While I don't think it's a bad thing to attract first-time homebuyers, I have to wonder about making sweeping statements that stereotype a chunk of the population. Mr. Cover defined "walkable" mainly as neighborhoods having sidewalks and businesses oriented to the street, with their parking in the back or elsewhere. He said all of Norristown was walkable. As I've said here on the Diary before, I don't agree. I go with the industry standard definition: that destinations like stores, and transit stops, need to be within 5 minutes, and driving has to be a pain for that area, or people simply won't walk. You have to have destinations. People will do recreational walking regardless--they'll just drive to the Farm Park or to one of the malls.

Some welcome clarifications:

Downtown's great mixture of architecture
1. Buildings in the Town Center district (downtown--really do we have to have a fancy, and incorrect, name?) will have a maximum height of 10 stories (120 feet high), rather than the 15 stories we were told at the last workshop. 15-story buildings may be constructed on the Riverfront, so we'll have more of a step-down transition as you approach the historic areas from the south. The old bank building on the corner of Swede and Main is about equal to 8 stories -- One Montgomery Plaza is 10 (not that THAT's a good role model for new construction). I'd just like to see the character of the older architecture preserved. That would help make our downtown unique.

2. New business construction in the neighborhood commercial zones MUST include parking, just not in a lot right on the street. Parking can be on the side or in the back, depending on the situation. So we won't end up with a bunch of new stores unable to attract customers from outside their neighborhoods because of lack of accessibility.

3. The residential zoning within the mixed use districts on Dekalb, West Main and the like, will follow the R2 guidelines with block-by-block zoning. This means, with the new zoning, developments like Arbor Heights and 1202 Dekalb would absolutely not be allowed. When I pointed out that they aren't allowed under the present zoning either, but that variances were granted, Mr. Cover's answer was that we just have to hold the Planning Commission to following the zoning codes. I don't think his answer was a cop-out--I think we DO have to do better.

As I told Mr. Cover, I think we (Norristown's residents) have a complete lack of trust in our elected and appointed officials where planning is concerned. We have a long history of disastrous development decisions in Norristown--like all of the historic buildings our government allowed to be demolished (to the detriment, and not advantage, of our economy), and all of the poor quality construction, like the original facade on the library that needed replacing, and now One Montgomery Plaza's defects. All of the pipe dreams, like Studio Centre, that always end badly for the taxpayers. We've come to expect more of the same every time development is mentioned.

As much as anyone, I'd love to be optimistic about new development in Norristown, but I think most residents have more of a "Show Me" attitude right now. Government has to earn back our trust.

You can download the proposed zoning here:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Zoning Q & A

I'm posting to the Diary early today because I'll be going to the Zoning Question and Answer session at Municipal Hall that starts at 11 am. The session lasts until 2 pm, and from what I was led to believe, it's a walk-in sort of thing--you don't need to be there the whole time.

If you have questions and can't come because, say, you have to work like most of America, send me your questions by leaving a comment here or on Facebook. I'll ask your questions for you (as long as they're reasonable. If they're not, I may ask anyway if you leave your name and don't ask it anonymously).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Public Square--Always Open

Yesterday I heard someone mention "the courthouse lawn." I assume the person meant our Public Square. That piece of land, its name, and its concept have been important to Norristown for 229 years. It's our oldest historical landmark.
In 1784, Montgomery County was formed and the Town of Norris was designated as the county seat. Despite its name, Norris was an unincorporated village of about 100 people on 28 acres. The photo shows the original street layout and plan for the courthouse. It also designates a public square, with the words "To remain open forever."

Public Squares, or Town Greens, were common at the time. Residents would have kept chickens, and possibly a cow or goats, in their backyards, but in town, extra grazing land was always needed. Also, a place was needed to hold market days, when farmers brought their goods into town. And villages recognized the need for a community gathering place, for harvest and May Day festivals, and in America, Independence Day celebrations. In a county seat, too, those with an hour's business at the courthouse would appreciate a place to stake and graze their horses without having to seek out a livery stable.

Our Public Square in 1784 would have been a simple lawn, mowed only by sheep or goats. In 1812, when Norristown incorporated as a borough and its boundaries were expanded to include over 500 acres, our founders still needed the Public Square, for most of the same reasons. They kept the pledge to keep it "open forever." It was Norristown's first park.

During the 19th century, monuments, walks and trees were added to the square, as well as raised paving around the edges, to prevent erosion. Our Square became a favorite landscape for painters. Many local postcards of the 1890s and early 1900s featured it. Other monuments, steps and railings were added during the 20th century.

That's why we have a Public Square, and why, in theory, we will ALWAYS have a Public Square. So don't simply call it "the courthouse lawn." It belongs to the "public"--the people of Norristown and Montgomery County--and will "remain open forever."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cramped Neighborhoods=Poor Neighborhoods

(Although the developer's caption says Basin, this photo on their website is titled "Dekalb front." To me, this looks like a warehouse.)
I researched the history of one of Norristown's houses for an article I did some years back. It was a brick rowhome in the West End, built by a developer named Jamison in 1885. Jamison was responsible for a lot of the rowhouses built in town at that time.

Currently, the residents of most of these rowhouses are lower income, if not downright poor. Some are lower-middle income, but you'd be hard-pressed to anyone better off in those neighborhoods. Many of the residents rent their houses, and some only rent a one-floor apartment in those small dwellings.

But when I looked up the previous owners of this one house, I found homeowers who were solid middle-class. Some were tradesmen and middle managers, but many were entrepreneurs who owned their own businesses. These were the people Jamison built his houses for. Back then, most of the poor lived in tenement and "company" rooming houses, many down near the river. It was unheard of to build low-income housing. If you were poor, you packed your families into whatever space you could afford.

As the middle-class homeowners in the rowhomes expanded their families, or got raises and promotions at work, they moved to the newer, bigger, twin houses being built on streets farther west, and in parts of the North End. Their kids and grandkids moved to single houses, then outside of town.

Meanwhile, the rowhomes held their value through about 1910 (and the price went up a few thousand). Then, except for a spike because of the high inflation right before the Depression, they fell in value. Jamison sold the house I studied for a price amounting to about $54,000 in today's dollars. By 1955, the sale price was (in today dollars) $38,000.

The lesson of history is, the smaller a house is, and the more cramped a neighborhood is, the more likely people will move out, into a bigger dwelling with more land. The faster the turnover, the faster the house loses its value. This makes the neighborhood eventually lose value as well, until the only people willing to live there are low income.

So let's consider the "stacked townhomes" proposal for 1202 Dekalb Street that goes before the Planning Commission tonight. These are actually condos, which will be sold at market rate. On the street I researched, Jamison built 23 houses on 1.34 acres. Sarah Peck is proposing 24 houses on half the amount of land. Twice as small, twice as close to the neighbors, as your typical Norristown rowhome. That means, even though the housing units are being built for middle-income residents, those owners aren't likely to stay long. They aren't meant to, really. These are first-time homeowner dwellings.

But the faster the turnover, the faster the condos will lose their value. There are other factors, of course. If the style of the houses makes them look outdated quickly, if the building quality is such that they look worn and dingy very fast, or need repair constantly, this kind of high-density development could bring down the value of the neighborhood in as little as 10 or 20 years.

If history is an accurate classroom, "stacked townhomes" at 1202 Dekalb and at Dekalb and Elm will likely be slums in 50 to 70 years. If the houses last that long. Norristonians at the Tricentennial will look at these blocks and wonder what we were thinking.

We need to demand an end to "stacked" housing in Norristown.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fun and Games at Muni Hall

Need a social life this week? One of these gatherings at Municipal Hall this week might fit the bill:

Tonight at 6 pm: A public hearing for 2014 projects to be funded by Community Development Block Grants. The criteria are that projects must benefit low/moderate income neighborhoods, involving the employment of those with low/moderate income, must eliminate slum and blight, and must meet an urgent community development need. These projects could be really good for Norristown. Or they could simply involve developers hawking ill-conceived, low-income housing as they try to make a fast buck off of public grants. You'll never know if you stay home. Until they build ugly high-rise apartments in your back yard.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), from 7-10 pm: Planning Commission hearings concerning a variety of projects, including our old friend, the 24 houses on 2/3 acre debacle at 1202 Dekalb. This will probably be the public's last chance to object to this horrible development, because you know objecting at next week's Council meeting will do no good.  But also on the agenda is a plan for 44 through 50 East Main Street to be consolidated into a single lot. One would assume the plan is to knock down the existing buildings to put up something big. The existing buildings are one story and kind of ugly, so no great loss, but I'd be interested to hear what's planned, given all the talk of grand and glorious 15-story structures at the latest zoning workshops. I can't make this one, so someone fill me in.

Thursday, from 11 am to 2 pm: Question and Answer session regarding the proposed zoning changes. Wouldn't you rather skip lunch at work just for the chance to ask things like, why is the county running these zoning meetings instead of Jayne Musonye, Norristown's Director of Planning? And is the reason why you don't want extra parking behind businesses so that Council can put more parking meters all the way up Dekalb? Things like that. If I have time, I may go for the whole session, just to listen and write down people's questions, then post them here in the blog. Can't make it because of work? I'm guessing they're counting on that.

So there you go, come to one or all three. Bring your friends.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Funny Money

Back in the mid-1990s, I saw a news story on how Ithaca, NY was experimenting with circulating its own town currency, called "Ithaca Hours." The idea was, you could only spend Hours in Ithaca, at local establishments. The money would therefore stay in town, circulating, building the local economy. And the residents would learn that keeping dollars from leaving town would keep the town properous.

This summer, I was surprised to find that Ithaca STILL uses its own currency, and their economy is stronger than ever.

Ithaca's not that different from Norristown. In 2011, their population was 30,054. Ithaca covers 6.1 square miles compared to Norristown's nearly 4 square miles. But, their unemployment rate (as of April 2013) was only 4.9% compared to our 7.3%. A lot of their people work at local businesses that take Ithaca Hours in trade.

Last night, I saw a news segment about Berkshire County, MA, which is also using its own currency, the BerkShare. Here's the video. It's only 9 minutes and explains how BerkShares work better than I can.

I'm not saying Norristown should have its own currency. Frankly, I wouldn't trust anyone down at Muni Hall to keep such an endeavor free of corruption and stupidity. But I think we can learn a lesson here in keeping our trade local. Buy from resident-owned businesses here in the borough when you can. Encourage those business to purchase their inventory, supplies and equipment locally when they can.

Perhaps a way to encourage this would be for in-town businesses to offer discounts to residents. Show your driver's license and get 5% off. Try it for, say, the holiday season, and see if it helps.

Whatever we do, our businesses need to organize. We NEED a Downtown Business Association. Ditto a North End Business Association. If they wait for our government to lead the way, nothing will change.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Walkability - Science, Reality, and Our Planners

My friends will tell you I'm a hopeless nerd. If I want to know about something, I don't rely on what other people have heard; I look up the information for myself.

So, since last week's zoning workshop, I've been reading scientific studies on "walkable" communities.

By "study," I mean actual research, where scientists have observed residents of walkable and non-walkable neighborhoods, then compared the two. The problem is, the study of neighborhoods is a fairly recent science. In the 1990s, the theory emerged that new suburban communities ought to be planned more on the model of urban downtowns, where residents don't have to use their cars to go on every errand. If people could walk to their library, banks, movie theater, grocery stores, even their workplaces, they'd be healthier, would do more as a family, and it would cut back on air pollution.

Scientific research takes time, though. All the studies I found online were published after 2008, with the most data showing up in 2011 through the present. Here's a sampling:

2009 - Vancouver, British Columbia  -- Studied whether walkable neighborhoods had lower air pollution (specifically ozone and nitric oxide). Found that walkable lower income neighborhoods did have lower ozone, but higher nitric oxide. Higher income neighborhoods had lower pollution regardless of walkability. A similar study done the same time in Minneapolis showed no correlation between walkable neighborhoods and a decrease in air pollution.

2011 - New York City  -- Studied 13,000 subjects to compare their BMI (body mass index) to their neighborhood's walkability. Found that an association between a neighborhood's walkability and a lower BMI "were only apparent in more socioeconomically advantaged individuals."

2013 - Seattle  -- 1000 women answered a survery about how much they walk, their addresses were charted on a map which showed the walkability of each neighborhood.  Found that "Being white and healthy, having a high school education or beyond and greater non-walking exercise were significantly associated with more walking. Neighborhood walkability was not independently associated with greater walking, nor did it moderate influence of intrapersonal factors on walking." In other words, just because they lived in walkable neighborhoods didn't guarantee that they'd walk more.

Perhaps the most telling study I read was a 2012 economic analysis of walkable vs. non-walkable neighborhoods of the Washington DC area. An apartment in a walkable neighborhood cost an average of $301.76 per month more than in a non-walkable neighborhood. A house cost $81.54 per square foot more. "Walkability" has become more of a real estate "perk" than an extra bathroom, and in that lies the main motivation for town planners. Higher housing costs equal higher resident incomes and higher taxes.

What do these studies mean for Norristown? First of all, all the research was done in major cities, so just from that standpoint, the findings may have no relevance here. The whole theory was aimed toward NEW suburban development, not toward established towns like ours. Walkability is defined as having stores, places you'd run errands, and public transportation, all within about a quarter mile. This doesn't apply to most of our neighborhoods. The results of the studies all seem to indicate that walkability only benefits higher income people, and that, often, higher income people benefit regardless of the walkability of their neighborhoods. Norristown's average income is below the US average. Walkability sounds like a lovely lifestyle, but is it worth spending taxpayer dollars to make fundamental changes that may not benefit our residents?

Most important, though, is that our Comprehensive Plan, which pushes walkability in a big way, was published in 2009, before much scientific research appeared on the subject. It's not based on science, but on real estate fashion trends. We need to worry first about building our local economy, using Norristown's existing strengths, not try to turn our borough into some sort of ideal Utopia that it never will become.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Eye Of The Beholder

A friend of mine from Malvern visited Norristown recently. She posted 2 photos on Facebook, with the caption, "Norristown is so pretty, and so not." One photo was of a pretty Victorian iron gate, painted so that the ornamentation stood out. The other was of a piece of litter on the sidewalk--specifically, an empty Fart Bomb gag wrapper. Which makes a statement all by itself.

Last week I heard a resident refer to the mural at Dekalb and Lafayette Sts. as looking like something out of a B horror movie. Really? Do you actually think the ugliest thing in the photo above is the mural? Does anyone not see the billboard? Last time I drove by there, weeds were growing out of the sidewalk cracks. If I wanted to spruce that corner up, to present a good impression to visitors entering the town, the mural isn't what I'd change. That mural at least sends the message that art and creativity might be found here.

Imagine visitors coming into town from the north end of Markley. Wouldn't it be better to see a bit of bright color on that row of empty buildings at Logan Square, rather than a huge "Space Available" sign?

Driving into the borough from the southeast on Ridge Pike, the first thing that catches the eye is a extra large billboard several stories off the ground. If you don't blink, you might see the small, wooden "Welcome to Norristown" sign on the right.

Coming across the Dannehower from Bridgeport? More billboards, but at least our welcome sign there spans the roadway. Still, this is how thousands of cars enter our town. That first few blocks from Main to Spruce aren't exactly easy on the eyes. Maybe the Markley Street project will help.

Driving down Ridge to Norristown, the U-Haul sign dominates the landscape. Another small "Welcome" sign, that most people miss. The triangle between Airy and Main would be a perfect place for a large, permanent-looking welcome display. It wouldn't have to be funded by taxpayers. I should think enough of our businesses would see the benefits of giving visitors a proper welcome.

The real ugliness in our town comes from litter on our streets. From trash bags and cans that are either put out too early, or not picked up on trash day for whatever reason, then left to sit there forever. From vacant lots in the middle of downtown. From abandoned properties and absentee landlords. From businesses who won't take 5 mintues each morning to sweep and clean the sidewalk in front of their doors. From weeds growing out of parking lots and sidewalks and street gutters--I don't mean the occasional little tuff of grass here and there, I mean foot-high unkempt plants with an aura of urban blight. A lot of the weeds are on borough property.

So quit criticizing the mural until you've cleaned your own front yard.

I'd love to see more murals around Norristown. Again, they don't have to be paid for by taxpayers.  Here's a photo of the Dragon Mural the students of ACPPA Community Arts Center are painting at Riverfront Park. It's half done and already brightening up the area. We could have student murals at the schools, or murals at businesses who have, say, a blank parking lot wall. Even simply giving a fence, or a door, a fresh coat of paint could help change our town's image.

I want my friend to come back to N-town in a year and say "Norristown is so pretty, and so artsy."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An End Run Around The Voters

I sent a letter to the editor of the Times Herald yesterday. Not sure if or when it'll be printed, but do me a favor and keep an eye out for it. I sent it because I thought the information needed to be communicated to all of Norristown, and I can't do that using just this blog. So please share.

Here's the letter I sent:

The second of three public workshops on Norristown's proposed zoning changes took place on August 29th. Six citizens showed up. There was no serious attempt to publicize the events. No one from Council came because they thought a social event was more important. Sure, they came to the first workshop--an hour and forty-five minutes late. Council will have the final vote on the changes, but shows no sign of wanting to do their homework.

Those of us at the last workshop heard how people living on East Lafayette would probably be turned out of their homes to make way for development. We heard how the zoning board will allow 15-story buildings on Main, but don't worry, they said, the new structures would "fit right in." We heard how they want to extend a new business district all the way up Dekalb to the Human Services Building, but that they have no intention of adding parking for customers. They wouldn't say where exactly these new businesses would be, even after we pointed out that this corridor was a historic district and we wouldn't take kindly to beautiful Victorian houses being knocked down. They told us the none of this was written in stone, but when we voiced opposition to some of their plans, and even suggested better solutions, we were told that nothing could be changed.

They kept saying words like "urban environment" and "city," forgetting that, by state law, no one can call Norristown a city until the voters go to the polls and vote in a new form of government involving either a mayor or a commission. But our planners seemed determined to remake Norristown however they want, despite what voters think, with the aid of an apathetic Council. The workshops are led not by our Director of Planning, but by someone from the County (who doesn't live in town). He keeps saying that he's just advising, but I'll believe that when he goes home and lets us speak directly with Norristown's planners.

The next "workshop" is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26th, 6-8 pm, at the Human Resources Building at Dekalb and Fornance. A Q&A session will be held on Sept. 12th from 11 am - 2 pm (while most people are at work). Please try to come to one or both, and contact your councilpeople about the matter. These zoning changes need more input from the voters.

Elena Santangelo


I'm not saying that all the proposed zoning changes would be bad for Norristown. Just that every taxpayer needs to know about them before they're approved, and that the changes ought to be modified using voter input, the way we were promised they would be. If not, Council needs to vote no. I don't see that happening as long as Council doesn't care enough to learn what the changes are, or enough to inform their constituents about the workshops.