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.


  1. "Metropolitan area governments are adopting plans that would require most new housing to be built at 20 or more to the acre, which is at least five times the traditional quarter acre per house. State and regional planners also seek to radically restructure urban areas, forcing much of the new hyper-density development into narrowly confined corridors... with much of it at an even higher 30 or more units per acre." Sound familiar to you?

  2. The link above doesn't work.
    Try http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577323353434618474.html

    The author was talking about California, but this does seem to be the trend. As I said in some of my other diary entries, I think it's fueled by the real estate industry and the fortune to be made by doing this, and, of course, places like Norristown think of all the new tax possibilities and salivate, without seriously considering the quality of life issues. In fact, they think they're improving the quality of life.