Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Demolition of Hospital Official

I went to 2 meetings in Norristown yesterday, one positive and optimistic, one thoroughly depressing. One of those meetings was at Municipal Hall. Guess which?

I'll start with the depressing news and cheer you up with the good stuff at the end.

As I said yesterday, Cingular is seeking a variance to put an 84-foot-high cell tower on the corner of Fornance and Powell--on the grass, right at the corner, for up to 9 months (though once it's up, they could ask for extentions on the time limit). If you've been in Council chambers, the ceiling there is about 30 feet, so imagine a tower nearly 3 times that height. We found out the reason for Cingular's request last night. Einstein told them to remove their antenna from the roof of Montgomery Hospital by 3/15/14, so the power in the building could be turned off prior to demolition. I'd heard rumors, but this was the 1st time the plan was entered onto the official record.

I asked both our director of planning and our council president last night what the authorization procedure is for demolition of the hospital. They said there is none. Einstein doesn't have to go before Zoning or Planning or Council. They apparently don't even have to warn the neighborhood. Imagine yourself living in one of the 14 small houses directly across Locust from the hospital when the wrecking ball starts. Potential damage to the houses, yards and vehicles. Dust for who knows how long for all the surrounding blocks, and that means health problems. Brick and mortar dust is bad enough, but we don't know what else is in the walls that could be mixed in. Business is bound to be disrupted at LeCons Pharmacy and at the offices across Powell, Wood and Fornance Streets. And having an 84-foot cell tower that close to a demolition site doesn't seem like a brilliant idea.

And no one seems to be able to answer the question, "Why does the hospital have to be demolished?" The only answer i get: "For senior housing." So why not put the senior housing INSIDE the hospital buidling? Why endanger the entire neighborhood and destroy a great piece of architecture? Because the developer could care less about the neighborhood and our town.

If you want to register your opinion, email your council people: Linda Christian (, Bill Caldwell (, Olivia Brady (, Derrick Perry (, Gary Simpson (, Marlon Millner (, Sonya Sanders (

The other meeting was about the Schuylkill River Trail, especially in relation to Riverfront Park. The purpose of the Schuylkill River Towns group, and of the Norristown Action Team Committee is to get more people to use the river and get more people who do use the river and trail to come up into town to patronize our businesses.

Our Dragon Boat Club is active in the planning, and this year, besides Riverfest and Winter Wonderland, they're planning water classes for kids, not only about rowing, but teaching about things like the animals in and around the river and the chemistry of river water. The committee also talked about getting a permanent restroom for along the trail at Riverfront, and building a floating dock not only for the boat club, but for the whole community to use. They'll be hosting a clean-up day for the park and trail, probably in April. Stay tuned.

So, see? Good news in Norristown. Overshadowed, as usual, by the plans of developers and out-of-town corporations, and by the Council's typical lack of concern for the residents and historical architecture.

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