This is my week for meetings. Last night's was for the zoning committee for the development that's to take place at the site of Montgomery Hospital.
I think I mentioned that the zoning codes have to be changed for that block. Right now it's zoned for a hospital and nothing else. The developer wanted to to write up his own zoning changes and just hand them in to be approved, but our Planning Department is doing the right thing and making it a public process, with input from neighbors-especially those right across Locust Street--and from County Planners and the developers.
I use the plural because representatives showed up from Einstein last night. Einstein said over and over in the meetings about the fate of the hospital that as soon as the hospital was demolished, they'd be done with the matter and the developer, Elon company, would take over. So I'm not sure why they should have a say in the wording of the zoning.
But it turned out to be a good thing they came because even before the final permit has been issued for demolition, there are already glitches in the process. The infamous 6 foot fence was constructed this week around the property (it is, essentially, there for insurance purposes. Not sure why it took so long to be approved). The bus stop shelter is now completely fenced in. Brilliant.
Notices about the demolition schedule had been placed on the building. With the fence up, the notices can't be read except with a good pair of binoculars. The residents asked that the schedules be laminated and attached to the fence.
This past week, a couple of thuggish gentlemen showed up at Locust Street neighbors' doors, saying the residents had to let them in so they could take photos inside the houses before demolition. There was no notice sent out beforehand. It sounded like a scam, so many of the residents said no. To that response, everyone said the men freaked out and demanded to be let in, making themselves even less welcome on the block. Supposedly, the demolition firm hired these fellows to take photos of existing cracks inside and outside the neighbors homes so that the homeowners can't later claim the cracks were caused by the vibrations of the demolition. Einstein knew nothing about it, so it still might be a scam. Even so, if you live within a block of the hospital, you'd do better to take your own photos or schedule an independent home inspection. You aren't obligated to let representatives of the demolition company in.
But back to the new zoning. The changes specify that the site be used for senior housing and a small adult day-care center, or single family housing, or professional/medical offices. If the developer chooses to do so, they can put small retail like restaurants, banks, or personal service shops (think barber) on the first floor of the buildings, but the buildings can't exceed 4 stories. There has to be a minimum 25% public open space, which must be landscaped for passive recreation and can include walking paths, benches, etc. Shade trees should line the streets (which would also help with stormwater runoff). There was more--parking requirements, etc.--but it sounds like a plan that could be a benefit to Norristown and the neighborhood.
Next the developer (Elon, I assume, unless Einstein has a say for some reason) will look through the document and say what they can't live with. Then, I also assume, we'll have another meeting and I'll report back.