Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Council Agenda: the Sequel

As I said yesterday, I split council's agenda into 2 Diary entries because there was a lot to explain. To read part one, read yesterday's Diary. To read the original whole agenda, go to this link. If you're the kind of person who'd rather see the movie than read the book, go to the Council meeting tonight at 6:30 pm in the 1st Floor Conference Room at Municipal Hall.

The third item on tonight's agenda is a motion to approve or disapprove authorizing the advertisement of a Public Hearing for establishment of LERTA Program boundaries to encompass the entire Redevelopment Area. LERTA means Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance and was established to allow local taxing authorities to exempt improvements to a business property if such property is located in a deteriorated area.

Now maybe I've lived in Norristown so long that I remember all kinds of different boundaries for what we've called Redevelopment Areas or Enterprise Zones or whatever. So I'd like a clarification of what the boundaries currently are BEFORE the Public Hearing. The last time I heard LERTA discussed by Council, it concerned the Luxor Apartments. That development is NOT located in a "deteriorated area."

Council, in my experience, seems to exempt every developer or big business that comes along, so I'm not sure why we need a fancy name or a motion for it. It would be nice to see our small businesses reap the benefit of LERTA instead. I would love to see LERTA used to bring back our downtown--make improvements on Main Street and start to develop Lafayette in anticipation of the road improvements there.

Nor-Fab on Stanbridge St.
Fourth item: "Motion to approve or disapprove the Nor-Fab Corporation project at 1310 Stanbridge Street, Norristown with no conditions."

Nor-Fab is a textile manufacturer that makes protective clothing for fire fighting and industrial uses as well as other applications. They're a third-generation family owned business. I remember when they opened in Norristown in 1979--they had an open house and my dad and I toured the factory. So, they have a 36 year history in the borough and that counts for quite a lot. But it would be nice if the residents in that area and downstream on Stony Creek knew ahead of this vote what the project entails. Does it, say, pose any risk to the creek or the park which is directly down the hill from the factory?

Under "Items for Discussion" -- (a) A proposed easement for 5 Saints Distillery (opening this summer at 129 East Main). Again, no detail as to what this easement involves. I don't know whether 5 Saints requested it or if this is just something that needs to be formalized to allow the production of bourbon on the property.

(b) Council Cultural Events Committee -- I didn't know Council had a cultural events committee. Usually cultural events are planned and executed by non-profit organizations in Norristown. Unless they mean the concerts in the park on Sundays. I'd love to know what this committee does.

(c) Environmental Advisory Council -- Again, no explanation. Not sure if this is something being formed in Norristown or an outside agency.

(d) I love this next item: "Process for Waiver of Fees and Requesting Funding." Apparently so many developers ask us to waive fees and fund their projects that we need a formal process for it. If a formal process will allow Norristown to say NO to people like Sarah Peck, who is constantly asking us for money for her projects, then I'm all for the process. I'd much rather see any excess funds we have being used to improve our infrastructure before we allow many more large development projects.that put more strain on our already inadequate infrastructure. I'm talking road repair, sewers and stormwater control especially.

(e) Block Party/Street Closure events -- Not sure if this is just an information item, noting our normal street closure events that happen in the summer (like the National Night Out in August), or a way to inform neighborhoods of the process if they want to hold a block party, or someting new.

(f) Building Permit Fees Schedule -- This at least, seems fairly straightforward. They're probably raising, or considering a raise in building permit fees.

So that's the agenda. If you actually want to figure out what most of the agenda items mean, you have to go to the meeting. Even then, someone will probably need to get up during the Public Comment part of the meeting and ask Council to explain each agenda item, or they might just take their votes and leave us in the dark.


  1. In response to your comments about a LERTA, I work with a number of developers in the area and one thing that keeps developers from even considering Norristown is the lack of any sort of tax abatement. There are too many towns outside of Norristown that offer incentives for developers to consider developing in one that doesn't offer any support. Personally, I think it's fantastic that Council is considering this. The Municipality (and school district) may lose tax dollars from a development project, but will more than make it up from the added business that it will hopefully bring due to added staff, etc.

  2. I'm not saying developers are a bad thing. But we tend to get so excited about developers coming to N-town that we forget the difference between mere development and true growth of the community. You can't build a house without a good foundation. Strengthening the infrastructure--roads, sewers, stormwater drainage, trash, water pressure--all that has to come first, not to mention a decent economic strategy based on businesses that will keep money in the community and not send it out of town or out of state or oversees. Then we can develop and attract new residents, and developers will want to come.