While I was checking out the Norristown.org calendar as I prepared my blog last Friday, an Item labeled "Public Notice April 19 Hearing" attracted my eye. Next Tuesday at 7:30 pm at Municipal Hall, Council will be voting on an amendment to our Zoning codes, but they were thoughtful enough to provide the residents with the following summary of what the amendment will entail:
"In accordance with the Comprehensive Plan of Norristown, and Article VI Zoning and Article VII Traditional Neighborhood Development of the 'The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code Act of 1968 as reenacted and amended. The Municipality of Norristown desires to amend the Zoning Chapter of the Code of the Municipality for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the Municipality, and is designed to lessen congestion in the streets and highways; to secure safety from fire, panic and other danger; to provide adequate light and air, to prevent the overcrowding of land; to avoid undue congestion of population; to facilitate schools, parks and other public requirements; to conserve the value of buildings; and to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the Municipality."
In other words, the exact opposite of most of what they've approved in the last few years. Not only will this magical amendment prevent the overcrowding of our land and undue congestion of our population (no more Sarah Peck and Progressive Ventures condos? Do we really believe that?), but it'll conserve the value of our buildings (instead of letting them be demolished?) And it's somehow going to promote our health and morals (morals, really?), and even keep us from panicking. And we'll have plenty of light and air while all this is happening.
Maybe by now you've noticed that this summary says absolutely nothing.
I began this blog 3 years ago when Council was being incredibly secretive about all their business. Residents never heard what they were going to vote on until it was a done deal. Things improved the next year--their agendas actually gave a decent idea about the issues on the table, so you could go to a meeting and speak your mind during the Public Comment part of the meeting. That still wasn't the optimal situation, because the Public Comment part of the meeting always happens BEFORE you get to hear the details about each issue, but it was an improvement. About the middle of last year, they got secretive again. Agendas once again tell us nothing. This isn't how a democracy is supposed to work.
On April 19th, Council will be voting on zoning, which requires public notice. They think the above quoted paragraph covers their asses for that requirement. Sorry, no, it doesn't. The public needs to know what exactly the zoning changes will be, not a lot of flowery language that sounds like heaven but means zilch.
So Council, you've got 8 days to give us real public notice. Send me a paragraph or 2 that truly summarizes the zoning changes. I'll publish it here and help spread the word. And don't wait until next weekend when you usually post your meeting agenda. That's not enough time.
If you don't, well, we'll remember next time each of you comes up for reelection.