Conshohocken’s Borough Council is considering removing the residential uses within the SP-1, SP-2, SP-3, zoning districts, which encompass the riverfront. The item is on the agenda for a February 3rd meeting. The agenda reads:
Discuss and consider authorizing advertisement of a zoning ordinance amendment to remove residential uses in SP Zoning Districts
As the above map shows, SP-1 is located on either side of the Matsonford Bridge on the other side of the railroad tracks from the Schuylkill River. SP-2 runs between the tracks and river from the bridge to the border of Whitemarsh Township. SP-3 is north of the bridge to the border with Plymouth Township mostly between the tracks and the river (a small portion is between the tracks and West Elm Street).
The three districts were created in 2001 with the following legislative intent:
SP-1 and SP-2 (MoreThanTheCurve.com added the bold on “residential uses”)
It shall be the purpose of the Specially Planned District Nos. 1 and 2 (hereinafter “SP-1 District” or “SP-2 District”) to provide for the orderly development of a major business and commerce areas of the Borough of Conshohocken, in accordance with the objectives, policies, and proposals of the Comprehensive Plan and other approved Borough plans including, but not necessarily limited to the Redevelopment Plan and the Floodplain Conservation District Regulations. The development of these districts shall be directed by the plans and redevelopment proposals heretofore shown in the Comprehensive Plan and studies, which may subsequently follow and be approved. The logical and timely development of land for business purposes is herein a stated purpose of these districts. In addition, it is a purpose of these districts to recognize the unique relationship of the districts to the entrance to the Borough and of the districts to the bordering natural resources, including the river and views of the hills beyond the river. The districts propose to permit a uniformity of design and to ensure the orderly arrangement of buildings, land uses, and parking areas, and all construction hereafter proposed for these areas shall be related to this objective. The purpose of these districts is also to encourage a mix of uses, including residential, a variety of heights, additional employment, and to provide for the protection of the storage capacity and flow of floodwaters. The architectural and design arrangements of buildings are encouraged to conform to the general character and plans of the SP Districts 1 and 2.
SP-3 (the portion that pertains to residential uses)
It is the further purpose of this district to extend the character of development in the adjoining SP-1 and SP-2 Districts including residential while accommodating existing and future industrial, manufacturing, fabricating and processing activities as well as other appropriate commercial land uses.
In SP-1 and SP-2 residential uses are permitted “by-right” (meaning you do not need any type of special permission). In SP-3, the residential use requires a “conditional use” approval from the borough council. This requires the developer to show that a set of criteria has been met.
That doesn’t mean a developer can build any type of residential development. There are all types of other regulations to follow and if the proposed development doesn’t fall within those regulations it would need to seek zoning relief from the zoning hearing board (or ask the borough council to amend the zoning code).
So what happened after 2001 when the zoning was amended to create SP-1, SP-2, and SP-3? The following residential communities were constructed or are currently under construction. All are apartments except for the Grande at Riverview.
2005 – Riverwalk at Millennium | 375 units | SP-2
2007/2010 – The Grande at Riverview (opened in phases) | 387 units | SP-1
2010 – Londonbury at Millennium | 309 units | SP-2
TBD 2022 – The Birch at 51 Washington | 304 units | SP-3
TBD 2022 – Matson Mill | 276 units | SP-3
TBD 2023 – 400 West Elm | 348 units | SP-3
TBD – 401-433 Washington Street | 598 units | SP-2 (part of this development falls in Whitemarsh Township)
Undevloped Properties in the Special Districts
The removal of residential uses wouldn’t impact many properties (unless someone wanted to convert or redevelop an office buiding).
So what property is left to develop? South of the Matsonford Bridge there is only one location remaining in SP-2.
The grass area you see surrounded by buildings and the river was most recently approved for an office building. O’Neill Properties pitched this location for AmerisourceBergen’s corporate headquarters, but AmerisourceBergen selected the SORA West location. We have not learned of any new plans for the property.
In SP-1, the patches of green space and parking ot you see surrounding the Outbound Station are owned by the estate of Ray Weinmann. The estate also owns the green rectange at the corner of East Elm and Ash streets. These properties are currently for sale. The Outbound Station, which is under different ownership, has been rented by Couch Tomato, which plans to open within three months.
That is all we believe to be left to be redeveloped (if we missed something email us to let us know at email@example.com).
So what was encouraged through changes to the zoning code in 2001 happened as planned. Note that no action was taken after the first few communities were built to amend the zoning to remove the residential uses.