Whitemarsh Planning Commission Votes to Not Recommend New Zoning District to Allow Apartment Community

On Monday evening Whitemarsh’s Planning Commission voted 3-1 to not recommend the creation of a transit oriented zoning district to the Board of Supervisors. This was third meeting in a series of meetings to consider this proposal. The one member who voted against the others stated that he wasn’t voting to say that the zoning amendment should be supported, just that he thought the board should make no recommendation.

The creation of the Transited Oriented District, along Bethlehem Pike (basically situated between the train station in Fort Washington and Germantown Academy), would allow for 232 apartments and a limited number of retail shops. The big issues driving the Planning Commission’s decision were continued concerns over density and traffic. It was also expressed that trying to create a zoning district to fit one project created ambiguity and there were concerns that if the property was sold after the zoning change was approved, a new developer might exploit the ambiguities.

We have covered a lot of these type of meetings over the past eight years, and this meeting by far had the most ruckus. The standing room only crowd was very vocal throughout the meeting, which led to repeated appeals from the Planning Commission’s chair for the public to remain quiet during the presentation by the developer. At one point, Supervisor Amy Grossman left the room to go get police officers, who stood just outside the room for the remainder of the meeting. This was driven by a man, who was against the proposal, yelling from the sidelines and then eventually walking to the front of the room and getting in the face of the attorney for the developer. When it was time for the public to speak, everyone who spoke, spoke against the project.

The Planning Commission not supporting the proposal does not mean the project is dead. The Planning Commission offers an advisory recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. The decision as to whether the area will be rezoned will be made by the Board of Supervisors in a future meeting. The Board of Supervisors could also decide to not hold a hearing and thus not consider it at all.

We asked one of the developers involved in the project, Greg Harth, for a reaction to the decision. He shared:

After meeting with the Whitemarsh Planning Commission for the 3rd time, listening to their suggestions and feedback and explaining how the changes were incorporated, we were appreciative they moved the Text Amendment to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration.

We hope the Board of Supervisors sees this Transit Oriented, Smart Growth project is in concert with MONTCO 2040 comprehensive plan and better than the alternatives under the existing VC-1 Zoning. We also hope that we demonstrated the proposed traffic improvements will ultimately make dramatic reduction in driving time and improve three signalized lights, even after the project is completed.

If you are wondering what Transit Oriented Development is, here is a link to a scholarly history of it.

More to come if it lands on a Board of Supervisors’ agenda.

Acknowledgement – Harth Builders’s home remodeling division is an advertiser on AroundAmbler.com, which is also a publication of Burb Media.