by Edie Cerebi
A deadline of Monday has been set for public comments by the Cheltenham Board of Commissioners on the comprehensive rewrite of the township’s zoning ordinance that has been in the works for the last 10 years. The commissioners also have arranged for a limited fiscal impact study on the zoning proposal to be done by the Montgomery County Planning Commission that will be due in March.
The new ordinance, which will serve as a blueprint for development in the township for the foreseeable future, is likely to contain fundamental changes that realign residential districts and significantly expand opportunities for commercial and mixed-use development. The current zoning ordinance was adopted in 1964.
The board’s Feb. 1 deadline for comments and its plan for a quickly assembled fiscal impact study are the latest facets of a continuing process expected to lead to final adoption of the zoning overhaul no earlier than this summer. Recent workshops conducted by Brian Olszak and Eric Jarrell of MCPC reviewed the specific provisions of the residential, commercial, mixed-use districts and overlays. The three-hour sessions involved substantive discussions by township commissioners, members of the Select Committee responsible for the draft, township staff, and interested residents. The PowerPoint presentations created for each session are available on the township site.
Comments and questions generated from each session were compiled by the MCPC planners and are now in the hands of the commissioners who will decide on further changes, including those based on public input.
The commissioners requested the fiscal impact study to obtain insight into how certain provisions of the new ordinance may affect township revenues. Because of time and cost constraints the scope of the study will be limited.
MCPC’s Olszak will prepare a fiscal impact study that will estimate the net tax revenue for at least two of the proposed MU3 tracts that are currently zoned residential. The Elkins Estate and the Melrose Country Club, described as “more impactful” based on their revenue generating potential, are the two properties suggested for the study. Other major properties classified MU3 in the proposed ordinance are Lynnewoood Hall, the Temple-Tyler property, the Einstein-Elkins Park campus, Ashbourne Meadows (the former Ashbourne Country Club) and property including and adjacent to the Gratz College campus.
Permitted uses in MU3 districts, depending on class, include office buildings, retail, theaters, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and residential uses, including apartments. The revenue projection will be based on “proportional valuation” using current tax rates, costs, and revenues. The study will include “worst case scenarios” where revenue based on maximum permitted residential development will be factored into the calculations. Residential development is considered “worst case” because business uses are considered to have greater revenue potential for the township.
The continuing discussions on the proposed ordinance will occur primarily at regularly scheduled Building and Zoning Committee meetings, but at least one separate meeting dedicated exclusively to the ordinance cannot be ruled out, said Ward 1 Comr. Drew Sharkey at the January Public Works meeting. Board President Mickey Simon told Citizens’ Call that he expects a board decision by the summer, but sees the possibility of further delay into the fall.
Comments on the current draft may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the Township Administration Building, 8230 Old York Road in Elkins Park. The current draft, compiled in June 2015, is available on the township website. It incorporates comments from previous informational sessions held in 2014 at Glenside Hall.