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Hilltown delays vote on 194-unit development

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At their July 27 meeting, the Hilltown Board of Supervisors tabled a vote on a proposed rezoning measure that would clear the way for a 194-unit age-restricted development to be built in the township.
The vote on the project, which has been opposed by residents, is now scheduled to occur at the supervisors’ Aug. 24 meeting.
 
Lennar Construction was hoping to get the zoning relief to open the door for it to construct the project at the scale the Miami-headquartered firm desires in the area of Swartley Road and Route 309. Local businessman Wally Rosenthal, who owns Route 309 Furniture & Design, owns the land upon which the development would be built.
 
The township’s three supervisors each expressed different views on what should be allowed, which ultimately led to their tabling the vote for a month so that more consideration could be given.
 
Still, one thing supervisors did agree on was that the development could be a financial benefit for the township and the local Pennridge School District. Information presented has indicated that the development, once built out, could generate around $1.2 million in annual tax revenue for the school district and about $100,000 for the township without putting additional children into the school district as the community would be limited to folks 55 and older, officials said.
 
Supervisor Jim Groff felt zoning relief should be granted, but he felt the 194 units were too many. He wanted to cap the development at 125 units – a number suggested by Hilltown’s planning commission, which evaluates and makes recommendations on development applications.
 
Supervisor Jack McIlhinney was in favor of granting zoning relief that would allow the 194 units. He liked the tax revenue upside and made the case that the location out toward Hilltown’s commercial corridor makes this a reasonable spot to put a large-scale development.
 
Supervisor Caleb Torrice was not in favor of the rezoning. Over the course of months in which the rezone has been discussed, Torrice said that he’s heard from about 275 residents who are opposed to the project, in large part because of the high number of units and related concerns like increased traffic. He said he’s only heard from a handful of residents who support the project.
 
“This was a very hard decision, but I feel that I’m elected to represent the will of the people and overwhelmingly they’re opposed to this,” Torrice said.
 
A community group, Hilltown Friends, opposes the envisioned 194-unit development. They have a variety of concerns, ranging from worry over a potential massive increase in traffic and flooding and runoff issues they fear the development will create, to stress on local roadways, infrastructure and more.
 
Even if supervisors ultimately grant zoning relief, that doesn’t mean Lennar would have the ability to build. The developer would then have to go through a potentially lengthy land development approval process with the township, which would involve public hearings before supervisors where residents can raise concerns and question plans.
 
Without obtaining any zoning relief from Hilltown supervisors, Lennar could build a maximum of 36 homes, officials have said.
 

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