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Zoning board denies variances for 70 townhouses at Middletown school site


It's back to the drawing board for a Fort Washington developer after the Middletown Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday night unanimously denied variances for 70 townhouses proposed at 1700 Woodbourne Road.

Westrum Development Co. had requested variances allowing townhouses in a P (Professional) zoning district, building heights greater than 35 feet, a buffer yard less than 75 feet and construction in a wetland in excess of the permitted limitation.

The 13.2-acre site is the home of Neshaminy School District's former Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, which closed many years ago and now houses Delta Community Supports, a food pantry and an adult day care, all of which would move to a new, more-modern location if the townhouse project or some other variation is eventually built.

Zoning on the site allows detached single-family residences by right, but Westrum representatives claimed attached townhouses would be preferable for several reasons.

The vast majority of the hearing to consider the variances was held June 28, but the ZHB delayed a decision so it could further consider the matter. After a brief executive session Wednesday night, zoning hearing board Chairman Ernie Peacock and fellow members Kevin Strouse, William Cosen, James McCafferty and Michael McGuffin all voted to deny the variances.

"The applicant was disappointed with the zoning hearing board's decision after working with the adjacent neighbors and the township to redevelop the property for a use that preserved almost 50 percent of the property as open space and generated significantly less traffic than the current institutional use and other permitted commercial uses," wrote Robert Gundlach Jr., Westrum's attorney on the project, in a Thursday morning email to the Herald.

"Nevertheless, the applicant intends to continue to work with the neighbors and the township as to plan revisions to address the township zoning hearing board's concerns."

Even if Westrum gets the zoning relief it needs, the company would also need land development approval from the township supervisors in order for the project to proceed.

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