Hilltown Township drafting age qualified zoning ordinance originated by McGrath Homes
Hilltown Township Board of Supervisors hopes to have a draft ordinance regarding the creation of a controversial Age Qualified Community (AQC) zoning district as early as its next meeting, Feb. 26.
During a discussion with McGrath at the supervisors' Feb. 12 meeting, it was stated that Hilltown Solicitor Frank Grabowski and Hilltown Engineer C. Robert Wynn are currently working to revise the ordinance originally proposed by McGrath with the comments received from the three supervisors.
The first draft of that ordinance is expected for the Feb. 26 meeting, said Vice Chairman Jack McIlhinney.
It will not be the final draft of the ordinance, which would still need to be reviewed by the Hilltown Planning Commission and the Bucks County Planning Commission, supervisors said.
Paul Callahan, land development and acquisitions director for McGrath Homes, addressed council to ask how to proceed with the creation of the new ordinance and to state McGrath's feeling on the property. Callahan said that while the number of units proposed has been reduced from nearly 500 to 268 over time, 268 units is the lowest figure the developer will accept.
"Anything less than that, we're looking at a single-family home division," said Callahan.
The single-family home subdivision would be allowed by right in the current zoning district on the property and could add 95 single-family homes that would spread across the entire property. The single-family home subdivision would also add more children to the school district and would not benefit the tax base in the same way that a 55-and-over AQC would, McGrath officials have said.
As proposed, McGrath has projected that the residents of the AQC community, who must be 55 and over with no children, would pay a total of $1.69 million in taxes to the Pennridge School District alone, plus taxes to the township and county. McGrath contrasts this with a development of 95 single-family homes, which is the allowable "by-right" plan in the RR district. That development would likely create a deficit of $305,799 in school taxes because it would likely add 93 children to the district at a cost of $12,968 each to educate annually, according to McGrath's figures. Opponents of the project say that the impact will still hit the district as seniors sell their homes to young families that will still add children to the school district.
Additionally, in the proposed AQC, the units are clustered in 67 groups of four units each. This clustering allows the design to have larger setbacks, more buffering and preserve 136 acres of open space. The by-right single-family home plan would be spread out across the property and so would eliminate the open space.
Callahan also requested that Supervisor Barbara Salvadore share a presentation with the audience regarding what she thinks are the items that should be required in an AQC or any new development in the township - those things that are historically Hilltown and that give the township its character.
Salvadore presented a Power Point presentation that included photos of some of Hilltown's most common scenery, including stone walls, working farms, barns, brick Victorian homes, unique windows, tree-lined driveways, stucco houses, old schoolhouses, pastures, ponds, family picnics and old stone homes. Residents applauded Salvadore's presentation. Salvadore explained that it was recommended as a way for municipalities to explain to developers what exactly they'd like to see and preserve in their townships.
"Let us see what it's going to look like, not just the plans," explained Salvadore.
Resident Henry Rosenberger, who recently preserved 140 acres of land along Schwenkmill Road near the proposed AQC, asked supervisors when they would share their opinions on the proposal of an AQC district and McGrath's proposed plan. McIlhinney said the views of the supervisors were clear in that they are drafting their own AQC ordinance. While public hearings were held for McGrath Homes on Nov. 29 and Dec. 11, comments and questions were mainly reserved for the public with the supervisors remaining mostly silent. Rosenberger said he felt the ordinance and public meetings have been a misleading process and that residents would like to hear the opinions of the supervisors.
Supervisors said the presentation of the ordinance will show their concerns and will be based on what they feel is right for the township.
"The ordinance will drive what the plan can be," said Salvadore.
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