Dozens of residents attended last Wednesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting in Lower Salford asking supervisors to reconsider two ordinance changes that could lessen the small town feel of their homes.
However, while supervisors instead voted to pass the changes, both Chairman Douglas Gifford and Solicitor James Garrity did their best to quell anxiety.
The billboard ordinance will allow 300-foot signs to be erected within 100 feet of the right of way along portions of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension. Garrity explained that allowing the billboards within those parameters is better than trying to ban them from the township altogether.
According to Garrity, outdoor advertising companies throughout Pennsylvania pay attorneys to find ordinances that are too restrictive which can then be challenged in PA Supreme Court. The result has often been a significant increase in allowable size and quantity.
Garrity went on to say that Lower Salford is currently in the midst of one such challenge.
“We would rather control it then let them control us,” Garrity explained of the measures.
Garrity also reminded those in attendance that a billboard company would need to rent the space from a property owner before erecting any billboards.
“This township board and township staff does not like billboards any more than you do,” Garrity added.
The billboard vote was followed by another vote, allowing a change in the regulations of the mixed-use zoning district, specifically involving land owned by Spring Hill Realty Inc. along Clemens Road, across Sumneytown Pike from Henning’s.
Bryan Hunsberger, owner of Spring Hill, explained that changes in the mixed use regulation, including allowing drive-through services and convenience store operations such as gas pumping, will simply modernize an outdated agreement. An additional change would also increase the amount of property allowed for commercial use from 11 percent to 20 percent.
Hunsberger did not specify exactly what businesses he has in mind when requesting these changes. Several residents in attendance, however, spoke out against the need for a “super” Wawa or a strip mall.
Some residents in attendance cautioned supervisors that such businesses would bring additional traffic to an area that already struggles with rush hour capacity. Still others questioned the impact additional retail would have on existing Harleysville businesses.
Supervisor Chris Canavan added that, even with the change, each business has to be a separate building. Therefore, a strip mall could not be built on the property.
Supervisor Douglas Johnson abstained from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest. According to Johnson, Spring Hill’s attorney Frank Buschman and he are law partners.
Gifford reminded residents that the mixed-use agreement would have allowed for some development on that property without Wednesday night’s changes.
“The mix is still required,” Gifford said. “We’re just tweaking the mix a little bit.”
Gifford also reminded residents that any business that wishes to develop on property within the township would submit plans which would have to be approved by the appropriate boards before development.