A 350+ unit apartment building is likely coming to Plymouth Meeting, after a Montgomery County judge ruled against Plymouth Township's rejection of an application from developer Brandywine Realty Trust.
That was the news out of Monday's Plymouth Council meeting, when solicitor Thomas Speers notified the public of the ruling.
"We received an order from judge [Kent] Albright on April 4th…and the shorthand of the motion is that the township lost," said Speers.
Brandywine filed two civil suits against the township in late November, after council denied its zoning application on November 14. Brandywine had been seeking conditional use approval to build the mid-rise apartment complex on a 20-acre lot at 134 Plymouth Road, near the intersection of Butler Pike and just south of the Mid-County Interchange.
Residents came out against the development, citing concerns over traffic and population, and the township decided in their favor. However, Speers said that the court ruled the township did not have sufficient grounds to deny the application.
"[Judge Albright ruled] that the township was unable to articulate any section of its [zoning ordinance] that the plaintiff failed to comply with," said Speers. "They raised an issue about a tangential issue, but that was not part of the ordinance."
Brandywine also filed its suits in such a way that it would be entitled to seek monetary damages from the township for lost revenues due to delays, Speers said.
To avoid such a suit, which officials said could reach into the millions of dollars, Speers presented council with a motion to approve the zoning application. Council approved with a 4-1 vote, with councilwoman Maria Weidinger dissenting.
"I'm not in favor of it, but we need to protect the township from exposure to possibly a multi-million dollar lawsuit and expenses for something we can't stop," said chair Sheldon Simpson, who also stated that the township had already spent over $50,000 on planning and legal fees.
"I'm just sad at the thought of bringing another 400 people to the community, I feel we're overpopulated already," said Weidinger. "I live it everyday."
Council members said the silver lining in the motion was that Brandywine still agreed to a number of "stringent" requirements the township requested, and also agreed to waive any right to seek damages.
The requirements include a number of sustainable design initiatives, such as the use of recycled materials, solar lighting, resource-efficient appliances, and power docking stations.
Brandywine also agreed to the following four traffic improvements:
- Creation of a right-hand turn on the southbound approach of Butler Pike at the intersection of Plymouth Road and Flourtown Road.
- Creation of a left turn "advance phase" on the southbound approach of Butler Pike to Plymouth Road and Flourtown Road.
- Optimize existing traffic signal timings at the intersection of Butler Pike, Plymouth Road and Flourtown Road.
- Place traffic signal at the intersection of Plymouth Road and the I-76 northbound off ramp.
A representative from Brandywine Realty was in attendance and confirmed to the township that the agreement was acceptable.
Even though Brandywine now has zoning approval, there will still be a lengthy process of finalizing designs with the township's planning commission and general council before ground is broken, officials said.