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After Public Outcry, Plymouth Council Says No to Apartment Complex

Over 70 area residents were on hand Monday night to hear a council decision regarding a potential new apartment complex in Plymouth.

After vocal, at times hostile opposition from area residents, the Plymouth Township Council denied an application to build a 389-unit apartment complex near the intersection of Plymouth Road and Butler Pike at its Monday night meeting.

Over 70 residents were on hand to hear the council’s decision on the complex, with many residents expressing concern to council about the traffic impacts of increased residents in the area, as well as the manner in which the project was publicized to residents.

“We’re asking you, our representatives, to limit traffic in this neighborhood and vote against this proposal,” resident Tammy Harrison said during public comment.

Nancy Benowitz of Plymouth presented the council with a petition with signatures from “over 150 area residents” protesting the development.

“Our major objection is the traffic congestion that would be created by the development,” she said.

Michael Clarke, the township’s solicitor, said that the township had done “a number of traffic studies” looking at the impact the project would have on the nearby intersections.

Robert Benowitz, who identified himself as a Plymouth Meeting-based lawyer with planning board experience, said that the study didn’t go far enough.

“I’ve been through this dog and pony show with [traffic studies] before, he said. “It’s my experience that traffic studies are not to be believed.”

Clarke said that, while the study looked at traffic patterns in the area of the Plymouth Road and Butler Pike intersection, other areas of concern raised by the residents, like the intersection of Germantown and Butler Pikes, was not looked at.

“While this project may impact Germantown Pike, it is outside the proximity of this ordinance,” he said.

Residents also claimed that the project was not properly announced to the public, with many claiming they had never heard about the project before. One resident accused the council of trying to “jam something through.”

Township manager Karen Weiss maintained that the project had been property noticed via state guidelines, including information in local media and posting on the township’s website.

“The rules and regulation [of public notice] have been the same as they’ve been forever,” council member Sheldon Simpson said. “ We’re not cheating anyone. This was in the newspaper. It’s been on the website.”

Clarke said that the project has been public since its beginning stages in 2005.

“This application has been a collaborative effort,” he said. “The owner of the property approached the township and wanted to develop it as an apartment building. Through discussions that lasted over a year, the text of this amendment was approved in August this year.”

After an hour of public discussion, the council unanimously voted to deny the development.  

Council encouraged the public to “pay attention to the township 365 days a year.”

“People need to pay attention all the time, not just when one thing happens,” Simpson said. “This audience should be this large every month.”

Nate Adams (Editor) November 15, 2011 at 05:09 PM
I can honestly say this was one of the most interesting meetings I have been to since I started covering Plymouth-Whitemarsh. One issue that people had was a lack of notice about this project. The council stated that it followed the rules on noticing the public, but many residents seemed to feel that more should have been done. I put it to you, residents of PW: How far do townships need to go to notice the public? Is posting it on a the website and in the newspaper enough? Should townships make more effort to embrace social media and online alerts as a means for communication?
SG124 November 15, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I missed this meeting and have been trying to find more information about this project on Plymouth's website and have yet to find anything. Clearly the state minimum outreach is not enough. With larger development projects, it would probably be a good idea to alert surrounding property owners via mail with a brief description of the development, and what meetings to attend to learn more. The township really needs to reevaluate their website and make better use of what they have, and embrace social media.
Nate Adams (Editor) November 16, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. Many of the residents at the meeting echoed your comment about going beyond what is required. There is some more information on the project on the township's website, under the "Planning Agency" folder in the "Citizen Board" category of the site's "Documents" page. http://www.egovlink.com/plymouthtownship/docs/menu/home.asp

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