The Horsham Land Reuse Authority met in its monthly meeting on May 18, and for the most part it was business as usual. Most developments were of a mundane administrative nature; but a few new things were learned as well, particularly how the upcoming June 10 community charrette will work.
- A walk-through tour of the JRB Willow Grove property was conducted by Navy officials for the edification of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Denise Brinley. They reviewed the current state of known environmental sites and toured existing building stock. Ms. Brinley is charged with Community Revitalization and Local Government Support for the PA-DEP. HLRA representatives were present.
- None of the various Notices of Interest (NOI) filed by various parties interested in laying claim to excess property on the base, including the runway, are without the need for additional information and clarification. Evaluations are expected to be completed by the consultant, RKG by the end of June.
- It is believed that many of the NOIs were filed for buildings without actually visiting the buildings requested and knowing their present condition. Some buildings have been in disrepair for some time already.
- Lease arrangement for the Delaware Valley Historic Aircraft Association should be completed shortly, assuring that the Association will remain a Horsham fixture at the base and that static airplane displays, controlled by the Navy, will remain as well.
There also was an in-depth explanation provided of the specifics and workings of the charrette process that will be used at the next community participation meeting, June 10-11.
- Two sessions, both identical in process and objective (so that participation at one session should suffice, although attendance at both is perfectly acceptable), will be held on June 10 at 2:00 pm and 6:30 pm (with sign-in required beginning at 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm respectively).
- The process is intended to flesh out development plans by seeking community input through identical small-group planning exercises managed by the HLRA consultant, RKG.
- RKG is experienced with using what are called “community planning charrettes” for other large development projects.
- The charrette process in June WILL NOT result in the completion of the much-anticipated “three base reuse alternatives” from which the HLRA will choose one plan to submit to the Navy for its consideration and endorsement.
- The charrette WILL allow for community input, by either including or excluding various options for the future base reuse alternatives.
- On Saturday, June 11, it is anticipated that the HLRA Committee will spend the entire day reviewing and evaluating the results of the collective charrette sub-groups. Then at approximately 4:00 pm the HLRA will present the results of its evaluations.
- From these results (referred to as “the bubble plan”), RKG will integrate the input from the community into the development of the three base reuse alternatives, which will be presented to the HLRA and be available for public review and comment at a later date.
Why Horsham attendance matters: I have a number of friends and neighbors, who ask why it’s “necessary” for them to attend the charrette when there will be “nothing decided”? My pitch to them is two-fold.
- You’re a taxpayer. What you may or may not want at JRB Willow Grove and whatever results – development wise – from the HLRA process will affect the Township’s tax base and your tax bills for years – even decades – to come. Why wouldn’t you either want a say in the process or at least get a good feel for the future of your local community?
- You’re a homeowner. And although there’s not much difference between being a taxpayer and being a homeowner, there is a difference between PAYING for the decisions that affect your “taxpayer future” and LIVING with what results from this process and its effects on life in Horsham for anyone who owns a home there.
- (OK, I lied … It’s three-fold.) Whether you are for or against an airport as a future tenant, you should make sure your voice is heard. There are few more important decisions than this when it comes to a community’s future. Even an airport skeptic like myself could be convinced that an airport might be the best solution, if enough Horsham residents say they “see the light” and are convinced there is no better option. But for sure, you can bet that the pro-airport forces will be out in strength for the June 10-11 charrette! So be there, if you care!
GOOD NEWS: The FAA’s Harrisburg District office advised that no grant money will be provided to pay for an “airport study” until such time as a redevelopment plan is approved that includes plans for an airport and the FAA determines that such an airport is necessary and that the applying entity (i.e. Bucks County Airport Association or Montgomery County) is capable of operating said airport. (MontCo doesn’t even have an airport authority!)
Why is this good news? Airport proponents have been pushing for an FAA study, which they claimed was ripe for the asking, as a method for justifying and supporting their efforts to push for an airport as a reuse alternative. Personally, I believe the FAA would determine such an airport both necessary and feasible, which obviously would run counter to anti-airport interests. By eliminating that possibility prior to the HLRA completing its reuse plan development efforts, there is one less tactic available for pro-airport forces to push their agenda.
See you on June 10. I plan to attend the afternoon session.