(Apologies to followers of this blog for the overabundance of posts dealing with local Horsham issues revolving around the USG BRAC decision to close the JRB Willow Grove airbase. This is a HUGE local issue for Horsham, where I live. Our home is located in Horsham, barely 1/2 mile from the airbase. This complex issue is coming to a head this Friday, June 10; so I anticipate that this theme will recur much less frequently in posts to follow. Thanks for your patience! – Hatboro Mike)
Since I have been overwhelmingly anti-airport in postings here and elsewhere on the internet as well as my many conversations and recommendations to friends and neighbors, I have promised to provide my vision for the JRB Willow Grove property. The following concepts are based on and limited by the following factors:
- Horsham Township does not NEED to make a boatload of money through exploitation of the JRB-WG site. In years past, the U.S. Navy has paid the Township of Horsham – more accurately the Hatboro-Horsham School District – ONLY $750,000 annually to compensate the District for the airbase acreage that did not generate residential school taxes. Therefore, Horsham need only recoup that annual $750K PLUS the costs of maintaining the site and supporting whatever infrastructure might be required to accommodate what development goes into the site.
- I would be perfectly happy if the solution to the JRB-WG site was revenue-neutral insofar as my tax burden is concerned. My predominant interest is to maintain the level of quality-of-life and sense of community for which Horsham Township is known. Obviously, the Township has been on the right path in the recent past, given the accolades it receives as a top-quality community in which to live.
- I care little for the economic needs of the region, the jobless rate, the convenience of frequent air travelers, or the pleasures of aircraft hobbyists. Yes, this is unapologetic NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard), which is completely defensible considering it is my backyard! I have no doubt that anyone else in our – Horsham’s – position would do the same, if they felt their community and way-of-life threatened by all the possibilities. Also, I sincerely doubt any of our regional neighbors will give a hoot about Horsham’s future once the die is cast.
- I am no community planner, architect, real estate analyst, green techie, or regional economist. Therefore, these suggestions indubitably need to be fleshed out and screened for economic realities.
I will go out on a limb, and assert that MOST Horshamites would much rather see a multi-use solution to the future of the JRB-WG site. One that DOES NOT include an airport. But one that does generate sufficient tax revenue to make the site at least tax-neutral and at best tax-reducing.
My vision is one of multiple uses:
- Solar energy farm … Hundreds (thousands??) of solar energy-collecting arrays that will help to power new development and perhaps allow for the collection of excess energy that can be shunted to municipal uses or sold to the existing energy grid. I prefer these low-profile contraptions as opposed to the more imposing wind mills.
- Light industrial and office space development along the lines of the profile found in the complex surrounded by Commonwealth National Country Club. These structures would incorporate the latest in communication technology and environmentally sensitive design, including solar and wind turbine energy producers (along the lines of those planned for Lincoln Financial Field in the near future), no-flow urinals (See those used in Comcast’s new building in Center City.), etc.
(Many criticize this particular usage, based on the existence of under-occupied office space already existing in Horsham. However, if done properly – in my opinion – we can attract office space renters from around the region, who will be attracted by economic incentives of such environmentally conscious designs as well as the job market advantage it might offer in attracting environmentally conscious young people as new employees.)
- Lahaska in Horsham – I steal this idea from someone on reusethebase.com, I think. I like the idea of a small outdoor revenue-producing community of artisan shops. This would require substantial landscape engineering to convert the airbase into a rolling area of shops, small cafes/restaurants, a tavern or two, set in a bucolic strolling-type environment. (I also like the Main Street Horsham concept. And this could be made part of or complimentary to “Main Street Horsham”.)
- Incorporate – in some manner – the static aircraft displays made available through the Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association. Now this might seem a bit incongruous with the “Lahaska in Horsham” theme, and it is frankly. However with the amount of space available at the airbase site, there should be no problem or glaring inconsistency if both are given sufficient “buffer areas”. The concept could be rolled into the strolling-type layout.
- Obviously, open space in the form of play areas and athletic fields for Horsham and neighboring community uses.
- I have no real issue with any of the non-runway associated NOIs submitted. I think Township residents should get strongly behind the idea of a transitional facility for homeless veterans, including the presence of a short-term alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. We owe these veterans AT LEAST that much!
Off the reservation (or here’s where I get a bit pie-in-the-sky):
- A tribute to Willow Grove’s historic past … Yes, I know we are Horsham, not Willow Grove; but the name does translate nicely given the airbase’s title for 70 years! A century ago, Willow Grove was known for its spas and its musical entertainment.
- An area of quiet, subdued family fun (i.e. NOT an amusement park)
- Resurrection of the old style carousel made famous when Willow Grove was a leisure destination
- Incorporation of a small, sheltered, acoustically sound bandshell-type structure; seating no more than 500-1000 to keep it sedate and pleasant (i.e. NOT a mega-concert venue). This would also represent a throw-back to quieter times; hosting performances by local music clubs, schools, and organizations; and providing a place for community-oriented theatre and summer concerts.
- Golf Academy – OK, this one’s for me!!
- There is plenty of land from which to carve a section that will provide a money-making, yet unobtrusive venture that – to my knowledge – would be unique to this golf-hungry region without the troublesome and risky need to build a golf course.
- Driving range, expansive areas for the construction of several undulating greens for the purposes of short-game instruction. One expansive hanger-type structure for the construction of indoor chipping and putting greens for use during the winter seasons. (Not to be confused with the already existing hangers in place, but perhaps these could be used if other uses DO NOT materialize.)
- There are many club pros and teaching pros throughout the area who have to rely on inadequate driving-range type operations to ply their trade. One all-inclusive facility, conveniently located in the midst of a golf-crazy area could attract a stable of pros looking for better teaching facilities where all facets of the game that drives me crazy could be addressed!
- I am under no misconception that my particular game would improve appreciably; but others could certainly benefit. And golfers have money they’re willing to spend, if it gives them a chance to brag in the clubhouse!
The runway?!? It would make a nice parking lot!
There it is! Practicality mixed in with a few brain-storms-in-a-tea-cup-type ideas.