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Horsham Village Plaza Plan Clears Hurdle

By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer | Posted: Friday, December 11, 2015 6:00 am

Though an angry roomful of residents didn’t support it, Horsham Council amended its zoning ordinance to allow the land development process to move forward for a Wawa, CVS Pharmacy and three restaurants at the busy intersection of Easton and Blair Mill roads.

“I know what everybody wants to hear,” said Councilman Gregory Nesbitt. “Sometimes I think our job is not to do the popular thing. I understand the sentiment in the audience.”

Council Vice President Deborah Tustin said, “I really do appreciate everybody sharing their opinions. Part of being a council member is trying to think what is best for all of Horsham Township. That’s hard to swallow sometimes.”

During several meetings held so far on the proposed Horsham Village Plaza, residents have expressed their concerns that the development, which includes the demolition of both the former Intelligencer building and Williamson Banquet & Event Center, would exacerbate the area’s traffic troubles.

Many of the nearly 100 residents at Wednesday night’s council meeting in the township community center shook their head disapprovingly as council members spoke prior to their unanimous vote to rezone the area for a mixed-use development.

Nesbitt said that both PennDOT and Montgomery County called the plan “a step in the right direction. I know you disagree. … We will take a very aggressive approach to control traffic.”

Councilman William Whiteside said the plans “create improved traffic flow on 611 and Blair Mill Road.” With the eventual closing of New Road, he added, “I would rather we have an opportunity to manage that closing rather than be at PennDOT’s mercy.”

Forty-five residents claimed party status, giving them the right to question the developer and have others testify on their behalf concerning the proposed development. But when there were not enough copies of the presentation for them to study, and the hearing had gone on past 10 p.m., Council President Mark McCouch requested attorney Julie Von Spreckelsen of Eastburn & Gray, representing developer Horsham-Blair LP, mail the paperwork to the 45.

She agreed to get it out by Tuesday, while township Manager Bill Walker said he hoped to get an electronic version on the township’s website on Friday.

“I kinda feel it is important that the public gets copies of everything we get,” McCouch said.

The plaza would have 365 parking spaces and a small brick wall on its front corner that says “Welcome to Horsham.” Adam Benosky, of Bohler Engineering, who represents Horsham-Blair LP, said the development would improve the site’s stormwater mitigation.

The builder must comply with Horsham, county and state regulations, he said, adding that new underground stormwater basins would better manage the property’s water flow.

Additionally, Benosky said, the ground for the Wawa would be lowered by about 4 feet as part of a design to ensure water runoff is “significantly better than it is today.”

The CVS would be in the center of the development with a 12,900-square-foot building that includes a drive-thru lane.

The Wawa would take the place of the former Intelligencer building. It would include a 5,585-square-foot convenience store and 16 canopy-covered gas pumps.

Two restaurants off Blair Mill Road would each be a 6,000-square-foot structure with a courtyard in between. Plans include a third restaurant of 5,500 square feet. None of the restaurants would have a drive-thru, Von Spreckelsen said.

There are no tenants for the eateries yet, but Benosky said they would be “sit-down” restaurants.

McCouch, who remained with council to answer questions past 11:30 p.m., told residents “We still have a very long way to go. This is a long process. There is a lot of input you’ll be able to have along the way. Trust me when I say we don’t take these decisions lightly.”

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