Borough Council Gives Preliminary Approval for 600 Apartments

Last night’s Borough Council meeting was one of the longer meetings we have attended since starting  It went until midnight.  During the meeting there were two hearings, both involving apartment communities proposed by O’Neill Properties.  One was a hearing that required a vote at the end and the second involved giving testimony and a vote to come at a later date.  This story will provide details on the one that required a vote and we will do a separate post about the second hearing.

O’Neill Properties is proposing to build about 600 apartments at 400 block of Washington Street.  The hearing seemed to get hung-up on something that that was important, but as Borough Solicitor Michael Savona pointed out a couple times, did not appear on the plans that were before Borough Council to consider.  Basically the International Fire Code requires that access be created on two sides of this type of structure for fire truck access.  This is included in the plans as they stand.  The Fire Marshall can require additional access beyond what is code.  Due to the fire at a previous O’Neill Properties’ building and work site, there is obviously an abundance of caution.

O’Neill was proposing creating a walking path behind the building that would not hold the weight of a fire truck.  The trail would also be thin, so a fire truck’s wheels would be on grass if it followed the trail.  To remedy the situation, O’Neill is proposing putting a product in the ground to reinforce it.  As proposed, this would allow a truck to follow the trail and not sink.  This achieves two things according to O’Neill.  First it provides access beyond the code and allows them to create an aesthetically pleasing trail and landscape.

Questions were raised by Borough Council President Paul McConnell regarding the studies that were presented as evidence of the effectiveness of this product. Council Member Eddie Phipps asked if any of the studies had been conducted in a flood plain.  The answer to Phipps’ question was that to their knowledge there had not been.  O’Neill offered to do a test on the property now prior to final approval.

Here is some video of Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Properties discussing his concern for fire safety:


Here is a second video (it is kinda long), but it is of Brian O’Neill’s more formal testimony.  In it you will hear him mention the traffic study O’Neill Properties submitted.  As you will hear, he mentions the story we published earlier this week in which Borough Council President Paul McConnell questioned how traffic studies are created (not specifically about this project, but overall).  When O’Neill’s traffic engineer testified he said that he compared his study against the progress report from the traffic study being conducted on the Borough’s behalf by another engineering firm he found that both arrived at almost identical results.  That pretty much ended the discussion on traffic.

At one point there was a testy exchange between Brian O’Neill and Borough Solicitor Michael Savona.  O’Neill stated that he had come to try to meet with Borough officials earlier that day and Savona denied that O’Neill had come to the office.  O’Neill also went on to say that Borough Council President Paul McConnell had asked him to help convince Wawa to abandon its proposed location at 11th and Fayette.  Here is the video:

Eventually Borough Council voted 5-1 to provide a preliminary approval. This means that O’Neill Properties can start moving forward with the project (on paper) and will eventually need to get a final approval to start building. Only Paul McConnell voted against giving the preliminary approval.

So stay tuned for more details as this project moves forward.