Borough of Conshohocken addresses purpose behind February 2nd agenda

This morning the Borough of Conshohocken sent out a message about the February 2nd meeting of the borough council. The agenda for the meeting included important items such as a presentation from the emergency management department and the consideration of advertising ordinances involving residential development along the riverfront and the eminent domain of the Outbound Station property.

The bulk of the message was a statement read at the end of the meeting by Tina Sokolowski, the vice-president of the council. Below is the text of the statement in block quotes. The regular paragraphs are some clarifying information provided by since the statement references items that were presented and/or discussed during the meeting. You can also watch the meeting and hear the statement here.

Conshohocken’s small-town character continues to evolve. Conshohocken has benefitted greatly from redevelopment especially in the lower end of town. Many of these re-development projects are years, even decades, in the making.  Many of them, like the one on the agenda earlier this evening, are the subject of court settlement agreements made many years ago.

During the meeting, there was a presentation from KRE Acquisitions on the 598 apartments approved for 401-433 Washington Street. The approval came through a settlement agreement in 2014 with O’Neill Properties, the property’s previous owner. KRE is seeking to make some amendments to the agreement that doesn’t impact the size and scope, but in their opinion makes the riverfront of the property more accessible to the public and the overall appearance more inviting and user friendly.

As we welcome new residents to the Borough and seek to retain those residents and families that are already living here, the Borough is finally in a position to evaluate the remaining open space available in the Borough to make sure we are providing public space and public amenities to serve our current and future residents.

This priority was outlined in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.  You also heard tonight a presentation by our Emergency Management Coordinator regarding population shifts and the need for expanding our emergency services to meet the demand and needs of our expanded population. 

Borough Council is exploring two avenues to meet the objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, to address the emergency management needs of the Borough, and to otherwise serve the needs of Borough residents.  The first relates to the zoning amendment, already discussed, which addresses the use of properties in the lower end of the Borough.  The second involves evaluating the existing available open space and/or vacant properties in the Borough, and investigating the feasibility of converting that space into public space.

The zoning amendment mentioned above involves removing residential uses from the zoning code from the special zoning districts that encompass the riverfront. Council voted to advertise this zoning amendment ordinance. It could be adopted at a future meeting.

The presentation mention involved emergency management in the borough. Note that will have an individual article about this, however, we are briefly reporting on it within this article to provide context to the statement from Councilmember Sokolowski.

This presentation outlined that the population of the Borough of Conshohocken is likely to increase from 9,261 (based on the most recent census) to 12,441 within the next few years. The increase would be driven by the completion of the under construction and/or approved apartment communities and smaller developments. The population increase would almost exclusively be between East/West Elm Street and the Schuylkill River.

This of course could strain the first responders and members of the borough council asked them to outline potential capital needs, etc.

Eminent domain is a legal method by which our government may take private property for a public use. This particular area of the borough contains several privately owned tax parcels, including tax parcels that are currently for sale.  One of those properties is the property we’re discussing tonight, the Outbound Station property.  In evaluating the potential parcels, Borough Administration identified this parcel as providing a unique opportunity for public open space, the preservation of natural resources, and the preservation of a historic property in the Borough.  Therefore, the Borough’s intent would be to preserve this property as open space and/or for a public amenity for the community.  Use of the property, design of the public space, etc. will all be discussed with the public in the near future.”

The above paragraph addresses the portion of the meeting we covered in an earlier article.