By Jesse Reilly
The Public Spirit
With a deadline fast approaching, Upper Moreland Township’s community development committee last Monday moved the decision about whether or not to go forward with updating the township’s revitalization plan this year to the finance and administration committee later this month.
New requirements from the 2009 Montgomery County Economic Development Program state the township must designate a task force to guide preparation of or to update its revitalization plan and oversee county-sponsored revitalization funding for projects within the municipality’s revitalization area, which has grown since the plan was first adopted in 2003.
A much smaller portion of the township was eligible for the revitalization district during the first adoption. The new area encompasses a larger portion of the township’s commercial, downtown area.
Without an updated plan the township and other entities including businesses, nonprofits and developers will not be able to receive any county grant monies for specified revitalization areas next year.
At the committee meeting Monday, the newly formed task force recommended the committee move forward to update the plan and work with the Montgomery County Planning Commission rather than a private contractor.
Working with the planning commission, Karen Houck, chairwoman for the task force, said was the township’s quickest and most cost-effective option.
The planning commission will fund up to $25,000 for the plan with a 25 percent match from the township that would translate to about an $8,333 contribution. But no specific numbers regarding how much the plan would cost were known at the meeting.
Although an updated revitalization plan would allow the township to receive grant monies next year, Township Manager David Dodies said he was unsure any would be available.
“It’s a definite possibility but no one knows what the 2012 budget is going to look like right now,” he said.
Although the commissioners were apprehensive, task force members urged them to move forward for the future of the township.
“We’re very good at delaying but we need to move forward with haste,” task force member Jonathan de Jonge said. “We are very aware of our lack of funding but the only way to increase our funding is to redevelop, this is not a difficult decision.”
But Commissioner Lisa Romaniello said she believed the task force was taking on too many projects too quickly. It is also the steering committee for the possible relocation of the Willow Grove Train Station.
“That [the train station project] is a very large undertaking,” she said. “The board was asked about updating the revitalization plan during budget season and it was not exactly supported. I think you need to focus on the train station this year and revitalization plan next year, we will have a better outcome. I’d like to see it done right.”
Commissioner Donna Parsell agreed.
“We made a conscious decision at budget time that we weren’t going to invest in this project this year because we don’t have any money to,” she said. “And we don’t know how much it will cost and how can we make a decision without knowing that.”
Commissioner Kip McFatridge said he could not move forward without an exact dollar amount and written confirmation that the planning commission could have the plan completed before its own deadline.
“Everyone is rushing,” Parsell said. “We need to not spend money that we don’t have.”
The finance and administration committee is scheduled to meet May 23 and Dodies said he would reach out to the planning commission prior to the meeting to get some more concrete answers and figures.
Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle