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Abington approves Montgomery County Housing Authority's plan for Crest Manor

Glenside News Globe Times Chronicle October 18, 2015

The Crest Manor public housing community is well on its way to receiving a much needed facelift.

The Abington Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Sept. 8 to approve a land development application granting the Montgomery County Housing Authority with help from Pennrose Properties to renovate the existing twin dwelling units and construct a new 10-unit structure, a four-unit structure and a new community building, according to details outlined by Commissioner Ben Sanchez.

Furthermore, one twin dwelling unit will be reconstructed and a new playground will be added in addition to an on-site stormwater management system and additional parking. The number of dwelling units is proposed to be increased to 46 units.

Located on Hamilton Avenue in Willow Grove, Crest Manor provides affordable one- to five-bedroom housing for low and moderate income households under the administration of the MCHA.

Housing Authority Executive Director Joel Johnson and Pennrose Properties senior developer Kyle Speece were on hand to answer questions from the commissioners and residents.

Prior to the vote, Bryant Lane resident Lora Lehmann — who said she was opposed to the project — urged members of the board to hold off on voting for the land development application until they understood all of the financial details.

“If you take taxpayer money and you build something that costs way less in the end — no matter if it provides housing for the public — but the end product is way less than what you put into it, you’re not doing your fiduciary duty to look over public funds,” Lehmann said.

“I’ve been told that I have to take this to the county level, but you’re the ones approving it. And if anybody does know, I’d love to see your hand raised now and tell me after this meeting that you’re going to tell me exactly how much public money went into this project.”

Council Vice President Steven Kline and Johnson explained to Lehmann that the budget for the project is public information and could be made available to anyone who fills out and sends a Right-to-Know form to the housing authority. Johnson also mentioned that the information had previously been shared with Lehmann and could be provided again if she so requested.

Commissioner Peggy Myers said she would be throwing her wholehearted support behind the project.

“I have been in one of these units to visit someone who lives there and this project is so direly needed,” Myers said. “These homes are in great disrepair and for these folks that are living there, there’s a little bit of a feeling [that these homes are] depressed and old and tired.”

Meanwhile, Commissioners John Spiegelman and Larry Jones each disagreed with Lehmann’s statement about end value.

“The logic made in the speaker’s comments is basically flawed in its assumption that the end product is automatically supposed to be worth what you put into it,” Spiegelman said. “There is a lot of public money being spent and obviously these homes are not going to be worth half a million dollars each. Along the same lines, if I want to get $50,000 extra for the sale of my house, I may have to spend $100,000 upgrading the kitchen, but I won’t get anything without doing that upgrade.”

“The fact of the matter is that these homes right now are needed in this community,” Jones said. “And we can sit and we can talk and we can deny this, but while we’re doing that there are people who need housing in those homes. So I’m not ready to vote no on this and see other people go homeless or have to live in a house that is in dire need of repair. I think that toward the humanity point of view that would be irresponsible.”

In other business, volunteer coordinator Dave Rondinelli and his fellow volunteers were formally recognized by police Chief Bill Kelly and Commissioner Lori Schreiber for their unified effort in helping with the police department’s annual Pre-Night Out event Aug. 3.

“These guys deserve this more than I do,” Rondinelli said. “They start at 8 o’clock in the morning and we don’t wrap up until midnight, and we’ve been doing that for 17 years.”

Council also unanimously passed a motion directing the police department to donate all unclaimed bicycles and bicycle parts that have been confiscated and are being held by the police department to the Bikes for Tykes program, care of Sussman Automotive.

Finally, council unanimously approved a 10-year lease renewal between the Ardsley Community Education Center and the Abington Township School District until Sept. 26, 2025, at a cost of $1 per year.

“The Ardsley Community Center is the jewel of Ardsley,” Commissioner Dennis Zappone said. “All of the activities that go on there benefit not only Ardsley, but the entire community.”

To read the full article on the Glenside News Globe Times Chronicle website, click here.