The culmination of six years of work on behalf of the nine-member board, the public in terms of comments and, for the last year, the HLRA’s consultant, RKG Associates, the sixth version of a massive mixed use redevelopment plan for 862 acres of the 1,100-acre property will now be forwarded onto the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I think this vote really needs a drum roll,” HLRA board member and former Warminster Township Supervisor Donnamarie Davis said moments before a vote was taken. “If anybody thinks there hasn’t been enough time and effort put into this vote, you’re really sadly mistaken.”
Board member Steven Nelson, Montgomery County commissioners’ director of policy, a proponent for the previously rejected airport option, cast the lone “no” vote. Board member Joanna Furia was not present.
Prior to voting, Nelson said he felt “very uneasy” voting on the plan because he did not feel it adequately addressed traffic issues.
“We’ve got a project here that’s bigger than the borough of Hatboro,” Nelson said.
HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee said he is working with PennDOT, the county and the federal government to undertake a “significant” regional traffic study. McGee said he was confident federal grants would be made available.
“I’m hoping that no one is expecting the future owners of this property to take care of all existing conditions,” McGee said of traffic congestion.
Following the local vote, McGee told Patch that HUD is expected to take 60 days to review the plan and accompanying homeless housing application. From there, McGee said the Navy will spend the next 18 months “or more” on an environmental impact statement.
The previously designated hot spots undergoing remediation – approximately 30 acres in all – will factor into that statement, McGee said. The property would not be transferred from the federal government until the “sensitive” areas are either cleaned up, or until entities are designated to carry out necessary cleanup, McGee said.
Robert Lewandowski, Navy Base Realignment and Closure environmental coordinator told Patch in May that remediation got underway 11 years ago and some cleanup could continue for the next 10 years.
McGee estimated that the federal government would “accept” the redevelopment plan within about two years. The first land transfer would occur about three years from now, McGee said.
Unlike past HLRA meetings where an airport was at play, the three dozen or so in attendance Wednesday remained mostly silent throughout the public comment portion. David Pitcairn, whose late uncle, aviator Harold F. Pitcairn had owned much of the base property before the military, criticized the board for counting on “nebulous” grants for traffic purposes – but not an airport.
Pitcairn also urged the board to consider letting the Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association use the existing hangar for their purposes.
“It just seems a much better use of space if that building becomes part of the museum,” Pitcairn said.
McGee said part of a yet-to-be-completed infrastructure analysis would examine demolition costs, which he said would likely be absorbed by the authority and prorated to property owners and entities.
“It’s our estimation that there’s not one building on that property that will be of any value two or three years from now … and able to come up to code,” McGee said. “Nothing was built to code.”
Option F, the final redevelopment plan, includes 1,416 mixed-use residences, a 13-acre aviation museum, a 40-acre middle school, a robust town center and regional recreational area and 70 townhomes for the homeless. A 133-acre office park is expected to create more than 7,000 jobs – and a $457 million annual payroll - upon build out, officials said previously.
It could take 20 or more years to complete the entire development, officials have said.