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Upper Hanover Talks Safety Concerns for Proposed UP Middle School
Written by Jennifer Butler Correspondent

                A lengthy conditional use hearing Tuesday night ended without a decision from the Upper Hanover Board of Supervisors on allowing construction of a new middle school for Upper Perkiomen School District.

                Township Solicitor Joseph Bresnan of Dischell, Bartle and Dooley explained that a school would be allowed on the residential (R1) property as a conditional use. The proposed location is along Montgomery Avenue between Eighth Street and Walt Road.

                In May, the school board voted to initiate the Commonwealth's PlanCon (Planning and Construction) process in order to seek reimbursement for a district expansion project. The proposed middle school would be for grades 6th through 8th.

                In August, the zoning hearing board granted variance relief for the project, which will include a three-story classroom wing, as well as a rooftop screened area for HVAC equipment. Board questions Tuesday night, however, focused on the safety of students traveling by foot along Montgomery Avenue to get to the proposed location.

                Bresnan explained that assessment of health, safety and welfare can be part of a conditional use consideration.

                Project Engineer James Mazeika of Barry Isett & Associates presented a preliminary site plan. The plan includes sidewalk along the front of the proposed school with crosswalks at Walt Road and Eighth Street. Montgomery Avenue would be posted as a school zone with speeds reduced to 15 miles per hour during arrival and departure times. The plan also includes improvements to the intersection of Walt Road and Montgomery Avenue

                Supervisors questioned the safety of students crossing Montgomery Avenue in areas that will not have a crosswalk or sidewalk, specifically Sixth Street. The proposed school would add an additional 144 walkers along Montgomery Avenue.

                "Everything they are proposing will make it safer except for the fact that there will be more students," Supervisor Richard Fein commented.

                According to District Superintendent Alexis McGloin, Upper Perkiomen is geographically the largest district in Montgomery County.

                "Whether to a bus stop or to school, our students walk. It's just the nature of the district," McGloin said. "I firmly believe this is the safest choice for our children."

                The hearing concluded without a vote from the board on the conditional use. Bresnan indicated that the board will issue a decision within the timeframe required under the municipalities' planning code.

                Representing the district, Solicitor Mark Hosterman indicated that safety concerns could be addressed during land development.

                "It's not adequate, in my humble opinion," Supervisor Ben Fiorito said. "We haven't solved where the students are going to walk. We don't have a really good plan."

                In other business, Chairman Eugene Fried asked for a motion to enter into an agreement through a letter of intent to pursue further exploration of regional police coverage. According to Fried, the request for a letter of intent came from Pennsburg Mayor Vicki Lightcap after last month's meeting to discuss the possibility of regionalization. Fried, who attended the meeting, explained that the next step would be to participate in a cost analysis study.

                No motion was made to sign the letter of intent; however, a motion to specifically not sign the letter passed unanimously.

                "We would like to make the statement that we do not wish to regionalize at this time," Fried said. "We are satisfied with the state police and we intend to stay with state police at this time."

                Fiorito announced that the finance committee completed a first draft of the township's 2017 operating budget. A preliminary budget meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. in the township conference room.





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