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Proponents of YMCA in LowPro Speak Up at Supervisors’ Meeting

Although not a discussion item on the Oct. 4 Lower Providence Board of Supervisors agenda, many residents came out to voice support of a proposed YMCA project.

Over 30 residents attended the Oct. 4 Lower Providence Board of Supervisors meeting. But by the end of the meeting, it was clear the majority wasn’t there for anything listed on the agenda that evening.

“I am here tonight to urge the board to approve construction of the YMCA at the proposed location,” Jessie Damiani, Lower Providence resident, said.

Damiani was the first of approximately 15 fellow residents who came forward during the public comments section of the meeting to advocate not only the proposed location of the YMCA at the Club at Shannondell, but also of numerous benefits of the community at large.

Damiani first acknowledged reasons for opposing the YMCA construction, which include saving the remaining township Open Space and increased traffic concerns.

The Oct. 4 board of supervisors meeting was expected to directly address the YMCA proposal, which would include asking the county to consider reducing its open space in order to construct the new facility.

“I have heard some of the issues that other residents have voiced, and as a resident I do understand these concerns,” she said. “But, a recreational facility at this particular location is not a new concept.”

After listing previous incarnations of the 108-acres property, which included a one-time skating rink, Damiani noted that part of its current uses include an outdoor swimming facility and golf course.

“At its current state those who golf or are members of the swim club use the location,” she said. “In reality that’s a very small percentage of those who make up this community.”

Many of the residents that went before the board, shared similar sentiments. Each one advocated that an expanded YMCA would provide programming suitable for all ages, making the facility into a community destination. Residents also argued against the YMCA being an exclusive facility, stating that as a nonprofit organization, there are ways to include those who may not be able to afford membership.

One resident in particular, Anne Pensabene, spoke strongly in favor of the swim program at the Freedom Valley YMCA in Audubon.

“It’s been really rough to keep that team together,” Pensabene said.

She explained that the lack of adequate training facilities forced the swim team to request the use of Norristown High School’s pool, and that such an arrangement was inconvenient for parents and team members.

Having a large YMCA facility in the township would prevent such programs from disbanding due to lack of participation, she said after the meeting, leaving local youth with one less option to spend their recreational time.

“There’s something for everybody at the YMCA,” Pensabene said. “They would have no where else to go except the mall.”

By contrast, this show of vocal support was noticeably missing at the initial July 27 YMCA proposal before board of supervisors meeting and the Sept. 25 sketch plans presentation before the Planning Commission meeting. Each meeting was dominated by opposition comments, revolving around increased traffic congestion and Open Space reduction.

Of the approximately 15 residents that came forward at the Oct. 4 meeting, many of identified themselves as Freedom Valley YMCA members. Also at the meeting, only two spoke in opposition to the YMCA at the Club at Shannondell.

The two residents repeated the same concerns from the previous meetings. One resident added that the golf club does encourage teams made up of local businesses, which, in turn, encourages local businesses to stay in the township. Should the YMCA be constructed at the Club at Shannondell property, the golf course would be reduced to nine-holes.

Later in the meeting, by a show of hands, the board of supervisors asked if those present would support a YMCA facility elsewhere in the township, to which a majority of hands were raised.

Another opposition resident also identified himself as a YMCA member, and told of an e-mail asking members to show support at the Oct. 4 meeting, which he questioned the fairness of such an act.

In speaking with YMCA proponents and members immediately after the meeting, none could confirm that such an e-mail existed, however, those residents and several other members that spoke with Patch over the weekend, said that it was not unusual for the Freedom Valley YMCA to ask for support for various causes. As reported by Patch, similar tactics were employed when the YMCA had its proposal for a similar facility at the Markely Tract in West Norriton last year, but to no avail.

Many of the proponents speaking with Patch simply stated they were unaware of the first two Lower Providence presentations; otherwise they would have voiced their support then, as well.

The Freedom Valley YMCA in Audubon could not be reached for comment on the matter.

During the meetng, Rick Brown, chairman of the board of supervisors, said that the YMCA needed to reschedule its sketch plans presentation. The presentation is expected to be put back on the agenda, where the board will decide whether or not to ask the County to remove or amend its Open Space agreement that would allow for the YMCA construction.

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For more on the story:

  • YMCA at The Club at Shannondell Proposed
  • YMCA Sketch Plans to be Reviewed at Planning Commission
  • YMCA Presentation Brings Up Traffic and Open Space Issues
  • Patch Blog: Lower Providence Township Supervisors & Planning Commission: Please consider alternate location(s) for proposed YMCA
  • West Norriton Residents Still Sharply Divided On Plans For YMCA
Jeffrey C. Mason October 10, 2012 at 05:46 PM
f anyone would like to write a letter in support or opposition to the proposed YMCA to the Montgomery County Commissioners you can send them one at: Montgomery County Commissioners One Montgomery Plaza Suite 800 Norristown, PA 19403 Remember they get the final say on lifting the deed and or approving a land swap or money deal for the changing of the zoning at the Club at Shannondell so send them stuff and get your voice heard
Ida Marre October 10, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Mr. Mason, You hit the nail on the head, if the county commissioners vote this down, it will die sooner than later, they have meetings every other week, showing up and speaking out would be more than helpful. I am sure that no one has approached them by letter or in person. They have a web site and you can find out when and where their meetings are and they take public comment at the end of the meetings. I have seen them on TV so I know how they work.
Jeffrey C. Mason October 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM
If anyone would like to write a letter in support or opposition to the proposed YMCA to the Montgomery County Commissioners you can send them one at: Montgomery County Commissioners One Montgomery Plaza Suite 800 Norristown, PA 19403 Remember they get the final say on lifting the deed and or approving a land swap or money deal for the changing of the zoning at the Club at Shannondell so send them stuff and get your voice heard or attend one of the commissioner board meetings on one of these dates: Thursday, October 18 Thursday, November 1 Thursday, November 15 Thursday, December 6 Thursday, December 20 10 am one montgomery plaza norristown commissioner's board room
Enough already October 11, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Kurt- Keep in mind that there is already a YMCA in West Norriton that has a gym where people can go work out, yes it is small but it is available less than 1 mile from this proposed site. The township also has privately owned gyms/tennis clubs that pay taxes on their property (unlike the YMCA) that are available to all residents. The YMCA expects to have 21,000 members to this new facility which will bring unwanted traffic to all roads surrounding the facility. Egypt is already backed up from Park Ave to Rittenhouse during rush hour . Crawford Rd will back up to Park Ave with this new facility and new cut through proposed by ALD. The "squeaky wheels" are not opposed to a YMCA in the townshop, but rather the location. The township entered into an agreement with the county to preserve this land as open space. LP bought this property from ALD in '94 to prevent it from development. At the time it was supported by the community, why is it OK for them (LP Township) to hand back develpment rights to ALD? ALD got $4.2 million for that land and now is looking to benefit from the YMCA to that parcel. Open space is not defined by a 100,000 square foot building, 3 large pools, 600 car parking lot, a mini golf course and driving range. Your inevitable progress you desire is what has caused traffic problems on Ridge, Germantown and Egypt Rds among others in the township. This property is one of the last remaining open spaces left in the lower end of the township.
Intheweeds October 11, 2012 at 07:18 PM
The YMCA will pay a significant lease to the Township which is akin to a tax. How exactly is this "open space" when you need to spend $50 in greens fees to step foot on the property? It's a commercial golf course that residents cannot use, yet my tax dollars pay the debt service on. This project will have an outside walking trail open to all in the township for free. The entire Freedom Valley YMCA has a membership of 40,000 spread across 5 facilities - so your numbers are skewed, and biased. For 40 years, this property housed the General Washington Community Center, which was almost the same footprint as the proposed Y. This is a $20 million investment in Lower Providence that will benefit families, children and seniors that my tax dollars will not have to pay for. It will increase the quality of life, and increase the overall profile of Lower Providence.

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