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West Norriton Residents Oppose New YMCA

More than 100 people attended Tuesday night's board of commissioners meeting in West Norriton about the potential of an 85,000-square-foot YMCA on the Markley Farms tract.

On Tuesday night, Aug. 9, at the , West Norriton residents made it abundantly clear that they want no part of the creation of a YMCA on the Markley Farms tract.

"I personally checked with the neighbors, and we're not in favor of a YMCA in the back of our houses," said Dominic DeAstero, a resident whose property runs into Markley Farms, later adding, "This is a residential neighborhood. That property has been zoned residential. We do not want to see a commercial enterprise in a residential neighborhood."

Prior to the public comments, West Norriton Solicitor Bob Kerns made it clear that no action would be taken by council during the meeting. 

"There is no board action tonight, at all," said Kerns, who added that the YMCA would have to file a petition to re-zone the tract. 

When the petition is filed, the board would have to make a decision as to whether or not to have a hearing regarding the potential re-zoning, though approving the hearing does not equate to approving the re-zoning request.

"This is a legislative process whether or not the property gets rezoned," said Kerns. "If the board decides that it does not want to go ahead with that hearing, the process ends, and the proposal dies at that stage. If the board goes ahead with the hearing and decides in favor, then it would be rezoned to allow the YMCA, and only the YMCA, to do what it wants to do on that site."

Once the groundwork for the meeting was laid out, Jay Schaeffer, president of the Freedom Valley YMCA, expressed his desire to build the YMCA, and spoke of the benefits the facility could offer the community.

“We have had requests over the years for a first-class facility that would meet the needs of every member of the family,” said Schaeffer.

Architect George Marks than displayed a presentation outlining the proposed 85,000-square-foot facility, which would include several pools and a fitness center, along with other amenities.

Despite the optimistic presentation, concerns about privacy, safety and traffic had residents lining up to tee-off on the would-be YMCA.

"We don't want our property encroached on," said one woman, who stated her property also ran into the tract. "We don't want it open for public access. I don't want to have to worry about someone walking across my property to get to Wagon Mill Road because they're walking to the YMCA."

Other residents followed suit, though Carl Fox chose a more diplomatic approach.

"If I were to live in the area and had an open space, I would want it to remain an open space; however, that's not going to be," said Fox. "I would much prefer a YMCA to Section 8 housing, or a halfway house, or anything like that."

If the formal re-zoning hearing is scheduled, residents will be invited to attend to publicly address their issues and concerns.

Missed the meeting? Check out our video recap!

Kim August 10, 2011 at 08:27 PM
It seems as if only those who oppose this are being heard. My family and several of my neighnbors think it would be fantastic! And the meeting was split - not everyone was against the idea. Some very good and valid positive points were brought up be many residents who live along the border. I live very close to where this is being proposed and only see it as a positive thing. If residents are worried about people cutting through their property, then they can put up a fence! Most of these people would complain regardless of what was proposed. Hopefully everyone will start to see the good in this and it will happen. Come on West Norriton - don't let a few complainers ruin a great opportunity for our community!
James Myers (Editor) August 10, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Kim, I've heard from a few Norristown residents that they'd love to have a Y closer to the area again as well. I'm glad to hear there are some West Norriton residents who would be behind it as I also suspect it would ultimately be a great asset to the community at large. Norristown Patch will continue to follow this story as it develops and we'll be sure to get both sides.
Brian Kerney August 11, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Don't believe everything you read. This is a very misleading headline!! I was at Tuesday night's meeting and not even the most biased attendee could honestly claim that "the residents" made it clear that they are opposed to the development. Yes, many of those in attendance were opposed to the proposal and made their points of view known but there was also an equal number there who were in favor of the project. The article does not mention any of the residents who want this project to happen, like the 20 year old girl who pointed out that there is currently nothing in the community for her or any young people to do and no places that offer the part time jobs they crave, or the multiple parents of young families who spoke of their excitement at the prospect of having a state-of-the-art family and community facility in their neighborhood. Yes, those opposed to the project raised valid concerns about increased traffic on adjacent streets but until complete traffic studies have been performed, and the solutions have been engineered, it is premature to use this as a basis to prevent the project from going forward. West Norriton has a population of over 15000 people, many of whom may be very much in support of having a state of the art recreational facility in the township. It would seem more prudent to gauge support for the project across the larger community rather than allowing the closed minded opinions of less than 100 people speak for everyone else.
Kim August 11, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Excellent points, Brian! Hopefully those in favor will be heard. In an effort to help and to discuss what we can do, I have set up this email - YESmarkleyfarmsY@ymail.com. Let's gather all those in favor and make sure we are heard!
Candy Allebach August 12, 2011 at 12:59 AM
I think this is a great idea, for the residents of West Norrition, East Norrition and Lower Providence! The residents are complaining about the zoning, but correct me if I am wrong, wasn't Markley Farms a business in a residental area? How did they get around the commerical zoning?
Virginia Rueber August 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM
I would love to see the YMCA be at the former Markley Farms Swim Club, I belonged to Markley's for many many years and it would be a shame to build houses there. We have no place in the area where we can enjoy the outdoors and open space with swimming, sure there are other pools in the area but nothing as peaceul as Markley's area. The YMCA has great plans to make more things to do at the site and I think they should get the rezoning in their favor. Neighbors can erect a fence.
Maggie Hobson-Baker September 25, 2011 at 11:19 PM
I also attended this meeting. As a resident in Lower Providence and a member of the YMCA I will be very sad if this Y was not built in West Norriton. Since the YMCA took over Markely Farms it has made drastic improvements. Many of the complains to the neighbors were invalid. One man who was much older, stated something to the effect that our community does not need the YMCA to do programming for our families and children. He went on to state that our community already has these services. As a mother of two young children I can tell you that he is completely wrong. My son has played basketball, is learning how to swim and even play the piano through the YMCA. The only people who made sure that they signed up to speak at this meeting where those who were against it. I would have loved the opportunity to add my "two cents" to this dialogue.
Christopher February 15, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Classic NIMBY.... (not in my back yard) I hope the elected officials do their jobs and represent the entire town... And aren't dissuaded by a very small, vocal minority. P.s. I live on chestnut avenue, so this IS actually in my proverbial back yard. And yes, I imagine the increased traffic means I need to be even more careful with my daughter near burnside avenue.... But that's a small price to pay for the benefits to the entire community.
Steve March 15, 2012 at 06:25 AM
It is a shame the people of West Norriton are so negative about a YMCA, seems like most of the opposed were older people unfortunately. It is all a setup, just because of a few crybabies they can't build a YMCA. Hope they build HUD homes now and watch their property values go down!!!
B. Walker March 17, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Im still shocked they bothered to listen to anyones point of view at all. The YMCA in West Chester was a great addition to the community despite the yearly admission fees outpricing most of the residence. God forbid they do some improvements in the West Norriston area. I live in Norristown, and would love to have it here. Im tired of seeing communities around us improve (Phoenixville, conshohocken), while we get all of the psychos pushed into our borough. They should plop it right on Barbadoes Island:)

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