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West Norriton Residents Still Sharply Divided On Plans For YMCA

Public discussion was expected to resume tonight, but the YMCA was not put on the agenda for the board of commissioners meeting.

The issue of the Freedom Valley YMCA's plan to build an 85,000-square-foot facility on the Markley Farms Tract was expected to once again be the topic of discussion at tonight's West Norriton Township meeting, but officials from the YMCA say that they weren't able to make it on to the agenda for the March board of commissioners' meetings. They are hoping to make it onto the agenda in April.

While they may not be an official topic of discussion for the agenda, YMCA officials are urging residents to attend tonight's meeting to speak out on behalf of the proposed facility and to counter what they say is misinformation that many who oppose the facility are hearing.

To set the record straight, the YMCA has released a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) informational sheet to answer some of the questions that persist about the project – questions like "How much more traffic will there be?" and "Will taxes go up?" You can download and read the FAQ in our PDF section.

Dating back to , township residents have been sharply divided on the topic, with critics and supporters voicing their opinions at previous meetings, as well as expressing their views in the comment section of local news websites.

Those who support the planned YMCA point to the value of organized youth sports, adding that the facility would not only provide a place for people to go, but it would also add some much-needed recreational open space to the township.

"We have no place in the area where we can enjoy the outdoors and open space with swimming," said Virginia Rueber, in a comment posted to the Norristown Patch. "Sure, there are other pools in the area, but nothing as peaceful as Markley's area."

Another Norristown Patch reader, Candy Allebach, said she thinks the new YMCA is a great idea for the residents of West Norriton and surrounding townships, and many other comments point to the various benefits the YMCA would provide to the community.

Those who are opposed to the plans – many of whom live in properties that connect to the Markley Farms Tract – point to issues of decreased privacy and safety. The potential for increased traffic led to a comprehensive traffic study at the behest of East Norriton officials, who were especially concerned with the effects of additional traffic at the intersections of Burnside Avenue and Trooper Road at Germantown Pike.

"I personally checked with the neighbors, and we're not in favor of a YMCA in the back of our houses," said Dominic DeAstero, during the Aug. 9 meeting. "This is a residential neighborhood. That property has been zoned residential. We do not want to see a commercial enterprise in a residential neighborhood."

According to an October report by The Times Herald, officials of the Freedom Valley YMCA planned to ask the West Norriton Board of Commissioners to rezone 24 of the 56 acres from Residential to Recreational.

“This will be a recreational (zoning) request and not a commercial request,” said Jay Schaeffer, president of the Freedom Valley YMCA, in an article by Carl Rotenberg. “It ties in with the balance of the land which is recreational. Next door is Oakland/Padden Park which is also recreational.”

If the rezoning were to be approved, it would clear the way for the Freedom Valley YMCA to begin construction, which would take roughly a year following final approvals from the board.

At a cost of $19 million, the 85,000-square-foot facility would feature multiple indoor and outdoor pools, a gymnasium, an indoor running track and child-watch rooms. Additionally, there would be significant outdoor space as well.

Despite the heated debate, residents can count on one bit of good news as a result of the proposed project – according to Freedom Valley YMCA Member Services Director Barbara Koch-Santoro, the Y will open and operate the pools at Markley Swim Club this season regardless of the outcome of the zoning request.

"We owe it to the community," said Koch Santoro.

Check back with Norristown Patch for more information on this issue as it becomes available, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for real-time updates.

Doe, Jane March 06, 2012 at 06:57 PM
We would love a YMCA in our community, and I live very close to the former facility. It is amazing how people think that it would have a negative effect on the neighborhood. The same thing with the new hospital, people that lived very close opposed. I guess the people of West Norriton would rather have HUD build some town homes...go figure???? YMCA would be great in this community!!!!
Dee March 06, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I am all for the Y in West Norriton! There is no place in our community for families to go to spend time together nor any place for our youth to spend their time. The Y would bring all of this. Sports, fitness, childcare, special events, and more jobs for our area.I do not understand why people are still fighting against this. Is it simply because they do not to share their "privacy"? Really? Look outside of the box and your yard and at the whole picture for once! It is not whats best for you...it is what is best for our COMMUNITY!
Doe, Jane March 06, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Definitely for the YMCA. I am a senior citizen and exercise on a regular basis. YMCA is for all ages, which makes it very beneficial to the residents of West Norriton and surrounding communities.
Lynn March 06, 2012 at 11:56 PM
This facility will benefit the entire community. It is not a tax burdon, does not require addition services from the township to maintain any roads, lighting, will not increase a burdon on our police dept. The facility will have family friendly hours and will not disturb the surrounding neighbors that are opposed to it. A state of the art YMCA will enhance the community and increase property values to have such a fine addition to the community. If it is not approved and sold to a developer for residential or other use you will see an additional burden for the taxpapers..trash, roads to maintain, lighting, increased police acitivity and if these services go up so will our taxes! Do the right thing! Do the right thing for the entire community.
Amanda March 13, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I am against the re-zoning for the Y. We already have a township park with walking trails right across from this site which are open to everyone. People who say we need what the Y is offering obviously must not live here. There are many places in the township for youth and family activities including multiple parks and fields. All of the programs the Y wants to bring to West Norriton are already offered by the township and at a much lower cost to residents than the Y's $1100 family membership.

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