Over 60 people attended the annual general meeting of the in order to hear plans that will directly affect the Upper Moreland area business community.
The meeting took place in the , May 29, from noon to 1:30 p.m. In its attendance was a diverse cross section of Upper Moreland township stakeholders, which included members of the chamber of commerce, as well as several individuals who possess direct influence on the township’s redevelopment and revitalization.
Among the elected officials in attendance were township commissioners Donna Parsell, Kip McFatridge and Joe Lavalle; state senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12); and Upper Moreland School Board Member Ron Slagle. Also in attendance was township manager David Dodies.
According to John DiMarzio, Willow Grove Chamber of Commerce president, the purpose of this year's general meeting was to explore a consistent and pressing concern of the township.
"Revitalization has been the biggest topic of discussion in this township for over 30 years," DiMarzio said. "It's not just for the business people, but the residents also."
It's for this reason that the chamber invited Montgomery County Senior planner Michael Narcowich as the event's keynote speaker to further explain the current draft revitalization plan, and what the chamber could do to realize that plan.
In his presentation, Narcowich provided a synopsis of the progress the township has made during its advancement in revitalization, specifically through projects funded by county revitalization funds.
Starting in 2003 with the Memorial Park Gateway, located at 141 York Road in Willow Grove; and ending with the 2007 York Road Streetscaping Pilot Project, Narchowich revealed that the township's previous revitalization plan used over $1.3-million in revitalization funds.
As , the township's current draft revitalization plan has expanded its revitalization area to focus potential revitalization projects in both the downtown Willow Grove area, as well as the Willow Grove Interchange area.
In his presentation, Narcowich said that the goals of the current revitalization plan address issues of Public safety (i.e. traffic safety), Infrastructure (i.e. flooding plans and the train station), and Economic Development (such as a demand for more restaurants).
He added that public feedback has also revealed a desire for more mixed-used development, including a movie theater similar to that of the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown or the Ambler theater.
And, while the county has put a on revitalization funds this year, as the new county commissioners scrutinize county programs, Narchowich said that the county does have $2.5-million in other economic development funding available. He said that a municipality with a revitalization plan will likely be considered for such funding.
After speaking with the acting director of the county's planning commission, Narcowich shared what types of projects the county would most likely fund.
"He pointed out that the emphasis for direct economic development funds in the future from the county is likely going to be tied to job creation and assistance to private businesses," Narcowich said.
He also explained, that a revitalization plan will make it easier for the township to entice potential private developers, as they would likely be attracted to a solid, unified plan.
"Outside organizations often do look at your goals and your plans, and see if you do have a solid vision," Narcowich said in his presentation.
After the presentation, DiMarzio continued with the meeting's agenda, having the chamber's members present other business community concerns, including nuances of the township's mercantile tax and development of mix-use land development, particularly in the area around Kremp Florist.
Another point DiMarzio made referred to the chamber's role in addressing such issues, as well as its role in revitalization.
According to DiMarzio, the chamber functions as a conduit between the business community and the township board of commissioners.
Community Development Committee chairperson Ward 4 commissioner Joe Lavalle was among the elected officials in attendance. He agreed with DiMarzio's function of the chamber, and shared that the chamber is an ongoing item on the committee's agenda.
"It's another vehicle for the community to have their input," Lavalle said of the chamber.
He said that it's important for the township and the business community to find ways of not increasing residents' taxes, while increasing funds for revitalization and redevelopment, such as pursuing county funds, or trying to create larger businesses to coexist with smaller, 'mom and pop' businesses.
According to the chamber's newest member, Joseph Fonash, LCSW, it's the growing diversity of businesses that attracted him to join the chamber.
"For me, it's useful, because you're exposed to many different businesses," Fonash, who owns and operates a counseling, consulting and behavioral health service in Hatboro, said. "Although, we're all very different, we collaborate and get different ideas on how to do business."
For more information, visit www.willowgrovechamber.org/
[Editor's note - in a previous edition of this article, Michael Narcowich's name was incorrectly spelled.]