Upper Moreland Township took the first step toward being the first in the region to initiating a Live-Stop program.
In a vote of 7-2, the township board of commissioners approved the zoning changes relating to an existing ordinance, which regulates the creation of impound lots.
Both this vote and its prior public hearing, took place at last night’s Regular Board meeting.
The changes in the ordinance (No. 1603) will allow the conditional creation of impound lots and junkyards in industrial-zoned areas of the township.
According to Kate Harper, the township’s solicitor, the majority of such lots may appear in a corridor that stretches from the Willow Grove Train Station to the Turnpike.
A few members of the board of commissioners voiced their concern over the changes in the ordinance.
“To me, this is inviting a nuisance our community doesn’t need,” Ward 1 commissioner Lisa Romaniello, said. “Impound lots will bring property values down.”
In addition to her concern for community development, Romaniello also expressed strong reservations with installing new impound lots, as such lots could lead toward making Upper Moreland Township the only municipality in the region, so far, to potentially initiate a Live Stop Program.
“I’m not sure where Abington and Horsham are on this.” Romaniello said. “I probably would have been in support of this, had it been a regional approach.”
According to Ward 2 commissioner Kevin Spearing, in order to enact a Live Stop program, Upper Moreland would have to have an impound, due to the daily heavy volume of traffic.
The closest municipality to have a Live Stop Program is Philadelphia, which once utilized now non-operational Upper Moreland impound lots.
According to a Philadelphia Police Department information bulletin, the Live Stop program allows police officers to impound a vehicle, should the officer find the operator in violation of:
- Driving an unregistered vehicle
- Operating a vehicle, following the suspension of registration
- Being an unlicensed driver
- Driving while license is suspended or revoked.
Ward 7 commissioner James Mckenna also disproved of the ordinance. He dismissed the program as a revenue generator, and reasoned that it would garner the township an unwanted reputation, comparing the Live Stop program to that of a previous proposed ordinance, which, if it had been approved, would have fined operators who left their vehicles unlocked.
Ward 4 commissioner Joseph Lavalle, who chairs the Community Development Committee, where this ordinance was discussed last month, explained that this ordinance would only be confined to conditional land uses.
He said that other regulations would have to be discussed in committees and approved by the courts before the impound lot could be used for the Live Stop program.
This explanation, however, did not stop a parade of public comments, all of which addressed a potential Live Stop program in Upper Moreland.
“From a law and order point of view, this sounds like a great program,” Nick Scull, local political activist, said. “But, if we’re the only township that’s doing this, what’s the reputation going to be?”
He suggested that the majority of Live Stop violators will not be Upper Moreland residents, but rather, individuals heading from the Turnpike to Philadelphia. He added that should the township become the first in the region to implement Live Stop, then the township should take care not to be perceived as bias on who is found to be in violation.
An opposing public comment came from Upper Moreland School Board vice president Don Warner.
“The police department is trying to protect us from all sorts of maladies,” Warner said. “If folks are breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law.”
Warner adding that should such law violators choose to avoid Upper Moreland, because of the Live Stop program, “Fine by me.”
Although said that he was hesitant to respond to comments about the program, before the board of commissioners officially introduced the program, he did state his approval of Upper Moreland Township being first in implementing Live Stop.
“If we keep on waiting for other townships to do it, we’re not being progressive, sometimes we’re going to be the first,” Nestel said, adding emphatically, “This program is being initiated to protect our citizens, because they’re getting struck by people who don’t have licenses.”
Currently, UMPD uses a list of garages, which are approved by the board of commissioners, for storage of impounded vehicles. The majority of these vehicles are impounded for parking violations.