Mike Organski, who owns property located at 3961 Crosskeys Road, in Lower Providence Township, came before the Board of Supervisors Thursday night to discuss subdividing his land. By purchasing a triangle of land to add to his current plot, he hopes to make one property into three. To do so, he requested the waiving of several requirements.
When land in the township is subdivided, it is common practice for the township to require improvements to the roadway, sidewalks, curbs and landscaping, to improve the use, safety and look of the township.
Solicitor John B. Rice explained the resolution before the board, numbered 14-01, which included the waiving of such requirements. In other words, Organski was asking the board to forego the typical subdivision requirements, so that he would not be forced to pay for improvements in an area that did not have curbs or sidewalks.
Rice said that the allowance of such waived requirements would save Organski around $30,000.
“By not doing any road, sidewalk or curb requirements, we asked how much money would be saved,” explained Rice. “We estimate over $30,000 is saved by not doing the improvements.”
In lieu of doing said work, Rice suggested that Organski instead pay the township $15,000, or 50 percent of the saved costs, to make up for the waived requirements.
“If the board decides to waive all that, the township is looking for some of that savings coming back to the township so they can improve sidewalks or the like in other places,” said Rice.
Organski said that if that was the case, he may not do the entire project.
“It is just not in the project,” said the owner. “I have a house to knock down. If you have to put sidewalks and curbs in, I don’t think I could afford it.”
Rice said that, when applying for a subdivision, an owner should know that is part of the requirements, to contribute to such requirements.
“I was hoping I could get the waivers,” said Organski. “It [the money] is just not there. It is not rocket science. If it was a ten-lot subdivision, that’s simple, but it is not. I am getting one additional lot out of the whole thing.”
In what some supervisors called a “somewhat rural setting,” it seemed odd to force curbs or sidewalks along three lots, when there were not any nearby.
“It has been the practice in the past that fees are given in lieu of contributions to the township,” said Rice. “This is a policy decision the board has to make. There is no offer of anything for the waivers, that is what I’m hearing.”
“It is a lot of money,” he said. “I’ll just keep it as one lot if I can’t afford to do it. I am not going to do it if I’m losing money. If it comes down to $15,000, I’ll just have to absorb the costs I have into it now.”
Rice recapped the two factors the board had to examine.
“The only comment here is that there are no other improvements in the area, and that the cost is a hardship,” said the solicitor.
The township’s board chairwoman, Colleen Eckman, said that it was an odd request, given the location, to enforce sidewalks.
“Even if there were sidewalks on these two lots on Crosskeys, they would not connect with anything anywhere in the area,” she said.
Township engineer, Timothy Woodrow, also noted that forcing new curbs to be added could also impact storm water.
“When you have curbs, you must add storm water improvements, such as piping and grates,” said Woodrow. “The collateral damage gets larger.”
The board asked the engineer what his recommendation would be in this case.
“The planning commission and I would agree that most [improvements] are unwarranted,” said the engineer. “The planning commission was not sure about the sidewalks. It was discussed at the last meeting at length if it was important as a starting point for future connections.”
Woodrow recommended that, instead of requesting payment in lieu of “unwarranted” improvements, the board could instead only require the sidewalk waiver to be paid.
“I think the Wisdom of Solomon question is ‘is it legitimate to ask Mr. Organski to pay a fee in lieu of improvements for a rather minor application, or is it prudent for us to ignore what would otherwise be his obligation and relieve him of those fees?’” said Woodrow. In the end, he said he did not have “the wherewithal to give direction on that,” but instead asked the board to answer that question before it.
Board Vice Chairman Jason Sorgini said he had a problem arbitrarily enforcing payments in lieu of waived requirements, when no policy had yet been established.
“We’ve granted a lot of waivers and reliefs,” said Sorgini. “This is a conversation we should be having moving forward. Without an identified policy, it is an arbitrary approach. It warrants a greater discussion moving forward.”
His fellow board members seemed not to agree. The board voted, 4-1, with only Sorgini rejecting, to allow waivers in lieu of a $3,500 fee, an amount that suggested the cost of sidewalks.
“I’m still concerned about the arbitrary nature of this,” said Sorgini. “I’ve waived sidewalks before without affixing a dollar amount in payment in lieu of. You hear where I stand.”
Still, with a 4 to 1 approval, the motion carried.