Limerick Township's Board of Supervisors held its public workshop meeting on Tuesday night and talked at length about its plans for the Ridge Pike corridor.
The board went very quickly through a few items of regular business before opening the floor to talk about the plan.
Chairperson Kara Shuler opened the discussion with remarks regarding the board's reason for going through the process.
"We're talking about the future of the Ridge Pike corridor," Shuler said. "We want to improve the marketability of the area."
This meeting's discussion is the first of many, according to Shuler. There will be several opportunities for open communication between the board and the public. Solicitor Joseph McGrory talked about the process of passing an ordinance like this.
"The ordinance is not going to be advertised or voted on yet. It's a long process, six to eight months," McGrory said.
McGrory explained the board has not yet drafted an actual ordinance, and any voting would be preceded by a formal hearing with public testimony. He also explained the board has two choices to change the zoning regulations according to law.
The first option, a zoning district, would mean completely new zoning guidelines. The second, a zoning overlay, would leave the current zoning district intact but apply new rules and regulations equally to all the properties.
New zoning rules would mean that some properties would become what are referred to as "nonconforming uses." Nonconforming simply means the current use of the property is not allowed under township code.
McGrory emphasized that anyone who currently owns properties on Ridge Pike would not be forced to comply with any new zoning regulations unless the property was redeveloped for a new use or expanded onto a new lot.
Peter Simone of Simone Collins gave a presentation on the project and its goals, including what types of businesses could be allowed or not allowed under new rules.
"The goals for this rezoning project would increase the flexibility and value of the properties, make the township more business-friendly, and improve the aesthetics and functionality of the properties," Simone said.
The township also wants to make the road as safe as possible for multiple types of transportation, including bikes.
The members of the board had their own comments on the plan.
Supervisor Joseph St. Pedro said, "This is more about aesthetics than changing what a business owner's doing."
"Streetscaping is incorporated in the new plan," said supervisor Tom Neafcy. "The plan enhances the community and attracts new business."
The township's planning commission also attended the meeting, and several members spoke about the potential for the rezoning plan.
Commission member Kenneth McLaughlin asked about existing business owners' responsibilities, and the board reiterated that existing businesses are not bound by any new rules that this type of ordinance would make.
Neafcy said the township would actively pursue grants that would help with the streetscaping.
Marta Pecharo, also a planning commission member, said she feels the commission and the board need to think very carefully about what types of businesses they do and do not want in the Ridge Pike corridor.
Several business owners and residents also spoke up during public comment, mostly focusing on what the plan would mean for their individual businesses.
At the end of the meeting, Shuler said the board appreciated the input from the public and the businesspeople who attended, but that the board needs more input from the public.
"We invite people to contact the township, send us e-mails," Shuler said after the meeting. "We might not respond individually but we really need that feedback."