Commissioners, township staff, concerned citizens and apartment representatives met Wednesday night to discuss the tentative sketch plan for a 46-unit, five-story apartment unit to be constructed at 112 Sibley Ave. in Ardmore. Following presentation and comments, commissioners voted to recommend moving the plan forward.
A tentative sketch plan, said Assistant Planning Director Chris Leswing, is primarily an opportunity to explore how to preserve natural features of a site and decide where the site’s driveways will go. It is also a time to consider with the orientation of the building and engage resident concerns, he added, several of which have been raised by neighboring condominium building Cambridge Square.
The 46-unit apartment building is proposed to occupy 112 Sibley Ave. in Ardmore, a one-way road located off of Church Road, next to Suburban Square.
The average apartment size will be 1,047-square feet with "high end touches" and 1.5 parking spaces per unit, located in a 69-car garage beneath the building, said Sara Dolger, who wants to develop the site. Dolger told staff and commissioners she expects the tenants to be “renters by choice" who could easily afford to buy homes, but because they've downsized or recently relocated, choose to live in apartments.
The project complies with underlying MUST zoning guidelines and the applicant is not seeking any variances, said George Broseman, representing the applicant.
History of the Site
Immediately next door to the grassy lot that is the proposed apartment site is a 28-unit condominium unit called Cambridge Square. The site of the proposed apartments, was, in better economic times, supposed to house an identical condo building that shared one driveway with Cambridge Square.
However, for economic reasons, the land was never developed and now, since the new building is a separate project, it requires a separate driveway, Leswing explained.
Staff has met with the applicant and with Ward 5 commissioner Cheryl Gelber four times already, Leswing said. In those four meetings, “the project has evolved significantly.”
Changes include moving the setback from 8 feet to 17 feet at the request of the neighbors and planning staff, which provides a better landscaping area and a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Plans for patios on the side of the building have also been scaled back at the request of the neighbors, Leswing said.
Resident, Township Concerns
The driveway, however, remains problematic for Cambridge Square residents. And despite requests from Cambridge Square residents that the building's orientation be flipped and the driveway placed on the north side of the building, away from Cambridge Square, the lot is “unusual,” and it doesn’t quite work to flip it without reducing the building’s overall size, Leswing said.
In addition to the orientation of the driveway, Cambridge Square residents and other nearby homeowners voiced concerns with trash location and pickup, air and light blockage and traffic on an already narrow and congested street.
Ken Aaron, representing Cambridge Square neighbors, proposed a new site plan that would reduce the number of units from 46 to 36 apartments and flip the building around, with the driveway on the north side, facing Suburban Square instead of facing the adjacent condos.
“We knew there’d be a building [on this site], we just wish there were less density … we think we have a better design,” he said.
There are "serious concerns" with the proposed alternative plan, Broseman said. "Even with all of these drastic reductions on the size of the building," Broseman said, the reduced but flipped site plan would bleed onto the Suburban Square property.
Other concerns raised by commissioners and residents include:
- Board of Commissioners President Liz Rogan had concerns about a gate proposed for the apartment complex driveway. The idea for a gate was added at the suggestion of the Cambridge Square neighbors, but the fact that people waiting to get in will be on the street is especially problematic since the building would be located directly across from the Narberth Ambulance building. She suggested some waiting space be on site, instead. Dolger responded to say that a gate could be placed farther back on the site so there would be waiting space off-street.
- A neighbor from across the street, Rebecca Cronin, expressed traffic and safety concerns. “I’m not saying the building shouldn’t be built—I think it’s a great idea—but traffic has to be absolutely addressed,” she said, noting that she has her driveway blocked at least on a monthly basis by cars. Placing the driveway on the north side of the building would be preferable, she said.
- Lois Davis, a five-year Cambridge Square resident, expressed concern about 12 Cambridge Square units that will face the new apartments and may have light and air blocked. “We’re asking that we have light, air and visual enjoyment," she said, also requesting a setback of 20 feet in the front of the building, and that no delivery trucks or trash pickups would occur on the Cambridge Square side of the building.
- "Anyone who's looked at this plan thinks they're should be a 20-foot setback," Gelber said, noting that it would better match Cambridge Square. Gelber also wondered whether there was adequate parking, without additional space for visitors, maintenance people and additional cars.
While agreeing to move the trash to the north side of the building as well as other conditions, Broseman said the apartment developers could not agree to increasing rearyard setback as a condition of the plan. “We’ll continue to explore it, but at this time, we have a lot to assess," including the financial impact of such a change, he said.
Commissioners voted to recommend moving the project through the process and onto the next stage of development. A land use plan will be presented next month.