Committee OKs St. Michael Final Land Development Plan
The church is one step closer to expansion.
After four hours of testimony and questions and comments from commissioners and the audience, the Abington Code Enforcement and Land Development Committee OK’d the final land development plan for St. Michael Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church late last night.
The plan includes the construction of a 11,640 square-foot dining hall and a 2,930 square-foot, 3-story parsonage on the church’s 16.4-acre property located at 1013 Fox Chase Road.
The Abington Zoning Hearing Board approved St. Michael’s application in July 2008; the Abington Board of Commissioners OK’d the preliminary plan in December 2009; and the Montgomery County Planning Commission approved the final land development plan on April 25.
The committee also approved a revision to the township’s “official plan” which will allow the installation of an on-site sewage treatment system; the septic system will service the proposed parsonage and dining hall while the existing church will still be hooked up to the public sewage system.
Commissioner Richard Gaglianese voted "no" on both motions.
There is a moratorium on sewer hookups that run through Cheltenham Township. Director of Planning and Code Enforcement Larry Matteo said earlier this year that the church looked at hooking up its sewer flow — in a circuitous route — to Abington’s system. However, the church could not secure the easements it needed to do so.
Soil scientist Russell Losco, with Lanchester Soil Consultants, out of West Grove, Pa., testified that the on-site system would comprise two 2,000-gallon septic tanks; a 5,000-gallon equalization tank; and a drainage field. The field, which is designed to be 12 inches to 15 inches from the ground’s surface, would be 95 feet from property lines on Kipling Road. He said code only requires a buffer of 10 feet.
According to Losco, the system will not be visible.
“When it’s installed — if it’s done the way it is designed, when the grass is re-established — you should not see that it’s there,” Losco said.
Still, many residents had a problem with the proposed drainage field’s proximity to their property and some were worried about the potential of leakage. Many residents were also concerned with the figures used to calculate the amount of flow needed.
Losco said he used a figure of 10 gallons per person, per day — which is the same figure used for restaurants. He also said that the 10-gallon figure is conservative, as it was developed in the early ‘80s — well before the days of low-flow toilets and faucets.
The maximum occupancy of the proposed dining hall is 209; a representative from the church said the dining hall would only come close to reaching maximum capacity on Saturdays and Sundays. He added that the dining hall would only be used for church events and not rented out.
According to township engineer Michael Powers, there are about 150 septic tank systems in use in Abington.
Following septic tank testimony, the church council’s president, Ihor Jaryi, gave some background about the church — which has been around for about 40 years and has 559 members (including children).
He said church officials have held meetings with residents regarding parking and noise problems, but added that the problems really only come to light during Christmas, Easter and during the church’s spring and autumn festivals.
“There are only a few times a year when the neighborhood is even reminded of our existence,” Jaryi said … “This is a church use, and it will be used as a church — not a nightclub or a country club. We’re giving our kids fundamental and moral education.”
Though the hearing got a bit chippy (one resident threw out the term “perogie ladies” several times in reference to parishioners who prepare food … which was not well received by commissioners Dennis Zappone and Madeleine Dean), Jaryi said the opposition to the plan is merely a “misunderstanding between neighbors” and nothing malicious.
The Abington Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday, May 10 at 8 p.m. at the township building.
Check back soon for an update.