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Warminster Looks to Designate Shenandoah Woods a Blighted Neighborhood

A committee will inspect the grounds and apply for the status to help the redevelopment of the military housing into residential units.

The Warminster Township board of supervisors agreed at its meeting Thursday night to consider forming a blighted property review committee within the next few weeks as part of its efforts to acquire the Shenandoah Woods area from the U.S. Navy.

It’s another in the numerous steps necessary for the redevelopment that will bring 113 single and twin townhouses to the area east of Warminster Community Park. Since the passing of the Base Realignment and Closure law in 2005, Warminster and the HLRA have worked to get the funding and plans in place for the project. 

Township Solicitor Michael Savona recommended the action in order to have the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority (BCRDA) inspect the property and officially designate it a blight on the community. This will help meet the requirements set by the U.S. Navy in the regards to the sale of the government property, which currently holds military residences that are being vacated as part of the closing of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Horsham.

“We need to establish a public benefit for our use of the property,” said Savona. “That would be rehabilitating a blighted property.”

Savona also indicated that the purpose of the committee would primarily be aiding the acquisition of Shenandoah Woods. Residents wishing to have other properties reviewed for their poor conditions should continue to go through the .

The designation will also add the strength of the larger government authority when Warminster and the Horsham Land Reuse Authority (HLRA) resubmit the plans for Shenandoah Woods to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Additionally, more sources of funding could open up, such as a Community Development Block Grant, Savona said.

The five-person committee will consist of one member from the board of supervisors (most likely either Frank Feinberg or Tom Panzer, who already serve on the HLRA’s Bucks County Housing Subcommittee), one member from Warminster’s planning commission, a member of the BCRDA and two Warminster residents. The board hopes to have nominees ready by the April 14 meeting.

The DoD and HUD denied the group’s initial submission in November 2010 because they were unsatisfied with the plan’s accommodations to local homeless groups. HUD requires the purchase and development of federal land to include certain considerations for the homeless community.

“The previous plan proposed that the whole property would be transferred to the Reinvestment Fund,” said HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee. “HUD rejected that, period.”

The HLRA housing committee will meet on April 11 at the William Tennent cafeteria to make final revisions on the plan’s resubmission, which will go before the HLRA executive board for approval at its April 20 meeting. The deadline for submission to the DoD is May 16.

“They did not reject the plan on its substance,” said Warminster Township Manager Bob Tate. “They rejected how we were going about it. We have to create a different method of conveyance.”

The new plan, according to McGee, will provide an offsite solution to Aldie Counseling Center’s request for 20 units. Instead of property, the substance abuse rehabilitation organization will be given the cash equivalent. Six houses in Ivyland will be demolished and replaced by an office building for the Bucks County Housing Group.

Pending final approval from the DOD and HUD, which could take another three or four months, there are plenty more hurdles to cross in the complex process. Tate predicts it won’t be until March 2012 that work actually begins.

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