SANATOGA PA – Residents of the Buchert Ridge retirement community on Buchert Road must resign themselves to waiting longer – just how much longer isn’t yet clear – before they can begin using a nearly completed recreation center that’s been in renovation for about a year.
Two weeks after the Lower Pottsgrove Township Board of Commissioners indicated it would consider permitting use of the building when all safety-related items were addressed, community developer J. Wilmer “Wil” Hallman arrived at Monday’s (Feb. 4, 2013) board meeting to charge that communication between commissioners and township staff members was “poor,” and nothing had happened in the interim to open the center.
Despite polite words and civil tones, the conversation between Hallman and his representatives and those of the township became increasingly critical. Commissioner Michael McGroarty, playing the role of referee given the twin absences of President Jonathan Spadt and Vice President Bruce Foltz, publicly recognized growing frustration on both sides.
A meeting of all involved may occur within the next week, township Manager Rodney Hawthorne and Hallman agreed, depending upon individual schedules.
During their Jan. 24 meeting, commissioners said they would await reports from Codes Officer Keith Place and township engineers Bursich Associates before deciding whether they would approve a temporary certificate of occupancy for the center. It was renovated from the private residence of the Prizer family, on whose former land part of Buchert Ridge was constructed.
Since then, Bursich issued a three-page report that claims permitting occupancy “would jeopardize (the) welfare and safety” of center users unless issues with regular and handicapped parking spaces, access by emergency vehicles, driveway width, and exterior lighting were addressed. Place, in a separate letter, echoed some of those concerns and also presented others.
Hallman, founder of Hallman Retirement Neighborhoods, claimed he was “being pushed into a corner on this. You’ve got people who think they’re experts dealing with senior citizens,” he said of township staff, “and I’ve been doing this for 40 years. There’s no way we’re trying to violate anything or hurt the township. But I’m telling you, meetings with your staff go nowhere,” Hallman added.
“And I don’t think we’re trying to stonewall you,” McGroarty replied. “We’ve got a difference of opinion here that has to get worked out.”
After Hallman left, Bursich President Scott Exley rejected his criticism. “I think we’ve gone above and beyond with Wil,” he told commissioners. “We’re doing everything we can to help them get to the finish line on this project.”
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 4 meeting)