Jenkintown Borough

Affordability is not the point

Despite everything I’ve so far written on this issue, I clearly have to work harder clarifying my stance.

During my conversation with Mr. Conners yesterday, I had to explain more than a few times that though this issue presents a hardship for me and my family, to me the real problem here if two-fold:

First and foremost: I do not own that property. It is not an easement. It is a public right of way.

Second, this is a horrible way to foster environmentally sustainable and walkable communities.

A piecemeal approach to sidewalk maintenance, and one that directly burdens the property owners who all-too-often cannot easily afford the expense, leads inevitably to a haphazard patchwork of pedestrian infrastructure. Already we see this on Runnymede with the new sidewalk blocks. Some owners have elected to eliminate their tree belts, while others have kept them. Different contractors use different methods and materials, and given the choice, the incentive is always to go with the lowest bid no matter the method.

As we also must replace 39 linear feet of curbing, this also creates a long-term problem for street maintenance. The plan for our street calls for resurfacing two blocks of pavement along curbs, new, old, and very old. Some will crumble five years from now and will create erosion problems, undoing some of the work. Is there a civil engineer anywhere out there that thinks this is a good idea?

Finally, one last point about the borough’s $2.4 million eminent domain seizure for a parking lot. The lot measures about 25,000 square feet, or about a half-acre, which in this borough represents a huge amount of developable property. Bear in mind that this transaction occurred in 2008 just as the bottom dropped out of the nationwide real estate market.

How about a comparison, then? I realize that Horsham isn’t Jenkintown, but right now you can buy a full acre of commercial property right on Route 611 for $500,000. Is there a real estate agent that can tell me that Jenkintown could make anything resembling a profit should they try to sell that parking lot today? For the next generation, at least, we will have an asphalt carpet instead of a tax-generating commercial property that will add to the charm and vitality of our commercial district.