Over 30 residents attended the Oct. 4 Lower Providence Board of Supervisors meeting. But by the end of the meeting, it was clear the majority wasn’t there for anything listed on the agenda that evening.
“I am here tonight to urge the board to approve construction of the YMCA at the proposed location,” Jessie Damiani, Lower Providence resident, said.
Damiani was the first of approximately 15 fellow residents who came forward during the public comments section of the meeting to advocate not only the proposed location of the YMCA at the Club at Shannondell, but also of numerous benefits of the community at large.
Damiani first acknowledged reasons for opposing the YMCA construction, which include saving the remaining township Open Space and increased traffic concerns.
The Oct. 4 board of supervisors meeting was expected to directly address the YMCA proposal, which would include asking the county to consider reducing its open space in order to construct the new facility.
“I have heard some of the issues that other residents have voiced, and as a resident I do understand these concerns,” she said. “But, a recreational facility at this particular location is not a new concept.”
After listing previous incarnations of the 108-acres property, which included a one-time skating rink, Damiani noted that part of its current uses include an outdoor swimming facility and golf course.
“At its current state those who golf or are members of the swim club use the location,” she said. “In reality that’s a very small percentage of those who make up this community.”
Many of the residents that went before the board, shared similar sentiments. Each one advocated that an expanded YMCA would provide programming suitable for all ages, making the facility into a community destination. Residents also argued against the YMCA being an exclusive facility, stating that as a nonprofit organization, there are ways to include those who may not be able to afford membership.
One resident in particular, Anne Pensabene, spoke strongly in favor of the swim program at the Freedom Valley YMCA in Audubon.
“It’s been really rough to keep that team together,” Pensabene said.
She explained that the lack of adequate training facilities forced the swim team to request the use of Norristown High School’s pool, and that such an arrangement was inconvenient for parents and team members.
Having a large YMCA facility in the township would prevent such programs from disbanding due to lack of participation, she said after the meeting, leaving local youth with one less option to spend their recreational time.
“There’s something for everybody at the YMCA,” Pensabene said. “They would have no where else to go except the mall.”
By contrast, this show of vocal support was noticeably missing at the initial July 27 YMCA proposal before board of supervisors meeting and the Sept. 25 sketch plans presentation before the Planning Commission meeting. Each meeting was dominated by opposition comments, revolving around increased traffic congestion and Open Space reduction.
Of the approximately 15 residents that came forward at the Oct. 4 meeting, many of identified themselves as Freedom Valley YMCA members. Also at the meeting, only two spoke in opposition to the YMCA at the Club at Shannondell.
The two residents repeated the same concerns from the previous meetings. One resident added that the golf club does encourage teams made up of local businesses, which, in turn, encourages local businesses to stay in the township. Should the YMCA be constructed at the Club at Shannondell property, the golf course would be reduced to nine-holes.
Later in the meeting, by a show of hands, the board of supervisors asked if those present would support a YMCA facility elsewhere in the township, to which a majority of hands were raised.
Another opposition resident also identified himself as a YMCA member, and told of an e-mail asking members to show support at the Oct. 4 meeting, which he questioned the fairness of such an act.
In speaking with YMCA proponents and members immediately after the meeting, none could confirm that such an e-mail existed, however, those residents and several other members that spoke with Patch over the weekend, said that it was not unusual for the Freedom Valley YMCA to ask for support for various causes. As reported by Patch, similar tactics were employed when the YMCA had its proposal for a similar facility at the Markely Tract in West Norriton last year, but to no avail.
Many of the proponents speaking with Patch simply stated they were unaware of the first two Lower Providence presentations; otherwise they would have voiced their support then, as well.
The Freedom Valley YMCA in Audubon could not be reached for comment on the matter.
During the meetng, Rick Brown, chairman of the board of supervisors, said that the YMCA needed to reschedule its sketch plans presentation. The presentation is expected to be put back on the agenda, where the board will decide whether or not to ask the County to remove or amend its Open Space agreement that would allow for the YMCA construction.
For more on the story:
- YMCA at The Club at Shannondell Proposed
- YMCA Sketch Plans to be Reviewed at Planning Commission
- YMCA Presentation Brings Up Traffic and Open Space Issues
- Patch Blog: Lower Providence Township Supervisors & Planning Commission: Please consider alternate location(s) for proposed YMCA
- West Norriton Residents Still Sharply Divided On Plans For YMCA