By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer
Ask Richboro residents what they want to see in the village and they’ll tell you more diverse businesses and easier ways to get to them.
On Feb. 12, the Bucks County Planning Commission held a joint town hall meeting with Northampton Township to get residents’ opinions on a master plan for the future of Richboro.
“The purpose of this meeting is to get public input, your input,” Township Manager Robert Pellegrino said.
Dozens of residents attended the meeting headed by Michael Roedig of the Bucks County Planning Commission to contribute to the direction of the master plan, which Roedig predicts should be completed by the end of summer 2015.
Roedig and Richard Brahler, senior transportation planner for the commission, distributed surveys and displayed interactive charts where residents could place color-coded stickers on the areas they want to see improvement. The categories included the importance of present or potential attributes, improvements in business environment and non-residential development.
“There is a lot going on in Richboro. This is clearly the center of the township,” Roedig said. “It doesn’t need ‘revitalization’ because it already has that vitality to it. What we still feel it does need is that overall concept, that overall idea to ensure that the village remains vital in the future.”
Residents placed most stickers on walkability, streetscape, entertainment and tourism and historic character development for the present and potential attributes category.
In the business environment, they indicated that there should be enhanced pedestrian circulation, streetscape improvement and public transportation, but explicitly stated a disinterest in local bus routes. Instead, some suggested that there should be a local train station.
For nonresidential development, residents want to see more locally owned stores, restaurants, culture and entertainment options, and some put a specific request for a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
“We want this to be driven from the ground up,” said Roedig, who mentioned that local businesses are not being surveyed for the master plan, only residents.
The results from the night will tabulated, and the surveys, which are still available on Northampton’s website, will be included in their analysis. Roedig and other representatives from the Bucks County Planning Commission will come back to a future Northampton Planning Commission meeting to discuss the collective vision for Richboro.
“From then on, we’re going to start formulating some of the conclusions of the plan,” he said.
Roedig also mentioned that the township is developing “design guidelines,” which will ensure that new development reflects existing architecture.
After the initial presentation and resident input, Roedig opened up a forum-type conversation, which quickly turned to a discussion about the current development of the Davis Pontiac site at the center of the village at 922 Second Street Pike.
George Komelasky, a member of the Northampton Board of Supervisors, told residents that the site will not be part of the master plan discussion because it has been an ongoing process before the plan for Richboro was proposed.
“The actual process for the Davis Pontiac site has been laid out, has been to court, has been settled in court and the actual plan is being reviewed by our engineer,” he said.
He also said by 2016, there will be occupancy at the site.
Pellegrino said the township has “architectural control” over the appearance of the buildings.
“We can dictate style and materials,” he said.
There’s six buildings being proposed on the 12-acre site, Pellegrino said. The buildings include a 20,000-square-foot building to be occupied by Holy Redeemer Hospital, a 10,000-square-foot liquor superstore, a 13,000-square-foot Rite Aid pharmacy and two upper-scale restaurants featuring outdoor dining in a central piazza. Some of the other space is slated for residential or office use, and there is no information yet for the rest of the development.
“I would expect this spring we’ll see some dirt being moved and things starting to happen at that site,” Komelasky said.
Overall, though, the meeting was geared toward future development, not development already in place. The meeting was preliminary, to gauge what the public wants and set forth motions to try to reach those goals.
“This is years in the making,” Roedig said.
For information, visit www.northamptontownship.com.