Zoning updates proposed in Abington

In-law suite restrictions, Main Street revitalizations in Abington’s new zoning proposals

By Jack Firneno
Wire Staff Writer

Abington’s proposed zoning updates include provisions for regulating “in-law suites” and incentives for businesses on some corridors to provide grass and hedge buffers for sidewalks.

Last week, Steven Kline of the Zoning Ordinance Committee presented a draft for the new Abington Zoning Ordinance to the township’s planning commission. While no decisions were scheduled to be made, the Board of Commissioners was given an overview and the chance to question the recommendations.

The purpose of rewriting the zoning code, said Kline, was to increase revenue in Abington, maintain the quality of the properties and ensure the housing is “tailored to the population.”

That means, in part, addressing “in-law suites,” or smaller, accessory apartments or dwellings attached to a house.

Due to economic downturns, explained Kline, more homeowners in Abington are building accessory dwellings for older family members or to accommodate young adults who have returned or plan to continue living at home.

The zoning draft proposes that homeowners seek approval for new structures. The dwellings would be allowed to have only one bedroom and only family members as residents. And, children would not be allowed to live in them.

“It’s not meant to be used as just a rental,” explained Kline.

The Commission also proposed incentives for businesses along certain corridors to add buffer areas to sidewalks and modify entrances to parking lots.

The changes would “encourage more attractive development so you can feel like you’re in a main street area,” said Kline.

These areas would be in the northern section of Old York Road and commercial areas on Easton Road along with smaller pockets on Jenkintown Road, North Hills, Limekiln Pike and Township Line Road.

Here, sidewalks should have a strip of grass separating them from the street and hedges between the sidewalk and parking lots.

Similarly, buildings with shared lots would be encouraged to use one combined curb cut instead of two separate entrances. While not mandated, this would allow easier access to the lot.

Businesses that adopt these changes could be offered reduced parking requirements, or allowed more height on their buildings.

“They’re incentives that make the property slightly more viable without giving away too much,” said Kline.

These changes are part of the effort to overhaul and update the zoning guidelines for Abington. The draft is available for review on the township’s website.

Along with recent informal workshop sessions in Abington, this meeting was part of the first step toward adopting new zoning ordinances. Kline estimates the process will take between eight to 12 months to finalize the document and have it approved.

The vetting process will include televised meetings, public comment opportunities and workshops before the Board of Commissioners can review a final draft.