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County has zoning problem in emergency dispatch project

8/27/2016 | Real Estate Blog

Officials in a Pennsylvania county are having a difficult time completing construction of an emergency communications system. For the past two years, Montgomery County officials say that they have been trying to convince township supervisors in Upper Merion to give them the zoning rights to construct a 180-foot tower. The $36 million project requires 30 towers, and so far all but one of the towers has been built.

If it is completed, the upgraded emergency dispatch system will improve communication between county dispatchers and emergency responders all over Montgomery County. Without the last tower in Upper Merion, the emergency dispatch system will be spotty in sections of Upper Merion, Lower Merion, West Conshohocken and Bridgeport. During major events, the old dispatch system can have poor coverage that makes emergency communications challenging.

Some county officials allege that Upper Merion supervisors altered the zoning code to prevent the last tower from being built. The location in Upper Merion that was selected to complete the project reportedly has a 90-foot radio tower that was built there previously. The township manager for Upper Merion says that the zoning was not changed to prevent the new tower form being installed, and Montgomery County officials simply need to present their case before the Upper Merion zoning board.

The zoning of an area can sometimes be altered if a proposed project would be beneficial for the surrounding community. Construction projects that may benefit a community could be things like communication towers or flood tunnels, and they could also be things that benefit the local economy such as supermarkets and department stores. A real estate law attorney can often help developers to apply for a zoning variance and present their case to the local zoning board.

Source: NBC, “Upper Merion Is Lone Holdout to $36 Million Emergency Communications Overhaul, Montgomery County Officials Say,” Brian X. McCrone, Aug. 18, 2016