1979 Comprehensive Plan Vol 2

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Chapters A - F

LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

COMMISSIONERS

Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr.
Walter M. Kubiak
Paul B. Bartle
Frank Lutz
James F. Breaker
Richard MacMeekin
Richard B. Cuff
Hester R. McCullough
Frederick W. Dreher, 3rd
Townsend Munson
W. Stuart Emmons*
Donald H. G. Segal
Louis W. Fryman
Robert P. Van Brott
Susan M. Harmon
 

Keith E. Frederick, Manager
Carrol Pickens, Manager*

* Resigned

PLANNING COMMISSION

George W. Betz
Davis Pearson
Lita Indzel Cohen
Leo Vernon (V. Chairman)
Morris C. Kellett
Eleanor W. Winsor
James Alan Montgomery, Jr.
(Chairman)
 

Dennis F. Glackin, Director

PLANNING CONSULTANT
LOUIS GLASS ASSOCIATES
110 Bala Avenue Bala Cynwyd, Penna. 19004


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

   
PAGE
CHAPTER A INTRODUCTION
 
CHAPTER B EXISTING LAND USE SUMMARY  
  Introduction
  General Land Use Patterns
  Narberth
  Existing Land Use Acreage
  Residential Densities
  Bryn Mawr and Ardmore Retail Locations
 
CHAPTER C NATURAL FEATURES SUMMARY  
  Introduction
  Geological Formations and Groundwater
  Major Soil Categories
  Specific Soil Types
  Flood Plains
  Major Undeveloped Parcels
  Storm Water Management Study
  Mill Creek Conservation Agreement
 
CHAPTER D POPULATION SUMMARY  
  Introduction
  Population Trends
  Age Composition
  Income Characteristics
  Occupations
  Transportation and Job Locations
  Population Projections
 
CHAPTER E HOUSING SUMMARY  
  Introduction
  Housing Inventory
  Existing Housing Mix
  Vacancies
  Group Quarters
  Housing Indicators
  Housing Characteristics
  Construction Activity
  Housing Values and Rents
  Housing Stock Age
  Demolitions
  Housing Quality
  Housing Problems
  1960 Census
  1970 Census
  Housing For Low Income Families
  Housing Need Analysis
  County Housing Allocation Plan
  Housing Assistance Plan
  Summary and Conclusion
 
CHAPTER F COMMUNITY FACILITIES SUMMARY  
  Introduction
  Parks and Recreation
    Overview
    Inventory and Analysis
    Conclusion
    Bike Paths
42
    Swimming Pool Feasibility Study
42
  School Facilities
    Overview
44
    Utilization of Schools
45
    Private Educational Facilities
45
  Fire Services
46
  Libraries
46
  Public Buildings and Facilities
47
    U.S. Postal Service Offices
48
    Historical and Cultural Resources
48
  Religious Facilities
48
  Water and Sewer Systems
48
    Water System
48
    Sanitary Sewer System
49
    Storm Water Sewer System
50
 
CHAPTER G TRANSPORTATION SUMMARY  
  Introduction  
  Official Highway Map
51
  Road Jurisdictions
51
  Existing Traffic Patterns and Volumes  
  Mass Transit
53
    Railroad Service
53
    Bus Service
54
    Commuter Rail Station Improvements
54
    Summary and Conclusion
55
 
CHAPTER H PLANNING ASSUMPTIONS
56
 
CHAPTER I GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
58
 
CHAPTER J POLICIES  
  Land Use and Housing
60
  Parks and Recreation
61
  Community Facilities
62
  Circulation
62
 
CHAPTER K LAND USE AND HOUSING PLAN  
  Introduction
63
  Housing Densities
63
  General Land Use and Housing Patterns
66
  Multi-Family Housing
67
  Housing Rehabilitation and Maintenance
69
  Urban Centers
70
  Architectural Studies
73
  Construction Improvements
74
  City Line Avenue
76
  Bala Cynwyd Center
76
  Coordination and Financial Implementation
77
 
CHAPTER L PARK-RECREATION-CONSERVATION PLAN  
  Introduction
80
  Parks and Open Space Acquisition and Improvements
80
  Major Recreation Community Centers
81
  Other Improvements
82
  Bicycle and Hiking Paths
83
  Equestrian Trails
84
  Bike-Hiking Pathway Standards
85
  Equestrian Trail Standards
85
  Conservation Areas, Streams and Flood Plains
85
  Natural Land Trust
86
  Implementation
86
 
CHAPTER M COMMUNITY FACILITIES PLAN  
  Introduction
91
  Sewerage Services
91
  Post Offices
91
  Community Centers
92
  Historic Sites
92
  Public Schools
92
  Other Facilities
92
 
CHAPTER N CIRCULATION PLAN  
  Introduction
99
  Street Classifications
99
  Street Improvements
100
  Mass Transit
101
  Mid-County Expressway
102
  Center City Philadelphia Commuter Connection
103
 
CHAPTER 0 IMPLEMENTATION  
  Introduction
106
  Zoning Ordinance
106
  Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance
106
  Official Map
107
  Building and Housing Codes
107
  Capital Improvement Program
107
  Community Development Program
108

 
LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE  
PAGE
  EXISTING LAND USE  
B-l Zoning Ordinance Summary
6
 
  NATURAL FEATURES  
C-l Soil Property Limitations
12
 
  POPULATION  
D-l Population Growth 1940-1970
16
D-2 Age Composition 1960-1970
18
D-3 Population Projections
21
 
  HOUSING  
E-l All Year Round Units
24
E-2 Multi-Family Units By Census Tracts
25
E-3 New Residential Units
27
E-4 Age of Structures
28
 
  COMMUNITY FACILITIES  
F-l Parks and Playgrounds
36
F-2 Recreation Facilities
37
F-3 Park and Recreation Acreage
39
F-4 Surplus or Deficient Park Acreage
40
 
  PARK RECREATION-CONSERVATION PLAN  
L-l Existing Recreational Facilities
87
 
  COMMUNITY FACILITIES PLAN  
M-l Community Facilities
93

 
LIST OF MAPS
NUMBER  
PAGE
B-l General Residential Zoning Patterns
7
F-l Census Tracts
41
K-l Land Use and Housing Plan
78
K-2 New Multi-Family Housing Plan
79
L-l Parks, Recreation and Conservation Plan
89
L-2 Pathway System Plan
90
M-l Community Facilities Plan
98
N-l Circulation Plan
104
N-2 Mass Transit Plan
105

 

PLAN ORIENTATION

For purposes of this report the physical orientation of the township shall be as illustrated on the following map. The northern portion of the township includes Gladwyne and Villanova; the southern portion is generally along City Line Avenue; east covers the Belmont Hills area; and west includes the communities of Ardmore and Bryn Mawr and the area along Lancaster Avenue.

 


 

CHAPTER A
INTRODUCTION

Lower Merion Township has a long history of community planning. The initial Comprehensive Plan dates back to 1937, and extensive updatings were made in 1954 and 1962. This Comprehensive Plan represents the latest effort to assimilate the numerous changes that have taken place in the last sixteen years, and to establish a framework for guiding future growth and development.

The 1978 Comprehensive Plan is divided into two reports. Volume One is the Background Studies, which contains a detailed analysis of the following subjects: existing land use, natural features, population, housing, community facilities, and circulation. The physical and social picture of the township drawn from the six subjects forms the basis of the Comprehensive Plan proposals contained in Volume Two.

The Background Studies report reveals that Lower Merion Township is no longer growing at a significant rate, but that changes are taking place in the age of residents and the housing inventory. Both are growing older. This means that future development programs should be directed toward preservation and rehabilitation of existing structures, and toward providing expanded housing opportunities for older residents and households of all income groups.

Fortunately, Lower Merion is in an excellent position to meet the challenges of the future. It is ideally situated between Philadelphia and the suburbs, so that the residents can take advantage of employment opportunities in either direction. The transportation network is first class. Commuter facilities are well located and provide frequent service. The commercial facilities, which are physically concentrated at several points along major roads, offer superior goods and services. A wide variety of housing is also available, from estate homes to high rise apartments. Recreation sites and facilities are also well placed throughout the community.

The purpose of this plan is to set forth recommendations and policies that will guide land use so that residents will be well served in the future. The plan provides the broad framework to guide future land use decisions. It also sets forth recommendations for specific land use modifications in certain instances so that potential deterioration of existing facilities can be avoided. In this respect, the plan differs from the typical plans created for other townships. In most other municipalities the plan is the foundation for new zoning ordinances. Lower Merion, with a wide variety of land uses already in existence, has an extensive set of zoning districts. These districts permit almost all conceivable kinds of construction. Housing types range from single family homes and townhouses to high rise apartments, with densities ranging from 0.4 to 17.4 units per acre. Consequently, there is no need in Lower Merion to create additional zoning districts for different uses and densities. What is needed is to insure that different types of residential construction is utilized on the remaining developable tracts of land so that proper housing opportunities are created. Existing structures also need to be protected and revitalized so that deteriorating blighting conditions do not take place.

During the preparation of this plan the land areas of other municipalities adjacent to Lower Merion were reviewed. Most of the land use proposals for the periphery of the township have been prepared to be compatible with the adjacent municipalities where feasible.

On the following pages the recommendations of the plan are set forth. These are based on goals and policies, an important foundation element of the plan. The basic plan component is labeled Land Use and Housing. This component is supplemented with three other supporting elements, called Parks and Recreation, Circulation, and Community Facilities. The combined plan elements form a Comprehensive Plan which complies with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, and gives the township a strong working tool to guide future development.

 

CHAPTER B
EXISTING LAND USE SUMMARY

1. Introduction

The existing land use patterns in a municipality are the result of natural and man-made forces acting on the land over long periods of time. Natural forces encompass such elements as topography, water resources, forests, and soil capabilities. Man-made elements include transportation facilities, utilities, and land use regulations. All of these factors have been present in varying degrees in shaping the character and land use patterns discernible today.

In Lower Merion much of the initial land development occurred in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Development was first concentrated along major roads, particularly Lancaster and Montgomery Avenues. Commercial services also clustered along these corridors, and the development of housing naturally occurred adjacent to these facilities. The area next to the major highways are now the most densely populated sections of the township, and present most of the planning problems because they were built in an era prior to modern land use regulations.

2. General Land Use Patterns

The township is traversed by several major highways: City Line Avenue, Lancaster Avenue, and Montgomery Avenue. Almost all of the existing commercial and industrial facilities can be found directly adjacent to these highways. Many of these facilities lack sufficient parking areas because they were designed at a time that predates today's extensive reliance on the use of vehicular transportation. Uncoordinated signage and a lack of street aesthetics compound the problem.

The majority of the existing apartment and multi-family developments are immediately adjacent to the major transportation routes. Behind these zones the housing developments become less dense and are almost entirely single family. The least developed parts of the township are Gladwyne and Villanova, because of the lack of public sewerage in those areas as well as steep slopes and poor soil conditions.

3. Narberth

The borough of Narberth is wholly confined within the borders of Lower Merion Township. The 5,151 people who reside in the borough affect the township, since all Narberth residents must traverse the township to reach other destinations. The number of people residing in Narberth increased by only 42 from 1960 to 1970, probably because the borough is completely developed. Therefore the overall population impact on Lower Merion has stabilized,although shifts in the age composition of Narberth residents will probably occur.

Other facilities located in Narberth are: a downtown commercial core, a major park and playground facility adjacent to the municipal complex, and a library.

4. Existing Land Use Acreage

The township is comprised of 15,533 acres, and a study completed in 1970 indicated that 8,490 acres '(54%) were used for single family and two family residential units. An additional 274 acres (2%) were used for townhouse and apartment developments. This multi-family acreage contained 6,697 residential units, which was 32% of the total residential units existing in the township in 1970. The combined densities on the multi-family tracts averaged 24.4 units per acre, while the densities on all other residential lands averaged 1.7 units per acre. This illustrates the wide range of densities that have been available for residential development throughout the township.

Other land use categories noted in the 1970 study are as follows:

 
Industrial
61
acres
Retail and Services
400
"
Educational
493
"
Cemeteries
433
"
Recreation
537
"
Undeveloped
2,876
"

The 61 industrial acres indicates that the industrial tax base is very small. The 537 acres of recreational lands exceeds the national standards, although there is some imbalance regarding the location of recreational lands to residential areas. The figure of 2,876 acres (19%) of undeveloped ground is unrealistic, because it was based on the assumption that in residential areas all grounds around residential properties other than the adjacent yards were considered open and undeveloped.

In 1977 a computerized analysis of land uses was performed by the Montgomery County Tax Assessor's Office. The purpose was to update tax assessments throughout the county. Unfortunately this latter study is not strictly comparable to the 1970 study.

However, it did list the total amount of undeveloped land and the number of parcels that were undeveloped by the size of each parcel. In contrast to the 2,876 undeveloped acres listed in the 1970 study, the 1977 study listed 1,421 acres of residential land as undeveloped. The method of computation in the 1977 study is probably more accurate than the 1970 study. .The computerized analysis also showed that 378 acres of the undeveloped residential lands were in parcels ranging in sizes from under 5,000 square feet each to 2 acres each. The remaining 1,043 undeveloped residential acres were contained in parcels of land varying in size from 2.1 acres to over 50 acres.

It is apparent that sizable amounts of undeveloped residential ground exist in the township to accommodate potential future growth, if private interests desire to make these lands available for development. These undeveloped parcels are situated in all residential zoning districts, including the multi-family zones. It is estimated that if all 1,421 undeveloped residential acres were developed, approximately 1,000 additional residential units would be added to the township, half of which would be multi-family dwellings.

5. Residential Densities

The following analysis of residential densities is based on the fact that more than half of the township's land area is in residential uses. In Figure B-l the ten existing residential zoning districts are set forth and placed in categories ranging from low to high density. These densities range from less than half of a dwelling unit per acre to 17.4 units per acre.

A comparison of this data with the General Residential Zoning Patterns Map indicates that the high density residential areas mostly occur adjacent to the major transportation arteries and commercial areas. Medium high densities are generally confined to the area south of Montgomery Avenue and north of Belmont Hills. From this demarcation line medium density housing progresses northward and changes into low density housing in the Gladwyne area.

These patterns indicate that the township permits a considerable range of housing densities, and that geographically the location of the existing residential densities corresponds to the availability of support facilities and the constraints of natural features. Churches, schools, transportation, community facilities and retail services are well represented in the southern portion of the township, where they are available to serve the majority of residents.

Figure B-l

ZONING ORDINANCE SUMMARY
RESIDENTIAL DENSITIES

 

ZONE DENSITY
CATEGORY
MIN.
LOT SIZE
UNITS1
PER ACRE

RAA Low 90,000 S.F. 0.4
RA Low 45,000 0.8
R-l Medium 30,000 1.2
R-2 Medium 18,000 2.0
R-3 Med. High 10,000 3.7
R-4 Med. High 6,000 6.1
R-5 Med. High 5,000 7.4
R-6 High 3,000 12.3
R-6A High 2,500 17.4
R-7 High 2,500 17.4

1Single family densities based on net square footage after deleting 15% of each acre for streets and misc. (43,560 S.F, 6,534 = 37,026 S.F.)

6. Bryn Mawr and Ardmore Retail Locations

The highest intensity of retail activities occurs along Lancaster and Montgomery Avenues. For descriptive purposes, the retail centers of Bryn Mawr and Ardmore can be categorized as central business districts. In Bryn Mawr and sections of Ardmore, the second and third floors above retail stores contain apartments. Immediately behind the retail stores in most cases are twin houses.

The Bryn Mawr retail area is almost entirely confined to the frontage along Lancaster Avenue. In Ardmore, retail uses front on Lancaster Avenue and also extend along several streets that are perpendicular to Lancaster Avenue. Ardmore also contains the separate shopping area known as Suburban Square.

The Ardmore retail area has a sufficient number of off street parking locations. The parking situation in Bryn Mawr is not adequate, and the subject has been under intensive study. It is important to obtain the maximum number of parking spaces in Bryn Mawr in order to insure the continued vitality of commercial services to township residents.

 

CHAPTER C
NATURAL FEATURES SUMMARY

1. Introduction

The natural features of municipalities play a key role in the physical development of land areas. Although Lower Merion is almost a fully developed township, natural features will continue to exert an influence on development, especially in areas adjacent to the Schuylkill River. These areas are sparsely populated, but are under continuous pressure to be converted into residential subdivisions. However, the land areas near the river contain some of the steepest slopes in the township, as well as several stream systems and drainage basins. These factors have an important bearing on the location and design of storm water and sewer systems. In addition, the characteristics of the soil are important for determining the suitability of an area for development, including on-site sewerage disposal.

The natural features of the township are summarized in this section. Every effort should be made to preserve sensitive ecological land areas, and to insure that all future construction considers the impact of such development on soil erosion, flooding, ground water supplies, and tree cover.

2. Geological Formations and Groundwater

A major concern in determining the uses to which a community's land surface could or should be put are the type and structure of the rock formation underlying the area. Rock properties determine quality, quantity and contamination potential of ground water. They are a major determinant to be considered in the design of structures or sewage systems. Additionally,they determine the degree of difficulty in excavating for construction purposes.

Lower Merion lies entirely within the Piedmont Upland portion of the Piedmont Physiographic Province. The Piedmont Upland area was formed during the Paleozoic era and deposited the precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks which made up the Piedmont Uplands.

There are three basic geological formations found in Lower Merion based on ground water yields. These are:

  • Granite Greiss - This formation is found from Ithan -Lafayette Roads to Upper Merion Township and is composed mostly of quartz, feldspar and hornblende. Water yields vary.

  • Wissahickon Schist - This formation is found between Narberth and Ithan - Lafayette Roads. It is characterized by laminations along the rock which may be easily broken (schists), and by coursely bonded metamorphic rock (gneisses). Water supply is moderate.

  • Granite Greiss and Granite - This formation is found from City Line Avenue to the northern end of Narberth. It consists of a combination of granite and allied rocks with variations in properties. Water supply is quite large.

3. Major Soil Categories

Because they determine the development capabilities and limitations of the township's land area, the major soil categories are classified as follows:

A. Category I

This is land which is already extensively covered with development. It is partially classified as Made Land because the original soil features have been obliterated by construction activities and grading. The remaining Glenelg and Chester soils are well drained with gentle slopes. This category covers the southern part of the township which is completely developed, and the rural areas in the northern part of the township which are outside the stream beds and steep slope areas.

B. Category II

These are moderately deep and well drained soils underlain by schist and gneiss, and located on hilly uplands. The hilly areas contain steep, wooded slopes and residential developments on large lots. These soils are adjacent to streams that have deeply dissected the uplands. Therefore, these soils are best suited for parks and open space because they are on steep slopes, they are stony, and have moderate to low available moisture capacity.

4. Specific Soil Types

The township is composed of ten soil types. These are as follows:

1. Bouldery Alluvial (BO)
2. Chester Silt Loam (CG)
3. Codorus Silt Loam (CH)
4. Glenelg Silt Loam (GN)
5. Glenville Silt Loam (GS)
6. Hatboro Silt Loam (HA)
7. Made Land (MD)
8. Manor Channery Silt Loam (MH)
9. Manor Very Stony (MM)
10. Stony Land, Steep (ST)

The characteristics of these soils for development is found in Figure C-l. Moreover, these ten soils can be grouped together by suitability factors into three sub-categories as follows:

A. Hatboro, Codorus, Stony and Bouldery Alluvial Soils; These soils are associated with flood plains and are not suitable for development. They are adjacent to the township streams. Development in these areas should be prohibited.

B. Chester, Glenelg, Glenville, Manor Channery and Manor Very Stony Soils: These soils are suitable for development, and are located in the land areas between the streams in the northern part of the township. The degree of development potential varies, with the more steeply situated land being less capable of receiving intensive development.

C. Made Land; These soils are located in the southern portion of the township where the population base is situated. Although these soils contain development, they can still be severely eroded where not covered by man made structures.

Figure C-l

SOIL PROPERTY LIMITATIONS FOR RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

 

MAP SYMBOL SOIL LIMITATIONS SEPTIC TANKS-ON-SITE DISPOSAL

BO Bouldery Alluvial Severe, flooding, boulders Severe, flooding, high water table
CG Chester Silt Loam Slight Slight
CH Codorus Severe, flooding Severe, flooding, high water table
GN Glenelg 3-8% Slight Moderate to severe
GN Glenelg 8-15% Moderate Moderate to severe
GN Glenelg 15-25% Moderate Severe J
GS Glenville Moderate, season high Severe water table
HA Hatboro Severe, flooding, high table Severe, flooding, high water water table
MD Made Land Slight Moderate to severe
MH Manor Chanhery 3-8% Slight Slight to moderate
MH Manor Channery 8-15% Moderate Moderate to severe
MH Manor Channery 15-35% Moderate to severe Severe
MN Manor Very Stony 0-8% Moderate Severe
MN Manor Very Stony 8-25% Severe Severe

5. Flood Plains

A flood plain can be defined as an area subject to frequent periodic flooding, containing ground defined as alluvial soil by the Soil Conservation Service. In Lower Merion the flood plains are set by elevations for use in the Federal Flood Plain Insurance Program. They determine the township's eligibility for participation in the insurance program. The flood plains in Lower Merion are located adjacent to the stream corridors, most of which empty into the Schuylkill River. The township maintains a separate map locating all of the flood plains. This map has been compiled to implement the flood plain ordinance, and designates a set distance on both sides of all streams as flood plains. The flood plain ordinance essentially prohibits all major development on these flood plain locations, and provides for administrative remedies for redefining the locations on a lot by lot basis. Thus the flood plain ordinance and map insures the protection of these environmentally sensitive areas, and decreases the potential loss that may occur from damage by flooding.

6. Major Undeveloped Parcels

There are twenty-three major parcels that have been identified as undeveloped. They are primarily located in the northern half of the township. Most of the sites are heavily wooded and are not served by the community sewerage system. The extension of sewers to these sites is dependent on the policies of non-municipal agencies over which the township has no control. Since procurement of community sewer service to these sites is indefinite, it is probable that these parcels will either remain vacant or be developed consistent with on-site sewerage capabilities.

7. Storm Water Management Study

In late 1974, the township received engineering reports on the status of storm water problems throughout the municipality. Recommendations were made regarding the necessity of establishing appropriate drainage basins, and of designating the West Branch of Indian Creek and Valley Stream as the two top drainage basin priorities. Also, the report recommended that small retention ponds on private property should not be required, and that the situation should be handled on an area-wide basis.

The report also identified flooding and pollution as the two most significant storm water problems, with the latter problem emanating from sewer overflows, storm sewer discharges and soil erosion situations. In order to resolve these problems in the future, it was suggested that the establishment of on-site water detention facilities be explored to reduce peak water runoff rates. This would reduce or eliminate the problem of flooding pollution, soil erosion and siltation. In order to prevent flooding and erosion associated with future developments, it was suggested that storm water and soil erosion plans for individual developments be tied into area-wide drainage control facilities.

8. Mill Creek Conservation Agreement

In 1941 the Mill Creek Valley Conservation Agreement was established as an initial step towards preserving the Mill Creek stream area. The stated objective was "to aid in preserving the Mill Creek Valley as a place of natural beauty and a strictly residential district..." The Agreement identified the properties adjacent to Mill Creek, and provided that the restrictions were to become effective upon signing by 51% of the owners in the restricted area.

Specifically, the Agreement prohibits construction of new buildings in the restricted area, places limitations on the constructing of walls and fences, and limits tree cutting and removal. This agreement has been signed by more than 51% of the land owners, but not 100%, so that some properties in the valley are still not subject to the restrictions, and may subsequently be developed. However, the control devices of the Agreement have been further strengthened by Federal Insurance Administration and Flood Plain regulations.

 

CHAPTER D
POPULATION SUMMARY

1. Introduction

The population figures for the township are important because they indicate the various ages and numbers of people living in the township over periods of time. From this, trends and patterns can be described regarding the demographic composition of the township. Such data may indicate how the population will be altered in future years, and thus how township services may have to be structured to meet the demands for school facilities, police protection, sanitary sewer services, public administration, streets and roads, etc.

2. Population Trends

Figure D-l traces the growth of the township and the county from 1940 to 1970. From a population of almost 40,000 in 1940, Lower Merion has increased by about 24,000 people or 60% over the thirty year period. This compares to a 310,000 or 124% population increase experienced in the remainder of the county over the same period. However, in spite of the large population increases experienced in the remainder of the county, the township is still the largest municipality in the county, with over 10% of the county's population. It is apparent from Figure D-l that most of Lower Merion's growth took place prior to 1940 or shortly thereafter, whereas the remainder of the county has grown significantly since the 1970s. Between 1960 and 1970 the township has grown by only 7% compared to 23% for the remainder of the county. The trend indicates that the times of large population growth are past in Lower Merion, if for no other reason that most of the developable land has been utilized, In the future the township can probably expect small increases in total population, and more significant changes within the composition of the population base.

Figure D-l

POPULATION GROWTH 1940-1970

 

 
LOWER MERION
REMAINDER OF COUNTY
 
INCREASE
INCREASE
 
POP.
ABSOL.
%
POP.
ABSOL.
%
1940
39,566
--
--
249,681
--
--
1950
48,745
9,179
23%
304,323
54,642
22%
1960
59,420
10,675
22%
457,262
152,939
50%
1970
63,564
4,174
7%
560,205
102,943
23%

3. Age Composition

The age composition figures contained in Figure D-2 point out that from 1960 to 1970 the shifts in age groups in the township roughly followed the same trends noted in the county. The percentage of pre-school age children decreased, as did those in the 25 to 64 age bracket. Percentage increases were noted in the 5 to 24 and 65 and over age categories.

The major differences between the county and township occurred in the degree of change over this ten year period. The percentage of children under 5 changed from 7% in 1960 to 6% in 1970 in the township, whereas for the remainder of the county the percentage moved from 11% to 8% during this period. During the same period the percentage movement of residents aged 65 and over changed from 12% to 14% in the township, but only from 8% to 9% for the remainder of the county.

Also, these figures show that the age composition of Lower Merion's population is not quite the same as the county's profile. In 1970 pre-school age children comprised only 6% of Lower Merion's population while the corresponding figure for the remainder of the county was 8%. In the 65 and over bracket 14% of the township's population was in this category in 1970, compared to only 9% for the remainder of the county.

In absolute figures the number of township residents aged 65 and over increased by 2,085 between 1960 and 1970. The township in 1970 had 9,170 residents over the age of 65, and it is apparent from these total figures that the population composition of the township will continue to grow older. Because of the decreasing numbers of young children and increasing numbers of older people, probably the township will have to put more emphasis on programs and services that reflect this shift in age composition in the future.

Ages of male and females for the year 1970 show that up to age 14, there are slightly more males than females. From age 15 to over 75, the number of females exceeds the number of males. This trend becomes more pronounced as ages increase, so that by age 75 and over there are more than twice as many females as males. As a result the age 75 and over females constitute 3.6% of the township's population compared to only 1.7% for the males.

In total, males comprise 45% and females 55% of the township's population. In the county as a whole, males make up 48% of the population, and females 52%. In the age 65 and over brackets, the differences between the township and the greater Philadelphia region become even more pronounced. In both the region and county, males age 65 and over comprise 8% of the population, and females 11%. This compares to 12% for males and 16% for females in Lower Merion who are over the age of 65.

Lower Merion, which already has a more elderly population base than the county or region, can expect this trend to continue as people in the middle age brackets grow older and the birth rate continues to decline.

Figure D-2

AGE COMPOSITION 1960-1970

 

  LOWER MERION REMAINDER OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY
 
1960
1970
1960
1970
Under 5
4,009
7%
3,464
6%
51,306
11%
44,275
8%
Age 5 - 24
18,500
31%
200986
33%
139,969
31%
200,670
36%
Age 25 - 64
29,826
50%
29,772
47%
226,405
50%
263,477
47%
65 and Over
7,085
12%
9,170
14%
39,581
8%
51,923
9%

Total Population
59,420
100%
63,594
100%
475,261
100%
560,205
100%
Median Age
37.6
37.6
31.9
30.1

4. Income Characteristics 1970

Another measure of the population is income levels, which are noted herein for the year 1970. Basically, these statistics show that most of the residents of Lower Merion enjoy a relatively high level of income compared to the remainder of the county. About 38% of the township's families in 1970 had incomes from $0 to $14,999, compared to 65% for the rest of the county. Both the township and the remainder of the county had about 25% of its families in the $15,000 to $24,999 range. But the next income range, $25,000 to $49,999, contained 26% of Lower Merlon's families compared to 8% for the remainder of the county. The last income category, $50,000 and over, contained 12% of Lower Merion's families compared to 2% for the remainder of the county.

The median figures show that Lower Merion residents in 1970 had a median family income of $19,999, compared to $12,749 for the entire county and $10,783 for the Philadelphia Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.

5. Occupations

In 1970 the U.S. Census listed all employed persons by nine major occupational groups, from professional to private household workers. Of the 25,107 employed township residents counted that year, about 30% were listed in the professional and technical occupational category. This compares to 19% for the remainder of the county residents. The next three largest categories of occupations for township residents consisted of managers and administrators, clerical, and sales workers, which accounted for 50% of all employed residents. These same three categories accounted for only 37% of the employed persons living in the remainder of Montgomery County. Also, only 10% of the employed township residents were listed in the craftsmen, operative and laborer categories, compared to 35% for the remainder of the county residents. An interesting highlight of this listing is the fact that 4% of the township's employed residents were private household workers, compared to 1% throughout the remainder of the county. Almost one-third of all private household workers in the county live in Lower Merion Township.

In general these occupational listings for Lower Merion correspond to the income data which shows that many township residents are well paid and hold professional positions.

6. Transportation and Job Locations 1970

The 1970 Census was also analyzed to determine where people work and how they commute to work. In 1970 61% of employed township residents drove their cars to work. When auto passengers were included, the number who drove to work increased to 70%. The comparable figure for the county was 82%. More than twice the percentage of township residents used the train to commute to work than the county residents. This is obviously explained by the fact that the township has available passenger rail facilities which are lacking in most of the remainder of the county.

Statistics regarding where jobs are located compared to where workers reside indicate that township residents work in Philadelphia to a greater extent than other Montgomery County residents. About 39% of the employed residents living in Lower Merion in 1970 worked in Philadelphia, compared to only 18% for the remainder of the county. The second most frequent place of employment for all county residents was within the county itself. However, only 36% of Lower Merion's employed residents worked within the county compared to 63% for all other residents. Again this illustrates the influence that commuter rail facilities have on the township. The opportunity to utilize the rail services in Lower Merion, which are not present in many other parts of the county, is indicated by the fact that in 1970 11% of the township's employed residents worked in the Philadelphia Central Business District, compared to only 3% for the remainder of the county residents.

7. Population Projections

Three different agencies have set forth population projections for Lower Merion Township, and these numbers are noted in Figure D-3. The Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) both estimate only modest population increments for Lower Merion to the years 1985 and 2000. The MCPC projects the township's 1985 population at 69,000 persons, which is an increase of 8.7% over the actual 1970 population. According to this estimate, the township would retain its position in 1985 as the largest municipality in the county with 9.1% of the population, but the absolute growth rate over the fifteen year period would be only the fifth largest experienced in the county.

The DVRPC figure for the year 2000 shows a peak population of 68,133 people for the township which is a 7.1% increase from 1970. Also, the Township Planning Department in 1975 estimated the 1975 population to be 63,985, which is an 0.8% increase over the recorded 1970 Census figure of 63,594 people. The Township Planning Department used building permits, immigration activities, births, and deaths to arrive at this estimate. The result of the estimated and projected population figures is that the population increases from 1970 to 1975 have been minimal, and that by 1980 the population will probably increase by only one or two thousand people. By the year 2000 the township's total population is estimated at about 68,000 to 69,000 people.

Figure D-3

POPULATION PROJECTIONS FOR LOWER MERTON TOWNSHIP
1970-1990

 

AGENCY
1970
1975
1980
1985
1990
2000

Lower Merion Township
63,594
63,985
66,000
67,000
--
--
Montgomery County
63,594
69,000
DVRPC
63,594
66,749
68,019
68,133

Sources: Montgomery County Planning Commission -1975 DVRPC, Year 2000 Baseline Forecasts, December 15, 1975. Lower Merion Township Planning Department, 1978

CHAPTER E
HOUSING SUMMARY

1. Introduction

The township of Lower Merion is a residential community of high quality which has endeavored for generations to meet the national goal of providing a "decent home and suitable living environment for every American family." By subscribing to this goal, the township has maintained an excellent proportional base of single family detached homes to multi-family units. Approximately one-third of the total housing stock is comprised of multi-family units and the majority of these units are well located near all support facilities. Residential development activities continue each year with an average of 125 new homes being added per annum. However, the statistics also show that 46% of all houses in the township were built before 1939, which means that the housing stock is aging and emphasis in the future may have to be put on housing maintenance and rehabilitation activities. The total township population is also stable but maturing. Consequently the township can be characterized as a maturing suburban community rather than as a developing municipality.

Despite the present equitable housing situation in the township, several regional planning agencies in the past few years have unilaterally imposed specific housing plans on the township. These plans take the form of quotas for future housing units that are to be provided in the township for low and moderate income families. In addition, participation in the Federal Community Development Program is contingent on the creation of housing assistance programs in each municipality that specify how fund utilization will benefit low and moderate income people. None of these housing goals and programs is binding on the township, and participation is discretionary.

Nonetheless, the township has recognized the housing needs of its low and moderate income families which make up 14% of the population of Lower Merion, and has directed considerable effort to upgrading its substandard stock or establishing new housing for the needy. However, new construction of low and moderate income housing is possible only under unique circumstances. Therefore, neighborhood revitalization programs continue to stress the rehabilitation of existing housing stock rather than new construction. By pursuing this type of program, the township can successfully reinforce those architectural images that gives the community definition and provide all its inhabitants with adequate housing.

2. Housing Inventory

A. Existing Housing Mix

The total housing stock available in Lower Merion Township as of 1977 was 22,101 units. Between the years- 1960 and 1977, the number of units increased by 3,937. Between the years 1970 and 1977, 842 (3.9%) occupied units were added to the total housing inventory (Figure E-l).

The number of multi-family housing units (two or more attached dwellings) increased by 2,359 units between the years 1965 and 1970. This raised the total multi-family housing stock for 1970 to 6,697 or 31.5% of all dwelling units in the township. 51% of these units are located in the census tracts that include Montgomery and Lancaster Avenues (Figure E-2).

Figure E-l

Year ALL YEAR ROUND UNITS Vacancy Rate
IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP
1960-1977

 

Year
No. Of
Units
Absolute
Change
%
Change
Vacant
Units
Vacancy
Rate

1960
18,164
  357
2
1970
21,225
3,061
14.4
495
2.3
1977
22,101
876
3.9
520
2.3
1960-1977
3,937
21.6%
   
 
 
OCCUPIED UNITS      
Year
No. Of
Units
Absolute
Change
%
Change
   

1960
17,807
     
1970
20,739
2,932
16.4
   
1977
21,581
842
3.9
   
1960-1977  
3,774
21.2%
   

Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1960 and 1970

Figure E-2

MULTI-FAMILY UNITS BY
CENSUS TRACT IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

1970

 

TRACT #
DUPLEX
MULTI-FAMILY
% OF TOTAL

2043
282
4.4
2044
39
420
6.6
2045
359
5.7
2046
6
17
.2
2047
89
593
9.4
2048
7
30
.4
2049
10
48
.7
2050
22
733
11.6
2051
48
466
7.4
2052
9
675
10.6
2053
69
222
3.4
2054
15
1152
18.2
2055.01
55
715
11.3
2055.02
44
.7
2055.03
37
535
8.5
 
Subtotal
406
6291
100%
 
Grand Total
6,697 Units

B. Vacancies

The vacancy rate in Lower Merion between 1960 and 1974 averaged approximately 2.3% (520 units) while the county averaged 1.6%. The National Board of Realtors recommends a vacancy rate of 4% in order to maintain sufficient housing opportunities. In this regard the township had more housing opportunities available during the stated period than the county as a whole. 30% of all vacancies in the township were rentals.

C. Group Quarters

Another unique feature of the township is the number of group quarters (dormitories) provided by the colleges located in Lower Merion. In 1970 about 4% of the total township population lived in some form of group quarters.

3. Housing Indicators

A. Housing Characteristics of Occupied Units

(1) Owner-Occupied Units, 1970

The largest proportion of owner-occupied houses in 1970 belonged to husband-wife families where the husband was from 45 to 64 years of age and the family income was $25,000 per year or more.

(2) Renter-Occupied Units, 1970

The largest proportion of renter-occupied housing units sheltered primarily individuals earning under $15,000 per year. The distribution of housing income, tenure and age follows common economic patterns of earning power, stability, income, and community residential preferences.

(3) Tenure

The statistics from 1960 to 1974 demonstrated a shift in market demand from new housing to renter-occupied units due to the inflationary sales price of new housing. In response to this demand, the supply of rental units has increased in the township and now makes up about one-third of all residential dwellings.

B. Construction Activity

(1) Single Family and Multi-Family Activity (Figure E-3)

The number of housing starts can be estimated by counting the number of building permits issued each year. Between the years 1965 and 1976, 920 new single family housing starts and 1,262 multi-family starts were recorded.

New single family units averaged 71 units per year but with extreme fluctuations when graphically examined. Multi-family units averaged 97 units per year but exhibited the same oscillations in activity over time.

Figure E-3

NEW RESIDENTIAL UNITS GRANTED BUILDING PERMITS IN
LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

 

Year
No. of Single
Family Dwelling Units
 
No. of Multi-
Family Units
 
Total

1965
134
 
21
 
155
1966
89
 
120
 
209
1967
104
 
213
 
317
1968
83
 
24.4
 
327
1969
67
 
13
 
80
1970
33
 
108
 
141
1971
50
 
4
 
54
1972
71
 
71
 
142
1973
57
 
239
 
296
1974
56
 
109
 
165
1975
39
 
-0-
 
39
1976
78
 
120
 
198
1977
59
 
-0-
 
59
Total
920
(42%)
1262
(58%)
2182

Source: Lower Merion Planning Department, 1977

C. Housing Values and Rents

(1) Housing Values

The median value of an owner-occupied housing unit for 1970 was $41,000, which was the highest median value in the county. The Montgomery County median was $21,000. It should be noted that the mean selling price for a new home in 1970 in Lower Merion was $63,696 and by 1976 this figure had increased to $87,980.

(2) Housing Rents

The median monthly rent in Lower Merion for renter-occupied housing units in 1970 was $182, which was the second highest median value in Montgomery County. The county median was $138.

In the years following the census figures, inflation and a tight rental market have substantially increased the cost of renting. This rise in rental costs is not unique to the township but is a nationwide phenomenon.

D. Housing Stock Age

The age of housing in Lower Merion is fairly old, as noted in Figure E-4. The 1970 Census shows that 13,033 houses were 30 years old or more in that year. This was 61% of the township's total housing inventory.

Figure E-4

AGE OF STRUCTURES

 

 
Township of Lower Merion
Year Structure Built
#
%
1969 to March 1970
355
1.6
1965 to 1968
1113
5.2
1960 to 1964
2171
10.5
1950 to 1959
4551
21.4
1940 to 1949
3190
15.0
1939 or earlier
9843
46.3
Total
21223
100%

Source: U.S. Census of Housing, 1970

E. Demolitions

Between the years 1960 and 1970, 150 single family residences were demolished. From 1970 to 1977, the demolition figure was 154 structures. However, in the three year period from 1974 to 1977, only 26 units were demolished which- shows a gradual decline in the process. Some of the demolitions may have been necessary to make room for new construction.

4. Housing Quality

A. Housing Problems

Recently the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) set forth criteria to determine whether or not residences or their occupants constituted a housing problem. The MCPC believes a housing problem exists when one or a combination of the following conditions characterizes a unit:

(1) The unit is overcrowded, i.e. there is more than one person per room.

(2) The unit has deficient plumbing.

(3) The occupants pay more than 25% of gross household income for housing.

According to the MCPC, 24.4% of all the housing units in Lower Merion are considered to have a housing problem in accordance with the above criteria. Due to the generally high quality of housing stock in Lower Merion, it can be assumed that most, if not all, of the housing units with housing problems belong in problem category 1 or 3, both of which indicate an inability to attain a normal ratio of costs to income. The MCPC also indicated that 67.6% of all moderate income households and 95.9% of all low income households had housing problems. Based on the above criteria, it is probable that such households pay more than 25% of their gross income for rent or mortgage payments and utilities.

B. 1960 Census

A total of 745 housing units in the township were classified as deteriorating or dilapidated in 1960. This represented only 4.1% of the total housing stock. Through various neighborhood programs, demolitions, and inspections, 189 building code violations had been corrected by 1970. Belmont Hills and Ardmore were the primary neighborhoods containing poor quality housing, although some units were located in the neighborhoods adjacent to Narberth.

C. 1970 Census

The reported number of substandard housing units in 1970 was 160 with an additional 260 units classified as overcrowded. Also 109 units lacked complete kitchen facilities. This brings the total number to 529 (2.5% of all occupied units). The neighborhood areas which contained most of these problems were Belmont Hills, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, and areas of Merion adjacent to Narberth.

A closer examination of census tract data shows that the units lacking some or all plumbing facilities were equally divided between owner-occupied units (75) and renter-occupied units (80). Moreover, the community of Ardmore contained 41.6% (74) of these substandard units.

D. Housing For Low-Income Families

Figures released in May of 1970 in the "Plan for Housing and Community Improvements in South Ardmore Community" established the fact that there is a shortage of housing for low and moderate income persons in the South Ardmore area of the township. The statistics show that in 1970 this area was essentially non-white in population and approximately two-thirds of the people owned their own homes. Additionally, the average head of household earned $90.00 per week, the average number of people living in a dwelling unit was four, and the rate of unemployment was low. These figures also indicated that 65% of the residents had lived in Ardmore for a lifetime.

In a 1971 report entitled "An Analysis of Housing Needs for Lower Merion Township", the observation was made that the average home in Ardmore was selling for $30,000 - $35,000. Furthermore, 67% of the non-white population owned their own homes, creating a substantial "used" house market which probably represents the principal housing available for selection of low and moderate income assisted housing.

A review of the 1970 Census1, showed that 14% of the township's families were in the low and moderate income bracket, and 964 (6%) of the families required public assistance of some form.

1U.S. Census Income Categories for 1970:
low income - less than $4,999
moderate income - $5,000 to $9,999
Montgomery County Income Categories for 1975:
low and moderate income - less than $7,000

A report from Government Studies and Systems released in 1977 conceptualized the low and moderate income problem as follows:

  • Conversion pressure increasing
  • Substantial speculative inflation in the selling prices of old houses on large lots
  • Sharply rising rents
  • Windfall returns to owners from selling small houses on large lots
  • A transition period creating deterioration

The report made the following recommendations to alleviate, if not remedy, the problems:

  • Provide for land banking of small houses and large lots until sufficient areas are acquired to meet the medium density standards of livable design.
  • Complete an inventory of South Ardmore and identify suitably zoned sites for medium density assisted housing.

5. Housing Need Analysis

A. County Housing Allocation Plan

In 1974 the Montgomery County Planning Commission issued a housing allocation report which distributed housing to each municipality in the future according to income levels. The methodology involved projecting populations to 1985; evaluating suitability to receive low and moderate income housing; and relating housing to employment locations. This plan is strictly the product of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, and is not legally binding on the township. The plan was prepared without consultation or review by Lower Merion, and the township disagrees with the housing numbers which were arbitrarily allocated. For instance, according to the county plan Lower Merion is expected to absorb moderate income units at a rate 50% higher than the county as a whole.

The county plan and its effect on Lower Merion are summarized here so that all aspects of housing are presented in the Comprehensive Plan. No endorsement of the county plan is intended.

The county allocated a total of 46,625 new housing units throughout the county for the years 1970 to 1985. Of this total Lower Merion is expected to absorb 2,299 units, or 4.9% of the total. These 2,299 units are further allocated .on the basis of family incomes divided into low, moderate and high income categories In the low income category the township has been allocated 228 units or 9.9% of the total units compared to 9.0% for the entire county. The 208 moderate income units comprise 9.1% of the township's total allocation. The corresponding figure for the county is 6.0%. Most of the expected new units fall into the high income category, and here the township has been allocated 1,863 (81.0%) units. The comparable figure for the county is 85.0%.

B. Housing Assistance Plan

In the past few years, the township has developed a Housing Assistance Plan (HAP) as part of the Federal Community Development Program. The general purpose of this plan is to identify the housing needs of Lower Merion and to formulate a program for the expenditure of federal funds to assist in upgrading the housing supply.

The plan emphasizes rehabilitation of existing units rather than demolition and new construction. In conjunction with the rehabilitation program, Federal rent subsidies are offered through the County Housing Authority, and several units in the township have been approved for these rent subsidies.

Although new construction has not been emphasized, a 16 unit condominium for low and moderate income families on W. Spring Avenue, Ardmore, was recently completed.

The most expeditious method of meeting the demand for low and moderate cost housing is the application of community development funds for rehabilitation programs. It should be noted that the recently completed report by Government Studies and Systems details a plan for locating new low and moderate income housing. Their analysis highlighted 25 acres of land available for publicly assisted housing which could support 360 dwelling units if built to maximum densities.

(1) Housing Rehabilitation

In each year's Housing Assistance Plan the township identifies units suitable for rehabilitation. These units are supposed to receive first priority for meeting the housing needs of the township. Additionally the township expects that the private market will make available new rental units for all income levels. The rehabilitation program together with any new rental units that may be built is expected to eliminate much of the housing need existing in the township. This can be accomplished, for as noted previously, sites are available for almost five hundred new multi-family units. . These multi-family units should be encouraged on selected vacant sites, near commercial and transportation facilities.

(2) Housing Assistance Need for Low Income Households

Identification of low income households requiring assistance was made by analysis of those units that were listed as substandard, overcrowded, or paying an excessive proportion of their income for housing. The number of households recently listed in these categories was 2,742 (13.1%). The majority of these households consisted of families of four or fewer people (53%), while elderly or handicapped households composed 30% of units needing various forms of assistance.

Minority households made up 68% (1862) of the assistance need figures, which is fairly high considering that non-whites compose only 5% of the township's total population.

One of the key elements of the Housing Assistance Plan is that no households are expected to be displaced. The housing assistance plan is designed to attain its goals of a decent home for every resident through the rehabilitation of stable but problem neighborhoods.

C. Summary and Conclusion

The housing and population statistics characterize the township of Lower Merion as a stable but maturing municipality. The residents are growing older as is housing stock. If housing demand continues to outrun housing supply, financial exclusion may result. To correct these potential imbalances and to insure its role as a residential community of superior quality, the township will need to take assertive measures to correct problems while they are still manageable.

In this regard, the township should consider creating a Neighborhood Maintenance Plan based on the following items:

  • Development of a housing inventory file to be prepared from an in-depth survey. This will allow for continued planning on a house by house basis.
  • Continuation of a systematic program of code enforcement to preserve the existing housing stock.
  • Continuation of the revolving loan and grant program.
  • An expanded loan and grant program to help fixed income property owners correct code violations that are revealed during the inspection process.
  • Continuation of support of organizations such as the Ardmore Community Development Corp., which presently operates on a revolving loan program to acquire, rehabilitate and resell properties.

 

CHAPTER F
COMMUNITY FACILITIES SUMMARY

1. Introduction

Community facilities are a physical manifestation — buildings, land, equipment, and activity systems — of government and/or private services operated on behalf of the public.

In most townships the demand for more and varied community facilities and services tends to increase with the maturity of an urban area. Simultaneously, earlier facilities become outdated as standards rise and public expectations expand. Often in the attempt to compensate for changes in community structure, incremental actions are set forth without any comprehensive goals. However, during its development period Lower Merion has built up a wide range of facilities that are a credit to the township. The major community facilities, as described in this report, are Parks and Recreation, Schools, Fire Services, Libraries, Public Buildings and Facilities, Religious Facilities, and Water and Sewer Systems.

2. Parks and Recreation

A. Overview

Open space, park land, and recreational facilities are an important part of the life style and environment of Lower Merion residents. During the past several decades, the township has acquired many pieces of land for park purposes, and today this inventory includes 26 separate parcels and one site jointly used with Haverford Township.

During the past years the township has maintained a joint recreation program with the School District, which was funded by both entities until recently. By utilizing school properties, additional recreational opportunities were made available to the residents of Lower Merion. These school recreation sites are a vital part of the facilities needed for the entire township, and it is recommended that they continue to be made available to all residents. It is for this reason that school recreation sites are included in the following figures identifying recreational facilities located throughout the township.

Figure F-l

PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS

 

CODE # PUBLIC
 
P1 Shortridge Park
P2 South Ardmore Park
P3 Wynnewood Valley Park
P4 Penn Wynne Park
P5 Merion Botanical Garden
P6 Bala Gym and Playground
P7 Bala Cynwyd Park
P8 General Wayne
P9 & P10 Gully Run Park
P11 Lewis J. Smith Park
P12 McMoran Park
P13 Pencoyd Park
P14 Mill Creek Park
P15 West Mill Creek Park
P16 Ardmore Avenue Playground
P17 Bryn Mawr Playground
P18 Austin Park
P19 Ashbridge Memorial Park
P20 Gladwyne Park
P21 Kennealy Park
P22 Henry Lane Park
P22A Flat Rock Park
P23 Simpson Island
P24 Harriton Park
P25 St. Paul's Tot Lot
P26 Cynwyd Station
P27 Park Site
P28 Polo Park
 
CODE # PRIVATE
 
PR1 Cynwyd Club
PR2 The Courts
PR3 Philadelphia Skating Club
PR4 Merion Cricket Club
PR5 Philadelphia Country Club
PR6 The Stoney Lane Club
PR7 Riverbend, Environmental Education Center
PR8 Henry Botanical Foundation
 
CODE # SCHOOLS
 
S1 Lower Merion High & Ardmore Junior High
S2 Field for High School
S3 Merion Public School
S4 Wynnewood Road School
S5 Penn Wynne School
S6 Bala School
S7 Bala Cynwyd Junior School
S8 Cynwyd School
S9 Cynwyd School Field
S10 Belmont Hills Elementary
S11 Penn Valley Elementary
S12 Welsh Valley Junior High
SI3 Bryn Mawr School
S14 Harriton High School
S15 Gladwyne Elementary
S16 Narberth School

Figure F-2

RECREATION FACILITIES

 

 
Public
School
Total
Tennis Court Locations
10
5
15
Swimming Pools
2
1
3
Ball Fields
6
6
12
Basketball Court Locations
11
8
19
Playgrounds
11
1
12
Tot Lots
7
8
15
Nature Areas, Open Space
18
--
18

B. Inventory and Analysis

Park and recreation sites, including the private clubs, are identified and located in the Community Facilities map. The inventory count also includes the school facilities although they are not under the jurisdiction of the municipality.

Based on the park and recreation standards1, a surplus or deficiency of land and equipment has been calculated for each census tract.

Figure F-3 presents the recreational land status of each census tract when compared to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission standard. The census tracts with deficiencies include 17.7% of the township's population. Identified by neighborhoods, they are Belmont Hills, Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood and Ardmore.

However, sometimes the stated deficiencies in recreational acreage are really due to the arbitrary drawing of census tract boundaries. When these boundaries are eliminated and circles one-half mile in radius are placed around each recreation site, nany of the apparent deficiencies are eliminated. While there are still some acreage and active facility deficiencies in some census tracts, overall the total township acreage held for parks and playgrounds exceeds the DVRPC standards by 227 acres2. Nevertheless, there still remains a spatial imbalance of facilities in some cases.

1Standards derived from:
-National Recreation and Park Association
-Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

2DVRPC Standard of 6 acres per 1000 people.

 

Figure F-3

PARK AND RECREATION ACREAGE SURPLUS OR DEFICIENCY PER STANDARD

 

CENSUS
TRACT
SURPLUS
ACRES
DEFICIENT
ACRES
 
2043
 
X
2044
 
X
2045
 
X
2046
X
 
2047
X
 
2048
X
 
2049
X
 
2050
X
 
2051
X
 
2052
X
 
2053
 
X
2054
 
X
2055.01
 
X
2055.02
X
 
2055.03
 
X

Figure F-4

CENSUS TRACT MATRIX OF SURPLUS OR DEFICIENT
PARK ACREAGE AND FACILITIES 1977

 

FACILITIES
 
ACRES
Tot Lots
Play Lots
Tennis Crts
Bskt. Crts
Ball-Fields
Football Fields
CENSUS TRACT #
S
D
S
D
S
D
S
D
S
D
S
D
S
D
 
2043
-
9.75
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
3
-
2
-
-
2044
-
3.21
-
-
-
2
3
-
3
-
-
-
-
-
2045
-
4.64
-
3
-
2
-
3
-
10
-
1
-
1
2046
14.48
-
-
-
1
-
1
-
-
-
2
-
1
-
2047
163.47
-
-
3
-
2
5
-
-
4
2
-
1
-
2048
78.01
-
-
-
1
-
2
-
-
9
-
1
-
1
2049
53.07
-
-
1
-
2
8
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2050
26.48
-
1
-
1
-
1
-
-
5
-
1
-
1
2051
2.94
-
-
-
-
-
-
1
-
1
1
-
-
-
2052
-
8.28
-
1
-
-
-
1
-
4
1
-
-
-
2053
-
5.95
-
-
-
-
-
1
-
2
-
1
-
-
2054
8.58
-
-
2
-
2
1
-
4
-
1
-
1
-
2055.01
1.34
-
1
-
1
-
6
-
-
6
3
-
-
-
2055.02
11.88
-
-
1
2
-
7
-
-
3
1
-
-
-
2055.03
-
10.56
-
2
-
1
1
-
-
9
1
-
-
-

S = Surplus
D = Defieciency


F 1 Map

Census Tracks (To Be Added)

 


C. Conclusion

A variety of open space and parkland activities is available in the township, although some neighborhoods are not as well served as others. The township's total amount of open space and recreational acreage exceeds the standards; however, it is important that this parkland inventory should not be reduced in the future. Once such lands are converted to other uses, it is almost impossible to reacquire them for recreational purposes.

Court sports will probably continue to gain in popularity in the future, which will present a problem if identifying where additional facilities for tennis, racquetball, and perhaps squash, as well as bicycling and hiking can be best accommodated.

D. Bike Paths

Lower Merion Township has a system of marked bike paths in the township. These paths are not exclusive right-of-ways dedicated to bicyclists but are shared roadways and sidewalks, often on heavily travelled streets.

The existing bicycle routes, when being used, require extreme caution. It is a system that requires many safety improvements and extensions.

E. Swimming Pool Feasibility Study

The success of the Belmont Hills public pool and the need to meet recreational needs has led to a preliminary study on the feasibility of adding more public pools. The analysis examined the following conditions:

  • Existing facilities per standards
  • User population
  • Seasonal variations
  • User fee schedules
  • Public pool locations including quasi-public pools
  • Private residential pool locations

(1) Existing Facilities

The two public pools, located in Belmont Hills and Ardmore are supplemented by the high school indoor pool at Lower Merion High and two quasi-public indoor pools run by the Ardmore-Main Line YMCA and the YMHA at Haverford and City Line Avenues.

(2) Age Composition and Income Characteristics

The age span most likely to use the pools ranges from 5 to 55 years of age which includes 51,741 Lower Merion residents. However, most public pools draw on low and moderate income families while those of higher income means tend to join private facilities, install their own recreational facilities, or vacation out of the township. Therefore,.a family income range up to $15,000 was used to establish the estimated user population figures.

The total number of potential user families based on these guidelines is 6,108. At an average of 3.0 people per family, the total potential number of pool users is 18,324 people. By multiplying the number of families by the average family or household size of 3.0 persons, the population figure yields 18,324 people who are potential pool users.

(3) Projected User Population

The difference between 51,741 and 18,324 potential pool users is considerable. In order to derive a workable number the two figures were averaged to yield 35,032 people, which is a substantial number of potential pool users.

(4) Seasonal Variations

Although many families have private summer time pool facilities, over 2,000 individual members and 1,350 family members joined the Belmont Hills Pool in 1977. In total, this meant that approximately 7,000 people used the pool.

Given the potential user population size and the general conditions at the Belmont Hills Pool, the question of whether to build a year round facility instead of another outdoor pool is worth considering. Also, an indoor facility has a 12 month revenue earning period versus the three month season for an outdoor pool. This is a cost benefit question that should be considered in the overall evaluation of pool facilities.

(5) Pool Standards and Locations

The National Recreation and Park Association (N.R.P.A.) recommends a pool standard of one pool per 20,000 people. If all five of the pools are considered, a surplus of two pools exists in the township. Furthermore, 80% of the population exists in the areas serviced by the public pools while the northwestern portion of the township contains the majority of private residential pools (Gladwyne, Penn Valley and Villanova). Nevertheless, it is felt that the N.R.P.A. standards are too restrictive and do not reflect local needs or desires. Therefore consideration might be given to adding more public pools since the support is apparent from the known usage and population figures.

(6) Conclusion

The total population of private and public pool users is approximately 9,370 people (7,000 public pool users and 2,370 private pool users). This includes 11% of the township population. However, the predicted range of potential demand is from 28% to 51% of the population. These figures indicate that other pool facilities may well be supported.

The location of any new facilities should consider where the population is concentrated and where private pools are located. The majority of the population is located in the southern part of the township, while most private pools are located in the northern end of the township. Based on this fact first priority for the location of a new public pool facility should be in the southern part of the township. Second priority would be in the Villanova, Rosemont, Gladwyne area.

3. School Facilities

A. Overview

The boundaries of the Lower Merion School District are coterminous with the township and include the Borough of Narberth. The School District is composed of fifteen facilities of which two are senior high schools, three are junior high schools and the remaining ten facilities are elementary schools.

Over the years, the School District has provided its residents with a comprehensive network of progressive institutions. However, a shift in the demographic patterns, in which a drop in the student enrollment has been observed, has led to the closing of several schools.