Council Gets a Look at New Borough Hall During Hearing

A conditional use hearing was held for a new borough hall on Bridge Street.

Plans for Phoenixville’s new borough hall were shown at Tuesday’s borough council meeting.

Representatives from Spiezle Architecture Group, along with the civil engineer working on the project, were on hand to discuss the new building, which will be located adjacent to the current district justice building at 347 Bridge St. The three-story building will be 45-feet high and plans include 123 parking spaces.

The police department will be housed on the first floor, with a gated, covered police parking area around the back. The second floor will feature administrative offices and windows where residents speak to borough staff. The third floor has the public meeting space, which can be divided into a smaller conference room area. A caucus room, archive storage, the public works office, a break room for employees and the server room will also be on the third floor.

Existing elevators and stairwells will be used, and one new stairwell will be added from the second floor to the third floor in the new building. Council President Richard Kirkner said the district justice building was built in anticipation of the addition.

“The lobby was built with another building to the west of the existing building in mind,” Kirkner said.

As a conditional use hearing, the focus was on the footprint, general layout, parking and circulation on the site, rather than the overall design. More input on that can be given during the subdivision and land development phase, according to Solicitor Andrew Rau.

Kirkner said he had some concerns with the design but understood that it was not really the forum for that at the conditional use hearing.

“It just looks awfully boxy for a municipal building,” he said.

The council president also expressed some concerns about stormwater on the site, which is near the French Creek. He asked what would happen if a storm like Hurricane Agnes came through.

“The parking lot will be under water,” said Mike Thomas, civil engineer at Hunt Engineering Company.

Police officers would still have access to their garage from the east but not the west in a bad storm situation, Thomas said. The stormwater management system will be buried under the parking lot, which would be covered in water in the event of a flood.

Planning Commission Member David Saneck said he was concerned about building in a flood-prone area. Saneck cast the dissenting vote on the planning commission, which voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the conditional use for the project.  

Resident William McGinley said he didn’t like that there was a good chance the police department could be limited to one access in the event of a flood. He also criticized the spending on the project.

“You’re wasting $8 million,” McGinley said.

The conditional use hearing dealt with whether or not the building could be used for a  municipal use and the hearing was required by the borough's zoning ordinances. Council voted 8-0 to approve the conditional use application.

The plans aren't set in stone and will go back before the planning commission and may also be discussed in the infrastructure committee. The project will come back to council for preliminary and final approvals. The new borough hall will also have to go through the borough's Historical Architecture Review Board.  

Roy Hendl March 19, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Borough hall may be needed but is this the right place and cost? I would bet it could be done better and cheaper. The tax in the borough went up a little less than 30% in the last two years. Wait until the cost overruns for the new building and see how much the taxes go up. Yes, that is an ugly building, and, yes, why would they build a new borough hall on a flood plain? That doesn't make much sense to me. If the district justice building was built in anticipation of the expansion, sounds like the decision was made years ago behind closed doors. As for the school taxes, I have written to the current and former superintendent and the school board asking questions and making suggestions. The answer from the superintendents in so many words is, "go away." The school board just ignores you. I would love to see more residents hold the school board accountable.
Dan March 20, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Wow.. what happened to inspired and passionate architects??? that thing is an embarrassment! awful... there is nothing about that building that "fits" the look of an old down town.
Brian Sakal March 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Why don't you run for council if you think you can do better? Takes a real tough guy to bad-mouth someone behind a keyboard. How about posting your real name?
Ken Buckwalter March 22, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Bud - The price paid included the use use of the entry and elevator of the existing building. Two elevators were installed when the first building was built. There was also infrastructure improvements that were included in the price that were put in place during the original construction that the borough doesn't now have to do.
Bud Horenci March 22, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Thanks Ken. That helps explain the price but....it's still way higher than anyone would expect and would likely pay, except for the Borough. A million dollars buys a lot of land and improvements.


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