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Falls Supervisors Review YMCA Sketch Plan

The Falls Township Supervisors heard more than 90 minutes of often heated discussion regarding conceptual plans to construct a new Lower Bucks Family YMCA on a county-owned parcel preserved for open recreation space.

The Supervisors were diligent in asking questions and voicing concerns about a variety of quality of life issues, including traffic, stormwater management protocols, as well as the upkeep of county-owned Lake Caroline. Given that the YMCA submitted a sketch plan - and not a land development plan - the board did not take action on the project.

“A sketch plan is not something the township votes on,” Supervisors Chairman Bob Harvie said. “It’s a concept.”

The YMCA is considering relocating its aging and overcrowded facility, which is situated at 601 Oxford Valley Road, to a roughly 14-acre site adjacent to Oxford Valley Pool, at the corner of Hood and South Olds boulevards. Officials said early plans call for a 48,000-square-foot single-story building, with the ability to expand to a total of 55,000 square feet.

The main sticking points for many who oppose the plan is that the proposed new site would be situated on county-owned land at the 82-acre Lake Caroline, which has been earmarked for open recreation space. Neighbors said their properties are flood-prone and worried that additional development would make flooding worse.

Proponents said the new building would serve to improve the park area, give Falls residents something else to be proud of and help in attracting new YMCA members.

Before final consideration and a vote could happen, the YMCA would need to conduct a traffic study and submit fully engineered plans. In addition, the project, if it were to move forward, would require a zoning change.

Mickey Malone, a YMCA member and supporter, tried to convince YMCA representatives that the Fraternal Order of Eagles building, which is currently for sale, was a better option.

“We love this vision because of where it is. We know there’s other spaces,” Lower Bucks Family YMCA CEO Zane Moore responded. “What we love about this space is the opportunity to do something different and increase the usability of the park.”

Supervisor Brian Galloway refuted claims from YMCA advocates that the park is a hub for underage drinking and the homeless. Instead, Galloway said that the “county has neglected the property.”

“I’m proud of my neighborhood,” he said. “I’m proud of Fairless Hills.” 

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