Bensalem shifts focus of redevelopment plan to waterfront properties, leaves light manufacturers out

Change is coming to Bensalem's waterfront.


Nearly two decades after creating the R-55 Riverfront Revitalization District to establish waterfront housing, Bensalem Township Council reached a compromise agreement on its newest proposal for properties between its Delaware River access and Interstate 95. The initial proposal was met with opposition by business leaders who worried the zoning on their properties would change and limit their uses.

Under the compromise, the light-industrial uses on those properties will not change.

That compromise will allow Bensalem to further develop the river-facing section of the redevelopment zone into residential use.

The entire R-55 district is a huge swath of land, roughly 640 acres, that stretches from Street Road to Station Avenue and from the Delaware River to Interstate 95. It is home to a several warehouses and manufacturers, and some residential.

Bensalem officials have been attempting to convert this tract into a residential-heavy, mixed-use area that would feature more walkable communities that better utilize the river location.

To get there and to overcome complaints from business leaders, Council at its meeting Tuesday evening unveiled plans to create an overlay within the district that separates the riverfront from the rest of the district.

This new plan would need acceptance from the Bensalem Planning Commission and the Bucks County Planning Commission. Council anticipates no hangups with those presentations, and said R-55A could go into effect in 90 days.

This new plan, and focus on the waterfront properties, is an "outgrowth" from the conversations council has had with property owners in the zone, said Bensalem Solicitor Joe Pizzo.

He said all light industrial uses that now exist would remain under the new plan.

The remaining part of the district, especially the portion facing the waterfront, will be rezoned. This area will be largely zoned for residential and small shops. No warehouses or no heavy industrial uses that are not currently there will not be an allowable use in the future.

below Imperial Court and to the west side of State Road, those properties would also be rezoned to R-55A."

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Council, Pizzo said, is also in the process of creating highly detailed maps of both R-55 and R-55A to better highlight affected business.

Bensalem Council first published the proposed amendment to its R-55 district in August, which lead to marathon public testimony and outcry from business owners. The amendment also called for a new road, Renaissance Boulevard, to run through it from Station Avenue to Street Road. It could bisect other proposed properties in the tract, including a warehouse long sought by Johnson Development Associates, Inc.

Plans describe the proposed Renaissance Boulevard as the connector road that would help tie this new walkable town-center community together and a transitional border between lighter mixed-use development and industrial sites. It would help move truck traffic from the heavy industrial and manufacturing uses in the zone on State Road away from more residential developments and small businesses there, according to a presentation when the plan was unveiled years ago.

R-55 will continue to occupy most of the riverfront-facing land, while what is called the R-55A zone will essentially be a carveout for light industrial use businesses to stay as they are. Pizzo also said the train track side of Renaissance Boulevard from Street Road down to Imperial Court will also be zoned as R-55A.

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"So anything you can currently do today in any of those properties, you'll be able to do once we are done with the process of creating the R-55A district," Pizzo said. "The only thing that would remain R-55, is everything on the river side of State Road, and everything that is between State Road and Renaissance Boulevard, between Street Road and Imperial Court. that rectangle - Street Road, Renaissance Boulevard, Imperial Court and State Road -— that rectangle will stay R-55. Those will have the text changes and will no longer have the light industrial usage."

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bensalem redevelopment to focus of residential along Delaware River