own homes near or adjacent to the proposed site of the GDL project.
A traffic study of the Huntingdon Pike County Line Road intersection was conducted by John Comiskey, a registered traffic engineer and a qualified expert, who testified at the hearings. As the following table indicates, the study concluded that Present traffic at peak hours exceeds the design capacity of the intersection in all directions:
The proposed GDL project would add an estimated 280 vehicle trips through the intersection per day, approximately ten percent of which would occur at peak hours. Moreover, the elderly residents of the 111 apartments could be expected to increase pedestrian volume substantially, particularly since a shopping center is located diagonally across the intersection. It is likely that a pedestrian cycle would have to be added to the traffic signal, increasing the present 58 second total cycle to 77 seconds. The result of this change would be to reduce the green light time for each direction, increase the waiting time, and conceivably double the actual traffic congestion at certain points. Residents have observed that some drivers seek to avoid the intersection, with its present volume of traffic, by detouring through adjacent residential streets. This phenomenon will be compounded by construction of the GDL project.
In addition to causing traffic problems, the proposed project will adversely affect the community in other ways. GDL plans to pay Lower Moreland Township $ 20,000. per year in lieu of annual property taxes. This equals approximately $ 180. per unit. Uncontradicted testimony established, however, that each unit would require municipal services costing an average of $ 306. per year. The presence of the senior citizen facility will also place increased burdens on the Township's police and fire departments.
Aesthetically, the project will be significantly out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. The proposal calls for a four story, multi-unit apartment building in an area presently dominated by single-family homes. Moreover, the project will place an added strain on the Township's already inadequate sewer system.
Finally, GDL has offered no plans for feasible, alternative uses of the building in the event the project should fail economically. Thus, while it is only speculation, the Township residents face the potential of being left with a vacant and untended apartment building in the midst of their community.
Nevertheless, despite the clamor of these objections, the Lower Moreland commissioners approved the necessary zoning change. This, however, was not enough to permit final approval of the GDL project by HUD. As noted earlier, section 213 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. § 1439, requires that HUD must submit all applications for section 202 funding to "the unit of general local government" if the latter has "an approved housing assistance plan." (HAP). The parties are agreed that in this case the term "unit of general local government" refers solely to Montgomery County, and not to Lower Moreland Township.
The County has participated in the Community Development Program since 1975, and its current 1977 HAP had already been approved by HUD at the time that GDL submitted its 202 application. Therefore, the County was entitled to the opportunity for review and objection mandated by section 213.
Even before receiving formal notification from HUD, however, the County learned of the GDL proposal from Lower Moreland officials. Through its planning commission (MCPC), the County determined that the project was objectionable because its proposed location was inconsistent with the County's HAP. Lower Moreland Township was not within an area identified by the HAP as needing new elderly housing facilities. Two senior citizen housing projects were already operating within the Township, and the surrounding area had a below average number of elderly residents. At the same time, other parts of the county had far greater numbers of elderly persons in need of housing.
The MCPC was particularly concerned about the proportionality requirement established in 24 C.F.R. § 570.306(c). As explained earlier, this regulation requires that housing assistance must be provided in accordance with the proportionate needs of three "household types": elderly-handicapped, family-individual, and large family. The County feared that if the GDL project, with its 111 elderly units, was built in Lower Moreland, future resources would have to be devoted to building family and large family facilities, in order to maintain the proportionate balance. As a result, elderly housing projects could not be constructed in other parts of the county where they were seriously needed.
On May 26, 1978, HUD formally notified Montgomery County of the GDL application, thereby providing the County with its opportunity for review under section 213. The County responded on June 27, 1978, by registering a formal objection to the project on the ground of locational inconsistency with the current (1977) HAP.
Meanwhile, pursuant to OMB Circular A-95, HUD also submitted the GDL application to the State of Pennsylvania and to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), for review and advice. The state returned the application to HUD without comment, requesting further documentation. The record provides no evidence that HUD complied with this request or made any further submission to the state. The DVRPC advised HUD to reject the GDL project because it was inconsistent with several regional housing plans, including the Montgomery County HAP. HUD failed to evaluate or otherwise act upon this recommendation.
On August 10, 1978, the MCPC submitted a revised HAP in support of the County's 1978 application for CDBG funds. The plan neither referred to nor provided for the proposed GDL project. Twelve days later, the HUD field office formally notified the MCPC that it had found the GDL proposal to be consistent with the County's HAP, despite the locational objections, and that HUD would therefore approve the project. The MCPC responded by reiterating the County's objections and explaining once again why Lower Moreland was not a desirable location for the proposed elderly housing facility. Nevertheless, County officials anticipated that the field office would not alter its position, and they resigned themselves to acceptance of the project. The MCPC therefore concluded its response with a request that HUD waive the proportionality requirement to the extent of any impact the GDL project would have on the County's future housing goals.
Meanwhile, HUD was completing its review of the 1978 CDBG application, in which Montgomery County had requested a grant of $ 3,289,000. On August 28, 1978, HUD took the very action that the MCPC had hoped to avoid by opposing the GDL proposal from its inception. In a letter to the Honorable A. Russell Parkhouse, Chairman of the County Commissioners, the HUD field office stated that the 1978 HAP would have to be revised because it did not comply with HUD's proportionality requirement. The reason for this, of course, was that the recent approval of the GDL project gave the County a disproportionately high goal for elderly housing. Therefore, the HAP would have to be amended so as to provide corresponding increases in housing goals for the Non-elderly household types.
The County responded in a lengthy letter to the field office on September 1, 1978. Noting that serious questions remained as to the legality of the GDL project and the manner in which it had been approved by the field office staff, the County declined to make the requested HAP revisions until a definitive ruling on the matter was received from HUD's central headquarters in Washington. The County specifically stated that if the field office decision was upheld, it would then amend the HAP as previously instructed.
This, however, did not prove satisfactory. On September 6, 1978, Field Office Director Don Morrow sent the County a telegram expressing a rather blunt ultimatum. Mr. Morrow pointed out that MCPC had objected only to the location of the GDL project, and not to construction of the facility itself. In his view, the proportionality requirement was unaffected, since the 111 elderly units would have to be accounted for regardless of where the project was built.
Mr. Morrow stated, therefore, that unless MCPC revised the HAP in accordance with his instructions, the field office would recommend disapproval of the County's Entire application for $ 3,289,000 in CDBG funds. The telegram also set a deadline of September 7, 1978, thereby giving the County a scant 24 hours to consider the matter.
Despite the imminent loss of its entire housing assistance appropriation, however, the County persisted in its request for a resolution of the controversy by HUD central. On September 12, therefore, Mr. Morrow carried out his threat. In a memo to Robert C. Embry, Jr., HUD's Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, the field office recommended disapproval of Montgomery County's entire 1978 CDBG application.
Shortly thereafter, HUD central acted on the repeated requests for resolution of the controversy. Essentially, the central staff reversed the field office decision. In a telegram to Mr. Morrow, dated September 29, 1978, Assistant Secretary Lawrence B. Simons noted that under the regulations, a local government can object to a project on the ground that "the proposed location . . . is inconsistent with the general locations specified in the applicable HAP and is objectionable to the local government for reasons which are specified." The County had conformed precisely to this regulation. It had objected on the ground that Lower Moreland Township was not within an area of need identified by the HAP. Moreover, it had given the additional "reasons which are specified," viz., the Township already had two elderly housing facilities, and other areas of the County were in greater need. Therefore, Assistant Secretary Simons stated that "the Area Office . . . should not have made a finding that the application was consistent with the HAP. . . . (T)he section 2 02/8 proposal should not have been approved. . . ."
To HUD's officials, however, the resolution of the problem did not lie in simple disapproval of the GDL project. Rather, Mr. Simons suggested that in order "to avoid any undue hardship on the sponsor," the field office should offer the County its choice of two options:
(1) The County could negotiate with GDL and find another site for the project. The HAP would then have to be amended to provide for the 111 elderly housing units.
(2) The County could accept the GDL project at its present proposed site in Lower Moreland. HUD would then waive the proportionality requirement for 1978 and no HAP amendment would be necessary.
Accordingly, these options were transmitted to the County by the field office. In a reply letter to Mr. Morrow, dated September 25, 1978, Mr. Parkhouse announced the County's decision to accept option No. 2. Thus, the GDL project would be constructed at its proposed Lower Moreland site, and the proportionality requirement would be waived. The reasons underlying this decision were explained as follows:
We believe that in the long run, the interests of the lower-income elderly population of Montgomery County would best be served by utilization of a site that is consistent with our approved housing assistance plan. At the same time, we are cognizant of the problems this course of action would create for the approved non-profit sponsor and your office . . . . We are, therefore, willing to acquiesce to the desires of Lower Moreland Township, the project sponsor, and your department to allow the project to proceed at its present site.