I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission meeting this past week, along with an overflowing audience of residents. The two items on the agenda attracting the attention – (1) Preliminary/Final Land Development approval on the Station Square redevelopment project, N. Valley Road in Paoli and (2) Consideration of a text amendment to the “Institutional Overlay” district.
The Linden Lane Capital Partners “Station Square Redevelopment” (LD-07-2017 application) project consolidates three parcels into one parcel for the redevelopment of the four existing two-story office buildings. The property is located next to the Paoli Train station at 37 N. Valley Road, within the TCD (Town Center) district.
To qualify in the Town Center District (and receive its various zoning bonuses) requires mixed use in the Station Square redevelopment project. The original plan called for three separate apartment buildings, each with a small 750 sq. ft. office for a total of 3 offices. In the settlement decision with the township for conditional use, the three buildings were consolidated into one building (205,000 sq. ft) and instead of including three offices; the new plan only contains one 750 sq. office space. There has been much discussion from the Planning Commissioners and residents that this imbalance between residential and office may constitute ‘mixed-use’ but is not the spirit or vision for Town Center District zoning.
The existing structures will be demolished in order to construct one new four-story mixed-use building, containing 153 apartments and first floor office space, plus above and underground parking, interior courtyard and swimming pool.
Proposed Linden Lane architectural rendering
The Station Square redevelopment project at the corner of Central and North Valley in Paoli is significant. The immediate neighborhood, which includes private homes and the Delaware Valley Friends School, is already challenged with the daily increase of traffic as commuters travel on East and West Central Avenue to avoid backups and traffic lights on Routes 252 and 30. Traffic studies by the developer have yet to convince any of us that this project is not going to add more traffic to currently existing traffic problems. But if you were to believe the developer and his attorney, the residents of this new multi-story apartment building are only going to travel by train, and additional cars will not be an issue.
As part of the redevelopment plan, approximately one acre of the Station Square property will be transferred through eminent domain to Amtrak and SEPTA for the proposed $36 million redevelopment of the Paoli Transportation Center and realignment of a bridge over Valley Road.
The pitch for preliminary/final land development approval for the Station Square project included a list of proposed waivers. What caught everyone’s attention was a landscaping waiver asking for a reduction in shade trees, evergreen trees and shrubs – a total reduction of 200 plants! The Planning Commissioners, most notably Denise Waite, were as troubled by the landscaping waiver request as were the neighbors. David Falcone, developer’s attorney argued that plantings on N. Valley would be the responsibility of Amtrak not his clients. A very petty argument on such a costly project; in the end, Falcone was told to work with the township staff for resolution.
I liked the suggestion of one neighbor – if there was a problem finding room for the shade and evergreen trees have the developer offer them to the neighboring Central Avenue residents. It will be interesting to see what ends up in the final plans.
The second item on the agenda of interest to many residents was ZA-01-2016 “Institutional Overlay Amendment”. It took me awhile to realize that this was the Aquilante property at 950 Cassatt Road in Berwyn.
The Nolen Properties development group was previously in front of the Planning Commissioners with a plan for a “residential care facility for older persons” in December 2016. They sought to re-zone the Cassatt Road property from R-1 (Residential) to O (Office) and to petition for the O (Office) district to permit a residential care facility as a usage.
In the interim year, the development company purchased additional land and the property now has 10+ acres so that it meets the minimum size requirement for the Institutional Overlay district. As we learned at the meeting, because the R-1 property on Cassatt had been operating as Aquilante’s catering business (and apparently a slaughterhouse before the catering usage), the nonconforming usage passes with the property – thus making it a ‘by-right’ use for commercial development, including a residential care facility.
What is this Institutional Overlay district and why was it important to Nolen Properties? Because with certain criteria – a Residential property (such as Aquilante’s) with a min. of 10 acres, that is adjacent to a commercial zoned property, qualifies for many more usages, such as schools, churches or in this case, a residential care facility for older persons.
Important to Nolen Properties is that the IO district allows for a density of “30 beds per acre” in its proposed care facility – yes, the proposed change to the ordinance would allow for 300 beds on the Cassatt Road property!
To fully understand the potential size and impact of this proposed project on Cassatt Road – you must drive by the Brightview Senior Living project on E. Conestoga Road (behind Whole Foods) in Devon which is under construction. This project is over-sized for the space, wedged next to the train tracks and has 196 beds! For perspective, if the text amendment change is granted on the Aquilante property, the proposed residential care facility could come with 300 beds!
Every time I hear the ‘text amendment’ I am reminded of the Daylesford Crossing. You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site. The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.
Although the Aquilante property is in the preliminary land development stage, residents had plenty of questions and comments, many having to do with the potential traffic impacts of the development, including cut-through traffic on Westwind Drive to Contention Lane and points east. Many neighbors attended the meeting — all voicing their opposition to the proposed plan.
When asked what other properties in the township could be impacted by the proposed ordinance change, no one knew the answer. It seems to me that there needs to be an answer to that question before this proposal can advance.
It should also be noted that Berwyn Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas attended the meeting and commented on the potential increase of emergency calls at assisted living facilities — remember the fire companies serving Tredyffrin Township are combination departments, paid staff and volunteers.
I guess my question is how many residential/assisted living facilities do the residents of Tredyffrin Township need (or want)?