Joe Duckworth

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Approve Wayne Glen’s Conditional Use application, 5-2

Wayne Glenn aerial map

Wayne Glen, NW corner of Swedesford & Old Eagle School Rds.

Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors approved the Conditional Use application for the Wayne Glen project by a vote of 5-2 at the special Board of Supervisors meeting last night.  The proposed mixed-use development of townhomes and carriage homes plus a commercial office development is located on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Swedesford and Old Eagle School Roads in the Glenhardie section of Tredyffrin Township.

Wayne Glen’s developer Arcadia Tredyffrin LLC will be the first developer in Tredyffrin Township to utilize the Trout Creek Overlay District zoning which requires increased stormwater management and flood control in the flood-prone Trout Creek area.  The plan is for 108 residential units and a 240,000 sq. ft. office building.

Arcadia filed its application in April 2013 and many, many meetings have taken place in the intervening two plus years – with the Planning Commission, Glenhardie citizens and homeowner groups, residents, supervisors, township staff, experts, etc.  The township held seven public hearings regarding the proposed project in 2015, where citizens with standing, and experts for the township and developer, provided testimony.

Based on the testimony received by residents and experts, the conditional use permit required additional conditions beyond those imposed by the township’s Planning Commission. Many of the concerns raised by residents during the process were addressed in the compromise contained in the approval of the conditional use application, including the increased minimum road width of 24 ft. from 20 ft.

Knowing that you can never “please all the people, all the time”, there were a couple of Glenhardie residents, Jacqueline and Richard Kunin, who expressed their displeasure at the supervisor’s vote to approve the conditional use.  The Kunin’s have passionately stated their opposition to Wayne Glen throughout the process, claiming that the stormwater and sink hole issues are not adequately addressed by the developer’s plan. They have also continued to cite concern that the proposed project may be located on a sacred burial ground of Revolutionary War soldiers and Indians.

The vote of 5-2 by the Board of Supervisors to approve Arcadia’s conditional use application came down along political party lines – the five Republicans (Mike Heaberg, Kristen Mayock, EJ Richter, Paul Olson and JD DiBuonaventuro  all voted in favor of the conditional use application and the two Democrats (Murph Wysocki and Mark Freed) voted against the application.  Both Wysocki and Freed delivered lengthy remarks as to why they could not support the project. Wysocki used the words “unsuitable”, “unsound”, “unsound” and “unsafe” in describing the Wayne Glen project and Freed claimed that Wayne Glen was “ill-advised” and that the property was “not suitable” for this type of development.

According to Arcadia’s website, the developer states, “With cutting edge techniques for integrating stormwater management and urban design, Wayne Glen will alleviate existing problems with streambank erosion, poor water quality, and flooding.”

The next step in the Wayne Glen project is for Arcadia to submit their land development plan to the Planning Commission.

Monday, January 6: Tredyffrin BOS Organizational Meeting & Public Hearing for Wayne Glen Conditional Use

Tredyffrin Township’s first Board of Supervisors meeting of the 2015 is tomorrow, January 5, 7 PM at the township building. The organization meeting includes the election of chairman and vice chairman of the BOS.   Although an annual election is held for the board’s leadership roles, typically these positions are held for two years.  Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock served in the chair and vice chair positions, respectfully, during 2014 – the election will determine if they continue in their current roles for 2015.

Following the 2015 organizational meeting, is the public hearing for the Arcadia/Wayne Glen conditional use application.  At the corner of Old Eagle School and Walker Roads in the Glenhardie section of the township, Arcadia Tredyffrin, LLC is seeking conditional use approval to construct 108 residential units in the R-1 (Residential) District and approximately 240,000 sq. ft. of non-residential building that is currently in the O (Office) District although in the P (Professional) District at the time of application filing. With recommendation from the township’s planning commissioners, the Wayne Glen project has now moved to the Board of Supervisors for their approval.

If history dictates the future, the Wayne Glen development project will have a crowd of local Glenhardie residents in attendance at the meeting. Unlike the widespread community support that developers have enjoyed with the Chesterbrook redevelopment plans, Wayne Glen has seen its share of spirited debate. The issue for the residents close to the proposed development project is how the developer will manage the stormwater situation, as much of this area is prone to regular flooding.  The Wayne Glen project is located in Tredyffrin Township’s Trout Creek Overlay District and the developers believe that their plan will utilize design techniques that will alleviate the erosion along the stream banks and flooding issues and improve the poor water quality.

In addition to the stormwater issues, some residents have expressed concern about the proximity of the Wayne Glen project to the Valley Meeting House cemetery and the possibility that this could be the burial grounds of early Continental Army soldiers. Arcadia’s owner Joe Duckworth is acutely aware of the historic nature of the property. He has hired a history consultant to work with the engineers and plans to use ground-penetrating radar in the development project. Duckworth has experience with burial grounds at the site of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia and is committed to dealing with any historical remains found at Wayne Glen responsibly.

Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District Petition and Response from Developer Joe Duckworth

It is anticipated that tonight’s seventh public hearing for the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance will likely result in a vote by the Board of Supervisors.  Based on the supervisor vote (6-1) to approve the C-1 zoning ordinance change to allow assisted living facilities, the vote on the Trout Creek overlay district will be interesting.  As I have previously written, economic development was touted as a primary consideration by supervisors for the C-1 zoning ordinance change.  This ‘economic’ decision was based on the proposed assisted living facility on the old Jimmy Duffy catering site, which has approximately 1-acre of C-1 commercial and 1-acre of R-1 residential property.

 Using the logic of promoting economic development, it would appear that the supervisor decision tonight on the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay district ordinance should be easy.  The Richter tract is 36 acres located at Swedesford, Old Eagle School and Walker Roads in the Glenhardie/Wayne area of the township.   Currently, twenty-six acres of the property is zoned R-1 residential district and the remaining ten acres is zoned ‘professional’ district. There has been much public debate from the neighbors

 At the previous Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance public hearing on July 16, there was discussion of a petition circulating the Glenhardie neighborhood, which opposed the zoning change.  The language used in petition questions can often determine its results.   However, can the results of the petition influence decision-making within the government? At the last public hearing, the petition organizers told the supervisors that would continue to collect signatures until the next public hearing.  Joe Duckworth, Arcadia Land Company, the possible developer for the Richter property, provided me with the Trout Creek ordinance petition (bold) and a copy of his responses.  Duckworth’s responses, in italics, appear under each of the petition statements.

  Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance (TCOO) Petition

We, the undersigned, representing our neighborhood, are opposed to the proposed Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance and the resulting rezoning of the Richter tract (36 acre property which is bordered by Old Eagle School Road, Walker Road and Swedesford Road) for the following reasons:

  • Current R-1 zoning has been in place since 1939. The proposed ordinance would allow the developer to build 100+ homes instead of the 24-25 it is zoned for. This extra development would increase the amount of storm water coming off of the property, contributing to an already serious situation. It would also allow housing out of character with our neighborhood (i.e. single family homes as opposed to a mixture of twin homes and townhomes, the latter of which would have a height of 45’).

1) For 95% of storm events (2-year/24 hour storm and below), all of the storm water generated by runoff from the development will be required by the proposed overlay ordinance to be held on the site. This will reduce the amount of water flowing downstream NOT increase downstream flow, since there are currently no storm water controls on the site in its existing condition.

2) Townhomes and carriage twin homes will provide new housing product to longtime residents of Tredyffrin as well as new residents who would like to live in Tredyffrin Township, but are unable to find a modern home that meets their needs. These low maintenance townhouse and carriage home communities are highly desired by the empty nesters and retirees across the region and will improve Tredyffrin’s ability to attract and retain residents to the Township.

3) Townhomes and Carriage homes provide an appropriate land use transition between the existing large scale commercial development along Swedesford Road and the existing single family homes of the Glenhardie neighborhood.

  • The proposed ordinance promises more storm water controls in exchange for increased housing density. The proposed increased controls are minimal, at best, and the downstream impact is unknown. Citizens groups have asked that the developer be held accountable for the measured performance of the storm water system, and these requests have been ignored.

1) Tredyffrin Township has spent years conducting several studies of the Trout Creek watershed. The 2010 Trout Creek Study, by the Township’s independent consultant, identified the Richter site as a great location to provide a regional storm water facility, but the costs for land acquisition and construction of such a facility were out of reach for the Township, as they are already spending significant funds to implement other proposed storm water improvement within the watershed. In order to have a significant impact on flooding in the watershed, many improvements must take place. The Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance will incentivize property owners who want to develop/redevelop certain properties in the watershed to build facilities on their sites that will improve the existing storm water problems within the watershed.

2) Proposed overlay ordinance will require of the Richter property: a) a reduction in volume of stormwater coming from the 36 acre site (100% of run-off for 95% of storm events to be held on the site) AND a 20% reduction in the rate of flow of storm water passing under Walker Road.

3) In addition, the proposed improvements at the Richter site will eliminate flooding of Walker Road for all storm events up to and including the 100-year storm.

4) No plans will be approved by the Township until the developer has met the requirements of the proposed overlay ordinance.

5) No plans will be approved by the Township until a highly detailed maintenance and operations manual that includes on-going storm water monitoring is approved by the Township. This is a requirement of the proposed overlay ordinance.

  • The proposed ordinance will assure the destruction of historically sensitive land including a burial ground active since the 1690’s, which contains the graves of the founding families of Tredyffrin Township, 300 continental soldiers who served at Valley Forge, 1777-78, and over seventy African-Americans, buried in a community cemetery at a time when African-Americans were not permitted such burials.

1) The existing Valley Meeting cemetery and adjacent meditation garden are both located next to the Richter site and will not be impacted by any development on the Richter site.

2)  There are currently NO confirmed burial locations outside of the Valley Meeting cemetery or on the Richter site.

3) As part of the development process, the developer intends to further investigate the existence of burials outside of the Valley Meeting cemetery and IF burial locations should be confirmed on the Richter site, the developer will deal with them in an appropriate and respectful way.

  • The Ordinance is an attempt to address both zoning and storm water simultaneously. These issues need to be de-coupled and addressed separately.

1)  The proposed overlay ordinance is an innovative way for the Township to implement storm water improvements, which are otherwise infeasible for the Township to implement, in a watershed that is badly in need of these improvements.

2)  No plans will be approved if they do not meet the requirements of the proposed overlay ordinance and improving the storm water issues in the Trout Creek watershed, not making them worse. 

Is 7 the Magic Number? Seven Public Hearings for Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay Ordinance

Following the regular Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday is the continuation of the public hearing to “consider and possibly enact an ordinance amending Chapter 208, Zoning, to Article XXX Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay (TCS) and creating permitted uses, area, bulk, and buffer requirements and special development regulations; amending Article II.  Definitions; amending Article XXVII, Conditional Uses.”

I have been approached by several Glenhardie area neighbors about the Richter property and Joe Duckworth’s proposed land development plan for the property.  Residents have asked me ‘why’ I don’t write about the plan, wanting me to take a similar approach as I did with the  C-1 zoning change for the Daylesford project at the Jimmy Duffy site. In my opinion, the Daylesford and Richter proposed land development projects (and their developers) could not be further apart for a litany of reasons. (For the record, if you type ‘Richter’ in the search box above, you can read four articles I have written on this topic.)

First off, I believe that the recent C-1 zoning change process was flawed; a change pushed through the system without any long range planning or consideration of the implications for other C-1 properties in the township.  Tredyffrin Township has a $100K contract with a consulting company to review commercial zoning and I was of the opinion that before racing to accommodate a developer and his zealous attorney, this township change should have slowed to await the consultant’s recommendations.

At the September 17 public hearing, residents from across the township voiced wide-ranging concerns over the C-1 change, ranging from traffic and safety issues to bed density and property size.  With the C-1 zoning change, the previous 10-acre requirement for assisted living facilities is now apparently possible on Duffy’s 1-acre commercial site. Although not a single resident spoke in favor of the C-1 zoning change, the supervisors voted 6-1 to approve the change, citing reasons like economic development and a desire that the developer not incur further costs by waiting for the consultant’s report.

The sweeping township-wide C-1 zoning change was predicated on ‘one’ development and ‘one’ developer … and a change approved during its one and only public hearing on September 17. Six of the seven supervisors voted in favor of the change against major opposition from township residents; believing I suppose, that they know ‘what’s best’.

OK, let’s compare the Jimmy Duffy site and the C-1 change to the Richter property and the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay (TCS) district. The first thing to note is the number of public hearings – one public hearing for the C-1 zoning versus seven public hearings for TCS.  That’s right, October 1, is the seventh public hearing this year in regards to this issue.  Let’s not forget that each public hearing costs the taxpayer additional money – advertising, court reporter, etc.  I do not recall any recent issue in the township where there was this many public hearings.

For the record, here’s the list of Trout Creek Stormwater overlay district public hearings:

  • January 23
  • February 27
  • March 19
  • May 14
  • June 18
  • July 16
  • October 1

We know that there is a cost to the taxpayers for public hearings, what about the cost to the developer?  Taking aside the number of planning commission and community meetings that the Daylesford and Richter developers attended, look at the public hearings – 1 public hearing versus 7 public hearings.  The Daylesford project attorney Denise Yarnoff lamented that her client could not afford to wait for the consultant report – the process was costing money and they needed a decision.  Voila, the supervisors complied.  Not wanting to risk this assisted living project going away, the developer and his attorney got what they wanted from the supervisors … the C-1 zoning change.

What about Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company?  It doesn’t seem to me that Duckworth has been given the same advantage as Ed Morris.  Duckworth and his team to-date have attended six public hearings, some going on for hours, late into the night.  Duckworth has not complained about the time and money that his company has spent on the public hearings, planning commission meetings or citizen meetings.  One could argue that the Richter tract at 36 acres is so much larger than the Daylesford property at 2 acres (R1 – 1 acre, C1 – 1 acre approximately) that the Richter property deserves more attention.  Twenty-six acres of Richter is zoned R-1 residential and the remaining 10 acres is zoned ‘professional’ district.

I cannot imagine what the potential economic impact for the township will be from the thirty-six acre Richter tract. Duckworth’s plans for the Richter site include carriage houses and townhouses which, in addition to revenue, could provide a great option for Tredyffrin residents, particularly those wishing to downsize from their large single-family homes, to remain in the community.  The last numbers that I have indicated approximately 120 units between the carriage houses and townhouses in the proposed development; although I do not know the breakout between the design types.  Pricing for the carriage houses would probably be mid-$500K and the townhouses in the $400K range.

Certainly, the financial gain to the township with the development of the Richter property will far exceed the redevelopment of the Jimmy Duffy’s site as an assisted living facility.  Using the supervisor’s logic of economic development as rationale for the assisted living project, one could assume that the proposed land development plan for the Richter tract would be a slam-dunk.   There is an extra township wide benefit to the Richter development project – additional stormwater requirements contained in the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay district.  This proposed overlay district would provide incentives for certain large sites in the Trout Creek watershed as a way to encourage developers to build substantial stormwater management facilities on those properties.

To be clear, the creation of the TCS district is not a quick fix to years of stormwater problems. The massive stormwater issues were not created overnight and will certainly not be solved quickly.  However, to do nothing is certainly not the answer. The Richter property was one of the 10 locations named in the 2010 Trout Creek Watershed Study and Stormwater Management Practice Analysis for stormwater best management practice in the township.  The study suggested a 6-8 acre stormwater basis and Duckworth has said that his Richter plan sets aside 8 acres for the basin.  The cost for the township to construct this large stormwater basin would be approximately $1 million plus the additional cost of land acquisition. Were the township to purchase the property and construct the stormwater basin, the costs would be several million dollars.  As part of the Richter land development project, Arcadia Land Company (rather than the taxpayers) would absorb those stormwater costs.

From my vantage point, it appears that unlike Ed Morris, the Daylesford developer, Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company have bent over backwards to listen and accommodate residents.  It would seem that Duckworth is going more than the proverbial ‘extra mile’ to try to help with stormwater issues, even those not on the Richter property.  If some of the residents of Glenhardie prevail and stop this development plan from moving forward, when do you suppose there is going to be stormwater relief?  How long is going to take to find another developer willing to take on this large a project and try to satisfy the neighbors?  Personally, I think that Joe Duckworth has done a yeoman’s job in that respect … I understand that at the end of the day, a developer needs to make money on a project, but I have found Duckworth to be patient and respectful of the residents, and a willingness to accommodate if appropriate.

Compare the C-1 zoning change that permits an assisted living facility at the Jimmy Duffy’s site to the proposed TCS overlay district and the proposed townhouses on the Richter property.  Looking at economic gain to the township, ongoing costs to the developer, or stormwater benefit to residents, you would need to conclude that for the supervisors to have passed the C-1 zoning change for the Daylesford project, they would approve the proposed TCS overlay district.

To respond to those Glenhardie residents that suggested I write about the Richter property as I did for Daylesford project; it is not possible.  As I have repeatedly stated, I believe that the process was not followed for Daylesford, too much credence given to the developer and his attorney and the decision to approve the C-1 zoning change not a careful, thought-out decision. I found the actions of the supervisors particularly troubling because the voices of many township residents were ignored.

To the Glenhardie neighbors that oppose the Richter tract development, you have had so many more opportunities to have your voices heard than the Daylesford neighbors have.  In fact, the supervisors even appointed a citizen working group with subcommittees to review the proposed ordinance and provide input.  The Richter development has a developer that has consistently attended citizen meetings, listened and made changes to his plan. The Trout Creek Stormwater overlay district and the development of the Richter property can be a start to improving stormwater problems.  Unlike the limited economic benefit to the township of the Jimmy Duffy’s assisted living facility, the development of the Richter tract has great economic potential.

 

Discussion Continues on Tredyffrin’s Proposed Stormwater Overlay District Ordinance

A continuation of the Public Hearing on the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance followed this week’s Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Click here for the June 2012 revised ordinance.

A group of 35 resident volunteers, have been working with the township staff and the potential developer of the Richter tract, Joe Duckworth, on revisions to the proposed new zoning ordinance.  (For earlier discussions and specifics of Duckworth’s proposed plans for the property, enter Richter in the search tool on the home page of Community Matters.)

As part of the proposed overlay district, large storm water basins would be included on the Walker Road side of the property – access to the property would be from Old Eagle School and Swedesford Road.  Although Duckworth has not submitted official plans, his proposal contains twin carriage houses and townhouses on the property for this property.

The resident volunteers, the Working Group, in conjunction with Duckworth and township staff, has significantly updated the original ordinance.  Tom Colman presented comments from the Working Group, and Jeff Kosterich offered specific comments from the storm water sub-group.   Based on their remarks, Colman and Kosterich suggest that although the updated draft ordinance is more satisfactory, residents feel that further modifications required before it should pass.

The Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance would be applicable to all areas in the township located in the Trout Creek Watershed.   The Working Group was composed primarily of Glenhardie residents.  The Richter tract is located in the Glenhardie neighborhood and because Duckworth’s development would most affect this section of the township, they are the ones with the louder voices on this issue.  Although different zoning changes required, in some respects, the proposed storm water overlay district ordinance is no different from how the proposed C-1 zoning change which would allow an assisted living facility in the Daylesford section of the township.  Although both the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District and the C-1 assisted living zoning change are tied to specific projects (Richter tract and Ed Morris’ assisted living project) should these zoning changes be approved, they are applicable to all the township.  My point … all residents owe it to themselves to be ‘up to speed’ on these two important proposed zoning changes, regardless if you live in the Glenhardie or Daylesford areas of the township.

As the designated representative for the Working Group, Colman asked that three specific issues be considered in conjunction with the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance.

  1. Accountability Measures:  The residents would like assurances that once the storm water basins are designed and implemented that there is accountability for ongoing maintenance and continued functionality.  They suggest that the township adopt an official policy for accountability to prevent the risk to residents of failed storm water basins after installation. It was reported that Duckworth has agreed to an accountability policy that would be applicable to all developers in the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District.  I agree that there should be a township policy (and enforcement); otherwise why bother to require storm water basins in any future land development plans.
  1. Communication/Notification Policies, Practices and Procedures on Zoning-impact Matters:  The conclusion from the Working Group members was that the Township is too lax on communicating information to those residents most impacted by zoning issues.  If you recall, many of the Glenhardie neighbors were not notified of the proposed Richter plan development project which caused much unnecessary angst in the community.  Similarly, we have seen the same lack of communication in the proposed assisted living project and C-1 zoning change in the Daylesford neighborhood of the township.  When there is a neighborhood directly impacted by a zoning change there should be specific guidelines for notification and an explanation of the process for the residents.  Many township residents are not aware of the processes required for land development plans and zoning changes that may be required for projects in the township.  Communicating the Township process and the relationship of the Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, supervisors and township staff could be helpful to residents.
  1. Storm Water Action Team: The Working Group suggests that the township develop a plan to address the township’s storm water problems.  As Colman explained, “Too many areas of Tredyffrin are enduring repeated damage, hardship and risk to life and property when we get even modest rainfall.  It’s time to identify specific, measurable objectives, timelines, resources, and responsibilities to address this problem in a proactive way … This is not an issue like shade trees or pothole repairs; lives are at risk.  We need a real plan, and we need it now.”

Traditionally there has been a real reluctance in this township to increase taxes, so it was interesting to note that the Working Group offered their own suggestion for funding storm water solutions.  On a personal note, I don’t know how much longer the ‘no tax increase’ mantra can continue around here … due to increasing expenses and decreasing revenues, supervisors have been forced in recent budgets cycles to cut township staff  (among other expense reductions) in an attempt to avoid a tax increase.  As residents, we have watched as township services have continued to decline.  I use Wilson Farm Park as an example … once the jewel of the township and an award-winning municipal park design, it is very sad to see how overgrown it now looks. Wilson Farm Park’s current condition is no doubt a direct result of the personnel and funding cuts to the Public Works department in recent Township budget cycles.

In the case of the proposed Richter development, the developer (Duckworth) indicates a willingness to pay for the cost of necessary storm water improvement.  However, the storm water problem and costly solutions is more significant in the Township than could be resolved through the development of the Richter tract. The Working Group suggests that the approximate $250K yearly tax revenue from the proposed Richter tract development go towards the funding of a substantial bond issue.

Personally, I would like to see the supervisors create a resident volunteer group to review the idea for a township storm water utility.  Operating much like an electric or water utility, the storm water utility would collect fees related to the control and treatment of storm water that could be used to fund a municipal storm water management program in the township.  Based on Jeff Kosterich’s remarks that a number of engineers and storm water professionals living in the Glenhardie community volunteered their expertise on the storm water sub-committee, why not continue to tap into these valuable volunteer resources?  Our township is rich in its wealth of accomplished, educated residents; why not utilize volunteers  to help solve the storm water funding  problem.

The next step for the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay ordinance process is a review of the ordinance update by the Planning Commission.  My understanding is that the ordinance then moves to the Chester County Planning Commission for review and comments.  Following the county review, the ordinance returns to the township supervisors, presumably in time for the July Board of Supervisors meeting for further discussion and possible vote.

Stormwater Issues – No Easy Solutions

Last night marked the Township’s third public hearing for the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District ordinance in as many months. The Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District ordinance would permit additional redevelopment usages on large properties in the Trout Creek Watershed in exchange for much-needed stormwater facilities help.  In addition to the public hearings on this topic, there have been multiple other meetings both public and in small groups with township staff, supervisors, planning commissioners, Richter property developer and residents.

Township manager Mimi Gleason gave an overview slide presentation detailing the proposed ordinance, its history and the process.  The idea for the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District Ordinance originated with the 2010 ‘Trout Creek Watershed Study and Stormwater Best Management Practice Analysis’.  The Richter property was one of the 10 locations named in the study for stormwater best management practice in the township and suggested a 6-8 acre stormwater basin for that location.

Although the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District Ordinance would apply to all applicable properties within the Trout Creek Watershed area, it is the 36 acre parcel located at Swedesford and Old Eagle School Roads – the Richter property – that is the focus and concern for the Glenhardie neighbors.  It should be noted that the Richter tract is the largest undeveloped property in the Trout Creek Watershed but as the economy improves, the proposed zoning ordinance amendment change could be used elsewhere in the district as an incentive for developers.

Prior to public comment, the supervisor chair Michelle Kichline made a motion to remove retail with accessory gas and multi-family/apartments from the proposed Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District Ordinance. Although the Planning Commissioners included these usages in the proposed ordinance, the motion passed unanimously. As explained by Kichline, there would be no vote on the ordinance at last night’s meeting.  Due to the level of prior public input on the subject, Kichline asked that all resident remarks focus specifically on the ordinance itself.

As we know, Joe Duckworth of Arcadia Land Company is the possible developer for the Richter tract. Duckworth continues to reach out to the neighbors and offered his email and cell phone number ‘on the record’ during the public hearing.  As part of his proposed carriage houses/townhouse development project for this site, would be the inclusion of a 6-8 acre stormwater basin.

Several residents asked about the possibility for the township to acquire property through eminent domain. As explained by township solicitor Vince Donohue, although legal this process would be long and expensive, both in acquisition and in legal fees. In other words, what I heard – not a very practical solution.

To further study the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District situation, Kichline announced a ‘working group’ with supervisor Phil Donohue and resident Tom Coleman.  The group would include members of the planning commission and local Glenhardie residents.  Their mission would be to meet for 6-8 weeks and offer recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Generally, I am a proponent of citizen task forces and hope that this working group will be inclusive and representative of the views of all residents affected; the mission and direction of this group should be defined clearly.

The stormwater challenges in Tredyffrin Township have been 300 years in the making and certainly are not going to be solved quickly.  Whether you live in the Glenhardie area or the Great Valley area of the township, stormwater issues exist. Historically, stormwater systems were designed to collect and quickly move runoff as a way to prevent localized flooding or erosion.  Over time, it has become evident that the traditional curb-and-gutter approach was not sufficient.

I am of the opinion that the stormwater challenge facing Tredyffrin is going to require a shift in the fundamental philosophy of our local government and its residents.  One of the hallmarks of recent township supervisor elections has been the promise of no tax increases or no new taxes.  But given the dramatic infrastructure problems facing this community, how much longer can that viewpoint work?  What we are now seeing is that the monetary cost of managing stormwater is high but the potential cost of inaction is even higher.

Beyond understanding that stormwater is a problem, needs to be the acceptance that the management of stormwater is a very costly responsibility.  Perhaps now is the time for our elected officials to seriously consider a stormwater utility.  This option could provide a vehicle for consolidating or coordinating responsibilities and provide an effective alternative to financing the cost of stormwater management.

Removal of Wawa and Apartment Building from Richter Development Plans

Still in the early stages of discussion, we do not know where the proposed Trout Creek Overlay District zoning ordinance change and the development of the Richter property will ultimately end.  My last post contained details from the long public hearing and as part the follow-up, the potential developer Joe Duckworth met with a small group of nine local Glenhardie community members.  To assure transparency and to allow maximum community input, other interested residents were invited to attend the meeting held at the township building.

Many of the resident comments at the public hearing focused specifically on the ongoing township stormwater issues. The Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District ordinance would permit additional redevelopment usages on large properties in the Trout Creek Watershed in exchange for much-needed stormwater facilities help.   As follow-up to the public hearing, there is a community meeting Thursday, March 8, 7 PM to discuss stormwater and flooding problems along Trout Creek – Township Engineer Steve Burgo will present the township’s 2010 study of the watershed and recommendations for improvement. The public hearing for the proposed zoning ordinance amendment continues at the next Board of Supervisors Meeting, Monday, March 19 at 7:30 PM.

Beyond stormwater issues, there was much discussion about the possibility of a Wawa or a large apartment complex that the proposed zoning ordinance would permit.  Some of the residents asked specifically that ‘retail with accessory gas’ and ‘apartment house’ usage be removed from the zoning ordinance amendment language of the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District.

For those opposing a Wawa or apartment building on the Richter property, there is good news to report!  

The proposed developer for the project, Joe Duckworth, contacted me for an update. As I said in my last post on Community Matters, “I have found Duckworth to be very community-minded and responsive to all questions and concerns related to the development of the Richter tract” and this continues to be the case.  Duckworth explained, that based on the community input at the public hearing, he immediately reached out to the Board of Supervisors to suggest that the gas station and apartment building usage be removed from the proposed zoning ordinance amendment for the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District. Those usages will be removed in the revised amendment and Duckworth presented this new information to the residents at the follow-up community meeting.  For the record, Duckworth says that a Wawa was not a consideration by Arcadia Land Company for the Richter property.

With Wawa and apartment building out of the proposed zoning ordinance change, the majority of the 30-35 Glenhardie residents who attended the community meeting, are OK with the Richter development plans for carriage houses and townhouses.  But what’s the saying about not being able to please all the people?  Duckworth explained there remain a couple of residents who are opposed to development project regardless of the removal of the Wawa and apartment building.

We discussed Duckworth’s plans for the Richter site; carriage houses and townhomes sound like they could provide a great option for Tredyffrin residents, particularly for those wishing to downsize for their large single-family homes but remain in the community.  The carriage house concept with the master bedroom on the first floor has become a popular feature sought among the retiring baby boom generation.  I have heard of several local residents who are already planning a move when the carriage homes are built.

According to Duckworth, the total number of carriage houses and townhomes in the proposed development will be around 120, although the breakout between the design types is not known at this time. Pricing for the carriage houses will probably be mid-$500K and townhouses in the $400K range.  Duckworth confirmed that the entrance to the project would be Old Eagle School Road not Walker Road.  With entrance to the proposed development off Old Eagle School, I voiced concern for the Valley Friends Meeting cemetery, which could be close to the new driveway.  Duckworth reassured me that he was very aware of the situation and appropriate buffering and landscaping would be included in the plan to protect the cemetery.

The Richter property was one of 10 locations named in the 2010 Trout Creek Watershed Study and Stormwater Management Practice Analysis for stormwater best management practice in the township.  The study suggested a 6-8 acre stormwater basin and Duckworth confirmed that his Richter plan sets aside 8 acres for the basin.  According to Duckworth, the cost for the township to construct this large stormwater basis would be approximately $1 million plus the additional cost of land acquisition.  Were the township to purchase the property and construct the stormwater basin, the costs would be several million dollars.  As part of the Richter land development project, Arcadia Land Company rather than the taxpayers absorb these stormwater costs.

Without a Wawa or an apartment building in the Trout Creek Watershed Overlay District zoning ordinance amendment, the continued public hearing on March 19 will probably be less contentious.  Although the Richter land development project is only in the early stages of the planning process,  it looks like a community-minded developer may be the key to its success.

Understanding the Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance … More Complex than a Wawa or an Apartment Building

I attended Monday night’s marathon 3+ hour public hearing and Board of Supervisors meeting.  The main event of the night was the public hearing and resident comments in regards to a zoning ordinance amendment that would develop a Trout Creek Overlay district. (Here is a link to the meeting video).

There was much to take in from the meeting and I have struggled to ‘wrap my head around’ the details of the proposed zoning ordinance amendment, affects the development project and storm water improvements may have on the community, misinformation and a degree of confusion among some residents.  Part of the confusion about the project is in the labeling – although the township information refers to it as the ‘Trout Creek Overlay’ proposal, the problem is that unless you attend Planning Commission meetings, local residents may not have initially recognized it was the ‘Richter’ tract and its possible development was discussion.

The Richter tract is 36 acres located at Swedesford, Old Eagle School and Walker Roads in the Glenhardie/Wayne area of the township.   Currently, twenty-six acres of the property is zoned R-1 residential district and the remaining ten acres is zoned ‘professional’ district.  R-1 zoning permits single-family homes and with special exception house conversion to multi-family dwelling.  The Professional zoning district permits office or professional buildings.

The proposed zoning ordinance amendment to develop an overlay district in the Trout Creek Watershed is more than just about the development of the Richter tract; although the Richter tract is the largest undeveloped property in the Trout Creek Watershed.  As the economy improves, there may be opportunities for future redevelopment projects in the township.  Therefore, this proposed zoning ordinance amendment change could be used elsewhere in the Trout Creek Overlay district as an incentive for developers.

As an example, we recently learned that the US Postal Service will consolidate postal services and the Southeastern PO distribution center will close in May.  The Southeastern PO location could become a future redevelopment area that might benefit from the proposed zoning amendment.  Click here to see the Trout Creek Watershed map and what areas would be potentially affected by the proposed zoning ordinance.

The reasoning behind the creation of a Trout Creek Overlay district is to provide for public stormwater improvements on development projects in the Trout Creek Watershed district.  (Area as identified on the Trout Creek Watershed map).

Back to the Richter property — this appears to be the guiding force behind the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.  The way I see it, there are four major groups of players in this specific development project – the developer Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company, the Glenhardie area residents, township Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Anyone living in Tredyffrin, knows that there are major stormwater issues all around the township and those problems are long-standing.  In addition, the township has been working on solutions to the flooding problems in the Glenhardie area for years.  The challenge for the township is that a number of large properties are needed for stormwater management facilities that would hold back runoff during heavy rain, thereby reducing the volume of water downstream into Trout Creek. However, the real problem is how to come up with long-term solutions, particularly in an economy where money is not easily available.

If the township does not have the necessary resources for stormwater management, and if the residents are not interested in paying increased taxes … what is the solution for stormwater problems?  One idea is to offer incentives to developers in exchange for increased stormwater management components in their land development projects.  I believe it was that specific objective, which drove the Planning Commissioners to create the proposed Trout Creek Overlay zoning amendment.  To be clear, I do not think that the proposed zoning amendment was some kind of quixotic effort on the part of the Planning Commissioners to encourage a specific development project. But rather the Trout Creek Overlay zoning amendment was a time-consuming, thoroughly discussed plan to encourage development but to also aid in stormwater management.

As an aside to the Planning Commission process to develop the Trout Creek Overlay zoning amendment, is the Richter property developer – Joe Duckworth and Arcadia Land Company.  Attending various Planning Commission meetings, I have found Duckworth to be very community-minded and responsive to all questions and concerns related to the development of the Richter tract.  However, those discussions were about carriage homes and/or townhouses on the residential parcel of the Richter property.

In reviewing their website, Arcadia Land Company has developed some beautiful residential properties – places that would be very well suited for Tredyffrin Township and our residents. Arcadia Land describes their company as “Town Builders and Land Stewards”, and further states, “Arcadia’s approach to town building has been influenced by the New Urbanism and the conservation development movement.  New Urbanism is a movement that promotes compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods as a positive alternative to low-density, automobile-oriented, single-use development. New Urbanism supports both the revitalization and expansion of existing centers as well as the creation of new neighborhoods.” 

Obviously, this wonderfully progressive planning language also needs to be tempered by local community and the resident’s needs (or desires).  My sense is that many of the local Richter property residents could accept (maybe even embrace) a beautiful carriage house/townhouse community.  What a great option for residents who want to downsize from large homes but continue to live in Tredyffrin!  Moreover, according to Duckworth, this project would include a costly and involved stormwater plan that would contain a 6-8 acre stormwater basin.  It should be noted that the stormwater issues in Tredyffrin are dramatic and it would be an overstatement to suggest that the Richter tract development would completely ‘fix’ the Trout Creek stormwater issues. But an improvement, nonetheless.

However, enter the proposed Trout Creek Overlay zoning amendment change, and the beautiful carriage house/townhouse community concept planned for the Richter tract takes a back seat to the possible commercial use of the ten acres currently zoned ‘professional’.  The proposed zoning change would extend the usage of this parcel to include retail stores with accessory gas (Wawa) and apartment buildings, among others.

Herein lies the problem  – many of us have a vision of a huge Wawa facility, like is found on Rt. 29 in Malvern.  However, the Wawa site was built in a field next to Route 202 versus a residential location. As was pointed out at Monday’s meeting, these multi-function gas stations are the real estate model for Wawa.  Rationalizing that perhaps Wawa would consider some small residential-friendly gas station instead of a commercial giant, I was willing to wait for the project design.  But when I heard there was discussion of possibly building a 250-unit apartment complex on the 10-acre site, there was no way that I could support that concept. For one reason, our school district simply cannot bear the number of additional students such a project could represent.  In a letter presented to the Board of Supervisors on Monday night from the T/E school district, they said just that – they could not afford to have the additional students in the district from a large apartment complex.

The stretch of Old Eagle School Road between Swedesford and Walker Rds is short but significant — home to Valley Friends Meeting and their cemetery. Lewis Walker, one of the earliest settlers in Tredyffrin, and one of the founding members of this Meeting, left to Friends in the Valley the 18th century property on which his family burial ground was located, now the burial grounds of Valley Meeting.  Several members of Valley Friends Meeting attended the public hearing and presented a poignant history of the building and the cemetery.  The Valley Friends Meeting presents another reason for us to pause as we consider appropriate development for that area.

Whether the proposed development for the 10-acre corner site is a Wawa or an apartment building, the concern from the Glenhardie neighbors goes beyond a NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude.  Their concerns about additional traffic  in the area are real. Then there is the issue about stormwater management – is the neighborhood helped more from an 8-acre stormwater basin or hurt more from the development of the property?  Some local residents suggest that as the Swedesford Road corridor between Gateway and the new Wegmans has developed, so has the stormwater problems.

I would ask for some kind of middle ground on this project – understanding that the Richter tract is a premier building site and that the owners of the property have rights, should we not also show consideration for the Glenhardie neighbors, Valley Friends Meeting and what is best for the entire community, including the school district.

In closing, I want to address the Board of Supervisors and how I view their participation in this process.  I understand how upset many in the Glenhardie area are over this proposed zoning change for the Richter property. I live in the Great Valley but my husband and I have owned an investment condo in Glenhardie for almost twenty years, so I have more than a passing interest in this project. As a Glenhardie condo owner, I know first hand the Trout Creek stormwater issues and the ongoing attempts to resolve the water problems.

But upon reflection of Monday’s public hearing, I feel compelled to defend the supervisors. It was apparent by some of the resident’s comments, that there are those that think the supervisors have made some kind of ‘backroom deal’ with Duckworth with regards to the development of the Richter property. If you believe that has happened, I would suggest that you are incorrect.

It was the Planning Commissioners who wrote the proposed Trout Creek Overlay zoning ordinance and submitted it to the Board of Supervisors for review.  I am not suggesting that the supervisors did not talk to Duckworth – some probably have, as well as Mimi Gleason and Steve Burgo.  In fact, supervisor Mike Heaberg often attends Planning Commission meetings where Duckworth attended.  But folks, there is a difference between supervisors having individual discussions with a developer versus the suggestion that some kind of backroom deal has been made.  Chair Michelle Kichline’s response to some of the resident’s accusations was measured but absolute; no deal has been made between the Board of Supervisors and Duckworth.  And I believe her.

However, maybe Phil Donohue, the middle district supervisor could, have lessened some of the confusion of Monday night, with a better resident outreach program. At-large supervisors (Michelle Kichline, Kristen Mayock, EJ Richter, and Mike Heaberg) have a township wide responsibility versus the district supervisors (John DiBuonaventuro, Paul Olson and Phil Donohue) who are elected and represent residents in a specific area of the township.  Not that the district supervisors should not be involved in township wide issues; but they should have specific focus on the western, middle or eastern districts, which they represent.  Perhaps some of the circus-like atmosphere of Monday night could have been avoided (or at least lessened) with an ongoing dialogue between residents and the middle district supervisor Phil Donohue.  I look forward to better communication in the future.

Before any decisions or votes can be taken, there is obviously going to be much more public discussion about the Trout Creek Overlay zoning ordinance and the Richter tract and its development.  As suggested, there will be a community meeting on Thursday, March 8, 7 pm in the Tredyffrin Township Building to discuss stormwater and flooding problems along Trout Creek. Stephen Burgo, Township Engineer, will present results of a 2010 study of the watershed and recommendations for improvements.

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