Richter property

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.

 

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