Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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.

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  1. Curious how residents of Glenhardie can say that townhouses are incompatible with their homes. Glenhardie golf course is surrounded by multi-family housing with a lower price point. This does not speak to the ordinance and the advisability of the specific development, but the developer is correct that the proposed housing is an appropriate transition from homes to commercial space. It would be logical to tie stormwater management to any use of the space, and I think does represent a “win win” if the stormwater efforts are in fact monitored. For the record, the golf course at Glenhardie used to be under water back in the 60s.

  2. Dear Pattye,

    We are totally dismayed that you have accepted Mr. Duckworth’s sales brochure as fact. I know you are concerned about the history embodied by Tredyffrin Township, given your part in the Historic Preservation Trust, the annual Tredyffrin historic house tour, your membership on the Township’s Historical Commission, and the excellent model you presented to the Historical Commission for a registry of historic places within the Township.

    Your blog is ordinarily so well written and researched. Given the concern for the Township and its history that permeates your writing, it is surprising to see this change in attitude at this time.

    The Kunins

    1. M/M Kunin,

      I have not changed my mind in about the Richter property as it relates to historic preservation. I have walked the property extensively and know the history of General Nathaniel Greene’s’ Revolutionary War headquarters. The property was damaged by fire years ago and the Historical Architectural Review Board granted permission for demolition of the house. I was not on the HARB when this decision was made so I will not second guess why the demolition permit was granted. As an owner of a 1690 house, I would not generally support the demolition of a historic property but what is done is done. As a developer, Joe Duckworth is supportive of historic preservation and I believe that if he was the Richter property developer, the Valley Meeting House cemetery would be not be impacted. I believe that the entire area could be viewed as a Revolutionary War burial ground and probably much of Tredyffrin Township’s development has occurred where soldiers may have died and been buried. To this point, I do not think there has been confirmation of a specific burial site on the Richter property (beyond the Meeting House cemetery). Should the development process indicate there are remains, I believe that Joe Duckworth will handle the situation respectfully.

      It is because I have strong advocacy position with historic preservation, that I do not support the use of history as a method of negatively impacting development. If you truly believe in your position that this is sacred ground and should not be developed, that is fine. Unfortunately, I have seen instances where historic preservation is used by individuals as a way to slow or impede a development project.

      I want to to be clear, I have not changed my attitude on the Richter property as it relates to historic preservation, I just don’t share your opinion. If definitive proof were to be shown of this African-American burial site on the Richter property, it is possible that I could change my mind. But I simply don’t think that we are there yet. Hope this helps explains my position.

  3. Just wanted to say that the residents of Glenhardie/Trout Creek did a great job last night at the public hearing. My heart went out to them as the final vote was cast.

    So, I gotta ask….are those 4 supervisors that voted for the project REALLY going to follow through on their committment to ensure a development process that benefits the residents? Seems like we’ve heard that somewhere before…hmmm. Again, not holding my breath.

  4. Our family has lived in Glenhardie area for 33 years….the storm water management as a result of development and roadwork over the years has caused regular and severe flooding over the last 15 years… prior to this time there was barely any flooding of roads and properties. The sad truth is the supervisors and the township over the years have been indifferent about taking other than minimum steps to control the stormwater discharge into the creek and ultimate flooding of this area as communicated to the board in many forms about this ordinance over the last 10 months.

    The flood/creek overflow just gets worst as development and road changes have been made. No one is accountable for the changes and their impact…so this latest Trout creek ordinance is more of the same …kick the can down the road because in 3-4 years when the full impact of the planned but grossly undersized retention basin on the Richter tract is fully known, the township will not have the money to fix, the developer will be long gone with his profits, the perceived tax advantage that Heaberg used to justify, his vote will be eaten up and the residents of Glenhardie will be dealing with more unsafe road flooding more frequently. The fact that the township’s own study 10 years ago required a retention basin for the Richter tract , of 4 times the size of the one planned in the current plan, only confirms to me that the residents of Glenhardie are in for more severe flooding in the coming years….c’mon man where will this water ultimately go??? The board of Supervisors should know the development will be a nice transition and Duckworth has done many nice developments but the storm water runoff plan from this property will impact trout creek and add to the already unacceptable and unsafe conditions which now occur regularly 5-7 or more… times a year.

    Relieving the developer of the proper sizing of the retention basin to hold the water on the property according to the Townships previous study was irresponsible, not commissioning a study to measure flow rate and water quantity in Trout creek in Glenhardie over the last 9-10 months when all of the time taken to debate this situation was being spent was unprofessional and negligent for gathering the facts to hold the involved parties- developer and township accountable.

    Finally, the Board of Supervisors approval and belief that office renovations by Developers/Property owners in the FUTURE will contribute to property stormwater runoff control/ improvements in years to come is not going to help the residents of Glenhardie with the flood problems occuring regularly now. Thanks Supervisors for not listening and setting up what could have been an opportunity to give us hope that the flooding will eventually be reduced in the coming years with requirements for development and change NOW with the Richter property.

  5. why not try to get a court injunction until storm water issues are fully addressed? i don’t particularly care for lawyers (sorry),
    but if this is the only way, then why not?

  6. I was a lifeguard at Glenhardie Club’s pool in 1970-72…the flooding across the drive and on the golf course happened routinely every major storm. I was stranded in the pool equipment room several times because no one could drive out to get me (we just had jobs, not cars in those teen years). So if it’s gotten worse in the last 15, FF may be right about an injunction. wasn’t there an official community group addressing this with the supervisors? are they represented by counsel? good luck.

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