Boos, heckles and cheers in Concord

The vocal opposition to the proposed development of 230 acres of Woodlawn Trustees property along Beaver Valley was amplified during the Concord Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday night.

In addition to their own consultants who rebutted the applicants’ consultants, the roughly 300-plus audience members waved signs and placards and cheered their own champions while booing and heckling those who spoke on behalf of the developers. The attorney for the opposition, Marc Jonas, twice had to tell the crowd to be civil.

At one point, Supervisors’ Chairman Dominic Pileggi told the crowd, “Don’t act like a mob. You’ll have plenty of time to boo us later.”

The plan for the property had been reviewed during multiple meetings with the Planning Commission, but Tuesday was the first night for the supervisors to hear officially the plan for the Vineyard Commons project, which calls for clustering 160 new homes over three zones. The equitable owners are developers Eastern States Development Co. Inc. and McKee Concord Homes LP.

The applicants are seeking preliminary plan approval from the supervisors.

No decision was made during the meeting, but a vote could come next week. Pileggi told the audience that the board would have another meeting Wednesday, March 18, at Garnet Valley Middle School.

Along with the 160 new homes, four historically significant structures would be preserved and more than 95 acres of open space would be provided, according to the applicants’ attorney John Jaros.

Jaros recounted the history of the application, from an initial plan that would have needed a zoning change, through several incarnations leading to the current plan that Jaros said can be built by right because no zoning changes are needed. He said township code allows clustering, and the proposed density, in that R2D zoning district.

Jaros was booed and heckled while he read sections of the township code and while telling the board that the application had received clearance letters from county, state and federal commissions, stating they had no objections to the plan.

The consultants who spoke on behalf of the applicants were also booed during their presentations.

Jonas — representing Jack Michel, Diana McCarthy and Eileen Mutschler — had to tell the audience not to degrade the meeting by yelling.

After Jaros finished with his presentation, Jonas began his saying, “The plan is woefully deficient. There are 52 violations of code and 43 items being deferred that should not be. You should not approve a plan with so many unresolved issues and deficiencies.”

Land planner Ken Amey told the board that at least 70 of the proposed lots have steep and very steep slopes and that it’s “impossible” to build on them, adding “no notable trees will survive the re-grading of the lots.”

Another land planner, Robert Blue, echoed Amey, saying all the lots would be clear-cut.

“Any tree out there will no longer be there,” he said.

Stormwater runoff is another issue. Engineer Michele Adams said the development would ruin the natural forest that absorbs almost all rainfall and that 25 acres of impervious cover would lead to more than 30 million gallons of runoff per year. If that runoff is not controlled, she said, there would be more flooding and impaired water quality.

Adams said one of the specific problems with the plan is that some of the proposed retention basins are shown as being on hydric soil, ground that is already fully or seasonally saturated with water.

One of the issues for Supervisor John Gillespie is traffic, specifically on Beaver Valley Road and its intersection with Route 202. He said the road can’t handle traffic now and that it would only get worse without improvements.

The applicant’s traffic engineer, Matt Hammond, said improvements can be made — either lengthening current turn lanes or widening Beaver Valley Road — but they should be done so in cooperation with PennDOT.

However, traffic engineer Jeff L’Amoreaux, speaking for the opposition, said Hammond’s traffic impact study is insufficient because it doesn’t factor in traffic from the not-yet-opened Wegmans, nor has it been presented to PennDOT.

“The traffic impact study is unique…All the impact studies I’ve reviewed, or authored, always have the statement that says ‘safe and efficient ingress and egress will be afforded to the public as a result of this development.’ The traffic impact study submitted to the township does not say that because [Hammond] can’t say that because he doesn’t know what the answer is because he hasn’t spoken with PennDOT,” L’Amoreaux said.

He also said added traffic congestion encourage motorists to cut through other residential streets in the area, creating more problems on those roads.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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