Overlay ordinance not a slam dunk in Chadds Ford

A possible overlay ordinance that would allow for mixed use in 100 acres along Route 202 is being viewed with apprehension. Developers want it, residents don’t.

It’s the Neighborhood Commercial Overlay Ordinance, formerly referred to as the Loop Road Overlay, and it’s needed to allow two proposed developments. One is a YMCA at Hillman and Christy drives in the Henderson business campus and the other, proposed by K. Hovnanian Homes, is a 120-townhouse development on Brandywine Drive behind Painters Crossing shopping center on the site of the former Brandywine Club.

The plan could also pave the way for work on the southwest portion of the long sought after loop road. That’s one of the sticking points.

Salvatore Faia, of the Chadds Ford Preservation Society, told Planning Commission members during their July 10 meeting that his group is opposed to any zoning change, but that talks about the Hovnanian plan and the loop road should be kept separate. He said any change would be “inappropriate.”

Faia, who lives in The Estates at Chadds Ford, said the society also opposes the YMCA.

“It would have a negative impact on the residents of the Estates at Chadds Ford,” he said. “Residents already have fire, police and emergency concerns because of traffic.”

Those residents have only one point of ingress and egress to and from their development, that being on Evergreen Drive at Hillman Drive, directly across from the proposed Y. Having that stretch of Hillman Drive be part of the loop road would add to their traffic concerns.

Residents of Painters Crossing Condominiums would also be affected. Plans for that southwest leg of the loop show the road so close to the condos that the headlights of traffic moving toward Route 1 would shine directly into some of the residential units.

One condo resident, township tax collector Valerie Hoxter, asked the commission to consider that close proximity and requested they move the planned road farther away if possible. She also wanted to know what the timetable is for the ordinance.

Commission Chairman Craig Huffman said there was no way he could give an exact time frame. Maybe by the end of this year, maybe not, he said.

“An overlay ordinance will be developed and then we will take a fine-toothed comb to it…We will take our time to do it right,” Huffman said.

He explained that extensive traffic and financial impact studies must be done and that they would happen while the commission works on language for the ordinance.

In response to concerns expressed by Open Space Committee Chairman Deb Reardon, Huffman said that working on language for the ordinance before the impact studies are complete doesn’t mean that the project can’t be stopped if new information indicates the rezoning would be a bad idea.

A planning commission is a recommending body that reviews land development plans and is also responsible for writing land use ordinances. Actual approval of those plans and ordinances is the responsibility of the board of supervisors.

Township planning consultant Ray Ott started the discussion by giving a general overview of the project.

The area in question straddles Route 1 on the west side of Route 202 from north of Brandywine Drive to south of Hillman Drive. He said there are currently six different zoning districts in that area, all of which are for single use only, all business, commercial or light industrial, not residential or recreational.

Ott said the township’s Comprehensive Plan, which he wrote in 2009 and was later adopted by the township supervisors, calls for adding mixed-use areas to accommodate growth while protecting sensitive areas.

He said it makes more sense for the township to consider creating the overlay than to address development needs on a piecemeal basis. It makes it easier to plan for the future, he said.

Another reason for the overlay, he said, is that it makes it easier to develop a sense of community that’s not so car-oriented. The overlay can improve what he called the “streetscape,” even allowing for sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Citing the Hovnanian specifically, he said that people would be able to walk from their homes to the shopping center.

Supervisor Deb Love said connectivity has become important with residents saying they want the ability to walk and not rely on their cars to shop.

Ott also said that a townhouse development, such as the one proposed by Hovnanian, would have a positive impact on the school system because there would be fewer school-aged kids in townhouses than in detached single-dwelling units.

He also said it would help prevent “the big box phenomenon.”

Representatives for Hovnanian and the YMCA were on hand to give updates on sketch plans for their proposals. Neither of which can be presented as formal plans unless and until an overlay ordinance is adopted to allow for their use.

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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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