Townhouse zoning change hearing underway

A preliminary step that could lead to a 107-townhouse development is underway in Chadds Ford Township. Supervisors on Feb. 2 began a hearing on possible zoning changes for a 20-plus-acre parcel of land on Brandywine Drive at Route 1, just west of the intersection with Route 202.

John Jaros, the attorney for the applicant —K. Hovnanian Homes — made his opening comments as did township residents Clark Hoffman and Eric Gartner, who were granted party status in the matter.

Hovnanian Homes wants to build the townhouse development on property across Brandywine Drive from Hannum’s Harley Davidson and behind Painters Crossing shopping center.

That land is currently zoned as a Planned Business Center district, and residential use isn’t permitted in a PBC area under township code. Hovnanian is looking to change the zoning to PBC-1 and to have a text amendment to the PBC-1 code, allowing for multi-family residential use with conditional use approval.

Jaros said the hearing for the zoning changes, if approved, would be only the beginning of the process in getting the plan approved. There would still be the need for conditional use and land use approval.

“The application does nothing more than rezone the property…and provide for townhouses on the property,” Jaros said.

As part of his opening remarks, Jaros said that the township’s Comprehensive Plan recommends residential use be allowed in the area and that the Delaware County Planning Department and the township Planning Commission have recommended approval.

Jaros added that the county said in January that the plan was “reasonable.”

Hoffman, president of the Painters Crossing Condominium Association, did not come out in opposition to the plan, but did express concerns regarding stormwater management and how runoff affects the condominium property.

He said runoff over the years has caused silting of the condominium pond and stream. Hoffman added that four of the condominium buildings are now in flood plains.

Jaros told Hoffman that Hovnanian understands the concerns and that, should the plan go forward, the applicant would have to provide expert testimony at the conditional use hearing showing what would be done to avoid stormwater problems downstream.

Gartner, who lives on Harvey Lane, has been in the township since 1974. He, too, is concerned about runoff, but also concerned with wetlands protection and increased traffic.

Reading from prepared notes, Gartner said those same issues arose in 1988. He used a PowerPoint demonstration to show photos of storm runoff causing pooling on his property. One photo showed a tree in a patch of land surrounded by stormwater following what he described as a 1.8-inch rainstorm. He said they never had “islands” on the property before.

Gartner said existing basins couldn’t handle runoff from a storm with more than an inch of rain. He added the proposed text amendment would allow an additional 42,000 cubic feet of water per a one-inch storm. It would affect his property and the condominiums.

He also said he had an engineer look at the property Hovnanian wants to develop. That engineer, he said, found three unmarked wetlands as well as wetlands that had been filled in.

Gartner did not identify the engineer until Jaros pressed him for it, saying the testimony was just hearsay if the engineer couldn’t be questioned.

Gartner was at first reluctant because the job was done for free, then said the engineer was James Schmid.

Other residents were prepared to speak, but the hearing had already taken time from the regular meeting. Supervisors’ Chairman Frank Murphy moved to continue the hearing until March 4. It is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. However, Murphy said the time might move to 6:30 p.m. because of his work schedule.

With only two sitting supervisors since the resignation of Keith Klaver, Jaros agreed that a replacement could review the transcripts and vote on the matter if the replacement is appointed before the hearing concludes.

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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