Bridge conflict closer to bucolic resolution

The Chandler Mill Bridge – flooded in conflict that belied its tranquil surroundings for more than a decade – moved closer to becoming a key component of a nature center and trail network on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Kennett Township Supervisors’ meeting.

Kennett Township Supervisors Robert Hammaker (from left). Scudder G. Stevens, and Richard L. Leff and Township Manager Lisa M. Moore listen during public comment at Wednesday night's supervisors' meeting.

Kennett Township Supervisors Robert Hammaker (from left). Scudder G. Stevens, and Richard L. Leff and Township Manager Lisa M. Moore listen during public comment at Wednesday night's supervisors' meeting.

Supervisors Chairman Scudder G. Stevens and Vice Chairman Richard L. Leff voted 2-1 to sign a transfer agreement with Chester County to take ownership of the bridge for $1. After the meeting, Supervisor Robert Hammaker said he did not want the township to inconvenience motorists or incur maintenance expenses.

The transfer agreement, which still has to be signed by the commissioners, was put in motion in January when Stevens and Leff passed a resolution that limited the historic span — a 1911 stone and steel structure that traverses the west branch of the Red Clay Creek — to pedestrians, bicyclists, and emergency vehicles up to 20 tons.

That decision marked the end of years of acrimony, which culminated in 2009. In conjunction with PennDOT, county engineers concluded that the best way to deal with the one-lane, two-way span’s deterioration would be to raze and modernize the bridge, which sits in a particularly bucolic swath of the township.

When some area residents and preservationist groups protested, the county offered a solution: Whoever wanted the bridge, designed for horse and buggies and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, could take it for free. At the time, neither Kennett Township — nor anyone else ‘ expressed interest.

In May 2011, the bridge, now surrounded by about 500 acres of conserved land, was closed after engineers deemed it unsafe. Since then, the township and advocacy groups worked to find a solution that would avoid the historic bridge’s demolition.

For the second time this year, the supervisors’ vote on the bridge elicited applause. Gwen Lacy, executive director of the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, expressed thanks after the vote. She said the conservancy would do whatever it could to assist “with the best decision you’ve ever made for the public benefit.”

In other business, the supervisors agreed to permit the township’s insurance company to settle a lawsuit brought by resident Michael Hammon, who accused the supervisors of negotiating a secret retirement agreement with former Police Chief Albert J. McCarthy.

Stevens said the settlement, which would be paid by the insurance company, offered “a better long-term result than getting tied up in litigation.” Solicitor David Sander said the document would become part of the public record once it is signed. Township Manager Lisa M. Moore said the document would be posted on the township website when it’s finalized.

The supervisors unanimously approved the selection of Collis Townsend to sit on a task force for the Kennett Library, an initiative started by Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick, who has suggested that the library board could use help in restoring public trust. Stevens said he hoped that other municipalities served by the library would join the effort.

Township Manager Lisa M. Moore received approval to research trash-hauling options to determine whether residents could save money by all using the same service, an option that could also reduce traffic and wear-and-tear on roads.

Moore said a number of residents have inquired about the building under construction behind the historic Fussell House, also known as “The Pines,” on Route 52. Moore said it would be a commercial office building for a dental surgery practice that would be operated by the property owner, Dr. Chris Franck.

An amendment to the soliciting ordinance that would change the penalties from civil to criminal was discussed and will be voted on at the Oct. 21 meeting. Police Chief Lydell Nolt said the change would make it easier to cite violators, who are typically from commercial enterprises that don’t bother to obtain a permit.

Nolt said the ordinance exempts schoolchildren and nonprofit initiatives. Other ordinance changes in the works involve curfews and loitering, Moore said.

In addition, the supervisors said they would wait to hear back from a resident who has failed to pay sewer fees for seven years. Moore said the resident received a letter and has until Oct. 15 to respond. If a resolution isn’t reached, the supervisors could vote to convert a lien on the property into a judgment, which would ultimately lead to a sheriff’s sale.

 

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