Op/Ed: Stay the course in Kennett Twp.

All around Chester County you can easily find cases of ugly suburban sprawl, accompanied by choking traffic, air pollution, and high taxes. But you also can find examples - sometimes right next door - of miles of protected open space and trails, a relaxed rural lifestyle, and reasonable taxes. What makes the difference? The short answer is: planned sustainable development.

Chester County itself strongly encourages sustainable development planning, but it can't mandate its municipalities to do it. Until recently, Kennett Township was in serious danger of losing everything to rampant over-development. Under the misguided leadership of Alan Falcoff and Michael Elling, the Township Board of Supervisors routinely bent over backward and forward to accommodate developers, no matter what or where they wanted to build, meanwhile accumulating millions in unfunded infrastructure liabilities for the township.

At the same time, Falcoff and Elling left millions of dollars of open space funds and potential grants unspent, losing many great opportunities to preserve prime open space for future generations. Only the Great Recession of 2008, which halted development everywhere, kept the township from becoming yet another victim of creeping sprawl. As a result, nearly half the township is still undeveloped, but less than 20% is fully protected.

Fortunately, in the two years since they became the new majority on the Kennett Township Board, Supervisors Scudder Stevens and Richard Leff have started to turn this situation around. They have revitalized land conservation, and developed a 10-year plan to permanently conserve at least 30 percent of the township, in line with Chester County guidelines.

Stevens and Leff are also encouraging developers to locate new development closer to the borough, where roads, sewers, and public services are already in place, saving millions of future tax dollars. They have even retained a consultant to apply for state grants to support developers who agree to meet sustainability guidelines. Finally, they are adopting new ordinances that will assess reasonable fees on developers to offset long-term costs, such as road maintenance and traffic control. All this will take time to play out, but, if allowed to continue, it can work to save Kennett Township from becoming yet another victim of unplanned sprawl.

This Nov 3, there is another election for Kennett Township Supervisor. One candidate, Ted Moxon, a long-time ally of the Falcoff and Elling administrations, never objected to their kowtowing to developers. He was once an environmental planner for Chester County, but he has never pushed for sustainable development in Kennett Township. He is now on record supporting onerous restrictions on landowners who want to sell or donate conservation easements.

The other candidate is Whitney Hoffman, who strongly supports Steven's and Leff's initiatives for sustainable development, and has her own plans to encourage “green” businesses to locate in the township. Which candidate will represent you for the next six years? On Nov 3, you get to decide.

Joe Duffy

Kennett Township

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