Supervisors extend time for loop road plan

Chadds Ford Township supervisors have granted an extension for The Henderson Group to develop a fully engineered plan for the proposed Hillman Drive extension, referred to as the loop road.

The March 2 vote was 2-0, with Supervisor Noelle Barbone absent. Henderson now has until the end of this July to finish the plan.

The time extension is just that, an extension of the time Henderson has to develop an engineered plan that would go to the township Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors for approval. It does not mean the plan would be accepted.

“[Action taken tonight] doesn’t mean we’re going to have a loop road plan approved. It means we’re hoping to continue to review the planning and continue to allow public input,” said Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Samantha Reiner. “I think we’re moving in a responsible direction.”

Board Chairman Frank Murphy said he still has questions regarding the proposed plan and sees any decision as a balancing act.

“I’m concerned about this project, about the concept of the loop road and concerned more than anything about what any project in the township does to the quality of life of our residents,” he said. “[but], a quality of life decision can’t trump one’s legal rights, one’s property rights. As I look at this project, where it stands now, I’m pleased that the applicant has taken steps to improve upon the plan.”

Among his concerns are the proximity of the road to one of the condominium buildings — about 120 feet according to engineers — and the amount of traffic that might be diverted onto Hillman Drive from Routes 1 and 202.

If a plan is developed and later approved by the township, it would complete the fourth and final leg of the loop road system around the intersection of Routes 1 and 202. The other three segments are State Farm Drive, Brandywine Drive and Applied Bank Boulevard.

PennDOT has already said Hillman Drive will be extended one way or the other, but it won’t cost the taxpayers if Henderson does the job. Hillman runs through Henderson’s property at the Chadds Ford Business Campus and the company has said it will build the road on their own dime.

The township Planning Commission has already declined to recommend approval of an older plan Henderson submitted, but company Vice President Mark Eisenhardt said that plan was the one developed by PennDOT.

“We’re trying to be a good neighbor,” Eisenhardt said.

One of the sketches presented on Feb. 24 showing the the proposed 90-foot roundabout on Hillman Drive at Evergreen Place.

One of the sketches presented on Feb. 24 showing the the proposed 90-foot roundabout on Hillman Drive at Evergreen Place.

He explained that Henderson doesn’t have to go through the land development procedure to build a road on its own property, but chose to do so in order for the township supervisors and residents to have a say in how the road is designed. That would not be the case if PennDOT went ahead with the project.

Supervisors and Henderson spent more than two hours during the Feb. 24 workshop going over a revised sketch plan developed to address resident concerns with the first plan.

The sketch plan shows a roundabout at Evergreen Place to calm traffic in front of the only access point for residents of the Estates at Chadds Ford, reroutes the access point for residents of Painters Crossing Condominiums away from their 1500 building and restripes the lanes on Hillman at Route 202 so there would be a dedicated right turn lane and a shared left turn and straight through lane.

The idea also includes preventing drivers from making a left turn into Hillman from Dickinson Drive. In order for those motorists to get to Route 202, they would have to turn right, go to the roundabout and make a 360-degree turn there.

Resident and business reaction was mixed during the March 3 meeting.

Margaret Faia, who lives in the Estates of Chadds Ford, continued to stress her concern over safety at Hillman and Evergreen, while Vicki Hoxter again spoke out against the idea because of the proximity of the proposed extension to her condominium building.

“I was disappointed that the proposed road was not moved away from the residential buildings,” Hoxter said. “I can’t stress how much I appreciate the efforts of the township to correct a previously completely disregarded impact on the residents…It seems clear to me that The Henderson Group does not have as high regard for the impact on a residential area.”

For Hoxter, it’s a matter of “convenience [for some] versus quality of life” for others.

However, Murphy said the township had received letters from several residents, including Rob and Katharine King and Bruce Prabel — expressing support for the project.

In addition, Clark Hoffman, president of the Painters Crossing Condominium Association, said again that the new concept, especially with changing the location of the condominium access to the rear of the complex, would lessen the impact of loop road on the condo community.

“It doesn’t eliminate the impact, it can’t, but it will lessen the impact. For that reason, it’s worthwhile seeing the concept further developed…If I lived in the 1500 building, that plan has a lot less impact on the building than the original plan,” Hoffman said.

He also said the condo association would prefer to work with the township and local people and local engineers “to get the best arrangement we possibly can, versus the PennDOT alternative.”

Additionally, business owners Bill Bunch, of William Bunch Auctions — at Hillman and 202 — and Lisa Vonderstuck of Brandywine View Antiques — now in the old Dickinson Building on Route 1 across from Brandywine Drive — said they think the extension is necessary. Both have businesses that would be next to the roadway.

Bunch said the extension, with its signalized intersection with Route 1 is needed for safety reasons. Currently, drivers try to make a left turn onto Route 1 from Dickinson Drive, or a left onto Dickinson from Route 1 where there is no traffic light.

He added that the road would be built no matter what residents say.

“The loop road is going to be built. PennDOT is going to come, and PennDOT is going to do it their way. They’re not going to come here and have the extended conversations and present drawings after drawings trying to accommodate people,” Bunch said.

Faia was glad Bunch came out in support of the project, saying he should give up some of his property to widen Hillman Drive where it meets Route 202.

Bunch’s words echoed Vonderstuck’s who said, “It’s about change and no matter what, the change is going to happen.”

She wants Henderson to build the road, not PennDOT. With Henderson doing the job, supervisors and residents can have a greater say in the planning.

Other business

• Supervisors reapproved the updated noise ordinance approved in November, but enforcement of the ordinance remains an issue.

Eric Gartner, a resident of Harvey Lane, has lodged numerous complaints against Calvary Chapel for what he and neighbors on Harvey Lane believe are violations of both the ordinance as well as the conditional use agreement that led to the building of the church.

He raised the issue of enforcement and was told by Murphy that enforcement was “tricky” because the township does not have its own police department to enforce ordinances. Enforcement would have to be done by the code enforcement officer, who only works during the day on weekdays.

That led to a conversation on the possibility of having someone on call for night and weekend enforcement, but there was no decision made.

• The board agreed to authorize advertising a hearing for a planned residential development for Wonderland farms, a proposed residential development along Oakland Road. The hearing would be held April 6.

• The board also authorized advertising for a special events ordinance. No date was set.

• The Citizens Emergency Response Team will conduct an Active Shooter demonstration at the township building at 7 p.m. on March 23. The presentation will be given by Joe McGinn, Homeland Security liaison.

• Supervisors and the Planning Commission will have a joint public meeting at 6 p.m. on March 9 prior to the start of the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting.

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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