Loop road plan still contested

Plans for the proposed Hillman Drive extension — the last leg of the loop road around the intersection of Routes 1 and 202 — continue to be developed, debated and contested.

The latest meeting of the Chadds Ford Township Planning Commission showed that some elements of the proposal are pitting neighbor against neighbor. In this case, it’s a matter of Painters Crossing Condominium residents v. Estates at Chadds Ford residents.

Current plans call for condominium residents to access Hillman Drive from their property through a yet-to-be-built driveway behind an office building in the Chadds Ford Business Campus, to Evergreen Place, the lone ingress and egress point for the Estates at Chadds Ford.

Multiple residents of the Estates gave a resounding no to that idea during the June 13 Planning Commission meeting. (That meeting was rescheduled from June 8 because several members of the commission had other commitments.)

One resident questioned why the condominium residents needed access to Hillman at that location.

With Supervisors Samantha Reiner and Noelle Barbone in the audience, Planning Commission Chairman Craig Huffman responded by saying that condo residents currently have two ways of exiting the property, but because of changes to the plan over the years, one of those points would close. Not giving them access to Hillman via the business campus would leave them with only one means of ingress and egress, something he said isn’t safe.

Several Estate residents said there have been numerous accidents on Evergreen Place, especially in the winter months when there’s snow and ice on the road. One resident even said his neighbors are “bad drivers,” while another described how she doesn’t use her accelerator pedal while leaving the development because Evergreen’s slope is so great.

She said adding traffic from the condominiums would only make that situation worse.

Estates resident Marilyn Zhou, speaking for about 40 residents who signed a petition, said they also object to a planned roundabout being placed on Hillman at Evergreen. If supervisors approve the road, they want the roundabout moved to the intersection of Hillman and Dickinson Drive.

To that, traffic engineer Matt Hammond replied that having the roundabout at Evergreen would “provide for the most efficient traffic flow.”

Another resident said he wants to see speed bumps along Hillman Drive and Huffman said he, too, wants to have the applicant look into that possibility.

While condominium residents seem to agree on the proposed access point, they remain concerned about traffic noise and headlights intruding on residents of the condo’s 1500 building. Plans have the road 150 feet away from that building.

During the May meeting, the commission chairman asked the applicant — the Henderson Group, which owns the business campus and has agreed to pay for the road with its own money — to come back in June with ideas on some sort of sound barrier for the benefit of condominium residents.

During the June 13 meeting, engineer Chuck Olivo, working with Henderson, said they have done just that, but they need time to fully engineer a sound-attenuating fence.

The six-foot-high fence would be 150 feet long and be positioned 120 feet from the 1500 building with sound-attenuating material placed in between the fence posts. It would be on an elevation about the same as the second floor of the building and would deflect light and sound over the building, Olivo said.

When questioned by condo resident Ron Coates, Olivo said he can’t yet guarantee the fence would prevent all traffic noise and light from reaching the building, but he said the fence is better than a sound wall, which would require greater disturbance of trees.

“You can do more with the fence than what you can do with a wall,” Olivo said.

Another point of contention involves the driveway and parking-lot entrance to Brandywine View Antiques. The business is in the old Dickinson Building on Route 1, right next to the Hillman Drive extension.

Huffman said the current entrance is too close to the intersection and represents an “accident waiting to happen” because traffic for the store will cause backups. He wants that access point moved farther away.

However, Lisa Vonderstuck, owner of Brandywine View, doesn’t want that. She said parking and truck traffic into her business would be negatively affected because trucks would have a more difficult time turning into her lot.

Clark Hoffman, president of the Painters Crossing Condominium Association, sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors last month saying he approves the proposed access point to Hillman for condo residents. But he said he wants more information about the sound barrier, stressing that it was important for the community to get together for local control of the project.

“We want this worked out on a local level,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a PennDOT project.”

He cited the entrance to northbound I-95 from the Conchester Highway as an example of how poor PennDOT’s designs can be.

“Our problems can be solved if we work together,” Hoffman said.

Bill Bunch, owner of the Bunch auction house on Hillman at Route 202 echoed Hoffman’s sentiments saying, “You don’t want PennDOT to come in to do this. If we don’t come to an agreement, we’ll get a road that nobody wants.”

After two hours, the applicant left with the understanding that it was to return to the Planning Commission in August with a fully engineered plan that includes details on the sound-attenuation fence.

In addition to the access point for the condominium residents and the inclusion of the roundabout, other changes include turning the intersection of Dickinson Drive and Route 1 into a right-turn only exit from Dickinson. Hillman Drive’s intersections with Route 202 and Route 1 will be modified so that there will be three lanes exiting Hillman, with those lanes dedicated for left turns, right turns and through traffic.

Truck traffic will be limited to local delivery only.

Other business

The commission recommended that supervisors give tentative approval to the planned residential development, Wonderland Farms, along Oakland Road. That vote came with the provision that plans meet the requirements set forth by the township engineer’s review letter and with the recommendation of the township solicitor.

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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