Work begins on Kennett Twp.’s Fussell House

In a far-reaching meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors dealt with nearly a dozen issues, some of which – ranging from historic restoration to soil analysis – generated considerable discussion.

Work is beginning to stabilize the historic Fussell House in Kennett Township.

Work is beginning to stabilize the historic Fussell House in Kennett Township.

Township Manager Lisa M. Moore said work had begun to stabilize the Fussell House, also known as The Pines, a former Underground Railroad stop on East Baltimore Pike in front of the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The township purchased the historic 1823 building earlier this year to save it from further deterioration.

Moore said a dilemma had surfaced because research showed that the front porch, which needs immediate repair, was constructed in 1903 and that a porch that existed in 1881 was substantially smaller. That information led to dueling recommendations.

The township’s Planning Commission suggested that if the building were going to be treated as a historic structure, then the porch should replicate the earlier version. But both the architect and the township’s Historical Commission said that option would also require replacing the windows and doors, all of which currently reflect the Colonial Revival period.

Sara H. Meadows, the commission’s chair, called the Colonial Revival period historically significant and said the larger porch would serve the township’s needs better. “A building has to be used,” she said. Moreover, the cost would be lower and the smaller porch could not easily be handicapped-accessible.

“We want to make it as usable as possible, keeping as many historic aspects as possible,” said Supervisor Richard L. Leff. The board voted unanimously to repair the existing porch.

Moore said that discussion at the last meeting about the possibility of following the encouragement of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) to enact a soils ordinance led to input from the township’s engineer.

“The engineers don’t recommend a separate ordinance,” Moore said. Instead, they believe residents would be protected from the risks of contaminated soil if the township required an environmental impact statement to accompany the filing of preliminary plans. "They feel that DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has the ultimate authority," Moore said.

Despite objections from TLC, the supervisors authorized solicitor David J. Sander to draft an amendment, and they encouraged TLC to continue to provide insight. "It's a different approach to what you're suggesting, but it goes to the same place," Supervisors’ Chairman Scudder G. Stevens told the TLC representatives.

The supervisors also authorized Sander to begin working on a vacant building ordinance, a request from Zoning Officer Diane Hicks that was supported by Police Chief Lydell Nolt.

Hicks suggested that requiring property owners to notify the township when a building is vacated could help the township avoid maintenance and safety problems. Asked by Supervisor Whitney S. Hoffman how many homes are vacant, Nolt reinforced the need for regulations. “I don’t think we know how many,” he responded.

Reporting on other maintenance issues, Moore said she believed a solution to a failing drainage basin in the Granite Ridge subdivision had finally been found, and she said work would begin at the end of September to stabilize the collapsing stream bank at Marshall’s Bridge.

Moore also called attention to the township’s new online presence. “We’re very pleased with the website,” she said, noting that the same provider serves the county as well as the Borough of West Chester.

Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt (from left) gives his monthly report as Supervisors Whitney S. Hoffman and Richard L. Leff listen.

Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt (from left) gives his monthly report as Supervisors Whitney S. Hoffman and Richard L. Leff listen.

In his monthly report, Nolt said he wanted to thank the supervisors personally for their support of National Night Out, an outreach event that aims to bolster community policing. The township partnered for the first time with the borough, which has been holding an observance for six years.

“The event was a huge success with more than 100 guests attending,” said Nolt. “The event was supported by members of the community, county commissioners, the district attorney’s office, local officials, state representatives and many more.”

Nolt said the mobile digital communication sign parked in front of the township building that displayed “Welcome to Kennett Township,” was a new acquisition and would be used to keep the public informed of special situations, such as road closings.

In other business, the supervisors voted to accept the Roadway Sufficiency Analysis, which will enable the township to impose an impact fee on developers; approved a preliminary plan for the Yasgur property, a three-lot subdivision on Maple Lane; approved a zoning change from R-1 to R-2 for 14 parcels on Old Kennett Pike and Route 82; and granted an extension until Oct. 1 for the Cannery Row development.

After some back-and-forth, the supervisors ultimately granted a demolition permit for the Richardson Run Barn on McFarlan Road. However, Stevens said he was concerned that the township’s procedures had not been precisely followed and that the work had been started before the permit was received.

“Our system for addressing this problem has left a void,” Stevens said, asking township officials to make sure such a situation would not be repeated.

The supervisors decided not to join an effort backed by the Chester County Association of Township Officials to repeal the 1932 Sterling Act. The law has enabled Philadelphia to tax township residents without remitting any portion of the wage fee back to the township.

The issue was tabled at the last supervisors’ meeting so the board could determine how many township residents work in Philadelphia and what the wages total. Hoffman said that 104 residents work in the city and that the township would receive approximately $60,000 if the tax were eliminated.

Kennett Township Manager Lisa M. Moore displays the township's new website.

Kennett Township Manager Lisa M. Moore displays the township's new website.

Hoffman said she agreed with the majority on Kennett Square Borough Council, who also voted against the measure.

“Kicking the city while it’s down seems mean-spirited,” said Hoffman, adding that Philadelphia would likely be forced to find another way to tax township residents if the Sterling Act were abolished.

Finally, Moore announced that efforts are proceeding to make the recently proposed layout for the township's Barkingfield Park conform to the easements on the property. "We're going to see what we can do to make it work," she said.

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