New Ridge Road suit brings concerns

Chadds Ford Township residents, especially those living along Ridge Road, are concerned about a second complaint filed against Concord Township. They feel they no longer have a voice in a development that, they say, would adversely affect their way of life. The fear is of excess traffic.

The second suit — filed Sept. 29 by Ridge Road Development, the Pettinaro Construction subsidiary looking to build a shopping center at Ridge Road and Route 202 — asks the same as the first suit filed in May. It requests that a judge remove Condition 19 from Concord's approval of a proposed shopping center at Ridge and Route 202, or rule that the condition has already been satisfied.

Condition 19 requires the applicant to get written approval from Chadds Ford Township that proposed highway improvements are satisfactory. Those changes include widening Ridge Road from two to six lanes for no more than a quarter-mile — from Route 202 to just beyond the property — and to locate the center's main entrance on Ridge Road.

Concord initially approved the plan in 2008 and reaffirmed that approval in 2014. Condition 19 was in effect both times.

The suit asserts that Chadds Ford Township officials knew about roadway changes from the beginning since they were co-applicants for the Highway Occupancy Permit. PennDOT approved those changes.

Attorney John Jaros, representing Ridge Road Development, said in the suit that by being a co-applicant for the HOP, Chadds Ford Township tacitly agreed to the changes.

While the first filing eventually brought Chadds Ford and its Board of Supervisors into the suit, it was dismissed without prejudice, allowing for the second filing. The new complaint names only Concord Township and its Township Council as defendants.

Jaros, however, again asserts that Chadds Ford accepted the roadway changes when they applied, along with Concord, for the HOP.

Over the past weekend, a flurry of emails from scores of residents expressed concern that with Chadds Ford no longer a party to the suit, they have no representation in the matter and no say in what happens. The bulk of the residents live in The Ridings.

Carolyn Daniels, a school board director, a member of the board of the Ridings HOA and the driving force behind Chadds Ford Neighbors Against More Traffic, said almost 1,000 residents signed a petition to keep Ridge Road safe.

"We are asking our Chadds Ford Township Supervisors to continue to protect our community by petitioning the court to intervene. It is not an issue of 6 or 4 lanes on Ridge Road, but rather Ridge Road as the main vehicle and 18-wheel delivery trucks access around the clock. In addition to unsafe road conditions and changing the landscape of our town, this will overly burden other small community roads like Ring, Heyburn, Smithbridge and Tally Ho," Daniels said in an email comment to Chadds Ford Live.

Another Ridings homeowner, Karen Johnson, president of the HOA, wants supervisors to become proactive.

"I am hoping that Chadds Ford Supervisors will again file a petition with the courts to intervene as an interested party in this property. Chadds Ford supervisors have stated that since this property is in Concord Township, it's really out of their hands, so then my question is in whose hands should this be,” Johnson wrote.

She said there's no reason the main entrance to the shopping center can't be on Route 202 "other than it would cost Pettinaro more money to do so. How about we put safety before money for a change?"

Chadds Ford Township Supervisors' Chairman Frank Murphy said in a brief telephone interview that the township is "reviewing the current situation and will respond accordingly."

In a follow-up email message, Murphy said residents are not necessarily without a voice in the proceedings. "The pleadings are not closed…so who has a voice has not yet been decided. Chadds Ford was not dismissed, we just have not been included yet."

In a separate lengthy reply to the barrage of emails from residents, Murphy reminded them that this was a Concord Township decision — the property in question and the portion of the Ridge Road considered for widening — are in Concord Township, not Chadds Ford. As such, Chadds Ford is not in a position to approve or deny the proposal.

"Those choices were never ours to make – we have no formal control over the Concord Township or PennDOT approval process as none (or very, very little) of the construction is located in Chadds Ford Township," Murphy wrote.

That said, he and the other current supervisors share residents' concerns, but there are limits to what the township may do at this time.

"…[T]he project that was designed by Pettinaro and approved by Concord and PennDOT in the mid-2000s was – in our view – not appropriate for Chadds Ford, today. That is why we issued an opposition letter late last year [that] stated that we would not sign off on the road ‘improvements' until our concerns about Ridge Road were addressed," he said in the email. "…We oppose the widening of Ridge Road to six lanes. We oppose the main entrance being on Ridge Road. We agree with many of you that there is no need for another shopping center in the area, but that is not something we have any say over."

He said Concord has 20 days in which to respond to the complaint once notice was served. Assuming Concord was served on the date of the filing — Sept. 29 — then Concord would have until Oct. 19 to answer the complaint. Chadds Ford can't take any action without Concord's response.

Murphy also said that success in this matter would be for the main entrance of the center moved from Ridge Road to Route 202 and for limiting the widening of Ridge to four lanes.

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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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