Planners shoot down Concord Ventures

Opponents of the Concord Ventures proposal tailgate before the start of the Concord Planning Commission meeting.

Concord Township Planning Commission members voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that township Council deny a residential development plan proposed by Concord Ventures. Council is expected to hear the matter Jan. 30.

The proposal for a 60-acre site in an R-PRD zoning district along Route 202 at Watkin Avenue near the Delaware state line — part of the Woodlawn Trustees property — calls for 29 townhouses in six buildings and 166 apartment units in three five-story buildings. There would also be a swimming pool and clubhouse, and Watkin Avenue would be reconfigured and an additional traffic light installed on Route 202 to provide access to the development.

Marc Kaplin, the applicant's attorney, took the first 30 minutes of the Jan. 16 meeting to explain the proposal, adding that his client did more than was necessary to meet township code and address review letters from the township's engineer and land planner.

The plan, which Planning Commission members recommend be denied, calls for 29 townhouses and 166 apartment units.

He said Concord Ventures supplied more than a dozen extra studies, including utility studies, stormwater management and soil studies as well as fiscal impact, sewage and historic resources studies.

"We have demonstrated satisfaction with all comments in the reviews. Our plans comply with the PRD ordinance," Kaplin said. "The reason it took two years is that we knew there would be interest and we wanted to get it right."

Planning Commission members and residents disagreed.

Marc Jonas, the attorney representing a handful of the residents, said the plan "shoe-horned" the structures into a small portion of the property and said Kaplin's characterization of compliance was wrong.

"They have not gotten it right. It does not meet the ordinance. The plan is supposed to be harmonious, but it's not. It will devastate the area," Jonas said.

Resident Lori Kidd then spoke for the rest of Jonas' clients in the matter, delivering a PowerPoint presentation with photos showing how the five-story apartment buildings and their parking lots would crowd space next to private homes on Dain Avenue and how they would block sunlight and intrude on privacy.

The plan calls for 357 parking spaces for the apartments, swimming pool and clubhouse call.

Kidd said the type of mixed housing proposed is not harmonious with the area and does not comply with the ordinance, which specifies that such a proposal must be harmonious.

Among the faults alleged are that 111 units would butt up against Dain Avenue, plantings and trees required in the buffer areas would not grow because the apartment buildings would block sunlight, stormwater runoff is significant in the area and extra traffic would be generated.

Another issue raised was that the proposal didn't show the actual appearance of the apartment buildings.

Jonas concluded his case with four points: The plan doesn't meet ordinance requirements; the ordinance doesn't permit mandatory tentative plan requirements; the plan lacks information needed to assess possible damage to natural resources and is lacking information that would enable the township to follow Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states:

"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."

Other residents told commission members that they were concerned about additional traffic and the potential for speeding along Watkin Avenue as people use that street as a cut-through.

The meeting room in the township building was filled close to capacity with residents who opposed the plan and with members of Township Council observing the proceedings. Members of Save the Valley also held a tailgating session in the parking lot before the meeting began.

 

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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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