Hearing underway for Concord Ventures

After a false start last month, Concord Township began the hearing for Concord Ventures. CV wants to construct a planned residential development on 49 acres to the west of Route 202 at Watkin Avenue, just north of the Delaware state line.

In January, Concord Venture's attorney Marc Kaplin petitioned that Township Council and solicitor Hugh Donaghue recuse themselves from the proceedings for what he termed "bias against my client."

Council did not recuse itself, but Council Vice President John Gillespie made a motion during the Feb. 27 session to have retired Common Pleas Court Judge James Proud sit instead of Donaghue for the hearing. That motion passed.

Proud told the audience to expect the matter to take months, likely into the summer. He also set ground rules that included recessing at 9 p.m.

The proposal is to build 29 townhouses in six buildings and 166 apartment units in three five-story buildings on 49 acres of a 64-acre property legally owned by Woodlawn Trustees. Concord Ventures is the equity owner. There is an already existing residential neighborhood — Brandywine Summit — abutting the site to the north. Residents in that neighborhood object to the plan.

After Kaplin and opposing attorney Marc Jonas finished jockeying for legal positioning with a series of formal objections to what should and shouldn't be admitted as part of the record, Kaplin said his client had revised the proposed plans four times from 2015 through 2017 in response to comments in the review letters from the township and county Planning Commissions, township engineer, land planner, fire marshal and others.

In calling his first witness, Ben Crowder, an engineer with Bohler Engineering and the project manager for the Concord Ventures plan, Kaplin said he would show that CV provided more information than is legally required for a tentative plan.

Kaplin read from Section 707 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code which specifies in nine sub-points what needs to be included in a tentative PRD plan.

According to that section, the required information includes location, size and topography of the site; density of the land use allocated to development; location and size of common open space; use and height of buildings; feasibility of proposed water supply, disposition of sewage and stormwater; the substance of covenants and grants of easements for utilities; provisions for parking; provisions for any required modifications in municipal land use regulations; feasibility of proposals for energy conservation; and , if the development would take place during a number of years, a timetable of construction.

Kaplin also referenced the Concord Township Zoning Code — Chapter 201 — which makes the same points.

The question he asked Crowder was whether the application meets those requirements. The response was yes.

Additionally, he said, the plan also notes natural resources including wetlands, woodlands, steep slopes and an area abutting the development site considered a bog turtle habitat.

Crowder said the consideration of those features determined the layout of the proposal.

Another section in the Zoning Code mentions the types of residential buildings allowed. They include detached single-family dwellings, semi-attached single-family dwellings, attached single-family dwellings (townhouses), garden apartments, medium-rise and high-rise apartments and single-family residence with an accessory apartment.

Kaplin noted that while the code says what types are permitted, it doesn't go into other detail.

Time allotted for Tuesday night's session expired before Crowder could finish his testimony and before he could be cross-examined.

Jonas — who represents some residents who object to the proposal — was able to say earlier that the plan shoe-horns the development into the area

"It's a terrible plan shoe-horned next to existing residences without regard to neighbors," he said.

Proud scheduled the next session for 7:30 p.m. on March 27.

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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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