Op/Ed: The case for change in CF Village

Chadds Ford Township is an important gateway to the Brandywine Valley and is renowned for its cultural and historical heritage. For many years, Chadds Ford Village served as a focal point for commerce, housing, and tourism but that position has steadily declined, to the point that the future of the Village is now in question.

In the past 10 years, numerous studies have prepared visions for Chadds Ford Village. These studies call for the village to become a destination hub for the region and a thriving center for the community.

As presented in the “Chadds Ford Village Master Plan” (available on the township’s website) and as set out in the objectives in the Chadds Ford V-Village Zoning District ordinance, the proposed expanded village will offer “shops, restaurants, and cultural amenities … in a pedestrian-oriented setting.” It will provide for connections to existing resources on both sides of Route 1, and it will connect to the township’s trails and paths. Key elements of the plan include additional commercial space and new businesses, housing for village workers and others who prefer a “village lifestyle”, a village center for community events, parking for visitors, connectivity to trails and paths, and a solution to the problems associated with Route 1 (e.g., traffic signal, through road to Webb Road, pedestrian bridge over Route 1),

There are some who would prefer to leave the village and the surrounding land the way they currently are and hope for the best. Unfortunately, existing conditions in Chadds Ford Village are far from ideal, and they’re not likely to improve without major change. The Chadds Ford Historical Society and Sanderson Museum have financial challenges, and some of the small businesses are at risk of failure. Parking is limited and there's very little easily accessible and usable space for community events. Route 1 represents a major problem, bisecting the village and creating safety issues for anyone daring to cross the road.

Trying to implement the village vision within the current boundaries is a non-starter. There is very little space available for new development, and acquisition costs associated with any redevelopment would be prohibitive. Lands to the west and south are in floodplain and portions are permanently protected, limiting what can be done on the properties. Without any incentive to attract developers or persuade current property owners, the likelihood of pedestrian walkways is in question, and major improvements, such as a village center, additional traffic signal or a pedestrian bridge across Route 1, are unlikely at best.

The notion that land to the east of the current village will remain “as is” is also questionable. That land is currently zoned R-1 (2-acre residential), and without an expansion of the current village boundaries, some or all of that land will likely be developed.

The fundamental question before us, therefore, is whether we want a viable, sustainable village or whether we prefer to take our chances with the current village, forego any major improvements for now and the foreseeable future, and accept the altered streetscape.

We’re now at the point at which we can no longer kick the can down the road. If we don’t act soon to save Chadds Ford Village, the opportunity will be lost and the decision on what will happen will be taken out of our hands. I urge you to contact our supervisors and let them know what you think about this most important decision.

Mike Ashmore
Chadds Ford Township

 

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