Senior housing proposed, opposed

Chadds Ford Planning Commission members Wednesday night voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny a request for a zoning change that would have allowed for a senior housing development along Brandywine Drive.

While the applicant — The Henderson Group — didn’t get the recommendation it sought, attorney Marc Damico representing Henderson said they will still go to the Board of Supervisors and request a hearing.

Greene Station at Painters Crossing – as the project was named — was proposed for the 21-acre parcel between Hannum’s Harley Davidson and Painters Crossing shopping center. Henderson, which owns the center and the Chadds Ford Business Campus on the other side of Route 1, first proposed the age-restricted community in March of 2021.

Back in the 1980s, the site was approved for a Giant supermarket, but that never materialized. A more recent application for the site, a townhouse development, was shot down in 2015.

A major concern for the commission members and for some residents is the existence of wetlands on the property, something Henderson’s representatives have challenged.

Eric Gartner, who lives on Harvey Lane gave an almost hour-long presentation to a joint Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meeting before the start of the commission’s regular session.

Gartner’s 64-page PowerPoint included multiple photographs of wet areas that had been detrimental to his property and others downstream from the site. And he said it’s been getting worse over the years.

“My property has been irreparably damaged,” he said.

During his presentation, Gartner emphasized traffic problems in the area, pollution, as well as the effects of stormwater runoff. He also invoked the concept of eminent domain, saying that would be a good idea for the property.

He said eminent domain is warranted in this case because “this involves the safety of this community and the individual citizens. The impact of this proposed development will exacerbate already failed situations.”

The existence of wetlands on the property was the subject of some debate. While Gartner said there are wetlands, Henderson’s land planner John Kennedy said the Army Corps of Engineers said there aren’t any.

However, Planning Commission Chairman Craig Huffman questioned whether the letter from the Army Corps of Engineers said there were no wetlands or no wetlands that were under its jurisdiction. He said the corps’ responsibility concerns wetlands and streams that feed navigable waterways. There was no definitive response.

The actual proposed development is for five, four-story buildings with a total of 240 apartment units, from one to three bedrooms. There would also be parking for 1.75 cars per unit, and pedestrian access to the shopping center.

That density and the number of parking spaces were issues for each of the commission members.

Speaking for himself, Huffman said the back third of the property is always wet and that there is no reason for a text amendment. “I don’t like the concept of putting housing in that spot.”

He also said the K. Hovnanian townhouse proposal was a far superior plan to what Henderson was putting forth.

Member Timotha Trigg cited the density as her prime concern, and Kathleen Goodier said the density and existing traffic were too high for her to recommend approval. Tom Bradley, who earlier said the 1.75 parking spaces per unit was too low, also cited density.

Valerie Hoxter — the commission vice-chair and township tax collector — also cited density as one of her reasons for not recommending approval. She also said that apartments wouldn’t bring in as much tax revenue as condominiums or townhouses because there’s no real estate transfer tax on rental units.

One resident of the Estates of Chadds Ford — Spencer Kiernan — had his own reason for hoping the plan didn’t get recommended. “I don’t want Henderson approved for anything until they finish the loop road.”

As noted, the attorney for Henderson still intends to go to the supervisors for a hearing despite not getting the recommendation.

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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