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Zoning changes inconsistent with comprehensive plan in Sadsbury

By: Karen Neuhauser Ruppert 11/07/2002

Barely a year after amending their zoning ordinance to make it consistent with a newly-enacted comprehensive plan, the Sadsbury Township Board of Supervisors is considering amending it again.

This time, however, the changes are not consistent with the township's comprehensive plan, and some residents, including members of the township's Planning Commission, are accusing the board of making the changes to accommodate certain development proposals rather than for the good of the township.

At issue is the extension of the township's commercial (C-2) district, as well as the re-zoning of part of the township's industrial district to accommodate a mostly-residential development being proposed for property around Bellaire Corporate Center (formerly called the Airport Industrial Mall).

During the supervisors' meeting Monday night, residents questioned the board's reasons for considering the amendments. Former supervisor Neil Heineman said he believed the board was expanding the C-2 district for the sole purpose of permitting a business owner to relocate his operation to a property he purchased, but which is not zoned to accommodate that business.

Supervisor Doug Dorratt said the board was not considering re-zoning just one parcel, but a larger area.

According to a map of the township, the area being considered for a change to C-2 is roughly as follows: extending the C-2 district south on Route 10 from the intersection with Route 30 to the township line shared with the borough of Parkesburg; another extension on Route 10 north of Route 30 roughly corresponding with West Sadsbury Township's commercial district on the opposite side of the highway; and an extension from the intersection of routes 10 and 30 east to the village of Sadsburyville.

Stephanie Silvernail, chairwoman of the township's Planning Commission, said in an interview Monday night that the land under consideration for the change to C-2 is currently zoned rural residential (RR), and the current designation is consistent with the township's comprehensive plan.

The second change being considered would apply to three parcels of land owned by AIM Development Corporation, which are currently zoned industrial and surrounded by land zoned R-2, or medium density.

In both amendment proposals, the majority of the property that would be changed is currently used for agriculture, however, the industrial land had been zoned that way before last year's zoning ordinance amendment, and that land is adjacent to both existing industrial concerns and the Chester County Regional Airport, which is planning an expansion of its runway.

Also under consideration for that same area is the purchase of the former Hoppes plant by Keystone Helicopter, which has expressed a desire for the township to close Washington Lane to accommodate a direct access road to the airport so the company can test-fly helicopters.

AIM has an agreement with Arcadia, a land development company, to develop its property. Arcadia has presented sketch plans to the township planning commission depicting a total of 426 dwelling units and storefronts, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments, on the three parcels.

John and Jason Duckworth, representatives of Arcadia, were at Monday's meeting because they were on the agenda to present another sketch plan for an additional 47.5-acre tract adjacent to AIM's property. The second development, tentatively named Octoraro Glen, would utilize the cluster option in that zoning district and consist of 45 new homes. The plan also calls for the preservation of the existing Wick farmstead as a farmette.

In an interview after the meeting, John Duckworth, who is also chairman of the Chester County Planning Commission, said he had spoken to staff at the county planning commission to make sure the idea for the large development was consistent with Landscapes, the county's comprehensive plan.

Duckworth said although the Planning Commission could make no formal opinion because Arcadia has not yet submitted a formal application, members he spoke to indicated to him that it would comply with the county plan because that plan showed the area as part of a rural center.

"Rural centers are the most active, so the rest of the township can remain rural," Duckworth said.

The plan is not, however, consistent with the township's comprehensive plan, nor with its present zoning.

When asked why his company was proposing a zoning change rather than building on land zoned for that type of development, Jason Duckworth said he didn't believe industrial use was compatible with the residential development surrounding that site. He added permitted uses in the zoning district were industrial concerns and apartments, both of which would generate a significant amount of traffic onto Old Wilmington Road.

Silvernail said she believes if the supervisors changes the zoning and the changes are inconsistent with its own comprehensive plan, the township could be placed at the bottom of the list for consideration for future grants from the county since the county gave the township a $70,000 grant to develop the plan.

The Municipal Planning Code (MPC) states in section 301.5 that priority for state grant funding would be given to municipalities that develop comprehensive plans consistent with the county's plan, and that agree to adopt zoning ordinance amendments to fully implement the municipal plan. It also states municipalities must comply with these agreements for three years, and failure to comply would be taken into consideration for future state funding.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, the Post Ledger asked Joe Garris, supervisors' chairman, if the township would be passed over for grants or penalized for deviating from the plan, especially since county planners acted as the township's planning consultant during development of the plan.

"Chester County is not any great fan of Sadsbury Township," Garris replied. "They give us pennies and we have to kiss their butt to get anything."

The supervisors has appointed a committee to study the feasibility of both zoning changes, and has a $4,500 contract with Grafton Associates to serve as consultant to that committee.

Resident Ed Pawling said he believed the $4,500 could be put to better use and, when Dorratt said the purpose of the contract was so the township could develop a 20-year plan with a proven planner, Pawling said he thought that's what the township did two-and-a-half years ago.

Pawling's wife Tammy asked the supervisors what they were doing to educate residents about the possible zoning ordinance changes, and told supervisors she believed the majority of the residents would not approve of the changes.

"You're talking about changing the entire landscape [of the township]," Pawling said. "It's not just the three of you, you represent the entire township."

'Pawling also said she couldn't understand the board's decision to hire a consultant to conduct a fiscal impact study because she had gone on the Internet and typed "fiscal impact," and found statistics that said high-density residential development costs a municipality $1.36 per unit, while industrial land earns a municipality 68 cents per unit.

©ParkesBurg Post Ledger 2004


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