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Brian McCullough , Staff Writer 08/22/2004

Oh no.

That was Gary Smith’s reaction to the news that the Sadsbury Board of Supervisors had voted unanimously Tuesday night to turn 92 acres of land that had been zoned light industrial into traditional neighborhood development.

Smith, president of the Chester County Economic Development Council, worries that developers in Chester County are successfully having land reclassified residential because that market is white-hot right now.

That, of course, means land is more valuable for residential building than it is for business use. Right now.

But, rezone too much land and what you become is a bedroom community, one with no economy of its own and no industrial tax base.

Not that Chester County is in danger of getting to the "no" point, but it will lose its balance should the trend continue, Smith fears.

"I’m real disappointed that local governments, many times, don’t include organizations like ours" before making their decisions on changing land uses, Smith said.

If he had been consulted, Smith’s argument for not changing the land use would have gone something like this:

•     Your area needs "ratables," that is, development that brings in tax revenue for the school district. This is especially true in the Coatesville Area School District, where taxes are going through the roof. Business development provides tax revenues for the schools without requiring their services. Traditional neighborhood developments do.

•     Your area needs jobs. Light industrial operations provide the kinds of incomes and benefits that support families.

•     Think traffic is bad now? Just wait, if the county continues to see industrial land being used for residential development. If people are moving further and further out, they will need to drive further and further to get to their workplaces. Especially since there will be no place nearby to work. They’ll be living on those parcels of land.

•     Light industrial parks often morph into high-end corporate parks, a la the Great Valley Corporate Center. There was a time not long ago when people asked who would move all the way out to East Whiteland. Have you seen Route 202 at 4:15 on any weekday lately?

This being Pennsylvania, of course, none of Smith’s arguments would have meant a whole lot to the three people with the final say: the Sadsbury supervisors.

They had a whole other set of factors to consider when making their decision, namely trying to make the most of a difficult situation.

On the one hand, they could have denied developer Arcadia Land Co.’s request to create an overlay district to turn the land zoned industrial and high-density residential into traditional neighborhood.

Had they done so, however, Arcadia said it would build a 443-unit apartment complex on the high-density residential section, a proposition unsettling to many residents and the supervisors.

So supervisors opted for the developer’s proposal --- 462 for-sale homes --- a mix of single-family, townhouse and condominium housing units. And no industrial development.

Residents were worried about heavy truck traffic and the apartments, said Ralph T. "Joe" Garris Jr., supervisors’ chairman.

"Are they going to make Sadsbury Township a bad place?" Garris said in explaining the concerns over the prospect of apartments.

The township formed a six-person committee to examine Arcadia’s proposal, and they voted 5 to 1 to recommend it, Garris said.

So it was a tough spot for supervisors, and one where emotions ran high.

You can’t blame them for the decision they came up with, but you hope it doesn’t become commonplace, either.

Otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of people joining Smith in saying, ‘oh no.’


Brian McCullough is the business editor of the Daily Local News. He can be reached at 610-430-1126 or at business@dailylocal.com.

İDaily Local News 2004


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Last modified: 12/01/07