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Tammy Pawling , Guest Columnist 08/28/2004

In response to Brian McCullough’s column, "Area could rue lost land for business" (DLN, Aug. 22) in which the president of the Chester County Economic Development Council, Gary Smith, was quoted:

I couldn't agree with Smith more. He stated exactly what our citizens' group has been telling the supervisors for two years. The group Stop Over-Development in Sadsbury met or spoke with numerous public officials and experts regarding the rezoning of industrial property and found no one who thought it was a fiscally responsible trade-off. Unfortunately none were willing to give their opinion publicly, or in writing, until now. It's just too bad that the article comes about two weeks too late.

As I continued reading, I was surprised at the comments made by Ralph T. "Joe" Garris Jr., Sadsbury's supervisors chairman. Garris makes it sound like the supervisors had to choose between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The rock was the developer, Arcadia Land Company, but the hard place was a situation that the supervisors themselves created.

In a Dec. 2003 township zoning hearing, the supervisors voted to increase the density allowed in Sadsbury's R2 (high density) district, from six to 10 units per acre. This change was made at the request of another developer, and was hotly contested by over 100 residents who attended. This decision is significant because until then it would probably not have been economically feasible to build only 264 apartments on the 44-acre parcel. Housing would likely have netted more profit for a developer, which was the intent of the original zoning.

However, in changing that calculation to 10 units per acre, netting 443 apartments, the supervisors provided Arcadia with the perfect threat to use against the township and convince them to vote for the traditional neighborhood option.

In the two years since this board has held majority, eight different zoning ordinances have been changed, most allowing for higher density housing. This is alarming since the township only just adopted its zoning ordinances in Nov. 2001 after spending three years working with the Chester County Planning Commission. The planning commission voiced this concern in a recent letter to the township in which it cautioned the supervisors that any zoning changes are to be in line with the township's comprehensive plan. Sadsbury's recent changes are in direct conflict to the current plan adopted in 1978 to maintain the rural landscape.

In Sadsbury, the supervisors are in the process of revising the comprehensive plan to match the zoning they have changed, rather than the other way around. All these damaging changes have been accomplished at a high cost to residents. Land planners, zoning officers, consultants, etc. have been hired at taxpayer's expense to draft zoning ordinances residents oppose.

Sadsbury residents have been on the losing end ever since this board took control. Now, unfortunately with the recent decision to allow the traditional-neighborhood-resident zone, the losers go beyond our township borders. Those who desperately need jobs in western Chester County will miss out on any opportunities that would have been created by developing this land light industrial. Hope that the positive fiscal impact a business park would bring would help stabilize Coatesville school taxes is gone. We will continue to pay the highest school taxes in Chester County, even though the district spends less than average per student to educate our children.

Residents traveling easterly on Route 30 to get to work every morning will complain as traffic comes to a grinding halt, not at Route 322 as we've become accustomed, but at Route 82 or Airport Road as more residents move to the high density developments being built here.

I understand developers have the right to make a profit and I recognize that supervisors have the final say in changing zoning in Pennsylvania townships. But, doesn't the quality of life of existing residents mean more than any profit a developer could make? Shouldn't supervisors listen to the residents they were elected to represent? Shouldn't they seek the educated opinion of organizations like Smith's before making decisions that negatively impact so many people?

Apparently not in Sadsbury. Residents need to understand the implications of these changes and get involved to stop this trend before our rural quality of life is irretrievably gone.

The writer lives in Sadsbury.

İDaily Local News 2004


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