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 S.O.S. Update - May 2004
 

                                      

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Results of recent development survey: Over 25 S.O.S. volunteers conducted a door-to-door survey, personally visiting over 465 residents (nearly 25% of the adult population) throughout our township to ask their opinion on the proposed development and the changes the supervisors have already made to township zoning.  The results of this survey were as follows:

 

 Question

One

447 residents (96%)

 

7 residents (2%)

9 residents (2%)

Oppose changing the zoning to allow the proposed development of 462 dwellings on Old Wilmington Road

Approve changing the zoning

Do not want either development proposal

Question

Two

449 residents (97%)

8 residents (3%)

Oppose the R2 zoning change allowing 10 units per acre

Approve of this zoning change

Question

Three

449 (93%)

 

8 residents (7%)

Oppose the recently changed overlay district permitting higher density housing fronted by commercial business West on Bus. 30

Approve of the overlay district

These results show tremendous resident opposition to the zoning changes and the proposed development of a 462 dwelling Traditional Neighborhood. The Supervisors were asked several times to conduct a township-wide survey themselves, and they refused.  Members of S.O.S. spent their own time, on weekends and after work, to find out what residents think because the Supervisors do not appear to care. 

The #1 reason residents oppose:  TOO MUCH HIGH DENSITY HOUSING 

Arcadia Land Co. is now one step closer to increasing the population of Sadsbury Township by >1,300 residents, and adding 3,500 weekday road trips to Old Wilmington Road: At the April 7th meeting of the Zoning Feasibility Committee, Arcadia Land presented plans for a 462 dwelling (66 condos, 159 townhomes and 236 single family homes) Traditional Neighborhood (TND).  The proposed TND requires a zoning change, and would be located on 136 acres of land currently zoned Light Industrial (92 acres) and R2 (44 acres) on Old Wilmington Road. Over 60 community members attended.  Only two possible scenarios were presented by Arcadia for development of this property.  According to Arcadia, this land will either be developed as industrial with 443 apartments, or as per their Traditional Neighborhood plan. Of course other development options do exist for this property; such as a development consisting only of single-family homes, which is the approved zoning for R2 (apartments require conditional use approval). But, Arcadia is not willing to pursue that option at this time, threatening instead to sell the property to another developer for 443 rental apartments if they do not get the zoning change they’ve requested. (The population and traffic information given above was provided by Arcadia and are not just arbitrary numbers).

While some residents favored the TND as the lesser of two evils, there was nearly unanimous concern about the proposed density and the traffic impact on Old Wilmington Road. The Zoning Feasibility Committee voted in favor of the TND proposal.  The draft ordinance has now been moved on to the Planning Commission for review. The decision to change the zoning will ultimately fall to the supervisors. They will have three options to consider:  1) Deny the zoning change and leave the existing zoning as is; 2) Accept the zoning change as requested by Arcadia; or 3) Change the zoning on the 92 acres currently zoned industrial to allow housing, but at a much lower density, similar to that in Quarry Ridge (avg. lot size 20,000 sq. ft or approx.1/2 acre).

In addition to condos and townhomes, Arcadia’s TND has single family homes planned for lots as small as 5,000 sq. ft. (1/8 acre). The distance between houses is planned to be only 12 feet, (Arcadia first planned on only 8 feet, but agreed to 12 feet after the township engineer suggested 14 feet). Garages will be located behind the homes and serviced by alleys.
 

What is a Traditional Neighborhood Development?  A Traditional Neighborhood Development, or TND is defined by Arcadia Land to be a walkable, compact, mixed use (apartments or condos, townhomes, twins, and single-family homes) and mixed income development.  According to Arcadia, a TND is a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood similar to those built in the early twentieth century (like Coatesville, West Chester or Upper Darby), re-introduced to replace the low-density, auto-oriented suburbs that have characterized the American landscape since the end of World War II.

This aerial view compares a conventional suburb with a TND development in Memphis, TN:

 

 

 

 

       Conventional suburban neighborhood                               TND located in Memphis, TN

(note the difference in housing density and street design. Source: newurbanism website)

 

Why Is Arcadia forcing its high-density TND on Sadsbury?  Arcadia Land currently has 4 other developments either built or proposed in our area:

 

Development Name

Housing Type and Total Acres

Density

Inverness

(Lower Moreland Township)

25 single family luxury manor style homes on 42 acres

1.7 units per acre

Woodmont

(Lower Moreland Township)

101 single family homes on 44 acres

2.3 units per acre

New Daleville

(Londonderry Township)

single family homes

Unknown

Octorara Glen

(Sadsbury Township)

44 single family homes on 44 acres

1 unit per acre in a cluster development

New Sadsburyville TND

(Sadsbury Township)

462 dwellings: 66 condos, 159 townhomes and 236 single family homes on 192 acres

 3.4 units per acre

 

Arcadia’s TND is Double the Density That was Permitted on this Land When Arcadia Bought It: Arcadia will tell you that their TND proposing 462 dwellings is equivalent to the zoning permissible, which would allow 443 apartments. While that may be true today, that was not the case when Arcadia purchased the property.  At that time, the R2 zoning only allowed 6 units per acre, which would limit the number of apartments to 264 (179 less than what is allowable today). If Arcadia considered their purchase to be a profitable venture under the original zoning, why do they claim they need such high density for their investment to be lucrative? With Arcadia’s resources, you would think it would be possible to design a community that would both maintain a comfortable profit margin for them and be more accommodating to the vast number of residents that stand in opposition to the present plan.

 

Arcadia’s designated “open space” is not usable land: Arcadia is touting their TND offers 40% open space. The table below, using figures provided by Arcadia, reveals that 40.45 acres (31%) of  their “open space” is actually wetlands, steep slopes or water retention basins. These areas cannot be built upon under any circumstances – designating them as “open spaces” is not a sacrifice to Arcadia, and should not be seen as a “gift” to Sadsbury Township.  If you eliminate the open space from the 132 acres, the housing density is more accurately shown to be over 6 units per acre (132  – 57 acres open space = 75) (462 homes ) 75 acres = 6.16 units per acre).

 

BREAKDOWN OF 57 ACRES (42.5%) OPEN SPACE ARCADIA CLAIMS WILL BE PROVIDED IN THEIR TND

 

USE

 

TOTAL ACRES

 OPEN SPACE

(% of 132 acres)

Bike Trail/Pool

10.83

8%

Passive Recreation (pocket parks)

5.72

4%

Natural Conservation Land (steep slopes and wetlands)

33.11

25%

Storm Water Management (water retention basins)

7.36

5%

Total Usable Open Space

16.55 acres

12%

Total Unusable Open Space

40.45 acres

31%

 

S.O.S. did the homework that the Supervisors did not do:  S.O.S. volunteers have met or spoken with Senators, area legislators, political candidates, and school district personnel from Coatesville, and neighboring school districts. We have spoken to officials in nearby townships and obtained information from the Brandywine Conservancy and Internet sources.  To date we have not spoken with anyone besides the developers and our own supervisors who feel the proposed development would be good for our township.

 

When buying a home, most of us hire an independent inspector to verify the condition of the house we’re about to buy. We don’t just trust the seller or real estate agent, because they want to make a sale. Why then are our supervisors willing to depend only on information provided by the developer to make a decision that will affect ALL of us in Sadsbury Township? As a business, Arcadia’s goal is to maximize profits. Paid township consultants evaluate data, but none of them live in our township, and they all profit from the process of development. We cannot expect consultants to truly care about the residents’ opinions and concerns – isn’t that the job of our supervisors?

 

The Supervisors contributed to this crisis themselves:  R2 zoning in the 2001 Zoning Ordinance permitted a density of 6 dwelling units per acre. At the request of a different developer, Supervisors Garris and Doratt voted on December 3 to increase the allowable density to 10 dwelling units per acre (Supervisor Franciscus, whose term ended on 12/31/03, voted against). This change constitutes a 67% increase in allowable dwelling units per acre.  Why approve the increased density? This change was not required. The Chester County Planning Commission approved the zoning of 6 units per acre. The zoning was only changed to accommodate a developer. When asked by a resident at the 12/3/03 meeting, “How will this change benefit the Township or the residents of this township in any way”? Chairman Garris responded, “I really can’t answer that”.

 

A Campaign Promise Quickly Forgotten: In a DLN article dated May 12, 2003, Mr. Hensel, then candidate for supervisor, was quoted as saying he believed the (Planning) commission had put the building blocks in place to help keep the rural charm of the township. “The zoning is pretty much in place,” he said. “We just need to hold to that zoning.”  What a difference a year makes! Mr. Hensel is now stating in a March 26, 2004 DLN editorial he wrote that “Sadsbury is developing nicely” and says it is not being “over-developed” in his opinion.

 

Residents need to get involved in the process NOW: S.O.S. volunteers have donated their personal time and energy to keeping you informed of the changes at hand.  Each mailing sent to your homes costs our volunteers nearly $500.  No S.O.S. volunteer stands to benefit financially or personally from this challenge. As busy people with families and careers, none of us would dedicate this amount of time, effort and expense if this were merely a personal vendetta against the supervisors. All of us are dedicated to seeing Sadsbury Township remain as rural as possible. We encourage development that is right for our existing citizens. We have done our best to relay your opinions of opposition to the supervisors.  But, the supervisors continue to denounce our claims and have chosen instead to accuse us of spreading inaccurate information, without providing any evidence that we have done so. As a matter of fact, other than denouncing the efforts of S.O.S., the March township newsletter gave very little information of any kind, providing only a small reference to the developments planned for our township.  If it weren’t for the S.O.S. newsletters, most residents wouldn’t be aware of any proposed development. (Items listed in the S.O.S. Feb. newsletter can be verified by reviewing township records.) 

 

S.O.S. has done everything our volunteers can think of to convince the supervisors this high-density development is wrong for the existing residents of Sadsbury. We presented independent fiscal impact information, compiled tax data proving school districts with more office and warehouse uses had far lower taxes. Even our own township budget proves the burden of development (township expenses increased 37.5% since 2002, while revenue only increased by 11%) because more services need to be provided as more residents move in. But the supervisors choose to only listen to the developer and paid consultants. Even the survey results we presented to the supervisors, proving over 96% of residents oppose the TND were ignored. The fight for the future of this township now depends on each and every one of you. Although it seems likely the 132 acres will be developed, it does not have to be high-density housing. The supervisors will be making a decision at a zoning hearing (date to be advertised) in the near future. However, waiting until then to voice your opposition will likely be too late. As residents, your direct involvement is vital in the planning stages to help shape the supervisors’ decision. Only you can protect your financial and personal interests in Sadsbury Township. S.O.S. cannot do this for you. 

 

With Your Help, We Have Made a Difference: Arcadia’s original plan presented in July 2002 contained 184 Rental Apartments, 16 Twins and 270 Single-Family Homes.  Arcadia’s current plan now contains 66 Condominiums, 159 Townhomes and 237 Single-Family Homes. While the total density is nearly the same, Arcadia recognized the negative feedback from the community revolving around rental apartments and changed their plans to all for-sale dwellings. It is important to note, however, that once the TND ordinance is approved, Arcadia is not bound to comply with their current plan.  There will be nothing to stop Arcadia from building many more condos or multi-family dwellings than they’re current plan shows.  The mix of dwellings will be left to Arcadia’s discretion.

 

Let your voice be heard! S.O.S. is now asking for each of you to reflect upon what has been happening in the township recently and educate yourselves about the issues. Supervisor Hensel’s recent editorial in the DLN indicates that the supervisors believe residents do not oppose their decisions because they don’t attend public meetings to complain. While we feel that assumption is ludicrous, we urge you to attend public meetings and demand to know why the supervisors feel this kind of high-density development is good for our township. Write letters or call the supervisors.  Taking a minute of your time now may save us all a lot of future hardship.  (Township building address and telephone number: Sadsbury Township Supervisors, Ramsey Alley, Sadsburyville, PA 19369; Tel: 610-857-9503).

 

The Supervisors have admitted that they rely heavily on the opinions of paid consultants to the township when making important zoning decisions. Shouldn’t the Board give residents the same consideration and respect that they give so readily to the consultants and developers?  To allow the supervisors to make decisions of this magnitude without expressing your opinion is not an example of “government by the people for the people," but rather a “government by a handful for a handful of special interests at the expense of existing residents”. The next scheduled public meetings are below. We hope to see you there. Please don't let our efforts be wasted! Join us at the upcoming meetings:

 

Township Meetings: May 4 at 7:00 p.m., May 18 at 9 a.m., June 1 at 7:00 pm, June 15 at 9 a.m.

Planning Commission: May 10 at 7:30 p.m., May 19 at 7:30 p.m., and June 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Zoning Hearing for Arcadia's Traditional Neighborhood Development:  To be announced.

IT’S UP TO YOU!   GET INVOLVED NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

 

S.O.S. Gives Special Thanks to Nancy Cox and Senator Dominic Pileggi: Ms. Cox, Democratic Candidate for PA State Representative and Senator Pileggi both took the time out of their busy schedules to get an understanding of our township’s development issues.

 

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Last modified: 12/01/07