Southern Chester County is a great place to live. That's why there was an influx of new residents to the area when the local and national economy was humming along, and that's also why the people who live here are so protective of their communities.
Some people see development, any development, as a threat to their quality of life, which is understandable. No one likes congested roads. No one likes to lose open space. And people who've grown up surrounded by farms and wide open spaces don't want residential and commercial development spoiling the charming feel of the area. Others might take a more practical approach to protecting farmland: Without farms, there's no food so the high-quality farmland here in southern Chester County must be utilized properly.
But the southern part of Chester County has lagged behind when it comes to commercial and industrial development. There's no getting around this fact. When all the new residents moved in during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, there weren't nearly enough jobs in the southern part of the county accommodate them. With so much industry in the northern part of the county and in Delaware, there are jobs available in the region, but not everyone wants to commute a long distance to get to work.
The residential growth also put tremendous pressure on schools and their budgets consequently skyrocketed as they added staff and built schools to accommodate the growing number of students. This places an incredible financial burden on property owners in the area, many of them senior citizens on fixed incomes. This is especially true in Oxford, where tax burdens are the highest in the area. Not only that, but Oxford schools operate with millions less than their neighbors because of a lack of a sufficient commercial tax base.
School districts in southern Chester County recently finalized budgets for the 2013-14 school year. Avon Grove, the largest of the four districts, will spend $76.3 million. The Kennett Consolidated School District will spend $73.8 million, followed by Unionville-Chadds Ford at $72.5 million. Then comes the Oxford Area School District, which will spend a comparatively small $58.6 million next year.
More than a dozen potential sites for commercial and industrial development were highlighted during a tour organized by the Chester County Economic Development Council last week. It will take many years for these sites, and others like them, to be transformed into business parks, medical centers, or manufacturing facilities. But the effort that local officials and the Chester County Economic Development Council are putting into developing the Route 1 commercial corridor will be worth it. This targeted growth is necessary to bring jobs to the area and to ensure that taxes don't rise to an unsustainable level.