By John Chambless
The agenda for the Aug. 5 meeting of the East Marlborough Board of Supervisors included updates on several projects that have long been in the works for the township.
About a dozen residents attended the meeting to hear a request from Jim Fritsch of Regester Associates on behalf of Anthony Dambro. Dambro's property, adjacent to the Willowdale Towne Center, is the site of a proposed apartment building, a project that has caused ongoing controversy in the township. The land is partially designated as wetlands, and neighbors have said that it would be unsuitable for the kind of development Dambro is proposing.
At Monday night's meeting, Fritsch outlined a plan to remove eight trees on the six-acre wooded property and lay down a storm water pipe that would funnel runoff from the Willowdale Towne Center parking lot to the south and east side of the Dambro property. Fritsch said the goal was to allow one area of the land to dry out over a period of up to two years, facilitating future development.
Township engineer Jim Hatfield told the board that he had studied the proposed pipe plan and said that “the amount of disturbance to the land is minimal” and indicated that the land might revert to a drier condition. “The development of this land is the subject of some interest in the township,” Hatfield said, “so we thought it best, in terms of full disclosure, to have this aired in a public meeting.”
Fritsch emphasized that the proposal did not include any kind of building permit – just the installation of the drain pipe.
Several residents questioned what effect the new drainage plan would have on the rest of the property, suggesting that the pipe would just move the water problem elsewhere. After lengthy discussion, the board unanimously voted to not approve the storm water piping proposal.
Next, Wayne Grafton presented a request to divide the 300-acre Weisbrod Farm into two parcels, one 229 acres and one 68 acres. The Weisbrod family has been attemting to sell the large property, and dividing it, Grafton said, would make a sale more feasible. There are 13 building lots proposed for the two properties. “That is substantially fewer than the number of lots that could have been proposed,” said board chairman Cuyler Walker, saying that up to 24 lots could have been created on the site. “The Weisbrod family is showing a significant commitment to keep the property as open as possible.”
The board unanimously approved the proposal to divide the property into two parcels, keeping the 13-lot designation.
The board also heard details of two banks that are coming to the Route 1 corridor. A final plan was approved for a Bank of America branch that will be built on the site of an abandoned gas station at Schoolhouse Road and Route 1, near the Walmart store. There will be an access road put in next to the bank that will connect Route 1 with Onyx Drive to the rear of the bank.
A TD Bank branch that is proposed for the former site of a Burger King and gas station, on the south side of Route 1, was the focus of a long discussion due to complications with a sidewalk that would have to be installed along Route 1 in front of the bank. There is a small stream adjacent to the property that would have to be spanned by any sidewalk, possibly requiring a pedestrian bridge. That cost would be prohibitive, so the board and the developer discussed at length whether PennDOT or the township could pay for a bridge if necessary. With too many unanswered questions, the board did not vote on the plan approval.
The board did grant approval for the sale of Christmas trees at a vacant gas station property on Route 1 near the Walmart store, with the provision that the operator abide by sign ordinances in the township. The first year that the vendor sold trees there, he put up multiple signs along Route 1, sparking complaints. Last year, the size of his sign was a problem. This year, the third for the pop-up business, was approved by the board, with member Richard Hicks voting against the proposal because of traffic problems he predicted at the site. Board president Walker noted that the business “is out of character with the commercial uses we've ordinarily seen in the district.” He approved the business for the coming year, but noted, “We need a better grasp on what's allowed on what's essentially a vacant lot. We need to think about what's appropriate.”
Board member Bob Weer detailed a proposal for pedestrian crosswalks at the intersection of routes 926 and 82. The intersection currently has no crosswalks, and signs warn pedestrians that crossing is not permitted. Township manager Jane Laslo pointed out that many students from Unionville High School walk along Route 82 to get to the Landhope Farms store there, and workers from theWillowdale Towne Center cross Route 926 at lunchtime to get to the Landhope store as well. “There's a lot of pedestrian activity in the area, and right now, they're all breaking the law,” Laslo said.
Weer said that the proposal from Signal Service includes pedestrian signals on all four sides of the intersection, as well as painting crosswalks for each road. Weer was seeking the board's approval for an amount “not to exceed $18,000” to perform the engineering, installation of the crosswalks, and a street light at the intersection. Laslo said that the funds for the project could come from two sources she had in mind, “and it wouldn't be a budget-buster” for the township's general fund. Walker proposed that the project could be designated as a road improvement, so part of the money could come from state funds. The board approved Weer's proposal.
The long-discussed issue of speeding through the village of Unionville was addressed by Richard Hannum, who presented a plan drawn up by Glackin Thomas Panzak, Inc., that included several traffic-calming measures. A proposal to reduce the speed limit to 30 miles per hour in the village is ready to be presented to PennDOT, Hannum said. Two signs designating the village as a historic district were also proposed, and their cost – about $7,000 – will becovered by a donation. Thirteen areas along Route 82 in the village were found to be possible sites for pedestrian crosswalks, and Hannum said the safety committee will select five or six of the best sites and get cost estimates. Raised crosswalks are a possibility that the committee is studying, he said. Priority areas are near the ball fields on the western edge of the village, as well as the intersection of routes 162 and 82, Hannum said.
Ideally, sidewalks would be installed along both sides of the road through the village, and Hannum said homeowners would be approached to see if they could pay for sidewalk installation on their properties. The safety committee is also looking at reducing the number of signs along Route 82 through the village to present a more cohesive message to drivers.
“These are great ideas,” Walker told Hannum. “Not only do they enhance safety, but they enhance the whole character of the village.”
The board unanimously approved going ahead with the request to PennDOT to reduce the speed limit, and to get firm costs for the historic district signs, as well as the costs of any crosswalks.