By Richard L. Gaw
For years, the gravely convergence of Sheehan Road, Sharp Road and Route 41 in Landenberg has confounded drivers, largely for the puzzle of its design, its potential for danger, and the fact that no one seems to know where one road ends and the other begins.
Very soon, drivers traveling along this intersection will know for certain.
At the New Garden Board of Supervisors' meeting on June 16, Steve Giampaolo of McMahon Associates shared the safety improvements the architectural/engineering firm is designing for the intersection, that will eliminate direct access from Sharp Road to Route 41. Instead, the design will connect Sharp Road to Sheehan Road, where a new access point to Route 41 will be created – about 200 feet to the south of the current access point.
Calling the alteration a “low-cost safety improvement project,” Giampaolo said that two key elements were considered in the new design. The new intersection would be able to improve site distance in each direction, he said, while its turn radius will be able to accommodate large vehicles, such as trucks and fire vehicles.
Giampaolo estimated that the construction costs for the project will be $225,000, and will be paid for by the township. Once McMahon Associates receives final approval for the plan from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT], the project will be bid out to potential contractors. Giampaolo said that he presumes the project will be completed by the end of the year.
These safety improvements, Giampaolo said, are not related to any long-term concepts PennDOT is developing for the Route 41 corridor.
In other township business, the board adopted Ordinance No. 207, which provides guidelines for the holding of special events in the township. Board chairperson Betty Gordon told her fellow supervisors that the ordinance, which had gone through six drafts, could be adopted as is, or include proposed amendments offered by township resident Jim Ottinger. The sticky wicket in the ordinance – and one that was discussed at length – was determining how close an application for a permit to hold a public event can be submitted to the township before the actual event itself.
Supervisor Steve Allaband said that ten working days is a sufficient enough time before an event, while Ottinger urged the supervisors to consider that the time be extended to a 30-day period, as he stated in his proposal to the board. Ottinger is no stranger to the supervisors; at an April board meeting, he voiced his displeasure to them about a sunrise Easter Sunday service held at St. Anthony's in the Hills that he felt was excessively loud. Directing his argument to the board, Ottinger said that a period of ten working days before an event is not a sufficient enough time to inform units such as the police, fire and ambulance services.
“The burden is on the applicant to meet the requirements of the ordinance,” interim township manager Spence Andress told Ottinger. “It's not up to the township to help them make the application complete. Either it's going to meet the requirements or it's not.”
After additional discussion, the board adopted the ordinance, one that will incorporate a permit application deadline of ten working days before a township event.
Dennis Melton of the Route 1 Corridor Economic Development Initiative shared the mission of the Committee with the supervisors, specifically, the offer to assist the township in any economic development it plans for the corridor. The Committee is an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council, Chester County and the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce.
Melton said that the Committee has identified the Route 1 thoroughfare from Oxford to Kennett Square as an economic zone for potential development – an area that includes the northern tip of New Garden Township.
“A big reason we're here today is to ask you what you want, in terms of economic development, so that it can inform us to help you as well as help adjacent municipalities,” Melton told the supervisors. "If you let us know what areas you're particularly focusing on in the township, we could assist in helping bring businesses to focus on what you want.”
The township has zoned the area of its portion of Route 1 as an airport development zone, business park, as well as for commercial, industrial and residential use. Melton said that the Committee has recognized that local municipalities are having difficulty in finding new ways to raise funds to cover expenses and services, and that the advantages of developing the area would improve the employment base and the economic infrastructure.
The board gave approval, for an amount not to exceed $5,000, that will be dedicated toward the funding for the township's Tri-Centennial Festival, in honor of its 300th anniversary. The event, which is scheduled for Sept. 27, is being coordinated by the township's Historical Commission and its Parks and Recreation Committee.
Dr. Margaret “Peg” Jones of the township's Historical Commission spoke in opposition to the possible demolition of the historic McCann House in the township, in order to make way for new residence being developed by Wilkinson Builders. The historic home, which Jones said was built by settlers from Ireland in the 1750s, is located off of Buttonwood Road, sits on a 7-acre lot and is said to be the oldest log structure in the township. The structure is not visible from the road.
Jones said that the McCann family sold the property to Wilkinson Builders about a decade ago.
“Now, because of the nature of their business, they want to turn a profit on this piece of land, and have a prospective buyer, who is interested in the land, but not the house,” she said. “We have two opposing goals, a businessman's goal to make a profit, and the Commission's goal, which is to save one of the historic resources of the township. The Historic Commission only has the authority to sway opinion, not the authority to order Wilkinson Builders not to demolish the building.”
Jones asked the supervisors if there would be any compromise scenario, one that would enable Wilkinson to build on the property, but preserve the house.
Chairperson Gordon told Jones that the township can not take any action until they receive an application for demolition from Wilkinson Builders, when it will be given a 30-day period to either approve or reject the application.
A representative from Wilkinson Builders said that the property and the historic home is currently valued “in the low three-hundred thousands.” He said he has the demolition application ready to submit to the township.