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Chester County Press

East Marlborough supervisors hear from angry Belrose residents

03/03/2015 10:40AM ● By J. Chambless

A capacity crowd of residents of Belrose turned out to address the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors on March 2.

A capacity crowd arrived early at the March 2 meeting of the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors, and they had one concern: The storm water basins in the new community of Belrose, which is south of Route 1.
During the public comment period, Benjamin Hickinbotham, president  of the Belrose Homeowners Association, spoke on behalf of the crowd of residents about basins that he insists are not functioning properly. 
“On Oct. 6, we brought to your attention that we would be submitting a hydrologocal survey to you, which we did on the 24th,” he said. “We had a promise from the board that [township engineer] Jim Hatfield would review it by Nov. 21. He has not. We did get an estimate for the work to remediate our basins plan, which he had previously approved, in excess of $200,000. The maintenance bond is $160,000. What we're interested in is getting a firm commitment this time that Jim will actually review the plan. And we'd ask you if you believe that the person who previously approved the work should be the person who reviews the plans and says whether the work actually did meet the requirement.”
The homeowners association is seeking a determination of whether the basins are installed incorrectly so that they can be corrected by the builder before a May deadline for the community's maintenance bond.
Township solicitor Frone Crawford told Hickinbotham that, “There is a maintenance guarantee. If the facilities are not built in accordance with the approved plans, then there will be recourse, both for your community and for the township. It is Jim's practice, in my experience, to be punctual and thorough.”
Hatfield had told the board that he could not attend the March 2 meeting due to other commitments, and Hickinbotham demanded repeatedly to know whether the community's concerns were going to be addressed.
“I'm not besmirching his character, but he did submit to us, by email, that he would review it by Nov. 21,” Hickinbotham said. “It is now March 2. How can we get a guarantee that the review will be ready?”
Crawford said that Hatfield works for the board of supervisors, and that he had been directed to perform his review.
“He was directed last time to answer our hydrological survey in a couple of weeks, and he did not,” Hickinbotham replied.
Crawford responded, “Jim's been the township engineer for what, 20 years? I've never seen a situation where there's been any compromise of the township's position as a result of his not getting work done on time.”
Board of Supervisors president Cuyler Walker assured Hickinbotham that Hatfield would be at the board's April meeting. “He's a consultant for us,” Walker said of Hatfield. “He's not with the township full-time. We don't control every hour he's available. I'll be very surprised if he hasn't reviewed the plan and have substantive comments by our April meeting. While he was not able to be here tonight, we are committed to seeing that things are done correctly. I think we're all on the same side here. If the developer has not lived up to the expectations of the township, we can hold him to those obligations.”
Most of the audience left after the Belrose issue was addressed. 
In other business, the board heard an annual report about the Kennett Public Library from Donna Murray, who pointed out the increasing popularity of programs for teens being offered by the library, as well as its adult literacy programs. Murray noted that the board approved the library's name change in January. “I know there's been some negative comment about the name change on social media,” she said, “But it's a small percentage of the comments. … We all want the library to commit to the community we serve.”
Walker announced that Mark Benzel, the chairman of the township Planning Commission, had resigned his position due to a relocation, and that longtime Planning Commission member Christine Kimmel had agreed to step up as chairwoman. Kimmel sat with the board at the meeting on Monday night.
The board approved partial road closures on May 16 for the annual Kennett Run. Michael Elling, the chairman of the event, spoke to the supervisors about the fundraiser that draws a large crowd. “It's a very important area event, not just for Kennett, but it brings people from all over,” Elling said. “I'm sure it has a huge impact.”
The board heard a general overview of a new electric substation for Longwood Gardens that is planned for a property to the south of Longwood Road near Route 1. The existing substation sits off the road, shielded by trees, and the new substation, which is planned to be 7,000 square feet, will work in tandem with the older one. The new building will also be shielded by trees. 
Longwood's expansion is requiring more power, and the aging original substation needs to be supplemented. No plans were submitted to the board, and some clarification of zoning needs to be worked out before formal plans are announced.
The board heard from representatives of the Walmart store on Route 1, which is seeking a temporary outdoor sales area for nursery and landscaping products that will be set up in a side parking lot  currently used mostly by employees. The area, next to the store's garden center, would stock products like stone and topsoil, as well as plants and small trees, during daylight hours in the spring and summer. Supervisor Robert Weer pointed out that when Walmart applied to expand its location, one of the stipulations was that they wouldn't sell nursery stock outside. “This now changes that agreement,” Weer said.
Walker said that he also recalled the agreement, but pointed out that the temporary sales area would not be increasing impervious coverage or adding square footage to the store, and that it wouldn't adversely affect parking. “I also think it's a nice amenity for shoppers to be able to buy nursery products there,” Walker said. “There's a bit of inconsistency in what we heard previously from Walmart, but this is a benefit for our residents.”
In the end, the proposal was supported by Walker and board member Richard Hannum, Jr., and opposed by Weer and board member John Sarro, so it was not approved. Walker told the Walmart representatives that the matter would be studied by the township solicitor, and that they could return to the April meeting if they wanted to pursue the issue.
The board did approve a design and bid documents for the second phase of the Unionville Park. The upcoming work will include an expansion of the walking trail to complete a loop of the park, as well as landscaping. The board approved the figure of $145,900 to proceed with the second phase. Township Manager Jane Laslo reminded the board and the audience that the funding is coming from state and county grants, as well as several other grants.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the township building. Visit www.eastmarlborough.org for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail jchambless@chestercounty.com.

Slug: E Marl BOS March 4

Photo by John Chambless
E. Marl
A capacity crowd of residents of Belrose turned out to address the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors on March 2.

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