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Supervisors vote to lift age restrictions in residential portion of PREIT project

08/12/2015 11:19AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors issued a statement at their Aug. 10 meeting that supported a request by The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust – commonly referred to as PREIT –  that effectively lifts the age restriction of the planned 55-and-over residential component of PREIT's planned White Clay Point project. 
The board action was in response to a request made by PREIT representative Chris Mrosinksi at its July 20 meeting, asking the board to erase the age restriction, which had originally been written in the 2007 settlement agreement the township finalized with PREIT in 2007. Mrosinski told the supervisors that if the township lifts the age restriction on future development, it would facilitate a quicker discussion with four real estate developers who have expressed interest to PREIT about developing the property. Mrosinski said that three of the four developers told him that unless the township lifts the age restriction ban, they would not be “the right people to talk to right now.”
Lifting the age restriction, he said, would free PREIT up to a broader base of potential developers, who would be able to market the residences to a larger audience.
The board's decision, which was reached during an executive session held on July 29, agrees with  PREIT's request, but it does so with several requirements.  Reading from a prepared statement, Township Manager Tony Scheivert said that the board reached its decision after weighing two options that board had in lifting the age restriction of the proposed residences: either to amend the zoning ordinance to permit non age-restricted development; or to amend the settlement agreement, subject to court approval. 
“The Board has indicated its support of removing the age restriction based upon PREIT’s request, by a court-approved amendment to the settlement agreement,” the statement read. “Prior to making any decision or taking any vote, the board has asked PREIT for assurances that with the restriction lifted, there would be compliance with all of the terms of the settlement agreement including road and sewer improvements, and agreement on changes to the plans that must be made if the community is no longer age-restricted. In addition, the board agreed that it would not make a final motion until it hears from PREIT representatives. To date, PREIT has not responded to the board's decision.
Still in the negotiation and planning phase, White Clay Point is projected to be a 187-acre mixed-use project in the township along Gap-Newport Pike that will provide for 84 acres of retail space, 52 acres devoted to a town center and 51 acres dedicated to the construction of 83 single detached units. The residences are planned for the property adjacent to the Hartefeld development and golf course, near Sharp Road. 
In other township news, Dave Yake of the Save Our Water Committee brought the board up to date on the group's continued opposition to the request by Artesian Water Pennsylvania, Inc.'s application to activate the Broad Run Well in the township, for the purpose of extracting up to 288,000 gallons of water a day for distribution to as many as 1,100 homes. Yake said that a public hearing – and possible ruling – on the issue is expected to be on the agenda at the Delaware River Basin Commission's [DRBC] review board meeting on Sept. 15 and 16.
Spelling out the need and supply equation that has served as one of the Commission's key oppositions in Artesian's request, Yake again stressed that the amount of water that Artesian has requested far outweighs what's currently needed to supply the 38 homes in the immediate vicinity of the well, which has led not only the Commission but several other township residents and officials to speculate that the water will be pumped across state lines into New Castle County. 
“There's over 2,000 people have signed petitions to stop Artesian from using this well,” Yake continued. “We're concerned about over-pumping and over mining of the aquifer. When 80 percent of the water is going to exported to Delaware, there is very little benefit for New Garden Township, and certainly not a need for Artesian to be supplying water when we have a business structure from the Chester Water Authority. We want to make sure that Artesian is going to abide by and apply for state and local  regulatory ordinance approvals.”
Yake told the supervisors that if Artesian is granted permission to activate the well, the Commission wants input into the regulatory process of the well; specifically, to place production limitations with on-going adjustments, if needed; a full and regular disclosure of water distribution records to be supplied by Artesian; and “trigger” points that can enforce these limitations.
“We want to have a process that clearly states up front, 'Run a test and if the test has negative consequences, the triggers trig in.' Over the year, if different triggers need to be imposed, designed and installed, then they can be done.”
The numbers just don't add up, Yake said. 
“The conclusion is, there must be another business driver [for Artesian], so what is their endgame?”Yake said. “Instead of talking about this production well, the question becomes, 'Are they looking to higher future production?' In the spirit of transparency, what is their plan?”
Over the past several months, as the issue of the Broad Run Well has been contended between friend and foe, and at the same time, pushed through the sausage-making grinder of several regulatory agencies, each of whom have rendered both opinion and action. As those with a stake in the well await the DRBC ruling in September, the question remains: Who is the ultimate arbiter on the final decision, the DRBC, the Public Utilities Commission [PUC] or the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP]?
“We don't know for sure,” Yake said. “Our analysis of the DEP regulations would suggest that the DRBC would have approval, but if they approve it, that does not mean that the well would automatically go into production. The DEP would first have to rule on a permit. The bottom line, there is some uncertainty around who has final decision rights. I would hope that those two organizations would be working closely together, so that the regulatory process is seamless.”
The board approved a request for final approval on the land development process for Manfredi Cold Storage on West Baltimore Pike. 
The board also approved – at an initial cost of $8,000 and a yearly $2,500 contract – to further develop the township's website, as well as gave approval to the production of new township calendars, that will include important township dates and activities, and provide advertising opportunities for local businesses. The calendars will distributed to every home in the township. 
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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