East Marlborough residents turn out to hear details of Route 1 improvements
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
The crowded Route 1 corridor through East Marlborough Township is a challenge for commuters and residents alike, and an overflow crowd came to the East Marlborough Township Building on April 4 to find out what changes are in store for the busy commercial zone.
Frank Eells, project manager, said the upcoming PennDOT roadwork project will slightly widen the roadway and smooth out the rough pavement from the Longwood Gardens overpass to the Kennett Bypass split. The most noticeable change will be three full traffic lanes in each direction. While there are three lanes already in place, the outer edge functions more as a shoulder at present. When the project is finished, there will be three lanes and curbing, but no shoulder.
Eells said there will be a sidewalk added to the north side of Route 1, and a portion of the corner near the CVS store at Bayard Road will be shaved off to make left turns onto Route 1 easier for large trucks. There will be additional traffic signals for the expanded three lanes, and the median wall will be extended from Bayard Road to Ladbrooke Lane.
"There will be an adaptive traffic signal system," Eells said. The computerized system will adapt itself to traffic conditions, altering stop and go lights according to the amount of traffic. Two cameras will be installed so PennDOT can monitor traffic conditions.
No additional land will be taken to allow for the widening, Eells said, since it will all be within the right-of-way.
"A design will be completed by the summer of 2017," he said, "and construction should start in the spring of 2018. It will take four to five months to complete." The cost is estimated to be $5 million in federal money.
A home on the southern edge of the Unionville Historic District, at 101 Poplar Tree Road, was the focus of a lengthy discussion between neighbors, the Board of Supervisors and Brian Harlan, one of two investors in the property. The home, which sits on a 1.7-acre corner lot, needs restoration. Harlan was seeking a vote from the board about whether he could demolish the home, which he says would cost too much to refurbish by itself. Or, to pay for saving the historic home, Harlan said, a new home could be built on the lot next to it.
"Ideally, we'd like to take off the back portion of the home, which is not historic," Harlan said, "and put on a new addition with a kitchen and bedroom, and keep the existing structure. We'd like to restore the home."
Two neighbors expressed concern that if the demolition goes ahead, it would set a bad precedent for homeowners in the Historic District who could then do what they wanted with their properties.
Township solicitor Frone Crawford clarified the debate, saying, "If the subdivision plan is approved, they would fix the old home and build a new home on the lot. Without the subdivision, they can build a larger home in the middle of the property and the old home would stand empty as an accessory building, not a house. They would have to maintain the exterior, according to the zoning ordinance."
Harlan said the home was purchased with the hope that it could be saved, but to pay for it, there has to be some sort of additional home built on the lot.
Supervisors visited the home to see its condition last month. Supervisor John Sarro said "our recommendation is to allow you to tear down the back of the building and put up a new addition to save the historic part."
Supervisor Eddie Caudill said "renovations would not take a lot of money. The floors in there are beautiful. I'm totally against tearing it down."
The board voted unanimously to deny a demolition permit.
Harlan admitted, "I think we're fighting a losing battle with the Zoning Hearing Board. We'd like support for a subdivision to be able to put a new structure onto the existing home and build a second home on the lot to make it financially viable, but we don't want to fight the neighbors. We're not going to take the back of the building off and expose it and put money into repairing the outside to protect it if we're just going to be building a new home in the middle of the lot. We're going to leave it as-is and that's it."
The fate of the property remains up in the air, since any changes would have to be approved by the Zoning Hearing Board and the Historic and Architectural Review Board.
Toward the end of the meeting, the board discussed a police agreement with West Marlborough Township. "We've been in touch with West Marlborough about a reduction in hours and an amendment in scope of service," said board chairman Richard Hannum. The revised police services provided to West Marlborough would be a monthly amount of 12.5 hours, at the rate of $80 per hour, for a total of $1,000 monthly.
Supervisor Bob Weer objected to the deal. "We have a Chief of Police in East Marlborough and he's scheduled to work 40 hours a week for East Marlborough, and now he's providing coverage for West Marlborough. I don't think it's right to permit our Chief of Police to perform duties in a neighboring township,” Weer said. “All this could be handled by part-time officers. I don't think East Marlborough should subsidize police protection in a neighboring township.
"We hired a part-time police officer and we also hired a part-time person who works in the police office," Weer added. "I think he's spreading himself too thin with these other responsibilities. On principle, I'm not in favor of this."
Chief Robert Clarke, who was in the audience, bristled at Weer's comments. "You get me for 40 hours," he said. "What I do on my time is my business. The former Chief of Police did not choose to work anything else. As a favor to the township, I work those other details. You're getting your money's worth out of me. I feel like I'm being scapegoated here, and I don't appreciate it. This is a personnel issue, and should not be in a public forum."
Hannum asked Clarke, "From the staff as it stands now, with two part-time people, do you feel like you can cover West Marlborough as has been agreed to?"
"Yes sir. No problem," Clarke replied.
The deal with West Marlborough Township was approved by a vote of 4 to 1.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.