Kennett Square Borough Council approves three ordinance amendments
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough Council handled a number of items on its agenda at the July 5 meeting, including three ordinance amendments that had been topics of discussion in recent months.
A public hearing was held regarding amendments to the borough's Subdivision and Land Development Plan regulations. In May, borough council made some changes to the ordinance, including the addition of a fee-in-lieu for developers that have projects that must go through the subdivision and land development process. The purpose of the amendments was to ensure that there are green spaces in town for residents and businesses. Specifically, developers would be required to either provide land for park and recreation or a fee-in-lieu to satisfy the requirement. Single-family homes on existing lots are exempt from the ordinance. However, during the process of discussing the amendments, council members wanted further changes. For example, council member Wayne Braffman suggested that there should be a requirement that the funds collected through the fees should be used for new projects that provide additional parks and recreation improvements to the town, rather than allowing these funds to be used for maintenance or operations costs.
At the onset of the July 5 public hearing, Mike Peters, an attorney with borough solicitor Eastburn and Gray, outlined the proposed changes.
Council president Dan Maffei said that he favored the current ordinance on the books, and not the proposal under consideration.
“I believe that the language in the current ordinance is correct,” he said, explaining that he doesn't see any reason to exclude maintenance from how the money can be used. With the borough so built-out, there are dwindling opportunities to have green spaces in town, and Maffei said that maintaining and operating the green spaces that the borough has is important enough to use the funding raised by the fees.
“It's my intention to vote against the ordinance change,” Maffei said.
Braffman countered that there is a danger, if the money is used for maintenance and operations, for the borough to use the money for general expenses instead of remaining true to the intent of the ordinance, which is to use the one-time revenues for expanding parks and recreation opportunities for borough residents.
Braffman, LaToya Myers, Ethan Cramer, and Geoffrey Bosley voted in favor of the new ordinance amendments, while Maffei, Jamie Mallon, and Doug Doerfler voted against it.
Next, borough council considered an ordinance amendment that would require zoning compliance as a prerequisite for the consideration of subdivision and land development plans. This would require all applicants to obtain all the necessary zoning relief prior to the submittal, consideration, and approval of preliminary and final subdivision and land-development applications.
“Different municipalities treat this differently,” Peters said, explaining that about half the municipalities require developers to obtaining the zoning relief before they seek land-development approval. By doing it this way, the borough staff won't have to expend the time and energy on the work that is required during the land-development process until a developer has secured zoning approval. Council approved this ordinance amendment.
The third ordinance amendment under consideration would eliminate the conditional-use approval process in all zoning districts within the historic district overlay in favor of utilizing the HARB regulations that are in place.
Peters explained that the borough has adopted new HARB criteria, which is not the same as the conditional-use criteria. Relying on solely the HARB criteria will streamline process for everyone involved. Council unanimously approved the ordinance.
In other business at the July 5 meeting, borough council signed off on the HARB applications for 102 East State Street, 201 South Willow Street, and 319 South Union Street. At 102 East State Street, the owner of La Madera Bistro was seeking approval for signage. At 201 South Willow Street, the owner was also seeking approval for signage. The owners of a home at 319 Union Street were seeking approval of a demolition of an existing rear add-on structure and the construction of a new extension to the house. The HARB reviewed all the applications and recommended that council approve each one—which it did.
Council also approved the Special Event Applications for the 31st annual Mushroom Festival, which will take place on Sept. 10 and 11, as well as the Mushroom Festival Parade and the Dining and Dancing on State events that are slated for Sept. 9.
In his Finance Committee report, Bosley said that the committee has been exploring the concept of asking for contribution in lieu of taxes from organizations in the community that are tax-exempt. Bosley noted that these tax-exempt organizations still utilize borough services, including public safety services, and the contributions could help offset the costs to the borough.
During public comment, several residents expressed concerns about The Creamery, the new pop-up beer garden that has been drawing good crowds in its first year of operation. The Creamery offers craft beer and wine, food vendors, live music, and family-friendly activities, but several residents said that they are disturbed by the noise, trash, and traffic issues that have resulted for Birch Street and some of the surrounding streets. Customers of The Creamery have been parking in the neighborhood, creating issues for local residents.
Resident Ken Edwards expressed concerns about seeing wires that are exposed and could present a safety issue. He also said that there are permanent cooking operations set up, which runs counter to the pop-up beer garden concept.
At the end of the meeting, Braffman responded to the comments, explaining that council members are hearing the concerns that are being raised. Braffman noted that the borough issued a temporary permit for The Creamery, which is good through the end of this year, and that they have the opportunity to make sure that these issues are resolved.
“We have six months to make a decision,” Braffman said. “We have to make sure that it's safe. We have to get this right.”
Braffman noted that The Creamery is a creative, new use for an under-used property in the borough, and that, “It has the potential to be a good project for the borough.”