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Chester County Press

Soil ordinance recommendation for township reaches compromise

08/23/2016 09:45AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

On Aug. 3, with the support of the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, Kennett Township John Wilkens requested that the township hold all developers of new residential properties to obtaining a Certificate of Soil Compliance from the township, which involves an approved environmental firm sampling of the soil to determine if they are above or below an acceptable level of arsenic.
Wilkens' request was in response to toxic arsenic being found at the Sweetbriar and Sinclair Springs developments, currently under construction in the township. Arsenic had once been used as a pesticide for apple orchards that had once grown and been cultivated at these properties.
Further, Wilkens requested that developers should provide documentation of the completion of any proposed soil remediation, including re-sampling and analysis of key points of contamination.
It was a good idea, the township's Board of Supervisors agreed, but they felt that creating an ordinance of this kind would overlap similar regulations and standards of enforcement being done by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other environmental watchdogs.
At the board's Aug. 17 meeting, based on the recommendation of the township's engineers, the Board of Supervisors officially balked at creating a separate ordinance, but agreed that checks and balances should be in place. They approved the engineers' recommendations, which state that those who approach development in the township should be required to provide the township with an environmental impact statement related to their project. For simple applications, the statement can be a simple note, added to the record plan, stating that there are no known environmental issues found at the site.
For more complicated applications, developers would be required to provide a Phase I and Phase II environmental report that addresses any potential concerns or hazards on the site.
"(The township's engineers) feel that the DEP has the ultimate responsibility to provide permits for soil remediation, and do not suggest the township create an ordinance," said Township Manager Lisa Moore. "They recommended that if the township moves forward with the requirement of the environmental impact statement or report, that the township could make an amendment for future subdivision land development ordinance."
The supervisors agreed to authorize Township Solicitor David Sander to create a draft of the ordinance, which will be sent to the supervisors for review. If it is acceptable to the board, it would then be sent to the township's Planning Commission and the Chester County Planning Commission for review, and then be discussed at a public hearing.
"There will be certain pieces of information that have to be provided, so that the board can get an overall view of the environmental impact of the proposed development," Sander said. "Unless there is an ordinance section that says 'You shall do this' or 'You shall not do that' and it is violated, you can't reject or not approve a plan, but this gives you the information that you may need to add a condition that may be acceptable to the developer, in order to mitigate environmental impacts."
Sander said that initiating these checks and balances would add another layer of costs to developers who would pay for environmental studies, but the township would be on the hook, too, particularly on the analysis for two-phase studies, which would require the need for consultants.
It's expensive, but necessary, said Board Chairman Scudder Stevens.
"The fact that you have to spend money to get the information belies the fact that you need the information to be able to make appropriate judgment as to what you're doing," he said. "It may be unfortunate, but that's the game."
Stevens gave credit to the TLC and Wilkens for their work in introducing the need for a soil ordinance, saying that although the agreed-upon idea is different from what they had recommended in early August, "it goes to the same place, and I think that it would give us the flexibility without creating the potential overlap, which could actually be a detriment to what we're doing," he said.
"With great respect and deference to what you have already helped us to understand about the seriousness of the problem, your input would then be able to help us to properly approach it, so that we're more effective in getting to the common end that we want."
Stevens called for an all-hands-on-deck approach to tightening the township's proposed regulations, one that would enlist not only Wilkens and the TLC, but also members of the township's Environmental Advisory Committee.
Although the requirement of environmental statements and reports would add another step of approval for those who are considering the township for future development, Stevens said that it's all part of the "tension" of living in the 21st Century.
"You shut your eyes and throw a dart and you will hit a problem, whether it's global warming or the destruction our ground water or the quality of the air," he said. "We have to live with that tension and find resolution with it."
"The township in its greater wisdom is saying that there are certain standards we require, and those standards have been proposed externally, and they come from within the township, as well. It may be that this is a bridge too far. I don't think it is, but I don't know."
In other township news, the board voted unanimously to support the recommendation of the township's Historic Commission to reconstruct the existing front porch of historic Fussell House as is, rather than construct a smaller porch, reminiscent of a lithograph of the building, shown to the board, that dates back to 1881.
The township purchased the 190-year-old house, located on 723 E. Baltimore Pike in Kennett Square, in January, for the price of $200,000, through the township's Capital Fund. It is being considered as the future home of the township's police department, and renovations are now underway.
Sara Meadows, the chairperson of the Commission, said that rehabbing the current porch will be less expensive than demolishing it and building a new porch, and will also provide for easy accessibility for the disabled.
“This has to be a building that we can use,” she said. “The township has to justify this building. We can't just make it a museum that's going to be a recreation to a certain period. I don't think it's fair to the residents of the township.”
The house is one of more than three dozen Underground Railroad sites in southern Chester County, and part of the largest concentration of Underground Railroad sites in the United States. It once served as a refuge for runaway slaves to find safety, shelter, food and clothing along their journey north to freedom. More than 2,000 runaway slaves were helped to freedom there by Quaker physician and anti-slavery activist, Dr. Bartholomew Fussell and his wife, Lydia.
The commission is working with architect Todd Breck of Breckstone Architects on the refurbishing of the house.
By a 3-0 vote, the board approved Resolution No.2016-20 to approve the Roadway Sufficiency Analysis, recommended by the township's Traffic Impact Fee Advisory Committee. The study is being developed by the Conshohocken-based Remington Vernick & Beach Engineers.
Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt told the supervisors that the township has purchased a mobile digital sign, which will be used for a variety of purposes, including event parking, traffic direction, road closings and emergency services.
Nolt said that Chester County's Emergency Services unit announced that the Text 9-1-1 program is now fully operational. This will allow residents to text a 9-1-1 report directly from their mobile phone.
Nolt also thanked the board for their support of the township's involvement at the National Night Out event, held in the East Linden neighborhood in Kennett Square on Aug. 2.
“This is an important commitment for me personally, and it's so exciting to see political entities take the same interest in their community,” Nolt told the board. “The event was a huge success. We had kids not only from the borough but from the township, as well. We had members of the community, as well as representatives from the County Commissioners, the District Attorney's office, State representatives and many more people. This is a shining example of everyone coming together to build a better community.”
Eagle Construction was named as the low bidder for the Marshall Bridge Road Stabilization Project, with an estimate of $207,000. After proper review of the bid, construction to repair and support the stream banks that have worn away through erosion is expected to begin in September. Detour signage will be posted in the area of South Bridge Drive, Bucktoe Hills, Clifton Mills Bridge and the Five Points Intersection, and additional information about the work will be published on the township's website.
The township will host a meeting on Oct. 5, to elicit public comment on the possibility of adding Kennett Township to the Brandywine Creek Greenway, a project being coordinated by the Brandywine Conservancy.
The township is also scheduling a tutorial at the board's next meeting in September, to help residents navigate through its newly-designed website.
As part of a joint project with Kennett Borough, the township will take part in a meeting on Oct. 2 at the American Legion Building in Kennett Square, to present the economic study that is exploring business opportunities in areas that border both the township and the borough.
The Kennett Fire Company will host a special “Truck Housing” event at its facility on Aug. 27, to officially dedicate its newly-purchased fire vehicle.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail

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