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Chester County Press

Presentations spell out plans for township's economic and environmental future

09/27/2016 03:05PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Two presentations given at the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 21 gave a clear snapshot into the township's long-term vision for sustainability, as well as its pursuit of smart-growth economic opportunities.
In a detailed presentation, the economic and environmental divisions of the township's Sustainable Development Office – an executive team created by the township earlier this year – looked into the crystal ball of the township's future through the prism of the group's key initiatives.
Environmental Sustainability Director Mike Guttman listed the Office's four environmental goals, which include the development of the Kennett Greenway, a 12-mile stretch of contiguous hiking and biking trail along Route 52; the active transportation program, to develop an inventory and assessment of existing and planned roads and highways; the land stewardship program, to proactively encourage more ecologically beneficial and sustainable land management practices in the township; and the indoor agriculture program, to explore the emerging technology of indoor growing possibilities in the township.
Speaking about the economic side of the Office's goals, Pat Muller said sound sustainable economic development must balance the requirements of the quality of life and open space with the recruitment of business opportunities.
“Holistic economic development reduces the barriers and allows easy access to investment opportunities,” she said. “It integrates 'green' initiatives into the planning process. It creates a vision and it acts on that vision to move forward, and it identifies appropriate financial incentives to encourage desired growth.”
One of the Office's economic goals is trying to resurrect the Kennett Area Arts Alliance, as a means of using the arts to promote the Kennett Township area “as a place to be.”
“You might ask yourself, 'What do the arts have to do with economic development?'” Muller said. “The arts in general are economic currency. (The arts) contribute 3.2 percent to the GEP, enhance learning, and give us a reason to visit and live.”
The work being done by the Office is intended to counter-balance the projected growth in Chester County.   Land Stewardship Coordinator Kathryn Pearlstine said that of all counties in the Philadelphia-area region, the county  is expected to grow in population as much as 30 percent by 2040, the largest of any county in the area.
“Our goal is to maximize the benefit of open space in the township, and we do this through a comprehensive natural resource program to maintain the aesthetic environment, assure a healthy environment for residents and contribute to sustainable economic growth,” Pearlstine said.
On the back of the Office's presentation, West Chester-based architect Thomas Comitta unveiled the guiding principles of modernized business innovation, which redefines the mission of what business parks, in conjunction with 'green' practices and design.
Targeting Kennett Township's future economic initiatives, Comitta spelled out a 13-point guideline for a Business Innovation Land Development District [BILD], which sees the transformation of the township's business corridors as the new “Main Street,” which re-purposes existing structures as places for shopping, dining and employment.
If implemented by the township, the plan – supported by the Sustainable Development Office – would fully engage stewardship and sustainability by creating business centers that that combine commerce with the aesthetics of well-designed pedestrian gathering areas, such as streetscapes, plazas, parks, benches, walkways and rain gardens.
“In the last 41 years, our firm has represented 137 municipalities, and of that number, 93 are townships, so 67 percent of our client base has been townships,” he said. “Kennett Township is the only township who is doing this.
“This is a sleeper opportunity to create tax ratables to help in the overall equation of proper money flows in Kennett Township.”
In other township business, the township, along with eight other municipalities and the Kennett Library, received a Vision Partnership grant to explore the feasibility of creating a site that would house a community center, a library and borough hall. There will be as many as four public meetings related to the initiative.
The township will host an official soft opening of Barkingfield Park on Oct. 23, beginning at 3 p.m., which will give residents an opportunity to get a sense of what the final layout of the park will be.  Refreshments will be served.
There is a demolition permit before the township for the historic Cox Tenant House, issued by Chatham Financial, who owns the structure. The township's Planning Commission is reviewing the specifics of the permit, and the board voted to suspend the demolition of the building until after a study of it is completed. The study will be paid for by Chatham Financial.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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