Kennett Square Borough adopts some Kennett Region Economic Development Study recommendations, rejects others
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough partnered with Kennett Township and Historic Kennett Square to commission an economic development study of the Kennett region. The resulting 234-page report, completed in 2016, provided an analysis of the economic, real estate, labor, and land-development conditions in the borough and the township. The purpose of the study was to provide local leaders with information that would help them plot a course for the region’s future.
Local officials identified seven locations to be analyzed for potential growth in the future: the State Street corridor; the Cypress Street corridor; Birch Street from Walnut to Broad Street; the area known as Millers Hill on the eastern boundary between the borough and the township; the Ways Lane area in Kennett Township; the former NVF site in the borough; and the area on the west side of Mill Road in the township. The study included a project goal for each of the locations, as well as actions that could be taken at the local level to achieve the goals. These recommendations were completely non-binding.
At the June 4 meeting, Kennett Square Borough Council discussed adopting the recommendations that were included in the Kennett Region Economic Development Study. It quickly became apparent that the seven borough council members were extremely divided about whether it was beneficial for them to formally adopt the recommendations.
Council member Ethan Cramer said that he didn’t support adopting the recommendations because they were not in line with what he, or the other council members, envisioned for the borough.
“When we approve things like this, it matters,” Cramer said, explaining that he didn’t want anyone to make an assumption about how borough council would feel about a particular redevelopment project based on the approval of these recommendations in the study.
While other members of council shared Cramer’s view, others thought that the study was what it was—an economic development study that included recommendations, and there was no harm in approving the recommendations
Council member Doug Doerfler pointed out that approving the recommendations would not obligate the borough to a specific vision for redevelopment in any of the areas included in the study.
Council member Peter Waterkotte agreed, saying that the purpose of the economic development study was to explore the various options that might be available moving forward. Waterkotte said, “What we're looking at are ideas of what the possibilities might look like, not what they will be.”
Council president LaToya Myers offered a sentiment similar to Cramer’s, saying that if borough council approved the recommendations, they could be considered as guiding documents for local officials to rely on. If council doesn’t agree with the vision reflected in the study, then council should vote against it.
“We hear all the time that people are looking for direction,” Myers explained. “If we don't believe in these things [and we approve them], how are we providing direction?”
As the council members discussed approving the recommendations for each area one by one, they divided themselves into two camps—those in favor of approving the study recommendations, and those against them.
By a 4-3 vote, council approved the recommendations for Birch Street, with council members Waterkotte, Doerfler, Wayne Braffman, and Jamie Mallon voting for them and council members Myers, Cramer, and Brenda Mercomes voting against it.
The vote was also 4-3 on the plans for State Street and Cypress Street.
“I think we're on a different page here,” Waterkotte observed.
When the discussion turned to Mill Road and NVF, the complexities involved with redeveloping the NVF parcel, which is a brownfield site, swayed Mallon to join those voting against the motion, so it failed, 4-3.
Borough council ultimately took a pass on the motions related to Millers Hill and Ways Lane because they are situated in Kennett Township, not the borough.
In his Finance Committee report, council member Wayne Braffman informed council that the committee recently discussed two major projects that are in the planning stages—a new expansion of the parking garage and an update to the wastewater treatment plant. He said that the borough will likely seek a bank note to fund the balance of the costs not paid for by grants. Revenues generated as a result of the projects will offset the costs, and Braffman said that the borough will not use property tax dollars to fund either project. The parking fund and the sewer fund is healthy enough to support the projects, he added.
Braffman also provided council and residents with data regarding the wastewater treatment plant flows from 1999 to 2017. The wastewater treatment plant has a maximum daily capacity of 1.1 million gallons. Average daily flows have ranged from a high of 65 percent in 1999 and 2000 to a low of 44 percent in 2012. During 2016 and 2017, the average daily flows were at 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively. Braffman noted that the average daily flows are not approaching the system's limits, which allows the borough to enter into agreements to provide capacity for residential or commercial developments in the neighboring townships. This provides revenues to the borough's sewer fund, an important piece to the borough's financial puzzle.
Borough council unanimously approved the special events application for the Mushroom Cap Half Marathon, which will take place on Nov. 3, and the Kennett Brewfest, which is slated for Oct. 13.
Kennett Square mayor Matthew Fetick issued a proclamation honoring borough employee Troy Stevenson. Stevenson, a member of the public works department for the last 23 years, found a two-year-old child who was wandering on the street. Not only did Stevenson keep the child from running out into traffic, he also then went door-to-door in the neighborhood until he found the home where the child belonged. The child had slipped away from his family unnoticed, and everyone was pleased that Stevenson had managed to keep the child safe and went above and beyond to get him home.
Incredibly, Stevenson's good deeds didn't end there. Fetick noted that Stevenson also recently prevented a boy from running into a pond at Anson B. Nixon Park. He also came to the aid of an elderly woman who had fallen and was calling for help.
“We're so proud to have you as part of the team,” Fetick said.
Kennett Square Borough Council will meet again on Monday, June 18.
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SLUG: Kennett Square Borough June 4