Ecovillage concept getting new life in West Grove
● By Richard Gaw
On Aug. 7, 2013, the London Grove Board of Supervisors gave final plan approval for the development of the Three Groves Ecovillage in West Grove, an environmentally conscious, pedestrian village that was expected to break ground that September, on 7.5 acres that once served on a mushroom farm, adjacent to Goddard Park.
Located on the corner of Prospect Avenue and West State Road, Three Groves was to be a 37-unit complex – made up of 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom units – that incorporated sustainable and energy-efficient practices and designed to meet meet Net Zero Energy and LEED Platinum Certification.
It was going to have a rain garden, an orchard, a natural pool, walkways and a common house that would be used for public gatherings.
Its plans called for all cars to be parked on the periphery of the site for safety, so that the visual emphasis of the village would remain on its open spaces.
It would be built in partnership with nationally-recognized green building developers and architects, and be constructed of durable and quality construction using recycled materials.
As the original members of Three Groves gathered in the lobby of the London Grove Township building moments after the 5-0 vote was tallied, their enthusiasm was infectious. They were going to be the trailblazers of a concept largely foreign to Chester County, that would combine the best of sustainable ideas and let it flourish within a community of like-minded thinkers.
It would be a model for living whose principles would most certainly be duplicated in municipalities and townships from Chadds Ford to West Nottingham.
It never happened.
Over time, the original concept for Three Groves began to lose its marketability factor. The price points for units in the village were thought by many to be above the range for most families who would be drawn to living there. From a lifestyle standpoint, its original design attempted to wedge an across-the-board commitment to sustainability into a world where convenience is everything. Three Groves was originally designed to be a pedestrian-only village, which would not be conducive for individuals and families who were used to accommodations like being able to park their vehicle near their home.
Now, after a five-year dormancy, the Three Groves Ecovillage is experiencing a rebirth, with revised plans and a firm commitment to see the project from drawings to construction. On Nov. 19, Alyson M. Zarro of Riley, Riper, Hollin & Colagreco, the attorney for Three Groves and key principal Peter Kjellerup, presented revised conditional use plans for the the ecovillage.
It was the planned project's third conditional use hearing before the London Grove Township board of supervisors, following hearings in August and September, which heard comments from township engineer Ron Ragan and township fire marshal Robert Weer.
Michele Adams, principal and founder of Meliora, a Phoenixville-based design firm, discussed the particulars of the reconfigured site plans, before the board and several township residents.
While the ecovillage is being proposed again in the same West Grove location, its revised plans call for a reduction of units to be built from 37 to 32 in a breakdown that will offer 24 three-bedroom town homes between 2,000 and 2,400 square feet per unit, and eight town homes that are sized at 1,650 square feet per unit. The inclusion of a common house in the first design has been removed in the second design, and the original plans for two access driveways – one to State Road and the other to Prospect Street – will remain the same in the new design.
Adams said that the parking area will include 64 spaces, and will be slightly reconfigured to allow for more room for fire and emergency service vehicles. In addition, she said that the ecovillage will include a pedestrian walkway that will extend from the lower units and connect to the sidewalk on Prospect Street.
At the conclusion of the Nov. 19 hearing, township solicitor William Link said that the record is now closed for the Three Groves application, and that the board's decision on the conditional use application for the planned project must be reached by Feb. 6, 2019.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.