East Marlborough supervisors OK 2019 budget and wrestle with development issues
● By J. Chambless
This home, on a large property at 639 Mill Rd., will be demolished after an agreement was reached with the prospective buyers.
By John Chambless
During a Dec. 3 meeting that stretched
to the four-hour mark, the announcement of a balanced 2019 budget for
East Marlborough Township was almost a sidelight. The Board of
Supervisors approved the figures late in the meeting, with a balanced
general fund budget of $2.9 million requiring no tax increase for the
coming year. The sewer fund, fuel fund and park budget were also
balanced for 2019, and received unanimous approval.
But development issues took the spotlight for most of the evening. The planned Toll Brothers community of 42 single-family homes on land formerly occupied by the Willow Green Nursery on Route 82 was the focus of a long debate as the developer sought final plan approval from the board. The homes will be constructed on the west side of Route 82, with open recreational space on the other side of the road, linked by a lighted pedestrian crosswalk. The building that houses the nursery business will be retained by the property owners, the Pratt family. A sidewalk will be built by Toll Brothers on the east side of Route 82 that will link the development north to the Route 926 intersection.
The crosswalk, while still in the design phase, will have a concrete island in the center where pedestrians can wait while crossing Route 82 if necessary. Painted stripes will define the island, and there will be flashing beacons on either side of the road that will be operated by pedestrians who wish to cross the road. If for some reason the buttons are not pushed, thermal imaging sensors will operate the lights automatically.
A Toll Brothers representative said a traffic study suggests reducing speed on Route 82 to 25 miles per hour near the development, and there was a long debate about how far to extend that speed limit on Route 82, which has been a focus of concern due to routine speeding.
Cuyler Walker of the township Planning Commission detailed landscape buffering that has been ordered to screen the public areas of the new community from surrounding homes. Trees will be planted along property lines, and a raised berm has been suggested to delineate one home's property line from the open space, which will be used for recreation.
The supervisors ultimately approved the final Toll Brothers plan, with a list of conditions that must be met before construction can begin.
A request to allow demolition of a stone farmhouse at 639 Mill Road came as a surprise to some of the supervisors, particularly Julia Lacy, who announced that she was seeing the proposal for the first time at the meeting. The home sits on more than 200 acres and has been for sale for a decade. Listed at one point for $5.7 million, the property has had interest from a developer seeking to build multiple homes, but no other offers that would have preserved the features of the site, which include a well-preserved schoolhouse, lime kilns, quarries and the renmants of a dam that have been listed as historic resources in the township.
The home, which has a central portion dating to the 1720s, has deteriorated over the past decade of vacancy, and the realtor for the prospective buyers told the board that due to outdated systems, weather damage, low ceilings, and a layout in which “no two rooms are on the same level,” the home has been deemed unsalvageable. The buyers told the board they want to demolish the original home and build a new one for their family, while retaining the other historic assets of the property.
The township Historic Commission had previously agreed to the demolition, but the supervisors wrestled with destroying “a class-one historic resource” in the township, as board member Robert McKinstry said. Since the home was not on any historic register, it was determined that the board could not block its demolition. Township solicitor Frone Crawford asked that a document formally spell out that the buyers can demolish the home, but only if the other historic resources are maintained, and the buyers, who have a Dec. 11 closing date on the property, agreed. The board voted to allow the demolition, with McKinstry abstaining.
The board unanimously approved committing $250,000 of open space funds to preserve four properties in conjunction with the Chester County Agricultural Board. The farms – at 720 Byrd Rd., 659 Byrd Rd., 550 Schoolhouse Rd., and 334 W. Street Rd. – range from 10 to 35 acres each, and will be restricted from development. The owners will be encouraged to keep them in agricultural use.
At the beginning of the meeting, during public comment, several neighbors of a home at 101 Poplar Tree Road expressed concern about rumors that the home would be demolished. Board of Supervisors chairman Richard Hannum said the board had no requests for demolition of the home, which had been blocked from demolition previously in 2016.
Another neighbor asked about a barn structure that has begun construction on the property, and asked whether its height violated any ordinances. The garage, which will be about 2.5 stories tall, is larger than other buildings on the street, and will look out of place, the neighbor told the board. Charles Streitwieser of the Planning Commission said that the garage placement does not violate setback rules, and seems to fall within the allowable height restrictions.
Several residents of West Locust Lane asked for an update on speeding issues along the heavily-traveled road, and board member John Sarro said that progress is being made. Supervisors have met with the residents, and Sarro said money is in the 2019 budget to purchase a second flashing speed advisory sign for the township that will be placed on West Locust Lane. It should be purchased and in place within the next few months.
Updated township information is posted at www.eastmarlborough.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.