Kennett board approves two new development plans in township
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
The Kennett Township Board of Supervisors gave their approval at their Nov. 20 meeting to two residential complexes that are currently in the design stage and are proposed to be constructed in the township.
The supervisors adopted Resolution 2019-25 that approves the conditional preliminary and final land development plan for the Novak property in Chadds Ford, subject to several conditions that were listed in the resolution. The plan proposes subdividing the 42.446-acre parcel of land at 612 Norway Road into four lots, along with an existing conservation management easement. The lots will be 4.349 acres; 4.586 acres; 4.816 acres and 8.023 acres.
The plans are to construct four single-family homes on four lots on the property, which will also contain utilities and stormwater management facilities. The subdivision meeting was attended by Craig Novak, the owner of the property, and presented to the board by Barry Walsh, an engineer with EB Walsh & Associates.
The township's Planning Commission reviewed the plan at its Nov. 12, 2019 meeting and recommended its approval. Walsh said that the plan has also received all necessary subdivison ordinance approvals, obtained nearly all permits, received several recommendation letters, and has also been reviewed by the township's engineer.
Now that the resolution has been adopted, the applicant had seven days to review the resolution and sign off on it. After being signed by the applicant, the project would then be assigned to the township engineer and zoning officer, and will become an administrative function of the township, manager Eden Ratliff said.
The board also approved Resolution 2019-26, which gave a preliminary plan approval to Mitchell Homes to develop a 21.14-acre parcel – known as the Smith Property – located on the south side of Rosedale Road in the vicinity of Walnut Street, McFarlan Road and Legacy Field. The development is proposed to include 72 single-family, two- and- three bedroom homes, along with related improvements, including utilities and stormwater management facilities. The plans call for the development to have two entrances/exits, and streets in the development are expected to be 24 feet wide.
The residences are expected to be between 1,800- and 2,400-square feet in size and cost between the high $300,000s and the low $400,000s, said Mitch Kotler of Mitchell Homes, who chaired the presentation. The homes will be one-and-a-half stories in height and feature two-car garages and porches. The development will also include a half dozen “pocket parks” that will include exercise areas and park benches and be surrounded by landscaping.
In addition, Mitchell Homes has agreed to upgrade two pump stations in the vicinity of the planned development – one in the township and one in Kennett borough.
The township's Planning Commission reviewed the plan at its Nov. 12, 2019 meeting and recommended approval of the plan, which has also received several recommendations from consultants.
Kotler said that the planned development will target Millennials and move-down buyers, who are looking to remain in a home and not have to move to a condominium-style residence.
“We looked at this and determined that within the Kennett area, there is a glut – in my opinion – of town home developments, as developers are seeking to meet the lower price point to serve Millennials,” he said. “We didn't want to add to that, and even though we're looking for a lower price point, we wanted to find another way to serve the market needs.”
Kotler supported his belief that the planned homes in the development are, in fact, affordable for Millennials in the Kennett area.
“A product brought in at $350,000 to $425,000, whether it’s a town home or a single-family home, is probably in this area as affordable as you’re going to get, so instead of picking a town home project where [a buyer] would pay $350,000, they may wish to skip the town home and go right to a [single-family] home,” he said.
As they move toward raising the estimated $14.9 million to build the new 29,000 square-foot Kennett Library, the library’s board of trustees have engaged the eight communities the library serves in an appeal to collectively contribute about 20 percent of the new library’s total costs. Over the last several months, the trustees have made presentations that provide each municipality with two non-mandatory options: to institute a .3 mil real estate tax in their municipality for a period of three years, or make an annual contribution over the next three years to the library’s capital campaign.
Jeff Yetter, the vice president of the library’s board of trustees, presented the board with the same options. By implementing a three-year property tax increase in the amount of .3 mill, the township will raise $240,630 a year – and $721,890 over the three-year span. On average, it would increase each household’s annual property taxes by $72.22.
The other option would be for the township to make an annual contribution to the library’s capital campaign. Of the eight municipalities the library relies on for annual contributions to its annual operating fund, Kennett Township is the most generous, contributing $160,000 every year. Yetter also said that township residents are the largest users of the library.
Yetter gave the supervisors a pictorial tour of the planned facility. As of right now, he said that the library’s board and fundraising team have raised $5.7 million toward the $14.9 million goal, through private donations, several grants and contributions from the county. He said the capital campaign will begin in early 2020, hard construction on the library will begin in 2021 and the facility is scheduled to open in 2022.
After the presentation, the supervisors mulled over possible contribution methods and the tweaking of mill percentages that would achieve the financial level the library is requesting from the township.
“The primary question is, ‘Do we want to fund it?’ and I think that is very clear,” Stevens said. “I’ve heard no one suggest that we should not supporting the library in a capital fund. If the first question is ‘Do we support?’ then the second question is ‘How do we support?’ And that has to do with where the money comes from.”
Yetter said that the early word from the municipalities he has already presented to about participating in the capital campaign has been positive. “I have good indications,” he said. [The municipalities] cannot commit [to either option] until their December meetings, when all of the municipalities at the same time will approve their  budgets,” he said.
The library’s presentation arrives on the township’s table precisely at the same time it is sorting through its 2020 budget, with the help of the general public. Ratliff and township Finance Director Amy Heinrich spent 90 minutes reviewing the township’s 2020 budget at the end of the Nov. 20 meeting, and chaired a three-and-a-half-hour meeting last week. As it moves to Dec. 4, when the final budget will be considered for adoption, a lot of questions still remain on the table.
“Things are being considered for cuts,” Ratliff told Yetter. “We’re already softly tossing out the idea that if we don’t toss out enough, that potential rate increases may in our future. These are all options. With your request, which is being positively received, the question becomes, ‘If we’re unable to fund this at all in 2020, what’s the impact?’”
“Tears,” Yetter said. “The impact is going to be significant. You’re the first township that’s mentioned this. Every other township is going to do something. We will have to go back and re-do all of the numbers. As our biggest user [of the library’s services], to pass on it?”
The board passed a motion to authorize Ratliff to execute a contract with Gordian, Inc. in the amount of $516,869 to repair beams on the historic Chandler Mill Bridge -- owned by the township – which is nearing reconstruction to convert it to a pedestrian-only structure that will also provide emergency vehicle access. The engineering firm is a leading provider of facility and construction cost data, software and services. Construction on the bridge is scheduled to begin in either December or January, and be completed by June 2020.
The board also approved a proposal to arrange a contract with the auditing firm of Maillie, LLP, located in Mont Clare, Pa., to perform auditing services for the township for the fiscal years ending in Dec. 31, 2019; Dec. 31, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. The three-year cost estimate for their services will be $28,000 in 2019; $38,000 in 2020; and $27,000 in 2021.
Heinrich spoke highly of the firm.
“I have worked with the best of the best, and my experience with them is even better,” she said. “They’re personalized, they’re customized, they really get to know your organization, and they ask really good questions. They are our partner.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.