Toughkenamon residents balk at township's plans to revitalize village
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Soon after adopting its 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors used a grant through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to fund the development of the Streetscape and Transportation Improvement Plan for the Village of Toughkenamon.
To help steer the plan, the township formed a committee of stakeholders in an effort to guide ideas to improve transportation and mobility, create a diversity of housing opportunities, enhance aesthetics and attract investors.
Because it was proposed that the plan would lean heavily on input from residents from Toughkenamon and New Garden Township, representatives from McMahon Associates and Thomas Comitta & Associates have conducted three open houses – all in Toughkenamon – that have brought these ideas and people together to evaluate existing conditions in the village and develop transportation and land-use strategies.
The meetings have yielded several big and small solutions: finding ways to curb traffic congestion; discussing how to increase the amount of pedestrian and bicycle use and how to lower the amount of cut-through traffic; discovering more opportunities for public parking; developing civic open spaces for public use; and generating ideas for creating a community identity.
Eventually, the Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan will create a mixed-use business corridor along Newark Road, Baltimore Pike and Main Street that will include sidewalks, safe routes to public transportation, crosswalks, pedestrian amenities, ADA considerations, landscaping, a park, and overall beautification of the village.
The revitalization of the village is expected to coincide with PennDOT's project to improve the intersection of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike, which received a $2 million grant in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Multimodal Transportation Fund.
While several officials involved in the project believe that public input continues to drive the plans for the village, several Toughkenamon residents who attended the New Garden board's Jan. 21 meeting told the supervisors, “Not so fast.”
A presentation by Toughkenamon resident Suzanne Snajdr spelled out several criticisms of the Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan, starting with the belief that the plan’s vision of improvement is stacked in favor of benefitting developers and business owners, and not the people who actually live there.
Snajdr wasn’t alone; she told the board that she has acquired the signatures of 38 Toughkenmon residents – some of whom were in attendance at the meeting -- who have signed a petition stating that they are opposed to the plans to revitalize the village.
Snajdr said that by drastically changing the infrastructure and zoning of the village to allow for retail and residential growth, it would allow for “a large influx” in the village. Further, she said that the plans were not fully made public until the direction of the project already had made a substantial imprint, most visibly seen in the three public meetings it has held with area residents.
‘Late to the game’
Speaking for several neighbors who were in the audience, Snajdr said, “We as residents of Toughkenamon are late coming to the game, and we were blissfully unaware, and we woke up after the second public meeting in September and have since been digesting this.”
Snajdr said that she had only attended the Dec. 9 public meeting, which was held at a community meeting room behind the Harvest Ride Winery. She was told about it by fellow residents who had attended the public meeting in September, when the discussion of adding one-way streets in the village was discussed between planners and residents.
“That was the spark that lit up the town,” she said.
Saying that “we like our town the way it is” and “that it is our village, and our place of residence,” Snajdr told the supervisors that she and other Toughkenamon residents are opposed to any ideas that would potentially change the identity of the village. Specifically, she rejected any ideas that would “encourage” potential businesses to occupy first floor space along Newark Road; and the addition of apartment buildings and town homes, which she said would increase absentee landlords and add to an imbalance of renters and owners in the village.
Rather, Snajdr said that she and her fellow neighbors recommend that development occur “naturally,” and not as a part of a plan that forces Toughkenamon to change and serves as an open-door invitation to developers.
Snajdr said that she and her neighbors are also opposed to the inclusion of sidewalks along Baltimore Pike towards Center, Main and Reese streets, as have been specified in the village plan. The village’s streets are too narrow to accommodate sidewalks, she said, and if streets are widened to accommodate sidewalks, it would result in sidewalks being placed too close to residences.
“It just feels like it is going to be paving us over and making us look more like a city environment,” she said.
In the audience, a 40-year Toughkenamon resident echoed the sentiments of Snajdr’s criticism about the proposed inclusion of sidewalks. “We don’t need any sidewalks,” he said. “It’s a little village and we want to keep it as it is. We don’t want to be Avondale and we don’t want to be Kennett Square. How many people have been hit by a car walking down the street in Toughkenamon? As far as I know, it’s zero.”
Snajdr said that she and her neighbors believe that the plan to revitalize Toughkenamon should require all new development to have adequate off-street parking on their own property, and that on-street parking should only be allowed for temporary use.
Snajdr also called the proposed playground area specified in the plan “very uninspiring” and a “box check” in the plans to revitalize Toughkenamon, and one that doesn’t meet the needs or interests of young children. She also encouraged the plan to stay away from promoting the Village of Toughkenamon as a site for large-scale events and festivals, which would cause several streets in the village to be temporarily blocked off.
On Jan. 21, Snajdr shared her concerns with Township Manager Tony Scheivert and representatives from McMahon Associates and Thomas Comitta & Associates. She said it is her intention to incorporate the ideas she expressed into the plan.
As specified in a Jan. 6 letter from Scheivert to Toughkenamon residents and business owners, there will be a presentation about the plan on Feb. 18 at the township’s board of supervisors meeting, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Township Building, and that the final Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan is due to be completed in April 2020.
Monitoring the health of Somerset Lake
In other township business, Bill Ward of the Somerset Lake Committee gave the board an update of the progress being made by a stream monitor that was funded by the township and installed in the Broad Run Creek in May 2018, in order to measure the overall health of the water that feeds Somerset Lake.
The monitor, located just before Broad Run passes under Buttonwood Road and enters Somerset Lake, measures water depth, sediment levels and conductivity and is archived on continuous data transmission. The use of the stream monitor is the latest step in the committee's goals to reduce sediment levels and increase oxygen levels in the 28-acre man-made lake that had an original depth of 29 feet when it was built in 1966 and whose depth now registers 16 feet.
In addition, a watershed study conducted several years ago also discovered that the lake was filled with an excessive amount of nutrients and blue-green algae, leading to sediment that now takes up about half of the lake's volume.
In recent years, the committee has made several efforts to clean up the lake, that have resulted in the installation of an aeration system in 2015, bacterial treatments in 2017 and the installation of plants near the watershed in 2018 that are meant to stave off the amount of damaging algae that can have a negative effect on the lake.
While the committee will continue to discover methods of reducing inorganic and organic sediment, restoring the lake's shorelines and controlling additional stream bank erosion over the next five years, the inclusion of the stream monitor, Ward said, will be used to evaluate future changes in the watershed, based on stream bank erosion.
“In conclusion, we believe that the stream monitor has told us some very interesting things about how Broad Run Creek responds to rain events, and provides us with a tool to document and detect future change in the watershed, whether for the good or the bad,” Ward said.
In order to make way for a developer to implement plans for the Ways Lane area in Kennett Square, Boy Scout Troop 53 of Kennett Square will soon have to leave its current meeting house at the old Italian-American facility on Ways Lane, after seven years of occupancy.
It was announced during a presentation by the troop’s scoutmaster Chuck Weed that the township has reached an agreement with the troop to provide the lower level of the Township Building for future meetings to be held there, beginning in March. The lower level currently contains materials belonging to the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department.
“We can really clean that basement up and make into a place that the Boy Scouts can use,” Scheivert said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.