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Chester County Press

Building demolition sparks resident complaints in East Marlborough

05/07/2014 01:13PM ● By Acl

The concrete foundation of a demolished garage remains in this photo taken in April behind a home in Unionville that's being turned into apartments.

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

At the beginning of the East Marlborough Township board of supervisors meeting on May 5, Unionville resident Jack Greenwood laid out his extensive documentation of the demolition of a historic garage that once sat behind a home in the heart of the village.

The home is being converted into apartments, but the former garage was structurally sound and should not have been torn down, Greenwood told the supervisors. Presenting photos and written evidence, he said that contractors removed most of the roof of the garage in December and left the building open to the snow and rain, which Greenwood said was a violation of the township's historic structure ordinance, which specifies that buildings judged to be historic must be protected by their owners. "This is clearly a violation of that ordinance," Greenwood said.

Contractors further undermined the foundation of the garage, leading to its complete collapse in April, Greenwood said. "Was this collapse caused intentionally, or through incompetence?" he asked. "The fact is that this was the last example of a sculpted block building in our historic district." 

The home itself has been substantially altered, Greenwood added. "Over the past six months, the property owners, the Fenza family, has eliminated everything historic from one of the oldest buildings in our village," Greenwood said. 

The supervisors had no comment.

The supervisors were unanimous, however, on the issue of relocating the township's police headquarters. The police department has been using a trailer in the township building parking lot, but the facility is invisible from the road and "clearly not adequate" for the daily operations of a police department, board president Cuyler Walker said.

Police Chief Gerald Davis made his case for locating a new trailer as a temporary home for the police department on property adjacent to the fire department in the village of Unionville. That site has sewer, water and electric hookup capability, Davis said. The cost for delivery and setup of a new 24-by-60-foot trailer would be $7,692, with a monthly rent of $598 per month. Davis said the more visible location would be good public relations for the department, and a larger, newer trailer would be very welcome. Ultimately, the township plans to build a permanent home for the police department, but the new trailer would be a step in the right direction, Davis said.

"This is clearly something we need to do," Walker told the supervisors. Robert Weer, Sr., made a motion to approve the site and trailer placement, and the boad unanimously approved the motion, pending site approval by township engineer Jim Hatfield.

Davis then pointed out that the police deparment's computer system is 10 years old and running Windows XP, which recently was abandoned by Microsoft, placing the operating system in jeopardy. The board unanimously approved allotting up to $5,000 for the cost of purchasing a new computer and securing internet service at the new site in Unionville. 

Davis pointed out that the township's two police vehicles have more than 100,000 miles each, but "I think I'll quit while I'm ahead," he said, saying that the department could get by with the vehicles for now.

The board unanimously approved an application from TNT Fireworks to sell fireworks in a tent in the Walmart parking lot on Route 1 beginning on June 24 and ending on July 5. TNT pays a fee to Walmart for the use of the lot, and all of the fireworks are approved for use in Pennsylvania. As part of the approval, there will be no signs placed along Route 1 to advertise the tent sale.

A proposed fireworks show to be held on the grounds of the Yellow House in Unionville was considered by the board. The June 28 show is proposed as part of a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Tri-M Corporation in Kennett Square, and would last about 15 minutes, according to a representative of the fireworks company who spoke to the supervisors.

Board members were unsure about how the noise would affect animals on nearby farms. "I'm a little uneasy about this," board member Richard Hannum, Jr., said. "I'd want to be sure the neighbors are notified."

Walker pointed out three nearby properties that had animals, particularly horses, that could injure themselves if they are frightened. "Tri-M is a good corporate citizen in East Marlborough, and we'd like to accommodate them, but I'd like the neighbors to be notified first," Walker said. 

The company representative agreed to notify every surrounding neighbor to see if they object to the show, and if no objections are voiced, the board said they would grant approval for the fireworks at their early June meeting.

The board also discussed revisions to a township ordinance governing the construction of billboards. The revisions increase the minimum lot size for putting up a billboard from the current 8,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. The ordinance already prohibits billboards with changing text, but does not specifically mention signs that light up from within. The size restrictions on any billboard are now 10-by-16 feet, and they can be placed no higher than 20 feet, Walker said. 

"This is being done not to promote billboards," Walker said, "but to regulate them. In the absence of regulations, they could be installed anywhere. It's our intention to at least keep them within the Route 1 corridor."

The revised ordinance will next be sent to County Planning for review.