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Chester County Press

East Marlborough reorganizes, adopts cluster zoning amendment

01/06/2015 10:20AM ● By J. Chambless

The East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors voted to maintain the lineup of all the township commissions and boards on Jan. 5. Board president Cuyler Walker was unanimously selected to lead the board again for the coming year.

Walker, who was the focus of intense scrutiny when he withdrew from the race for the 158th State Representative race in September, made no mention of that decision, but thanked the board members. "I'd like to offer my thanks for allowing me to lead in the past, and I look forward to another opportunity. Thanks for allowing me to serve," he said, smiling.

Board member Richard Hannum was unanimously re-elected as vice-chairman. The current members of the Planning Commission, Historic Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, Historic and Architectural Review Board and Building Code Appeals Board were all re-elected.

There was some disagreement about whether Lt. Robert Clarke should be appointed to be fire marshal for the township, in addition to his duties as a police officer and other tasks. The township is served by Clarke, and by chief of police Gerald Davis. Supervisor Bob Weer questioned whether adding another job to Clarke's workload would be asking too much, and reducing Clarke's effectiveness in his main job.

Township manager Jane Laslo pointed out that there is no extra pay for the fire marshal or building inspector jobs.

"I still have concerns with the coverage we get from our police officers," Weer said. "I have talked to many people and I see very little of our officers on the streets of the township. Now if we give [Clarke] something else to do, that will mean even less time out on the highways, serving the residents of this township."

After a vote of 3-2, the motion to elect Clarke as fire marshal was defeated. The township will retain a paid service to perform the duties of a fire marshal if necessary. Walker was among those who voted against electing Clarke to the position. "I think our police do a great service in the township, and I don't want to place additional burdens on Lt. Clarke," Walker said.

Much of the meeting was spent in discussing an ordinance that would amend the cluster zoning section of the township's zoning ordinance. The ordinance grew out of the proposed development of 31 acres along Route 82 owned by the Pratt family. The property around the existing nusery business will be the site of between 17 and 20 single-family homes.

Walker outlined what the ordinance, which will apply to the entire township, is intended to do. "If a property owner sets aside open space, they are eligible to put houses on smaller lots and get more density within a development," he told the audience. "The property owner would only be eligible if the housing would be on public water and sewer. The benefit for the township is that it permanently sets aside more open space, and there are no additional wells or sewers. … The trade the township is offering is that, if a property owner sets aside more open space, they can add more units. Our expectation is that they would be smaller units."

Based on plans that the board has reviewed, the single-family homes would be in keeping with the surrounding properties, notably the Willow Greene neighborhood, and that there would be no traffic routed through Willow Greene. Residents of the proposed new homes would enter and exit the development on Route 82. There is also a proposed walkway that would connect the new homes with the Villlage of Willowdale commercial area at routes 82 and 926, Walker said.

"From the drawings that we've seen, the homes won't look like you just plopped something into a cornfield that didn't look like anything around it," Walker added. We believe this will be done in a very attractive and sensitive manner."

The board unanimously adopted the zoning amendment, clearing the way for the next phase of the development, which will involve public meetings to discuss the design of the buildings and the layout of the streets.

"There will be more details later," Walker said. "The Pratt family is not coming in with heavy equipment and starting the building process tomorrow."

Later in the meeting, Bill Hewton and Bob Whitlock, from the board of directors of the Kennett Senior Center, presented information about the center's role in the community, and formally asked the township to provide $3,000 in funding for the estimated 471 citizens in East Marlborough Township who use the center. The non-profit center has recently been operating at a loss, Hewton told the board, and would like to at least break even. They are asking seven nearby municipalities to contribute to the senior center, based on how many of their residents use the facility.

"I only hear very favorable things about the senior center," Walker told Hewton and Whitlock. "We will take this under advisement and get back to you."

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail [email protected].