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Chester County Press

Zoning amendments make way for unique mixed-use design in township

02/07/2017 11:47AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

With swift strokes from three pens, Kennett Township opened the door last week for what very well may be a groundbreaking way of living for hundreds of residents in the near future.
The township's board of supervisors – Chairman Scudder Stevens and members Whitney Hoffman and Dr. Richard Leff – gave approval at their Feb. 1 meeting to the adoption of Ordinances 262 and 263, which will permit the Traditional Neighborhood Development design concept to eventually be allowed to be built in the township.
The board agreed to work on minor amendments to the ordinances that were recommended by the Chester County Planning Commission and the township zoning officer, over the next month.
Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) refers to the construction of a complete neighborhood or town using traditional design planning principles. TND may occur in landfill settings and involve adaptive use of existing buildings, but often involves all-new construction on previously undeveloped land.
To qualify as a TND, a project should include a wide range of housing types, a network of well-connected streets or blocks, public spaces, and have amenities such as stores, schools, and places of worship within walking distances of residences. TND projects incorporate many different architectural styles, and are not exclusive in their design.
Town planner Tom Comitta, who also serves as the township's landscape architect, said that one of the TND plans that stands to benefit from these ordinances is Parkside, a 16-acre, mixed-use complex currently being developed by local developer Michael Pia, Jr., and planned to be located on North Walnut Street, just south of Route 1, on the site of a former mushroom farm. Now in the sketch phase of development, Parkside will include traditional neighborhood design apartments, town homes, single family homes and some carriage houses, as well as commercial mixed-use, park space and areas dedicated to public open space.
During his presentation to the supervisors, Comitta compared the Parkside concept to the Eagleview Town Center in Exton, an 800-acre, combined residential and commercial concept that features a walkable community for 1,200 residents, 2.5 million square feet of commercial real estate space, as well as shops and ten miles of park trails.
Comitta said that after the first design ideas for the planned development were criticized, Pia went back to the drawing board – by himself.
“It's to Mike's credit that he was willing to withdraw a plan he had spent a lot of money on engineering, and instead tried to reach the goals of the design guidelines that are embedded in these ordinances,” Comitta said. “Instead of only referring to Eagleview as an example of this design, people can be directed to Parkside in Kennett Square.”
Comitta also compared Pia's original drawings for Parkside to Poundbury, an urban town center in Dorset, England, that was designed according to designs suggested by Prince Charles.
“When you Google 'Poundbury' and then compare it to what Mike is going to submit, you realize that Mike has brought Europe to Kennett Township.”
In other township news, on the the heels of the recently-completed economic development study for the township and Kennett Borough, plans are being made to create an economic development committee, which will be made up of local business owners, borough and township officials and members of the local community.
Once formed, the committee will work together to create a mission statement and a comprehensive vision plan, in order to create a joint economic development department between both municipalities.
The first goal of the committee will be to apply for a Chester County grant which will allow the board to amend current zoning ordinances to be able to implement the economic development study. Township manager Lisa Moore said that by March 1 she, Kennett Borough manager Joe Scalise and Historic Kennett Square director Mary Hutchins will come up with a list of candidates for the board. By April 1, a mission statement and vision will be completed, and by the end of the summer, Moore said that the plan will be implemented.
“The committee will oversee the economic development department, and the committee will be responsible for implementing the study,” Moore said. “Prior to sending the committee off to do that, the township supervisors and the borough council will need to agree on the direction of the economic development study.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].