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Chester County Press

New Garden invites residents to help spell out township's future

06/06/2017 02:24PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Over 50 residents of New Garden Township were guided to a giant blank canvas on May 31, given giant brushes and lots of paint and asked to apply the broad strokes of their vision for the township's future, figuratively, of course.
The open house, hosted by the township, Thomas Comitta Associates, the Brandywine Conservancy an McMahon Transportation Engineers & Planners, was part of the township's effort to include public input in the update of its comprehensive plan which, when completed, will serve as a blueprint for policy and improvements for the next decade.
The comprehensive plan is made up of a 14-member task force made up of township supervisors, and members of the Planning Commission, Open Space Review Board, Historic Commission and the community. Recommended by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) to be updated every ten years, the plan spells out objectives and resource allocations priorities for land use, transportation, recreation, open space and housing. It is expected to be finalized in 2018.
The township last updated its comprehensive plan in 2005.
The open house meeting called for residents' ideas on several of the township's top priorities – and some would say, headaches – that are on the front burner of its objectives, such as residential and commercial growth; the preservation of open space, natural resources and historic landmarks; the revitalization of Toughkenamon; and continuing to improve and grow the township's intricate trail system.
Moderated by town planner and architect Tom Comitta and municipal planner Jennifer Reitz, the interactive meeting – through the use of magic markers, maps and color-coordinated stickers – allowed residents to specify their favorite points of interest in the township, as well as the top locations that they would like to see improved, by marking up an overhead map of the township. While the resulting number of favorite places varied greatly, the areas that residents felt needed to be improved resulted in a generous overlap.
A few residents expressed the need to re-open the historic Landenberg Store, which closed two years ago, after years of frustration expressed by its last proprietor over the refusal of the store's owners to properly address hazardous septic conditions at the store. Some in the audience expressed their frustration about the lack of  “gateway” attractions that could serve as visual “welcome mats” to visitors who enter the township – either off of Route 7, Route 41 or on Newark Road  near the Route 1 interchange. One resident called for the addition of traffic lights at all township schools, while another asked that the township consider providing more trails that connect to New Garden Township Park.
However, it was the several intersections and turns that connect with Newark Road that topped the list of concerns: at Route 41, Hillendale and Buttonwood roads and Baltimore Pike. the township waits on PennDOT to address the Newark Road and Baltimore Pike intersection, the board of supervisors awarded McMahon Associates, Inc. on May 20 the job of re-designing the intersection of Route 41 and Newark Road  to include better signage, dedicated ADA-compliant sidewalks, shared lanes and wider turn and vehicle through lanes. The design will also include include environmental studies; a topographic survey; traffic signal design; environmental permitting; utility coordination; right-of-way coordination; a final design and approval stage; and preparation of bid documents and final design concepts, that will then be used to advertise the project for construction, which is projected to be shovel-ready in 2019.
The project's area of re-design – and eventual re-construction – will go north and south on Newark Road about 500 feet, and about 800 feet in both directions on Baltimore Pike.
The total engineering costs in order to prepare the intersection for shovel-ready work will be $466,700.
Residents were then given five mock $20 bills and asked if they were in charge of the township's budget, where would they allocate their funding to. Again, responses to the exercise expressed by audience varied greatly, while several in the audience said that historic restoration, improving trail systems, and preserving open spaces should be among the township's top spending priorities.
Prior to Comitta and Reitz' presentation, residents discussed their ideas with members of the comprehensive plan committee, using various maps of the township as visual guides.  Above a map of Toughkenamon, Kristi Wyatt placed the ideas expressed to her by residents Sidewalks, street plantings, connector trails, improvements to the Tower Center, coffee shop, First Friday events, kids playground.
I've worked in New Garden for 20 years and lived here for nine years. It is important to make sure that the people are getting what they need and what they want and to make Toughkenamon a point of destination and a place for them to come. We will put all of this together and come up with a plan over the next year or so and what we're going to do to implement these ideas, and how they will happen.”
McMahon Associates project manager Natasha Manbeck McMahon spoke to residents beside a map that detailed the various roads and highways that slice through the township.
top priorities is the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Newark Road, the intersection of Newark Road and Route 41 – as well as the entire Route 41 corridor.
out of all of the transportation needs that's the area of most concern to residents.
focused on the transportation needs in the township and provide a plan for how the township should address these needs going forward.
Township Manager Tony Scheivert said that the forum opened the door for public comment, input and buy-in for the next ten years.
“When people get together, a lot of ideas come out that maybe the Comprehensive Plan committee is missing, and maybe there are a few things we hear tonight that we haven't considered before,” Scheivert said.
Board Supervisor Steve Allaband said that forums of this kind help sharpen the focus of the township's priorities, and lead to results.
“During the last comprehensive plan that the township had in 2005, we had the same public vision public meeting, in order to get residents' input, and what came out of that was an overwhelming call for more open space,” Allaband said. “So the board then put a referendum out that called for making open space a priority. Today, a little more than 13 percent of the township is preserved as open space, with increased funding dedicated toward open space.
“Another concern expressed by residents in 2005 was to improve police coverage in the township, and now we have a 24-7 police coverage, and have formed a regional police department.”
Eliciting resident input on the township's comprehensive plan update was not limited to the May 31 meting. Beginning this week, residents will be able to fill out a survey on the township's website, Once tallied, the results will go into calibrating residents' concerns and ideas and, subsequently, will be reflected in the final comprehensive plan update.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]