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Chester County Press

Township punts on Modern Business Park prelim approval

09/05/2017 02:24PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

The plans for the Modern Business Park in New Garden Township received its latest preliminary land development plan review on Aug. 30, and the consensus between developers and elected and appointed officials was that while progress is being made to get the planned project to meet conditions, there's still a lot of pencil sharpening left to do.
After a nearly three-hour presentation, the board -- in agreement with the township's Planning Commission -- did not grant preliminary plan approval to the project, and agreed to reconvene on Sept. 28 with Gilmore & Associates, Inc. Engineering & Consulting Services, engineers for the project.
The presentation, introduced by attorney Peter Temple and moderated by Gilmore's Executive Vice President Christopher Burkett, was the latest meeting in a proposal that was first presented to the township on May 29, 2008, when Modern Mushroom Farm, Inc. pitched a proposal to construct a 106-acre business park near its existing mushroom farm on Newark Road, consisting of eight buildings that would provide 900,000 square feet of office and warehouse space. Since then, the road to build the site has been an eight-year period of back-and-forth of hearings, applications, conditions, appeals, projection screen sketches before the township, 13 public meetings, and an Oct. 2014 ruling by Chester County Court Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody, who filed an opinion and order that modified certain conditions and struck down another.
Referring to two drawings -- that showed the proposed site plan in two different stages -- Burkett said that once the conditional use [process] was done after the 13 public hearings, there was considerable discussion and negotiation that occurred after the hearings, "in an attempt for the board of supervisors and the applicant to come together and agree on what should be constructed here and how it should be constructed," he said.
As a guidepost for the meeting, Gilmore referred to the findings of a 26-page assessment conducted by Pennoni Associates, a Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary engineering, science, planning and consulting firm, who reviewed the project's preliminary subdivision and land development plan, site analysis report and preliminary post-construction stormwater management report.
Pennoni narrowed the remaining roadblocks to a small batch of key issues: Repair of required buffers; zoning; stormwater management; access entrances to the planned park; and necessary improvements along Newark Road to accommodate business park traffic as well as general traffic along the road.
While the majority of the preliminary land development plan review dealt with coming to agreement on the minutia of buffers, berms, grading, zoning laws and meeting township ordinances -- much of which is expected to be modified in time for the next meeting -- the big-ticket item on the table was addressing -- and improving -- access points and turning lanes into the proposed business park. 
Gilmore's drawings indicated that the northern entrance to the proposed park has been moved to just north of Polo Road, and will include 325-foot left-hand turn accessibility and a 175-foot right-hand turn accessibility, to allow for truck traffic -- and a four-foot shoulder to allow for more travel space for vehicles coming from both directions.
The southern access to the park is projected to be directly across from Airport Way at the entrance to the New Garden Flying Field, that would allow for a traffic light and provide a t-shaped intersection.
Several supervisors doubted that the proposed improvements to the entrances and shoulders would not be efficient to handle the volume and space needed to accommodate both 18- and 28-wheel tractor trailers and vehicle traffic.
It may come down to legalities, Township Solicitor Vince Pompo said.
"The legal issue as to whether improvements that are necessary to remove the truck restriction or on- or off-site improvements, which the township could require if they are on site or not require if they are off site -- was litigated in front of Judge Cody, on the issue of the legality of this condition," Pompo told Burkett. "She quite clearly sustained the condition, so if there is any issue as to whether you're being asked to go too far in order to do improvements to remove restrictions, I think that's already been decided in this case."
Pompo encouraged the need for several parties -- traffic consultants, PennDOT, representatives from Gilmore & Associates, Inc. and New Garden Township supervisors and members of its planning commission -- to continue discussion about the reconfiguring of Newark Road related to access points, build out, traffic control, truck clearance and addressing possible restrictions.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]