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Chester County Press

New Garden Township spells out new comprehensive plan

04/03/2018 03:08PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

At the beginning of her hour-long presentation that formally introduced the new comprehensive plan for New Garden Township on March 28, Jennifer Reitz, a senior planner with Thomas Comitta Associates, spelled out the purpose of a comprehensive plan: to create goals, define priorities, produce an action plan and then direct the right resources to get the job done.

An effective comprehensive plan, she said, takes its lead from the needs of its constituents.

That is what the township's 2005 Comprehensive Plan did, Reitz said before an audience of 50 residents and some of the township's elected officials, and that the current plan, now in its final draft form and waiting to be signed off, is well on its way to doing the same.

“At its heart, a comprehensive plan is about the quality of life that the township's residents has. As we approached the updated plan, it was about defining what the issues are that the township residents care about, defining the priorities moving forward, and determining how we achieve those priorities,” said Reitz, who is working with the township's Comprehensive Plan Committee, township officials, developers, leaders of the mushroom industry and education, the Brandywine Conservancy and McMahon Associates on the creation of the new plan.

Working from key issues of concern raised by township residents, the 2005 plan, Reitz said, helped set the stage for the natural resource ordinance, the open space referendum that was adopted in 2008; and set the stage for proactive and cost-effective township operations, which included the sale of the townships' sewer system and the formation of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department.

Reitz' presentation served as the first official roll out of an updated comprehensive plan that took the bulk of ideas from a community vision session held at the township building on May 31, 2017, when dozens of residents provided input on what they considered were the key issues facing the township in the near future. The session was complimented by an online survey that yielded more than 300 responses, which helped the plan determine a total of 14 priority projects, among them being the need to improve the Route 41 corridor; maintaining proper management of business, residential and commercial growth; preserving open space, natural resources and historic landmarks; revitalizing Toughkenamon; and finding ways to integrate the mushroom and composting industry into the township's future.

The comprehensive plan, Reitz said, is spelled out in two tiers of recommendations, with Tier 1 recommendations categorized as feasible and most important to address in the next one to three years.

Finishing near the top of Tier 1 priorities, Reitz said, was the residents' wish to improve the Route 41 corridor through the township, particularly the long-vacant area known as the PREIT site. Reitz said that there are three courses of action for the township in how to address Route 41: To revise zoning ordinances and amendments that will promote re-development of the PREIT site; to promote a vision for a consistent, three-lane cross-section throughout the entirety of the township; and to provide opportunities to create better gateway entrances that connect to Route 41.

Indicating the protection of open space as a Tier 1 priority, Reitz said that the township's Open Space Review Board has listed as potential areas for continued preservation, as part of its commitment to protecting open space, which can be dedicated to protecting natural resources, and establishing trails and greenway corridors.

Another key point in the Tier 1 priority list is to continue to develop economic opportunities in the township, particularly in the mushroom and composting industries. Reitz said that the industry is currently facing economic pressures, labor shortages and more regulations that are threatening the industry’s financial stronghold in Chester County.

Reitz recommended that a market analysis for the mushroom industry would enable the township to determine where the “gaps” are that need to be filled in order for the industry to thrive.

“It's in the township's best interest to want its mushroom and composting industry to nurture more diverse economic opportunities, and to make sure it maintains a stable tax base, compliments the community's character and optimizes the use of existing infrastructure and resources,” she said.

Another top priority in the plan is the redevelopment of Toughkenamon, which Reitz said is another potential source for economic and residential growth in the township. The comprehensive plan calls for the creation of attractive open spaces, streetscape enhancements, and allowing for a diversity of housing options that would be able to support new and future businesses.

“Looking ahead, we want to promote Toughkenamon as more of a mixed-use development,” she said. “We want to encourage redevelopment, but we want to maintain the historic character of the village, and be able to expand upon it.”

Reitz said that another Tier 1 priority for the township is develop a comprehensive list of all historic and scenic resources in the township, as well as pass zoning ordinances that continue to protect historic and natural resources.

Regarding land use and housing priorities, Reitz said that the key goal of the township will be to direct new growth into existing areas with infrastructure; enhance the traditional character of the township; protect natural resources; and work to enrich the overall quality of life.

Reitz said that Tier 1 recommendations for transportation in the township will include addressing traffic calming measures; developing a traffic committee; improving multi-modal connections in the township, including pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths; and redeveloping Newark Road in Toughkenamon.

Reitz also addressed three other Tier 1 priorities for the township: improving its community facilities – which will include improved signage to further the township's branding; developing an official township map that will include open space areas and trail connections; and seeking ways that the township can encourage its residents to reduce its demand for energy.

The next steps for the comprehensive plan will be to consider any additional suggestions, submit a final draft to the Chester County Planning Commission and local school districts, and then submit the final plan to the township's board of supervisors, for a public hearing and eventual adoption.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].