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Chester County Press

Early plans for White Clay Point presented in New Garden

12/17/2019 01:56PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

When New Garden Township first floated JP Morgan Chase's sketch plans for its proposed White Clay mixed-use development on its website on Dec. 5, the red flags of concern flew from Landenberg to Avondale and from West Grove to Toughkenamon.

The concerns were many:

Route 41, already clogged, will not be able to sustain additional traffic from this development, not to mention the roads that will border it.

It will place an additional population burden on the Kennett Consolidated School District.

It will have a negative impact on the environment.

New Garden Township is already becoming too overdeveloped. A project of this kind would destroy the semi-rural quality of life here, forever.

On Dec. 16, more than 150 collective voices gathered at the Township Building to articulate those concerns, during the initial introduction of the proposed 200-acre project that will include both residential and commercial components, on the north and south sides of Route 41.

Moderated by land development coordinator Bill Romanelli, the presentation began with a broad overview for the property, which will stretch from Reynolds Road to the south, Sunny Dell Road to the west and Sharp Road to the north, that will include a total 356 residential units – 182 single-family homes, 60 townhouses and 114 apartments.

On its southern end, the planned development will include 95 lots that will be used as town homes and single-family homes. The town center will include 222,000 square feet dedicated to commercial development and three mixed-use buildings that will be used for retail, offices and apartments. Two buildings, sized at 26,000 square feet, will include 42 apartment units each, and the third, sized at 18,000 square feet, will include 30 apartments. It will include a main entrance on Route 41 and a second entrance on Sunny Dell Road, as well as an emergency access to Reynolds Road.

In addition, JP Morgan Chase's plans include a 65,000 square-foot retail food store, a potential 55,000 square-foot indoor training facility and a possible outdoor multi-purpose athletic field.

In conjunction with the township's recent purchase of the St. Anthony's property and its commitment to providing open space and trails, the plans for White Clay Point include several patches of open space, as well as streams, ponds and trails, some of which border the northern edge of the St. Anthony property.

On the north side of Route 41, plans call for an 87-home, semi-circular active adult development, that will feature two cul-de-sacs and a club house with two entrances off of Sharp Road. Just to the south along the arterial space between Sheehan Road and Route 41, JP Morgan Chase's plans call for the construction of a 5,000-square-foot convenience store.

Romanelli said that there are no commercial entities locked into the project as of now.

“In designing this plan, we tried to keep several things in mind,” Romanelli said. “The first of which was not to overwhelm any specific township police department, schools and EMS facilities, so we tried to come up with a mixed-use plan that would accomplish that goal. We know that the township would like to see commercial [development] along Route 41. We also tried to limit the earth disturbance on the site.”

From a cost standpoint, Romanelli estimated that the price for a home in the active adult community would be between $325,000 and $375,000; the cost for a townhome will range from $250,000 to $300,000; and the price for single-family homes would be between $425,000 and $500,000.

During his presentation, Romanelli frequently compared the proposed project to the one pitched to the township years ago by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT). He said that the new project will have far less of an impact than the PREIT proposal, which was designed to be a 187-acre mixed-use project that would provide for 84 acres of retail space, 52 acres devoted to a town center, and 51 acres dedicated to the construction of 83 single detached units that were planned to be built adjacent to the Hartefeld development and golf course, near Sharp Road. In addition, a convenience store and gas station were planned for the other side of Route 41.

In total, PREIT's imprint was proposed to be close to one million square feet, compared to the proposed 222,000 square-foot space intended to be used by White Clay Point.

Romanelli said that opposed to the PREIT plans, which were intended to draw from a larger regional boundary, the White Clay Point plans are targeted to a more local clientele.

“When you get up to a million square feet of commercial space, you begin starting to pull people from 50 to 60 miles away that want to come to your facility,” he said, “whereas this project will draw from this township and surrounding townships, as opposed to surrounding counties and states.”

Romanelli added that the proposed project will provide more green space than the PREIT plan, and improve the stormwater quality for residents who live in the vicinity of White Clay Point.

The most pressing points made by residents during the question-and-answer session focused on two issues: the potential traffic problem that a project of this size would have, not only along the Route 41 corridor, but through the tributary of roads throughout the township that lead to Route 41; and the belief that there are just too many residences included in the plan.

Romanelli said that the traffic engineer for the project has not yet been asked to create a traffic study for the area, but that proposed improvements along Route 41 will include some traffic calmers in the form of two traffic lights – one at the corner of Route 41 and Sunny Dell Road, and the other at the development's main entrance on Route 41 – as well as turning lanes at each intersection.

Other concerns expressed by the audience included concerns that the proposed development would have a negative environmental impact; would place an increased stress on the township's sewer system; would lead to safety hazards along Route 41 for drivers and pedestrians; would create additional light pollution in the township; and place an additional burden on schools in the Kennett Consolidated School District.

One suggestion expressed by an audience member was to restore and convert the historic Taylor barn into a township community and welcome center, “to use it as a place of public assembly, with accessibility, structural capability, signage and parking and so forth,” he said. “That's something I would ask JP Morgan to step up and support, instead of giving us a wreck of a building and say to us, 'Here you are. We failed to demolish it, but you can have it.'

“Lastly, I think a lot of mixed-use development needs to respect the goals that township residents have expressed in multiple official documents – to provide economic opportunities for residents,” he added. “I hope that the plans increase the quality of life in New Garden Township, not reduce it.”

While the final plans for the proposed project are likely to be several presentations away, White Clay Point was set into motion soon after JP Morgan Chase purchased the PREIT property in April for a sum of $11 million – $8.25 million cash and $2.75 million in preferred stock.

Romanelli assured the audience that the initial presentation unveiled what he called a sketch plan for the proposed development, and will be followed up by what he predicted would be several additional plans that will be presented to the township's Board of Supervisors and its residents. Board chairman Steve Allaband said the planning stage “will be a lengthy process.”

“My personal opinion is that it will be a benefit to the community,” he said. “What we see there today versus what this can turn into, I think it will be a plus for the township. This will be a beautiful asset and draw some residents who will be able to shop locally.”

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