New Garden approves 2022 budget12/27/2021 09:52PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors used their last meeting of the year on Dec. 20 to sign off on several to-dos remaining on their year-end list, discuss three new development projects and field complaints from residents about a persistent odor that is potentially placing their lives in danger.
Following several meetings this fall, the supervisors formally adopted the township’s 2022 budget, which projects its expenditures for the new year at $13,809,770 -- $1.96 million less than its expenditure ledger for 2021. Included in that list is the township’s general fund, which stands at $6,257,240 heading into 2022.
Among the largest expenditures expected for 2022 include $2,280,240 earmarked for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, $899,400 for highway and road maintenance, $900,000 for highway and bridge construction, $877,260 for the New Garden Flying Field and $652,000 for the Flying Field’s maintenance shop.
In its continuing commitment to preservation and smart-growth development, the township has earmarked $2,590,000 to the development of the Saint Anthony’s in the Hills property in 2022, and will devote $1,339,200 toward its conservation efforts.
On the revenue side, the township’s budget is projecting that it will receive $1.4 million in real estate taxes in 2022 and $3.2 million in local enabling taxes, as well as additional income from business licenses and permits ($195,700), rental fees ($150,000), state grants ($178,500), service charges ($138,800) and public safety charges ($231,100).
In other township business
The supervisors also heard presentations that introduced sketch plans for the following development in the township:
- The supervisors applauded the work done by planners Tom Comitta and Eric Gross of Tom Comitta Associates to present an updated version of the township’s municipal zoning map, which designates several zoning districts including Airport Development Zone, Business Park; Commercial/Industrial; Highway/Commercial; Residential; Toughkenamon Residential; and Unified Development. The supervisors voted to proceed toward completion of the zoning map that will include minor amendments.
- Nick DeSanctis, the current owner of the now-vacant W.L. Gore facility on 380 Starr Road, introduced a concept plan that would construct a warehouse adjacent to the existing facility that he estimated would be a minimum of 80,000 square feet in size. The space, which would feature high ceilings and easy access routes to Route 41 -- could be used as a storage unit to accommodate the raw materials and finished goods for a potential new tenant or tenants.
DeSanctis said he would conduct a traffic study on the property and work with the township on any setback issues related to the proposed repurposing of the property.
“What we’re seeing in the marketplace is that manufacturing is coming back to the U.S. in a big way, and one of the things [manufacturers] are looking at is increased storage,” said DeSanctis, who told the board that he and his associates are beginning to speak with potential tenants in order to accommodate their needs. “That’s why we’re getting ahead of this, spending the time and money to really see what we can build and what the township would be in favor of.”
“We recognize that the building as it is today does not lend itself to a tenant today,” he added. “You have to be able to sell them this particular dream -- [one that includes a large warehouse] -- because that’s what they need right now.”
- Representing his clients, attorney John Jaros presented a plan that would develop a 3.6-acre property at 8970 and 8974 Gap Newport Pike, which is located in a commercial and industrial district of the township. The plan proposes to develop the property as a car wash and storage facility on adjoining lots. The property would be serviced by public water and public sewer and will have a shared access with the CVS pharmacy located near the proposed site.
Supervisor Patrick Little questioned the proposal to build a self-storage unit in the township, particularly in close vicinity to two other recently-opened self-storage units.
“If there is one thing [the township has] besides mushrooms it is self-storage units,” he said. “With all due respect to the guys making the decision in this, maybe you could come up with a better idea that will save money, rather than invest in a self-storage unit.”
Jaros said that while he is appreciative of Little’s sentiment, his clients have done their market research and determined that there is a demand for self-storage units. He insisted that his clients will continue to do their market research in developing their plan.
- Developer Doug White presented a sketch that laid out plans for a residential development at 977, 985 and 988 Baltimore Pike that would create 26 twin housing units and be accessible by Baltimore Pike and include emergency exits and consideration for trails and open space.
“We’re trying to find a balance here where we can do a very great undertaking with a very great product and keep it affordable in a way that’s amenable to the township,” said White, who estimated that each town home would be priced between $400,000 and $500,000.
The supervisors said that the planned development will still need to agree with township zoning ordinances.
Residents address odor issue in the township
Representatives from the Landenberg Hunt Homeowners Association aired their collective grievances to the supervisors about the consistent and overwhelming odors that have drifted into their homes from nearby mushroom composting businesses in the area of Starr and Penn Green roads.
Referring to the entire township, Ron Lupo, who has lived in the development since 1997, said that poor air quality – such as what permeates into the air from the processing of mushroom compost from neighboring farms – presents a serious threat to the safety of nearby residents. He said that these businesses are not only breeding grounds for safety violations, the residue from their processing units – filled with hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane – is causing corrosive damage to the exterior of automobiles and eating away at essential household items such as air conditioning units, that have forced many residents to replace several times over the past few years.
“It seems to me that [these companies] rule the roost,” Lupo said. “If they can monitor this air, they can contain this air too, but instead, they would rather see us as citizens pay through our pockets.
“It’s affecting your township,” he added. “It is not just my problem. It is not just Landenberg Hunt’s problem, it is New Garden Township’s problem, and someday you will pay for this. Why should we be paying for their mistakes?”
Landenberg Hunt resident Jerry Houck asked the supervisors why the township has not visited these mushroom companies as representatives of area residents, in an effort to encourage them to address the odor issue.
“What are we doing as a township? Why doesn’t anyone go down there and call this out?” Houck asked. “This has been going on for 28 years. This is not the first time you have heard this. This is a joke, and all I’m [asking] is when are you guys going to do something? If nothing is done here, what is our recourse?”
The supervisors responded by saying that the township is restricted in their ability to enforce safety regulations on these businesses because of what is contained in Pennsylvania’s Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environment (ACRE) Law. Enacted in 2005, the law provides a useful, timely and cost-effective means for farmers burdened by ordinances from municipalities that illegally inhibit farming practices to initiate a process through which the ordinance or action can be challenged and invalidated in court.
Under the law, a farm owner or operator can challenge an ordinance if the local ordinance inhibits current or future normal agricultural operations for his or her farm or other farms within the municipality.
“The state law currently supersedes New Garden Township ordinances,” said supervisor Steve Allaband, who added that added that Pennsylvania has the least stringent laws for farming than any other state in the U.S. “We cannot impose, enact or adopt any ordinances that are more stringent than what the state law says.”
“If you’re looking for changing the law in the state of Pennsylvanian, it’s not going to come from one township,” said board chairman Pat Little, who speculated that 80 percent of mushroom farm owners in the community comply with safety laws. “We could support a grass roots effort, but unless we have a clearer path and direction on how to do this – which we don’t and we have tried – [we have no course of action].
“If we wanted to get this done, we would have to change the law at the state level.”
Little and Loftus honored
The township also recognized outgoing supervisors Pat Little and Mike Loftus for their service on the board. They will be replaced by new supervisors Ted Gallivan and Troy Wildrick, who were elected to their posts in November and will begin their six-year terms in January.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].