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Chester County Press

New Garden board hears proposals for erosion repair, development and outdoor movie theater

01/25/2022 10:55AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors discussed a wide variety of township-related topics at their Jan. 18 meeting that ranged from erosion repair, progress on the Village of Toughkenamon and introducing an outdoor movie theater at Saint Anthony’s in the Hills.

At the township’s request, Beth Uhler, an environmental project manager with Cedarville Engineering, provided an overview of a recent study that found erosion issues along Mercer Mill Road, which she said is creating uncontrolled stormwater runoff along the road -- the result of cumulative and impervious surfaces over the past several years and more frequent and intense flooding and rainfall events.

The uncontrolled stormwater runoff is causing erosion to the roadside, excessive stream conversion through several private properties and affecting a masonry culvert located underneath the road and affecting a stormwater basin that is serving a subdivision. The erosion has been exacerbated by the road’s steepness, Uhler said.

“All of these issues are affecting the water quality of the tributary as well as the east branch of the White Clay Creek,” she said. “Not many people fully understand the negative impacts that sediment can have on water quality. It’s one of the most significant impacts by volume in terms of any pollutant. In addition, nutrients like phosphorous can attach to sediment particles and exacerbate water quality levels.”

Uhler then proposed four potential solutions to the board that would repair the problems occurring along the road: the installation of subsurface detention and infiltration beneath Mercer Mill Road; the restoration and stabilization of nearby streambanks; replacing the masonry culvert; and retrofitting the stormwater basin and relocating the tributary.

The cost estimates for these projects, Uhler said, would range from $1.25 million to $2.3 million, but could be paid for in part by several outside funding sources.

Another proposal to reduce the erosion problem along the road, Uhler said, would be for the township to engage local residents to participate in a volunteer green infrastructure pilot program that would involve best management practices such as rain gardens, infiltration trenches, rain barrels and the removal of impervious surfaces.

Board chairman Steve Allaband said that creating solutions for the erosion issues along Mercer Mill Road would be given high priority, “given the fact that at times the intersection of Mercer Mill Road and Penn Green Road floods out and washes into the roadway,” he said. “It needs to be fixed.”

Toughkenamon Streetscape Plan likely to receive funding

Natasha Manbeck and Stephen Giampaolo of McMahon Associates, Inc. told the supervisors that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) selection committee has identified the Toughkenamon Streetscape and Improvement Project as a candidate to receive regional funding in the amount of $965,000. Manbeck said that the project is on the DVRPC’s board agenda for its Jan. 27 meeting, at which time the board will select the regional projects that will receive the grant.

The grant is likely to come from the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program (TASA), that provides funding for projects and activities defined as transportation alternatives, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities and environmental mitigation.

If received, the grant will pay for construction and construction inspection of a key phase of the plan, which includes extending streetscape improvements along Newark Road from the improvements for the Baltimore Pike intersection to East Penn Railroad, and also provide a connecting sidewalk along Main Street between Newark Road and Center Street.

In anticipation of that award, Manbeck said McMahon Associates has submitted a design proposal to the township to complete the engineering and permitting process in accordance with the grant program requirements.

Giampaolo said that McMahon Associates -- the project’s designer – will be required to go through several stages, including receiving approval from PennDOT’s District 6 for various traffic, safety and ADA reviews and working in step with utility companies.

Overall, the Toughkenamon Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan supports a mixed-use business corridor along Newark Road, Baltimore Pike and Main Street that will include sidewalks, safe routes to public transportation, crosswalks, pedestrian amenities, ADA considerations, landscaping, a park, and overall beautification of the village.

The revitalization of the village is expected to coincide with PennDOT's project to improve the intersection of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike, which is programmed with over $14.6 million in federal and state funds on DVRPC’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

An outdoor movie theater in New Garden?

The supervisors also discussed a proposal to dedicate a five-acre space in the township to introduce an outdoor movie theater that if approved, would begin screening films as early as April – possibly at Saint Anthony’s in the Hills.

The concept is being proposed to the township by Bob Weir, the technical director for The Playhouse at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington. In 2020, Weir opened the two-screen Bear Drive-In, which is located in a vacant lot behind the Lowes Home Improvement Center that became the first outdoor movie theater in Delaware since 2008.

Township manager Ramsey Reiner said that the property Weir had been leasing for the theater is now being developed, which prompted his interest in New Garden Township. In conversations with Reiner, Weir suggested the idea of placing the theater at the soccer fields at Saint Anthony’s. His proposal would call for the theater to be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the months of April, May, September, October and November; and from Wednesday through Sunday throughout June, July and August.

In general discussion, the board listed a few potential roadblocks to the proposal that included finding and preparing appropriate parking and access, wear and tear on the soccer field, lighting issues and possible interference with the township’s short- and long-term plans to develop Saint Anthony’s into a township park and nature area.

The board agreed to continue discussions about the proposal, which if eventually agreed to, may join another outdoor movie theater that is being suggested by another Delaware-based company to open at the 2,000-seat Greek-style amphitheater. Reiner said that the site is currently being studied by the township’s engineers to explore necessary upgrades that would bring the site up to safety standards.

In other township news, Kennett Library Board of Trustees President Jeff Yetter and new Library Director Chris Manna provided an update on the construction of the new library, which recently began construction on State Street in Kennett Square and is expected to open in May 2023.

Manna provided an update of the success of the library’s educational programs including its Adult Literacy Program, where over the last two years 28 students have become American citizens. Manna also introduced additional resources for township residents who will use the new library, which will include maker’s rooms for adults and children; a center to provide assistance to small businesses; a children’s film series made up of short films created by students using library equipment; and the ability that will allow children to develop their technology and social skills through the use of robots.

Yetter said that the library’s capital campaign to raise the $21.1 million needed for construction recently passed the $14 million mark.

“Last year at this time we were at about $8 million,” he said. “We have been raising money at an average of $500,000 per month.”

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