New Garden shares updates on key township initiatives, concerns02/08/2022 05:09PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
New Garden Township Board of Supervisors Chair Steve Allaband and township manager Ramsey Reiner discussed some of the projects that are high on the township’s priority list, as part of a work session meeting held with members of the township’s boards and commissions on Feb. 7.
Allaband said that the township – in partnership with consultants -- has been addressing the proposed zoning changes that if approved would be incorporated into the Route 7 and Route 41 corridors, redefine these thoroughfares as mixed-use and open up opportunities for commercial and residential development that would include affordable housing.
“Hopefully it will be successful in yielding some positive changes along the Route 7 and Route 41 corridor,” Allaband said.
Another item on the township’s agenda, Allaband said, will be to address the stormwater run-off erosion damage that has increased on township roads, its trail system and its older infrastructure.
Allaband said that another priority for the township will be to address the rising cost of the fire and emergency services throughout southern Chester County, which has been exacerbated by the recent closing of two area hospitals that will require the need for longer transportation times for emergency vehicles to reach medical facilities.
Reiner provided an update about the township’s plans for Saint Anthony’s in the Hills – the 137-acre property it purchased in 2018. She said that the township is updating the park’s lighting system and parking areas; and that the Splash Surf Club is finalizing its work permits and communicating with the township on the projected completion and opening of its New Garden facility in Saint Anthony’s.
Reiner also discussed progress on the proposed White Clay Point mixed-use development along Route 41. She said that the developers had asked for an extension until June, and in discussions with Reiner, they have expressed interest in learning more about the township’s plans to create zoning changes along Route 41.
Sunshine Act tutorial
Township solicitor Bill Christman provided the members of the township’s boards and commissions with an overview on the specifics of the Sunshine Act, which establishes rules for townships and municipalities on how to advertise public meetings and times where any board, committee or commission meets and actions and deliberations are made.
“The Sunshine Act affects and is applied to every board and commission in the township, the same way it does to the Board of Supervisors,” Christman said. “The law was passed by the state legislature to make townships more transparent. The goal is to make sure that everything is done in “the sunshine,” so that the residents of that municipality know what is going on.”
Christman said that certain issues are exempt from the law, and include executive sessions and discussion of personnel matters, the purchase or lease of real estate, legal matters and confidential information. He added that the agenda for each board and commission meeting must be made public – or advertised -- at least 24 hours in advance of each meeting, whether on a township’s website, on an e-mail notice or in a community newspaper.
In addition, Christman said that any document correspondence written by a board or commission official is public information, and that each official is bound by the laws of the Ethics Act.
“The biggest pitfalls are conflicts of interest, which are defined as an occasion where a board member or an immediate family member would retain any private gain from an item being discussed,” he said. “If that is the case, or even if there is the chance of it being the case, you must recuse yourself. You do not discuss or vote on it.”
Christman said that the township’s boards and committees are not required to provide electronic or hybrid video options for their meetings, but must meet in accordance with the advertised location of the meetings.
Board and committee updates
In township board and committee updates, Charlie Owens, the township’s fire marshal and assistant fire chief for the Avondale Fire Company, discussed the fire company’s new retention program being used to provide incentives for its volunteer firefighters. Distributed in a point system, the program gives awards for volunteers who provide extra service over a six-month cycle. The gifts are awarded in the form of cash (a $2,000 limit) and the opportunity to choose items from the fire company’s store.
Owens said that 20 volunteers at the fire company are likely to receive retention awards.
John Corbett of the Parks & Recreation Board said that the board is in the process of developing a 12-month project list, and will place an emphasis on “quality not quantity.” He said the board is also attempting to reach out to the local Hispanic community to encourage them to attend events.
Chris Robinson of the Open Space Review Board provided an update of the board’s recent progress, which included the township’s purchase of the 7.8-acre Hiles property in Landenberg. He said the board is also currently in discussions with a local family regarding the possible township’s purchase of their property.
David Hawk of the township’s Historical Commission said that the group is working with Chester County to create an updated historical inventory database, which he said includes 850 standing structures in the township.
Bernie McKay and Don Peters of the Friends of the New Garden Trails shared their opinion that the township is neglecting the need to finance the maintenance of the township’s trail system, which they said has become damaged by severe weather and has led to significant stormwater erosion.
McKay listed the parking lots at the Landenberg Junction Trail and the Laurel Woods Trail as being in need of repair, as well as the area near the walking bridge on the Laurel Woods Trail, which has experienced severe erosion.
“We know the township has an awful lot on its plate right now, but quite frankly, you can sense that there is a concern from the Friends of the New Garden Trails over the years,” McKay said. “There is a need to correct some of the major issues that are impacting the trails, and we would like to get more attention paid to it.”
Reiner said that one of the township’s goals for 2022 is to support the Friends of the new Garden Trails, and that the township is in the process of hiring a new engineer who specializes in stormwater management, who could address the erosion issues on the trail system.
Stan Lukoff of the Communications Committee urged the township to formally recognize the group as an official township committee, which was formed in 2014. He referred to the Committee’s work on the New Garden Lyceum, the township’s official newsletter that recently published its Winter 2022 edition (available on the township’s website), and called for the establishment of township dashboards, that would provide data of concern to residents.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].