Resident shares construction damage to Chadds Ford development with township02/22/2022 03:43PM ● By Richard Gaw
Courtesy photo A resident of a Chadds Ford subdivision gave a presentation at the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 16 detailing the extent of damage left behind by the clearing of two lots on the road for development.
By Richard L. Gaw
Timber Ridge Lane in Chadds Ford is a subdivision of five lots, three of which are fine homes tucked in a heavily-wooded area on the north side of Kennett Pike.
At the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 16, one resident alerted the board to a persistent eyesore that has angered homeowners along the road and severely damaged the natural beauty of the development.
Timber Ridge Lane homeowner George Plesko, speaking on behalf of all three homesteads, shared the photographic evidence of an abandoned construction project that has caused extensive environmental damage to the remaining two lots on the road -- that total nearly nine acres.
Beginning in 2020, heavy machinery began appearing at the lots in preparation for building. Within days, several trees began coming down – many of them more than 100 years old – that quickly escalated into a near complete deforestation of lots 4 and 5 and included the removal of 69,000 square feet of woodland removed on lot 5 alone.
“I checked my blueprints of the development, and it looked like they were taking a lot more trees down than would have been normally permitted,” Plesko told the supervisors. “The [lumberjacks on the properties] told me that they were going to take everything down, and wanted to know how far the boundaries were and how far they could go.”
Plesko said that he immediately called then township Public Works Director Roger Lysle, who visited the site and determined that there was no paperwork giving permission to the builder to cut the trees down. Plesko told the board that if the builders would have been issued a permit, 15 percent of the woodland could have legally been taken down. Instead, he said, the project removed three-and-a-half times that amount before work was stopped.
After several loads of tree limbs began being carted off of lots 4 and 5, Plesko began taking photographs of the damage and determined that the value of the timber was well over $100,000.
‘Consider using the powers of their office’
Plesko also shared before-and-after photographs that demonstrated the effects of soil disturbance on the two lots, including rainwater that began to form deep gorges along the road that damaged a nearby stream that once held fish and attracted heron. While the builder had made an attempt to stabilize the soil on lot 5, it failed, he said.
Despite the paper trail of correspondence between Timber Ridge Lane residents and the township that alerted the township to the issue, “nothing was done,” he said.
Submitting a complete report to the supervisors, Plesko asked the township to consider using the powers of their office to rectify damage that has occurred in the development, in accordance with existing township rules and ordinances.
“Those ordinances and regulations have a purpose that in this particular case, [serve as] an outstanding example of why we have ordinances like we do about woodland preservation,” he said.
Plesko asked the supervisors to enforce the zoning codes to get the fallen trees and stumps removed from the lots and replant vegetation in wetland areas.
“This is unsightly and we’ve been looking at it for over 18 months,” he said. “This is about preservation – not only the beauty of the area but it is part of Kennett Township, and it’s going to be there after I am long-gone. The ordinances speak to the preservation of that, and that is why I am here and that is why I am asking for help to remedy some of this on-going problem we have.”
Following the presentation, supervisor Scudder Stevens asked Plesko if he has contacted any state or federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Plesko said that he has not yet contacted the agency.
“What steps have you taken to hold Barone Homes [the builder] responsible for the damage to you, your neighbors and your property?” Stevens asked.
“I have not,” Plesko said. “To take steps against them, I think I would have to file a complaint, and that would interfere with the life of business. I wanted to get this ironed out without going down that road.”
Stevens said that while the damage done to Timber Ridge Lane is “an atrocity,” he encouraged Plesko and his fellow residents to take action on their own.
“You have to go after the person who has caused that damage,” he said. “That means you have to put it on the line, go take the risk and start the lawsuit. Look to yourself as to what you can do.”
Township Solicitor David Sander provided some background to the two lots on Timber Ridge Lane, saying that there was a zoning enforcement notice issued for lot 4, which was appealed to the township’s Zoning Hearing Board and later settled between the township and the property owner of lot 4, in exchange for a $7,500 fine and an agreement to stabilize the property.
“I do not believe that any zoning enforcement notices were issued to the owner of lot 5,” Sander said.
Township Manager Eden Ratliff said that while the board would not respond to Plesko’s request at the meeting, he and Planning and Zoning Director Diane Hicks will review Plesko’s materials and prepare a written response to the board and Plesko that will include what action the township can and cannot take.
Ratliff projected that the response would be completed within one month.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].