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Chester County Press

New Garden adopts new unified development zoning ordinance

06/21/2022 03:38PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw                     The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors signed off on June 20 to a new ordinance that will provide zoning guidelines for development along the Route 41 and Route 7 corridors in the township.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Following an hour-long public hearing on June 20 that heard from a township planner, elected officials and residents, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt a new Unified Development (UD) Zoning Ordinance that will place guidelines for commercial and residential development along the eastern portion of the Route 41 corridor and parts of Route 7.

The hearing, conducted by township Solicitor William Christman, brought back township planner Tom Comitta to further provide additional vision and steerage for the ordinance, a plan that he developed that spells out the long-term vision for the district that begins at its western point at Newark Road, is bordered on the south at Reynolds Road and Southwood Road, includes property just to the north of Route 41 and extends east to Limestone Road (Route 7) to the Delaware state line.

As detailed in the wording used to officially adopt the ordinance, the guidelines are part of an effort by the township to revitalize Route 41 and Route 7; create a more functional and attractive environment in which to work, shop, dine, live, and play; promote useful non-residential uses in the district; promote mixed-use development to better enable non-residential and residential uses to be mutually supportive of one another; enable a variety of housing choices in the district; enhance the streetscape design along the corridors; and promote sustainable development.

The final plan was reviewed – and approved with minor changes – by the Chester County Planning Commission.

“It’s the best of the best of what we have been working on for the last year and a half,” Comitta told the supervisors. “Here in New Garden, we don’t have this rich architectural heritage along Route 41, so we’re not going to be upsetting anyone with new buildings. “We just aspire to a higher standard, but we didn’t say that [developers] have to design the Taj Mahal. We came up with what we thought were reasonable principles for streetlights and street trees that follow form and composition.”

Township residents commented on the ordinance during the hearing. While praising the design standards of the plan, Richard Zimny said he was concerned about what impact possible development along Route 7 would have on traffic patterns.

“On that road, that is primary traffic for weekend commute,” he said. “To allow that to be used for the development of convenience stores, for the centers we are talking about, is going to make this a congested mess. It’s a two-lane road. I do not understand your logic in including those parcels along Route 7.”

Board chairman Steve Allaband told Zimny that some of the parcels along the Route 7 corridor are zoned Highway Commercial (HC) and are not affected by the UD district ordinance.

Somerset Lake resident Heather Horton recommended that one-half of the UD district be given over to the township and converted into protected open space. She also said that the ordinance should contain limitations on the square footage of planned townhomes along the Route corridor – about 1,000 square feet in size, she suggested.

“There is no need for gigantic townhomes,” she wrote on a document she provided to the board. “Families are smaller than ever. We need attractive housing units with small footage for singles, couples, retirees and single parent families.”

Horton also made a recommendation that the historical structures throughout the UD district be rehabbed into housing units.

‘Harnessing the enthusiasm of the development’

Allaband addressed the concern of some residents in the township who feel that the establishment of these zoning guidelines may lead to over development that will ultimately – and dramatically – change the character of a still semi-rural township.

“What this ordinance does for New Garden Township is that it gives us more control of the design standards, more control of the types of development that we are looking for,” Allaband. “This is an improvement over what we have on the books.”

Comitta said that while it may take at least five years before the effect of these guidelines will begin to take root along Route 41, the township’s decision to adopt the ordinance will pay off.

Absent these standards, if anyone [will be] driving along the Route 41 corridor and sees something that gives them pause, they may ask the question, ‘Why does this look so bad?’” Comitta said. “We are not inducing development with the changes. We are harnessing the enthusiasm of the development.

“We’re poised for a better outcome,” he added. “We are poised for a more reasonable way to think about development, and what’s not to like about design standards that [New Garden Township hasn’t] had in 35 years?”

In other township business, the supervisors accepted a request to extend a land development plant for the proposed White Clay Point subdivision along Route 41 until July 30, 2022.

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