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Chester County Press

Somerset Lake residents to New Garden: 'Share the cost of fixing our sinkhole'

07/12/2022 02:17PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw                     Determining solutions for the repair of a sinkhole on Buttonwood Road in the Somerset Lake development became a key topic during the July 5 New Garden Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

For the last year, the sinkhole between Lake Shore Lane and North Shore Lane Buttonwood Road in the Somerset Lake development in Landenberg has been Topic A for the residents who drive along the road.

It started off small but has in the last several months grown to a sizable girth of four-feett deep and eight-feet wide. The frustration over the sinkhole isn’t just shared over the hedgerows; it’s also been on the agenda at several homeowners’ association meetings.

At the New Garden Township’s July 5 meeting, what to do with the sinkhole was on the agenda and became the latest action taken in a back-and-forth of meetings and letters.

On June 14, the Somerset Lake Service Corporation submitted to the township a list of 14 possible solutions to repair the hole in the road that involved the installation of barriers and forms meant to stabilize the area, strengthen the nearby stormwater basin and eventually reopen that portion of the road.

In a June 21 letter to township Manager Ramsey Reiner and Public Works Director Ken Reed, David L. Sibert of Brandywine Valley Properties on behalf of the Somerset Lake Service Corporation submitted a document that outlined the steps the Corporation would be willing to undertake in the hopes of reopening the road, which has been closed to vehicular traffic for the past several weeks.

In late June, members of the Somerset Lake Service’s Board of Directors met with New Garden Township Board Chairman Steve Allaband and supervisor Dave Unger – a resident of Somerset Lake -- to see what could be done to fix the problem and restore normalcy to the quiet lakeside community.

In the board’s discussion of reasonable alternatives on July 5, however, only one option was considered – the installation of a large steel plate over the sinkhole.

Fixing the problem this way is very likely to be far more complicated than slapping a steel plate down and reopening the road. Emphasizing a ballpark figure only, Reed estimated that the cost to purchase and install a 15-20-foot-long, 18-inch-thick steel plate would be under $20,000.

Somerset Lake resident Don McConathy, who was present at the recent meeting between the Corporation’s Board of Directors and Allaband and Unger, said that he would supply the township with updated design proposals. He then showed the supervisors three engineering concepts that would provide long-term stability of the road and the basin – all of which has gone to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for review.

Whose road is it?

The upshot of the Corporation’s proposal, however, submits that the township is responsible for not only the repair of the pipes beneath Buttonwood Road but for the surface of the road. Subsequently, the proposal calls for a cost-sharing between the Somerset Lake community and the township to complete the repair of the sinkhole and its connecting pipes beneath Buttonwood Road.

McConathy did not provide firm cost estimates to the board.

“The homeowner association’s position is the road [surface] belongs to the township [and] the pipes under the road belong to the township,” McConathy said. “We kind of feel that there is some responsibility on the part of the township. We looked at this and said, ‘If the township were to help us, what’s the best way to do that?’

“If you provide some of the material costs to us, we can do the rest of the construction work. If the township then would deal with putting the road back together so it’s to their standards, we can have somewhat of a joint project that would be able to flow very nicely.”

Reiner disagreed with McConathy, saying that the pipes beneath Buttonwood Road – particularly in the vicinity of the sinkhole -- do not belong to the township.

“If the DEP permit for those pipes is held by the Somerset HOA (Homeowner’s Association) then in my eyes it belongs to the HOA,” she said.

Allaband said the immediate objective is to reopen the road as soon as possible. He said that the township will work with the Somerset Lake HOA on gathering cost estimates.

Planting and nursery project at Saint Anthony’s gets go-ahead

The supervisors gave their support to a presentation by township resident Stan Lukoff to dedicate a 1.4-acre parcel in Saint Anthony’s in the Hills as a future home for more than 400 trees, 100 shrubs and the installation of a live stake nursery. The plantings will be located in the southeastern portion of the property, near the site of the former soccer fields.  

The project was proposed and is being developed by Meagan Hopkins-Doerr, the 2022 Penn State Master Watershed Stewardship Coordinator of Chester County; Shane Morgan of the White Clay Watershed Association; and Lukoff.

The project is being done in conjunction with the Keystone Tree Fund, which was signed into law in November of 2019 by Gov. Wolf.  With funding raised through $3 voluntary donations by Pennsylvania residents, the fund supports the efforts of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to eventually plant 86,000 acres of stream buffers statewide to improve rivers, streams and water quality in the commonwealth. 

The development of the project is scheduled for late October-early November of this year.  It will include site clearing, invasive plant removal, the removal of dead trees and branches, the mowing and clearing of the area, the installation of an eight-foot-high metal deer fencing around a live stake nursery, and the installation of 400 trees and 100 shrubs, many of which will be donated by the Keystone Tree Fund. 

The project – budgeted at $67,000 -- is seeking a $33,000 grant from Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts to pay for materials, labor and maintenance and administrative fees. The project is also expected to receive $34,000 in in-kind contributions from several local conservation agencies, New Garden Township, and Penn State Master Watershed Stewardship volunteers. 

As of now, the project’s planting and maintenance plans have been completed and signed off by the Chester County Conservation District, and once approved will be entering a request for proposal process for a portion of the project.

“Once completed, it will be used as a demonstration area to teach visitors about the impact a riparian buffer and the live-stake nursery has on rivers and streams,” Lukoff said. “Assuming that the park opens up in the next several years, these plantings will get a good head start in terms of their growth. This will be a great win for the township and for the next generations of its stewards.”

Stormwater ordinance updates

In other township business, Beth Uhler of Cedarville Engineering gave the supervisors an overview of the key changes to the newly-revised Chester County stormwater ordinance. She reviewed updated provisions, language and definitions related to redevelopment; green infrastructure management; riparian buffers; inspection and best management practices; authorized discharges and the disposal of pet waste.

These changes for 2022, Uhler said, are being driven by the DEP because of the increasing need for stormwater management, intensified storm events and the continued growth and development in the county.

The township is expected to adopt the county’s revised stormwater ordinance at the Board of Supervisors’ Aug. 15 meeting.

The board then gave approval to Cedarville Engineering’s $34,620 proposal to conduct a stormwater assessment of the “downtown” vicinity of Toughkenamon. In her broad overview, Uhler said the village is suffering from severely outdated and limited stormwater infrastructure that is leading to road erosion and ponding along roads, and tat there are large stretches of roads with no stormwater infrastructure at all.

Uhler said that the assessment will identify outdated infrastructure, create a proposal for the entire vicinity that will include recommendations and cost estimates, seek methods to fund the project, and incorporate them into the Streetscape & Transportation Improvement Plan currently being developed by McMahon Associates, and the eventual redevelopment of the Baltimore Pike-Newark Road intersection.

Phase III of renovations at Flying Field

The board approved a $7,000 contribution from the township to Phase III of the New Garden Flying Field’s continuing renovation that will include electrical installation upgrades, the demolition of a structure near the runway and the installation of runway lighting. New Garden Flying Field Aviation Director Jon Martin said that the U.S. Bureau of Aviation will provide $820, 975 in funding toward the electrical service installation project to Global Electrical Services, Inc. that will be tacked on to the $680,000 these projects will receive from federal funding.

Martin said that 55 campers attended the first session of the Future Aviators camp from June 20-24, and that 85 campers are anticipated to attend the camp’s next session that will be held from July 11-15.

The Flying Field’s “Evening of Aviation” will be held on Aug. 30 beginning at 4 p.m. and will include food vendors, classic aircraft and vehicles on display, aerobatic performances and conclude with a fireworks display. The rain date for the event will be on Aug. 31. To learn more and obtain tickets to the event, visit

Reiner proposed that the township schedule a public meeting in August in order to share the master plan for the future of the Saint Anthony’s in the Woods property. The exact date of the meeting will soon be shared with residents.

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