Kennett Square residents protest plan to sell borough-owned parking lot03/14/2023 12:29AM ● By Steven Hoffman
Citizen comments concerning a proposed sale of the Church Alley parking lot dominated the first hour of Kennett Square Borough Council’s March 8 meeting.
Many of those comments centered on the council’s announced intention to vote on the selling of the property at 108 Church Alley to the prospective buyers of the current Kennett Library.
The news broke after the Monday, March 6 meeting that the council intended to vote on Wednesday to put it up for sale, accommodating the desire of the potential buyers of the present library building.
The Church Alley lot is adjacent to the about-to-be-abandoned library as well at the U.S. Post Office, the former borough building and the American Legion. A positive vote by the council would enable the borough to put the lot up for sale, particularly to the potential buyers of the present library building.
It was clear, however, that as the word spread around the borough, many residents and business owners were not happy with that proposal. In fact, the Opposition was so loud that council member Bob Norris proposed, and had approved, a motion to remove the vote from the evening’s agenda.
Still, residents had their say as they lined up to give their opinions.
Kennett Square American Legion Post 491 spokeswoman Vicki Dash-Slesinski led the procession to the podium, making the case for keeping the parking lot public and open. She spoke on behalf of the post members, many of them elderly and partially disabled who use the parking lot for meetings.
“They would have to park in the garage and walk down the hill,” she said.
Slesinski added that taking away the parking lot for members could actually lead to decreased membership and lessen the services the legion provides to the borough.
Holly Peters, whose store, Holly Peters Oriental Rugs, also sits adjacent to the parking lot, presented a prepared statement. She made several points.
First she said she had polled local businesses about the proposal, and the representatives were almost unanimously against selling the parking lot.
She reiterated Dash-Slesinski’s point that it would hurt the membership of the American Legion, and said it would also affect the handicap parking for the Mushroom Festival and other special events as well.
Peters said the businesses in town have paid the borough – in her case $5,000 – for the parking spaces that they have access to.
Peters asked, “Why are we handing the parking facility to a private entity?”
Peters also mentioned that the needs for parking would increase with the coming sale of the Franklin Center on Broad Street, especially for people who use the post office and for visitors to the new library down the street.
“We don’t need less parking. We need more. … Don’t take a short sale that benefits one but not the other,” she said.
Kennett Library Trustee Collis Townsend identified himself as the member of that board who is in charge of the sale. He was the only speaker at the meeting who expressed strong support for the borough selling the parking lot to the new owners of the library building.
“When the building was put for sale, it was the understanding that the parking lot will be for sale as well. … The sale [of the old library] is contingent upon the buyer getting the lot,” he said.
He added that the company, which he did not name, “(I)s willing to work with you to find a solution.”
Other speakers proposed alternatives like lease arrangements and the company providing parking garage contracts for their employees. One attendee at the meeting asked why the library had the authority to sell a parking lot that is owned by the borough.
On other topics, several speakers asked for solutions to the noise and frequency of 19 musical concerts planned by the Flash for the coming summer. Another asked for the borough to provide a payment plan for residents who were unable to come up immediately with the increased property tax payment this year.
On March 9, borough council president Doug Doerfler issued a press release on Facebook informing the public that the sale of the parking lot had been taken off the agenda for the March 8 meeting.
“Upon receiving feedback from residents and local business owners, the Council decided to pull this item from the agenda and the lot will not be listed for sale,” he wrote.
He did not say if the item would be revisited at a later date.