A controversial proposal to clear the way for a new deveopment in a flood-prone section of Tredyffrin Township came to the very last vote Monday night at the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting.
Hundreds of area residents poured into Keene Hall and the lobby outside as the controversial Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance came up for a seventh and final public hearing and vote.
In the end, the measure passed 4-3 as Supervisor Kristen Kirk Mayock cast the final and deciding vote to approve the new ordinance in a room full packed to overflowing with citizens who opposed the measure in the form as approved.
This was no simple matter, as more than two two years of community discussions and page after page of information about the ordinance posted on the township's website would indicate.
What the vote means
The passing of the ordinance clears the first major hurdle for a developer who wants to build a high-end housing and office development on the "Richter tract." The parcel of land is bordered by Old Eagle School, Walker and Swedesford Roads in the Glenn Hardie Section of the Township.
Developer Arcadia Land Company of Narberth plans to put townhomes and carriage houses on the parcel and possibly a showcase office building fronting Swedeford Road sometime in the future.
The Issues Behind the Opposition
Among the biggest concerns of residents who lined up one after another after another to voice their opposition: the potential for even greater flooding in the area. Trout Creek notoriously spills over its banks in heavy rain and the situation is even worse in two year storms and hurricanes as happened last year during Hurricane Irene.
Opponents of the development argued that the ordinance doesn't have strong enough language to force Arcadia or any future developer to build storm basins and infrastructure capable of handling the run-off that would be created by big storms in a new development with pavement and buildings that do not currentl exist.
Arcadia Land Company President Jason Duckworth told the overflow crowd that his company would be required, and would, build infrastructure that could actually hold the run off from a "two year" storm. In fact, Duckworth said, it would contain run off from an even more serious "100 year" storm.
Before the three-and-a-half hour long hearing and vote got underway Glen Hardie Condo Association President Mary Smickenbecker summed up the concerns of residents saying "the Richter Tract sits on a hill and water will run down. All we want is responsible stream management."
Smickenbecker echoed the concern of many of the people who waited hours to speak their peace and ask the Board of Supervisors to go back and take another look at the ramifications of a development on the land.
For Supervisors, it came to down a balancing act
Each of the seven Republican Supervisors focused on the balance between the need for new housing stock in the township and responsible storm water management.
The developer wants to build a community of townhouses and carriage houses on the parcel. Duckworth said Aracadia plans to build houses designed for empty-nesters who want to downsize from their current homes but stay in Tredyffrin Township.
That is music to the ears of many supervisors who are struggling to find ways to pay for township services - without raising taxes or cutting services.
On the other side of the balancing act is the concern about flooding.
It is already a serious, even dangerous problem for area residents. One family was stranded in a recent heavy rain storm and had to be rescued from their own front door by the Berwyn Fire Company. Residents who voiced opposition Monday night reminded Supervisors that problems like that are becoming more common even in lesser rain storms.
Duckworth says Arcadia would build more than four million dollars worth of basins and stormwater infrastructure. That's money that the township would not have to pay for to provide water management improvements that backers and opponents of the ordinance say is desperately needed.
Several residents who spoke against the ordinance say that there needs to be a bigger, more comprehensive master plan for stormwater management that goes way beyond the Richter tract. They asked the Board of Supervisors to keep working on the issue and come up with a broader stormwater management plan for the entire Glen Hardie area of the township. They pushed for an ordinance in the future that would account to the broader problem and not just one parcel that might ultimately not fit well with a comprehensive stormwater solution.
In the end it came down to the supervisors to make the call. They voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance.
John "JD" DiBuonaventuro
Kristen Kirk Mayock