After more than a year of discussion in the community, and months of hearings at the Tredyffrin Planning Commission and finally the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, a controversial change in the township's zoning law has won approval.
The change in the C-1 Zoning Ordinance will allow developers of a proposed 93 bed assisted living facility to begin the process of developing the former Jimmy Duffy Catering site on Lancaster Ave., across from the Daylesford Train Station.
The Capital Health development led by Ed Morris of Tredyffrin must still meet all the requirements for the site, including parking, building size and storm water management. The vote Monday night clears the way for Morris, who also developed the Symphony Square assisted living facility in Bryn Mawr, to begin the process of submitting specific plans and seeking permits for the site.
Until Monday night's vote assisted living facilities (ALF) were not permitted on lots zoned as C-1 in Tredyffrin Township.
The new ordinance revision was approved by a 6-1 vote of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors after a three and a half hour hearing Monday night. During that meeting, a nearly three hour long line of Tredyffrin Township residents stood up to oppose the ordinance as passed.
At the heart of the opposition was concern over the size of the lot, the impact of the facility on the surrounding Daylesford Neighborhood and the implications of changing the zoning law for the entire township.
Several people who spoke against the C-1 Zoning change told the Board of Supervisors a zoning law affecting the entire township should not be changed simply to accommodate the needs of one developer on one parcel of land that is less than two acres in size.
"It has the odor of spot zoning," said Murph Wysocki, a long time real estate attorney and 2011 Democrat candidate for the Board. Wysocki was one of numerous township residents, who are also lawyers, who asked the Board of Supervisors to take another look at the long term and possible unintended consequesences of allowing an assisted living facility to be built on parcels that are zoned for small businesses and restaurants.
The idea of an ALF is not what most objected to. It is the lot sizes, traffic and safety concerns of putting an ALF in a small space.
Most of the 109 C-1 lots in Tredyffrin that could actually be developed into an assisted living facility are relatively small, less than an acre or two. The Tredyffrin Township planning director was not able to give the board a specific number of C-1 parcels in the township that would meet the criteria for an assisted living facility under the new ordinance. Both the township and Capital Health Developer Ed Morris (who wants to build on the Duffy Catering Site) said the actual number would end up being very small from a pragmatic developer stand point.
Many of the C-1 Zoned sites in the township are along Lancaster Ave. The smallest of those parcels tend to be in the Devon and Berwyn sections. Those sites grow larger the further west you go toward Paoli. The biggest site mentioned by both sides in the discussion is between five and six acres and is currently the home of Del Chevrolet. The lot that houses Landmark Americana/O-Soto at the corner of Lancaster Avennue and Old Eagle School Road in Devon is also zoned for C-1.
The largest parcels of land zones as C-1 are along the Amtrak tracks. Those would not qualify for Assisted Living Facilities, according to what the Planning Director told members of the Board of Supervisors during Monday's hearing.
Opponents pointed out that C-1 sites which might not seem practical for an assisted living facility in 2012 could become more attractive to developers in future years.
In the end, several supervisors said the need for an assisted living facility for seniors (to keep older residents from having to move out of Tredyffrin Township for assisted living) outweighed their concerns about long-term, unintended consequences of approving the change in the zoning ordinance.
When the deciding vote was cast, an audible gasp went up from opponents who packed the hearing room and who had spent well over a year first questioning and then fighting the ordinance changes as proposed and now passed.
Supervisor Phillip Donahue cast the only 'no' vote. The Board of Supervisors is made up of seven Republicans.