EM Residents express concern about apartment development

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Worries that proposed 20-unit development would worsen flooding issues in Willowdale

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

A 20-unit apartment development is proposed for this empty wooded lot next to the Willowdale Town Center.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — A proposed 20-unit apartment development in Willowdale has local residents worried that it could worsen local storm water runoff and increase flooding in and around the red Clay Creek near the intersection of routes 926 and 82.

Mark Padula, representing property owner Tony Dambro, presented the revised apartment development plan to the township’s Board of Supervisors Monday night, noting the more formalized plan had reduced the number of units from 23 to 20 from the concept plan, eliminating concerns about parking on the site, which would be adjacent to the Willowdale Town Center shopping area.

The current plan calls for a three-story building with a mix of one-, two- and three-story apartments, Padula said.

James Sinclair, a neighboring property owner, expressed concerns about worsening storm water runoff problems that he said were causing erosion problems on his property — and caused a number of new trees he planted to die off. He asked to supervisors to take a firmer stand when it comes to run off and said failing to do so could be “disastrous.”

The project has already gotten off to a rocky start with Dambro cited twice by the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly dumping illegal fill in a flood plain. While township officials say they’re satisfied that the issue has been dealt with appropriately, Sinclair expressed concerns that the data used for the design isn’t up to date and that both the wetland and flood plains designated on the design are out of date.

Padula acknowledged that the flood plain information dates to 1996, based on Federal Emergency Management Agency data, while the wetlands designation is from 2005 by Vortex Environmental.

Township Solicitor Frone Crawford said wetlands on the site will need to be delineated, and a calculation done to determine the current flood plain before the project can get final approval. He noted that the overall design of project must take into account the runoff impact downstream.

Noting that the process remains fairly early, Supervisors Chair Cuyler Walker assured Sinclair that Dambro would have to meet all township zoning ordinances — including those governing storm water runoff — before the project would get formal approval.

“They have to satisfy us,” Walker said. “They have to come up with a design that meets the requirements.” He added that the township doesn’t have the legal right to prevent the project from going forward if it meets those standards.

The only other issue on the project was ensuring emergency access between the proposed housing development and the shopping center. With a lone entry on Route 926, township officials wanted to make sure that in the event of an emergency, alternate access would be available. At the same time, they wanted the access restricted — possibly with a chain or some other barrier. The access will likely be paving stones with some sort of walkway to allow easy access to the shops for the apartment residents.

Sinclair also expressed some concerns about traffic in the area, noting that it backs up already now during the morning rush hour.

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