Township Manager calls for a meeting with the property owners ASAP
By Rick Marts, Correspondent, The Times
KENNETT — Wednesday evening’s Working Public Meeting of the Board of Supervisors focused almost entirely on Ways Lane, a two-mile stretch of privately-owned, barely passable road in northwest Kennett Township.
In short, the road’s cratered surfaces, lack of drainage and lighting, narrow width, and treacherous shoulders make it unsafe for emergency service vehicles to access residences and businesses when crime, fires, or medical emergencies warrant their presence. Also, the road’s poor surface and lack of basic infrastructure, such as sewers and utilities, along its two-mile length are major deterrents to developers who might want to establish commercial ventures in the neighborhood.
Restoring Ways Lane so that it is a useful and maintainable thoroughfare—one that would be attractive to future investors—has become a major dilemma for the township. Because the road is privately owned, the members of the Board of Supervisors say they do not believe it is justified nor wise to take control of maintaining the road and its right-of-way; and yet the owners of the land may not be able to afford to restore and maintain the road themselves.
To make progress toward finding a way out of this dilemma, Township Manager Lisa Moore said, “We invited the 20 Ways Lane residents to attend tonight’s meeting to help us gain the insights of the residents and present some cost information. I am disappointed that only four have attended.
Moore also said, “At this point, the township does not plan to take over the road and correct its deficiencies because residents and businesses own all the property. Still, so that we could define the scope of the problem, we agreed to provide estimates for rehabbing the road, both to our standards and at a more modest cost.”
And that is what the township’s engineering firm, Remington, Vernick, and Beach Engineers, has done. The engineer provided two estimates to restore Ways Lane. Option A is a restoration done to township standards for road construction and Option B is an estimate for simply repaving the road.
Option A – Restore the Road to Township Standards: $1,788,501
Option B – Repave the Road: $678,300
Supervisors Chairman Scudder Stevens said, “We would hope the landowners would come together and reach agreement about who would pay what portion of the cost to restore the road and shoulder. It’s a private deal because the road and surrounding land belong to them.”
Stevens also said, “In the past, we know that 19 of the 20 land owners agreed to restore the road, but the one hold-out killed the deal. Nevertheless, we continue to be open to discussing how to restore Ways Lane.”
A question arose from the floor about whether grants for private road restoration are available. A representative of Remington, Vernick, and Beach said he was not aware of any grants available, although he was willing to research the questions.
Stevens suggested that “perhaps a non-profit group might qualify for a grant. What we do with Ways Lane, in a general sense, is of very great concern to the township. This issue is being discussed in connection with our Comprehensive Plan for economic development of our municipalities.”
To complicate matters, other developers and quasi-governmental entities are discussing how to further develop the US-1 corridor north of where Ways Lane intersects Cypress Street, near the Italian-American Club.
Moore said, “We’ve heard that the library might relocate near one end of Ways Lane, which would bring in utilities to that area at least. The township is willing to spearhead the restoration project by coordinating the owners as they try restore Ways Lane on their own.”
In addition, according to a meeting attendee who is a member of the township’s Planning Commission, Bob Listerman, a group that is considering how to develop the US-1 corridor—the Chester County Economic Development Council—would like to explain to the Ways Lane owners what the potential is for development. Listerman said, “No one knows who is willing to sell for the right offer. We are at an impasse because no one knows what the owners want to do. But the property needs to be restored to township standards before a developer would be interested.”
Listerman suggested a serious meeting with the Ways Lane property owners.
Moore followed that by saying, “We need to schedule that meeting as soon as possible, or we need to change gears and perhaps settle for only repaving, with one of the owners—a concrete company—paying for the concrete, as they offered to do earlier.