Pennsbury Village settlement could be close

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Supervisors weigh new stipulations, changes to previous development plan

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTImes.com

The two primary parcels slated for resiential development on either side of Pennsbury's Township Building.

PENNSBURY — More than a decade of litigation and acrimony could finally come to an end — as early as Friday — if the township supervisors agree to a stipulation for a land development plan for Pennsbury Village, the long-proposed property development which would be built on either side of the township building along U.S. 1.

The Board of Supervisors could vote during a special meeting Friday at 5 p.m. to accept  a set of stipulations to allow Pennsbury Village Associates (PVA) to move forward with plans to build housing units on either side of the township building. The new stipulations mean previous plans to build a roadway through the township property, and stormwater retention basins in front of the property have been eliminated.

The board went over the details of the stipulation Tuesday night in front of a standing-room only meeting.

Also, previous plans allowing for the output treated wastewater to go into the Ring Run have been modified to provide for ground discharge. Discharge into Ring Run would still be a secondary possibility, if there is too much output for ground discharge to handle. The stipulation could also mean the elimination of proposed commercial properties, including a bank, in the plan.

That could change, though, depending on the final disposition of the Hope House — a historic structure located on one of the parcels. PVA, can, depending on discussions with the township, move the building to an adjacent  township parcel, demolish the building or move it another part of the development, Hickory Hill, add 8,000 square feet to the building and use it for commercial space. The stipulation also provides for eight housing units — up from three — in the Hickory Hill parcel, which would drop to four if the Hope House/Commercial building is built.

The new plan means that township’s maintenance facility won’t have to be torn down and replaced as part of the plan.

Even if the board of supervisors agrees to the stipulations, the revised site plan will still have to go through the standard planning process, including being heard by the township Planning Commission.

“This doesn’t approve the plan,” Township Solicitor Tom Oeste said. “It just provides grounds to settle litigation.”

PVA filed suit against the township and various individual opponents of the project, including current supervisor Aaron McIntyre over violations of a 2006 stipulation that would have allowed use of township land — previously ceded by Chester County — for a connecting roadway and sewage disposal. While the township is hoping to end it’s share of the litigation, the private targets of litigation, including McIntyre, lost an appear earlier this year before the state Supreme Court.

While not a complete victory, the stipulation seems to give most of what opponents to the original plan sought five years ago. Most of the township property is left undisturbed, although a berm along the parkland behind the township building will be leveled, and the original plan to build a seeming “downtown Pennsbury” have been largely scrapped in favor of a simpler residential development. The stipulation preserves land for future township needs, unlike the previous plan.

Much of the public debate Tuesday centered on the future of the Hope House, with differing views on whether the township should save and preserve the building on township property or suggest that PVA take the building as part of the proposed commercial building. After some deliberation, the township’s Historical Commission recommended that township support the commercial use, as opposed to taking on the additional expense of upgrading the Hope House for civic use. Margo Leach, a local architect and former member of the Historical Commission disagreed — saying she felt the building would be fairly inexpensive to maintain.

Other residents expressed concerns about the road through the development and the potential for issues with school bus stops on Hickory Hill Road.

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