East Marlborough previews US-1 widening project

Supervisors deny demolition of historic home

By Karen Cresta, Staff Writer, The Times


A packed house was on hand Monday night at the East Marlborough Supervisors meeting to review widening plans for US-1.

EAST MARLBOROUGH – Monday night’s board of supervisors’ meeting was filled to capacity at the East Marlborough Township Building as residents packed every available seat for information regarding the US-1 Improvement Project in East Marlborough and Kennett.

The purpose of the presentation was to update the public and local commuters on the design to widen the US-1 corridor from Longwood Gardens to the Kennett bypass split. Frank Eells, the project manager for Gannett Fleming, the project contractor, reviewed the details for the PennDOT roadwork which will make it consistently three lanes in each direction.

For the most part, the shoulder and the right of way will allow for the land needed to widen the roadway in front of existing properties – except for some businesses such as Applebees and neighboring properties where more than the 100 foot right of way will be needed for the third lane. Some utility poles will be moved back prior to the start of construction.

A sidewalk will be added to the north side and the corner at Bayard Road will be rounded out to allow for large trucks to turn safely. The median wall will be extended to Ladbrooke Lane and an adaptive traffic signal system that learns from traffic patterns to reflect conditions will be installed as well as a few new cameras.

When asked by a concerned resident about the increased traffic to RT. 926 as an alternative route, Eells responded that the existing two lanes would remain open while the third lanes were being constructed.

The estimated cost in federal money will be $5 million and the design phase will be completed by summer of 2017 with construction to begin in spring of 2018. The estimated timeframe for completion is 4-6 months.

The 1.7-acre historic home at 101 Poplar Tree Road located in the Unionville Historic District was again a controversial agenda item from last month’s meeting. Brian Harlan, one of the investors in the property, was seeking approval to demolish the home in its entirety.

“Without the subdivision, they can build a larger home in the middle of the property and the old home would stand empty as an accessory building, not a house. They would have to maintain the exterior, according to the zoning ordinance,” township solicitor Frone Crawford clarified.

Neighbors and fellow homeowners in the historic district voiced their concerns of setting a precedence that homes could be bought cheaply and demolished or new homes could be built on the lots by just maintaining the exterior.

Board members recently toured the home to see its condition first-hand. The investors and the Historic Commission made previous statements that the home was in bad shape and disrepair and would cost too much to restore. An option to save the historic home could be possible, per Harlan, if the property was subdivided and a new home was built on the lot.

Another option that Harlan favored was to demolish only the new addition in the back of the home and to build a new addition with a kitchen as well as build an additional home on the lot to make it financially viable.

“We’d like to restore the home,” Harlan stated, “we don’t want to fight the neighbors.”

Supervisor Eddie Caudill said that “the renovations wouldn’t take a lot of money and the existing floors were beautiful. I’m totally against you tearing it down.”

The board voted anonymously against the complete demolition of the home.

The investors could still seek variance(s) for the setback to go ahead with the partial demolition and larger addition on the back of the home. Nothing was determined on the direction the investors would take since approval would be needed by the Zoning Hearing Board and the Historic and Architectural Review Board before the other options were pursued.

In other township news, Supervisor Bob Weer expressed his objections to a joint law enforcement agreement with West Marlborough Township. The agreement would allow East Marlborough’s Chief of Police, Robert Clarke, to subsidize police services on a monthly basis for 12.5 hours at a rate of $80 per hour.

“East Marlborough taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize for our chief,” Weer said. He said that it was not right to perform duties in a neighboring township and it could be handled by a part-time officer. Weer was concerned that the chief who also covers special events was “spreading himself thin…” and was not in favor of it.

Chief Clarke rebutted by saying, “You get me for 40 hours. What I do on my own time is my business…I feel like I’m being scapegoated here and not appreciative of what’s being said. This is a personnel issue and should not be in a public forum but private conversation.”

The joint law enforcement agreement with West Marlborough was approved, 4-1.

Meeting minutes, the schedule, and other township news can be viewed on the new website at www.eastmarlborough.org.

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