Residents, business owners and leaders throughout the area have been asked to develop a united vision for the future of Exeter Township. The Economic Development Advisory Council hosted a breakfast at the Reading Country Club Jan. 25 to introduce the steering committee of the project to the public.
“The Board (of Supervisors) wanted to explore ways to move Exeter Township forward,” Jeff Bukowski, chairman on the board, said. The purpose is to develop a plan for the township for 2030 and beyond to develop a positive “quality of life” for residents. “We have to figure out where we want to go and how to go there,” Bukowski said.
Through surveys, questionnaires and maps, business leaders, township officials, and residents voiced their input in directing Exeter’s development. Township maps were on display for residents to specifically identify suggested change. “We want to know what they like, what they don’t like and what they see for the future,” Judith Goldstein, managing director at Boucher & James, Inc., said.
The plan is set-up into two phases; the first is to identify common themes of the residents, the second is the economic funding. The first phase is scheduled to wrap up in April. Together Goldstein and Jeffrey Rienger, vice president at Whitman, Requardt & Associates, represent land use and transportation.
“Everyone’s opinion is valid,” Goldstein said.
Once the common vision of the public is determined, EDAC plans to implement the ideas.
The steering committee is a collection of representatives from throughout the community. Cheryl Franckowiak, zoning officer, Troy Bingaman, township manager, Jeff Bukowski, township supervisor, Dona Starr, township supervisor, Bob Quniter, school board president, Carolyn Brunschwyler, EDAC, Don Wilson, planning commission, Lisa VanderLaan, resident, Pat Mascaro, business owner, Gary Burnisiay, business owner, Jim Wanser, business owner, Pam Shupp, GREP, and Shannan Rossman, BCPC.
At the breakfast, questions were posed on giant sheets of paper that asked four questions: “What do you like about Exeter?” “What don’t you like about Exeter?” “What would you like to see in Exeter?” and “What wouldn’t you like to see in Exeter?”
Residents were invited up to write down their vision.
“I’d like to see a Wegmans and high-end restaurants,” David Ogden, a retired business-man and 17 year resident of the township, said. Ogden mentioned that there are fast-food options like Sonic, and Five Guys throughout the township, but would like to have someone a bit classier to dine. “We have the [Reading] Country Club, but that’s it.”
A consensus of fancier eating options seemed to be a theme among residents. Along with Wegmans, others would be eager to welcome grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
Tim and Karen Pelter, residents of Exeter Township, would like to see the township attract “younger, professional people” and “progressive thinkers.”
Tim Pelter told The Southern Berks News that their 23-year-old daughter moved to Boulder, CO because she wanted to live somewhere where things happen. He added that in Exeter there is a lack of people getting together and suggested a community yard sale, music festivals or craft fairs put on by the township. “I want to see more community fairs and festivals,” Pelter said.
Pelter stated the township is “stuck” with an out of date mind set. “It’s a great community, nice area with great people but it needs to come into the 21st century,” Pelter said. “We also need to get our school board under control.”
An increase to taxes made the “What wouldn’t you like to see in Exeter?” list.
“Taxes are the main issue, our taxes are terrible,” Linda Focht, a resident, said. Focht said she does not want to see more residential development, because that is a guarantee to raise taxes.
Empty buildings and businesses throughout the township were stated to be “unsightly.”
“I would like to see empty businesses and buildings be filled,” she said. Focht referenced the setup of West Reading and Riverfront Park in Pottstown to both be inspirations for Exeter. “I would like to see the township be more pedestrian friendly.” Route 422 intersects the township but lacks to offer a safe place for pedestrians cross.
“[Exeter] is a “drive through” township,” Michelle Wunder, resident, said. She would like a neighborhood feeling across the township, which can stem from offering more walking, and biking options. Wunder (also a fan of bringing a Trader Joe’s) said the township needs “to attract people from other areas with diverse populations.”
“Exeter Township has a lot of opportunities... we need to get the work done,” Barry Zeigler, township supervisor, said. Zeigler, a newly elected member of the board, finds it important to build up businesses and suggested creating a Chamber of Commerce for Exeter.
Generally, comments provided showed that residents appreciate open space, farms, the library and the people. Things like traffic, empty businesses, debt levels and lack of centers for the youth made the “do not like” list and increasing traffic, strip malls, landfills, taxes, and housing would not please the residents. Residents do hope to see a YMCA, bookstores, restaurants, community buildings, swimming pools, fairs, a train, walking and biking accessibilities, community events, and hope to keep the Reading Country Club.
The EDAC is inviting the residents of Exeter Township to voice your vision of the future, because they are planning on making it a reality.