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Unanswered questions delay New Hanover development

Stormwater issues conflict with road width

By Evan Brandt,, @PottstownNews on Twitter

Monday, March 5, 2018

NEW HANOVER >> Discussion of a development project approved years ago for 54 townhomes, but now revised to a plan for 29 single family homes on 14.1 acres off Dotterer Road, dominated the bulk of the most recent board of township supervisors meeting.

The plan, called Trotter’s Gait, came to the supervisors last night, after receiving a recommendation for preliminary site plan approval from the planning commission, the result of a prior 3-2 vote.

Proposed by Blue Bell-based Mikelen LLC, the development is preferred by the supervisors, largely because it is fewer units, but it failed to obtain preliminary site plan approval from the supervisors Thursday night nevertheless, in large part because there were too many unanswered questions.

It is the same response the project received from the supervisors when it sought preliminary site plan approval last September.

The new majority on the board has been critical of too many loose ends and incomplete work being done by developers in the township allowed by previous administrations and takes a newly tough line with projects these days.

Supervisors Chairman Charles D. Garner Jr. made clear the board had no problems with previous work done by this developer. “I like this project much more than I did the townhome project,” he said.

But Garner and the other supervisors could not be persuaded by attorney Joseph Clement to grant the preliminary approval with a pledge to comply with the many issues raised in the consultant letters.

“We have been here in good faith for a year trying to get approval,” Clement complained.

At the township’s request, the developers did show a driveway connection from the project to neighboring Layfield Park, but Township Engineer Dave Leh wants to see the connection better defined on the plans, particularly given that there is a three-foot difference in grade.

“You asked us to show a driveway on the plan, and we did what you asked,” said Clement.

One particular problem for the developer is the competing needs of wider roads and less stormwater.

Among the waivers the developer is seeking is for the interior roads on the project to be 30 feet wide, with parking allowed on only one side of the street.

Concerns about adequate parking and being able to get around parked cars are at odds with a desire for less impermeable surface, and thus less storm run-off.

Wider roads means more stormwater and, as Clement said, that means re-designing the stormwater basins to hold more capacity and, as a result “they might not fit” on the acreage of the project.

Ultimately, if the plan cannot be built as currently proposed, the developers go back to the approved plan for 54 town homes, but “we want to build this plan,” Clement said.

Finally, after about an hour of wrangling, the developers agreed to ask for a 30-day extension on the plan while they attempt to determine of there is enough space on the property for larger detention basins necessitated by wider roads.

Those detention basins must also hold the capacity for a neighboring project by the same developer, called Pacer’s Gait, a seven-home subdivision located on just under six adjacent acres.

As a result, it must be built first and thus also received a 30-day extension on that plan.

The capacity of the storm water basins may be inadequate, said Supervisor William “Ross” Snook.

He said he and Township Engineer David Leh had visited homes at a neighboring subdivision and “they all had sump pumps which run 24 hours a day.”

Clement confirmed that the water being pumped out of those basements — which Snook says could add up to more than one million gallons — is diverted to the storm sewer system, but is not calculated as part of the stormwater flow because “it’s not required” by law.

The law does require the stormwater basins to be empty within 72 hours after a storm and Snook said he is concerned about “nuisance water,” standing water which can become a haven for mosquito larvae.

Development issues continue to be the primary issue facing officials in the township. Thursday night, supervisors dealt with a total of eight different developments including:

• releasing $1.5 million in escrow being held to guarantee work at the Hanover Pointe project on North Charlotte Street;

• a newly built pedestrian trail that floods;

• a sewer pipe installed without proper inspection and;

• dropping a lawsuit against the FDIC which sought to recover costs for road and sidewalk improvements at a development in which all the homes were sold, but both the developer and the bank holding the financial guarantee for the work to be done went out of business.

This article first appeared as a post in The Digital Notebook blog.