HONEY BROOK - If township planners have their way, future development could be targeted into a special development zone in the eastern part of the township to be known as "Rockland Station," thereby theoretically preserving more farmland.
The area is being designed around the principles of what developers call "new urbanism" that call for designing walkable communities with a mixture of residential and commercial uses. The plan is the result of about a year of meetings by the township's comprehensive plan task force in conjunction with the Brandywine Conservancy.
"Essentially, it is like building a new town center," said Supervisor Greg Cary. "The guiding principle is recognizing that Chester County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state and the need to balance land preservation with development."
Cary said concentrating development in a stated area is the best way to prevent uncontrolled sprawl throughout the township.
Residents of the proposed development district would be able to walk to places of employment or recreation from their homes instead of only having to drive from place to place.
"John Mizel and John Theilacker with the Bran-dywine Conservancy have given us good insights, with a circle-centric plan that has a 20-minute walk to the center," he said.
Supervisor Don John-son said this approach would allow the township to preserve more prime farmland than could be preserved otherwise, while keeping traffic off main roads such as Route 322.
"It is a better way because it gives developers an option of where to go," Johnson said. "You can say preserve farmland, but it is a hard battle if you don't give developers another option."
Johnson feels this approach gives the township a fighting chance to keep development in check.
"It makes a lot of sense, and I am really impressed with it," he said. "There are a lot of interconnecting roads and paths that keep people off the main roads such as 322. It is a benefit to the community."
Township Manager Mike Brown said several developers who see it as a good compromise be-tween zero growth and unrestricted development have praised the township's draft comprehensive plan.
"They have said the township is exercising vision," Brown said.
The new comprehensive plan fixes areas in the 1993 comprehensive plan that township officials found less than palatable because that plan placed prime farmland under threat of development. The old plan zoned such areas as "intensive use."
The old comprehensive plan talked about Honey Brook as an agricultural and rural community, but did not provide a mechanism to keep that a reality.
Brown said the comprehensive plan revision is mandated by the state of every township whether it like its or not, every 10 years.
The first public hearing on the draft comprehensive plan will be held June 14 at the township building.