Devon Yard apart­ment build­ing, park­ing garage scotched

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Stein lstein@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @lstein­re­porter on Twit­ter

DEVON >> Sev­eral of the res­i­dents who spoke at the East­town Town­ship Plan­ning Com­mis­sion meet­ing re­cently thanked Ur­ban Out­fit­ters for lis­ten­ing to their con­cerns and al­ter­ing plans for the new Devon Yard to be built at the site of the for­mer Water­loo Gar­dens on Lan­caster Av­enue.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion is con­sid­er­ing a new zon­ing over­lay district tai­lored to al­low the project to go for­ward. Pre­vi­ously, res­i­dents packed town­ship meet­ings to voice their op­po­si­tion to a four-story apart­ment build­ing and a park­ing garage. Those el­e­ments are no longer in the plans.

David Ziel, chief devel­op­ment of­fi­cer for Ur­ban Out­fit­ters, said his com­pany is now the sole

ap­pli­cant for the project that, if ap­proved, would bring a 31,289-square­foot An­thro­polo­gie store, a 3,477-square-foot Ter­rain store, a Ter­rain café, a 1,630-square-foot pizze­ria and ad­join­ing Amis restau­rant at 3,000 square feet. In ad­di­tion, a 3,839-sqaure-foot event space is en­vi­sioned for wed­dings, par­ties, bar mitz­vahs, or other gath­er­ings.

These stores and restau­rants would clus­ter around a cen­tral court­yard with park­ing around the ex­te­rior. Although two ad­join­ing prop­er­ties, now a doc­tor’s of­fice and a house, would be in­cluded in the zon­ing over­lay, those prop­er­ties are not part of the Ur­ban Out­fit­ters shop­ping cen­ter. One of those parcels might be de­vel­oped into town­houses, of­fi­cials said.

Iron­i­cally, though the neigh­bors were pleased with this lat­est ver­sion of the Devon Yard plan, some mem­bers of the plan­ning com­mis­sion ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that the apart­ment build­ing is no longer in the off­ing.

“I have no is­sue with the or­di­nance as it is,” said Michael Cap­pel­letti. “… I’m sorry they had to cave to the bully pul­pit. That’s the way things are. I’m sad there aren’t go­ing to be res­i­dents there. That irks me a lit­tle bit. The com­pre­hen­sive plan calls for multi-fam­ily devel­op­ment here . ... Again it’s a com­mer­cial prop­erty. It’s go­ing to be what it is. This is a developer who is try­ing to do what’s best for the town­ship . ... I think they’ve done a great job.”

Mary Hashemi said the over­lay “does pro­vide for the pedes­trian scale that I would like to see in the town­ship,” and is “a step in the right di­rec­tion.” How­ever, “It would have been good to have the multi-fam­ily, denser hous­ing.”

Joseph Kohn, a lawyer who rep­re­sents some res­i­dents and is a nearby res­i­dent him­self, said, “We very much ap­pre­ci­ate the changes the developer made.” How­ever, Kohn said he does not see why the doc­tor’s of­fice and res­i­den­tial prop­erty should be in­cluded in the new zon­ing over­lay since those own­ers’ sites are not a part of the devel­op­ment.

“We op­pose changes that would al­low town­houses on one R-3 lot in Devon,” he said. He also re­quested that more green space be in­cluded on the east side of Devon Boule­vard and that ex­it­ing trees be kept. And, he said, the cur­rent res­i­dents of Devon Boule­vard, Berke­ley Road and Dorset Road com­prise the town cen­ter the plan­ning com­mis­sion wants and will walk to this new shop­ping and eat­ing venue.

Ziel said “to Joe Kohn’s point, we’re look­ing to how we get a lit­tle bit greener.” While a park­ing deck is not planned, if it were later needed it would be on the east­ern sec­tion abut­ting the Devon Horse Show grounds.

An­other res­i­dent, Avis Yuni, said to the plan­ners, “I know you wanted more peo­ple liv­ing in this area. I am one of many who don’t.” She also op­posed the two other prop­erty own­ers pig­gy­back­ing onto the zon­ing over­lay.

“What I would like to urge this panel to do is please take those prop­er­ties out of there,” said Yu­nis. “If, later on, those folks have a rea­son they can come back and you can ex­pand it. … For now set up the or­di­nance only within the uni­fied devel­op­ment. … We are al­ready hav­ing a prob­lem in this town­ship with lots of new con­struc­tion by-right.” She asked why those ad­ja­cent sites were be­ing in­cluded in the over­lay.

Kristin Camp, solic­i­tor for the plan­ning com­mis­sion, said those own­ers came to the town­ship with their lawyers and asked to be in­cluded. Also, town­houses can­not be built on Ur­ban’s site since it is zoned for com­mer­cial use, she said.

“My ques­tion is why are we al­low­ing it? If these folks haven’t given us con­crete plans for the pub­lic to re­spond to. … Why would you ever put them in there just be­cause they asked for

it? The prob­lem we’re hav­ing in this town­ship, there are al­ready so many ar­eas, Sur­rey Ser­vices, Fritz’s … By-right we’re get­ting all of these town­houses.”

Camp told her that the com­pre­hen­sive plan calls for a town cen­ter in the Water­loo Gar­dens area.

Liz Ward, an­other res­i­dent, also thanked Ziel for the changes to the plan and said the res­i­dents will walk there and sup­port it. But she ques­tioned the plan­ning com­mis­sion’s ad­her­ence to a com­pre­hen­sive plan that dates to 2001 and is un­der­go­ing re­vi­sion now.

Brian Penny, a res­i­dent and lawyer, sug­gested that the op­tion for town­houses be re­moved from the zon­ing over­lay.

“I was sur­prised to hear the neigh­bors be chas­tised,” Penny said, ob­ject­ing to Cap­pel­letti’s use of the term “bully pul­pit.”

“Your dis­dain for the neigh­bors came through pretty clear,” Penny told Cap­pel­letti.

Mark Stan­ish, plan­ning com­mis­sion chair­man, said there is a plan­ning con­cept at play that calls for an area of apart­ments or town­houses to serve as a buf­fer be­tween a com­mer­cial area and sin­gle-fam­ily houses.

“You’re right in the mid­dle of a new com­pre­hen­sive plan,” said Penny, who grew up on the east end of Long Is­land, New York, where zon­ing laws are strictly en­forced to pro­tect its char­ac­ter. That part of Long Is­land is “an area that stead­fastly main­tained its coun­try at­mos­phere (with) charm­ing ham­lets, sim­i­lar to this part of the Main Line.”

Joan S. Bergquist, an­other res­i­dent, also liked the changes to the plan but sug­gested the developer use vari­ances rather than a zon­ing over­lay to ac­com­plish his goals.

Stan­ish told her that vari­ances re­quire a de­ci­sion by the Zon­ing Hear­ing Board that there is a hard­ship.

Louis Co­la­greco, the lawyer for Ur­ban, said they did con­sider the op­tion of re­quest­ing vari­ances but did not think they could meet the “strict le­gal stan­dards” needed. Also, it would set a prece­dent for the town­ship that other de­vel­op­ers would cite.

A plan of the pro­posed Devon Yard project.

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