Supervisor questions overdevelopment
Garner says rural character of township is being lost as more housing units are built
As the housing recession fades into memory, long-dormant housing projects are beginning to resurface and at least one supervisor is beginning to question what’s being lost.
“I think people want to move to New Hanover for a reason, and I think it’s the rural character,” Supervisor Charles D. Garner Jr. said as the Aug. 28 board meeting came to a close.
“And I’m worried that allowing these extremely high-density housing projects is moving us away from that,” he said. “They will have impacts on traffic and parking issues and I thought people wanted to live here to get away from such things.”
Garner spoke after the board gave unanimous final site plan approval to a 40-townhome project called the Renninger Tract.
Located on 33 acres between Middle Creek and Dotterer roads, the Gambone project has been in the works since 2012 and the approval, which followed the recommendation of the township’s planning commission, represents the final phase.
Earlier that evening, the supervisors heard a plea from a different developer — with the same lawyer, Joseph Clement — who wanted to down-size the original housing proposal, but wanted preliminary site plan approval that night.
Called “Trotter’s Gait,” the project is approved for 54 townhouses on 13 acres off Dotterer Road, but the developers want to reduce that to 29 single family homes.
Although the idea is supported by both the planning commission and the township supervisors, both rejected Clement’s request for an immediate decision.
Supervisors’ Chairman Phil Agliano said both boards feel the proposal as it stands has too many unanswered questions and needs some fine tuning before preliminary approval is granted.
The two projects were discussed the same night the supervisors heard from solicitor Andrew Bellowoar about an earlier project, which not only fell victim to the financial collapse, but so too did the bank providing the guarantee for the completion of the streets and other infrastructure.
Bellowoar is now engaged in trying to secure the funding from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Add this to consideration of the 761-unit Town Center project, revised plans for which are on the agenda for the Sept. 13 planning commission meeting, according to Township Manager Jaime Gwynn.
This 208-acre project, which calls for 760 new homes and a new supermarket, stretching from Route 663 west to Township Line Road, has stirred traffic concerns among the officials and residents of both neighboring Douglass Township, and the Pottstown Area Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee.
One way residents can wrap their heads around the many projects is to check out the new township web site where Gwynn went to the trouble of uploading all recently approved and active development projects in the township for easy access.
And it is not just residential development which has the potential to change the township’s character.
The first-phase of the long-contested Gibraltar Rock quarry project submitted its final site plan for township approval last week, said Gwynn.
The plan for the first phase, which has been through numerous legal challenges, was given preliminary site plan approval with a 3-2 vote in June of 2015.
Preliminary site plan approval had first been recommended by the planning commission in August of 2012.
The quarry was first proposed in 2001.
In 2007, the township’s zoning board of appeals granted the company permission to open the quarry on 163 acres bounded by Route 73, Hoffmansville Road and Church Road, but with a number of restrictions to which the company objected.
As the Aug. 28 meeting wound up — a meeting in which Gwynn had described New Hanover as one of Montgomery County’s fastest growing townships — Garner said the supervisors need a unified vision for the town.
“We’re starting to look like the eastern part of the county and I have to say I’m not sure what this board’s vision is for New Hanover, which is disappearing piece by piece,” he said.
“We should not be kowtowing to developers just because they need to make a dollar on their developments,” said Garner. “I have to question why we allowed these developments to risk this community’s character instead of preserving it.”
Although the New Hanover Township supervisors lauded the proposed reduction of the approved 54-townhouse project to 29 single-family homes on 13 acres off Dotterer Road called Trotter’s Gait, they balked at the idea that the developers should be granted preliminary approval with so many unanswered questions.