Why the Don Guanella de­vel­op­ment needs to be scaled down

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - Ken Hem­phill, com­mu­ni­ca­tions co­or­di­na­tor, Save Marple Greenspace Terry M. Jar­rett is an en­ergy at­tor­ney and con­sul­tant who has served on both the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Reg­u­la­tory Util­ity Com­mis­sion­ers and the Mis­souri Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

To the Times:

The would-be de­vel­op­ers of Don Guanella, Peter Miller and Brian McEl­wee, in their Dec. 3 let­ter to the ed­i­tor, again pro­moted the false choice be­tween “a con­ser­va­tion so­lu­tion,” which would vastly over­charge the town­ship, county, and school dis­trict for what is mostly un­build­able land in ex­change for a mas­sive shop­ping cen­ter, or “a res­i­den­tial ‘by right’ plan per cur­rent zon­ing.” There are, of course, other choices not men­tioned, one of these be­ing that the de­vel­oper could build a much smaller shop­ping cen­ter. And con­trary to the fic­tion that they have no choice but to build ei­ther res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial at Don Guanella is the fact that they have “an op­tion to pur­chase agree­ment” with the arch­dio­cese which does not re­quire them to go to set­tle­ment. In other words, they can walk away.

Their com­mer­cial plan


calls for a truly mon­strous

47-acre shop­ping cen­ter eight acres big­ger than the en­tire

39 acre Spring­field Mall com­plex and im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the large 41-acre Lawrence Park Shop­ping Cen­ter. With 17 dif­fer­ent restau­rants, a Su­per Wawa, four-story med­i­cal of­fice build­ing, 150 hous­ing units, and about 20 other com­mer­cial uses, it’s no won­der that Marple’s com­mis­sion­ers de­clined to meet pri­vately with the de­vel­op­ers to dis­cuss their ob­jec­tions fur­ther. The traf­fic from such an enor­mous shop­ping cen­ter would crip­ple an al­ready heav­ily con­gested road and for­ever im­pair the char­ac­ter of Marple Town­ship and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

The as­sur­ances made by the de­vel­op­ers’ traf­fic engi­neer that the ad­di­tion of

23,000 new ve­hi­cle trips to Sproul Road would be mit­i­gated by a few su­per­fi­cial road and sig­nal mod­i­fi­ca­tions failed to al­lay the com­mis­sion­ers’ fears of traf­fic grid­lock be­cause, as ev­ery­one but the de­vel­oper seems to un­der­stand, you can’t add a cou­ple of turn lanes and re­stripe Sproul Road (to make five to­tal lanes in­stead of four) and ex­pect 23,000 new ve­hi­cle trips to dis­ap­pear on a road that al­ready gags on 33,000 daily trips. And 23,000 is most cer­tainly on the low end of the range of likely new traf­fic vol­ume. Car­lino’s traf­fic engi­neer was hired to de­liver a con­clu­sion much like a de­fense wit­ness is paid to de­liver agree­able tes­ti­mony in sup­port of their em­ployer’s ar­gu­ment.

The de­vel­op­ers have not pro­posed ad­dress­ing the root cause of traf­fic back­ups along Spring­field and Sproul: the grid­locked in­ter­sec­tions of Spring­field Road/Route

1, Sproul Road/Route 1, and the lights along Lawrence Park Shop­ping Cen­ter. With­out adding lanes to Spring­field Road from the Lamb Tav­ern to Route 1, mak­ing Sproul Road a full six lanes from Route 1 to Lawrence Road, or en­larg­ing the Route

1 in­ter­sec­tions, traf­fic congestion will only get much worse to the detri­ment of prop­erty val­ues and res­i­dents’ qual­ity of life.

Marple’s com­mis­sion­ers ex­pressed the same fears. Com­mis­sioner Lon­gacre said at Septem­ber’s pub­lic meet­ing, “I re­mem­ber when you could get through New­town Square in 5 min­utes (on West Ch­ester Pike) ... I’m ter­ri­fied at what could hap­pen in (the Marple) area if we don’t take control of what­ever is built there.” He noted that all of the de­vel­op­ment along the Route 3 cor­ri­dor comes from de­vel­op­ments that all had traf­fic stud­ies done. “But de­spite all those stud­ies, it now takes a half hour to get through the same area.” Com­mis­sioner Rufo was alarmed by the scale of the shop­ping cen­ter say­ing, “We shouldn’t have to live with a

400,000-square-foot re­tail cen­ter right next to an­other one.”

Com­mis­sioner John Lu­cas echoed that say­ing, “you can’t move on Sproul Road now, and I can’t imag­ine it get­ting bet­ter by adding 47 acres of dense com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment.” Lon­gacre pointed out that an­other cit­i­zen’s group did their own in­de­pen­dent traf­fic study of a pro­posed de­vel­op­ment in the vicin­ity of

252 and Route 3 and found that the de­vel­oper’s traf­fic engi­neer bla­tantly mis­rep­re­sented the ac­tual traf­fic im­pact of a pro­posed de­vel­op­ment. Af­ter the er­ror was ex­posed, that de­vel­op­ment was sub­stan­tially down­sized.

The de­vel­op­ers’ claim to care about pre­serv­ing the for­est is be­lied by their threats to cut it down un­less they get their huge com­mer­cial colony. If they ac­tu­ally care about preser­va­tion and the peo­ple of Marple, they would ei­ther scale down their plans and pro­pose a mod­est com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment that’s more ap­pro­pri­ately sized for the con­gested Sproul Road cor­ri­dor. If the arch­dio­cese’s price for the land is too high for what is most ap­pro­pri­ate to build, they could also just walk away. Build­ing a com­mer­cial cen­ter that’s big­ger than El­lis Pre­serve and the New­town Square Shop­ping Cen­ter com­bined (46 acres in to­tal) is sim­ply a non­starter. stor­age”—and cau­tion­ing that the U.S. “can­not meet win­ter gas de­mand with­out stor­age.”

Re­li­able, af­ford­able elec­tric­ity is what keeps Amer­i­cans warm and safe. But re­cent price swings in nat­u­ral gas—and re­duced avail­abil­ity—ar­gue for the con­tin­ued use of both coal and nu­clear power to keep meet­ing baseload elec­tric­ity needs. Any­thing less could mean wor­ry­ing short­falls for Amer­ica’s power grid.


Car­lino Com­mer­cial De­vel­op­ment’s plans for the Don Guanella site in Marple.

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