KENNETT SQUARE — During public comment before borough council this week, residents raised concerns focused on local development and its impact on infrastructure, including traffic.
From the Kennett Square Apartments at the south-end of town to the Kennett Pointe, in Kennett Township, hundreds of new residential units are presently being built.
Red Clay Manor, a 59-unit affordable housing community for senior citizens, opened this past fall in Kennett Square on East Cope Street.
And with the new $21.7 million Kennett Library closing in on its opening date to the public this spring, an influx of visitors is expected, which for the borough’s bustling small business community is a huge win in the making.
However, not all residents, including John Thomas, who spoke recently on the matter before Kennett Square Borough Council, are comfortable with additional development due to the anticipation of increased traffic that more people in town will bring.
“We can’t stand another development in this town,” said Charla Watson during public comment at the council meeting Monday.
“On a daily basis, we have too much traffic,” she said regarding Cypress Street and elsewhere.
Kennett Square Apartments, being built now at the corner of South Mill Road and West State Street, is slated to open in 2024. Berger Rental Communities, a family-owned and operated business based in Wayne, is building 166 apartments at this location across two four-story residential buildings totaling 160,000 square feet.
The complex, with an array of state-of-the-art amenities and modern community gathering spaces also will feature an outdoor park across the street. The total site will span 2.63 acres.
And like The Flats at Kennett, which opened in 2020 just over a mile away in Kennett Township on Millers Hill Road, will be dog-friendly.
“The borough is constantly reviewing options to improve traffic, including how to reroute traffic from State Street. Unfortunately, no single solution will solve an issue as complicated as traffic; but we are continuing to work at this problem,” said Borough Manager Kyle Coleman on Friday.
In some areas of town, residents wish to see more crosswalks added. This successfully happened within the last year or so when Mayor Matthew Fetick worked with PennDOT to install a new crosswalk at the Market at Liberty Place on State Street. With semitrucks, as well as cars, sometimes speeding through the business district down the hill from the heart of uptown, the new crosswalk for pedestrians added another key layer of safety for all.
Still, there are more places where crosswalks could improve safety, including, for some residents, where Magnolia Court meets South Mill Road. However, like the intersection at Old Baltimore Pike and Newark Road a few miles away, crosswalks don’t always happen when and where needed based on the concerns of residents or even lawmakers.
“Crosswalks are a potential solution and something that we discuss frequently,” Coleman said.
“There are trade-offs to crosswalks, like everything; the design and location of each is critical to ensuring that they help to make a situation safer and don’t contribute to the problem,” he said.
And once builders complete construction of the Kennett Pointe, more people from Kennett Township will end up walking to the borough’s business district to enjoy the good nightlife especially when the warmth of summer returns.
“We are currently reviewing pedestrian pathways across the borough including along Cypress,” Coleman said.
“For example, adding a new pathway along Cypress would likely reduce lane widths. This has the potential to both provide a better walking option and create more traffic issues,” the borough manager said.
“This is a complicated trade-off that we are carefully considering,” Coleman added.
Residents are welcomed to address concerns via sending an email to [email protected], or coming to the borough hall at 600 S. Broad St., or attending a borough council meeting, Coleman said.
And across Chester County, from Franklin to Honey Brook, a developer must contribute a set amount of money toward infrastructure improvements when developing residential homes or commercial real estate. Some municipalities require that a developer allot a set amount of land as open space, however that doesn’t necessarily mean any trees will be spared.
In Kennett Square, Coleman said developers are required to contribute to improving the borough; this may require sewer pipe expansions in one area, affordable housing in another, or street improvements elsewhere.
“No one development project is the same as another, just as no one area of the borough has the same needs as another,” Coleman said. “The borough’s responsibility is to push towards improving our community — however that looks in any given area.”
The American flag sways in the wind this past fall at the corner of Broad and State streets in Kennett Square. (JEN SAMUEL – DAILY LOCAL NEWS)
On a bright note, this year the borough is slated to make improvements to core public assets such as roads, Coleman said in December.
“The borough is using a combination of new tax revenue and grant funding to improve our core, public assets. In 2023, the borough expects to collect (an estimated) $2.6 million in property taxes as compared to (approximately) $4.5 million in committed grant dollars,” Coleman said.
He noted that the $4.5 million in committed grants does not include additional grant dollars for the new Kennett Library, as that institution is a separate entity from the borough.
The borough manager said the top projects set to begin construction in 2023 include:
Retrofitting of existing space at borough hall for a new police station — the current station will be sold;
Rebuilding of Birch Street to address flooding issues, repaying and leveling of the road, and providing safe walkways, among other issues;
Rebuilding of borough alleyways and streets;
Rebuilding of the system that provides most borough residents with their water supply. This will greatly impact the water quality for most borough residents; and
Ongoing repairs to borough buildings and infrastructure, such as curbs and fire hydrants.
As for which roads and streets are slated for repairs and upgrades, said Coleman: “We are evaluating the prioritization of these streets now; this is based on a professional engineer’s review of street condition.”
Today, approximately 6,000 people call the borough home. Kennett Township, with 8,724 residents, surrounds the borough. Close-by municipalities include New Garden, with 11,393 residents, and East Marlborough, with 7,529 residents.
Come spring, when the all-new Kennett Library opens at the corner of Willow and State streets, visitors can park on the street, although space can be limited, or at the municipal garage at the corner of North Union and East Maple streets. The library also will have a parking lot off Willow Street.
“The borough parking garage has excess capacity and local businesses along the State Street corridor will benefit from increased patronage,” Coleman said of the imminent opening of the new library.
“Any new development proposals for the borough will be thoughtfully considered as they are presented,” the borough manager said. “Each new development must add to the existing beauty and character of the borough and improve the quality of life of existing borough residents.”
Red Clay Manor, a 59-unit affordable housing community for senior citizens, recently opened in Kennett Square on East Cope Street. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
The 37th Mushroom Festival draws thousands of people to Kennett Square year after year. (Jen Samuel – Daily Local News)