New Garden hearing set to impact future of land in Toughkenamon, elsewhere

NEW GARDEN — On June 20 the New Garden Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to amend the zoning laws found within two ordinances. The changes would impact undeveloped land, including at least 200 acres of undeveloped forest, open space at the edge of Southern Chester County on Route 41 and Sunny Dell Road, as well as the Village of Toughkenamon.

The history of the township runs deep from the heritage of the Lenni Lenape Native Americans to the difference makers of American Revolutionary history whose descendants would one day call Landenberg home.

New Garden, like the fellow townships of Kennett and Pennsbury, borders Delaware on the eastern edge of Southern Chester County. Nearby, the townships of East Nottingham, West Nottingham, Franklin and Elk border Maryland.

And at the tip end of Southeastern Pennsylvania, in London Britain is Chester County’s only municipality to touch both Delaware and Maryland borders at the historic Mason-Dixon line in the heart of the White Clay Watershed.

Yet New Garden is where much of the action is taking place, from the airport on Newark Road to the longstanding local shops just south of Kennett Square and the bustling mushroom industry that is part of a regional hub, including

In recent months, this sign has appeared on land that might soon be developed in New Garden Township, on U.S. Route 41, near the Delaware border. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Avondale, where the majority of farmers produce fungi for North America.

New Garden is also home to the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, one of less than 150 accredited law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.

The township is also home to the historic Landenberg Store and countless other treasures. In 2018, in one of the largest acquisitions ever, supervisors approved funding for the purchase of the St. Anthony in the Hills 137-acre property at a price of $1.5 million. The property is on the border of the Delaware state-line on Limestone Road, also known as U.S. Route 7.

New Garden has seen much growth in recent decades, as have most communities in the Greater Philadelphia Region. U.S. Route 41 is busier than ever, with semi-trucks frequently bringing goods from the Port of Wilmington to the crux of Pennsylvania through Lancaster. This traffic has impacted Avondale, a borough that, unlike Kennett Square, which evolved with one-way streets over the years, lacks a bypass of appeal for fast-moving semi-trucks despite U.S. Route 1 being so nearby.

What shall the future hold?

For decades, since 1999 and earlier, rumors of commercial development on Route 41 near the border of Delaware, and just north of Hockessin, and in direct proximity of Kennett Township, have played out in Landenberg, an unincorporated historic community spanning New Garden, Franklin and London Britain.

Still the rumors faded with time, until recently that is.

Just over 15 years ago, in March 2007, the subprime mortgage industry collapsed following unprecedented home foreclosures in America, as previously reported.

By the following year, the market crashed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 777.68 points during trading on September 29, 2008, according to Dotdash Meredith. Until the stock market crash of March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic shutdown, it was the largest point drop in history.

Since then, Congress has spent trillions of dollars to boost the economy.

And people are not only ready to rebuild but develop.

Future development on agenda

On June 20 the New Garden Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to amend the zoning laws found within two ordinances. The changes would impact undeveloped land, including at least 200 acres of undeveloped forest, open space at the edge of Southern Chester County on Route 41 and Sunny Dell Road, as well as the Village of Toughkenamon.

The measures up for consideration are the Unified Development (UD) Ordinance, impacting Toughkenamon and elsewhere, and the Highway Commercial (HC) Ordinance, impacting U.S. Route 41 and elsewhere.

And while 20 years ago, a few years before the market crashed, folks in Landenberg were sure a high-end main street was en route to the 200 acres sitting undeveloped on U.S. Route 41, along Sunny Dell Road and north of the Route 7 bypass.

However, recently, a very different plan was presented to New Garden by developers.

J.P. Morgan Chase has submitted a sketch plan to develop approximately 200 acres on four parels spanning Sunny Dell Road and Route 41 in New Garden Townshihp. (JEN SAMUEL ??J.P. Morgan Chase has submitted a sketch plan to develop approximately 200 acres on four parcels spanning Sunny Dell Road and Route 41 in New Garden Township. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Instead of a high-end, low-key commercial main street with a cinema and alfresco restaurants, as predicted decades ago by locals, J.P. Morgan Chase has presented sketch plans featuring a new massive housing development — with more than 300 units presently planned, besides a town center that reflects, to-date, a rather typical shopping mall aesthetic, box stores and parking spaces.

Of course, there are thousands of species, nonhuman, who currently live on these undeveloped 200 acres, composed of several parcels.

The bulk of the land once belonged to a mulch business prior to 2007.
JP Morgan Chase’s proposed plan is not up for a vote at the meeting on June 20. However, if the zoning amendments for New Garden’s HC Ordinance is change, that will directly impact the future of the 200 acres there in question.

Representatives from JP Morgan Chase presented its plan to the New Garden Board of Supervisors on February 18 with an updated sketch plan for the White Clay Point proposed development.

In the plan, which has been extended, JP Morgan Chase is proposing the building of 309 townhomes with housing for adults 55 and older included.

June 20 zoning hearing ahead

The public is invited to attend the next New Garden Board of Supervisors meeting 7 p.m. June 20 in which a hearing on the proposed zoning amendments to the HC and UD ordinances shall be held.

“The zoning hearing will modify the UD zoning district, based on recommendations from the 2018 Township Comprehensive Plan,” said Ramsey Reiner, New Garden Township manager, on Wednesday.

“The intent will be to allow for responsible development based on the community’s needs and wants,” she said.

In New Garden, the ideas of residents are key per moving forward.

“We have had active engagement throughout the process,” Ramsey said. “Residents attended the original hearing date to voice concerns about the process and the zoning changes.”

She said the New Garden Board of Supervisors postponed the hearing to give more time to residents to review the changes, discuss in the next few subsequent meetings and to give more clarity on the process.

As of 2020, New Garden was home to 11,363 residents.

“The board appreciates the interest and feedback from the community and are excited to move forward with something that could be extremely beneficial to New Garden Township. We hope to see residents at all of our meetings,” Ramsey said.

“Because of the amount of work being done in New Garden, we now meet twice a month — the first and third Mondays,” she said. “We are here to serve and happy to do so.”

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