Supervisors ponder PREIT project changes
posted Thu, Jan 26, 2012
By Nancy Johnson
Chester County Press
The hour was late, but the New Garden Board of Supervisors were determined to go through their proposed edits in the latest correspondence with PREIT, but in the end their effort was in vain. On Monday night a number of residents stuck it out as well, once again re-enforcing their concerns about the shopping center project that has been discussed for almost a decade.
It was clear from the meeting’s start that residents had concerns, though Roz DuPont was the only one to take to the podium during the opening public comment period. She expressed her concern “about PREIT wanting to change things on the agreement. If we vote to let them have anything they want, how does it square with what was agreed to five years ago?” She added, “One wouldn’t know how big the changes are as there are no additional hearings.”
Township solicitor Neil Land explained to DuPont and the audience as a whole that what was being considered by the Board that evening “were not significant changes to the settlement plan.”
“This is solely an effort to address minor changes like exterior building facades and locations of doors. There are no changes to impervious coverages or the sizes of the buildings,” he explained.
Later in the evening, when the PREIT agreement came up on the agenda, it was clear that the audience were not the only ones with some qualms about the changes requested by the developer.
Land, who in recent months has worked extensively on the agreement, told the supervisors, “The agreement being considered is a supplement to the settlement agreement with minor modifications. There are no additional buildings, no sharing of space, the number of tenants is the same,” he emphasized.
One of the changes PREIT had requested would give them some flexibility as far as the square footage size of the individual stores within a building.
“We want it to be successful,” Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Bob Perrotti expressed. “What does it matter if a store size goes up or down a little?”
Supervisor Warren Reynolds disagreed. “We have to try to maintain the quality of the establishments. I think people want smaller, upscale stores.” He emphasized, “My concern is not for PREIT’s success, it is for the residents of this township,” which drew some applause from the audience.
Supervisor Bob Norris noted, “I think there are some conflicts in the draft that’s in front of us.”
Land made it clear that he did not believe this draft would be the end of it. “This is going to be a negotiation. It is our proposal to them,” he said.
“The question is whether or not we’re willing to let them shift some percentage of floor space from one store to another,” Norris simplified. “It’s not about whether we can change the spirit of the shopping center. That’s long gone.”
“Right now the language allows them immense latitude,” Reynolds insisted. “We need a better definition. What does ‘minor’ mean?”
Although some of the supervisors favored taking more time to review PREIT’s requests and then finalizing their response at the next meeting, Norris pushed to complete the task that evening. “The only way we can get through it is to go comment by comment,” he said.
Supervisor Barclay Hoopes agreed, “Let’s get it done – the sooner the better. It’s been nine years and it’s not even started yet.”
But shortly after Land began reading the document paragraph by paragraph, it was clear that there were too many questions that could not be answered that night.
In the end, it was decided that Land would talk directly with PREIT’s attorney and get a better clarification on several items.
“We hope to re-address it as soon as we can,” confirmed Township manager Dan Fox.
For more information, please visit the Friends of New Garden website.