West Bradford >> Developers with housing plans at the former Embreeville State Hospital property challenged a recent change to a township zoning ordinance, arguing the township is not meeting its “fair share obligations” for regional growth.
During a township zoning hearing Wednesday, Brian Nagle, attorney for Embreeville Redevelopment LLP, challenged the validity of an ordinance amendment that added medium and high density residential use to some properties in the township now zoned as industrial.
Nagle said the developers challenge the zoning change because the “amendment fails to provide sufficient, suitable, and available land to meet the township’s obligation to provide its fair share of variety of housing types to meet the anticipated demand in the area for such housing units.”
The developer is asking the zoning board to disregard the amendment because it is invalid, Nagle said.
Embreeville developers previously submitted informal plans to build 1,100 residential units on the 225 acres it owns. Nagle asked supervisors to consider the Embreeville plans to fulfill the township’s fair share of regional growth.
Township consultants from the Brandywine Conservancy Environmental Management Center informed supervisors in October 2013 that the township is short of supplying zoning for 1,091 dwellings for forecasted future population increases.
The supervisors amended the ordinance in December 2013 to allow residential use in the industrial zoned district. The change also allows for the expansion of existing mobile home development.
Nagle said the Embreeville property, which would need to be rezoned as residential to permit the developer’s plans, was “avoided.” The Embreeville property is zoned as institution/mixed use.
Nagle said the development plans, which are “highly suited for multi-family housing, was purposely excluded from the planning analysis, leading to the determination that the township was not meeting its fair share obligations.”
Nagle said the ordinance was amended in an effort to cure the fair share problem.” However, he said the ordinance is “invalid as a whole because they still have a fair share problem” regardless of whether the amended ordinance is upheld or voided.
Embreeville Redevelopment LLP filed an appeal in Common Pleas Court to void the amendment, based on the public advertisement of the ordinance. The developer said the township did not post property notices at the properties affected by the zoning change. Two notices were published in the Daily Local News.
The Common Pleas Court is set to hear the oral arguments based on that issue on Aug. 22 at 10:30 a.m. with Judge Robert J. Shenkin presiding.
Township solicitor Kristen Camp asked the zoning board members to dismiss the appeal until the court rules on the procedural challenge related to the advertisements.
She said the board members would know then if their decision would be based on the amended ordinance, or the older ordinance. She also argued the developers do not qualify as a landowner that is affected by the ordinance, as the properties within the township outlined for the zoning change did not include any of the property owned by the Embreeville developers.
During the meeting, 17 residents made a request to testify at the zoning hearing meeting regarding the challenge by developers. Some residents cited traffic impact as their main concern. Nagle objected to seven of the requests. He said the residents’ interests, many of whom live near the project, were “not greater than the general interests” of the other township residents.
The zoning board will decide at the next hearing which residents are permitted to testify at the hearing. The zoning hearing board will meet next at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the township building at 1385 Campus Drive.