EAST MARLBOROUGH—Ordinarily, the approval of a conditional use order is a big step forward for a proposed development.
But the people who propose to bring a Royal Farms store and other commercial space to the defunct gas station opposite the intersection of Schoolhouse Road and Route 1 in East Marlborough Township left Monday night’s township meeting with an approval in hand but somber expressions as they considered what their next steps would be.
The construction of the Royal Farms store in East Marlborough will be the second in Chester County. Nearly two years ago, Royal Farms opened a store in the Downingtown area.
At issue is what obligations the developers have to mitigate the impact of increased traffic in the area. A conditional use order typically involves conditions the municipality imposes on the developers, often to make sure the project puts little or no extra burden on the community.
The discussions last night and at previous meetings were about complex technical traffic-flow issues. But essentially everyone recognizes that an active gas station and convenience store along with a proposed medical building and other retail space will generate more traffic than an abandoned gas station currently does.
Not only that, the project could complicate traffic flows and so increase congestion at an already very active intersection, a main outlet for shoppers leaving the Walmart and other businesses on that side of the highway.
Another complication is the PennDOT project to widen Route 1, which could create a separate set of problems and conditions being imposed on the developers.
The supervisors said they felt the developers should agree to fund improvements to the traffic flow in the area so that the traffic was no worse than it would have been absent the development.
But John Jaros, the attorney for the developers, repeatedly pointed out that while the developers were willing to fund improvements, the current uncertainties could rope them into financial obligations beyond what they considered reasonable.
Jaros also pointed out that other parties, not the developers, had created the current level of congestion, and it was unfair to ask them to mitigate more than their share of it.
After a good deal of discussion and back-and-forth with the developers on various issues, the supervisors approved the conditional use order, technically allowing the development process to continue forward.
But Jaros had repeatedly referenced situations in which he had challenged a condition and won in court, suggesting that the developers might file an appeal against the order. That would set a trial date a year from the appeal, and create a situation in which the municipality and developers involved often continue to negotiate and come to a settlement.
In other business, the supervisors approved a solicitation ordinance that had been revised to make it conform better with federal law in the area. They also approved a proposal to refinance some sewer project bonds to take advantage of current market conditions.
The supervisors also approved the purchase of new software that would improve access and management of records and would work well for both both the administration and public works personnel.