Coatesville council president Kareem Johnson and member Kurt Schenk defended the decision to table the resolution approving the preliminary/final plan for construction of a 60-unit, seven-story residential-commercial subdivision.
Council action to table the Carl Chetty land development request (Pennock Place) for the property located at Route 30 and 3rd Avenue, came at council's meeting Monday, March 27 and carried by a 4-2 margin. Council members Johnson, Schenk, Robin Scott and Patsy Ray voted to table, while Marty Eggleston and Stephanie Smith-Dowridge cast the dissenting votes. Council member Ed Simpson was absent.
Johnson said that council had received the plans Friday afternoon March 24, and didn't have the time necessary to review them. Chetty, who was present at Monday night's meeting along with a number of his staff, stood to protest council's decision but was gaveled out of order by Johnson. Chetty and his staff then left council chambers, visibly angered. The following day Chetty was a guest on a local radio station offering his take on the meeting events.
"We received the plans and the resolution to adopt on Friday afternoon," Johnson said. "It wasn't expected to come before council until April. We owe it to the citizens of the city to do a thorough review. There are planning commission and zoning matters to be resolved." Johnson also said that plans the council members received "were incomplete."
Johnson said that the city's special legal counsel Steve Siana recommended that the ordinance not be approved Monday night citing language issues and zoning issues that required clarification since the project was submitted as a preliminary/final plan.
In discussing Chetty's actions last Monday night and his subsequent radio interview, Johnson opined "it was based on sensationalism." Johnson also admitted he had never met Chetty. As for gaveling Chetty out of order Johnson said, "We have to maintain order at meetings. I've gaveled my own father."
Schenk noted, "Chetty never requested to be placed on the agenda."
Johnson also said, "They (Chetty) are serious about going through with this, but all the i's have to be dotted and the t's have to be crossed. We may not be big-time politicians, but we have to do our jobs to represent the city of Coatesville." Johnson concluded, "It shouldn't have been placed on the agenda. I don't know how it was." He added that Siana, who is a land acquisition specialist, was to meet with Chetty to discuss the Tower project.
"We can't repeat the fiscal mistakes of the past," said Schenk.
He defended his vote to table, "I voted No on Chetty because the language (of the ordinance) potentially liabled the city. We need language to be correct. I'm in favor of the development, but the language is the issue."
Concerning his No vote, Johnson told those attending the council meeting, "Further clarification is needed on the Chetty plans. There is no planning commission report. The Chester County Planning Commission recommended that the plans not be approved until
parking issues are resolved. I'm certain those matters will be resolved. We're making decisions based on information not always available to the public."
Responding to criticism leveled against the new council members, Johnson said, "We're not a rubber-stamp council. If we need information, we should be able to get it. If you take your time, it moves forward. If you don't it doesn't move as fast. For example, the preferred developer model didn't work. We now go to RFQ (Request For Qualification) and you get quotes for projects and seek the best proposal."
Monday night, council approved the ordinances vacating Trinity Court and Junction Court, both included in Chetty land development plans. "That proves our intentions to move forward with the project," Johnson said.