Stephens Gardens Creations

Neighboring residents say this site at Stephens Gardens Creations in Kennett Township is an eyesore.

KENNETT TOWNSHIP—Hillingham residents say they’re at the limits of their patience.

Township officials say they’re at the limits of their powers.

But in the end the residents and the Kennett Township supervisors seemed to agree on next steps dealing with what they say is a frustrating situation for both groups in trying to clean up the former Stephens Garden Creations site.

The business was destroyed by a gas explosion and fire years ago, and since then officials say the site, south of Route 1 on the east side of Route 52, has never been cleaned up. Joy Davies, of the adjacent development Hillingham, says the site poses a variety of hazards to residents and visitors and depresses property values for homeowners there.

Davies and several other Hillingham residents who were with her at the supervisors’ monthly meeting Wednesday night said they were beyond the limits of their patience and wanted township officials to step up their efforts to pressure the owners to get the site cleaned up completely.

But the supervisors and Township Manager Lisa Moore said they had tried every tool they had to get the owners to clean the site. Moore said they had fined the owners, issued numerous citation letters and put liens on the property.

In response the owners had begun to clean the site, enough that the courts in authority over the situation regarded it as an adequate effort so far. This tied the township’s hands as far as further steps, Moore said.

In addition, according to Moore, the owners seemed to have essentially abandoned the property and were reportedly trying to start another business elsewhere. It was difficult to get in contact with them, and although she had heard they might start moving debris off the site when the spring weather arrives, she did not feel confident about their plans, Moore said.

“We don’t feel hopeful that they’re going to clean anything up,” Moore said.

But there seemed to be hopeful developments, according to Moore. She said township officials had heard from a couple of potential buyers, who presumably would clean it up as part of the development process.

“We’re hopeful that it will get sold and cleaned up,” Moore said.

In addition, she said she could meet with other township officials to see if other enforcement options were available within the law. The site was private property, which meant the township could not simply clean up the site itself and give the owners a bill for the work.

The supervisors discussed the possibility of condemning and selling the property, which Moore said they had been told by their solicitor early on was not a possibility.

In the end, Scudder Stevens, chairman of the board of supervisors, said they would investigate the condemnation idea and whatever other options might be available to continue to pressure the owners and resolve the situation.

“I can assure you that it is, in fact, a very great concern,” Stevens said.

In other business, the supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution declaring the township an “Audubon Bird Town.” The resolution means the township joins more than 20 other Pennsylvania municipalities that are working with Audubon Pennsylvania to promote bird-friendly habitats so birds and humans alike can gain the environmental benefits of doing so.

Moore said work had begun on repairing the Clifton Mill bridge and work should be completed by the end of June.

Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt said recent attacks on religious groups and buildings had prompted the force to begin an effort to help faith-based organizations enhance the safety of their events and buildings.

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