Holiday basket giveaway helps hundreds of area residents

(Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel): Volunteers escort a family to their car, complete with their holiday food baskets, toys, and winter coats for the whole family. Started nearly 50 years ago by Bill Buffington, the annual giveaway is sponsored by the Kennett Area Community Service.

Downingtown Borough Council needs to readopt a zoning amendment for a controversial mixed-use development project in Kardon Park because of a procedural flaw, according to the borough's solicitor."At some point, we'll have to re-advertise and reschedule for the reconsideration of adoption of the zoning amendment," said Solicitor Patrick O'Donnell at a hearing Tuesday on the project.

Borough officials originally approved a zoning amendment for the park's redevelopment district on March 5. The co-developers are now asking Borough Council for conditional-use approval of the plan.

The legal advertisement for the zoning amendment hearing failed to be published twice, although borough administrators and council are not to be blamed for this error, O'Donnell noted.

Council decided to hear testimony from the co-developers' consultant at Tuesday night's conditional-use hearing and scheduled a date to readopt the zoning change.

Resident Ann Feldman said she objected to the continuation of Tuesday's hearing. In addition, Feldman presented council with more signatures of people who are opposed "to the urban housing development currently being planned for Kardon Park."

Last month, Feldman presented the original petition to Borough Council. She said Thursday that she's calculated a total of 736 signatures, of which 559 are borough residents.

Resident Kathy Murphy agreed that there is a groundswell of opposition to the project. "I feel the public was unaware that we'll be losing part of Kardon Park," she said Tuesday.

Plans for the project, a 47.5-acre brown field site, are being presented by co-developers Sarah Peck of Progressive Housing Ventures and Jack Loew of Southdown Homes.

The project is predominately residential with multi-family units in the borough and neighboring East Caln. In addition, the plans call for 20,000 square feet of commercial and retail space along Pennsylvania Avenue which will be spread between two buildings and include "liveover-work" units.

Planning consultant Ray Ott, in presenting a fiscal impact analysis report on behalf of the co-developers at the hearing, said an estimated 30 retail employees will work at the development. He said the project is estimated to bring 442 new residents to the borough, including33 students - with 23 living in the borough and 10 living in East Caln.

According to Ott, the project will generate annual net revenue of $129,827 with one-time revenue of $8.1 million for the borough. The Downingtown Area School District will receive $785,760 annual net revenue and Chester County will receive $43,420 annual net revenue from the project, Ott said.

Borough Council decided it will conduct a public hearing to consider re-adoption of the zoning amendment on Jan. 7. Council also scheduled an additional conditional-use hearing for 7 p.m. Jan. 28.

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