At a hearing last week, the West Nottingham Board of Supervisors approved a new comprehensive plan for the township after eliminating all references to agricultural zoning.
The new plan includes maps of existing land uses, environmental features and a map that suggests future uses for different areas. Along with the maps, the document describes the township and the philosophy the township wants to take toward future development.
Since the last comprehensive plan was adopted in 1982, growth in the township has been slow compared to the rest of southern Chester County, with an average addition of just 10 to 20 new homes per year. The new plan looks forward for the direction of growth for the next 10 years, presuming growth of 150 new residents per year.
According to a summary distributed at the hearing, the vision of this plan is to "preserve the rural character of the township by coordinating the development of higher growth in the vicinity of the Village of Nottingham with reducing the development footprint' on the more rural areas of the township."
Looking at the future planning map, the densest residential growth is focused around the village, with industrial growth following the Baltimore Pike and Route 1 corridors.
Agriculture and limited residential growth make up the rest of the map, with protected areas at Nottingham Park and Camp Tweedale, both of which are in the southern part of the township on the serpentine barrens.
The difficulty of getting well water from the hard soil and rock of the serpentine barrens has naturally limited development in that part of West Nottingham. For the future, any development in the village or industrial areas may be dependent on the availability of public sewer and water where density could be as much as six units per acre.
Oxford Area Sewer Authority member Frank Lobb cautioned the township not to depend on the presence of public sewage.
"There is a large question as to whether we will even get sewage. If you look at the capacity numbers, West Nottingham is not in those numbers as best as I can determine," Lobb said. "The comprehensive plan must recognize that a very large portion of the township will probably never see sewage and never see public water.
An 11-member task force from the township started working on the new plan in September 2003.
The township planning commission and consultants from the Chester County Planning Commission began looking at the new plan starting in April of last year, ending with a meeting in December where public comments and recommendations were taken.
While there is a list of more than 100 recommendations that go along with the plan, it was the agricultural zoning suggestion that stirred up the most controversy among residents. The idea of limiting the number of lots that can be subdivided off a farm and potentially reducing the value a farmer could get from the sale of his land disturbed property owners.
With landowners opposed, references to agricultural zoning were removed from the new comprehensive plan, but Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) and clustering remain. There are also recommendations to encourage preservation of historic sites, creation of riparian corridors along waterways and the eventual creation of a trail system connecting the village and the park.
"The devil is not in the comprehensive plan, it is in the recommendations that may or may not be implemented in the future," commented resident John Kennard.
How the 14 pages of recommendations that were made with the plan are implemented is something for the township to work on now and into the future. First on the list is likely to be the revision of the township's zoning and subdivision ordinances.
"We are not deciding action on any of the recommendations, just the comprehensive plan," stressed Supervisor Don Davies.
"This is a policy document. It's a stepping stone for the zoning," said Supervisor Gerald Cox. "This is all to come in the future, which will probably take another 18 months."