Chester County Press : Page 1

Discussing a regional development plan for Oxford

Maggie Horgan

Since its inception in January of 1999, Oxford Mainstreet, Incorporated (OMI) has actively spearheaded a major revitalization project for downtown Oxford. Led by OMI Manager April Ennis- Pierson, the organization has been consistent in promoting business and industrial growth in downtown Oxford, and has obtained several grants to restore the character and enhance the appeal of the community. <br /> <br /> Last fall, using grant money from The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, The Chester County Economic Development Council, and The Chester County Foundation, OMI sought the expertise of the engineering, planning and consulting firm RETTEW Associates to conduct a Town Hall Feasibility Study for the Borough of Oxford. This study was deemed as being an appropriate component of the preliminary plans for the proposed grassroots effort for Downtown Oxford, called the Business Improvement District (BID). A BID is a commercial business district, the establishment of which has proven to serve as a tremendous consumer attraction, as well as a viable means of reducing taxpayer burden, in other municipalities. <br /> <br /> As RETTEW’s crew began their work, OMI’s Board of Directors continued to discuss ways to further promote business and industrial growth in Oxford Borough. A town meeting was held, at which time the town center feasibility project was explained to the public, OMI’s ideas for the future of Oxford were shared, and community questions were answered. The Board of Directors explained to the public their hope of increasing the involvement of all of Oxford’s municipalities and concerned entities in the overall revitalization effort of the downtown, because the ultimate results would benefit the entire community. <br /> <br /> After further discussion, the board decided to seek feedback from the eight entities of concern in the Oxford area, regarding their opinion about taking part in the planning for the future of the community. <br /> <br /> Those eight entities include Oxford Borough, Lower Oxford Township, Discussing a regional development plan for Oxford Elk Township, Oxford Area School District, and the Oxford Area Sewer Authority. <br /> <br /> If agreement among all entities is obtained concerning the issue, OMI’s board members believe,work can begin toward devising what they hope will become the Regional Economic Development Plan (REDP). <br /> <br /> Having a tangible plan in place would serve as a catalyst for OMI’s acquiring future grants for continued revitalization. <br /> <br /> Tom McIntyre, Director of Government and Municipal Services for the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC), said that if all of the entities mentioned could collaborate with OMI on the overall downtown project, it would be to the benefit of the ultimate outcome in Oxford. <br /> <br /> Such a group effort would allow the different entities’ board members to look at the different characteristics and strengths of each designated area in Oxford, and determine what areas make the most sense for encouraging commercial and industrial growth. <br /> <br /> Zoning issues and individual priorities of each municipality would be easy to consider with representation of all parties working together every step of the way.. The specific role the CCEDC would play, McIntyre added, would be to seek funding resources in the way of grants, for the establishment of the REDP, and to help OMI locate a professional firm to study the parameters of such a plan, with the input of all entities kept in mind, in order to have it formally overseen and mapped out. <br /> <br /> McIntyre also said the county’s planning commission would be involved in the proposed creation and implementation of the REDP. <br /> <br /> To date, three entities have indicated they approve of the concept of developing a REDP in conjunction with all parties of concern. Those include Lower Oxford Township, Oxford Borough, and the school district. <br /> <br /> McIntyre explained that the other five entities are still discussing the proposal. <br /> <br /> Dr. Mary Jane Gales, OASD Superintendent, said the district administration hopes to see a better, more tangible system of communication among all entities of concern, as well as the area’s residents, as OMI’s revitalization plans continue. <br /> <br /> She said it is in the best interest of everyone in those groups to be involved, as all entities would reap the benefits of tax relief that would result from optimal future planning. Dr. Gales added that the district is more than willing to host a public event for discussing the establishment of the REDP, if and when all entities indicate their support of such a project. <br /> <br /> To learn more about Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. and the revitalization project for downtown Oxford, please visit www.oxfordmainstreet.org.

East Marlborough vineyard disagreement persists

Sarah Anne Wharton

At the board meeting of April 2, East Marlborough Township’s supervisors met to discuss local issues, development progress, and news. <br /> <br /> The most hotly debated topic of the evening was the controversy surrounding Folly Hill Vineyards and the events held by the vineyard and adjacent bed and breakfast. <br /> <br /> Some of the vineyard’s neigh- East Marlborough vineyard disagreement persists bors have expressed opposition to events at the property, which is owned by Glen and Sherry Sowers. The couple hosts wine tastings, festivals, barbeques and other events at the vineyard that an alliance of neighbors – led by the Lapara family – disagrees with. The wish of the owners to open a restaurant on the premises and generally expand their business is also contested. <br /> <br /> The opposition is not new, and has been going on for months, at least since the enforcement letter of June 2006, when a cease and desist compliance order was dealt to the vineyard. <br /> <br /> At Monday’s meeting, the Sowers’ lawyer attended to illustrate to the supervisors that though the outcry against the vineyard is loud, there are many neighbors and community members who do back Folly Hill Vineyards. <br /> <br /> The representative detailed and distributed copies of supportive letters for the Sowers, including positive feedback letters from three of the vineyard’s four immediate neighbors. <br /> <br /> However, the neighbors opposed to the vineyard’s events and expansion cited criticisms of the supportive letters from some of the backing neighbors. <br /> <br /> According to the Lapara-neighbor alliance, one of the neighbors who voiced encouragement for the vineyard is only a renter whose opinion should not hold as much sway as a propertyowner’s. <br /> <br /> The opposing neighbors also cited that one of the supporters had only been living in the bordering house since after the cease and desist was ordered, thus did not experience prior events held by the vineyard. <br /> <br /> At the heart of the matter is the detail that the property and vineyard is zoned as residential, not commercial, so possible expansions – whether they are supported by the majority of neighbors or not – contradict zoning laws. <br /> <br /> Supervisor Chairman Cuyler Walker addressed the Sowers’ lawyer about this fact. <br /> <br /> “We are not the body who will weigh in,” he said of the matter. <br /> <br /> The necessary appeal made by the vineyard will go in front of the Zoning Hearing Board, or beyond to the higher Chester County authority if they want to proceed. <br /> <br /> The Sowers’ lawyer appealed to the board and present neighbors to keep open minds, especially for one reason: he brought up the fact that because small vineyards and agricultural businesses are so new and unique to the area, there are not yet specific rules or examples to follow to get through controversies like that of Folly Hill Vineyards. <br /> <br /> Other local vineyards and townships are wrestling with the same problems and lack of guidelines, he said. <br /> <br /> The Sowers themselves declined direct comment on the controversy based on the counsel of their attorney. <br /> <br /> In the meantime, township solicitor Frone Crawford and both opposing parties – the Sowers and Lapara group – will try to negotiate. <br /> <br /> Crawford will then come up with a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors that will hopefully compromise both parties’ differing objectives. <br /> <br /> For now, the issue is at a standstill. <br /> <br /> Folly Hill Vineyards is located on Folly Hill Road at a site once owned by Longwood Gardens. The Sowers rebuilt and renovated the 200-year-old historical residence, planted the 4000 vines by hand, and cultivate the vineyard and wines themselves. The roughly four acres of grapes produce around 20 tons of grapes that yield around 1000 cases of wine annually. <br /> <br /> It is unknown how the controversy will affect the vineyard in the long run.

Small amounts of MTBE found in water near Kemblesville

Carla Lucas

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) found small amounts of the gasoline additive MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether) in the well water at the A-Plus Sunoco station in the village of Kemblesville and at two private wells in the area. <br /> <br /> According to PA DEP spokesman Dennis Harney, the MTBE was found in July 2005 when the property was assessed for a realty transfer. This prompted testing at private wells within a quartermile of the gas station. <br /> <br /> “Any level above background is considered an impact,” said Harney. “Regulations state that when an impact occurs of a regulated subject, the responsible party needs to provide an alternative source of water or treatment to eliminate (the problem).” Although Sunoco Corporation no longer owns the gas station, it has taken responsibility to remediate the situation. “We are monitoring the ground water and supply wells in the immediate area. We are working closely with PA DEP and Franklin Township to secure the permits needed to Install the remediation system (that will remove the MTBE),” said Gerald Davis, Sunoco Corporation’s spokesman. “It is Sunoco’s first priority to do what we can to fix the problem. We are experienced in this kind of activity and are committed to take the time to do it right.” MTBE is known to get into water aquifers from leaking underground gasoline storage tanks or gasoline spills. In the PA DEP records, there is a notification of an unleaded gasoline spill at the Kemblesville Sunoco station in 1998. <br /> <br /> Most of the components of gasoline act like oil, do not mix with water, and stay close to the site. MTBE is one of the few gasoline components that mix with water; therefore it is easily transported through underground water sources. <br /> <br /> MTBE was a gasoline additive used to prevent knocking and improve emissions. Gasoline companies no longer use it, as ethanol replaced MTBE in 2006 (remember the first gas-price surge and low supplies of gasoline in January 2006). <br /> <br /> MTBE is not classified as a carcinogen, but can cause other non-cancer health risks at high levels. A small amount of MTBE in water taints the taste of the water. <br /> <br /> Shortly after the MTBE was detected, Sunoco sent letters to all residents within a quarter-mile of the Kemblesville Sunoco station stating it would test the residents’ wells. About 20 residents accepted the offer to have their well water tested. MTBE was found at two of the sites. The PA DEP standard for MTBEs is 20 parts per billion. <br /> <br /> One site tested at 0.6 parts per billion and the other site tested at <br /> <br /> 2. 0 parts per billion. <br /> <br /> At the sites where MTBE was detected, Sunoco placed a water filtering system. The company then tested the water at the site before being filtered and again after being filtered. The results from the water after being filtered tested at ND (non-detectible). <br /> <br /> “First and foremost, from all that I’ve seen or heard, there is every reason to believe, in my opinion, that the drinking water is safe in the vicinity of the A-Plus in Kemblesville. This of course has been, and continues to be, the absolute number one priority, safe drinking water. From my vantage point, it appears that PA DEP is performing as residents would hope to see from a state regulatory agency,” said Franklin Township Supervisor Dick Whipple in a prepared statement at the Franklin Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, March <br /> <br /> 21. “…PA DEP is the agency with the authority and responsibility to direct efforts at ensuring safe drinking water…They have the resources, expertise, and experience, as well as the statutory authority, to have responsibility for this important duty.” “I felt like the public should have been informed from the get go,” said Franklin Township Chairman Juanita Bennett in an interview after the supervisor’s meeting. She and fellow supervisor Roger Wilson are concerned that the public was not notified soon enough of the problem, even if the situation was being monitored and remediated, and the contamination levels were extremely low. “People that live in the area told me that they never saw the letter or thought it was an advertisement because they never heard anything about a gas spill. <br /> <br /> It should be an obligation to let people know there had been a spill and that there is a chance (that the water wasn’t good to drink).” To permanently remove the MTBE from the water supply, Sunoco plans to set up a treatment facility at the A-Plus Sunoco. <br /> <br /> “The technology that will be used at the Kemblesville Sunoco starting this month is a soil-vapor extraction (SVE) system,” said Davis. “The SVE uses a vacuum to remove the vapors from the soil and groundwater. It is a proven remedial method that has been used for years.”

Another wish granted

Carla Lucas

Pennsylvania State Senator Dominic Pileggi officially “handed over the keys” to a Ford 350 Utility Bed Maintenance Truck to Penn Township Chairman Curtis Mason during a visit to the area on Friday, March 30. <br /> <br /> The approximately $30,000 truck with power snowplow was purchased through a state grant that Senator Pileggi procured for Penn Township. <br /> <br /> According to Mason, the township plans to use the truck to plow Penn Park, the township’s sewer pumping stations, and the parking lot at the township building. During the warmer months, the truck will be used As the township’s utility/maintenance vehicle when fixing roads and other maintenance issues throughout the township. <br /> <br /> Last year the township received a $20,000 state grant to purchase A gator with utility cart for use in the park. <br /> <br /> The township was recently awarded a separate $20,000 grant to purchase a new copying system for the township office that will tie all the computers together and print at one central location. <br /> <br /> “You have to ask to get,” said Curtis Mason when asked how Penn Township was able to procure so many grants. <br /> <br /> “Every time I know I’m going to see someone that might be able to get a grant for Penn Township, I bring along a proposal.” Next on Penn Township’s list of wishes are funds for a new active park, which begins with a grant request to produce a Master Site Plan.

School board hits new low

Uncle Irvin

The Oxford Area School Board just hit a new low – just like Philadelphia reaching 103 killings in the first three months of <br /> <br /> 2007. <br /> <br /> They just named an 18-year-old senior in their high school to the school board from Region 1, Lower and Upper Oxford Townships, a position vacated by Randall Price. <br /> <br /> Five of the eight directors voted for the 18 year-old over other adult taxpaying candidates: <br /> <br /> • Gordon Atkisson, <br /> <br /> • Kurt Haegele <br /> <br /> • Valerie Kegley <br /> <br /> • Henry O’Connor <br /> <br /> • James G. Sumner. <br /> <br /> The above directors made a serious mistake in judgment and should be “stoned” by their constituents for redefining the criteria of a suitable school board candidate, which are: <br /> <br /> 1. At least a bachelors degree or commensurate experience as an executive in business. <br /> <br /> 2. A property owner and taxpayer in the district. <br /> <br /> The Oxford Area School Board already falls short of the above criteria and is now headed to a new low. <br /> <br /> Where are the political leaders and leading citizens in the district to have permitted this?

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