Update on Berwyn & Devon Zoning Issues

Berwyn Unit Density: In February of this year, a group of Berwyn residents who were concerned with the large apartment building projects being proposed for Berwyn filed a short petition with the township to reinstate a sensible limit on per acre unit density in Berwyn. For many years Easttown has limited multi-family density to 8-units per acre. In 2013, as part of the “Berwyn Village” zoning amendments, that limit was repealed in Berwyn. There was little or no discussion of this important change at that time and no real analysis by the township of the effect if could have on the Village atmosphere of Berwyn, or the township generally.

The residents’ petition was considered at Planning Commission meetings on Oct. 6th and Nov. 5th. We presented several written reports from an experienced and respected land planner from Chester County showing other municipalities’ ordinance provisions which averaged 10 or 11 units per acre in similar communities, petitions signed by over 350 township residents, and comments from a number of neighbors. We made it clear that we did not believe 8 was the only proper number the township could use, and that we wanted to initiate a discussion and a review of the issue. At the conclusion of the Nov. 5th meeting, the Commission members stated that they did not believe returning to the 8-unit limit was appropriate and would deny the petition, and also stated that they did not know what the correct limit should be. They made a motion which was seconded to request the Board of Supervisors to authorize further study of the issue and allocate necessary funds for the township planning consultant to do so. On behalf of the neighbors who filed the petition, we stated that we supported the motion to engage in further study, and to reach an outcome that is beneficial for Easttown. At that point, the interim township manager interjected that he could “reach out informally” to the Chester County Planning Commission and get recommendations on the unit density issue and the Commission agreed to his “informal” suggestion.

The residents’ petition has now been scheduled for a hearing before the Supervisors at their Nov. 16th virtual meeting. We plan to present the reports from our planning expert, and as many public comments as the board will receive. We also intend to highlight that the Planning Commission has acknowledged that it had no real study when the change was made in 2013, and requested further analysis in response to our petition.

The link to join the virtual meeting will be available on the township’s website. We hope you can join the meeting and support this effort.

Devon Center Zoning: The Devon Center zoning project had been on hold since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Planning Commission decided to take up this matter again over our objections that the township should defer acting on this discretionary project until full public meetings can be held and until we understand the longer term effects of the pandemic on economic and public health issues.

The township consultant has prepared a 25-page zoning ordinance that would apply in Devon along Route 20 from the bowling alley, east to the township line at the horse show grounds. Most of the ordinance does not raise any serious issues. We have been concerned with two discrete provisions that have serious consequences. One is the repeal of the 8-unit limitation on apartments in the Devon area. This drastic proposal was never vetted by the Devon Task Force, is not supported by the public input process that the Task Force employed, and is contrary to the township’s Comprehensive Plan. The second issue is rezoning portions of two small lots from residential to commercial use. These properties are the open lot on Dorset Road owned by the horse show, and a portion of the Devon yard project on Devon Boulevard. A developer has submitted plans for a hotel, apartment complex with a three-story parking garage for this property, but he needs to have the zoning changed on these lots to proceed. We oppose rezoning those lots. They have served as an effective buffer for the residential neighborhoods to the south.

Taken together, these two proposals will facilitate the development of the large box, 100 plus unit buildings springing up in King of Prussia and Newtown Square, among other places. They are out of character with Devon, and unnecessary.

Notices and links to join the Nov. 23rd meeting will be posted here once available.

Spread the word and keep up the letter writing!

While we await these meetings, please continue outreach efforts to neighbors and friends. Our group has grown significantly in recent weeks. Many people have already sent letters to the township officials expressing their opinions. Please continue to do so.

At this link please find a letter from Joe Kohn to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors regarding the above issues.

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