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Zoning for new Richburg residential project passes

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By Travis Jenkins

It will not single-handedly solve Chester County’s housing problems, but it will be a big step in the right direction.

On Monday, Chester County Council passed second reading of a measure to rezone property at 3303 Edgeland Road from R2 (Rural Two) to RG-1 (multi-family residential). That paves the way for construction of 225 upscale apartment units in six walk-up, three-story buildings. Real estate agent Jay Rinehart previously told The News & Reporter that if all goes to plan, construction should begin in the first or second quarter of 2019. With third reading having been approved, Rinehart said “the financial component” can begin as can the permitting process. He anticipates that could take some time since Chester County hasn’t issued a multi-family permit in at least 22 years. The development will take place in two phases, but if the public reaction is good and interest is high, he said the second phase could be accelerated. He said it was decided that the Magnolia Hill house that sits on the property will be part of the development because it “has too many neat features” not to. The upstairs of that house will be the home of the apartment manager, while the downstairs will feature amenities like a gathering room and a workout area. A pool is planned for nearby.

Prior to Monday’s vote, Chester Development Association Vice-Chair Tony Pope spoke in the public forum to voice support for passage of the zoning needed to make the project happen. He and Chairman Mike Enoch had previously lent their support to the project.

“I encourage you to support this effort,” he said. “It aligns with the county’s strategic plan. It’s taken years to get here, but the doors of Chester County are coming open.”

Councilman Joe Branham noted that several local industries had written to the county that they support the project and that the Chester County School District had verbally conveyed “that they are for this.” It is the hope of both the school district and industrial communities that this will give employees, many of whom live outside of Chester County and drive to work every day, the option of living closer to where they work and help keep more of their money here. Councilman Alex Oliphant said the issue of housing has been a pressing one in Chester for years and that the proposed development will “be extremely beneficial to Chester County” while acknowledging many more options are still needed. The council recently voted down a proposed trailer park that would have provided 159 rental units. There were issues with that proposal, including that it would have essentially turned an existing neighborhood into a through road along with the location. An 840-home development was pitched on Edgeland Road near Richburg recently, but it was ultimately voted down on third reading. Council members cited population density, proximity to an existing neighborhood, having the property lie within two different fire districts and only having one planned way in and one way out of the development as reasons for voting it down. The county’s lack of development impact fees was also noted by Councilman Brad Jordan, a critique he offered for the new apartment development as well. The county is working to develop an impact fee structure but Oliphant also said that developers should not be punished or disallowed from pursuing projects because the county had failed to implement impact fees sooner.

The vote on third reading was 5-1, with only Jordan voting against it.