To sell this monster, Carlino has been saying at the local meetings they've held that their plan would "save" 166 acres of forest. Actually, they’re not saving anything. They want to build a very large shopping center and the forested areas they’re not cutting down would have to be purchased from Carlino by a consortium which as of this writing has not materialized. In fact, Carlino's president assured the people who came out to the O'Hara sneak peek meeting that County Council would float a bond to buy the 166 acres from them (Carlino). However, at a public county meeting on May 8th, Delaware County Council said they had had no contact or discussions with Carlino about buying land from them. Not only has Carlino not talked to the County, but there would be no legal obligation for Carlino to "save" the forest anyway. They could simply later claim they underestimated their costs and say they needed to expand their development. Verbal assurances are not legally binding.
With their "community meetings," Carlino is doubling down on Bruce Goodman’s tactic of seducing various interest groups, this time reaching out to all of the local Catholic churches, inviting the parishioners to church-sanctioned meetings in an attempt to solicit support. It is disheartening to see religion being used to manipulate the devout into accepting a lower quality of life. Synagogues were not excluded from the public relations campaign, either, because “Wegman’s carries a large selection of Kosher food.”
Another interest group, the Marple Newtown Soccer Association (MNSA), has again been lured into supporting a plan that sacrifices area residents’ quality of life in exchange for about five acres of fields. If you recall, the leadership of the MNSA publicly supported Goodman’s plan to clear cut the entire Don Guanella forest so that they could get seven acres of fields in the middle of a shopping center. Now it’s Carlino’s turn to use the soccer association to generate some special interest support for something they know the community overall will oppose. The MNSA again seems not to care that they would get their fields right in the heart of the forest which we’ve just spend the last three years working to protect as part of a county park for the tens of thousands of residents who don’t play soccer. Despite the MNSA’s priorities not aligning with the community’s, we support their getting fields somewhere along the frontage with Sproul Road adjoining a much smaller commercial development.
By Ken Hemphill
**Carlino waited until the last minute to move the venue and time to 6pm at Cardinal O'Hara HS on Monday, May 21st
One of the developers at the O'Hara meeting spoke of the private property rights they and the Archdiocese have. But they would happily ignore the rights of area property owners whose property values would fall and whose quality of life would be debased. Carlino's claimed right to overdevelop the land assumes that residents in the area have no rights, that their community can be transformed into a regional shopping mecca without their consent.
So how bad would it be? Traffic already backs up from Route 1 along Springfield Road and Sproul Road past the cemetery entrance and it’s a slow slog on Sproul all the way out to West Chester Pike and beyond. Reed Road frequently backs up a mile from Eagle Road. Burmont is clogged at rush hour from Glendale past the quarry on Eagle Road. It takes almost ten minutes on North Rolling Road to get through the light at Route 1 which is more like a used car lot for several hours each day than a road. Every other road that connects to Sproul or Route 1 will be inundated with thousands of new daily vehicle trips. It’s the Delco Traffic Horror Show and you’re invited to the weekend opener.
The capacity study fails to provide for any open space which isn't part of any environmentally sensitive area. In other words, you can't count steep slope or wetland acreage in the open space totals. What's more, the analysis allows institutional buildings significantly encroaching into wetlands. We’re left with greatly reduced institutional square footage and probably 85 to 95 houses total all of which don't generate recurring revenue. Somehow, Carlino would have to build these and still make a one-time profit after paying the Archdiocese $30 million.
To build this monstrosity, Carlino needs Marple’s commissioners to rezone the property. Carlino also needs permission from the commissioners to connect to the township's sewer lateral a thousand yards down Crum Creek Road because the Radnor Haverford Marple Interceptor (RHM) closer to Don Guanella has zero available capacity. Without that permission, and we would hope they don't give it, Carlino must build their own very expensive lateral to connect to the Central Delaware County Authority sewer interceptor which is about three miles away. CDCA wouldn't have to let Carlino connect to their interceptor, either, as only townships are currently tied in. Even if CDCA allowed it, the cost could be prohibitive for Carlino.
As the development of the Don Guanella property is probably the most important quality of life issue to ever face Marple Township (and neighboring townships like Springfield, Haverford, Upper Darby and Upper Providence), the choice for the commissioners should be easy. Carlino must either drastically scale down the size of their center or leave town. There would be no undoing the permanent damage to our community and quality of life if it’s approved.
Please also see Crum Creek Neighbors' thorough analysis of the impact of Carlino's plans: It's available here.
The developer would make millions each year and we would get unbearable traffic
Does anyone believe our area can handle any more traffic?
May 13, 2018
Carlino’s huge center would turn our main roads into parking lots and our neighborhood streets into cut throughs. Sproul Road is currently crushed by 33,000 vehicle trips EACH day according to PennDOT. Carlino’s plan would generate probably 35,000 daily trips on top of that! 68,000 total vehicle trips would approach the Blue Route’s current volume and is almost double what Township Line Road handles. Would these 35,000 trips be new? The overwhelming majority would be since Carlino admits that they’re bringing many “new to market” stores to the area presumably to attract additional customers who don’t currently shop in the area. On a busy Saturday, when shopping center traffic is at its peak, throw in twenty funeral processions entering the cemetery across the street throughout the day – plus the usual Saturday volume – and Sproul Road would grind to a halt.
What’s more, thousands of motorists are going to use cut-through neighborhood streets to avoid longer waits at traffic lights. If you live on such a street, brace yourself for hundreds of additional vehicles each day going past where your kids play and ride their bikes. Backing out of your driveway could become hazardous to your health and expect your property value to drop. Developers know that traffic from their shopping centers will adversely impact local communities, so they come prepared to talk "high tech solutions" to tamp down the community’s concerns. Carlino has stated that they will add turn lanes to Sproul from O’Hara to Reed Road to “calm” traffic, and they've said they would install “adaptive signaling” to “move traffic more efficiently.” Don’t be gulled by these superficial remedies and gimimicks. There is no avoiding the choke points at Reed Road and at the Lamb Tavern, past which no widening is possible. And when traffic is overwhelming in all directions, of what use is an "adaptive signal"?
GIven our current traffic woes, our area cannot accommodate any more stores, let alone Carlino's massive 47 acre center. Consider, for the sake of comparison, that the Lawrence Park Shopping Center generates somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000+ daily vehicle trips. Carlino’s development would be substantially larger than Lawrence Park and have commercial uses that create more traffic. Wegmans, for example, would draw much more traffic than the Acme (and take thousands of customers from them) as well as attract it from further away. The proximity to the 476 interchange would allow for a much larger customer base than the immediate surrounding communities can provide.
Two years after our commissioners sent Goodman packing, another developer, Carlino Commercial, will present another proposal for Don Guanella on May 21st at Marple Newtown HS at 7pm.** Although smaller than Goodman’s proposal, Carlino’s 47 acre commercial plan is still far too big for the site and will cause massive traffic increases that will diminish the health, property values, and quality of life of thousands of area residents.
Yet, just as Goodman did, Carlino is nevertheless trying to convince segments of our community in advance of the township meeting to support their monstrous plan, or, as Carlino says, they will clear cut the forest and build what's allowed there "by right," this from a group which claimed to "not want to fight the community." Carlino wants 400,000+ square feet in the form of 40 individual stores, including yet another large supermarket, a four story medical office building, a four story 150 unit "senior living" complex, a four story self storage facility, and 2,586 parking spaces on a road that is already choked with traffic. You don't have to be a traffic engineer to know that this 47 acre shopping center would permanently impair the quality of life of tens of thousands of Delaware County residents.
The developers also mentioned that they're paying nonrefundable deposits to the Archdiocese and that they must close the deal in February or sooner. We don't buy it. Are we to believe that they would make the same mistake as Goodman by paying down nonrefundable deposits? Are we to believe that an enormous shopping center is the only course of action? How about building a modestly sized shopping center instead of another King of Prussia Mall? Remember, they're not paying for the forest: the community would be, so they don't need to "build big" to pay for something beyond what they would use. But if this nonrefundable story is true, how is it the community's fault that they got themselves into that bind? It's the same argument Goodman made and we know how that turned out for him.
Carlino has also threatened to build what the zoning allows “by right” if the Commissioners don't rezone the property. "We would build institutional of some sort and 209 houses," they say, if they don’t get approved for the monster. These are absurd numbers. A "capacity" study for the site performed by the engineering firm Pennoni Associates estimated that 162 houses could be built in “the back” with institutional uses in the front. There’s one serious problem with Pennoni’s study, though. It’s a very inaccurate, incomplete analysis of a very environmentally constrained, topographically restrictive site. The study even omits the existence of one of two streams, Whetstone Run! It also depicts a large institutional piece directly on top of the other stream on the property, a stream which meets PA DEP's definitions and criteria for a "high quality" stream.
The omission of Whetstone Run from the study eliminates at least 30 houses, and its placement of more than two dozen homes on steep slopes and within the 100 foot buffer of the high quality stream takes away another 25 or 30 more. Pennoni’s study also shows about ten homes built right up to the Blue Route’s retaining wall. No planning body adhering to best practices would allow that. Subtract another ten houses.