Look at the Development Problems In Middletown Twp, Delco

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Development Food For Thought: It isn't our area, township or issue, but should we be paying attention to this project? These updates come to us courtesy of Anthony Ieradi and www.savemiddletown.com - please note the main community website there is pretty interesting too: www.ourmiddletown.org .
Read on:

Delco Times: Posted on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Arrested Develop-MINT: Call it Battle of Baltimore Pike
Massive town center plan for old Franklin Mint site gives way to office park plan
By Timothy Logue

MIDDLETOWN — To outsiders it may seem like an obvious choice.

You have 150-plus acres of prime real estate that fronts Baltimore Pike and backs up to a creek valley and a developer has put forth two options:

1) A town center that mixes residential, retail and commercial development -— including a hotel, several restaurants, shops and a movie theater — with a performing arts center, post office and perhaps a public library.

2) A 1.4-million-square-foot office/industrial park.

On Tuesday, developers of the Franklin Mint and adjoining properties are expected to appear before the township planning commission to push for the office/industrial park.....If it seems strange for a community to back a plan that calls for the construction of four massive buildings and four parking garages while leveling four historic homes and a museum, opponents of a town center proposal floated by the developers in the fall of 2006 wholeheartedly believe the alternative is even worse.

“Personally I think town centers are awesome, but what they proposed was a shopping destination that people happen to live in,” said longtime Middletown resident Tony Ieradi, one of the leaders of the “Save Middletown” group opposed to the mixed-use plan initially proposed by developers from Pennrose Properties, Wolfson Verrichia, Dewey Companies and the McKee Group.

“If there were some compelling reason, some benefit to the township that would make up for a project that adds so much more traffic, more infrastructure, more noise, light and pollution, then maybe you take a look — but all those headaches for more retail? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

For the time being, the Franklin Town Center plan is off the table...“What they were proposing was a city unto itself,” said Larry Weathers Jr., 77, owner of Weathers Dodge on Baltimore Pike. “The density is the No. 1 problem I have with it. No. 2 is the traffic situation, which cannot be cured … This would have been a perfect plan if they put it in the middle of Nebraska.”....Steve Wolfson has heard the talk that his development team only floated the office park plan as a decoy...“Every civic group and neighborhood group can voice their own opinion and we respect that,” Wolfson said. “But we are developing it now as office with an industrial component, which is a permitted use on the property.”

Wolfson skirted questions about whether his team had any interest in resuscitating the Franklin Town Center proposal or regrets about the way it was presented....“When you read it, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, did you have even one original thought?’” Ieradi said. “It reads like an endorsement of the developers’ plan. Same concepts, same mix of businesses, same traffic improvements and absolutely no input from anyone in the community who opposes (the town center).”

Why is that Steve Wolfson name so familiar?

Anyway, here are the other updates:

Dear Supporter,

Below is a message from the Developers of the Franklin Mint and surrounding historic properties. They are planning to go before the Middletown Township Planning Commission for review of the revised by-right plan next Tuesday, February 12 at 7:30 PM at the Township Building.

There are a series of links that contains the communications between the developers, the Delaware Valley Planning Commission (TOD authors), and the Township Officials. http://www.planningfranklin.com/plan.asp These are worth a look at to get a better glimpse of what is planned.

A couple of points to note:

The DVPC recommends a loop road through the property (Hunter Street) to connect the site to Route 452.
The DVPC recommends a grade separated interchange at Routes 452 & 1 (potential elimination of the Village of Lima) to handle the existing and anticipated traffic.
SEPTA is in the engineering phase of the Wawa Station. The developers should work with SEPTA to provide some connection to the station via a road or sidewalk along Route 1.
Although there are some historically significant properties on the tract, Middletown Township does not have a historical structure ordinance, so the developers have opted to tear these down.
The DVPC recommends some landscape and beatification improvements to enhance the streetscape.
For more detail, attend the Middletown Township Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, February 12 at 7:30 PM at the Township Building.


From: "Franklin Mint Development Team"
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 8:31 AM
Subject: Revised Office/Industrial Plan Filed for former Franklin Mint

> February 7, 2008
> Dear Friend,
> We appreciate your interest in the future of the former Franklin Mint
> property and want to provide you a brief project update.
> We have received a review of our Office/Industrial plan from
> Middletown Township and have revised the plan to address those
> comments. We currently expect our revised Office/Industrial plan for
> the property to come before the Middletown Township Planning
> Commission for review next Tuesday, February 12. You are welcome to
> attend that meeting. It begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Township Building.
> We have posted the Township's review of the Office/Industrial Plan and
> our response to each of the comments in that review letter on our
> website.
> http://cts.vresp.com/c/?FranklinMintDevelopm/f50ba7a24d/9bcba03e25/e6d4f62737
> We have also posted the comments from the Delaware County Planning
> Commission on the site.
> http://cts.vresp.com/c/?FranklinMintDevelopm/f50ba7a24d/9bcba03e25/9daccc82a0
> We have also posted a color version of the revised Office/Industrial
> plan depicting the project and an overview of the plan.
> http://cts.vresp.com/c/?FranklinMintDevelopm/f50ba7a24d/9bcba03e25/8c883e2997
> We encourage you to take a look and email us with questions.
> Thank you again for your time and interest.
> The Franklin Mint Development Team


Dear Supporter,

Here's a recap of the Planning meeting that took place 7:30 Pm on 2/12/08 as it relates to the Franklin Mint and surrounding historic properties.

At the start of the discussion, Chairperson Dave DiFebo was asked to recuse himself from the proceedings because he signed a petition that stated he wanted "Middletown Township to uphold the current zoning on the Franklin Mint and surrounding historic properties.

Candidate for council Larry Weathers Jr. opposed the request by the developers since the plan in front of the planning commission adhered to zoning and therefore didn’t constitute a conflict of interest.

A member of the audience asked what constitutes "a conflict of interest" for township officials, and how will that be handled? It was recommended that if anyone had any information of collusion or conflict should notify council.

The plan was presented to the commission and some of the following items were noted:
The historic Pennell House does not need to be saved or moved (according to township ordinances), so it will be torn down.

Other properties of architectural value (according to DVRPC) do not need to be saved or moved (according to township ordinances), so they will be torn down.

The developers are not required under any ordinance to help remediate traffic, so no concessions have been planned. Art Rothe did point out that PA DOT may require so modifications.

In lieu of a financial donation (reputed to be $1M) for recreation areas (required by ordinance), the developers have put aside 3.8 acres of steep slopes and wetlands for use by office inhabitants and could be dedicated for township public use.

The Planning Commission suggested an independent water runoff study be performed as well as a sewage study as it was outdated.

Water pressure for fire and safety may be a concern.

There is no planned road access for the Wawa Train Station for employees to reach the office complex (not required by ordinance)

It was pointed out that SEPTA, via eminent domain, could take the necessary land to gain access.

.....Some residents suggested that the developers went from one extreme to another.

One thing was clear, the planning commission and residents want access to the train station to help reduce traffic.

Overall, it's a good plan that conforms to zoning, and provides the least amount of traffic, light, air, noise, and environmental pollution. With a little tweaking, this could be a winner for the residents and the developers as it will meet "the explosion of healthcare, active adult, and corporate facilities" that Steve Wolfson fully expects to occupy the office campus.

As a side note, a group of business owners appeared before township council last night to say that Simon, owners of the Granite Run Mall, have been no-responsive to any issues plaguing the mall.

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