Correcting the Record on Kardon Park

By SARAH PECK, Guest Columnist

Published: Thursday, July 13, 2010

I appreciate the impartial coverage by the Daily Local staff reporter of the recent conditional use approval by the East Caln Township Supervisors for the 70-unit "Millrace at Kardon Ponds" proposal. Unfortunately the headlines assigned to those reports, "Township OKs Plans for Homes in Park" and "Feldman to appeal decision to develop Kardon Park" give readers the mistaken impression that a piece of Kardon Park is being developed.

In actuality, what is being approved for development is the seven-acre municipal compost and trash site, located off of Norwood Road that is owned by Downingtown Borough.The subject site is not part of Kardon Park and has never been a park of any kind. I would like to clarify the proposal and the facts:

The subject site -- like the rest of Kardon Park -- is contaminated with byproducts of industry and municipal waste from decades of dumping after the site was used as a quarry. The proposal is to remediate the contamination through the installation of a clean soil cap. The remediation methods are safe and effective and have been approved by the appropriate state authorities after many rigorous studies.

Not only is the present park not going to disappear, after the cleanup and new trails are installed as a result of the development proposal, an even larger park area will be opened to the public -- almost double the present acreage used. The park land itself will no longer be soggy and muddy after a rain as it is now because it will be graded to drain properly. Park users will be able to stretch out a picnic blanket or allow their dogs to romp around without fear of exposure to contaminants.

The ponds, which are not contaminated but are clogged with algae and starved for sufficient fresh water, will remain but will be cleaned and aerated. Fresh water will be introduced. Cleansed stormwater from the development — far from being a bad thing — will actually improve the health of the ponds over today's reality of unfiltered stormwater running directly into the ponds. Most importantly the public's enjoyment of the ponds, including fishing and ice skating, will not change.

Extensive new public trails and three footbridges across the millrace will be built as part of the proposal. The new trails will link up with the Struble Trail in two locations — providing safer crossings of Norwood Road over today's dangerous crossing conditions.

More public parking will be built for trail users in a safe parking lot off Norwood Road, close to the trail head, removing the current weekend hazard of cars sprawled all along Norwood Road in a haphazard and unsafe manner with cars having to back up directly into oncoming traffic.

In sum, an unsightly borough trash site which currently generates no tax revenues is being developed into attractive new housing for people who want less maintenance and home improvements required by other available homes for sale in the area. Downingtown businesses and restaurants will gain needed new patrons. Borough residents will realize cash from the sale of the land while East Caln residents will benefit from the annual cash surpluses generated by the homes in the new community due to the low number of school-age children that have been shown in empirical studies to occupy this type of housing.

As for the broader Kardon Park redevelopment, a decision is expected from Orphan's Court shortly. Should Judge Katherine B.L. Platt rule that the borough is allowed to sell the land for redevelopment, a public park will remain but reconfigured to be larger and more pleasant and made safe from contamination.

The ponds will continue to be enjoyed, as depicted in the Daily Local News photograph, but will be made healthier. Walking trails will be rebuilt so they won't hold muddy puddles and ice patches as they do now. New wetlands plantings along and between the ponds will be planted to enhance a bird and wildlife sanctuary.

Downingtown Borough taxpayers will benefit from more than $7 million in one-time revenue, annual cash surpluses generated from the new homes, and extensive traffic improvements on Pennsylvania Avenue and Green Street paid for by the developers. Annual net surpluses will also go to the school district and the county.

(Sarah Peck is president of Progressive Housing Ventures.)