West Chester, PA
Stop the Unlawful Development of the Apartment Complex on the Old Agway Lot!
The purpose of this website is to provide the residents of West Chester Borough with information about a developer's unlawful attempt to build a 120 unit apartment complex on the old Agway lot at the corner of East Chestnut and North Matlack Streets and to expose the truths that need to be heard in order to stop the overdevelopment of our neighborhoods.
The old Agway lot at the corner of East Chestnut St and North Matlack St is currently owned by 220 East Chestnut Street Associates who is trying to build a 120 unit apartment complex on the lot. They are trying to get everyone to believe that the full lot is in the Town Center Zoning District where apartment complexes are allowed and where buildings can be up to 45 feet tall. This is NOT TRUE! The lot actually is the NC-2 (Neighborhood Conservation-2) Zoning District where apartments are not allowed to be built and buildings can only be up to 35 feet tall. NC-2 allows for the development of houses and there are minimum size restrictions that would mean at most 10 houses could be built along East Chestnut Street. The development company recently purchased the adjoining lot behind the old Agway lot. It's connected, on N Matlack Street towards Gay Street. This lot is legally zoned as Town Center and a 45 foot tall apartment complex would be allowable on that section of the land. We are not challenging that smaller piece of land.
On November 28,2001, West Chester's Borough Council unanimously passed Ordinance #15 of 2001 that legally changed the Zoning of the old Agway lot from Town Center to NC-2. The Zoning Map was updated and correctly showed the lot as NC-2. This map was the official Borough Zoning Map from that date until January 20, 2011, when it was illegally changed without any proper proceedings or public meetings to now show the lot as Town Center.
The developers (Eli Kahn, Dave Della Porta, and Jack Lowe) and some Borough officials (Ernie McNealy, Borough Manager and Mike Perrone, Zoning Officer) are in this together. When we first started raising issues of the TC vs NC-2 Zoning, their response was that "the Zoning Map was wrong." They claimed that no Ordinance ever passed to change the lot from TC to NC-2, and that the Map was just incorrectly updated as if it did. When we found Ordinance #15 of 2001 to prove that it DID pass and the change from TC to NC-2 was enacted, they changed their story to say that it was not passed correctly, but they never had a good or consistent explanation. Once, they said that the Agway owners were not made aware of the change. Another time, they said that signs were never posted on the lot prior to the Nov 28, 2001 Borough Council meeting where the change was made. Even if these things were true, they would only have mattered within 30 days of the decision and they could have been appealed at the time. They do not matter TEN YEARS LATER! No one can make the claim now that something was done incorrectly in 2001. The Ordinance was passed and it still stands. The Zoning Map showed the land as NC-2 for a decade. If someone wanted to challenge that at any time over the last 10 years, they could have brought it before Borough Council and the Zoning Board and requested a zoning change to go BACK to Town Center. That was never done. So the land legally remains zoned as NC-2 and apartment complexes are NOT ALLOWED there and buildings taller than 35 feet are NOT ALLOWED there. This is not debatable.
At the February 14, 2011 Zoning Hearing Board, the developers requested a 6 foot height variance to build the apartment complex to 51 feet tall. This is six feet over the 45 foot maximum for a Town Center development. Again, for some reason, the Zoning Hearing Board did not challenge the TC zoning. They also accepted the developers' statement that the height variance should be granted because it was "de minimis." There is apparently no legal definition of "de minimis" but it is generally accepted to mean 1-3% or such an insignificant trivial amount that it would not be noticeable. 6 feet is 13.3% over Town Center's maximum of 45 feet and by no definition can be considered "de minimis."
Because the Zoning Hearing Board did not research the Zoning of the land and the took the word of the Borough Manager, the Zoning Officer, and the Developer, now we the residents have to take the matter into out own hands and we have filed an Appeal with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. The case is pending.
Contact: Tina Laskowski