Springettsbury Twp. residents speak out against center proposal


Springettsbury Township residents spoke out Thursday night against a plan to tear down the Modernaire Motel and surrounding buildings to build a new shopping center.

Last month, developer Spring Lane LLC of Malvern, Chester County, presented a concept plan to the Springettsbury Township board of supervisors to rezone 12.5 acres on the northeast corner of East Market Street and Mount Zion Road.

The developer's plan involves demolishing 12 parcels, including the Modernaire Motel and Bloomingdale house, and building a town center in their place. Attorney Jeff Lobach, representing Spring Lane, said the center would feature a Lidl Grocery store and potentially restaurants, small shops or financial services.

At a public hearing Thursday, residents cited increased traffic, spot zoning and the demolition of historic properties as reasons they want the township to reject the rezoning plan.

Traffic: Several people who own homes on Mount Zion Road said simply collecting their mail from mailboxes along the road now makes them fear losing limbs, and they said they're afraid increased traffic would lead to a rise in accidents and the inability to travel away from their homes.

Lobach and the development team explained that their research, based on previous research into traffic patterns, showed that the increase in traffic would be negligible, although several of the residents derided that research as unfounded. Lobach said the developer has "engaged in discussion with PennDOT" regarding traffic and highway ordinances but does not need to enact a traffic study until the master plan is approved.

'Spot zoning': Springettsbury resident Alexandra Thomas questioned whether the rezoning plan is permissible. Thomas, an engineer, said, "this is absolutely spot zoning," meaning the developer is going against the township's zoning ordinance to allow an unjustified exception.

Thomas, whose house is adjacent to the proposed town center, said her property would greatly depreciate in value if it is sitting next to a grocery store.

Plus, she fears for the safety and quality of life for her family.

"We will be forced out of our home at a depreciated value because we cannot live next to a grocery store," she said.

Historic home: Thomas was not the only resident worried about her property's future. Reegan VanDine has lived in the companion house to the Bloomingdale property for 20 years.

She said the house's "grace and beauty have anchored not only our property, but Springettsbury Township for more than 100 years." Built in 1901, the Bloomingdale house is nationally recognized as a historic landmark.

VanDine also challenged the removal of the trees lining the property. She explained that the rare trees serve as wildlife habitats, air purifiers and sound buffers in an area that begs for greater environmental protection.

Her hopes for preservation align with her concerns for both nature and the cultural integrity of the property.

"I hope we can come up with a different solution," she said.

Community: John Spanos, owner of The Paddock restaurant on East Market Street, asked the developer to recognize the importance of community. Spanos' parents opened The Paddock in 1947 before he took over and turned the restaurant into a local dining destination, and it sits directly across the street from the proposed center.

Spanos asked Lobach and the developer why he had not been engaged in a discussion about the rezoning.

"To be a good neighbor, you might want to talk to your neighbors," he said.

No decision has been made on Spring Lane LLC's proposal, and the board will continue to discuss the matter.