Kennett Township residents concerned about lighting at proposed 78-unit townhouse development

KENNETT TOWNSHIP>> Two lengthy discussions and one special session changed nothing about the Sinclair Springs subdivision but the mood of some of its neighbors, but it seemed that was enough.

The proposed 78-unit townhouse development on a 26-acre tract along Hillendale Road had brought about questions from nearby residents about the plans for lighting the area at night.

The entrance would have two aerial lights, with additional lights along a roadway, according to the plans created by the architect and lighting consultant.

Neighbors wondered if they would be disturbed by the lights, and questioned their effect on nocturnal animals in the area.

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The developer proposed to have the lighting consultant, Kent Lazor, be available to discuss the plans with the concerned neighbors at the township supervisors’ regular meeting Wednesday night.

Lazor explained that the lights he had included on the plan were much lower in power than streetlights or older-generation lights the neighbors might be familiar with in other developments. And the beam of light they created was hooded and directed at the ground in such a way that the actual lamp and the beam above the ground would be difficult to see from much beyond the actual illuminated area.

Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt said he had asked for enough lighting in the development to prevent unauthorized people from parking in secluded areas there, and to increase safety for pedestrians.

Scudder Stevens, chair of the board of supervisors, said he understood the residents’ concerns, but felt the lighting consultant’s explanation was in line with Stevens’ own experience that modern hooded lights were much more controlled and directional than an old-fashioned streetlight “that’s reflecting everywhere.”

Stevens said he was very concerned about light pollution in general, where uncontrolled light causes a variety of problems. “This does not do that,” he said.

The police chief’s request to minimize dark areas that were tempting to unauthorized visitors was also compelling, Stevens said. “I’m not persuaded there’s an alternative” that would help keep the area safe, he said.

Township Manager Lisa Moore said a development near her home had the old-fashioned style of lighting, and while it was visible from outside her house it was still not a problem inside. One attendee said he agreed with Moore that the proposed lighting would not be as noticeable or potentially intrusive as some older developments he had seen.

In the end, the supervisors voted unanimously to accept the original lighting plan. And at least one of the residents who had numerous questions and concerns about the proposal said she appreciated the developers’ efforts to discuss the situation and provide more information.

In other business, the supervisors voted unanimously on a resolution for property acquisition involving a proposed purchase of land that would be preserved as open space. The supervisors typically do not disclose any identifying information about the tract in question while negotiations are going on in order to avoid attracting other potential purchasers.

Township Solicitor David Sander said the resolution authorized the acquisition of the property by eminent domain, and would record a deed in lieu of condemnation, but the property would not actually be acquired by condemnation.

Rather, Sander said, the maneuver would help the township avoid paying a realty transfer tax, which township officials feel does not apply for this type of purchases. The township had previously gotten into disputes over this with state tax officials, and the resolution would help avoid that in the future, he said.