Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Massive Vacant Valley Township Land near Route 30 Bypass, Single Detached Housing Complex or Mixed Use Development?

Just a short walk from my house is a large tract of land ripe for development. The image above illustrates the geographic location, portraying its proximity to highway access and other notable landmarks such as the Chester County Airport, helicopter factory, and the Airport Road Shopping Center. Right near the access point to US 30 are signs indicating the size and zoning of this land. Apparently, Valley Township is attempting to lure even more residential use to the already burgeoning municipality.

Considering how the Chester County Airport is just across Business 30 from this site, one would assume this parcel of land would be ripe for commercial or even mixed use. I believe there are a handful of "retail pad" sites available for development on this parcel of land, but most of it is set aside for single detached residential use. The question is, would single houses be the best use of this land, or should the township try to lure commercial, restaurant, and retail uses to this rapidly growing municipality? In my opinion, I am going with the latter.

Single detached housing

I will discuss the impacts of mixed use development later on. For now, let's look further at the idea of single detached housing. There is already an abundance of single detached homes not just in Valley or the surrounding vicinity, but all over Chester County as a whole. Outside of a few townhouse communities and apartment complexes in the more urban parts of the county, single homes dominate the housing landscape in the county. From a planning perspective, single detached subdivisions are very auto-centric in their design and layout. Such developments often lead to increased traffic volumes on local roads; without any nearby amenities, people often have to drive to such destinations for groceries and other necessities.

Mixed-use development and traditional new development (TND)

Clustering multiple uses in one place ultimately reduces travel demand, especially when such travel can require the use of an automobile. Valley Township, and even Sadsbury Township are very lacking in commercial and restaurant use. With public transportation rather sparse at best in this part of the county, people have to resort to driving to Downingtown, West Chester, Exton, or King of Prussia for any retail outside of going to Wal-Mart or Bottom Dollar. Having these options nearby, especially when discussing new housing communities in the vicinity such as Sadsbury Village, Round Hill, and the under-construction Sadsbury Park, these residences are going to benefit from having a variety of options within walking distance or even a short bike ride to a variety of commercial, restaurant, and retail uses. Aside from this location, there is another vacant piece of land directly adjacent to Sadsbury Village along Lincoln Highway.

My take is the township should consider developing this parcel as a mixed use development and consider incorporating traditional new development designs. These include sidewalks, lamp posts and the buildings fronting the streets with parking in the rear. Such a design will encourage pedestrian and bike use for nearby residents while still catering to those who wish to drive to this location. Since the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC) has a scheduled bus route that routinely stops at Sadsbury Commons as well as the Airport Road shopping center, perhaps bus shelters could be considered to encourage transit riders to visit these new commercial/retail complexes.