CRANBERRY TWP — A 90-minute public hearing on a proposed phase of a township housing development drew objections Thursday from more than a dozen residents.
The comments came during a public hearing on the Forest Edge development during Thursday’s township supervisor meeting.
The initial phases of the 96-acre development along Hope Road were originally approved in 2016 and revised in 2018. Currently under construction by developer Singer Construction Inc. of Warrendale, the first phases include 59 units.
The new proposed revision would add a third phase and 42 additional homes, according to Ron Henshaw, township director of planning and development services. With the addition of a third phase, a cul-de-sac would be removed, requiring the overall plan to be revised.
The third phase would be surrounded by the Forest Knoll and Carriage Manor housing developments and the Orthodox Church in America on Peters Road.
Henshaw said the third phase would be positioned on a parcel with three wetland areas, which has been a topic of discussion with residents in neighboring communities. Additionally, he said matters of traffic connectivity, mail delivery and overall nature preservation have been discussed with those residents.
“We’ve done as much as we can to meet with as many residents and share information about the process that we’ve gone through, how we got here today, whether this development complies with the ordinances or not — and it does,” he said.
Still, residents of those surrounding communities spoke critically of the new plan, with many saying the project is not being designed with consideration to nature and those in the neighborhoods.
Preservation and stormwater
Anne Gill, a resident of Forest Knoll, shared concerns about the elimination of green space and trees in the area, a sentiment echoed by several others Thursday.
“We expect our local government to both listen to us and take action on our behalf,” Gill said. “We want to see growth in our community, and we want that growth to be thoughtful and well-planned.”
She said the elimination of trees between her community and the proposed phase would have a negative impact on quality of life as well as on wildlife in the area. Others speaking echoed that sentiment, with resident Leona Mitchell saying there is no way to account for what is disturbed.
Mitchell said there are several oak trees on the border of those properties, and excavation would cause serious damage to those trees’ roots. Additionally, she took issue with a portion of the plan that would see the developer remove trees, but then replace them.
“There is no way to compensate for 100-year-old oaks,” she said. “This, to me, seems to be excessive.”
Henshaw said the developer has no intention of removing mature trees, and they are doing “everything they can” to preserve trees in the area. He said gaps in the tree line also will be filled in with new growth.
Additionally, Gill said her community hired an engineer to independently look at stormwater issues in the area. That engineer, David Lucci, said even though the plan has been revised to address runoff flowing into Forest Knoll, concerns still linger.
He said residents would like to see stormwater routed around the area of trees, as the current plan appears to go directly into that area. Residents expressed concern that without addressing these issues, they could end up with water in their backyards.
Resident Judy Hammel said the area already has a water runoff problem, and the wooded area helps to mitigate that. Both her community and the new phase would be affected, she said.
“I doubt that the ... builder is going to advertise, ‘This was a wetland, this is where all the water sat for the years that nothing was here, and now your house is going to be on top of it,’” she said.
Other residents expressed their displeasure with the single point of access for the development.
That point of access, Morningside Drive, is situated at the intersection of Woodlawn and Hope Roads. The third phase is in the rear of the development, situated near Vandivort and Peters roads.
Henshaw said that had the property abutted Peters Road, a connection could have been made, but that is not possible.
Additionally, he said Vandivort Road is “truly residential,” and thus township staff recommended not making a connection there due to safety concerns.
Henshaw added that the developer worked to mitigate traffic at the main entrance by reconstructing the intersection. He said impact fees of $157,560 will be used for road improvements in the general vicinity, and the developer made an additional contribution of $62,115 for road work.
However, residents maintained that having one access point will inherently create traffic issues.
Individuals living on Woodlawn Drive said that increase will make their neighborhood more dangerous as the road does not have sidewalks, is narrow and has slope and elevation changes throughout.
Additionally, residents pointed out that those living in the back of the proposed plan would essentially make a giant loop to get to a main road, having to travel out of the plan at the access point and circling back.
Resident Michael Schrock said he has seen the rate of speed increase on the street, which carries a 25 mph limit. He said the neighborhood sees a lot of walkers and joggers as well as children who ride bikes. He said more vehicles create the potential for accidents there.
“With the increase in traffic, there’s not a doubt in my mind that it’s only going to be a matter of time until someone, somebody’s child, somebody’s pet, somebody pulling out of their driveway is going to be hit,” he said. “It’s a miracle it hasn’t happened yet.”
Other residents questioned access for school buses and emergency vehicles, which Henshaw said has been reviewed by township staff.
Still, others pointed out the mail system for the plan, which was recently changed from individual mail boxes at each home to a “cluster box” at the entrance by ruling of the U.S. Postal Service. The confluence of these things happening at one entrance could lead to traffic issues, residents said.
Dick Hadley, supervisors chairman, said based on the amount of testimony, the public hearing would be continued at the board’s Feb. 28 meeting at 6:30 p.m.