Somewhat Reluctantly, Borough Council Clears Way For Cunningham Lot

By Katie Crawford

A resolution for approval of the final land development plan for Swarthmore College’s Cunningham Field parking lot was introduced by Planning and Zoning chair Mary Walk at Monday’s Swarthmore Borough Council’s work session.

This new resolution incorporates Borough Council’s resolution from 2012, the recommendations made by the borough’s engineer to the college, and the requirement of a post-construction examination of the quality of the landscaping. (The college plans to install a large buffer with a variety of trees and shrubs.) Under this new resolution (on whose adoption council will vote next week,) the borough is also insured under the college’s policy for the new pedestrian crossing which will be constructed during the project.

Council member Ross Schmucki took a moment to highlight the benefits of this project including improved pedestrian safety, improved entrances and exits to SEPTA trains, the opening of some long clogged storm drains, and the containment of student parking within one area. He did note the downsides of the project, including the loss of community green space and the increase in lighting.

Council president David Grove spoke of his regret that this project could not be blocked when it was first introduced in 2012. Given the recent change in borough zoning code, council would indeed have the power to block a project of this nature from going forward were it introduced today. Current zoning code states, “in no case shall a parking lot be located across a public roadway or other right-of-way from the principal buildings it serves, unless allowed at the discretion of council.”

Grove stated, “No matter how you gussy it up, it is an enormous parking lot for 166 vehicles.” He mourned the further loss of community green space by another college project, noting however that this is indeed the college’s green space to use. Grove said he will vote for the resolution next week, given that council is powerless to do anything about the project and the resolution represents their best efforts to make sure the project goes forward responsibly. However, Grove urged the college “even at this late date,” to reconsider the parking situation and the alternatives that might render the construction of this lot unnecessary.

New Member of the Planning Commission

Mary Walk announced that Steve Minton will be recommended as a new member of the planning board. Steve and his family moved to the borough in 2015, his wife having grown up here. Steve has a degree in civil engineering from Drexel and he is currently a partner at Spire Buildings, based in Devon. In addition, Walk announced that Cynthia MacLeod will be recommended as an alternative on the zoning hearing board. Cynthia has lived in the borough since 2008. She is an architectural historian who currently works for the National Park Service as the superintendent of Independence National Historic Park.

Business Parking Permits Also on the Agenda

David Creagan announced that, after much discussion, council will vote in next week’s legislative meeting on permit parking passes for persons working in the borough. Creagan also noted that the contract between the Borough of Swarthmore police and the Borough of Rutledge police is coming to an end. Creagan recommended moving forward with a proposed three-year contract which will include annual payments to the borough, in line with the amount of services Swarthmore has given to Rutledge in recent years.

Aging-in-Place Update

Council president David Grove gave an update regarding the Aging-in-Place Task Force. With the group’s evolution comes the evolution of its name; the newly-formed Aging-in-Place Action Group will seek to implement the recommendations found in the committee’s report with the goal of improving the quality of life for those in our community who want to age in place. It was decided that this group will operate independent of council in order to allow more fluidity.

Next Crum Creek Cleanup Day

Lauren McKinney applauded 23 “brave souls” (including five children) who came to help clean up Little Crum Creek Park recently. April 30 will be the next cleanup day, sponsored by the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watershed Association. The popup art installation in the park, created with painted bamboo by artist Tracy Bouvette, is on view through this weekend.

Refinancing the Borough Debt

Michael Carey, head of the finance committee, announced plans to refinance ten-year borough debt, going from a 4.633% interest rate to 1.683%, resulting in approximately $15,000 a year in savings to the borough. Carey also reported that the finance and pension committee will be exploring other possible pension plans in the coming months.

Eagle Scout Project

Mayor Kearney noted Peter Armour’s Eagle Scout project restoring the Rutgers Avenue running track. It is freshly leveled and ready for use. Kearney also noted the upcoming Scout project of Jonathan Cresson, who will be constructing a shed at Central Park Swarthmore to house supplies for Swarthmore Horticulture Society, Town Center, and the Farmers Market. Kearney applauded the contractors who are ahead of schedule on The Central Park Swarthmore project. The parking lot is slated to be reopened on April 19th.

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