On Tuesday, April 17, the East Vincent Planning Commission, in a 5-2 vote (For: Herron, Weinsteiger, Dracup, Hoffman and Flannery; Against: Schwartz and Milito), agreed to send the final proposed version of the Pennhurst property rezoning ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for review. While there are multiple concerns about this proposed ordinance, two issues stand paramount for East Vincent residents: Road Access and Amusements.
This writer has not seen a copy of the proposed rezoning version being forwarded to the BoS. As such, I cannot offer any thoughts on the precise details contained therein; but I have diligently listened to the discussions and issues raised during the Planning Commission meetings about the increase in traffic and the operation of an amusement park. These apprehensions are valid regardless of how the proposed ordinance is written.
The indisputable fact is that there are only three roads that lead to the Pennhurst campus: Pennhurst Road, Brown Drive and Church Street from Spring City Borough, all of which are rural, two lane undivided secondary roadways. From personal observation I can share that the current traffic load on Pennhurst Road created by the South East Veteran’s Hospital, the National Guard facility and Penn Organics substantially increases from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., all of which stresses the designed capacity of those roadways. Traffic is also heavy on Saturday and Sunday, owing to the National Guard’s weekend activities and Penn Organics’ business operations.
It is a fact that any bona fide development of Pennhurst will create vehicle demands that exceed the capacity of the existing roads. There is only one solution, and that is the creation of a new roadway designed to support any development permitted by the new zoning.
While the PC and the BoS have acknowledged that the current event traffic is a major disturbance for the Pennhurst property neighbors, they continue to skirt the issue and neglect to propose a solution for the acknowledged increase in traffic. Both have either failed or refused their duty to protect East Vincent citizens and our property values. Also, both have not demanded a baseline traffic study be performed by the property owner.
The second major issue is the Pennhurst Asylum amusement. Once again, let me state for the record that this writer accepts the decisions of the EVT Zoning Hearing Board and the Chester County Court of Common Pleas rulings on the use by right for the amusement to exist as a recreation building.
With that said, without specific prohibitions and controls written into the ordinance, East Vincent residents can expect this amusement to expand year after year, and it will grow into a year-round haunted house themed attraction, which based on the land available, will be as large as Dorney Park.
Richard Chakejian’s partner in the amusement, Randy Bates, is quoted as saying, “We [Bates & Chakejian] are in the process of turning this place [Pennhurst} into the most amazing haunted house in the world.” He was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal online edition as saying that $1,750,000 was invested in the amusement; a sum of money too huge for what they claim is a temporary use of the property.
Michael Murray, Chakejian’s lawyer representing Pennhurst in the rezoning petition, refused to rule out the possibility that his client would increase the size and scope of the amusement and strongly resisted any attempts by the PC to control the amusement’s future growth.
So I ask you, the reader, to apply common sense to the analysis of this situation. If you had a business that grossed almost $1 million in 2010 and as much as $3 million in 2011, now generating net profits in seven figures, would you abandon it, especially after you have spent $1.75 million in a massive remodeling? Wouldn’t you grow that business year after year accomplishing Randy Bates’ goal of Pennhurst Asylum becoming “the most amazing haunted house in the world” and “the most impressive haunted attraction on the East Coast”? Cha-ching, Cha-ching.
Why would you want to sell one square foot of that property when you can earn substantially more keeping it and creating a haunted house themed amusement park able to operate all year long?
As I have written before, with the Jones Motor property available and having competent access roads, why would a developer want the headaches and costs of developing the Pennhurst tract? The reality is that no development will take place in the foreseeable future except for the continued growth of the Pennhurst amusement park.
Increased traffic and an Amusement Park; this is what the rezoning will provide. East Vincent currently has an acknowledged amusement attraction that brings in tens of thousands of patrons over a seven week period. The Pennhurst Asylum will only get larger and attract more visitors if resident voices do not speak out loudly and firmly. The May BoS meeting will be the beginning of the end of this process. Now is the time to ensure that the rezoning will be done in the best interests of those of us who actually live here in East Vincent.