If you haven't noticed, the signs went up announcing the move of Oaks Gardens to the open plot of land along 422 near the old windmill, which I personally think is a great place for them. If you haven't looked lately, next time you take the Oaks exit and turn left, you'll see the sign announcing that Wendy's and Wawa are coming soon in that big field that most refer to as the "Walker Tract", in homage to Mr. Walker who lives around the corner on Black Rock. In order for the land to be developed, he's getting a brand new driveway and stone walls to make everything look like it is today after the construction. I learned Mr. Walker is also on the Township Zoning Board.
A few months back, at an Upper Providence Supervisor's meeting, there was discussion about the other tenant that Audubon Land Development hopes to shoe-horn into the Oaks Garden space: Quaker Steak & Lube. The Pittsburgh-based Quaker Steak franchise owner seemed like a nice guy. He told everyone about his family, kid's sports activities, and how he will run a clean family-oriented restaurant. He also mentioned that Bike Night and Bikini Night are franchise events, which created some buzz among the Supervisors and those few citizens attending. The man representing the management company that will actually run the restaurant was quick to point out the benefits of their summer events and they tried to downplay the effects of noise and parking.
I'm no engineer or planner but it was plain to see that they were trying very hard to squeeze their restaurant and the necessary number of parking spaces into what appeared to be a small space. Their site is right where Oaks Gardens is now, backing up against the old railroad grade. The ALD boys were there to assure everyone that they were taking all the appropriate precautions to contain the sound and light from their tenants. They offered one resident a berm and a plastic fence but at that time, didn't have much of a plan to shield the other residents in the Gumbes Road neighborhood. I suspect in the interim they might have modified their plan, as was suggested by one of our Supervisors. And there was lots of questions about how Quaker Steak was not going to call their drive-up window a drive-up window but that's another absurd story in itself.
During the summer, they said Bike Night will attract a lot of family oriented riders which sounds like a fun, noisy event. I like the rumble and roar of well tuned motorcycles and hope to get one next summer. There will also be 'flea market' style attractions on those nights where vendors will sell t-shirts or other goods along with DJs on the deck with plans for radio station participation and music. I suspect that regardless of how they try to design their outdoor eating and drinking area, the noise will waft across Egypt Road and into the Gumbes neighborhood. It was gratifying that the Township may require them to get a garage sale permit for the flea markets. That $50 permit will go a long way to mitigate the traffic and noise created by more outdoor activities. I can only imagine how their parking areas will be impacted by the placement of card tables and pop-up tents during Bike Night. Frankly, I don't understand why the operator would not have wanted to pick a much larger space down along the 422 open space where they are now moving Oaks Gardens. They would have had no problem fitting in reality-based full size parking slots for the anticipated family sized vans and SUVs that will be jostling and bumping each other in the Oaks Garden postage stamp lot...can you say door dings?
Bikini Night was another topic of interest. The franchise owner said he probably wouldn't have them but would not agree to put that in writing. Which means he'll probably do it no matter what the Township says...but we'll see. Then again, Bikini Night just might be the wholesome family oriented attraction that we are missing in Oaks. I used to be a big fan of wet t-shirt contests, too.
If you think all of this is bad, don't forget that all this enterprise ALD is sponsoring will create new jobs, albeit mostly service worker wages and more likely, lower wage jobs for college kids during the summer and everyone else who uses SEPTA's 99 route to get to and from home. There certainly won't be a lot of parking spots for employees. Then again, maybe ALD will bulldoze more of their crumbling properties on the other side of Egypt to make some real parking lots instead of the make-shift trailer park motif they've nurtured along the 'Gateway to Oaks'.
On that topic, ALD did remind the Supervisors that they would build a monument or sign to announce that you are approaching the Oaks neighborhood. ALD has a spot picked out next to the Black Rock-Egypt intersection just below 422. Off mike, and thinking he was out of earshot of the audience, the contract Township Solicitor (attorney) said the Township could save some money by parking an advertising truck with a 'Welcome to Oaks' sign instead of ALD paying for a monument, his obvious and arrogant response to a Township resident's complaint about the tacky Basement Waterproofing trucks that continue grace the Mill-Egypt intersection with the Supervisor's approval. Now before you get all heated up over this last comment, we now know, through the Supervisor's acquiescence, that the Township's undefined advertising vehicle ordinance will allow exceptions for work trucks. If you want to park a truck to advertise your business, all you need are a few tools in the back end to satisfy the code enforcement officer. (And we wonder why the state, county and surrounding townships think Upper Providence government is a joke!)
So it's only a matter of a few short weeks or months before ALD starts ripping up the meadow and Egypt Road. The whole corridor from 422 to Brower will be widened. There will be more lanes to feed traffic into Wawa's 24/7 gas pumps (OK, I admit that's I'll probably go there if BJ's is closed!), into Wendy's all night drive up window and into who knows what else will be situated in the remaining retail lots.
The turn lanes into ALD private arterial, Station Avenue, will be improved which should help with the over-crowding on weekends and certainly help with rush hour. We also know all too well that the Township runs, ducks and covers when anyone mentions taking responsibility for the Station Avenue arterial, which has become the defacto high speed shortcut to Lower Providence and Valley Forge. And again, I admit I use it too but very carefully, mindful of the accidents that plague the Station-Montgomery intersection which is uncontrolled and very poorly marked. Someday there may even be speed limit signs but until the Township gets off their heads out of the sand to demand enforcement, it remains a wide open speedway.
What we do know (and what I believe) is that when it's done, the entrance to the Oaks Village community will be a very large, bright, high speed funnel where cars and trucks will be squeezed into the same old two lanes once past Brower Avenue.
Even PennDOT confirms the ugly truth: By 2020, the traffic volume will go from it's 2010 average of 12,500 vehicles per day to more than 30,000 vehicles per day. Since the Township is not taking any initiative to shelter the Oaks neighborhood from the impact of this incredible uptick in traffic count, it is only a matter of time before we see more and more cars and trucks zipping through the neighborhoods...on both sides of Egypt...along with the resulting impacts and unsafe conditions on the unimproved sections of Egypt Road where there are no bike lanes or sidewalks.
Unfortunately, PennDOT is unable to force ALD or the Township to do anything to improve the safety or walkability of the new development or to reduce the 'concrete jungle' appearance of the new roadbed. Absent real leadership or vision, we're getting more curbs, asphalt and higher vehicle speeds.
The neighbor's proposed very professional landscape and "safe street" improvements for the roadway and presented them to ALD, PennDOT and the Township. ALD poo-poo'd it all, got no money, they said. The Supervisors throw up their hands and made like the three monkeys - hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil.
I'd like to be proven wrong. Maybe ALD and the Township will develop a better-late-than-never sense of corporate social responsibility and turn the concrete jungle into something everyone can be proud of. But I don't think that's going to happen.
It is what it is now and there's nothing that you can do about it.