The long-running debate about the fate of Larison's Turkey Farm pushed forward ever so slightly Tuesday night following the Chester mayor and council meeting.
Frank and David Banisch were on hand to discuss the property as well as the results Banisch Associates received from the public.
"At the end of the day, it boils down to a relatively simple series of distinctions, and while it may not be the clearest of choice, the governing body has to make some choices about what direction we want to pursue at this point," Frank Banisch said.
"The themes that resonate throughout all the comments that we've received revolved around the unique character the borough has seen through the lens of this site. There is an element of country character. There is an iconic character about the property that seems to embody a series of impressions people have about the borough."
Banisch said that what the borough should be looking for is multi-tasking. Residents want the site to be able to produce agriculture, be commercial, attract visitors and deliver rateables. And that means not just a store that out-of-towners will come to and then soon leave.
"You want to get people out of their cars, you want it to be pedestrian-oriented, you want it to be a place you want to hang out in and not like a parking lot," Banisch said. "So whether the destination turns out to be a leisure orientation augmented by these things like a restaurant or lodging, or whether it wants to be more of the specialty retail, like upscale stores, that is another alternative. That's a destination that's much more local retail service oriented. Trader Joe's will attract people from however far it takes to get to the next Trader Joe's."
The council and Banisch Associates decided to hold another meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. to repeat the information for residents who were unable to attend Tuesday's meeting.
The current owner of the turkey farm, Harold Wachtel, was also at the meeting with engineer William Hamilton to discuss an idea he had for the property. Wachtel suggested putting a one or two-acre bank at the corner of Main Street and Route 206, a two-acre pharmacy right above that, a nine-acre organic farm/open space adjacent to those two buildings, a 10-acre bed and breakfast above the pharmacy and open space, and a four-acre marketplace in the corner.
Banisch said he was pleased with Wachtel's demeanor and his plan.
"The fact that you didn't tear down buildings yet, the fact that you are trying to work along with us, to me that's a spirit of cooperation that I wish I could find more often," Banisch said. "I'm very encouraged, thank you for bringing this to our attention."
Mayor Bob Davis liked much of what he saw, but said there needed to be room for affordable housing.
"We need affordable housing on this site," Mayor Robert Davis said. "Whatever the number is, we know we're going to have a future affordable housing need and that future is today. I think that retaining the building on the corner, the open space, the trees is important. I like the site plan you have in front of you, I'm missing affordable housing. If you give me the affordable housing, I think I'd be OK with the pharmacy. That's kind of my trade off."
Council member Gary Marshuetz agreed with the mayor.
"I concur with Bob, there's a lot of things I like about this plan. Same components missing for me that I brought up earlier is affordable housing. I'm pleased to see there's a lot of open space," Marshuetz said. "The pharmacy is a little bit of a concern for me. For the pharmacy to work it would have to be a non-typical design. There's a lot here that I do like."
New council member Elizabeth Gugliemini said she liked the idea of an organic farm and a bed and breakfast.
"Certainly I like the bed and breakfast," Gugliemini said. "My concern would be do we have enough capacities and does that soil and land allow us to build a 30-room bed and breakfast."
Banisch said after the presentation that he doesn't think it will "take more than another 60 days for us to go from where we are now to knowing what we're going to recommend."