At a special meeting Monday night, the voted 5-2 to push back conversation about changing the borough’s height ordinance until June.
However, council did authorize the borough’s solicitor to write a new ordinance that would limit building height to 45 feet by right and 60 feet by exception with the caveat that no action will be taken for six months.
The six-month window would allow Eli Kahn and his development partner, Jack Loew, time to work with the community on a design for the recently purchased county land in the West Chester town center.
“We’ve had three different architects come in and give us their impression, and we’ve denied all three,” Loew said. “We know this corner has to be special, and we want to take our time. However, if you write an ordinance tonight it forces our hand.”
Kahn and Loew recently purchased buildings in the downtown that were previously owned by the county for around $4.5 million. According to Loew, the land was purchased with the understanding that the borough’s height ordinance would allow for a structure to be built at 90 feet.
“The borough knew that the county was planning to sell those buildings,” Loew said. “Throughout that process there was never an effort made to revisit the height ordinance.”
Loew added, “The price we paid was based on your current zoning. To change it now would be unfair.”
Council president Holly Brown said that issue needed time to breathe, and that more discussion was necessary.
“The point of this whole meeting was to bring people together because they want to work together. They want to work together so that the building is beautiful.”
Several residents at the meeting argued that tall buildings had no place in West Chester with many of them calling the borough’s existing buildings, like the Chestnut Street garage and the criminal justice center, eyesores.
Holly Brown said that the borough could not repeat the same mistakes that were made in the development of the Criminal Justice Center buildings.
“I would like to point out that the current height ordinance was voted on before the justice center was built, and we didn’t have a visual of what 75 feet would look like.”
Resident and former council member Bill Scott said, “People see these massive buildings, and they think to themselves, ‘that’s not West Chester.’ We need to ask ourselves if we need these buildings, and if they will destroy our town.”