Chalfont Borough Council this month decided to move forward with the controversial Northern Neshaminy Greenway Trail project. The Sept. 12 vote passed by a 5-2 margin.
Its most vocal opponents live on Patriot Drive next to the trail’s planned location, and they’ve been speaking out since trees were prematurely cut down in swaths up to 50 feet wide earlier this year.
They’ve cited issues related to flooding, privacy, unnecessary environmental damage and maintenance costs.
They’ve also alleged that the project has been generally mishandled by the borough.
For instance, they’ve complained that Chalfont applied for a construction permit with the Department of Environmental Protection, before completion of a technical review. The DEP and Bucks County Conservation District also listed potential Chapter 102 and 105 violations following site inspections.
They did not carry fines, but they did temporarily halt work until they could be resolved.
At the Sept. 12 meeting, Dan Colbert, an active cyclist within the Bucks County region, said he saw very little value in the trails, did not think they were worth the cost to the residents, and that he has yet to hear “a compelling argument for why the trails should exist.”
Council President John Engel said he based his support for the trail on the idea that he was elected to represent all of Chalfont, not just a single neighborhood or street.
“This is not to say I do not listen to groups such as the residents of Patriot Drive but must make my decisions on what I believe is best for all the citizens of Chalfont Borough,” he said in an email.
Engel and others on the council have long insisted that many Chalfont residents have voiced support for the Northern Neshaminy Greenway Trail in phone calls and letters.
Trail supporter Randy Cohen, who lives in the borough, said the council could have done much more to communicate its plans to the public — and should do more in the future — but he said he believes its benefits will outweigh its costs in the long run.
Specifically, he likes that it offers a way of biking to North Branch Park that doesn’t involve riding down Lindenfield Parkway, a very busy road that he feels is hazardous to any cyclists that bike down it.
Anthony Decrosta, another Chalfont Borough resident who supports the trail but sympathizes with residents on Patriot Drive, said his oldest children are already enjoying the cleared space where Trail A will be built.
Trail opponents on council include Mitch Meyerson, who has publicly butted heads with he fellow council members on the issue.
“Tonight’s meeting results showed that a full room of residents, some in tears, just doesn’t matter to these councilmen,” Meyerson said of the Sept. 12 approval.
Borough Manager Shawn Curran hopes to meet with dissatisfied Patriot Drive homeowners to see what accommodations can be made regarding their properties and how the trail will impact them.
Those accommodations may include offering a variety of native plant life to be placed behind homes, at minimal to no additional cost.
“We are hoping to lessen concerns residents have raised over certain species of trees/shrubs provided on the plan,” said Curran via email, “and let them pick what species they wish to have behind their properties.”