WEST CHESTER COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
The West Chester Comprehensive Plan provides a foundation
for decisions and actions regarding the future development of the Borough. The
Plan process involved an extensive public participation or Visioning
phase to determine needs and concerns of the Borough’s residential and business
communities, a detailed inventory and analysis of existing conditions within the
Borough and the development of Plan Recommendations.
The planning process began in the Spring of 1999 while
working with the Planning, Zoning, Business and Industrial Development Committee
of Borough Council. Once the inventory and visioning phases of the project were
completed, a project Task Force was formed to analyze the information and
develop a list of issues to formally address in the plan. This Task Force
consisted of representatives from Borough Planning Commission and Historical and
Architectural Review Board, Borough Staff and the Borough Council.
A comprehensive plan should provide a foundation for
actions regarding the future development of a community. Also known as “master
plans,” they are referred to as “comprehensive plans” in Pennsylvania primarily
because the state enabling legislation that governs their creation, known as the
Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act #247 of 1968), refers to
them by that name. They may be created for an individual municipality, a
regional group of municipalities or a county.
Although the comprehensive plan at the municipal level is
usually thought of as providing the basis for zoning, it also can provide
guidance in the management and development of public facilities and utilities,
such as public parks and municipal sewer systems, and local government
A municipal comprehensive plan is created and
adopted pursuant to the requirements of Article III of the Pennsylvania
Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), Act 247 of 1968, as amended. Although the
MPC allows that a plan may address a variety of items, it specifically states
that a comprehensive plan shall include the following elements, as outlined in
Section 301 of the MPC, (Fourteenth Edition, August 2000):
A statement of the Borough’s Future Development Objectives.
A Plan for Land Use and a Plan to Meet the Housing Needs of
existing and anticipated future residents of the Borough.
A Plan for the Movement of People and Goods, also know as a
A Plan for Community Facilities and Utilities, such as parks,
police and fire stations, libraries, and water and sewer services.
A Statement of Compatibility with Contiguous Municipalities and
Consistency with County Comprehensive Plan.
A Plan for the Protection of Natural and Historic Resources.
The MPC also requires that for municipalities situated in
counties with adopted county comprehensive plans, such as the Chester County’s
1996 Landscapes Plan, the municipal comprehensive plan must be “generally
consistent” with the goals and objectives of the county comprehensive plan. It
should be noted that this consistency is also a requirement of Chester County
Planning Commission’s Vision Partnership grant program, which partially
funded the preparation of this comprehensive plan update in the interest of
implementing the Landscapes plan goals.
The process for the formal adoption of a Comprehensive Plan
is also set forth in the MPC under Section 302 as follows:
The Planning Commission shall hold a public meeting to present the plan
before forwarding the comprehensive plan to Borough Council.
Copies of a final draft of the Comprehensive Plan are also forwarded to
the County Planning Commission, contiguous municipalities (East Bradford and
West Goshen Townships) and the school district (West Chester Area School
District), who may provide comments within 45 days.
Borough Council must hold a public hearing on the proposed plan, which is
to occur after the above 45 day review period.
Borough Council votes to adopt the plan by resolution.
The Chester County Board of Commissioners formally adopted
a new county-wide Comprehensive Plan on July 12, 1996. The plan provides
general guidelines for future development according to seven (7) landscape
types: Natural, Rural, Rural Center, Urban, Suburban, Suburban Center,
Village. The guidelines generally recommend that future development be
encouraged in areas that are best equipped with an existing transportation
network and other infrastructure to provide for new development.
West Chester Borough is within an "Urban Landscape," which
the plan envisions as being "revitalized and once again serve(ing) as the
population, economic, cultural, and transportation centers of Chester County.
Recommendations for communities within Urban Landscapes include providing
programs, funds and incentives for projects which revitalize and expand the
urban employment base, promote the reuse of the existing housing stock, and new
infill development. It also recommends that "regional planning and zoning
should be encouraged to allow higher density development to be concentrated in
and adjacent to urban areas."
The West Chester Comprehensive Plan update project was
partially funded with a "Vision Partnership Grant" to help implement and
encourage conformance with the County's Landscapes Plan. Prior to the
initiation of this project, a "consistency review letter" was provided by the
County Planning Commission that found the Borough's current zoning and planning
"consistent" with the Landscape Plan recommendations for Urban Landscapes. It
is the intent of this Plan to be consistent with the County Landscapes Plan. In
addition, the County Planning Commission provided a review letter (dated October
17, 2000) of the October, 2000 Final Draft of the plan which stated that it is
consistent with Landscapes.
Until the adoption of the Borough’s first zoning ordinance
in the 1940s, planning in West Chester consisted of laying out streets, alleys
and public utilities in anticipation of future growth. The original town plan,
or “plat,” was established in 1786 when an area of West Goshen Township was set
aside to create “West Chester” as the new county seat of Chester County, which
had been split to create Delaware County. That plat provided the Borough two
principal streets: Philadelphia Road, now Gay Street, and Wilmington Road, now
The first “Comprehensive Plan” was adopted in 1965 as West
Chester’s Development Policy Plan. This plan was funded with a federal
grant and motivated by a requirement that the plan be prepared as a prerequisite
for receiving federal grants for public works projects.
General policy elements of the 1965 Development Policy
Retain the basic land density patterns of residential areas.
Provide areas for the growth of additional commercial and
professional uses to supplement and support the central business district.
Encourage recreational open space.
Improve streets and traffic circulation.
Preserve historically significant structures.
Rehabilitate residential neighborhoods that are compromised.
Although The Growth Management Plan for the Borough of
West Chester was adopted by Borough Council in 1986, it was initiated under
the direction of the Borough Planning Commission in 1980. Major projects
associated with this plan included the detailed mapping of borough properties
and buildings and an analysis of planning issues by 26 individual “planning
areas” that were developed by Alice Kent Schooler in her very thorough 1980
survey of the Borough’s historic resources.
The 1986 Growth Management Plan provided the impetus
for the complete rewrite of the Borough Zoning Ordinance (adopted in 1988). In
contrast to the previous ordinance which looks more to a suburban development
model, the 1988 Zoning Ordinance recognized the preservation of the Borough’s
existing urban development fabric as legitimate goal in regulating new
development. Residential zoning districts were now referred to as “Neighborhood
Conservation” districts and the central business district as the “Town Center”
district. This ordinance also incorporated an “Historic District Ordinance”
which created the Historical and Architectural Review Board to oversee design
and preservation issues in the Borough’s Downtown Historic District,
which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The
Borough’s Land Development and Subdivision Ordinance was also completely
rewritten (1991) subsequent to the adoption of the 1986 Growth Management
Open space and recreation planning was specifically
addressed on a Borough-wide basis for the first time in 1986 with the creation
and adoption of the West Chester Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan,
which was partially funded with a grant from the former Pennsylvania Department
of Community Affairs. This plan examined recreation needs among the Borough’s
neighborhoods and made recommendations regarding recreation programming and the
future use and development of the Borough park system. An outgrowth of this
plan was the preparation of the Marshall Square Park Master Plan as the
first park master plan for any of the Borough’s parks. The plan also provided a
basis for pursuing grants for various park improvement projects.
The Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan was
subsequently updated in 1992 with the preparation of the West Chester Open
Space, Recreation and Environmental Resources Plan that was partially funded
through the Chester County Heritage Park and Open Space Municipal Grant Program.
Open Space and Environmental Resources recommendations
included the creation of a Goose Creek Greenway, requiring cluster development
techniques for the remaining larger undeveloped parcels, preserving remaining
woodlands through acquisition or regulation, continuing downtown revitalization
and streetscape improvement efforts, and a variety of historic preservation
Recreation recommendations included the acquisition of
additional park land, particularly in the west central part of the Borough along
the Hannum Avenue corridor, creating passive recreation opportunities along the
Goose Creek / Greenway corridor, and the construction of additional basketball
The Borough of West Chester
is part of the West Chester Regional Planning Commission, which includes the
municipalities of Birmingham Township, East Bradford Township, East Goshen
Township, Westtown Township, West Goshen Township, Thornbury Township and
Willistown Township. This area is shown on Map 1: Regional Context.
These municipalities appoint representatives to the Regional Commission, which
meets monthly at the West Chester Borough Hall.
regional planning efforts have been initiated in the past, there is very little
true regional planning. Past efforts have included the preparation of a
regional plan in the 1960s and publication of a regional street map and guide.
The Regional Commission is currently working on the development of a regional