Right Plan for Radnor puts face to Villanova expansion resistance

The small model of Villanova University´s expansion on display at a February Board of Commissioners meeting won´t be as tiny to residents who say the university´s development is over the top. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)
The small model of Villanova University's expansion on display at a February Board of Commissioners meeting won't be as tiny to residents who say the university's development is over the top. (Ashley Nguyen / Philly.com)

Officially created less than 48 hours ago, the Right Plan for Radnor is a collective of local community members who oppose Villanova’s plan to expand along Lancaster Avenue in present form.

Calling Villanova’s plan “too big, too much and too risky,” Radnor resident Kevin Geary said one of the Right Plan for Radnor’s goals will be to protect families from an expansion that could negatively affect their property values and public welfare.

“This is the biggest construction project in Radnor’s history,” Geary said. “Villanova is an important community partner, but they’re proposing something that’s not within township law. This is beyond a ‘not in my backyard’ mentality.”

So far, the Right Plan for Radnor has 50 members, a Facebook page and the intention of going door-to-door this weekend in search of support.

“We’re all very well-educated, and we’re all professionals,” Right Plan for Radnor member Joe Vandergeest said. “We want to develop some transparency and open dialogue.”

Villanova will ask the Board of Commissioners for an ordinance amendment in order to build its proposed development, which includes a five-story parking garage, an approximately 1,160-bed residence hall, additional retail space and a performing arts center, though the latter won’t be built unless the university can raise a sufficient amount of funds. The height and setback of the buildings do not adhere to the township’s zoning code.

“I think you might be able to get the residents of Radnor Township to really understand what happens during the process [of development],” Vandergeest added. “Your local government can affect your present and future.”

Vandergeest lives in the Old Oaks neighborhood, and his backyard backs up to Villanova’s Pike Field. Across the street is where the parking garage will be built. If the plans pass the Board of Commissioners, Vandergeest said he would move. Currently, he said his home is valued between $500,000 and $600,000. After speaking with his mortgage company and local real estate professionals, Vandergest said his home’s value could plummet to around $300,000 to $400,000 if Villanova’s plans go through.

Though residents against the expansion continually acknowledge the good that comes from Villanova’s place in the community, the Right Plan for Radnor’s purpose is to make sure the university presents what the group is named after: the right plan.

“Villanova has presented this plan, and you can’t pick and choose what works,” Geary said. “We’ve got to look at what’s in front of us, and we’re opposed to that plan.”

The Right Plan for Radnor will officially meet March 20 at 7 p.m. at 903 Conestoga Rd., the day before Radnor township manager Bob Zienkowski plans to meet with community members to create a list of concerns to present to the board.