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Latest News in Chester Borough, NJ

Sustainable Growth Plan Introduced By Chester Planning Board

The Chester Planning Board will be going over the updated draft for the sustainable economic improvement plan at tonight's meeting. CHESTER, NJ — Given that Chester Township is almost completely built out, development in Chester is not a topic that is frequently discussed; however, the planning board is currently looking into sustainable economic growth.Tonight, the Chester Planning Board will hear an update on the sustainable economic improvement plan being developed by Burgis Associates, Inc., a professional planning,...

The Chester Planning Board will be going over the updated draft for the sustainable economic improvement plan at tonight's meeting.

CHESTER, NJ — Given that Chester Township is almost completely built out, development in Chester is not a topic that is frequently discussed; however, the planning board is currently looking into sustainable economic growth.

Tonight, the Chester Planning Board will hear an update on the sustainable economic improvement plan being developed by Burgis Associates, Inc., a professional planning, design and landscape architectural firm.

The plan, according to Burgis Associates, is intended to provide a realistic framework to help guide physical improvements within the township's existing business zones and throughout the business community.

Chester is frequently described in the draft plan as a predominantly rural community with single-family homes, large swaths of preserved open space and over 3000 acres of farmland.

Keeping that in mind, Burgis Associates offered a number of recommendations for the township to help improve the business district within Chester.

According to the report, the township experienced a fairly consistent population boom between 1950 and 2000, but growth has slowed in recent years. The township had an estimated population of 7,713 people in 2020, representing a 1.59 percent decrease since 2010.

As the township's population has remained stable, its demographics have shifted to become older.

This is especially visible in the population aged 65 and up, which increased from slightly less than ten percent in 2000 to an estimated 16.03 percent in 2020. An estimated 1,240 residents were over the age of 65 as of 2020, representing an increase of approximately 86.74 percent since 2000.

According to a land use summary, commercial and retail properties account for slightly more than half of the total number of lots located either entirely or partially within the township's nonresidential zoning districts.

These uses also account for 39.98 percent of the total land area of all properties located within or partially within the township's commercial zoning districts. In comparison, residential properties and farmland account for 45.99 percent of the total land area of all properties located in the township's commercial zoning districts.

The Highlands Preservation Area encompasses a sizable portion of the township. One of the overarching goals of the preservation area is to protect, restore and enhance the quality and quantity of surface and ground waters throughout the Highlands Region.

As a result, the Highlands Act restricts development in the preservation area primarily to areas that have already been disturbed, the report said.

One of the recommendations given to the township, as a way to enhance the economic development in Chester, was to permit outdoor business and outdoor dining within the B District section of town.

"Outdoor sales and outdoor dining offer several potential advantages to business owners. Both can serve to create more visually interesting areas which may attract customers. Outdoor activities can also provide a unique experience and thus help contribute to a community’s greater sense of place," Burgis Associates said.

It was also suggested that drive-through restaurants be excluded from any future development plans and updates.

The architectural firm also proposed that, in order to increase the viability of the B District and reflect the township's aging population, urgent care centers and outpatient surgical facilities be designated as permitted uses in that district.

"Ultimately, the goal of this plan is to maximize the utilization of the township’s existing business zoning, by eliminating unnecessary restrictions and identifying opportunities for improvements and redevelopment, while still respecting the rural residential character of Chester Township," the report said.

The planning board expects to go over the issue further at tonight's meeting, which will also include the introduction of two ordinances dealing with amending sections of the land use code. To read the full agenda, click here.

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Shop and Dine Under Thousands of Twinkling Lights Starting This Friday in West Chester

It’s time for the lights to ignite in downtown West Chester. Starting this Friday, visitors can sip, shop, and dine amidst thousands of twinkling lights and a variety of holiday festivities.It’s all part of six weekends of holiday magic, Thanksgiving through New Year’s, during ...

It’s time for the lights to ignite in downtown West Chester. Starting this Friday, visitors can sip, shop, and dine amidst thousands of twinkling lights and a variety of holiday festivities.

It’s all part of six weekends of holiday magic, Thanksgiving through New Year’s, during Chester County Hospital Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester when golden lights and sparkling decorations illuminate the heart of historic West Chester.

“This is a hometown holiday experience that you won’t find anywhere else,” said Katie Walker, President of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, which organizes Lights Up events. “There’s a nostalgia that we are all feeling as we return to the people and places that are most important to us, and that’s what you’ll experience with your friends and family here in downtown West Chester.”

The fun kicks off on Black Friday when the West Chester Borough Balladeer Carolers will roam downtown from 5 PM—7 PM. To celebrate Small Business Weekend in West Chester, Friday through Sunday, street-level metered parking will be free and retail stores will give away free, reusable shopping bags with any in-store purchase. Five of the bags will contain a ticket to redeem a $50 VISA gift card.

Saturday’s activities include roaming carolers from 12 PM—2 PM sponsored by West Chester Downtown Foundation, as well as a free outdoor concert with The Uptown Singers! at 2 PM on the steps of the Historic Chester County Courthouse sponsored by Oakbourne Advisors with equipment provided by Taylor’s Music.

That’s followed by Santa’s 3 PM cruise through the historic streets on a truck with First West Chester Fire Company, sponsored by Tolsdorf Oil Lube Express. Visitors can also tour West Chester’s professional gingerbread house competition and vote for their favorites at six downtown venues, sponsored by Delphi Wealth Management. WSFS Bank Toy Drive is underway with unwrapped toy collections at select WSFS locations and the Greater West Chester Chamber office.

Premium block sponsors of Chester County Hospital Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester include Benchmark Federal Credit Union, Oakbourne Advisors, Treehouse World, West Chester Business Improvement District, West Chester University and West Pharmaceuticals.

Half block sponsors include CTDI, First Bank of NJ, Media One Products, My Benefit Advisor, PentaHealth, Rudloff Custom Builders and West Chester Dental Arts. Quarter block sponsors include Arthur Hall Insurance, BUSH Infiniti of West Chester, Dave’s Automotive Repair Enterprises, First Resource Bank, Gawthrop Greenwood – Attorneys at Law, La Difference Salon & Day Spa, MacElree Harvey, Ltd., M&T Bank, Northwestern Mutual, PECO, Pegasus Technologies, Penn Oaks Country Club, and S&T Bank.

In addition, nearly 70 businesses and organizations supported the event as Lamp Post sponsors.

For more information on weekend activities and to see a full list of sponsors, visit gwcc.org or contact the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce at 610-696-4046, [email protected].

Dear Mr. President, … From A Young Student

This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author's own.Inspirational student at Mendham Twp.'s Elementary researches environmental solutions and receives a letter from the President of the USA.Mendham Township, NEW JERSEY (November 17, 2022) – Third and fourth grade are busy times for young students. Students are transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn. They are also on the path to learning how to write: to express their ideas, to reflect on what they have learned...

This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author's own.

Inspirational student at Mendham Twp.'s Elementary researches environmental solutions and receives a letter from the President of the USA.

Mendham Township, NEW JERSEY (November 17, 2022) – Third and fourth grade are busy times for young students. Students are transitioning from learning to read, to reading to learn. They are also on the path to learning how to write: to express their ideas, to reflect on what they have learned, to … championing a cause and a solution. Yes, at the very young age of nine, William Vaccaro, a third-grade student at Mendham Township Elementary School (MTES) did just that.

It started when William completed a daily writing assignment in Mrs. Erica Parke’s Grade 3 class. His chosen topic was to select a positive news item about how the government in Norway is closing its last arctic coal mine and transforming the area into a giant national park. So impressed was Mrs. Parke with William’s interest and support for protecting the environment and looking for solutions, she encouraged William to continue his research. In the following months, Mrs. Parke guided William through researching coal production and fossil fuels mining, and identifying alternate forms of energy, such as solar panels and windmills.

In class, William had an opportunity not only to discuss his findings, but also to reflect and assess the situation and identify potential solutions. So persuasive and well-structured was William’s presentation that Mrs. Parke encouraged William to write his proposal in a letter to President Joseph Biden. As the school year came to a close, William and Mrs. Parke walked to the Mendham Township Post Office with a letter addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW. With quiet pride, Mr. and Mrs. Vaccaro (William’s parents) explained, “Mrs. Parke is an outstanding educator, who believes in her students and encourages them to follow their dreams. What started as a writing assignment had sparked a passion in William for environmental issues and making a difference in the world and it motivated him to write about it to someone he admired.”

Summer passed, and William received a letter from President Biden! He congratulated William on “taking a stand to help protect the planet” and encouraged him to continue to challenge himself. Mrs. Parke is now teaching Grade 4 at MTES and she offered William the opportunity to read the President’s response to his entire class. It was a wonderful demonstration of active participation in social sciences as William talked to the class about his research, how he wrote to the President, and the response he had received. Mrs. Parke spoke of William’s inspiration to others, “William’s classmates were so impressed with the story of his letter that they too wanted to write letters to the President. Sometimes it just takes one voice to help ignite the passion in others. William is an incredible boy and an inspiration to others. I have no doubt that one day, I will be voting for William Vaccaro for President!”

We agree.

The views expressed in this post are the author's own. Want to post on Patch?

Water Rates Increasing For Mendham Borough Residents

MENDHAM, NJ — Mendham Borough recently announced that New Jersey American Water will be increasing rates for all borough residents.According to a water utility company announcement, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved the NJ American Water rate increase for Mendham Borough residents.The company's rate request, which was filed on Jan. 14, 2022, was motivated by more than $985 million in infrastructure investment since the company's last rate filing. The new rates will go into effect on Sept. 1, according to o...

MENDHAM, NJ — Mendham Borough recently announced that New Jersey American Water will be increasing rates for all borough residents.

According to a water utility company announcement, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved the NJ American Water rate increase for Mendham Borough residents.

The company's rate request, which was filed on Jan. 14, 2022, was motivated by more than $985 million in infrastructure investment since the company's last rate filing. The new rates will go into effect on Sept. 1, according to officials.

Under the approved rate increase, NJ American Water said the monthly bill for an average water customer using 5,520 gallons will increase by about $2.93, and the monthly bill for an average wastewater customer will increase to approximately $3.74.

Despite the new rates, NJ American Water stated that the cost of high-quality, dependable water and wastewater service remains around one penny per gallon, ranking among the lowest household utility bills.

“We are proud of the level of investment we are able to make into our systems to continue to provide high-quality, reliable service, even through extreme weather and other challenges including the pandemic, while maximizing efficiencies to balance the impact to customers,” said Mark McDonough, President, New Jersey American Water. “The combination of effective capital planning and sound business management helps keep water and wastewater service both reliable and affordable for the 2.8 million people we proudly serve.”

New Jersey American Water would also like to remind customers about the various bill payment assistance programs that are available.

Customers who are having difficulty paying their water and/or wastewater bills are encouraged to call the company's Customer Service Center at 800-272-1325 to set up payment plans or budget billing.

Customers who meet the company's low-income requirements may also apply for assistance through the H2O Help to Others program, which provides water and wastewater service charge discounts of up to 100 percent.

Service rates may vary depending on the size of a customer's meter, according to NJ American Water. For both residential and commercial customers, as well as customers of other public authorities, all customers pay the same water usage rate and are billed based on a regular monthly meter reading.

In Ocean City, NJ, for example, American Water charges $18.50 per month for a meter size of 5/8 inch, but $147.99 for a meter size of two inches. The complete pricing chart can be found here.

For a specific breakdown of the new rates, additional information can be found at www.newjerseyamwater.com under Customer Service & Billing, Your Water and Wastewater Rates.

West Chester Borough Council supports effort to restore SEPTA passenger rail service

Got a question about life in Philly’s suburbs? Our suburban reporters want to hear from you! Ask us a question or send an idea for a story you think we should cover.West Chester Borough Council is unanimously throwing its support behind a proposal to restore the area’s passenger rai...

Got a question about life in Philly’s suburbs? Our suburban reporters want to hear from you! Ask us a question or send an idea for a story you think we should cover.

West Chester Borough Council is unanimously throwing its support behind a proposal to restore the area’s passenger rail line connecting the borough to Philadelphia.

Commuter trains have not operated in Chester County’s most populous municipality since SEPTA shuttered the service in 1986. A community-driven revival has been in the works for years.

A recent vote by borough council cemented a resolution that allows the Railroad Restoration Committee to seek funding to reestablish service from Wawa, Delaware County, to West Chester. They call the plan the Metro Concept.

“It’s a less costly and more achievable approach to returning rail service using battery-operated cars, and what we’d like to do is lease the cars for two years as a pilot project to show that we can attract riders,” said Jo Ann Kelton, chairperson of the Railroad Restoration Committee.

Trains ran along the line for nearly 100 years before SEPTA put a stop to passenger rail service due to low ridership. Riders weren’t bringing in enough money to support improvements to the line.

The borough has been working since 2014 — when the borough council created the committee — to solve that issue.

The historic Reading Railroad is planning a comeback as Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority holds its first meeting

SRPRA — not to be confused with SEPTA — is finally chugging along with plans to restore rail service connecting Reading, Pottstown, Phoenixville, and Philadelphia.

PennDOT published a feasibility study in 2018 that showed it was possible ridership would return if passenger service made a comeback. However, the price tag for revamping the line and buying modern passenger cars came in at an estimated $380 million. West Chester and SEPTA saw the cost as a rather large and expensive obstacle.

“Since that time, my committee and all the members, of course, have been working on plans to try to develop an alternate method of restoring service until SEPTA would be ready to take it over,” Kelton said.

She pointed to the upcoming revival of the defunct commuter rail station in Wawa as a sign of progress. Once SEPTA officially reconnects its Elwyn stop to Wawa, Kelton believes that the Metro Concept will have an opportunity to build on it and put West Chester back “on the map.”

The plan is to reopen four stations: two in West Chester, one in Westtown Township, and one near Cheyney University. The idea is that passengers from West Chester would transfer over from the battery-operated cars once at the Wawa station to regular SEPTA cars.

According to the committee, this endeavor would cost $16.4 million — just 4% of PennDOT’s original estimation. This is largely because the plan does not call for the lines to be completely refitted to operate with the modern SEPTA cars.

“We think it’s feasible, and we think we can do it. We think it’s a very attractive alternative. And right now, we’re looking for funding sources, both state, local, and federal,” Kelton said.

Committee members are often asked if the borough that created it supports their plans. Now, they’ll have a signed resolution to approach potential funders with.

Borough Council President Michael Stefano was aware of the plans to restore West Chester’s passenger rail service even before he was an elected official. He was also aware of PennDOT’s hefty price tag.

“I feel like we’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of trying to get some momentum going. And although we’re not there [yet] and we have a long way to go on whether we could actually accomplish this, it just feels like we’re moving in the right direction,” Stefano said.

West Chester is currently the only county seat in the four suburban counties that doesn’t have passenger rail service into the city.

The closest station would be in Exton, Malvern, or Paoli. Stefano wants his constituents to have greater accessibility to travel by train.

“I think it’s a convenient way to travel. It’s a quick way to travel. It’s a reliable way to travel — and it would be an incredible boost for our community,” Stefano said.

Kelton views the prospect of rail restoration as a remedy for the climate crisis, among other economic and social benefits. A revamped train line would reduce the need for commuting by car, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

A contractor will develop a plan to help the county prepare for Chesco’s celebration of the United States’ 250th anniversary in 2026.

While the committee’s work has largely run smoothly, there is one small wrinkle in their plans. A portion of the line is currently used by the West Chester Railroad, which is a tourist train that has been in operation since 1997.

The borough leases those tracks from SEPTA and the all-volunteer nonprofit West Chester Railroad Heritage Association operates the train.

“We run mostly on Sundays from Easter through September. And then October, November, December, we run on Saturdays as well. We’ll run anywhere from one to five trains on a particular given day,” said Tyler Haney, the president of the West Chester Railroad Heritage Association.

Under the direction of the railroad volunteers, riders depart on the “scenic” trip from West Chester station to Glen Mills. There is a 30-minute layover at the Glen Mills station, which has been around since 1881. Visitors can look at the historical exhibits inside or enjoy a meal at the picnic grove outside. Then the train makes its way back home.

Haney enjoys being able to preserve this part of history in Chester and Delaware counties before there were long, winding highways.

“West Chester Railroad’s position has always been that we’re leasing the railroad at the pleasure of SEPTA and if SEPTA ever decides they want to bring regional rail service back, we will give up the tracks of them and let them take over and we would have to move on somewhere,” Haney said.

As the caretakers of the line, the volunteers have been working to ensure that the tracks weren’t completely abandoned. The group has even built a new train yard.

“We’ve had meetings with the committee. We’ve taken in everything they have to say. And ultimately, we think it could have some positive impacts for us, if they are able to get money to rebuild the track,” Haney said.

Haney thinks it’s possible to run regional rail service and the tourist train on the same tracks as long as there is a plan for how it’s going to be operated and who’s going to be responsible for maintenance — and as long as it doesn’t impact their operations.

West Chester Railroad did discuss with the borough council to have an amendment put into the resolution that the commuter rail should not impact its weekend operations. Because the trains are set to operate at different times, Kelton doesn’t believe that there will be any overlap in services or tours.

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