Traffic congestion and the possibility of losing a small-town feel are among Malvern residents' concerns about the development projects popping up in their one-stoplight town.
Added to those long-term fears is an immediate annoyance for residents in a handful of houses behind the new Eastside Flats mixed-use buildings on East King Street. Lights from the parking garage, they say, shine into their homes at night.
"It's like somebody having a spotlight on their house," said Mayor David Burton.
Before the lights were even turned on, before people started moving into the four-story, 190-unit apartment development in the fall, many in the borough opposed the project because they said it didn't fit into the Malvern atmosphere.
Burton estimates that around 80 percent of the town's residents are upset, and said he had even heard from people who don't live in Malvern but drive through, and think of the borough as a quaint place that shouldn't change.
David Della Porta, president of Cornerstone Communities Inc. of Villanova, a developer of the East King Street buildings, said he understood that some people were opposed to any change. He said he did what he could to make the development fit in.
"Obviously, it's larger and much newer," he said. "We hope over time they'll see the benefits we bring to the community," including more shopping options and more patrons for local businesses, he said.
Della Porta said Malvern's small-town feel, as well as the train station and nearby corporate offices, that drew him in the first place.
"It's a great little slice of Americana," he said.
Malvern's 2012 comprehensive plan acknowledges the challenges of keeping what makes the town unique as development happens around it.
"Malvern Borough's overarching objective is to retain and enhance our small-town character, which makes the borough a special place to live and work," the plan says.
The mayor said he wanted to make sure the developers took residents' concerns seriously, including the lights.
Della Porta said the lights, which are dimmed by half at night, are no different than a neighbor's house lights.
But residents say the lights are intrusive. The developers have planted trees to block homes from the lights, but that's not enough, they say. Some have suggested installing panels in the garage windows to block the lights.
The mayor said the borough and the developers were working to compromise. He said both sides have valid points: residents behind the garage want less light, but residents of the new apartments want a lit garage.
"I'm looking for a resolution for everybody that we can all live with," Burton said. "Ultimately, we're all residents of the borough."