Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting Update

I attended the Mt. Pleasant Town Hall Meeting last night.  The pews in First Baptist Church were full . . . Mt. Pleasant residents and real estate investors, township supervisors and staff, including township manager, public works, zoning and police along with interested community members.  This was the third town hall meeting to be scheduled (the first two were cancelled due to snow).  Donna Shipman of Mt. Pleasant was the organizer and worked with the police department, township representatives and church to set-up the meeting.  Barbara Byrd presented a wonderful written history of Mt. Pleasant; I am going to request a copy which I will post.  Christine Johnson provided a very moving overview of the neighborhood’s issues and concerns from a residents standpoint.  I have contacted Christine and asked her to provide a copy of her remarks which I will provide on Community Matters . . . her words not only shed light on the issues but beg all of us to get involved to help this neighborhood.

It was obvious from the start of the meeting that the problems in Mt. Pleasant are long-standing and have become layered over time.  One of the major talking points of the evening was between the residents and the real estate investors who are leasing their properties to college students.  At this time, Tredyffrin does not have a specific ordinance that addresses student housing in the township.  Since last fall, township staff has been reviewing neighboring municipalities ordinances for student rental properties with the intention of creating an ordinance in Tredyffrin.  Radnor Township has specific ordinances and guidelines concerning student renters. In their ordinance, Radnor has established oversight and enforcement policy for landlords and students.  It would be interesting to know if Radnor has seen a difference in policing requirements as a result of stricter penalties for landlord/student offenses. When questioned about a proposed college rental ordinance for Tredyffrin, township manager Mimi Gleason explained to the audience the significant cost of an ordinance (especially with current township budget constraints) and also the delay of an ordinance due to required notification and public meeting.  Mimi suggested that the process would take approximately 3 months.

Mt. Pleasant residents are troubled by the many changes that they are witnessing in their neighborhood.  Many who spoke have lived in the community their entire lives and have deep family roots.  College student rentals and development in Mt. Pleasant were high on their list of concerns.  Conversely, many of the real estate investors spoke that they thought the community was improving through the development.  Change is difficult for many of us, . . . and the evolution in Mt. Pleasant has not always been thoughtful to its residents.

There were some positive moments at the meeting.  Troubled by the slowness to create an student rental ordinance that might evoke positive change with the behavior of college student residents (underage drinking, loud music, speeding cars, etc), I was impressed by several of the real estate investors.  There was an offer from the investors to the residents to add particular verbage in the college student leases to address noise, drinking, etc.  This was an encouraging development . . . I think before last night the residents were on one side and the investors on the other side with the college students somewhere in the middle. Talking about the issues openly was a real start for the two sides; I was encouraged that last night’s dialogue may lead to a further understanding between the parties.

Public Works director Steve Norcini offered to address the signage on the Mt. Pleasant roads.  He said that he could review and update speed limit signs and add ‘caution children’ signs as early as next week.  Although the signs are a good start, there appears a need for better enforcement of township rules in Mt. Pleasant.  There was a complaint by many that when police are called, they do not cite the students but rather just give warnings.   

Much discussion was on a vacant lot located at 958 Mt. Pleasant Road.  This lot has become very overgrown with weeds, trash and rodents.  Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson offered that she had contacted Mike Pilotti, Tredyffrin’s zoning enforcement officer and  Mike explained that he is working on the problem.  Homeowners that live on either side of the vacant lot complained that have previously contacted the township but that nothing has been done.  Now that this specific problem has been aired in a public meeting, I am hopeful that there will be the required township follow-up to address the issue.

I left the two hour meeting with mixed feelings.  On one level, I was pleased that the Mt. Pleasant residents were given the appropriate forum to present their concerns to those in the position to help.  But on another level, I did not leave the meeting thinking that was clear direction or a timeline for future meetings, township involvement, etc.  However, I am committed to continue to shine light on the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and their ongoing concerns and issues.

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  1. I was at the meeting as well and share many of Pattye’s impressions. After a testy exchange early in the meeting between a landlord and several residents, there was constructive discussion. The Township was well represented, although the format didn’t really lend itself to optimal discussion. As Pattye mentioned , a couple of the landlords and residents offered effective strategies that they had used for dealing with student tenants.

    A few observations:

    – Police presence in the neighborhood should be stronger and more consistent, enforcing noise, underage drinking and traffic violations If the students discover that they will be cited, not just warned, either their behavior will change or they’ll figure out someplace else to live. Larry Meoli would be an effective liaison with which the neighborhood could communicate.

    – At least until the outstanding issues are dealt with, there should be a “point person” at the Township for handling the non-police issues: zoning, code violations, signage, etc. Half the battle in these matters is finding out the right person to contact. If the neighborhood residents had a liaison, that person could track the issues until they are resolved and then report bachk to the community in a few months.

    – Janet Burton, a known effective leader in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, had excellent questions and points. She drilled down on the how and when issues will be dealt with and who will be responsible.

    Hopefully, the meeting created lines of communication and is a start toward resolution of some of Mt. Pleasant’s legitimate concerns.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Mike — Good idea about a ‘point person’. I’m planning on taking photos tomorrow at Mt. Pleasant — I’m particularly distrubed about the vacant lot. I remember when I was campaigning, I saw that lot and it was quickly becoming an overgrown trash site. And the site is right between 2 houses; if I recall there was a ‘for sale’ sign on the lot, not that I can imagine anyone who purchase it in its current state. I also want to see that abandoned house at the bottom of the hill where the development is to go — the 8 townhouses and the single family house.

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  2. I also attended last night’s meeting and came away with a much clearer sense of the issues troubling many residents in Mount Pleasant – issues most of us in Tredyffrin have not had to deal with on this scale.

    Some of the problems are associated with college-aged renters living in a concentrated area where homes are in close proximity and streets are narrow.

    Who wouldn’t be troubled by these complaints? Excessive noise at all hours including rowdy, under-age drinking in the streets any night of the week. Increased traffic and speeding that endangers residents who must walk in the streets because, for the most part, there are no sidewalks. Children are especially at risk.

    Another set of problems has been created by investors and developers coming into Mount Pleasant who are not “invested” in preserving the long history and character of this neighborhood.The residents’ property rights have been disregarded as land is clear cut, then left weed and trash-fillled.Construction noise is allowed from morning until night seven days a week.. Houses that have been purchased with the intention of demolishing them sit abandoned and a danger to neighborhood children. Landlords have placed dumpsters on lots they own instead of paying for trash pick-up.

    Who would want to live under these conditions?

    The residents of Mount Pleasant who attended last night’s meeting are understandably proud of their neighborhood. Some have lived there all their lives. They want to keep the close sense of community they’ve enjoyed and feel safe.

    But they are under seige right now.

    Unfortunatelty I didn’t get a sense last night that the Township sees this neighborhood’s problems as a high priority.

    They deserve an action plan without any further delay – one that includes a student housing ordinance along the lines of Radnor’s.

    They need a commitment that there will be strict code enforcement for developers who come into this neighborhood – or into any in this township. Developers should not be able to clear cut land and then leave it unattended until they see an uptick in the market or get financing to build at some undetermined future time. Owners have ongoing responsibilities.

    So do the investor-landlords- of which there seemed to be a fair number in attendance last night. One insisted the neighborhood was improving since development had come to Mount Pleasant. The inference was that guys like him who turned old houses into student housing were doing everyone a favor……As you can imagine, his comments were not well received.

    In fairness, other landlords expressed a willingness to work with the neighbors and be part of the solution – by being more vigilant and putting provisions in their leases that would eject renters who violated their lease terms. Sounds good – but it is only as effective as the landlord’s willingness to be the enforcer.

    No, IMO the township needs to take charge here with an ordinance that limits student housing to a certain density within a neighborhood and a limit per house. Then they need to commit to strict enforcement..

    The reasons why some investors have come to Tredyffrin instead of Radnor are pretty clear : fewer restrictions and lower property taxes. Let them enjoy the benefit of our lower tax base, but understand that Tredyffrin values and protects our community – every corner of it.

    Also Officer Friendly Meoli might be a very nice guy, but it sounded as if the Tredyffrin police have not had the presence in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood that is necessary to keep rowdy students in line. As the mother of recent college students, I say write those citations.

    I know if I lived in this neighborhood I’d want an action plan that holds people’s feet to the fire.
    They deserve far better than they have gotten to date.

    And one last thing: where was Tredyffrin’s eastern district supervisor last night? Mr. Olson was conspicuous by his absence. This whole matter deserves his concern and attention.

    [Reply]

  3. Kate —
    You are right – why wasn’t Paul Olson in attendance at Mt. Pleasant last night? St. Davids may be walking distance from Mt. Pleasant but my guess is that there is an invisible line that separates these 2 worlds. Clearly, Paul Olson is on the St. Davids side of the line. I’d like to know when was the last time (if ever) that Olson stepped on to Mt. Pleasant ground?

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  4. Panhandle Watcher:

    Please – give it a rest. According to Pattye’s post yesterday, which makes perfect sense to me, more than three Supervisors at the meeting would violate the Sunshine Law. None of us, including you, know why Mr. DiB, and Mrs. Kichline and Mrs. Richter were asked, or volunteered, to attend this meeting with the Mt. Pleasant community. The LOK bashers would vilify them if they were there – “they are showing their concern as part of some secret political plot” or “they have a conflict of interest because of St. Davids GC” or “they’re only interested because of Kampf’s 157th race”. Now you vilify them for NOT being there. Maybe, Olsen (Kampf and Lamina) weren’t there so the focus would be on solving the issues in the Mt.Pleasant neighborhood!! (and to avoid the political sideshow).

    [Reply]

  5. More than 3 supervisors would in no way violate the Sunshine law (urban legend)….but I agree that Olson’s presence there would be divisive and change the focus. There doesn’t need to be more than one supervisor if that person takes back information and a commitment to advancing the cause.
    Here’s the reality — Mount Pleasant is a pocket community that has rarely gotten any serious attention — much like the pocket community of predominantly AA in Paoli — which endured EPA disrespect around the railyard for almost a generation. “Pocket” communities (a phrase my AA friends have explained to me) are places where minorities live in pockets in the community, and the problem is that the ones who are successful LEAVE the pocket and don’t stay around to help improve the lives of those there. Few advocates stick around.

    Awareness of these issues is what’s important — Pattye is incredibly helpful in promising to continue to shine light — but even the fact that it takes a Town Hall meeting in MP — rather than a serious quorum of residents coming TO the township — reduces the priority. Squeaky wheels get greased — our beneficial efforts will not accomplish as much as a political block of votes that create a force to be reckoned with — articulate residents who raise hell at meetings ON TV. Christine J simply cannot be the lone voice of MP at meetings (though Kevin S. coming to support the SDGC sidewalk motion wasn’t particularly helpful to the cause — whoever called him). Kevin clearly wants things for MP — but our BOS is more likely to respond to voters and decision makers. Glad it all got started though.

    [Reply]

  6. Paul Olson should not be given a pass on this one. He should have been at the meeting last night. Period. Mt. Pleasant is in his district, and his absence reflects badly on his commitment to all the people he is supposed to serve.

    [Reply]

  7. Lifetime Resident —
    I don’t think there is anything urban legend like about the Sunshine Law. If 4 of the 7 supervisors are conducting township business that is a violation of the Sunshine Law. But I agree about Mt. Pleasant — all it takes is one committed supervisor to loudly support the residents of Mt. Pleasant. It’s like the supervisors and the township staff don’t view Mt. Pleasant as a part of this township, as if they are 2nd class citizens.

    [Reply]

  8. Nope — seven of seven can be there — they are not conducting business — they are there to receive information. No deliberation going on — and if it was, it would not be in private — it would be in the sunshine. Some groups claim that “conflict” to keep them from having to go to every meeting….school district only has 3 official members of any committee, but often 9 are present. Seriously — I would love to see any citation where more than 3 at a public meeting would violate a law intended to force all decisons to be made in public. But we agree on one thing — being at the meeting isn’t a requirement to get some things done for MP.

    [Reply]

  9. As a landlord(not in Tredyffrin), I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to the neighbors of my rental properties. I do not need laws, rule, regulations to know that my tenants and I must live in harmony with the neighbors, and live with mutual respect. I will not tolerate tenants who undermine this moral code.

    While I don’t have a horse in this race, I am appalled that the homeowners(landlords) don’t have more respect for their neighbors. You can have all the policing, regs, etc, but until people treat people as they would want to be treated, nothing is going to help. landlords.. WAKE UP.. You are responsible, ultimately, for your homes and your tenants…

    [Reply]

  10. We can’t separate Mt. Pleasant from Tredyffrin.

    If ordinances are not enforced in Mt. Pleasant, Tredyffrin doesn’t enforce its ordinances,
    If history is not respected in Mt. Pleasant,
    Tredyffrin doesn’t respect history.
    If the citizens of Mt. Pleasant are not
    respected, Tredyffrin doesn’t respect its citizens.

    [Reply]

  11. I was at the meeting also. I feel the landlords are being treated unfairly because of only a few disturbances. Which are going to occur if there are 1,2,or three students and there is going to be students no matter what. The reason they are moving into tredyffrin is because of laws rewritten in other towns nearby by one of the supervisors present. So instead of condensing the problem it is spread throughout all the communities. Changing laws is not working. Thank her for them in the neighborhood. Changing the ordinance IS NOT the answer. Its costly and unfair. Community involvement is.

    [Reply]

  12. I think student housing should be considered in the
    DVRPC US Route 30 Corridor Study. The area stretches from 52nd and Lancaster Ave in Philadelphia
    out to Strafford. There are so many colleges & universities along this route and they are growing.

    From the DBRPC website:

    DVRPC is conducting a planning study of the US 30 (Lancaster Avenue) corridor. This planning effort seeks to enhance the existing assets of the corridor by addressing transportation and livability issues and concerns. This site is intended to be a resource for US 30 residents to help them identify corridor needs to be considered by this study. We would like your ideas on issues affecting the corridor and your vision for improvement. Please give us your suggestions on locations that are deficient or need improvement in the areas of transportation, land use, or stormwater management. In particular, we would like to get your opinion on walkability, streetscapes, safety, and livability.

    Your comments will help us develop effective improvement strategies for the corridor by targeting potential problem areas. Planning, designing, funding, and constructing transportation, land use, and environmental improvements is a long and expensive process. We hope that the information gathered here will influence policy and project priorities for all relevant agencies. Comments and suggestions will be accepted at this site until Friday, May 28.

    http://www.dvrpc.org/asp/us30corridorstudy

    [Reply]

  13. This interactive map is really cool once you figure out how to use it! You can add a comment by placing a point at a single location, making a line along a specific stretch or by outlining the perimeter of a certain area. You can read other people’s comments by clicking on the blue icons, you can also rate the comments!

    [Reply]

  14. mount pleasant resident

    You’re saying that one of the current Tredyffrin Supervisors is the cause of all this because she help to rewrite laws in surrounding townships. Care to elaborate?

    [Reply]

  15. Sure…. Its simple if four students live in once house and you change the rule to no more than two students in one house then you find another rental and put two in there for MORE MONEY. Its supply and demand. Instead of less student housing you create more…. Changing ordinances does not solve the problem of students moving into the area. They are going to live some where. Enforce the laws we have. Be active in your community…don’t spend taxes rewrtitng laws that don’t help..If you were at the meeting you know who is helping write these laws thinking she is doing good. She’s not.

    [Reply]

  16. Thank you Pattye for bring Mt Pleasant issues out in the opening.
    I want to thank everyone for support our Community while we are addressing the issues that affect our community. Please note we need your support because if we can not resolve some of these issues such as “college dewellings”, lack of concern from the BOS; then eventually it will grow into other communities throughout Tredyffrin township unchecked.
    I want to try and work with BOS to address and possibly resolve some of our issues which the rest of the township can also reap the benefits. I will keep you posted on our status and if we require your support at meetings.

    Once again,
    Thank you .

    Sincerely,

    Donna B. Shipman
    Block Captain

    [Reply]

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