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.