Sometimes Life Surprises You and the Right Thing Happens . . . the Planning Commission to Retain Land Development Authority in Tredyffrin!

Following tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting was a scheduled public hearing to discuss land development authority.  The Board of Supervisors were holding this initial public hearing to consider an ordinance amendment to change final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors.  As the public hearing began, chair of the supervisors, Bob Lamina excused himself to leave for the airport. With Lamina’s departure, vice chair Paul Olson became ‘acting’ chair in his absence.  Lamina’s last words as he departed were that he anticipated that this was an initial public meeting and the discussion would continue in the fall. 

Lamina reminded the audience that a final decision on land development authority would not take place until after the review and approval of the township sidewalk ordinance. (Some have suggested that the timing of this land development authority ordinance change is directly related to the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk decision by the Planning Commission).

Township Manager Mimi Gleason offered a background of why the land development authority was given to the Planning Commission some twenty-five years ago.  Interesting to note that Tredyffrin Township is the only municipality where land development rests with the Planning Commission versus the Board of Supervisors.

Prior to tonight’s public hearing, Supervisors Kichline, Heaberg and Richter met with supervisors from Upper Merion and Easttown Townships to discuss how they handle their planning authority process.  Kichline reported that these other municipality supervisors suggested that there was not ‘right or wrong’ way to handle land development authority.

Audience members were invited to comment on the proposed land development authority change. Trip Lukens, vice chair of the Planning Commission offered remarks from last week’s Planning Commission meeting.  At their meeting, planning commissioners had decided rather than create an ordinance change; they would wait until the outcome of tonight’s public hearing.  Other residents in attendance offered their opinion.  One after another, they all said the same thing in a variety of ways . . . “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.  Former supervisor Judy DiFilippo also spoke in favor of leaving the land development authority with the Planning Commission.  In other words, all those in attendance who spoke, completely supported the Planning Commission retaining final land development authority.

After audience members had all spoken in favor of leaving the land development authority process ‘as is’ with the Planning Commission, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro declared that he did not understand ‘why’ the Board of Supervisors was having this discussion and that as a supervisor ‘he’ was not interested in taking back land development authority.  DiBuonaventuro said that there were many other important issues facing the township that needed his attention and that Planning Commission should retain this authority.

After much discussion on the topic from each supervisor, Supervisor Kichline made a motion to end the public hearing on the planning authority ordinance change; Supervisor Donahue seconded the motion.  Left in charge of the public hearing by Chairman Lamina and probably realizing that he was losing the battle for further discussion, Supervisor Olson suggested the supervisors just wait on this vote and have further discussion.  Supervisor Richter agreed with Olson but the other supervisors were committed to forcing a vote to end the public hearing. 

With a roll call vote, Supervisors Kichline, Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Donahue voted to leave the land development authority with the Planning Commission and Olson and Richter voted against the motion. This vote removed any further discussion on the topic.

I believe that Bob Lamina was the driving force behind this ordinance change to place final land development authority back in the hands of the Board of Supervisors  . . .  and he left for the airport thinking that this public hearing tonight was nothing more than an ‘initial’ meeting with further discussion to come. He  could never have expected this outcome!

Sometimes life surprises you and the right thing happens . . . tonight was one of those occasions! The Planning Commission retains final land development authority and a round of applause goes to supervisors Kichline, Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Donahue for ‘doing the right thing’!  And the planning commissioners should feel good with their overwhelming vote of confidence from the residents!

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12 Comments

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  1. Isn’t it time Lamina and Olson went away (which would render Richter as useless as she is)? Wouldn’t our township be so much better off? As you can see, even John Petersen can applaud those who do the right thing. Maybe it would be possible for all of the anger and discord to go away if only we would continue to elect reasonable, moderate, supervisors.

    I applaud the block of four who made this happen.

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    give it a rest Reply:

    I think we should be very careful about calling the votes in this motion a “block of 4″….I want representatives that make decisions based on the question, not on the majority. I do think it’s okay to say we have seen the end of the previous Block of 4…must have been hard for them to realize that — did anyone see what time Lamina’s flight really took off? Or did he know what was coming?

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    Mr. Roboto Reply:

    John Petersen says: “It bothered me that JD stated that he didn’t feel qualified to take over the land development process from the PC.”

    Hats off to JD for recognizing his own limitations. Socrates would be proud. After all, a fool thinks he knows everything, while a wise man knows how little he knows.

    Speaking of self proclaimed know-it-alls. . .I see that John Petersen has already commented SEVEN times on this one thread alone. That’s 7 out of the 16 comments made thus far. Is there a term for making multiple posts on a Blog? My entry for this kind of behavior is BLOG BOMBING!

    [Reply]

    Toshiro Takashi Reply:

    Actually there is a term that already applies…. Its called ‘Trolling’.

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  2. While the system seems to be working in Tredyffrin, I don’t know that it is the “right way.” From what I can find out, we are the ONLY municipality in the state that has final authority resting with the Planning Commission and not the Supervisors. This is normally not the way b/c the planning commission members are “unaccountable” to the citizens (read: voters) vs. Supervisors. What we have now — and thankfully our PC members seem above this — is the ability for an unelected, unaccountable group to do as they please (within the law,) That, in say Philadelphia, would be a recipe for disaster.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    The planning commissioners serving currently are planners, real estate attorneys, developers, etc. – a steller group of thoughtful, qualified professionals appointed by the supervisors. But as Michelle Kichline read the list of supervisors and planning commissioners from 25 years ago – we heard that those serving at that time also were qualified people who went on to serve our community. Names mentioned from 25 years ago when the decision was made included Judy DiFilippo, Steve Aichele, Trish Kreek, Herb Keene, Herb Greenwood to name a few. The wisdom used by the Board of Supervisors in making the land development authority decision 2-1/2 decades ago has stood the test of time. Further, as was pointed out by several audience members, the supervisors always have the ability not to re-appoint a planning commissioner (or any other board/commission member) if they do not support the individual’s decisions.

    Speaking to the issue of Tredyffrin as the the ‘only’ municipality with final land development authority held with the Planning Commission (vs BOS) — as audience and supervisors alike mentioned, our system has worked well all these years. . . and maybe that is because Tredyffrin Township isn’t like all the rest.

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    School Observer Reply:

    Somehow no one seems to remember that the PC is appointed by the BOS…so FTW I am afraid I agree with you in principle — the PC does a great job, and if we trusted the BOS to “affirm” their decisions, so be it. But the final land development authority is not something elected officials should hand off.

    That said — given the characters in play, I think this is a good decision until such time as we can sit and look at the practical components that you reference.

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    From the West Reply:

    To be clear, I have zero issue with the BOS taking land dev authority back. It’s their descretion to do so. There is however, the notion of abuse of descretion.

    *************

    JP —

    That is my point though. At least if the BOS abuses that power, they can be voted out by the residents…the PC members can’t be. You yourself have stated you think St. Davids should be a campaign issue against Olson.

    Again, I am not beating up on our PC — as Pattye noted and I said earlier, they are good people doing a good job. The problem comes when/if they ever didn’t — because we, as citizens, would have no real recourse.

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  3. I served on the EAC for many years, and the ability to have discussions with the PC on projects was invaluable. They had the time to focus on the projects, explain the ramifications and listen to the environmental concerns of the EAC.
    I found that the members were, hard working, fair and committed to their role. They were not voted in, but they volunteered to serve in a thankless job that requires site visits, long evening meetings and public contact.
    Thanks to all of them…

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  4. Yes, Pattye, this community is exceptional in many ways. We have a bounty of community-minded residents with professional experience and particular areas of expertise. They bring their talents and commitment to our various boards and commissions and help make this community a great place to live.

    Who cares if we are the only municipality that spreads its authority among several boards. I believe we should be proud to be unique in the state with respect to our Planning Commission.

    Supervisor DiBuonaventuro was just honest enough last night to state what is true: that supervisors have plenty of responsibilities without the additional job of overseeing land development in the township. He admits he does not feel qualified to undertake this work, which would require a steep learning curve to do properly.

    It is ironic, almost comical, that E.J. Richter, perhaps the most UNqualified member of the BOS, felt the need to remind the audience that only supervisors are accountable to the taxpayers, and that in voting to take back power from the Planning Commission, she wanted to represent the taxpayers’ interests.

    Clearly it is in taxpayers’ best interest to have land development decisions made efficiently and by those best equipped to evaluate and decide what benefits our township.

    Sometimes – just occasionally- we see democracy in action. Last night was one of those moments. Even Chairman Lamina, who drove this need to have a public hearing under the guise of periodically reevaluating our ordinances, would have been outvoted by the voices of reason last night had he stayed long enough to cast his vote.

    He, Mr. Olson and Ms. Richter seem more than ever, to be reminders of the ways of the past – crony politics, with a disregard for those who don’t see things their way, There’s no question in my mind that Lamina’s plan (part of his self-described “bucket list”) to take back power from the Planning Commission was the direct result of the PC’s principled stand to hold St. Davids to its contractual agreement.

    Now that the matter seems to have been decided by four reasonable supervisors – also elected by the txpayers – maybe the issue of sidewalks can be discussed openly with input from all interested residents. No games. No secret agendas by elected officials who view sidewalks to anywhere as a tax boondoggle.Perhaps we can move forward as a community on this issue and others.

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  5. John, maybe the public hearing was important to some, you know transparency, etc in a way that some hearings are important to you, and if squelched, well you would be all over this blog with rage about not having a hearing.

    Possible?

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  6. I for one have been carrying a few secrets around myself…and increasingly…I’m feeling the need to unburden myself of those secrets.. Stay tuned.. :)

    ****************************

    John —

    Are these like your other “secrets” where you make charges and, regardless of numerous requests, never provide proof? If they are, please keep them secret.

    [Reply]

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