Paoli Transportation Center and economic redevelopment – Important community issues or simply political campaign fodder

Unfortunately, in between primary and general election campaign season, the [Paoli] train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer. Does the transportation project only exist as a political campaign talking point? 

Following-up on my last Community Matters post, I was looking forward to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday night.  I had emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting two items for the meeting agenda – (1) official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center project and (2) an update on the Economic Development Committee.  Assured via email from the township manager that, “Both items will be addressed during the meeting.  If they don’t come up earlier, Bob will raise them during BOS comments” , I looked forward the public status report. Although neither item was listed on the agenda, I was confident that these important topics would be discussed during the meeting.  Further, Mimi copied the seven supervisors on her email to me, so everyone was seemingly on the same page.

The meeting progressed with no mention made of either topic.  There was approval for a community initiative grant for zoning ordinance update but no discussion of the Economic Development Committee that was approved back on April 4.  Look around at the empty storefronts, the vacant box stores and leasing agent signs on many corporate buildings . . . Tredyffrin Township is no longer exempt from the economic woes of every other community in the country.  But where is the importance and priority from our elected officials?

The Paoli Transportation Center . . . there was no update, no discussion, not a mention.  Does the transportation project exist simply as a political campaign talking point?  Do our community leaders only discuss the transportation center and place an importance on the project during campaign season? Where is the advocacy and enthusiasm for the train station project and economic redevelopment from our elected officials?

How many local candidates over the last two decades have used the train station project in their campaign promises to voters?  The answer . . . many! The Paoli Transportation Center project deserves more attention than use as campaign fodder. And remember, what is most significant is what you do with those campaign promises, once elected! 

The last substantial movement on the Paoli Transportation Center project was June 21, 2010 with then State Rep. Paul Drucker’s announcement of $1 million in state funding for the project. On Community Matters that day, I wrote . . . “Today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for Paoli and for the larger community . . . a day to celebrate!”  After fourteen months, shouldn’t the public expect a progress report?

Immediately following the Monday’s supervisors meeting, I asked Mimi for an explanation as to ‘why’ there was no update on the train station (and the Economic Development Committee) when she had previously said there would be — her response, “I guess Bob forgot”. 

How does one forget these important issues?  The other supervisors — did they likewise ‘forget’, was theirs a calculated political decision or worse yet, do they simply not care?

Unfortunately, in between the primary and general election campaign season, the train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer.

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The update on the proposed sidewalk ordinance and sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club from Monday’s Public Hearing to follow.

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  1. I hear your disappointment Pattye, but who BUT candidates can talk about it — since the funding and the support are not aligned. Tredyffrin is certainly not exempt from the economic woes of the region/state/country. None of the proposals are free of funding requirements. There are countless bridges in the commonwealth that have been judged as dangerous. Is funding for a train station parking deck likely to rank above general infrastructure repair?

    In the end, we all want more. But no one wants to pay more. Right now, the loudest voices are the “tea party” fanatics…and the squeaky wheel says NO MORE SPENDING. I think the country has to turn around before we can expect Tredyffrin to. But as a local resident, I appreciate your focus on the topic and your pursuit of answers. Of course Bob didn’t forget — but he didn’t have anything to say. Until we have leaders who will be frank, we all just get to watch the show.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    So updates to the public are not important, not required?

    If there’s no advocates for the Paoli Transportation Center, than I guess that should keep the campaign cards with one bullet point less. If there’s no focus or attention to the redevelopment or economic development by our elected officials, I guess there’s no need for an update on that topic either. Enthusiasm and encouragement for the community don’t require funding.

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
    ~ John Quincy Adams

    [Reply]

  2. People can advocate all they want, but at this point I don’t see the private support (i.e. the actual investors in the project). High-density residential is probably not financially feasible to build at this point.

    Not sure about retail and office uses.

    [Reply]

    give it a rest Reply:

    I would speculate that occupancy rates are approaching historic lows (at least since the 70s) on office and retail space. If you build it, they might come, but they would probably be coming from someplace else locally….net zero.

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  3. GIAR says “who BUT candidates can talk about it”- meaning the Paoli Transit Center.

    Say what? Yes, all of the supervisor candidates I’ve spoken to understand that the realization of Paoli’s railyard development plan is vital to the growth of our township. But they can only speak to what they would do if elected.

    It is our current elected supervisors who have the responsibility to stay informed of all PTC developpments and keep Tredyffrin residents updated – even if it amounts to a review of what has been accomplished to date and what forward movement is planned.

    FYI, the info below appears on the Township website re the Paoli Transportation Center: It appears to have been posted before the May BOS meeting.

    •At the May 23, 2011 Board of Supervisors meeting, Whitman, Requardt & Associates will present a pedestrian plan for the Paoli Business District. The plan has been funded by a Efficient Growth for Growing Suburbs (EGGS) grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the William Penn Foundation.

    •Tredyffrin Township is preparing a Request for Proposals for consultants to facilitate a public input process and then begin design of road improvements in the Paoli Business District. The work will be funded from federal and state grants.

    •SEPTA is preparing a Request for Proposals for consultants to design a new train station, parking facilities and rail improvements. This work will be grant funded.

    •Amtrak has selected Strategic Realty Investments, LLC as the developer for the rail yard property.

    •To sign up to receive email updates about the Paoli Transportation Center project, please send your name, mailing address, and email address to tredyffrin@tredyffrin.org.

    Re a BOS update on the Economic Development Committeee, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that some activity took place on a committee formed over four months ago. We were led to believe that input from small business owners, local corporate managers and commercial realtors would be sought and public meetings scheduled.

    Since Phil Donahue’s motion was passed in April and he, Michelle Kichline and candidate and interim supervisor Mike Heaberg were announced as co-chairs, we’ve heard nothing. Not a word.

    Except the BOS decision that NO supervisor candidates (other than Mike) would be allowed to sit on this newly formed committee.

    Despite the fact that EVERY other supervisor candidate beside Mr. Heaberg has relevant experience in city/ community planning (Tory Snyder), commercial real estate law (Kristin Mayock and Murph Wysocki) and municipal economic development (Molly Duffy).

    A campaign ploy to give advantage to one candidate, or not? You decide.

    Meanwhile, Pattye is right. The promises to improve communication and increase transparency – 2009 campaign pledges made by Kichline, Richter and Donahue, BTW, – have hardly been kept by this BOS. The absence of any reported progress on an economic development plan is disappointing. But not a surprise.

    [Reply]

  4. Cannot tell by the tone of the response, but I’m as disillusioned about the lack of information as the next guy. Perhaps I was too cryptic? Who but candidates talk about it because there isn’t any money to fund it. Do I lament that? Yes — but I also know that the potholes need filling, the snow needs plowing, the bills need paying, and the pensions need funding. A new owner for Chesterbrook — does the township help to lease that, or will the company do it? I’m asking….I don’t know the answer.

    [Reply]

    Flyersfan Reply:

    give blame it on the tea party. BLAME EVERYTHING on those ba—-ds

    development of Paoli would be a great idea and I would like to see SOMETHING done. maybe now is a good time to get PLANS in order, and when the economy turns in about 2-3 years we can earnestly start the process. Won’t happen now.

    [Reply]

  5. I guess on the Paoli Transportation Center issue I am less concerned because the Supervisors provided a very detailed update to Pattye just a month or so ago that included information about RFP;s, etc. Heck, even the candidates put forth position statements.

    Quite frankly, Pattye requested this information and got it then. If nothing changed, why should the Supervisors change the meeting agenda because of her request again?

    NOTE: this leaves out the econ development question!

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    FTW, I hope that more people watch the township meetings than read CM — so although there was an update sent to me from a couple of the supervisors, it was not an official update to the public by the BOS. In Michelle & JD’s response on July 14 they said the township and SEPTA would be issuing RFPs on transportation improvements. Have those RFPs been issued? If not, when? Again, the July 14 update was to me — and I wanted an official public update; discussion that would be a permanent record in the meeting minutes.

    Economic Development Committee update? If the BOS thought this committee was important to approve on April 4, than I guess I thought an update after 4-1/2 months could be expected.

    To respond, I don’t think that the BOS should change meeting agendas for ‘me’ — it’s about updating the public on important issues (Paoli Transportation Center, Economic Development Committee, etc.). These are important issues in the community and actually I don’t think it should require a formal request from a resident — how about a process where there are quarterly updates. How about a process where automatically that the first BOS meeting of each quarter, the train station project is on the agenda & the community can look forward to an update. If nothing has changed, the BOS can say ‘no change’ and move on. It keeps the topic in the foreground and the community engaged in the process. The train station is used ‘only’ as an example — these quarterly updates could be other important ongoing issues — turnpike soundwalls, 202 widening, economic development, etc. Just my thoughts —

    [Reply]

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