Is Tredyffrin’s sidewalk ordinance really about supporting walkability of Tredyffrin or is it about stall tactics to keep St. Davids Golf Club from building their required sidewalks?
Whether you were in the audience or watching from home, I hope residents have had an opportunity to watch Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Prior to the BOS meeting, I attended last week’s Planning Commission meeting; one of only 2 audience members (BOS member Mike Heaberg the other) who remained for 4 hours and 20 min. of the meeting. My purpose in attending the Planning Commission meeting was to ask about the enforcement of the 8 open land development agreements. These land development agreements had been placed ‘on hold’ since December 2009, 21 months ago pending the results from the special sidewalk subcommittee. Although the sidewalk subcommittee presented their results months ago, the 8 existing land development agreements continued to remain open issues. During a public hearing discussing the proposed sidewalk ordinance, the supervisors voted unanimously to ‘separate’ the 8 open land development agreements from any new sidewalk ordinance. In other words, the 8 signed land development agreements would not be affected by any township ordinance change. It is the belief by many that legally the existing land development agreements could never have been changed based on any new ordinance. To be clear, one of these 8 open land development agreements is the sidewalks required at St. Davids Golf Club.
Once the supervisors voted to exclude the existing land development agreements from the proposed sidewalk ordinance, I assumed that there was no impediment for enforcing the contracts (which was why I attended the Planning Commission meeting). Much to my surprise (and to the surprise of some Planning Commissioners) in response to my enforcement question, I was told by the township manager that those agreements were still ‘on hold’ by the BOS. I followed up with — what do we do to move forward. . . what’s the process. Ms. Gleason informed me that the BOS would have to instruct her to move forward or that a resident could ask the supervisors at a regular BOS meeting to move the process forward for enforcement.
Not really understanding ‘why’ the process continued to have delays, I took up my quest for resolution at Monday’s BOS meeting (prior to the public hearing). There was no decision, no vote on the enforcement issue, but Bob Lamina said that he understood I wanted closure and perhaps it would happen as a result of the sidewalk ordinance. I argued that the proposed sidewalk ordinance had no bearing (they had voted to exclude the existing land development agreements!) but I got no where.
We then get to the infamous public hearing on the proposed sidewalk ordinance. With Lamina and Paul Olson fiercely opposed to sidewalks, there was endless rhetoric, it went on and on . . . the long and winding road. One could conclude Lamina’s behavior was nothing more than filibustering.
fil·i·bus·ter: The use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speech-making, for the purpose of delaying legislative action.
A letter to the editor by Bill Bellew of Devon appears in this week’s edition of the Main Line Media News. (click here).
An accurate analysis of the BOS meeting, Bill writes, ” . . . Some time ago I went to a BOS meeting and asked the board to “knock it off” when it came to these Washington-style debates. We the voters elect the board to run our township now and for the future. As a registered Independent, I couldn’t care less what party you are affiliated with – just do the job we elected you to do. . . ”
So where are we with the sidewalk issue? I sent an email 3 days ago to Mimi Gleason, copying the BOS, asking when the enforcement letters would go to those 8 projects that have existing open land development agreements (including the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club). So far, there has been no acknowledgement of the email nor any response from our township manager (or the BOS). With a vote of 5-2 (Lamina and Olson opposed) the proposed sidewalk ordinance was passed by the supervisors. However, the ordinance passed without a map attached to it. Without a map, it is my understanding there is no sidewalk requirement. Until a map is approved to accompany the sidewalk ordinance, the Planning Commissions cannot require sidewalks as part of a land development agreement. But even without a map, the signed land development agreements (including the one with St. Davids Golf Club) are legal and binding. In other words, ‘where’ sidewalks are required may be temporarily ‘up in the air’ until a map is approved, there is NO impediment for the sidewalk requirement in existing land development agreements!
Tredyffrin’s sidewalk discussion has traveled beyond the borders of our local community. In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the following article appears. To the Philadelphia Inquirer writer, Anthony Campisi who attended the BOS meeting, the story appeared to be simply sidewalks . . . some for them and other against them. However, for many of us, we know it’s about a specific sidewalk in a specific location!
Tredyffrin sidewalk ordinance aims for a walkable community
By Anthony Campisi
Inquirer Staff Writer
To understand why Tredyffrin Township wants to build more sidewalks, look no further than Harold Scott.
The 69-year-old Pottstown resident was on his way to a church meeting in the township but wanted to stop first for coffee at a Saxby’s down the road on Route 30.
Rather than walking from the Church of the Good Samaritan, he ended up driving the 100 yards to the shop. The sidewalks “stop and start” too much to walk safely, he said, gesturing toward the road, with its islands of unconnected sidewalks and cars rushing by.
If the sidewalk ordinance adopted Monday does what it’s supposed to, people like Scott will be able to get around more easily on foot.
The ordinance will require new residential and commercial developments along roads yet to be designated to have sidewalks. Eight are currently planned in the township but it is unclear how they would be affected.
The result, proponents say, would provide longer stretches of sidewalk and a more livable community. Resident Hans van Naerssen told supervisors before the vote the ordinance would ensure that pedestrians have “equal opportunity” with motorists.
But the move to add sidewalks encountered some opposition from the supervisors chairman and vice chairman, who argued that the ordinance would raise costs and scare away development. They said the question should be put before voters in a referendum.
Tredyffrin, a mostly residential section of Chester County that encompasses parts of Wayne, Paoli, and Berwyn, has had a sidewalk ordinance for almost 25 years, requiring sidewalks to be installed as part of any large-scale project.
The problem, according to Township Manager Mimi Gleason, was that the requirement “used to be waived routinely” because the ordinance was vaguely worded.
The result is that much of the township’s 150 miles of roads lack sidewalks – including parts of major commercial corridors, such as Route 30.
The new ordinance – passed after almost two years of debate – is meant to change that by providing a more strategic approach that will result in fewer waivers, according to Supervisor Michelle H. Kichline.
But that argument didn’t persuade Supervisors Chairman Robert W. Lamina, who worried that the ordinance was “highly prescriptive.”
Because most of Tredyffrin’s neighborhoods are built out, the ordinance will affect mostly commercial redevelopment projects.
Sean N. McCauley, a developer and planning commissioner, disputed Lamina’s claim, saying “the cost of sidewalks is insignificant.”
With Tredyffrin competing with others to attract jobs, he argued that creating a more walkable community was essential.
Joseph Hacker, a top transportation planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, agreed, saying in an interview that sidewalk requirements make an “enormous amount of sense” if, as in Tredyffrin, they’re meant to connect residents to things like train stations.
Not everyone in Tredyffrin wants a walkable community.
“I don’t believe this township is a walking township,” resident Bob Robie told supervisors, adding that he’s happy driving.
Tory Snyder, a Planning Commission member, said a survey found that about two-thirds of residents supported more sidewalks.
Snyder, who chaired a sidewalk committee that helped develop the ordinance, said in an interview that it took a balanced approach.
But don’t expect walkability issues in Tredyffrin to go away soon. The Board of Supervisors has only begun working to figure out where new sidewalks would be required.