Walkability in Tredyffrin Twp or. . . How to Keep a Private County Club from Building Sidewalks?

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.

 

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21 Comments

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  1. I could pose the same question in reverse? Is this about walkability in the township going forward, or is it about making the “private country club” put in a walk. I haven’t followed this closely, so I apologize for the questions — but didn’t SDGC offer to pay off the obligation. How much did they offer to pay vs. how much it will cost? Are we sure the spot they are supposed to build is part of a vision, or could it just be class warfare ? (the new term of art). I don’t know — I’m asking — but I can say that the new sidewalks on Old Lancaster approaching the high school may increase walkability, but they are hideous changes to what used to be a lovely landscaped road.
    I do think developers should have to do things on new property or any redevelopment. I’m not sure a golf course whether or not they built a new clubhouse wasn’t simply targeted for “deep pockets” to put in a sidewalk that as little as 10 years ago, the township would have resisted.

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  2. Sarah, I’m not sure how a sidewalk can be hideous, but as someone who lives in the area and uses them to walk with my children to the HS for events, to the train, down Russel to the Montessori school and across 30 to the Y, they are a tremendous improvement and make us all feel safe walking down Old Lancaster.
    I haven’t followed too closely either but I think the crux of it is that the SDGC hasn’t done what they were required to do and the BOS has not enforced it.

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  3. “hideous changes to a lovely landscaped road” are you kidding. .to get to Conestoga or TEMS you had to walk along the side of the road in the mud or take your chances in the road with speeding cars& busses . Lived here for over 20 yrs and its a whole lot safer with the new sidewalks….give some credit to the neighbors who put in the extra landscaping effort …it shows.

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  4. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after watching Bob Lamina’s terrible behavior at Monday night’s BOS meeting – thankfully, our township will be spared his “service” in just a few months.

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  5. To clarify — St.Davids Golf Club only as $25K in escrow & it is a ‘Letter of Credit’. Typically, the escrow amount is closer to the cost of the project — in this case $25K is no where near the cost of the asphalt path that is required at St. Davids GC. Also, it is not a sidewalk but a path that the golf club is required to build as part of their land development agreement. The club went back to the township Planning Commission at least 3 times (maybe 4) asking to be absolved of the commitment and each time the PC said no. It is time for St. Davids to build the path — this is a land development contract from 2005! Enough with the delays — the club signed the contract, built their multi-million dollar addition and now they need to complete the project by building the asphalt path.

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  6. Thanks for the clarification. And I don’t mean to criticize the neighbors CHV — I assume you are one — but I do think that this township needs to come to terms with how much change we are going to charge people for. I’m glad to road is walkable, but the curb cuts and extra space (presumbly for landscape) is hardly uniform or lovely. My understanding of SDGC is that they built a new clubhouse on their site that had nothing to do with Gulph Road — and that the PC took the opportunity to horse trade approvals for the building by adding on the need for an asphalt walk. So does that mean if I want to put in a pool, the PC can force me to put sidewalks out in front of my house too? Is there any way to enforce the land development deal…or can they stall forever?

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  7. Perhaps I am being naive, but to me the path that SDGC is/was supposed to build has NOTHING to do with a clubhouse renovation/addition.

    We all know where their clubhouse is, where the entrance is and where this path is located. The path has NOTHING to do with the clubhouse.

    I say this not to absolve SDGC of their obligation. I say it to ask a more basic question: why was this path included in that project when they obviously aren’t related? To me, this fact smacks of the path being personal agenda item for the Planning Commission (or members of it) rather than anything truly related to the planning.

    It sounds like the PC or members of it who support sidewalks saw a chance to make somebody pay for their personal desires by holding one of our citizens’ projects hostage until they got what they wanted.

    I know this will be unpopular on this blog, but think of it this way: if you were finishing your basement and the township made you put in a sidewalk, would it make any sense?

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  8. While a contract is a contract, I am wondering why SDGC agreed to this. Will this “path” be a beneficence to the community? Politics cuts more than one way. I don’t understand why they agreed to it in the first place, and why they are now trying to get out of it. Will the truth EVER come out?

    I don’t want sidewalks in my community. And not just NIMBY.. Perhaps near schools they make sense, but not in every instance. Is this what we are really worried about in our community. How lucky we are that there aren’t any more important issues.

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  9. FTW, Sarah etal,

    Sidewalks are a requirement of the SALDO (subdivision and land development). They are required to ensure the health, safety and welfare of residents who walk/ride on specific township roads. The Planning Commission has no “personal desires” nor do they “horsetrade” approvals.

    Developers of non residential/commercial and multi -residential properties are required to install sidewalks. If you’re adding a pool, deck, etc. you would not be required to install a sidewalk.

    The current sidewalk ordinance is more restrictive than the amended “streamlined” ordinance and “greenworks” map the PC sent up to the BoS for approval on Monday night.

    After a year-long review by a bi-partisan subcommittee and this 3rd public hearing (which costs $$), Bob, again, tried to delay the approval by bringing up engineering requirements, etc which are state/federal and not ours to waive.

    But come to a vote it did and the amended ordinance was approved; but the BoS (read Bob/Paul) wants the “greenworks” map reviewed (read eliminate specific roads) and included in the Comprehensive Plan. Oh yes, this may require another public hearing (more $$).

    BTW, a driver (who did NOT have the right of way) passed a parent pushing a baby stroller on Conestoga Road and almost hit me head on this afternoon. Guess the driver was in a rush; luckily I have good brakes.

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    Sarah Reply:

    Thanks for this information. If that is our law, so be it. But if it is, we have lost our way. And while I am very happy that you have good brakes. I struggle to imagine why a mother would be pushing a stroller on Conestoga Road….crisis averted but it seems to me the lesson there is that if you want to live in a community with sidewalks, buy a home in one. Our roads are preciously overburdened with traffic and limited easements to expand them. This land development change is about 30 years too late. They need to be in place when communities are growing, not when they are built out. And St. Davids did horsetrade…without any power obviously or they would not have agreed to it. They replaced an existing building with a bigger footprint. A path on Upper Gulph had nothing to do with the project. So call it what you want — but their interest in improving their own property created a political nightmare for those who simply sit on the sidelines and participate in this class warfare (the new political hot word?) over golf clubs vs. developers. Should I expect to see a sidewalk aligning every property where an existing home is knocked down and replaced with a McMansion…I can point you to several in my own community.

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    From the West Reply:

    So a law is a law and that’s it.

    But some laws are bad…or misguided…or not well thought out as to unintended consequences.

    If a law is a law, we would still have prohibition, anti-sodomy laws (targeting the gay population), and other items like not being able to lick a frog on a public street (Trenton).

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    flyersfan Reply:

    the law is the law… Les Miserables.. Javier.

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  10. Since this town is not a walking community, can we please get rid of Paoli Library. Since we keep shoveling $$ into the tredyffrin library, an people drive to everything anyway… lets save some serious money. They always justify keeping it because ‘people can walk there’

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    Neighboring Friend Reply:

    Based on your comments, CJ, I’m making some assumptions; please forgive me if I am wrong in any way. First assumption, that you do not live in Paoli. I do; and I know from personal experience that Paoli is a walking community. Second, that you do not use Paoli Library. I do; and Paoli Library is, in fact, enjoyed by many–local businesspeople, job seekers, seniors, parents with children, kids on bikes, my family and I–who get there by foot or pedal. Someone once told me that little Paoli Library is, per square foot, the busiest library in the Chester Co. Library System. I believe it. And it’s got programs, services, and collections that make lives better. The public computers are a godsend for people who don’t have their own–or who can’t afford Internet access–especially schoolchildren or the unemployed. Close a library and you close the door to opportunity. Not cool.

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    CJ of the Main Line Reply:

    I guess we need sidewalks then. Interesting.

    Libraries get people re-elected. Sidewalks do not.

    Although, hopefully ‘sidewalks’ get someone voted out of office this time.

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  11. How thoughtful of you to recommend shutting Paoli Library since it doesn’t benefit you personally and you assume everyone drives and can just make the trip to Tredyffrin Library on the opposite side of the township.

    You may not think Tredyffrin is a walking community – probably because don’t walk – but maybe you should check with the many, many people who walk and bike in Tredyffrin. A significant number of people who rely on Paoli Library don’t have a car. Plus there are many others who find this library convenient and closer to home.

    The plans to make Paoli a walkable town center and the inclusion of a library go hand in hand. That is the future of Paoli – regardless of what some vision-free public officials and residents believe.

    Just try shutting down a vital resource to this community and to surrounding area residents and see what happens.

    You’ll have a revolt on your hands.

    In truth, over the years Paoli Library has been neglected and starved for resources – including space – while millions of dollars have been spent on a library that
    is convenient to the eastern portion of the township.

    Close Paoli Library? Not if I and many, many others (who vote) can help it.

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    From the West Reply:

    Kate —

    You talk about “millions of dollars spent” on the library in the east, but fail to mention that the vast majority of that money came from private donations and a large scale capital campaign project. No one is stopping you, or any others, from beginning such a campaign and I am certain that Supervisor DiBuonoventura as well as the other Supervisors would support such an effort just as Supervisor Olson and the other Supervisors did in the east.

    We all agree that Paoli Library is an important part of our community; the difference, to date, is that the citizens in the east joined together to do something about it while the citizens in the west have not, other than to complain on sites like this.

    Whether you like or hate Paul Olson, he was a key and active figure in that capital campaign; perhaps we should put the pressure on John D. to step up the same way.

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    kate Reply:

    As I recall, the Tredyffrin taxpayers paid for half the cost of Tredyffrin Library’s extensive remodeling – to the tune of over $three million. And now taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $1 million upgrade to replace the library’s HVAC system.

    Ironically – at least to me – we have a beautiful new $6 million plus renovation to our library – that is closed on Wednesdays for budget reasons! A 2010 budget cut made by the same group of supervisors who cut fire funding and voted to include fireworks in the budget – until the community made a royal stink about it.

    As I recall, Mr. Olson was involved in another fundraising effort….

    Yes, a group of dedicated people raised about three million dollars. Interesting that you assume the donors were all from the East while residents of the western part of the township have not “joined together to do something”.

    So it’s the East against the West for the title of “Best Fundraisers”? I naively assumed we were all members of the same community…..

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    Sarah Reply:

    Whatever your complaint about Olson the supervisor, it’s a low blow to attack his fundraising efforts.

    He is charitable — have read articles about his blood donations etc. He’s old school — thinks people should open their wallets to donate, not have them opened by government with taxes. He wants people to decide what to support — not politicians. Is that really so out of touch? It’s direcltly in contrast with the growing entitlement mentality …but you cannot fault his own value — he stands behind issues with his checkbook, but doesn’t vote to force taxpayers to contribute.

  12. Rock on Kate.

    I walk to the Paoli Library, and other accessible places in Paoli, which is eminently walkable if the large majority of Tredyffrin perhaps is not. Main roads with 35+ mph speed limits like Valley Road, Lancaster, Conestoga, Irish road, Upper Gulph, etc. where local residents do walk do, i think, benefit from and need sidewalks. Not sure the more rural areas which are a mile from the town center and have 5 acre minimums have the same safety issues because theres nowhere to walk to, realistically, from there for most folks.

    Paoli Library is the poor stepchild of the library system, watching with jealous eye the resources lavishly deployed on the other libraries in the area . . . .

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