Date – October 4, 2011

No Need for Written Request to St. Davids Golf Club to Build Sidewalks . . . Just a phone call! What happens if you get the answering machine!

I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting last night; primarily to see if the chapter on sidewalks (St. Davids) would finally be closed.  Each time I think that we have turned that corner; there is a new twist that slows the process.

Whether in the audience or watching from home, the ‘Resolution to adopt the Green Routes Pedestrian Network map’ was not without debate. Chairman Bob Lamina stated that they would divide the township into 3 parts for discussion – essentially the east, middle and the western areas.  A torturous process, discussion began with a ‘street by street’ review of the map, starting with the middle section and moving next to the western areas of the township.

The idea behind this resolution was to add a map to the new sidewalk ordinance passed at last month’s BOS meeting.  However, the difficulty and confusion among the supervisors was whether the map was to ‘only’ include roads that would be affected by the newly passed sidewalk ordinance, which in essence were areas of the township where possible commercial development could occur.  Or was the map to contain all suggested sidewalks, trails, etc. that were part of the green routes network as recommended by the special sidewalk subcommittee.

The debate on which sidewalks to include on the map heightened as the discussion moved to the eastern part of the township, specifically Conestoga and Upper Gulph Roads. Supervisor (Supervisor Olson suggested that sidewalks on Conestoga and Upper Gulph Roads be totally removed from the map.)  By the time the supervisors were at the point of voting on the resolution, I am certain many of us were confused as to what exactly was to be included on this ‘Green Routes Pedestrian Network’ map.  I believe that in the end, the supervisors voted 4-3 in favor of the map as presented by the sidewalk subcommittee.  (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong). With much fanfare, Supervisors Richter, Olson and Lamina voted against the resolution.  Richter used ‘storm water issues’ and ‘empty storefronts’ to explain her vote of opposition.

At this point in the meeting, with the map issue resolved, I expected that we would finally move past the sidewalk topic.  However, no, much to the surprise of  audience members (and some of the supervisors) Lamina made a new motion — for broader notification to the public when sidewalks were contained in future land development plans.  There was concern from some audience members that this discussion was not on the agenda and needed further discussion.  Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro questioned Lamina about the timing of the motion, suggesting that because the motion was formally written, that Lamina had sought legal counsel from the township solicitor in advance of the BOS meeting.  Lamina explained that the idea had come to him at lunch, while “eating his bologna sandwich”! Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Donahue voted against this motion, both believing further discussion was required.  However, the motion did pass 5-2.

Surely, there could be nothing further to say on the topic of sidewalks in Tredyffrin Township.  Not so fast.   Stating that there was some ‘housecleaning’ needed, DiBuonaventuro offered a motion to remove the moratorium on the building of sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The ‘hold’ dated back to the February 22, 2010 supervisors meeting.  Now at this point, I was completely confused.

If you have been following Community Matters, you will note that after last month’s supervisors meeting, I sent a couple of emails to Mimi Gleason, our township manager (copied the BOS and Tom Hogan, township solicitor).  I wanted to understand the next step in the St. Davids sidewalk saga and assumed that since the sidewalk ordinance had passed, the township staff now had the green light to move on enforcement of the sidewalks contained in any open land development agreements (including St. Davids).  I had received the following response from Gleason, which I posted last week on Community Matters,

Before sending letters, the Township now will contact any of the property owners with approved plans that inquired about the need to install sidewalks. They will be informed that they no changes were made to the ordinance that changes anything for their plans. Enforcement proceedings will commence only if they refuse to install the sidewalks.

Based on Gleason’s email response to me, I was completely confused as to why DiBuonaventuro’s motion was necessary but OK; let’s tie up any loose ends.

However, the vote to move St. Davids Gold Club sidewalks along in the process did not come easily.  Again, much discussion, primarily from Olson, who claimed that the township should take the $50,000 that St. Davids Golf Club, had offered not to build the sidewalks . . . further suggesting that St. Davids would instead give the $50K to the fire companies.

There was no way that I was going to let his remarks stand as anywhere close to accurate.  For the public record last night, I stated that (1) St. Davids Golf Club had not offered to give $50K to the fire company and (2) there was never any written offer from St. Davids. The $50K ‘offer’ from St. Davids Golf Club not to build the sidewalks was contained in the 2009 BAWG report but was never substantiated!  To perpetuate misinformation is simply wrong – bringing up the $50K offer from St. Davids was as if the township clock was turned back 20 months! Eventually DiBuonaventuro’s motion passed 6-1 (Olson the sole dissenting vote).

I then asked Gleason about the staff notification process to St. Davids re the sidewalks.  Based on her earlier email to me, I was concerned and was of the opinion, that such a request to St. Davids Golf Club should be ‘in writing’.  No, she explained, the staff would call St. Davids Golf Club and ask them to build the sidewalks.  I said should not there be a paper trail of the notification – how does one track a phone call?  Although she insisted that this was township procedure, I asked how was the public to know if the call was made.  I suggested that no one could ever make a ‘right to know’ request over a telephone call.  Bottom line . . . short of asking the question, “Did you phone St. Davids?” at every supervisors meeting, the public will not know.  I asked what the timeline was for the phone call – I believe her response was, in the next 30 days.

It strikes me odd that after 20 months of St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk debate, the request for St. Davids to complete their 6-year-old land development agreement is not done in writing but with a phone call.

Wonder what happens if the township person calling St. Davids gets their answering machine . . . leave a message and assume that the right person gets it?  Wow . . . is this really how local government works?

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