Attending last night’s meeting between the Daylesford Neighborhood Association and the developers of the former Jimmy Duffy’s catering site was interesting. Representing the applicant for the project was Gerard Farrell, partner and general counsel for Capital Health Services along with the project’s attorney Denise Yarnoff and the developer Ed Morris of Morris Realty Advisors.
For the first hour plus, most of the 50+ neighbors listened intently as Ed Morris spoke of the planned redevelopment project, a residential care – assisted living facility. Morris repeatedly described the project as ‘beautiful’ and presented an aerial view of the proposed structure, the parking, neighboring buildings – the Vetcare on one side, a large office building on the other side and to the rear the Larkin’s residential property.
The focus of the questions was primarily centered on traffic concerns. Although Morris attempted to assure the residents that traffic from the proposed assisted living facility would enter and depart from Lancaster Avenue, many in the audience were not believers. From the rear of the Duffy property, there is an emergency exit onto Pennsylvania Avenue, which residents report is routinely used by employees of the adjacent office building. Pennsylvania and Glenn Ave. are quiet suburban township streets and residents suggest that there will be increased traffic due to shift changes of the workers employed by the assisted living facility.
In addition to the traffic concerns and the suggestion that perhaps, that Pennsylvania Avenue could somehow be blocked for use by the assisted living employees, other concerns surfaced including privacy issues, lighting, height and size of structure, parking, trash and trash removal, landscaping, etc. For the most part, the representatives for the proposed redevelopment project, did a good job of explaining and convincing the residents that they were listening to their concerns and delivering assurance that they will ‘work’ together with the neighbors for satisfactory solutions.
As I said, for the first hour plus, the presentation was going well and I thought most people were buying in to the project. I thought Morris sincere in his response to resident’s questions and concerns. In fact, satisfied by what they had heard, some residents began to leave the meeting. About this time, Trisha Larkin (the neighbor whose property is closest to this proposed redevelopment project) makes a statement that suggests Morris has not been entirely forthcoming or upfront with residents; and that this proposed redevelopment project has been going along for sometime without their knowledge. Morris would have been well served to say nothing but unfortunately, he decided to spin the story, claiming that a recent article [Community Matters] was incorrect and that he had not been to the township in regards to this project, etc.
I have never met Ed Morris and he obviously does not know who I am but there was no way I was going to sit there and let him suggest that I somehow misrepresented the redevelopment project in Community Matters. I explained to him and the audience, that I was the writer and that the information contained in the article was entirely accurate. The quotes contained in the article came directly from the meeting minutes of September and October 2011 Planning Commission meetings and the January 2012 Board of Supervisor meetings, which indicate discussion of the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project and presentation of sketch plans. (If you click on these links, you will see that the redevelopment project was formally presented to the Planning Commission along with sketch plans – the meeting minutes speak for themselves.)
This twisting or stretching of the facts by Ed Morris is obviously what has troubled the Larkin’s, and probably the reason that Trisha Larkin took up the cause to inform her neighbors of this project. In a matter of a couple of minutes, I went from completely supporting Ed Morris and his redevelopment plans, to fully appreciating the concerns of the neighbors.
For the record, I support an assisted living facility as a good use for this site, especially given all the far more invasive types of buildings that could go there, fast food, restaurant, bar, etc. I just wish that the developer had not turned a positive meeting with the neighbors into a situation that left me questioning his sincerity.
As I said yesterday on Community Matters, to maximize the potential for a successful redevelopment project such as what is being suggested for the Duffy site, it makes good business sense for the developer to engage and get ‘buy-in’ from those most affected – the neighbors. What I should have added is that this ‘buy-in’ from the most affected – the neighbors, needs to be with honest and open discussion from the developer.