Jimmy Duffy’s Redevelopment Plan Requires Zoning Change … Is There Community Support?

UPDATE May 8, 2012: According to the township zoning officer, Matt Bauman, the Jimmy Duffy property is not 2 acres C-1 Commercial and .3 acres R-1 Residential as was stated by Ed Morris, the developer for the proposed project.

The property is a total of 2.069 acres containing 1.069 acres of C-1 Commercial and 1 acre of R-1 Residential. If the commercially zoned part  of the site was 2 acres as previously stated, the developer could probably just ask to change the C-1 zoning. But now it appears that Morris would need to ask for variance on both the C-1 and R-1 sections.

Taking the ‘amending the C-1 Commercial ordinance route’ to include assisted care facility would suggest that it is OK to construct this type of structure on 1 acre rather than the 10 acre minimum as is currently required under IO Institutional Overlay zoning district.  The Jimmy Duffy property actually only contains 10% of the property currently required for an assisted care facility.

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It has been 2-1/2 months since the players in the Jimmy Duffy’s redevelopment project last met publicly … but this Wednesday, May 9, 7 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building, they will take up where they left off with a town hall meeting.  What’s changed with the proposed plans for a multi-story assisted care facility? I don’t know if any of the plans have changed from the developers-side; it’s more about the fact-finding that has occurred with the Daylesford neighbors.  I will get to that, but first here is the abbreviated history on the project.

The decaying catering facility that once housed Jimmy Duffy’s is on Lancaster Avenue in Daylesford.  The 2.3-acre property is wedged between the Paoli Vetcare (the 2 properties share a parking lot) and a large new office building.  On and off over the years, the property has seen its share of redevelopment interest but most notably the 2006 proposed Arc Wheeler townhouse community.  That proposal, ‘Station Square’, called for the teardown of 14 single-family homes (in addition to Duffy’s) and the construction of 150+ residential units and retail space.  With much backlash from the neighboring Daylesford homeowners and many heated discussions, the developer eventually decided against further pursuit of that project.

Several years passed without any new suggestions for the Duffy site until last fall.  In September 2011, Capital Health Service and the project’s developer Ed Morris, presented sketch plans to Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission to redevelop the property as a multi-story assisted living facility.  Planning Commission minutes from September and October 2011, and January 2012 Board of Supervisors meeting minutes reference the discussion.  Here’s the sticky wicket for Capital Health and Ed Morris – the 2.3 acre Duffy property consists of 2 acres of C-1 zoning and .3 ac of R-1 zoning.  The C-1 Commercial District does not permit an assisted care facility as a usage; nor does R-1 Residential District.

The township does have zoning that permits residential care facilities – Institutional Overlay (IO) but the proposed Jimmy Duffy project would not comply with this ordinance – why?  The answer:  An IO zoning district requires a minimum of 10 acres and the Jimmy Duffy site has 2 acres. The applicant for the project could ask for a variance to the IO zoning, but 2 acres is not exactly close to minimum 10-acre requirement.  Under these conditions, would the township Zoning Hearing Board grant this type of variance request? My guess is that Capital Health Service and Ed Morris figured that their best shot at getting this project approved was to have the C-1 zoning district amended to include an assisted care facility as an acceptable use.

According to the January 2012 Board of Supervisors minutes, “The developer [Ed Morris] is drafting the language as qualified by the Planning Commission for the proposed amendment to the C1 zoning district that is under consideration by the Planning Commission at this time.” The minutes from the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors meetings, give the impression that the Daylesford neighbors were contacted and that their response favorable to the project. This is probably why Ed Morris et al received the green light to draft language for a zoning amendment change.

What’s the saying, the devil is in the details.  At the February 23 public meeting between the Daylesford Neighbors Association (DNA), Capital Health Service representatives and Ed Morris, the detail that the project’s success hinged on a zoning ordinance amendment change was not an obvious part of the discussion. The Daylesford neighbors focused their concerns on the height of the proposed building, lighting, traffic, trash, etc. but most attendees missed the greater issue – that a residential care facility was not permitted in C-1 zoning and that there was not sufficient property for IO zoning (remember, IO requires 10 acres and there’s only 2.3).  I admit that like the Daylesford neighbors, I too missed (or overlooked) the significance of what this project would require … the zoning amendment change. To say that the developer’s discussion at the February 23 meeting was ‘incomplete’ would be an understatement.

Fast forward since February and DNA residents have gone on a fact-finding mission to educate themselves on local zoning ordinances, C-1 Commercial, R-1 Residential, IO Institutional Overlay districts, conditional use and variances.  As a result, I think that the developer would better serve the neighbors if there were a full and fair presentation of the project at Wednesday’s meeting.  Ed Morris should come prepared to explain why the township should grant a C-1 zoning amendment change to include assisted care facility when the township already has the IO ordinance that includes this usage.  At 2.3 acres, the Jimmy Duffy property is off by an order of magnitude to meet the IO requirement of 10-acre minimum for this type of project.

Simply stated, the proposed Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project does not match up to the requirements of IO Institutional Overlay zoning requirements and is not currently included in C-1 use regulations.

If the township allows a developer to draft a C-1 Commercial ordinance amendment to fit his specific project, what does that say for future developers in Tredyffrin? Will they too be afforded that same opportunity? It is important for the community to encourage local economic development and redevelopment.  However, if a proposed project requires a zoning ordinance amendment, I ask for careful and thorough analysis. Although Wednesday’s town hall meeting is intended for those directly involved in the Jimmy Duffy redevelopment project (Daylesford neighbors, Capital Health Service representatives and the developer, Ed Morris), the ramifications of the actions taken in regards to this project are far-reaching for all future township development.

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Trisha Larkin, President of Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA) and her neighbors are circulating a “Petition to Oppose Ed Morris Proposal for Assisted Living Facility on Duffy Site”.  Click here for copy of petition.  According to the petition, the neighborhood members further state that “DNA opposes any FUTURE proposals that require zoning changes” for the Jimmy Duffy property.

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  1. Thanks for this update Pattye. Can you give us examples of what is permitted on the site? Sometimes it’s better to deal with the devil you know? Is the site sitting empty preferable?

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    Township Reader Reply:

    C-1 Commercial Districts are designed to encourage and provide for attractive, compact, retail convenience-type commercial development in locations close to the residents served.

    § 208-65. Use regulations.

    Land and buildings may be used or occupied for any of the following purposes and no other:
    A. Retail store, such as grocery store, drugstore, gift shop, hardware store or similar establishment designed primarily to serve the needs of the immediate neighborhood.

    B. Convenience store or gasoline station.

    C. Restaurant, coffee shop/tearoom or other place serving food or beverage.

    D. Office, agency or studio, including radio and television broadcasting station or studio and medical clinic building.

    E. Apartment(s) in combination with a permitted store or other business establishment.

    F. Bank or other financial institution.

    G. Personal service shop, including but not limited to barbershop, beauty shop, salon or spa, physical fitness facility, travel agency, dry-cleaning pickup agency, shoe repair shop and tailor.

    H. Specialty food shop where the merchandise sold is primarily of a specialized nature such as a bakery, confectionery, gourmet or cheese shop or ice cream parlor.

    I. Club or lodge.

    J. Township administrative building, community center, public library, fire or police station, bus shelter, railroad station.

    K. Manufacturer’s representative or catalog ordering establishment.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Thank you for providing the list of uses for C-1 Commercial zoning. As you see from the list, C-1 Commercial does not list as assisted care facility. Assisted care facility is covered under IO Institutional Overlay district which requires a 10 acre minimum. I have to believe that there was a reason that IO zoning required a minimum of 10 acres when this zoning was put in place. If a developer is ‘short’ by 80% of the required property for a proposed project, is it OK that we just change the zoning to suit the plan? Do I think that looking at a decaying, vacant building is OK — no, I don’t. But is squeezing an assisted care facility in too small a lot the answer? Trust me, if the property size was 6 or 7 acres versus 20% of C-1 zoning, that would be a different discussion. I actually suggested to the president of Daylesford Neighborhood Association to check with Eagle Bank (owners of the property) and see what the price is — maybe they neighborhood could purchase the property and make it tennis courts, park, playground, etc. That’s probably ‘pie in the sky’ thinking as the price tag would probably be prohibitive.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    Pattye I agree with you that its just too small for assisted living. Its appraised value may be out of reach for the neighbors, especially in this economy. Just my take though.

    From The West Reply:

    I think actually seeing the proposed plans for the assisted living facility would be the way to tell whether 2.3 acres is enough. Something like a Sunrise that is further up Route 30 would NEVER be right. But if they are proposing a small (for lack of a better term “boutique”) facility with very limited numbers, who knows? As you have said earlier, the devil is in the details.

  2. The DNA’s goal is to preserve our beautiful Daylesford community and do what is right for the Township. We don’t take zoning changes, amendments, special considerations, or variances lightly. We fear if Tredyffrin Twp. permits a zoning change to the Duffy Space, it could set precedent for zoning changes all across the Township. A case study for your consideration: In 2006, Lower Merion Twp. (Bala Cynwyd) changed zoning for a proposal that developer Ed Morris submitted originally intended for demolishing 2 single family homes to build a 21-unit luxury condo building. After failing to sell a single unit, Mr. Morris proposed to build an assisted living facility of about the same size/footprint on the site. Under the site’s residential zoning, he needed special exception approval to build a “home for the aged.” (Reference: Mainlinemedianews.com – article by Cheryl Allison on 6/17/09). In 2009, The Twp.’s zoning board concluded a series of hearings and Mr. Morris was permitted to scrap the condos and replace them with the “home for the aged”.

    If Tredyffrin Twp. greenlights this proposal and permits a builder to develop an assisted living facility on a 2 acre site that’s meant to be built on 10 acres, then is EVERY 2-acre plot in Tredyffrin Twp ALSO going to get “special consideration” for a high density (intense) use like this?? What’s the purpose of a zoning process if the Twp is then going to allow “special considerations” or “exceptions” at every turn? NO Zoning Changes. Period. We should protect our use regulations and savor what’s precious to our our community!

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  3. Thank you Pattye for bringing light to this issue.

    The real shame here to me is the track record this developer has set with the Tredyffrin community regarding his integrity. There were public mis-representations about neighborhood support, then when we started digging to learn about the project, it was shielded as though there was no plan or concept in place when it had been in place for months prior.

    When I thought we were working with a community partner early on in our conversations with Ed, I was able to yield my objections because there was an appearance of working together as he lowered the height to meet ordinance restrictions. He committed to me that his plan would meet with all local zoning rules with no changes required. On that commitment I backed off. Turns out that wasn’t nearly the case, and as someone who doesn’t live and breathe in the words of zoning and ordinances regularly, it just seems he’s tried one too many times to “pull the wool over our eyes.”

    I am disappointed. I’m sure Ed will be reading this prior to the meeting, and he should be ashamed of the lack of integrity shown in this project with the neighbors. At this point, what is said almost doesn’t matter, as I do not trust it any longer. I am unable to support a project that I cannot trust.

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  4. Tredyffrin Township and residents need to think creatively about this parcel which has been a vacant eyesore for years. Obviously any precedent setting zoning changes must be considered carefully as well as protection from undesirable future redevelopment.

    A quality Assisted Living facility does not need 10 acres. It can enhance a neighborhood, offer employment, and provide tax revenue. Case in point: I previously lived near a beautiful three story Victorian style Assisted Living facility which stood at the intersection of my cul-de-sac and a major road in a residential neighborhood – about 3 blocks from older commercial development similar to that along Rte 30. The building and land (including driveway, parking and lovely green outdoor space with huge trees and walking paths) required less than 2 acres. This facility was an attractive and preferable neighbor versus a standard retail establishment. It did not appear to harm home values – over the past decade, the average home value on this cul-de-sac rose from $300,000 to $700,000+. (Wish I could say that about my Tredyffrin home.) Let’s be open minded and creative while protecting our neighborhoods.

    [Reply]

    Tredyffrin Resident Reply:

    Too bad this project is not planned to be anything like that three story facility. The township cannot be giving zoning exemptions to everyone who asks for them.

    [Reply]

    TrishaLarkin Reply:

    Dear Tredyffrin Citizen:

    While we appreciate you adding to the discussion, please be aware that in Tredyffrin Twp, a builder actually DOES need 10 acres in which to build an assisted living facility.

    Please refer to Article XIII in the Zoning Requirements for the Institutional Overlay Districts. Easily accessed by logging on to http://www.tredyffin.org.

    208-45 – Use Requirements: 1) Assisted or personal care units

    § 208-46. Area, bulk, height and buffer regulations:

    Every building or use shall comply with the following requirements. In the case of a group or combination of buildings erected on a lot in accordance with a unified plan, the group as a unit shall comply.

    A. Lot area and width. The lot area shall not be less than 10 acres and the lot width shall not be less than 400 feet, with a minimum of 200 feet of frontage on an arterial highway or collector road as designated by the Township Comprehensive Plan, as amended from time to time.

    B. Height. The height of any building shall not exceed 42 feet. The height limitation may be allowed to be increased to a maximum of 45 feet for a three-story building if the design of the building maintains a residential character.

    As Grant (above) contributed, we’ve been listening to Mr. Morris (the builder) say he’s “giving concessions” to the neighbors by bringing down the height of the building from 5 stories, to 4 stories. Those were never his concessions to give! He couldn’t have built that high in the first place!! If we stick to Zoning FACTS, Assisted Living Facilities in Tredyffrin Twp. are zoned as IO. They require a minimum of 10 acres and a max of 3 stories. Period.

    As the President of the Daylesford Neighborhood Association (DNA), Mr. Morris’ integrity has been abysmal. If I conducted client interactions with similar business ethics and “truths”, I’d be in big trouble. Reputation is everything. Until the DNA banded together to sort through the facts and zoning requirements – we’ve only scratched the surface to see just how outlandish this proposal is from a process and zoning perspective! Simply stated, it doesn’t meet 80% of the zoning requirements. Period. If we start “spot zoning” (which is illegal), we’ll be directly violating the process which the Twp has deemed as being in the best interest of the community.

    Like Grant, I do not trust this builder. And I can’t expect the average reader here to fully understand what nonsense we’ve been through!

    FACT: The neighbors had a meeting at the YMCA on 2/23 with the builder. Mr. Morris said in front of a crowd of 40 people (including Trip Lukens of the Planning Commission and Mike Heaberg, Board of Supervisors) that he had not met with the Twp. about the proposal. However, when questioned how could that be true since several people in the room had ATTENDED those meetings and discussed his Assisted Living Facility proposal? Not to mention – I had printed meeting minutes from the 9/2011 and 10/2011 PC meeting!! Integrity down the drain. Done.

    Sorry “Tredyffrin Citizen”, I respectfully can NO LONGER be “open minded and creative” about Mr. Morris or his proposal. I don’t do business personally or professionally with those I don’t trust. The DNA looks forward to the Town Hall meeting tomorrow night to oppose this project.

    Thanks to all the Daylesford neighbors and concerned Tredyffrin Twp. residents for your supportive emails, phone calls and signed petitions! Keep them coming!!

    [Reply]

    Grant Reply:

    @TredyffrinCitizen: I too lived near a beautiful 3-story Victorian home that was transformed into what was sold to the community as an Assisted Living facility. It’s in Phoenixville off Coldstream Road. It turned into a very poorly run home for those God forgot overnight.

    I had to stop my car and get out three times within a year to assist elderly people who had strayed out and were wandering down this busy road, half naked. It was truly disturbing.

    The building proposed covers an absurd portion of the property, goes straight up on all sides offering no architectural beauty, because it has to. Why? Because in order to fit this type of facility with 80+ beds on this small a lot, it must look like an urban apartment building.

    I was not aware until I walked the neighborhood recently to discuss this issue with neighbors, but there are halfway homes already in use IN this neighborhood. If you think once a building like this is built, it could not be used for another similar purpose, think again.

    I completely agree we need to think creatively about what could feasibly be built on this site. That’s a problem. Duffy created a real issue for future owners by giving away easements all over the property. The bank is sitting on a liability, and I don’t care for the empty building; it is in terrible shape, and probably detracts from the neighborhood.

    However, it’s not up to the township to change it’s rules to satisfy a bank’s bad investment in the property. There are absolutely limited options for the site. Half of the site (the acreage info in the article above isn’t quite correct) is zoned R-1, yet that land is being used as part of the proposed plan. It’s a mess. I want to see redevelopment of this property – badly. I’d love something useful to the neighborhood there – heck, I’d consider investing in the right opportunity. However, this isn’t it.

    I encourage everyone able to come to the meeting tomorrow night to hear everything first hand, and offer your opinions directly to the neighbors and the Developer.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Isn’t it likely that an “assisted living” facility will end up with non-profit status, and therefore take this parcel OFF the tax roles?

    [Reply]

    Grant Reply:

    @Township Reader: That’s a good question, and one we hope will be flushed out at tomorrow night’s meeting. That question was posed to JD, the Township rep who helped arrange this meeting.

    [Reply]

    Tredyffrin Citizen Reply:

    Trisha and Grant,
    I hear your concerns about this particular developer and his plans. My point was that examples of quality assisted living facilities (not reconfigured homes) that require less than 2 acres do exist. (The one I cited has contributed to that neighborhood and paid taxes for 25+ years). Thus, blind adherence to limiting assisted living facilities to IO’s requiring 10 acres may limit Tredyffrin’s development opportunities.

    Personally, I’d prefer a quality assisted living facility in my backyard versus a gas station or bar.

  5. Please see update on the actual size and current zoning of Jimmy Duffy site added to the beginning of the article.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Two parcels on this site, both with Rte 30 frontage, one zoned C1 with the building and one zoned R-1 with the parking lot? What’s up, doc?

    Easements?

    Assisted living means old people wandering around half naked?

    Looks like another interesting town hall meeting upcoming!

    [Reply]

  6. Given the small size of the Duffy property, a compact, apartment-type building with limited parking and recreational/green space for its residents seems an unappealing and poor use of this property., IMHO.

    I can’t help but wonder: Is the developer’s plan designed to fill its tiny apartments with bed-ridden residents? Because they will have no safe place to walk if they leave the building…But then I suppose its investors are much more interested in the potential profit margin on this type of business – about 30%, according to Forbes.

    http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/28/merrill-lynch-assisted-living-ent-manage-cx_mf_0228assistcosts.html

    From the Township’s perspective, economic development means tax revenue. And we clearly need it to cover growing deficits. But are decision-makers a little too anxious to squeeze an attractive size 10 project into a size 2 “shoe”? Are there some influential special interests at work here?

    In the end, affected residents deserve to know the truth and be heard. Unfortunately, since Mr. Morris has a track record of switching projects and “misrepresenting ” the facts, DNA is justified in feeling they’ve been played.

    Tredyffrin Citizen believes an assisted living facility can “enhance a neighborhood”. Compared to what? The reality is that the Duffy property is a 2-acre commercial postage stamp in need of an appropriate-sized commercial project. Even if it doesn’t generate $5k a month for dozens of tiny spaces.

    [Reply]

  7. Tredyffrin Citizen: I understand your point, I just respectfully don’t agree with it. The Twp. has a process. IO, R1 and C1 zoning requirements exist for a reason. I hardly consider the DNA’s mission as “blind adherence”. We’ve been meeting for months, have spent countless nights, days and weekends exploring all options. IO exists to protect those living in the facility. R1 exists and should be treated as a precious resource along the Main Line.

    I don’t agree that IO’s requirements limit Tredyffrin’s development opportunities. Mr. Morris could take his proposal to an IO site where 10 acres exists. Geez, take it to a site where 8 acres exists….at least he’d be in the ballpark.

    Fundamentally, I have a problem with moving a parent into a site that would be “squeezed” on 1 acre of R1, 1 acre of C1, overlooking busy Route 30, and the coups de grace??? One whole side of the building would overlook Paoli Vet Care’s animal incinerator. How lovely. You don’t think that Mr. Morris would have a tough time selling that gorgeous view to his potential clients?? So again, what happens when he CAN’T sell the units, and we are left with the developer scrapping the whole assisted living plan to build condos or something worse?? When you change zoning, you lose leverage, power and control.

    Finally, if a gas station or bar wanted the space – they would’ve jumped at the chance years ago. Seriously, it’s bank-owned and I’m sure they’re dying to make something happen for pennies on the dollar. Lukoil and Olive Garden aren’t making offers because the easements, lack of parking, and opportunity aren’t there. Period.

    Just because Mr. Morris makes an absurd offer that doesn’t meet even 20% of the zoning, doesn’t mean that The Twp. (and the residents) should embrace it.

    Sorry Tredyffrin Citizen – we can respect each other’s differences. But I’m not buying what you or Ed Morris are selling. Ever.

    [Reply]

    Chet Reply:

    Your opinion about a gas station or a bar is unfounded. Unless you can read the minds of every commercial developer in the Delaware Valley, you can’t possibly know why developments like these have not yet happened, or if they will happen at some point in the future when the economy turns around. The reality is that they COULD be allowed at some point, despite your wishful thinking.

    [Reply]

    TrishaLarkin Reply:

    Chet, I appreciate you weighing in – I’m fully aware of what COULD be built on the space. Whether development occurs in today’s rough economy, or in the future, which we all hope will improve sooner than later. Trust me, I’ve analyzed the FACTS and I can recite C-1, R-1, & IO zoning in my sleep. I believe in a solid legal process and acting in the best interests of Daylesford and the Twp.

    As a “process” person, this proposal just doesn’t meet the basic requirements. If Tredyffrin Twp so easily circumvents its own policies as outlined in IO, then WHY have a Planning Commission in the first place? Several attorneys that I’ve spoken with have said this is starting to smell like the beginnings of spot zoning.

    Tonight’s Town Hall Meeting will serve as the perfect forum for us ALL to get better educated. My ONLY “wishful thinking”, Chet, is that we make rational decisions that benefit the residents. I also hope the BOS, PC and Zoning Board will follow through on a process that was implemented long before Ed Morris began keeping me up at night.

    [Reply]

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