St. Davids Golf Club

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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Do all Roads in Tredyffrin Lead to Sidewalks?

Although there was a 5-2 vote to approve the revised sidewalk ordinance at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, confusion over sidewalks still reigns.  I think many would agree had there never been a BAWG report that suggested there was a $50,000 offer from St. Davids Golf Club not to build their ‘agreed upon’ and ‘contracted for’ sidewalks, we would not be where we are today.  (To clarify, the $50K offer was not in writing and never substantiated).

For the last 21 months in Tredyffrin Township, it is as if all roads lead to sidewalks.  The debate over whether St. Davids Golf Club would be required to build their contracted sidewalks has reigned supreme.  A sidewalk subcommittee was formed and for over a year, held public hearings, received resident input, conducted surveys, etc. The results of the sidewalk subcommittee were presented earlier this year to the Board of Supervisors; indicating that the majority of the residents responding favored sidewalks, bike trails, etc. in the township.

The Board of Supervisors instructed the Planning Commission to draft a new sidewalk ordinance.  After several months of discussion and review, the Planning Commissioners presented a sidewalk ordinance proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors agreed that the new sidewalk ordinance would have no bearing on the 8 currently open land development agreements that contained sidewalk requirements (including St. Davids Golf Club).

For those that attended the supervisors meeting or watched from home, the confusion over the sidewalk ordinance continued to reign supreme.  Although the new ordinance passed 5-2, (Lamina and Olson the dissenting votes) there remains the open issue of the sidewalk ‘map’.  The sidewalk ordinance passed but without a map indicating the sidewalk requirements.  Discussion of the sidewalk map is apparently on the agenda for Monday’s supervisors meeting.  However, there was some discussion from Lamina at the last supervisors meeting, that it may be his intention to go through the map, ‘road by road’ to decide the fate of sidewalks.

Wanting to understand the next step in the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk saga, I sent a couple of emails to Mimi Gleason, our township manager.  I assumed that since the sidewalk ordinance had passed, the township staff now had the green light to move on enforcement of the sidewalks in any open land development agreements (including St. Davids).  I received the following email from Mimi:

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 response, can we assume that by now St. Davids Golf Club has been contacted.  I am not sure why there was an interim step ‘to contact’ vs sending the letter and will seek clarification.  I will also ask what is timeline for a response before the enforcement letter is sent.  After all the issues surrounding the sidewalks, I think it would be important to have a paper trail in place.

So . . . will St. Davids now build their required sidewalks?  Or . . .  will the country club wait it out, in hopes that their road will somehow disappear from the yet-to-be-approved township sidewalk map? Let’s hope that St. Davids will do what they contractually agreed to do.  How long has it been – 5 or 6 years?

In a letter to the editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban, Tory Snyder, a Planning Commissioner and the chair of the special sidewalk subcommittee, gives an outline of the new sidewalk ordinance. As full disclosure, she indicates that she is a Board of Supervisors candidate in the East District. For folks that may not know, Snyder (D) is running against Paul Olson (R).

The following is excerpted from Snyder’s letter to the editor:

The facts of the newly adopted ordinance are as follows:

  • Sidewalks will be required on about 14 miles of Tredyffrin roads. The current ordinance requires sidewalks on all Tredyffrin roads.
  • All but one of the roads affected by the ordinance are major roads on which pedestrian safety is an issue. None of the roads are local roads per PennDOT or the Township Comprehensive Plan. Within the last two years a child walking along one of these roads with no sidewalks was hit by a car.
  • All roads affected by the ordinance provide needed pedestrian linkages to and from specific destinations, including schools, libraries, parks, train stations and shopping centers.
  • By nature of its location in the Subdivision and Land Development code, ONLY developers of non-residential and multi-unit residential properties would be required to build the sidewalks. Homeowners improving their own properties would not be subject to the sidewalk requirement.

This information lays out the facts and corrects some of the misleading and incorrect information that has been presented.

A planner by profession, Snyder further explains in her letter, “All 12 municipalities within a 25-mile radius of Tredyffrin require sidewalks in their subdivision and land-development codes. Almost all of these codes are stricter than the measured and balanced approach offered by the newly adopted ordinance. Were Tredyffrin to exclude a sidewalk requirement from its code, there would be no plan to add needed sidewalks in the future, and the entire cost of building any sidewalks would be transferred directly to the taxpayers.”

Stay tuned . . . the sidewalk saga continues at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

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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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Tredyffrin Twp Sidewalk Saga Continues Tonight . . . Are we moving one step closer to sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club (or not)?

Tonight is Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting and a public hearing on sidewalks will follow the meeting. Continuing from July’s public hearing, the discussion continues the review of the proposed sidewalk amendment change to the township’s land development ordinance.

Supervisors John DiBuonaventuro, Michelle Kichline and Mike Heaberg agreed at last month’s public hearing that the proposed ordinance change should only affect prospective land development agreements, not pre-existing land development agreements. The sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club are in the ‘pre-existing land development agreement’ category and therefore would be exempt from the proposed amendment change, at least according to DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Heaberg. Supervisors Paul Olson and EJ Richter appear to be committed to the notion that sidewalks are not needed (or desired) at the St. Davids location. Supervisors Bob Lamina and Phil Donahue were absent at the last meeting, so I look forward to learning whether they support excluding pre-existing land development agreements from the proposed sidewalk ordinance change.

Regardless of the determination on the proposed sidewalk ordinance change, here’s hoping that we can look forward to resolution on all eight outstanding land development agreements which contain sidewalks (including St. Davids!).

On August 2, I wrote “Tredyffrin Township Needs an Economic ‘Call for Action’ from its Elected Officials”. The post discussed the township’s economic climate, closing of local businesses and empty storefronts. As follow-up to the post, I emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting an official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center and also on the Economic Development Committee which was approved at the April 4th Board of Supervisors meeting. I can report that I received a response from township manager Mimi Gleason – and we can look forward to a status report on these two important topics at tonight’s BOS meeting.

In reviewing the agenda for the BOS meeting, I’m curious about a couple of items:

Approval for Transportation and Community Development Initiative grant for zoning ordinance update

Review and comments for Willistown Township’s official map

I wonder if both of these items are related to the Paoli Transportation Center — I’m not sure why Tredyffrin Twp should be reviewing Willistown Twp’s map?  Unless there is some confusion as to township lines as it relates to the Paoli Transportation Center? 

One other township note – next Monday, August 22 the Board will begin the 2012 budget process with a public workshop, 7 PM in Keene Hall.

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Tredyffrin’s proposed sidewalk amendment is separate and apart from St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks . . . so agree Supervisors Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Kichline

I think that we’re making progress on the sidewalk saga of St. Davids Golf Club. Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting marked the first of multi-public hearings planned to review the township’s proposed sidewalk amendment change to the land development ordinance. 

If you recall, sidewalk discussion in the township began 19 months ago (December 2009) over St. Davids Golf Club and their pre-existing land development agreement to build sidewalks.  Although the Planning Commission had repeatedly rejected appeals by the country club not to build the sidewalks contained in their agreement with the township, some supervisors did not support the building of the sidewalks.  At that time, there was much heated debate between supervisors and residents, including the threat of a lawsuit against the township.  Less than favorable headlines marked this dark time in Tredyffrin history. 

Because of the turmoil created by the St. Davids sidewalk issue, a special sidewalk subcommittee was formed which met monthly for over a year.  The subcommittee gathered public input, held public meetings and conducted a resident survey.  They reviewed the “Green Routes Network”, pedestrian and bicycle network and applicable sidewalks requirements.

I attended the sidewalks subcommittee meetings and the group unanimously approved to send their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Their recommendations (including the sidewalks at St. Davids) were presented to the Board of Supervisors – earlier this year, the supervisors voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the sidewalk subcommittee.

The supervisors asked the Planning Commission to review the sidewalk subcommittee recommendations and create a new sidewalk amendment for the land development ordinance. After Planning Commission input, the proposed sidewalk amendment was sent back to the supervisors for discussion through a public hearing, which brings us to last night.

I should mention that supervisors Phil Donahue and Bob Lamina were absent for last night’s supervisors meeting and public hearing.  As vice chair of the Board of Supervisors, Paul Olson presided over the meeting and the public hearing.  Mimi Gleason presented a slide presentation on the proposed sidewalk amendment as an overview before turning it over the supervisors for questions and comments. 

First to offer his comments, Mike Heaberg remarked that he was of the opinion that the ordinance change should only affect prospective land development agreements, not pre-existing land development agreements.  John DiBuonaventuro agreed with Heaberg, suggesting that the amendment change should focus on future projects. Likewise, Michelle Kichline agreed with Heaberg and DiBuonaventuro. EJ Richter did not state an opinion on this issue but Olson repeatedly commented that sidewalks cost taxpayers money.  Olson asked Steve Burgo how many additional miles of sidewalks could be built in the township, and followed that question with how much would it cost to build the sidewalks.  Gleason quickly injected that the sidewalks would only be built as areas are developed and included in land development agreements.  She explained that taxpayers do not pay for the sidewalks – sidewalks are part of subdivision and non-residential land development plans and developers are responsible for those costs.

It was as if Olson did not understand Gleason or refused to accept her information.  The entire sidewalk amendment discussion continued to be laced with Olson’s talking about ‘sidewalks to nowhere’ and that there were better uses of taxpayer money, etc.  It was then the public’s turn to speak. 

Tory Snyder, who chaired the sidewalk subcommittee and is a member of the planning commission, very succinctly explained the Green Routes network and how the sidewalks, bicycle paths and trails fit into the overall master plan of the township.  Although it was clear from Snyder that developers pay the cost of sidewalks, etc. in their land development agreements, Olson refused to accept the information and continued to remark about the state of the economy and that taxpayers could not afford to pay for sidewalks.

It was frustrating to listen to the discussion of supervisors and then members of the public of the pros and cons of sidewalks in the township – it was as if time had stood still and we were back in December of 2009, rehashing it all over again. The only difference between December 2009 and July 2011 is that no one mentioned the ‘elephant in the room’ – the sidewalks at St. Davids. 

Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Kichline stated, that they were of the opinion that the proposed sidewalk amendment change should be for prospective development only, but did not specifically use the words ‘St. Davids’.  Although there are currently eight open land development projects in the township (which include sidewalks in their agreement) clearly, St. Davids is the long-standing open sidewalk issue, stemming back years and what many believe is the impetus to amend the township’s sidewalk ordinance.

Unable to sit any longer, I needed clarification – specifically on the St. Davids sidewalk issue.  I asked and received confirmation from DiBuonaventuro, Heaberg and Kichline that their opinion was that the sidewalks at St. Davids were separate and apart from the proposed sidewalk amendment. Kichline clarified further that the eight open land development projects (including St. Davids) would not be affected by the proposed amendment change.  These supervisors reiterated that the proposed sidewalk amendment should be for prospective developments, not pre-existing agreements.

I then turned by question about St. Davids sidewalk to Olson and Richter.  Olson repeated that these sidewalks at St. Davids were ‘sidewalks to nowhere’ and that people didn’t want them.  He further suggested to me that would not it be better to take the money for the sidewalks at St. Davids and give it to the fire company.  At this point, Kichline jumped in to tell Olson that his suggestion was ‘illegal’ – you cannot transfer money from one organization to another.   

I prefaced my question to Richter by pointing out, that as a member of the sidewalk subcommittee, that she voted in favor of the subcommittee’s recommendations which included sidewalks at St. Davids.  Her response was that she viewed that recommendation as a ‘starting point’.  When I pressed her about the sidewalks at St. Davids, her response was that she was ‘neutral’What does that mean? You believe either that St. Davids sidewalks should be considered in the proposed ordinance change or you do not.  As I suggested to her, a ‘yes or no’ response was what I was looking for – but I received ‘neutral’.

So where do we stand on this topic?  Summing up, the eight pre-existing land development agreements should be separate and apart as agreed by DiBuonaventuro, Heaberg and Kichline.  No was from Olson and a ‘neutral’ from Richter.  I asked the supervisors where we go with this and Kichline offered that she thought that Phil Donahue and Bob Lamina should weigh in at the August meeting. 

The August BOS meeting will mark 20 months since this saga began and I think we are all ready for final resolution. I would like to see (1) a vote that the proposed sidewalk amendment is for prospective development only (the eight pre-existing land development agreements are separate from this amendment) and (2) a vote to enforce the construction of sidewalks contained in the pre-existing land development agreements.

It has been years since St. Davids Golf Club signed the land development agreement with the township and now the conditions of the contract need to be enforced.  As a community, we need to close this chapter!

Kudos to Kichline, DiBuonaventuro and Heaberg . . . great progress last night and I am looking forward to final resolution in August.

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What’s the meaning of ‘Good Government’? Does it Mean Something Different in Tredyffrin?

“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government.”

                        ~ Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809

According to Wikipedia, “Good Government is a normative description of how government is supposed to be constituted.” Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting left me shaking my head and wondering about ‘good government’ in Tredyffrin.  Wanting to believe in our elected officials and hoping that their decisions are in the best interest of our community, there were times during the meeting that I questioned the supervisors intentions.

The Board of Supervisors decided to delay the public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance for another month.  Why?  Eighteen months ago, dark clouds hung over this township as the St. Davids Golf Club land development agreement with Tredyffrin was put ‘on hold’ pending the results of a special sidewalk subcommittee.  Township officials came under public scrutiny . . . with the newspaper headlines questioning the intentions of the BAWG report and the motives of some supervisors. It was a particularly dark time in our local history.

The land development contract between St. Davids Golf Club and the township is 6 years old.  Four times representatives from the country club appeared before the township’s Planning Commission seeking relief from constructing the required walkway – and each time the planning commissioners choose to deny their request and uphold the terms of the land development contract.

After a yearlong special sidewalk subcommittee process, their report included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The supervisors voted to accept the sidewalk subcommittee report and instructed the planning commissioners to draft an amendment to the sidewalk ordinance which included an ‘in lieu of’ sidewalk fund.  The Planning Commission members complied with the request and presented the draft ordinance, which was scheduled for public hearing last night.  The supervisors decided to cancel that public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance and move it to the July meeting.  Why?

We learned last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting that rather than honoring their vote of a few months ago to leave the land development authority in the hands of the Planning Commission, a new township land development process was presented.  As discussed last night, the supervisors will now review the multiple phases of a land development plan, rather than simply the end product.  Although it was suggested that the supervisors would only review the ‘larger’ projects or plans that required legislative authority, aside from the additional time and cost to developers for an additional review process, I could not help but think that this was just another way to once again delay the St. Davids walkway discussion.

Why is every decision related to the sidewalk ordinance amendment predicated on the best interests of this private country club? 

A June township public hearing for the sidewalk ordinance is scheduled and advertised at a cost to taxpayers and then that hearing is cancelled, and rescheduled at additional cost.  Why?

The supervisors state that they need more time to review the sidewalk ordinance. Why?  So as to have more time to come up with additional ways not to uphold the contract with St. Davids Golf Club.  Why don’t the supervisors just state that they have no intention of enforcing the land development contract with St. Davids?  Wouldn’t that be more honest?

I have said repeatedly, this issue is not about sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  This is about a signed land development contract with the township; and the reasons why a wealthy country club isn’t required to comply with the conditions of the contract.  I would bet if the township land development contract was with a private individual or another developer – they would be forced to comply with the conditions of the contract.  Six years – and the country club continues to get a pass . . . why?

Is this ‘Good Government’ in Tredyffrin Township?

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What Does the EIT Tax Study Group and Sidewalks at St. Davids Have in Common?

Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting is tonight, 7:30 PM at the township building.  The T/E School Board’s Finance Committee meeting is also tonight, 7:30 PM at the school administration building.  Looking at the agendas for both meetings, there are topics of interest.

According to the agenda for the Finance Committee meeting, the nine members of the EIT Tax Study Group are to be named at tonight’s meeting.  There were at least 150 applications received from residents by the June 15 deadline.  The selection criteria for members of the tax study group was agreed upon by school board members attending last week’s Public Information committee meeting.  It is the intention of the school board that those residents chosen to serve on the tax study group will represent a cross-section of Easttown and Tredyffrin residents.

In addition to the EIT Tax Study Group on tonight’s agenda, I noted with interested that the Finance Committee will present the custodial outsourcing bid results. It is understood that the recently passed 2011-12 school budget includes continued custodial service provided by the non-instructional union, TENIG.  For public information, it is important that the school district release the results of the custodial outsourcing bid process.  Going forward, it may not be economically possible for TESD to continue to retain TENIG for custodial services and the bid results will offer a starting point for future contract considerations.  I am glad that the school board decided to release the outsourcing bid results.

The long-awaited public hearing on the proposed sidewalk amendment and sidewalk fund ordinance was scheduled for tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  The homepage of the township’s website still lists the sidewalk public hearing; however, the public hearing is off tonight’s agenda and has been postponed until July 18.  I am not sure why the public hearing has been postponed . . .  the 2010 sidewalk subcommittee presented their results to the supervisors several months ago, the planning commissioners have completed their proposed sidewalk ordinance, and the supervisors have received the Planning Commission’s sidewalk ordinance recommendations.  So why postpone the public hearing? 

Any discussion of sidewalks in Tredyffrin brings up the elephant in the room . . . and that would be the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club (actually it’s not a sidewalk, but a walkway!).  How many years ago was the original land development agreement signed between Tredyffrin Township and St. Davids signed?  Answer:  6 years; the agreement was signed in 2005.  How many times did St. Davids Golf Club go the Planning Commission seeking relief from building the sidewalks and how many times was their request denied?  I think the answer is 4 requests and 4 times denied.

In December 2009, the Board of Supervisors voted to name a yearlong sidewalk subcommittee to review the sidewalks, trails and paths throughout the township and to make recommendations for where they should be in the township.  After a year of meetings, the subcommittee presented their report earlier this year; and the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club was included on their list.  Next, the supervisors instructed the planning commissioners to review the sidewalk ordinance and make a recommendation for an amendment to include a ‘Sidewalk Fund.’  The Planning Commission complied – the work is now completed and their recommended ordinance amendment now rests with the supervisors.

This takes us down ‘Memory Lane’ but brings us back to the starting point, which is where do we stand on the sidewalk at St. Davids Golf Club?  To be clear, the existing land development agreement between the township and St. Davids is separate and apart from any proposed township sidewalk amendment ordinance.  For the last eighteen months, the St. Davids sidewalk has remained an open issue and I believe that the time has come for the township to enforce their land development agreement with St. Davids. 

Here’s hoping that the Board of Supervisors agree and that the St. Davids sidewalk issue can be put to rest, once and for all . . . at tonight’s meeting.  The township’s elected officials need to enforce the 6-year old land development agreement with St. Davids and require the construction of the walkway. 

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Random Files: short news updates

Tredyffrin’s Special Election Results . . . Chester County Voter Services completed the hand count of the Duffy/Heaberg Special Election ballots from the May 17 primary a couple of weeks ago.  Originally, the count indicated Heaberg ahead by 3 votes but a provisional ballot for Duffy was found; 2 votes currently separate the candidates.  Due to many malfunctioning voting machines countywide, it is my understanding that voter services has been working overtime to certify the election results by the 30-day deadline on June 17.  Look for the results to be certified early this week; word has it that alignment issues with Republican ballots heads the list of possible reasons for the problem.  Does make you wonder about prior close elections . . .  here’s hoping that whatever the problem, it is thoroughly researched (and corrected) prior to November’s general election.

Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook Shopping Center . . . Empty for a year, we had heard that the Bottom Dollar Grocery chain was going to take the vacant space but that offer fell through. The next development in March of this year, Centro Properties sold 588 shopping centers (including Chesterbrook) to private equity giant, Blackstone Group for $9.4 billion. Although the lease sign remains on Genuardi’s, there has been recent movement in the last few days.  Paul Prestia, a local attorney with Ratner Prestia in Westlakes is floating an idea to the community to create a food co-op in the former Genuardi’s space.  Using a model similar to Swarthmore Co-op, www.swarthmore.coop/ it would specialize in locally sourced and organic food. This is an interesting redevelopment idea for the Chesterbrook Shopping Center and I will be curious to see if it develops further.

Brian O’Neill . . . the King of Prussia developer behind the Uptown Worthington project in Malvern is back in the news.  The O’Neill Properties vs. Citizens Bank trial is slated to begin in December and O’Neill has dramatically reduced his original $billion+ demands down to $297 million. Once the parties reach a settlement, construction is expected to get underway again at  Worthington.  O’Neill’s vision remains for Uptown Worthington – the ‘Center City of Great Valley’.  His vision will require more than the current two stores, Wegnman’s and Target, on the 100+ acres.

T/E School Budget . . . The TESD school board makes the final 2011-12 budget vote on Monday night, June 13, 7:30 PM, Conestoga High School.  Property tax increase is projected at 3.8%.  Click here for the agenda.

EIT Tax Study Group . . . Applications are still being accepted from Tredyffrin and Easttown residents for the TESD EIT Tax Study Group – deadline for applications is Wednesday, June 15.  The TESD Public Information meeting is Tuesday, June 14 and the selection process will be discussed. There are to be 9 committee members chosen and my understanding is that 100 applications have been received to date.  Click here for the application. The success of the tax study group depends on a non-political selection process and committee membership.

HARB no more . . . As of the May Board of Supervisors Meeting, the Tredyffrin’s Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) was replaced by a Historic Commission.  With an expanding mission to protect historic properties in the township, I was pleased that supervisors showed their support of preserving the township’s historic resources with a unanimous vote.  I am expecting great things from our new commission, and am excited to be part of it.

Planning Commission – Where’s the Sidewalk Ordinance amendment on your agenda . . . I was very surprised to see that the sidewalk ordinance discussion is off this week’s Planning Commission agenda.  The proposed ordinance amendment establishes the criteria for the requirement to construct sidewalks and establish a fee in lieu of construction procedure and is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday, June 20.  Having attended the last Planning Commission meeting, it appeared commissioners had not reached a consensus on the ordinance, so why is it off the agenda for their meeting?

For those that may have forgotten, the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk issue remains outstanding since December 2009. The land development agreement between the township and St. Davids requiring sidewalks is now 4 or 5 (?) years old and yet the clock continues to tick (and tick, and tick).  Whose responsibility is to enforce the sidewalks at St. Davids?  It is now eighteen months since the St. Davids sidewalk issue was ‘set aside’ by Tredyffrin’s supervisors and, to date there remains no resolution in the matter. 

Is the sidewalk issue going to be the 2011 supervisor campaign issue, as the 422 issue was to the  2010 State House race?  Adding a new twist to the continuing sidewalk saga, supervisor Paul Olson (R) is up for re-election from the eastern district. Having served as supervisor for 30 years, he is on record as opposing the St. Davids sidewalk; proclaiming it the ‘sidewalk to nowhere’.  Olson’s opponent in the supervisor race, Tory Snyder (D) is a Planning Commissioner and served as chair of the sidewalks subcommittee.  She supports the green routes network and the sidewalks component of the township’s comprehensive plan.  Olson and Snyder are scheduled to square off against each other in November’s general election.

Valley View Shopping Center . . . If you haven’t driven down this section of 252 lately, you might be surprised at the level of activity.  The redevelopment of the old Bargain Bookstore is well underway; it appears that they are gutting both floors of the building for a new branch of Mealey’s Furniture. In the same shopping center, the old Charlie Brown Restaurant is undergoing much change for its transformation in to a new McKenzie Brew House.  Originally slated for completion in September, signs point that the microbrewery is on schedule.

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Sidewalks on Tredyffrin’s Supervisors Meeting Agenda: Translation . . . Does St. Davids Golf Club Build its Sidewalks?

The agenda for tonight’s supervisors meeting in Tredyffrin will include a presentation by PennDOT and the PA Turnpike regarding the start of 202 construction and the Rt. 29 slip ramp construction. The slip ramp construction got underway last week so I look forward to a review of the time for that project and for 202.

The agenda lists the scheduling of two public hearings, (1) an ordinance to create new regulations for historic preservation and (2) to consider amendments to sidewalk requirements in subdivision and land development plans.

Members of the township HARB and Planning Commission have worked on creating an ordinance to protect historic properties in the township for two years.  In reviewing my HARB minutes, there was discussion as early as March 2009 recognizing the need.  Much discussion and many joint meetings has taken place between HARB, Planning Commission and township staff.  I am thrilled to see the work of many community volunteers now move forward.

Scheduling of the other public hearing – amendments to sidewalk ordinance.  It’s fascinating that 16 months post-BAWG report and St. Davids Golf Club, the mention of sidewalks in Tredyffrin reminds us of the open St. Davids sidewalk issue.  Recalling the history, the land development agreement between St. Davids Golf Club and the township requires the building of sidewalks.  Rather than enforce the land development requirement, the supervisors decided last year to create a sidewalk subcommittee to examine the needs and interest in sidewalks in Tredyffrin. 

Fast forward to April 2011 and where does the township stand on sidewalks and the open issues surrounding the land development agreement with St. Davids Golf Club to build sidewalks?  Last month, the sidewalk subcommittee presented their results, which included an overwhelming resident interest in sidewalks, trails and bike paths in the township.  The sidewalks subcommittee confirmed the Green Routes Network plan included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The results of last month’s public hearing to consider changing final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors included a supervisors vote for the Planning Commission to retain this authority.  So where does the township stand on St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk requirement?  What really has changed in the last 16 months?  

This morning, I was copied on a public email from John Petersen to township solicitor Tom Hogan (which also copied the Board of Supervisors and Mimi Gleason) inquiring on the “status of St. Davids”.  Petersen’s email included the following:

“ . . . St. David’s has always had the obligation to build the sidewalks. At best, over the past year, there has been a forbearance on that obligation. It would appear that the status quo is firmly in place. By that, I mean that the sidewalk plan as promulgated in the master plan is still in effect. Second, the PC [Planning Commission] has retained full land development authority. That said, the St. David’s obligation was always in place. i.e., it was pre-existing contract. Therefore, no matter what was done on a prospective basis, it would have no effect on the St. David’s obligation. The same conclusion would have applied a year ago. . . St. David’s has two choices. 1 – build the sidewalks per their land development obligation. 2 – pay the township the full cost to build the sidewalks as per the land development obligation . . . So again I ask, what is the BOS going to do?”

I am curious to see if the elephant in the room (St. Davids land development agreement) is discussed at the supervisors meeting tonight.  As much as some people would like the sidewalk issue at St. Davids Golf to just ‘go away’, unless there is a decision, the issue remains open.  Will our elected officials enforce the land development agreement with St. Davids and require the sidewalks to be built . . . ?   As Petersen says, “. . . What is the BOS going to do?” 

The community needs closure on the St. Davids sidewalk issue; will that happen at tonight’s supervisors meeting? Stay tuned.

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Sometimes Life Surprises You and the Right Thing Happens . . . the Planning Commission to Retain Land Development Authority in Tredyffrin!

Following tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting was a scheduled public hearing to discuss land development authority.  The Board of Supervisors were holding this initial public hearing to consider an ordinance amendment to change final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors.  As the public hearing began, chair of the supervisors, Bob Lamina excused himself to leave for the airport. With Lamina’s departure, vice chair Paul Olson became ‘acting’ chair in his absence.  Lamina’s last words as he departed were that he anticipated that this was an initial public meeting and the discussion would continue in the fall. 

Lamina reminded the audience that a final decision on land development authority would not take place until after the review and approval of the township sidewalk ordinance. (Some have suggested that the timing of this land development authority ordinance change is directly related to the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk decision by the Planning Commission).

Township Manager Mimi Gleason offered a background of why the land development authority was given to the Planning Commission some twenty-five years ago.  Interesting to note that Tredyffrin Township is the only municipality where land development rests with the Planning Commission versus the Board of Supervisors.

Prior to tonight’s public hearing, Supervisors Kichline, Heaberg and Richter met with supervisors from Upper Merion and Easttown Townships to discuss how they handle their planning authority process.  Kichline reported that these other municipality supervisors suggested that there was not ‘right or wrong’ way to handle land development authority.

Audience members were invited to comment on the proposed land development authority change. Trip Lukens, vice chair of the Planning Commission offered remarks from last week’s Planning Commission meeting.  At their meeting, planning commissioners had decided rather than create an ordinance change; they would wait until the outcome of tonight’s public hearing.  Other residents in attendance offered their opinion.  One after another, they all said the same thing in a variety of ways . . . “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.  Former supervisor Judy DiFilippo also spoke in favor of leaving the land development authority with the Planning Commission.  In other words, all those in attendance who spoke, completely supported the Planning Commission retaining final land development authority.

After audience members had all spoken in favor of leaving the land development authority process ‘as is’ with the Planning Commission, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro declared that he did not understand ‘why’ the Board of Supervisors was having this discussion and that as a supervisor ‘he’ was not interested in taking back land development authority.  DiBuonaventuro said that there were many other important issues facing the township that needed his attention and that Planning Commission should retain this authority.

After much discussion on the topic from each supervisor, Supervisor Kichline made a motion to end the public hearing on the planning authority ordinance change; Supervisor Donahue seconded the motion.  Left in charge of the public hearing by Chairman Lamina and probably realizing that he was losing the battle for further discussion, Supervisor Olson suggested the supervisors just wait on this vote and have further discussion.  Supervisor Richter agreed with Olson but the other supervisors were committed to forcing a vote to end the public hearing. 

With a roll call vote, Supervisors Kichline, Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Donahue voted to leave the land development authority with the Planning Commission and Olson and Richter voted against the motion. This vote removed any further discussion on the topic.

I believe that Bob Lamina was the driving force behind this ordinance change to place final land development authority back in the hands of the Board of Supervisors  . . .  and he left for the airport thinking that this public hearing tonight was nothing more than an ‘initial’ meeting with further discussion to come. He  could never have expected this outcome!

Sometimes life surprises you and the right thing happens . . . tonight was one of those occasions! The Planning Commission retains final land development authority and a round of applause goes to supervisors Kichline, Heaberg, DiBuonaventuro and Donahue for ‘doing the right thing’!  And the planning commissioners should feel good with their overwhelming vote of confidence from the residents!

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