Tredyffrin Township

Abandoned House in Chesterbrook – Owner Deceased, Who is Responsible?’

Few things rattle a neighborhood like an abandoned home. Run-down and abandoned homes can make an entire neighborhood look bad. Trash, overgrown grass and pest problems can spill over into neighboring properties. But abandoned houses can be more than just an eyesore — they can bring down property values, create safety hazards and invite crime. But who owns these properties, and what can you do to make them take responsibility for their home?

There’s a difference between a home that is simply vacant, meaning everyone in the neighborhood knows when and why the last residents left, from an abandoned home, where people sort of left without saying good-bye.  Such is the case with a single-family home in Chesterbrook – the residents left one day four years ago and never returned.

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At the end of the Tredyffrin supervisors meeting on May 16 , under ‘New Matters’, a group of citizens from the  quiet Armstrong Court cul-de-sac in the Fox Hollow community of Chesterbrook spoke about the abandoned home on their street.  They passionately described a deteriorating overgrown house where the residents simply disappeared about 4 years ago, in 2012.

The neighbors went on to describe unusual activity at the house during the past winter – different people regularly coming and going during the middle of the night, departing by sunrise each day.  Concerned for their safety and the rundown, overgrown appearance of the house, they told the supervisors that they had made phone calls to the police – one neighbor reported her concern was dismissed and told that she was a ‘busy body’.

For those that may not know, the Fox Hollow development is located in theFox Hollow 6 far western section of Chesterbrook. The rear yard of the abandoned house backs up to the PA Turnpike; and very little separates the speeding cars from the property. Concerned about its unkempt appearance, neighbors admit that they took turns keeping the grass mowed, so as not to detract from their own properties.

Following the May supervisors meeting, I have had contact with several of the Armstrong Court homeowners.  Visiting the neighborhood, I tried to assure the residents that between the township staff, supervisors and police, help was on its way.  It has been a month since the last supervisors meeting and unfortunately, the neighbors report no follow-up contact and little change.

Fox Hollow 4

Walking around the house, it is obvious that the house is in complete disrepair. Due to severe deterioration, it’s unclear if the building is salvageable.  There are holes in the roof and on the end of the upper floor, piles of trash bags and furniture parts on the driveway and garage area, uncovered utility pipe in the front yard, water and electric turnoff notices littering the walkway and the front door is adorned with official-looking vacant/abandoned stickers.

I checked Chester County public document database for property ownership and discovered that the owner of record (who neighbors claim never lived in the house) purchased the home in 2005 at the age of 88.  According to the neighbors, it was the owner’s son and his family who occupied the property until abruptly leaving in 2012.  According to her obituary, the elderly owner passed away in May 2011 at the age of 94 in a Wynnewood nursing home.  Public records indicate that the mortgage was satisfied in April 2013 and that property taxes are current. Although the owner (who never lived in the house) passed away four years ago, her name remains listed as the sole owner in 2016.

Single-family homes in the Fox Hollow community of Chesterbrook are valuable. A quick check on Zillow indicates a house, around the corner from the abandoned Armstrong Court home, sold for $700K last September. Why pay off the mortgage and stay current with taxes and let the vacant house fall to disrepair for 4 years.  It makes no sense.

The neighbors need help; which is why they spoke publicly at the May supervisors meeting. They are worried about their safety (remember the house backs up to the turnpike), possible illegal activities, devaluation of property values … and the list goes on and on.  The owner of the property is deceased, so what can these folks do?

Tredyffrin Township’s elected officials, staff, solicitor, police … Who is responsible for helping these Tredyffrin Township residents?

Downingtown Area School District Approves Zero Tax Increase for 4th Year in a Row – TE School District Set to Approve 3.6% Increase (12th consecutive year of tax increase)

Tax-increase 2016

At tonight’s TE School District meeting (7:30 PM, Conestoga High School), the school board will vote on the 2016-17 final budget and property tax rate.

In January, the board had adopted the preliminary budget which contained a 4.3% tax increase – they approved the budget with the Act 1 Index of 2.4% and allowable Act 1 Exceptions of 1.9%.  At the April 25, 2016 regular school board meeting, the proposed final budget reduced the property tax rate from January, from 4.3% down to 3.875%.

According to the meeting agenda and budget materials (click here) the board will vote on the District’s 2016-17 final budget with an Act 1 Index of 2.4% and Referendum Exceptions of 1.2% for a 3.6% tax increase to the taxpayers.

The following chart shows TESD tax increases over the last twelve years.   2004-05 was the last zero tax increase year.

  • 2015-16: 3.81%
  • 2014-15: 3.4%
  • 2013-14: 1.7%
  • 2012-13: 3.3%
  • 2011-12: 3.77%
  • 2010-11: 2.9%
  • 2009-10: 2.95%
  • 2008-09: 4.37%
  • 2007-08: 3.37%
  • 2006-07: 3.90%
  • 2005-06: 1.40%
  • 2004-05: Zero Tax Increase

The TE School District residents can take solace that they are not alone in their tax increase. According to Adam Farence’s Daily Local article, 11 out of the 12 school districts in Chester County contain 2016-17 budgets with tax increases.

The only Chester County school district without a 2016-17 tax increase is Downingtown Area School District.  DASD recently approved their 2016-17 budget with no tax increase but what is more fascinating is that this is the fourth year in a row without a tax increase!

Looking at TESD tax increase chart above for the last four years, you have to wonder how it is that DASD delivered zero tax increases to its residents during the same time period. According to the Daily Local article, the DASD chief financial officer Rich Fazio “attributes the four-year streak of not raising taxes to the foresight of prior school boards.”  Fazio states that, “We were fortunate to prudently allocate funds and accumulate savings. Because of that we have not had a tax increase for four years.” He further indicated that DASD “will strive to duplicate a zero increase in taxes for as long as possible.”  

The total operating budget for Downingtown Areas School District is $210 million versus TE School District operating budget of approximately $129 million. DASD has a fund balance of approx. $24.5 million versus approx.  $32 million in TESD indicating that both districts understand the importance of saving for the future.

Someone is going to have to help me understand how these two Chester County school districts can operate so differently financially – and yes, I understand that TESD is ranked academically higher than DASD.

TE School District has always been an academic powerhouse, so other than 20 miles of separation between the two Chester County school districts, how is it possible that DASD repeatedly holds the zero tax increase to its residents and TESD has had 12 consecutive years of tax increases? Perhaps TESD business manager Art McDonnell could have coffee with DASD chief finaicial officer Rich Fazio to compare notes and discuss financial strategies!

DASD proudly displays the following 2015-16 tax increase chart on their website:

Tax Increase vs Act 1 Index Chart

According to the agenda budget materials for tonight’s TE School Board meeting, there were spending cuts before, during and after budget approval to reduce expenditures in the 2016-17 budget.  An explanation of those specific reductions would be helpful to taxpayers.

Back in January, school board members Ed Sweeney and Scott Dorsey spoke out against the preliminary tax increase of 4.3% as unacceptable … will they now be OK with 3.6% tax increase?  Instead of a typical roll call vote on the TESD 2016-17 final budget, I encourage board members to be accountable and offer the public an explanation of their vote.

Many of the newly school board members used fiscal responsibility and accountability as a campaign platform – now is the time to deliver on those promises.

Brightview Senior Living approved without township notification to Homestead Road neighbors of the project!

Just as land development projects are not created equal, neither are neighbors oppositions to these projects.

You may recall the abandoned Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process that required approving a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial)  zoning.   Some argued at the time that the zoning change to permit senior living in C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project and others questioned what this would mean for future C-1 development in Tredyffrin Township.

Although there was major push-back from the Daylesford neighbors to the assisted living facility, the project was completed in 2015 and with the developer providing concessions to the immediate residents in the way of lighting, traffic flow, landscape buffering,  etc.  Daylesford Crossing was a turbulent situation with residual effects that some claim cost Michelle Kichline her reelection bid to the Board of Supervisors in 2014.

Now fast forward to Brightview Senior Living, a recently approved senior living land development project on E. Conestoga Rd. in Strafford.  The project is located behind Devon Whole Foods, across from Nudy’s and next to the one-way underpass. (This is a very congested area, especially at lunchtime on that small section of E. Conestoga Road off of Lancaster Avenue).

Brightview Senior Living first surfaced of the Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission in April 2015. There was a preliminary discussion and sketch plan of an assisted living facility on properties located at 293, 301, 309 and 319 E. Conestoga Road – all in in the C-1 (Commercial) district.  The facility was described as having a range of care and services, and “would consist of approximately 143 apartments (including independent/assisted living and dementia care).” There was no mention of length, width or height of building in the meeting minutes.

We next see Brightview Senior Living on the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) agenda in August 2015. The developer sought a variance to decrease required parking spots and increase the building height (from 4 floors to 5 floors). When asked if Homestead Road neighbors had been notified of the proposed project, David Holland (VP of Development for Brightview) responded that yes, neighbors received letter of introduction but that he had not heard back from anyone.  In a recent email exchange between myself and Mr. Holland, he provided a copy of the draft introduction letter and a list of 8 Homestead homeowners that he said received the letter in April 2015.

Brightview 1

A review of the notification list sent to residents from the township regarding the Zoning Hearing Board meetings indicates no Homestead Road names/addresses.

The Brightview Senior Living land development application was presented to the Planning Commission on January 21, 2016.  At that meeting, we learned that the building would be 5-story and 196 beds. (The sketch plan discussion of April 2015 mentioned 143 apartments). As was the case for the ZHB meeting, the township’s list for notification for the Planning Commission meeting on the Brightview Senior Living project did not include names/addresses of Homestead Road residents.

The size and scope of this senior living facility is massive – In Tredyffrin, C-1 commercial zoning limits the building length to 160 ft. The Brightview building is 450+ ft., approximately three times the legal limit of C-1 buildings permitted in Tredyffrin.  Tory Snyder, the Planning Commission chair raised concern over the overall length of the building. Other concerns included safety, parking, etc.  With all the questions/concerns from the Planning Commissioners, you could assume a long process for the developer with input from the community and ultimately a scaled down final version.

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On April 21, the Brightview Senior Living project was back in front of the Planning Commission seeking preliminary and final land development approval.  The applicant presented a laundry list of waivers, all of which were unanimously approved with the exception of the length of the building. Again Ms. Snyder commented on the size of the building (450+ft. versus the 160 ft. legally permitted in C-1) but she represented the sole dissenting vote and that waiver too was passed.

In the end, the Planning Commission voted unanimously (6-0) to grant both Preliminary and Final land development approval for the gigantic 450+ft, five-story, 55-ft high building totally 181,000 sq. ft. on E. Conestoga. (As a reference point, Daylesford Crossing on Lancaster Ave. is approx. 80,000 sq. ft.)  And again, the residents living on Homestead Road were not on the township’s notification list for the Planning Commission meeting.

The final approval information of the senior living project has recently made its way to neighboring Homestead Road residents, leaving them shaking their heads and wondering how this happened without any notification from the township during the process. When Matt Bauman, Director of Zoning for the township was asked by a Homestead resident, why they were not notified of the project, his response was to provide them with the following:

Per the requirements of Section 208-147 Notice of Public Hearing, E    When the Zoning Hearing Board shall so order, by mailing notice thereof to the owner if his residence is known or to the occupier of every lot on the same street within 500 feet of the lot or building in question and of every lot not on the same street within 150 feet of said lot or building. Failure to give the notice required by this subsection shall not invalidate any action taken by the Board.

The Township met the obligation of this section of the Code.  Additionally, while there are no requirements for neighbor notification for Planning Commission applications but as a courtesy the Township followed the same requirement for the ZHB notices and sent notifications.

So … what does all this mean?  It basically means that although the township could/should notify property owners on Homestead Road that live 150 ft. from the proposed development, they don’t have to legally!   Using Chester County mapping tools available on www.chesco.org website, Ray Clarke measured that several neighboring Homestead Road properties are in the 150 ft. range from the Brightview property.  Interestingly, these same Homestead Road residents have told me that they are routinely notified by the township of projects at the Devon Whole Foods shopping center and on Lancaster Ave —   which are located much further away than Homestead Road properties than the Brightview project.

There’s no way for us to know whether the lack of township notification to Homestead Road residents was an oversight or deliberate. Or is it possible that some in the township didn’t want to see a repeat performance of neighborhood input on this project as was seen on the Daylesford Crossing project? In the end the result is the same – the Homestead Road neighbors were not given a voice in the process.

Brightview Senior Living is nearly 2-1/2 times the square footage size of Daylesford Crossing with twice the number of beds. The building will be located in a very congested commercial area on E. Conestoga Road, directly next to a one-way underpass and the Homestead Road neighbors were not part of the discussion! Amazing!

For the supervisors and township staff, I suggest an internal review of property owner notifications procedures on land development projects so that something similar doesn’t happen again. There needs to be strictly enforced guidelines for property owner notifications by the township, not randomly choosing when to notify.

In the case of the Brightview project, lack of notification to Homestead Road residents and therefore, lack of input int the process, has many in the neighborhood worried about their future property values. The Homestead Road residents were entitled to have a voice in this process. And there should be concern that the approval of the over sized building now will set precedent for future C-1 projects in the township.

What can be done at this point?  As I see it, the outcome in this land development project is not the fault of the developer. The Brightview Senior Living developer reached for the moon and the stars and received it from Tredyffrin Township! However, In my communication with David Holland of Brightview, I found him to be straightforward and sincere, so I am hopeful that an appeal to him by the Homestead Road neighbors may bring some concessions for them in the way of landscape buffering, exterior lighting, etc. I have seen photos of Homestead Road backyards and during the fall/winter months – this new 5-story building will forever change their backyard viewscapes.

I suggest a meeting of Homestead neighbors with representatives from Brightview Senior Living, township staff and a couple of interested supervisors – although the project has received final approval from the township’s Planning Commission, maybe there is still some goodwill concessions that can be given to the neighbors.

It’s Official — Covered Wagon Inn is saved! Local history will coexist with CVS Pharmacy – thank you Summit Realty Advisors!

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At last night’s Planning Commission meeting in Tredyffrin, the proposed land development project to construct a new CVS pharmacy building with drive-thru on the corner of Old Eagle School Rd. and Lancaster Ave in Strafford was back in front of the planning commissioners.

Much has happened since the developer of the project, Summit Realty Advisors, first presented their redevelopment plans for the property in January which included the demolition of the Covered Wagon Inn.

As I have said from the start, the property owner John Hoopes and the developer for CVS Pharmacy, Summit Realty Advsiors and owner John Zaharchuk, were within their legal rights to demolish the Covered Wagon Inn as originally planned. There is no current historic preservation ordinance in Tredyffrin Township that protects the community’s historic buildings — not even those that are registered as National Historic Register properties!

To change the redevelopment plans  for CVS Pharmacy project to include saving the Covered Wagon Inn was time-consuming and expensive for the developer — John Zaharchuk met the challenge and was successful!

It is important to acknowledge and thank those involved for saving the Covered Wagon Inn which I did publicly last night on behalf of myself and Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust. We know that redesigning a significant redevelopment plan to save a 250 year old inn was not easy (and was not legally required) — yet you did and we thank you!

It was a pleasant surprise to see writer Michaella Bond of the Philadelphia Inquirer in the Planning Commission audience. Michaella’s continued interest and support of the Covered Wagon Inn has been much appreciated — her latest installment appears in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Plans for new CVS store in Tredyffrin that preserves historic inn advances

by Michaelle Bond, Staff writer

Plans to build a CVS pharmacy in Strafford, revised last month to preserve a historic Main Line landmark on the property, moved forward Thursday when Tredyffrin Township officials approved the new preliminary proposal.

The plans that Ambler-based developer Summit Realty Advisors submitted to the township on April 22 call for a 12,900-square-foot store with a drive-through and a stone facade. The proposed project no longer includes the demolition of the Old Covered Wagon Inn, an 18th-century fieldstone structure at Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road. The inn, which measures about 800 square feet, would remain on the corner of the property with the CVS beside it, according to Summit’s latest application.

The six members of the township Planning Commission who were present voted unanimously to approve the preliminary land development plans. The developer still must meet several requirements, including measures to control storm water runoff, streetscape improvements, and a written promise that the inn would be preserved.

The developer will restore the exterior of the inn and provide four parking spaces for any potential tenant that moves into the building, said Lou Colagreco, a lawyer for Summit.

Summit first brought the project before the commission in January. But after residents learned that the developer planned to raze the inn, citizens and preservationists rallied to save the building, where Duke Ellington and other famous musicians performed, where residents attended wedding receptions and got together for family meals. More than 4,300 people have signed an online petition to save the onetime tavern along the first turnpike.

The developer said in February it would come up with a compromise.

“They’ve come back successful,” said Victoria Snyder, chair of the Planning Commission. “We thank you so much for that.”

The company went with a plan that had worked in Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County. There, the Audubon Inn, built in the 1750s, was included in the development plans for a CVS and kept on the corner of the property. The Audubon Inn houses law offices.

Plans for the CVS in Strafford still include the demolition of an addition put on the Covered Wagon about 50 years ago that housed several restaurants through the years and provided space for the Thos. Moser furniture store, the most recent tenant of the Covered Wagon building. Residents focused on saving the historic building.

Pattye Benson, president of the nonprofit Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and leader of the campaign to save the inn, acknowledged that the developer and property owner would have been within their rights to demolish the historic building.

“To me, this represents really good development and how you can put a new building in and still save a historic building,” she said.

Are voter ID laws good policy? Will the laws impact the general election in November?

Image result for voter identification

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 34 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. 33 of these voter identification laws are in force in 2016. West Virginia’s law, signed on April 1, 2016, goes into effect in 2018, missing the November general election.

In Pennsylvania, a law requiring voters to present photo identification was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett in March 2012. However, the PA Commonwealth Court held that the in-person proof of identification requirements were unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling on proof of identification applied only to identification requirements for voters who appear to vote at their polling place – the ruling left in effect previous rules regarding identification requirements for first-time voters at the polling place. If a voter is voting for the first time in an election district, the voter must show proof of identification, either photo or non-photo identification. Returning voters need not show any identification.

Nothing is more fundamental to American democracy than the right to vote. As the November general election nears, how much of a difference could voter ID laws make in the results across the country? I read recently that some are speculating that voter identification laws could be the next “hanging chads” in the upcoming election.

On the issue of voter identification, I received an editorial from Dr. George Anderson of Devon, titled “The Importance of Voter IDs”. (You may recall that Dr. Anderson was a TE School Board candidate in the last election cycle. However, he withdrew from the race citing the work demands of international travel during the campaign season.)

Dr. Anderson supports identification requirements for voters —

The Importance of Voter IDs

For a nation to exist there does not have to be agreement on every issue but there does need to be a generally accepted set of civic norms;  the processes by which things are done. The perceived validity of the decision making process is in fact, more important than individual decisions. That is why the myth of “Cultural Diversity” is so dangerous.

It is not the fact that the concept of “All Cultures are equal” is demonstrably nonsense. If the myth of cultural diversity is accepted, the societal common bonds start to disintegrate, ultimately leading to competition between groups, social and economic chaos.

For a Constitutional Republic to exist there needs to be a general acceptance of the importance of the Law, the process which creates and upholds the law. Without such acceptance and obedience to the Law, at best we are a tribal society with each tribe competing to enforce it’s will upon the others.

Since the disappointing loss suffered by the Democratic Party in the 2000 Presidential election the division between Americans has been growing. There were Democrats who claimed the election was invalid even though there were multiple counts of the same ballots by members of both parties and witnessed by a judge. (Disappointing yes but invalid, no.) There were Republicans who claimed the 2012 election was invalid, with counties reporting more votes than registered voters and precincts reporting 100% participation and 100% straight Democratic vote. (A statistical impossibility.)

What you see very much depends upon where you stand. Attempts to institute voter ID Laws have generally been denounced by those on the Left as an attempt to restrict voting.  Those on the Right respond it is true, limiting the vote to one each for US Citizens over 21 is appropriate. The tragic truth is, if we cannot agree that American Elections should be limited to one vote per mature citizen then the divide in this country is truly wide and the civic norms which tie us together have become very tenuous.

The terrifying prospect is the logical conclusion to such civic separation.

Sincerely;
George E. Anderson III, PhD

 

Fritz Lumber, the oldest place of business in Berwyn, is closing its doors after 150+ years!

Sadly, Fritz Lumber, the oldest place of business in Berwyn is closing its doors after a century and a half of service to the community and is residents.

The history of the William H. Fritz Lumber Company began in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln was in office. Henry Fritz and his soon-to-be wife Mary Lobb decided to open a coal and lumber business in their hometown community of Reeseville, known today as Berwyn. Within a few short years, the business would prosper.

After 153 years, the fifth-generation of Fritz Lumber has decided to close its doors. Howard Fritz sent the following letter to the Easttown Board of Supervisors, detailing the sale of the business.

I would like to formally announce to you that the Wm. H. Fritz lumber company’s property is under agreement of sale to Eadeh Enterprises. Eadeh Enterprise is a very responsible and community minded organization as you all know. The business at Fritz, will remain open till all inventory is sold. Presumably by September 1, 2016.

This decision has been a very long and painful process. Wm. Fritz (Bill) is in his eighty seventh year and wishes to retire. I am sixty two and have health issues and concerns for both myself and my dear wife Roberta. My two adult children do not have an interest or desire to continue in this business. Neither have building experience or knowledge of it, nor do they have the required, management skills needed to sustain a viable and prosperous supply company.

It is very disappointing to have to close a family business that has been in existence since the civil war…153 years ago. With that said…I am very grateful to our community and the Easttown Township for the many years of support. The Fritz family has been active community members….past and present. From helping to start a bank, a church and Station II. To most recently, our vocation for the Berwyn/Devon business Assoc., Veteran Assoc., Easttown Tricentennial, and the park and recreation committee to name a few.

We also joyfully received the same high paying compensation the supervisors receive for all their hard work and efforts!! All jokes aside…l am honored to be allowed the opportunity to serve this very fine community which I lived in for twenty plus years. Obviously timely communications between us is an absolute must. We may be reached at our office at 610 – 644-0608 for any questions or concerns on this matter. Once again… we sincerely thank you all… and wish everyone the very best.

Sincerely, (and perhaps regretfully),

Howard Fritz

V.P. WM. H. Fritz Inc.

Redevelopment decisions by the new owners of the property, Eadeh Enterprise (another old business name in the community) will be guided by Berwyn Village zoning ordinance changes of 2013.   At that time, the plan approved by Easttown supervisors placed the Berwyn Village properties into three districts: Village Business, Village Residential and Village Transition.

The ordinance change allowed that the buildings located in the Berwyn Village could stay exactly as they were in 2013 – whether retail, multi-family or single family. However, if the building was sold, torn down or re-developed, it would need to conform to the new zoning requirements.  At the time the zoning ordinance was passed, some local residents were concerned that the neighborhood feel of Berwyn could be lost, depending how redevelopment were to occur — pointing to multi-story East Side Flats on King Street in Malvern as an example of what could happen.

For those concerned about the demands that the various land development projects are placing on the TE School District — Wayne Glen, Parkview at Chesterbrook, Station Square, etc.- the redevelopment of the Fritz Lumber site may pose another.

But regardless of Eadeh’s plans for the property, it is safe to say that after 150 years, the appearance of Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn is about to change.

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Paoli’s Station Square Redevelopment Project Proposes Apartment, Office & Retail Complex

Paoli Station aerial view

In early 2014, Home Properties, a Philadelphia-based developer proposed a 250+-unit multifamily building with structured parking plan for Station Square, the 7.475 acre commercial site at the corner of Central and North Valley Roads in Paoli, owned by the Palmer Group Properties.  Although the current Town Center District zoning allows for 135 apartments on the property by right, the developer sought approval for greater density.

The proposed 4-story apartment complex was viewed as a radical change for the immediate community and concerns were raised as to whether this high density project was a good fit for the neighborhood. Major issues surrounded the proposed project, including increased traffic, density, height, change to the character of the neighborhood, impact on school district, public safety, etc.  Ultimately, faced with many unanswered questions from the Planning Commission and major pushback from the local residents, the proposed 2014 redevelopment plan quietly disappeared.

The Station Square office building complex remained for sale with a $9 million listing price and the tenants on month-to-month leases. On April 21, 2016, Linden Lane Capital Partners appeared before the Planning Commission to present a new redevelopment plan for the Station Square complex.  Following a lengthy discussion and public comment period, no action was taken by the Planning Commissioners and the application received an extension until the May meeting.

On Thursday, May 19, Linden Lane Capital Partners will present its conditional use application for the redevelopment of Station Square to the Planning Commission. The proposal is to construct three new mixed-used buildings, with structured and surface parking.  Uses include apartments and rental space for office, retail and/or personal services.  Linden Lane is seeking a recommendation from the Planning Commission for approval by the Board of Supervisors. Upon recommendation (for approval or denial), Linden Lane will appear before the supervisors for a Conditional Use Hearing.

In 2014, residential neighbors of Station Square were successful in their efforts opposing the proposed multi-story apartment complex.  Knowing that increased traffic in their neighborhood was a major concern for Paoli residents, the 2016 redevelopment plan seeks to address those concerns. According to the conditional use application, the developer will work with the township and the PA Department of Transportation to mitigate the traffic issues although no specifics are given. With respect to the parking, the applicant intends to provide for a minimum of 75% of the required parking with a structured parking facility.

Exciting News: No Demolition for the Covered Wagon Inn!

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What’s the saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way”.

Late tonight, I learned from Tredyffrin Township supervisor Sean Moir that an agreement has been reached to save the Covered Wagon Inn from demolition.

Over the last couple of months, there has been much discussion about the saving the old field-stone building located on the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Old Eagle School Road in Strafford.

Meetings were held with the township staff, supervisors, planning commissioners, CVS pharmacy developer Summit Realty and owner John Zaharchuk and property owner John G. Hoopes. At one point, it was suggested that a nonprofit historic preservation organization needed to step in to save the building. As President of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and with a unanimous vote of support from our Board of Directors, the Trust stepped in and offered our help in saving the building!

But in the end, Hoopes and Summit were able to come up with an agreement. The new plan will allow the construction of the CVS pharmacy but also preserves the 18th century Covered Wagon Inn.  Hoopes will retain control of the Covered Wagon Inn, handle the interior renovations and lease the space. Summit will restore the exterior of the Covered Wagon Inn as part of their CVS land development project.

The saving of the old Covered Wagon Inn is a home run for historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township! I am thrilled that the Covered Wagon Inn is to be saved and that local history will coexist with CVS.

Thank you John Zaharck, John Hoopes and CVS Pharmacy for listening to the community and saving an important part of our community’s history!

Global Warming: Important Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM

Global warming graphic

You are Invited to Attend:

Open Land Conservancy of Chester Counthy Annual Meeting
Guest Speaker: Climate Change Expert Richard Whiteford
Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM
Great Valley Presbyterian Church, 2026 Swedesford Road, Malvern

The Open Land Conservancy has scheduled ‘Global Warming’’ as the important topic for its Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 7:30 PM at Great Valley Presbyterian Church, 2025 Swedesford Road, Malvern, PA.  Light refreshments will be served.

Following a brief business meeting, internationally acclaimed climate expert Richard Whiteford will present the keynote presentation on global warming and lead the discussion. This meeting is an opportunity for the public to learn more about global warming and what it means to us here in Southeastern Pennsylvania and you are encouraged to attend.

How will global warning impact our streams, trees and pasture?  How will global warming affect our way of life, our health systems, and our grandchildren? Should I be worried about climate change, will it affect me personally?

Have these and other questions answered by an expert. Richard Whiteford has experience and a broad background in the field of environmental climate change.  Advocating for stronger environmental protection, Whiteford is involved at the local, state and federal levels. He has worked for the Sierra Club, Highlands Coalition, Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife. Serving as a environmental; consultant to universities, high school and environmental education centers, he has also appeared on BBC and Korean television, NPR, AccuWeather, and Northern Deutsch Radio. Whiteford wrote a three-year series about endangered special for the Philadelphia Inquirer and in 2006 wrote the book “Wild Pennsylvania”.  In addition, Whiteford has served as an advisor on the White House Interagency Climate Adaption Task Force and was a founding board member of the PA Biodiversity and a consultant to PA 21st Century Environmental Commission.

We are grateful to Open Land Conservancy of Chester County (OLC) for inviting the public to attend this meaningful presentation on global warming. For those that may not know, OLC is the oldest Land Trust in the US. Established in 1939, OLC now protects 493 acres of open space, most of which is located in Tredyffrin Township – 375 owned acres in 8 nature preserves that are open to the public and 118 acres of private property under conservation easements.  OLC is the largest non-government landowner in the township.

Completed volunteer supported and managed* , OLC is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. The Conservancy has acquired its properties through gifts and through state and country grants.  Volunteers provide the ongoing maintenance with some contracted services.   OLC is leading the effort to preserve the local community’s remaining open space, by caring for hundreds of acres of protected land.

To find out more about the OLC, becoming a member and volunteer needs, visit their website:  http://www.openlandconservancy.org/

TESD: Proposed Tax Increase of 4.3% Drops to $3.875% — School Board to leave $20 in taxpayer pockets

Tax-increaseFor the 13th year in a row, it looks like the TE School Board will vote to increase taxes to its residents.

At the District’s budget workshop last night, the public learned that the proposed 2016/17 tax increase has decreased – the tax increase has reduced from the 4.3% contained in the preliminary budget approved in January.  The proposed tax increase is now 3.875%.  This ‘decrease in the increase’ means homeowners will keep roughly $20 of the proposed tax increase in their pockets.

T/E School District has one of the largest fund balances in the state – in 1996/97, the District had a fund balance of $4,333,661 and in the last decade we saw the fund balance increase to more than $28 million.  The total fund balance as of June 2015 was $32,381,047 – that’s $32.4 million in taxpayer dollars. Continuing to grow the fund balance, the District shows a budget surplus for the fifth year in a row yet residents continue to feel the sting of an annual tax increase.

Ray Clarke and Neal Colligan were in attendance at the budget workshop and their comments from the meeting are appreciated.  Thank you both.

If residents care about the proposed ‘thirteen years in a row’ tax increase, they should plan to attend the TE School Board meeting of April 25 and voice their opinion.

Budget Workshop Notes from Ray Clarke:

Three hours of discussion at last night’s TESD Budget Workshop culminated in some good news for taxpayers – although you’d need a microscope to see it.  The Board will vote at its April 25th meeting for a “Preliminary Final Budget” that includes a tax increase of 3.875% – down from the maximum allowable by a token 0.4% (worth about $20 for the average taxpayer, who is still faced with an increase of more than $200).

Notwithstanding well-articulated positions from members Dorsey, Sweeney, Burger and Hotinski (and from the audience) for a lower rate, more considerate of the increased fees to families and the fixed, inflation-linked incomes of retirees, the outcome seemed pre-ordained, driven by the same majority that voted for the senseless VFMS fences.  That majority seems pre-occupied by risk and unable to appreciate that every number they are given by the Administration is conservative.  For example:

–  Half of the adjustments to the Preliminary Budget could arguably be higher – most notable being the use of approved rather realistic estimates to budget the impact of staff retirements.

–  There was much lamentation of the possible impact of the next union contracts (due in 2017/18), without recognition that the projections already include 7-10% increases in the benefits costs (worth 1-2% in total compensation).

–  Revenue projections are especially murky.  This year’s transfer tax is already $1 million over Budget, as are even base real estate revenues – the most predictable of all line items!  It’s not at all clear if next year’s Budget, developed months ago, considers these developments.

Years of operating outcomes favorable to Budget show that the Administration is skilled at managing its resources.  Superintendent Gusick read a scripted plea for the Board to set the District’s tax parameters and pledged to implement a process next Fall to conduct the oft-advertised “deep dive” into expense strategies that would address any apparent operating deficit that resulted.

The April 25th Board vote is not final, but is nevertheless significant.  Anyone that believes that our School District should be managed more like the County Intermediate Unit, which also last night presented its Budget and a commitment to live within the Act 1 2.4% Inflation Index, should come out in support of our Board members who are trying to hold the line here in TE

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Budget Workshop Notes from Neal Colligan:

-Current Year operating projections now show an estimated $984,000 Surplus for the District for the 2015-16 fiscal year (this year).  Current year’s budget was passed with an anticipated deficit of $1.654 MM.  It’s a miracle…a $2.5 MM swing!

-This “miracle” of Deficit Budget morphing into an Actual Surplus has now happened in EACH of the last five years.

-As a result of these Surpluses; the District has added almost $12 MM to its Fund Balance over the last 5 years…that’s a pretty profitable operation!!!

-With over $32 MM in Fund Balance (about to be over $33 MM with this year’s Surplus); at what point is that adequate?

-The growth of the Surplus is remarkable as we always seem to be “up against the wall” when it comes time to set a new tax rate.  Possibly this pattern is a result of the budget forecasting methods employed when looking at the next year’s budget.  On average (10 years); the District collects a bit over 100% of budgeted revenue and spends about 95.5% of budgeted expenses.  Perhaps this speaks more to the budget estimates used at tax setting time than actual operational changes employed during a given fiscal year.

-At 3.875%; the tax increase this year will be higher than the 3.84% increase imposed on the community for this year.  Not sure the new Board Members ran to increase taxes.

-Perhaps it is time to look at using a small amount of our Surplus (88% funded by local sources) to dampen current tax increases?  One could certainly argue that the Fund Balance is now super-adequate and it is taxpayer money that they were told would go to education….!!!???

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